Alumni Parent Publishes Memoir About Son’s Treatment Journey
Chasing Carson: a Family’s Journey Through Adolescence, Addiction, and Recovery, is a memoir by Emerald Arrow’s alumni parent Dawn McCord. Her story details the challenges and triumphs the McCord family experienced as they fought to help their son Carson fight his addiction. Dawn’s story is a heartfelt narration of compassion, hope, and healing which reflects the sense of desperation, fear, and unconditional love felt by many families who decide to send a child to treatment.
Carson attended Blue Ridge’s wilderness therapy program for young adults, Emerald Arrow, in late 2019 into early 2020. Emerald Arrow was developed in 2018 by Primary Therapist Anne Wilzbacher MA, LPC as Blue Ridge’s specialized program for students ages 18-29. The program implements thorough clinical assessments, daily mindfulness, creative intensives, skill-building workshops, healthy routine, and weekly individual and group therapy sessions to help young adults reconnect to their purpose and authentic selves. This structure provides Emerald Arrow students with the tools to become more resilient, self-motivated, purpose-driven, and engaged in their lives. Like Carson, young adults in Emerald Arrow often face challenges such as anxiety, depression, lacking direction or motivation, substance abuse issues, family conflict, and trauma.
In Chasing Carson, Dawn recounts the dilemmas her son faced leading up to his time in the program:
“Freshman year of high school, [Carson] started experimenting with drugs like most teens do. However, our boy had unlocked the door to addiction. As his drugs became harder he spiraled out of control with periods of abstinence followed by a few weeks of being on a ‘bender’ until a crisis would end that cycle. Each time, we would think this is his ‘rock bottom’, then it wasn’t. We struggled with, ‘Is this just the throws of adolescence or does he have a problem?’ By his Senior year, he overdosed.
Then starts the scramble to find some sort of rehabilitation that is longer, different, and out of our area. How can we afford it? Insurance? Savings? Mortgage the house? What does recovery look like for a now 18-year old who can just walk away from wherever we send him?”
Because Carson was 18 and a legal adult, Dawn knew that getting him to treatment could be complicated. Ultimately, they chose to attend Emerald Arrow: A Bold Path for young adults. While Carson focused his own therapeutic work in the wilderness, his family would go through their own parallel process, working with a Blue Ridge family therapist and corresponding with their son via letter writing. In the middle of Carson’s stay, the family visited the program in Clayton, Georgia to attend a Parent Workshop and see Carson in the wilderness.
In her memoir, Dawn describes the program and shares her family’s experiences reconnecting with Carson: “The whole wilderness camp experience [provides] various lessons in self and group reliance. They learn how to be honest, humble, and what it means to have integrity… They are encouraged to journal, to talk openly. It truly is twenty-four-hour therapy, whether they know it or not.”
After her visit to Emerald Arrow, Dawn expresses that she is “amazed by how far [Carson] has come in 5 weeks. Though [the family] is not sure how long he will be in the wilderness, [they] are confident this is where he needs to be.”
Following his graduation from Emerald Arrow in February 2020, Carson attended Balance House, a young adult addiction treatment facility in Holladay, Utah, where he continued to work on his sobriety and family relationships.
Blue Ridge Therapeutic Wilderness and Emerald Arrow are honored to participate in the healing and recovery process for individuals and families like Dawn’s. To read the full story, purchase a copy of Chasing Carson online by visiting Amazon or Barnes and Noble. To learn more about Emerald Arrow: A Bold Path for Young Adults, visit the program’s website at www.blueridgewilderness.com, or visit them on instagram @emeraldarrowaboldbath.