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by Deborah Harper
When we share our story we heal ourselves and help to heal others. We are all on the path of recovery. Let us vow to support and help each other as we travel this sometimes rocky winding road. You are never alone. When you fall reach out and when you regain your balance, turn and help another.

My daughter, Rachael had a severe substance abuse problem as a teenager. I was suddenly jerked out of my denial about her drug abuse when she went into a psychotic break. Even I had to admit there was a problem when she refused to get out of the bathtub for three days.

The next step was a voluntary commitment to a lock-down psychiatric ward. During this three-week period the staff tried to determine whether her problem was psychosis, schizophrenia, or manic-depression. They all agreed that she was a serious suicide risk.

There are no words to describe the sorrow, terror, and pain I experienced during this time. My whole life was my family and it was being destroyed. I felt like God was punishing me. I would have gladly given up my life if my child would be spared.

Instead, I had to turn her life over to strangers. I'll never forget driving to Sunflower House. Rachael had been discharged from the psychiatric ward for one month. She seemed to be doing okay. I couldn't understand why she wanted to go to this place. The family members of new residents were not welcome for at least thirty days, so we had to leave her at the curb. I tried to be brave as I watched her disappear from sight.

The next couple of months were lived a minute at a time. My child was gone. I couldn't talk to her, touch her, or even see her except for a few minutes twice a month. I would wake up at night in a cold sweat, crying from a recurring nightmare. She was lost, hurt, and screaming for me. I couldn't find her in the dark. I had no eyes to see.

My son suffered from a lack of attention and care. His mother was a ghost of her former self. My marriage suffered as we both tried to cope with our guilt and pain.

Over time, I began to see changes in my daughter that brought me hope and joy. I had sent Sunflower House an addicted, deeply disturbed child. A beautiful, poised, clean and sober woman was beginning to emerge. The anger and hostility I felt toward these strangers gradually transformed into a deep appreciation and love. My family was always treated with kindness and respect. We were also forced to face that addiction is a family problem and to get help for ourselves.

After eighteen months of treatment, my daughter graduated from Sunflower House. She has been clean and sober for three years. She now lives at home, attends college, and works part-time.

My children are grown now. I am very proud of the adults they are becoming and the healing changes my family has made.


Please read My Name is Rachael Harper..., an essay by Deborah's daughter


Deborah Harper is Co-Founder Wired With Wisdom, and on the Board of Directors SafetyEd International. She has an academic background is in social science and computer applications, and many years of experience working in the non-profit field.

She first became interested in the issue of Internet safety when she was an Americorps*VISTA volunteer with Teaming for Technology in San Francisco, California. The goal of that project was to develop strong leadership and technological skills among non-profit community-based organizations. Teaming for Technology assists non-profits in effectively using technology to increase the impact of their work in the communities they serve.

During her term of service she created a new program in collaboration with San Francisco State University to produce free commercial quality web sites for non-profit organizations serving low-income populations. She realized the great need for the non-profit sector to understand and address the problem of safety on the Internet and incorporated the subject into her program design.

After her VISTA commitment, she was employed as a Project Manager for the Chinese Newcomers Service Center is San Francisco and created an Internet safety program designed for Chinese speaking immigrants.

While her children were growing up she worked for a number of years designing and teaching parent participation pre-school classes for the city of San Jose, California.

Deborah has extensive experience in marketing, strategic planning, public relations and fundraising for the non-profit sector.

� Deborah Harper