A Father’s Words - shared at our most recent graduation celebration

“As parents we are thrilled with our babies and feel that their lives are filled with possibility. We hope for the best for them. We watch them grow into essentially good kids. Then something bewildering happens. We witness their lives collapse. They become dependent on drugs and alcohol, fail at school, become defiant and sometimes violent at home, get in trouble with the law, and begin to climb down the social ladder. Before we know it the arena of possibility we once saw as endless has shrunk to almost a single point. My only hope was for my daughter to survive long enough to pull out of this death-defying tailspin. A “good” day became a day with no bad news.

An aphorism attributed to Aristotle goes like this: “We become that which we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not a single act but a habit.”  In one sense this has alarming implications for our kids. What are they becoming? Certainly not contributing members of a family or a community or a society.

We shuttled from one social service agency to another. Once, in the terribly awkward moment after my daughter had stormed out of a consultation, I lamented to the counselor that I felt helpless to do anything for her. She assured me that I was indeed doing the best thing I could possibly do. That was a simple and powerful message that kept me going when it seemed like all hope was lost.

Ultimately my daughter had been offered a number of short-term programs and rejected them all in favour of going to PRI. I believe she must have known in her heart that six weeks of group counseling was not going make a dent in her decline.

One thing that impressed me about the staff at PRI, from the rocky initiation in the woods, through the long residential phase, through to the aftercare, was their ability to see through the defiance, the layers of drama and deceptiveness and see that essential good kid within, with a heart and a head that I had lost track of in all the turmoil.

I also want to acknowledge the role of the other kids in the community. When my daughter went AWOL and ended up in a youth shelter, PRI was able to get a message to her. It was simply a package of letters that her team members, her peers, had written expressing their love and concern for her. It made all the difference in her decision to return to PRI, even though it meant starting all over again in the woods.

Doing the work that is done at PRI is difficult. You can’t throw dozens of these kids into a facility and expect things to go smoothly or flawlessly. It is not a single act performed on a given day that represents the turning point, although there are plenty of those along the way. What has made the difference for my kid, going back to Aristotle, is the habit of excellence practiced at PRI.

 Is life after PRI perfect? No. But it is once again a life with possibility. For this I am grateful.”