Going Home . . . Free
Lydia was hysterical when the National Runaway Switchboard (NRS) frontline team member took her phone call to 1-800-RUNAWAY. “I could feel her shaking through the phone line,” recalls Marisa. It took a few minutes, but by building rapport and listening carefully, Marisa was able to get Lydia to open up.
Lydia explained that she was 17 years old and a recovering heroin addict. At a rehabilitation center, she met an older woman who took her under her wing. “Yolanda was like a mom to me,” she said. After a few days, Yolanda convinced Lydia that neither of them needed formal treatment anymore and should leave.
“She made it sound like us being off heroin was enough and staying wasn’t necessary, so we left,” cried Lydia. “She lied to me and is doing drugs again. I’m this close to using again and that scares me. I don’t know what to do. I want to go home, but I don’t think my mom will let me. I think she’s going to be really made at me for screwing up.”
During their conversation, Lydia decided that she wanted to talk to her mom to see if going home was even possible. Marisa said that she could arrange a conference call to explore the subject with Lydia’s mom and then bring Lydia on the phone so that they could work out a plan together. Marisa assured Lydia that she would keep the call positive and constructive, and then dialed Lydia’s mom.
First, Marisa spoke to Lydia’s mother alone explaining the current situation. Lydia’s mother had already been called by the rehabilitation center, and while she was relieved to hear that Lydia was ok, she was very upset and angry with her daughter for leaving.
Finally, Marisa opened up the call so both mom and daughter could talk about their situation. “I was so proud of you for getting into rehab, but running away was just plain stupid,” said her mom. Lydia explained that she knew it was wrong, but wanted her mom to know that she hadn’t used and was trying very hard not to. “Lydia, you can come home,” her mom said, “but on one condition: find another rehabilitation program and check yourself in immediately.”
Using the NRS database, Marisa was quickly able to find a program near Lydia’s mother. “It sounds great, and I like that it’s close to here so maybe we can work together on this problem,” said Lydia’s mom.
The only other problem left was getting Lydia home to Arizona. Marisa arranged a bus ticket through NRS’ Home Free program administered in collaboration with Greyhound Lines, Inc. Within 24 hours, Lydia’s mother called to say that she had met the bus and took Lydia directly to the rehabilitation center in their area. “Thanks to you, we have another chance.”
The National Runaway Switchboard has over 17,000 resources throughout the country that help youth and their families. Call 1-800-RUNAWAY or visit the website www.1800RUNAWAY.org for more information. In addition, as strong youth advocates, NRS utilizes a five-step model of crisis intervention to work with callers to develop a plan of action. Although this story is based on an actual telephone call to the National Runaway Switchboard, names have been changed to protect confidentiality.