Dylan was thirteen and full of anger; he was just entering adolescence when his parents decided to divorce.
Before the divorce, he would get angry and aggressive with me, but it really escalated once we separated. And I didn’t have anybody there to back me up.
Things continued to escalate, Dylan’s mom worried that without his father to stop him, he might turn his anger on her. Dylan recalls that his grief from the divorce quickly turned to uncontrolled anger where he would throw things in his room and punch holes in the wall.
After Dylan and his mom went through The Quest Project, Dylan became a changed young man, with tools of self-reflection and an understanding of where his pain stemmed from.
I have better ways to handle my anger now, moving forward. I’m going to focus a lot more on my grades and try to get those a lot better, because that’s going to be the most important thing for me next year. Before I do sports, really try to focus on my grades, get those up, and as long as I keep them up, focus a lot on sports and try and do the best I can.
Research shows that with most boys, anger is also a symptom of depression. Below the anger is the hidden sadness and fear. If your son seems angry a lot of the time, chances are good he’s hiding some sadness and fear too.
Andrew grew up in an intact family, meaning his mother and father parented him together. He never acted out or caused any trouble. His mother described him as “an ideal child who listened to his parents and did what he was told to do.” Andrew had friends and was happy, and his life seemed “normal.”
At the age of ten Andrew began to be bullied. His mom remembers,“I got up in the middle of the night, and I could hear a noise. When I got to the noise, it was Andrew in his room. He was sitting on his bedroom floor and he was just crying. I said, ‘Andrew, what’s the matter?’ He said, ‘Mom, I’m so sad inside. I don’t even think it’s worth it anymore.’”
Being bullied made normal behavior and coping too painful for Andrew to bear. After some convincing, Andrew’s mom decided to enroll him with The Quest Project.
Today, Andrew has a better grasp on his sense of self-worth and has new tools to deal with frustrations and emotional intensity.
I developed a better sense of self-esteem. I realized that I need to think more of myself. I had a very low opinion of myself at the time, and I realized that my opinion of myself is more important than what other people think about me… I really did like that punching bag. It was a way to let loose like I’ve never done before. I was really quiet and reserved, so to let loose like that and let all my frustrations out was really fun.
When Jordan became a teenager, suddenly the once-cooperative boy became depressed and withdrawn. He spent more and more time alone, locked in his bedroom—something a lot of teenage boys do. Because this was such a big change from the way her son previously behaved, Jordan’s mother worried.
He’s never been a follower, so I always warned him, if somebody ends up talking you into something bad, they are going to brag about it until the end of time, and that’s pretty much what happened. He tried marijuana, and word got around quick. It didn’t take long for it to get back to me. Jordan says he wasn’t trying to show off or act out, but his behavior had really taken a turn. “It wasn’t peer pressure or anything,” he said, “I make my own choices. I just wanted to do it for fun because people were talking about it. So I just tried it and that’s how that went down.
By reaching out for help so quickly, Jordan’s mother not only took control of the situation before it got any worse, she also gave herself some of the peace of mind she needed right away. Talking to a specialty therapist gave her clarity that Jordan could be helped, that someone was on her side, that she had done the right thing, and that it was going to be okay.
I feel motivated now. I don’t really go down to my room by myself and I’m not doing bad things anymore. I’ve got a goal now, to do good in school. To get good grades and earn my parents’ trust back. That’s pretty much it.
Ethan grew up in a household where he was continually exposed to violence and abuse from this father. He never felt safe in his home. Ethan’s mother struggled to help her son navigate his traumatic past and PTSD.
We knew he was going to have issues. He’s actually been in counseling since he was eighteen months old. By the time he was four years old, he took a wooden dowel from a table and said he was going to kill his Dad. He told his sisters that Dad would never hurt Mom again.
Ethan’s trauma controlled him. He says that back then, he had no choice in his actions. “I would get beyond angry—where I would black out and do things I don’t remember. That’s how the hair-pulling and the hitting would happen. When I blacked out.”
Ethan’s mother tried everything she could think of to help her son. She took him to doctor after doctor, hoping one of them would offer a solution to give Ethan and their family some relief. Unfortunately, when you bring a boy with behavior problems to the medical establishment for help, they have one way of dealing with it: medication. ADHD medications often have a tranquilizing effect on adolescents, and Ethan was no exception.
Ethan’s mom decided that wasn’t the right way to help her son. She brought him to The Quest Project for therapy from a specialist who understands child development and trauma.
Today, after The Quest Project, Ethan reflects on his past-self, saying, “The ‘Child-Me’ was reckless. He was an angry little elf. He felt like no one loved him or liked him. He just wanted to be alone and he wanted to shut the world out. The ‘Young-Man-Me’ is, ’Hey everybody, how y’all doing?’… The number one thing I have that I learned is how to control my anger. But it also helped me mature, and it helped me realize the potential I really have.”
When Steven first came to The Quest Project, he was 17 years old. He was the kind of kid that society typically dismisses as a “lost cause.”
His past was warped with behavioral difficulty. Stephen had been in and out of trouble since preschool, including several stints where he was hospitalized because of his aggression. He had spent time in juvenile detention and, when he came to the Project, was in the midst of flunking high school.
Stephen’s family had tried to seek help. He’d seen dozens of doctors who each said he had ADHD or Asperger’s Syndrome, since he wasn’t talkative. As a result of these diagnoses, Steven had a lot of medications.
But there wasn’t a medication that could cure what was really hurting him.
“His mother had a lot of issues,” said Stephen’s grandma. “I love my daughter, I don’t want to say she’s a bad mother, but she often thinks more of herself than other people, and it’s always a ‘poor-me’ attitude.”
Growing up for Steven was hard and painful. Without a father in his life and with a mother who, though she loved him, was unable to put his needs before her own, Steven never received the guidance, support, or direction he needed. He never learned how to behave or cope with pain and disappointment.
At The Quest Project, Steven found a place where he could be comfortable enough to be himself. This is essential for a boy who wants to heal the wounds in his life and figure out what kind of man he wants to be.
I’m taking charge of my life,” Steven told his grandma. “Now he’s doing better in school and looking forward to June because he’s planning to join the military. He has a direction.”