"It does change your life and priorities, but the payback is worth it."
Massage therapist Brenda Wilcox, 40, helps teens and their parents overcome the "family disease" of adolescent substance abuse and addiction.
What kind of philanthropic or volunteer work did/do you do?
Brenda: Since 1998 I have been involved with an adolescent recovery group in Houston, TX. It is a unique recovery program for kids ages 13-18 and their parents. It is based on the alternative peer group method and combines 12-step meetings for the teens and the parents. As the years go by and I see these young kids who have struggled with drug/alcohol addictions and abuse, turn their lives around and get sober, it brings a deep sense of fulfillment.
We don't save every teen. Last April I went to a funeral of a 20-year-old boy who died of an overdose. He was one of "our kids" that went through our program. His service was filled with other 20-year-old kids who knew and loved him. It makes me want to do even more to get help to these teens and their parents, to help them learn about this disease and how to parent their children. We are a small organization of people committed and loyal to our cause.
What is the name and location of the organization?
Brenda: Cornerstone Recovery, Houston, TX.
Tell us about the project, especially who benefited from this work.
Brenda: The adolescent teens and their parents benefit. It is a family disease. Parents don't know what to do anymore. We hold meetings twice weekly, we have functions every weekend, we provide annual wilderness trips, and an after school safe harbor.
What inspired you to get involved?
Brenda: My 14-year-old son was addicted to drugs, and my family was in ruins. I truly did not expect him to live.
How did you first get involved? Give us some details.
Brenda: Through word of mouth. I heard about this organization that was adapted from Bob Meehan (founder of Palmer Drug Abuse Program in Houston, TX).
What is/was the best thing about your experience?
Brenda: I see kids come back to life and learn that they have potential. I see parents "get their kids back" after years of drug use.
What is/was the hardest part?
Brenda: When one of them dies or doesn't accept help right now.
What was the biggest surprise?
Brenda: When someone you just don't think will respond, does!!
What new things have you learned as a result of your experience and how have you changed as a result?
Brenda: I have learned that it is never too late. By working the 12-step program, and applying the principles of it to everyday life, things get better. Teens can get sober and lead a fulfilling and happy life without the use of chemicals.
What advice would you give to someone who is thinking of getting involved in philanthropy or volunteering?
Brenda: It is an extremely worthwhile commitment. It does change your life and priorities, but the payback is worth it.
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