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A New Perspective: “Jake”

Jake’s chaotic childhood included parental substance abuse and divorce. It’s no surprise he began using drugs and alcohol very young. Between 14 and 17, Jake had spent more time in juvenile detention than he had at home. Under his veil of toughness was an insecure teen, self-medicating with alcohol and benzodiazepines. This mix was highly addictive and dangerous. Nearing his 18th birthday he was facing time in juvenile prison, which could involve incarceration until age 21.

Jake had to make a decision: complete treatment at Ryther’s Co-Occurring Inpatient program or get locked up in juvenile prison. He chose Ryther.

Dr. Miselis, Ryther’s psychiatrist, evaluated Jake. Besides chemical dependency, he was diagnosed with ADHD, Anxiety Disorder, Mood Disorder and Oppositional Defiant Disorder. Ryther treats both the mental health issues and addiction at the same time, because most of the teen boys in this program have a “co-occurring disorder.” In fact, 60-80% of teens with a substance use disorder also have a mental health issue.

At first, Jake struggled at Ryther as he withdrew from the substances. But under Dr. Miselis’ care, Jake’s anxiety diminished and his moods stabilized. He participated in individual and family therapy as well as DBT skills (dialectical behavioral therapy) groups. New experiences through Adventure Trek hikes and the Challenge Course helped change his self-perception and attitude. He became a leader in the cottage as a Peer Mentor, orienting new clients on rules and briefing them on DBT skills.

While at Ryther, he also made a big discovery – he had a real connection to nature. Oliver Edwards, Experiential Lead and Outpatient Chemical Dependency Counselor, saw Jake’s passion as he summited Mt. Pilchuck during one of the outings. Jake had found a new and healthy way to cope.

When he graduated Ryther’s program after 50 days, he was referred to outpatient resources in his hometown, including a psychiatrist. Jake is close to graduating high school and has aspirations of becoming an electrical engineer. This didn’t surprise Oliver, since Jake was quite adept at figuring out the structural solutions on the Challenge Course.


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