My 44-year-old client Ruben went through his fourth chemical dependency treatment program a year ago and has been clean and sober ever since. A drug addict since his early teens, at no previous time has his sobriety lasted longer than six months. He freely admits that his totally willingness to do whatever is suggested to him by his sponsor and the professionals involved in his care has made all the difference. “I tried it my way long enough to know that doesn’t work – now I’m finally learning to follow directions.”

For the first time, Ruben has added individual therapy to his 12 Step membership. He is working on family concerns, previously unresolved grief, and the self-esteem issues related to physical and sexual abuse. He attends daily meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous; does service work at his church; works the 12 Steps with his A.A. sponsor; spends quality time with his daughter; receives glowing reviews at his job; recently became a non-smoker; and is whittling down his debt. He smiles broadly whenever I see him and feels deeply thankful to have another chance at life.

Recently I asked Ruben what brought him back time and again to treatment, when each time he had started out committed to sobriety and then lost his recovery. Many people in this position become so demoralized and discouraged by their failures and the people they have hurt that they simply give up on getting better.
Ruben answered immediately, “It was my ex-mother-in-law Ella – she was the only person in my life who never gave up on me. She always told me that she believed in me, that I was an amazing guy and that I was smart. She said that my addiction wasn’t the real me, and that she knew I had what it took to get and stay clean and sober. I played her words over and over in my mind a lot, and, eventually, when I got really sick of myself, her belief in me, when I had none, would lead me back to treatment. I am forever grateful.”

Never underestimate the power of encouragement to help our children become their best selves.

Wendy Boorn received her Bachelor’s degree in English from Bucknell University in 1967. Following graduation, she married, moved across the country, and spent 11 years as a wife and stay-at-home mother of two. Graduate school followed and, in 1980, led to a Master of Counseling degree from Arizona State University.