You’d pepper them with questions and hope to glean something helpful for your own situation when you parted.
Today’s blog is an attempt to do that. To offer hard-earned insights from a mom and dad who’ve been there. They are John and Fair Brocard, devoted Christian parents of a former troubled teen. Like my husband and I, as a result of what they went through over 15 years ago, they started a new ministry—Prodigal Child Ministries—to help other parents who were suffering like they had.
- Thank you for your willingness to openly share your journey, John and Fair. Please share your story with us:
May 12, 1998. We hired two strangers to remove our son from our home in the middle of the night to place him in a structured wilderness program in the mountains of Utah. It was the hardest decision we’ve ever made.
- At the time, our son was 16 and in the 10th grade.
- He was totally out of control; using drugs (marijuana), drinking, lying, stealing, manipulating us. He was extremely disrespectful, used profanity aimed at us and angry all the time.
- He would verbally abuse us, cuss at his dad in front of me and challenge him to fight late at night.
- He tried to hurt his dad once by pushing him down the stairs.
- He would not accept responsibility for anything he did; he’d always blame us or someone else for his problems. It was never his fault.
- He was arrogant, selfish, lazy, and believed we owed him everything.
- His constant angry outbursts scared his older sister and younger brother to the point they were afraid to be around him.
- His mood affected our whole household and our marriage. He was beginning to not only destroy himself, but also our family and our marriage.
- He had a new set of friends that used drugs and they wanted to party all the time.
- He didn’t appreciate anyone or anything we did for him; it was all about him.
- He was using our time and attention, draining us of needed energy for our other children.
- We couldn’t communicate with him peacefully—a constant yelling battle!
- YET…WE LOVED HIM UNCONDITIONALLY.
The impact on our marriage and our children was huge. At the time, we’d been married 20 years with a daughter 17 and a son, 9. Today we’re happy to say we’re still married, after 40 years! Our struggling son, Bubba, was16: a Boy Scout working on his Eagle Scout project; a year round swimmer, very popular with his teachers and friends; he also attended church regularly and had been on several mission trips. John was an attorney and I (Fair) was on staff in our Children’s Ministry at our church.
On the outside, we appeared to be the all-American family, but on the inside we were hurting desperately. Being a staff member of our church we didn’t feel like we could share our troubles with anyone because we were so embarrassed. Our marriage began to suffer, too. We argued a lot and were stressed and tired all the time. We took it out on each other.
We spent months of counseling and testing with a psychologist. After much prayer we were advised to remove him from our home and send him away to get help. This was the most difficult decision we ever made in our entire lives, but we loved our son so much we were willing to do anything.
We arranged for two strangers to come into our home in the middle of the night to take Bubba to a wilderness treatment program where he lived in the outdoors of God’s creation for 52 straight days with no shower, electricity, cars, girls, alcohol or drugs!
While in treatment, we learned he had an anger management problem. He used substances to self-medicate and deal with his low self-esteem. Like in the story of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15, he finally came to his senses. His rebelliousness came to end and he had a change of heart.
Did we experience relapse—yes, but we were equipped to deal with it.
Today he’s a college graduate, married with a step-son, and runs his own CrossFit Gym.
- Is there anything you wish you’d done differently?
For John, it would be more consistency and not to punish (apply consequences) when he was angry. Also to speak in softer tones; yelling only made things worse.
- What are the greatest lessons you’ve learned?
GOOD FAMILIES CAN HAVE CHILDREN THAT MAKE BAD DECISIONS.
- We learned that there is hope! We are all subject to pain and suffering, but God will never abandon us. He will get us through our tough times. We learned that we couldn’t fix this problem ourselves—we had to let go and let God be in control. He loves our children even more than we do!
- We didn’t cause it, we can’t control it, we can’t cure it!
- We learned that natural consequences teach self-control.
- We needed to be consistent and follow through. Mean what you say and say what you mean!
- Don’t discipline out of anger, but think before speaking.
- Establish family rules and let your child be a part of that.
- Kids need structure and really want it, even though they won’t say it at the time.
- Give kids your time and LISTEN to them.
- Give grace when needed.
- We learned to love unconditionally—not only our son, but also other kids who were struggling.
- Not to be judgmental
- We learned to PRAY—to ask God to get us through another day. The power of prayer is incredible and without prayer and support from dear friends praying for us, we couldn’t have gotten through that time.
- How important a support group is—just being with others who understand and will be there for you is so important.
As hard as the pain has been over many years, it has been such a gift from God. So much of who we are today has grown from that pain. It has enabled us to see, know, and experience God at a much deeper level. He is truly our provider, encourager, strength, and HOPE. We now have a much greater understanding of God’s unconditional love, mercy, grace, tenderness, and compassion.
When you go through trials and tough times, don’t miss the blessings and lessons that God is going to show you. He not only changed our son, but he changed us, too.
- What has been hardest for you?
At first, it was hard to share my story because I was so embarrassed. However, I felt God wanted us to, so that we could help other parents.
- What are some things you did that helped?
- We set up regular, individual meetings with our prodigal just to listen and talk. Also, family meetings so that we could all share concerns. This was done when we everyone was calm, ready to listen and talk, without anger.
- We had a contract to follow where everything was clearly defined: consequences and boundaries. Our counselors made sure we followed it and so did our prodigal.
- What is a favorite Bible verse that’s meant a lot on this painful path?
Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord: Plans to prosper you and
not to harm you, plans to give you HOPE and a future.”
- What are your best words of wisdom you’d like to pass on?
- Find a support group! For changes in your family to be made, it’s equally as important for YOU to get as much help and support as your prodigal is getting.
- Become educated on the issues you’re dealing with (i.e. addiction and mental health issues, etc.).
- Were there any resources you found that you want to share?
Yes, we read many books. These are a few we recommend.
(This list is in addition to books on the Hope for Hurting Parents website)
Praying God’s Will for My Son by Lee Roberts
Praying God’s Word by Beth Moore
Streams in the Desert by Mrs. Charles E. Cowman
Encouragement/ Informational Books
Addictive Thinking by Abrahan Twerski
Boundaries by Anne Katherine
Broken by William Moyers
Co-Parenting with God by Peter Lord (formerly called When Your Child Wanders From God)
Freedom from Addiction by Neil Anderson
Parenting Teens in a Confusion Culture by Mark Gregston
Praying Your Prodigal Home by Richard A. Burr
Strong Fathers Strong Daughters- by Meg Meeker
The Hurting Parent –by Margie Lewis
The Lost Years – by Kristina Wandzilak and Constance Curry
The Recovery Book by Al Mooney
Toughlove by Phyllis and David York and Ted Wachtel
University of Destruction by David Wheaton
What’s Happening to My Teen by Mark Gregston
Books for Homosexuality issues:
What the Bible Really says About Homosexuality – by Kevin DeYoung
Washed and Waiting by Wesley Hill
The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert by Rosaria Butterfield
Out of Egypt by Jeanette Howard
**THANK YOU John and Fair for your authenticity and words of hope. God bless you and your ministry to hurting parents.
Check out their website: ProdigalChildMinistries.org
Prodigal Child Ministries is a ministry of Johnson Ferry Baptist Church, Atlanta, Georgia