Courtney Engels, Clay and Julie’s daughter, and an ARISE Intervention intern, rounds out the Roots Collaborative team, providing a unique perspective for adolescent and young adult clients and their families. Wise beyond her years at 22, Courtney has been in recovery for six years and clean and sober for over two. She’s held multiple positions managing sober living programs in Los Angeles, and in her last role before joining Roots, she served as a program mentor at Casa Bella, a recovery center for women. There are very few “off-limit” topics, allowing Courtney, Clay and Julie to model what healthy family relationships can look like in recovery, and the process by which they’re built.

By aged 15, Courtney was in the throes of addiction with anorexia being her primary illness, winding up hospitalized in UCLA’s Psychiatric Adolescent Inpatient Program by 16. Once her weight and vitals stabilized, she was transferred to a longterm residential treatment specializing in eating disorders, where her mind, body, and spirit could begin to heal. The family network circled Courtney, participating in groups, counseling sessions, family weekends, field trips, and regular visiting hours. A blended family with two sets of parents and kids, the Engels and Mayo clan often filled the room, learning about themselves, the illness, and how they could start to be truly collaborative to help Courtney and themselves recover.

However, like many young people who find themselves struggling from an early age, Courtney still had experimenting to do. When her parents had no legal hold over her choices, Courtney ran fast and hard, using a lethal combination of cocaine, meth, heroine, valium, alcohol, marijuana and ecstasy. Within thirty days after her 18th birthday and a warrant out for her arrest, going back into treatment for substance abuse this time, seemed like a better option than jail. The boundaries her parents learned in Al-Anon were instrumental in Courtney’s decision to participate differently in her recovery. Between her family’s unwillingness to enable her illness, and a potential felony charge, she could see the writing on her future gravestone: that is how badly her addiction had escalated. She’d become insatiable. There were a few more bumps in the road before her current sobriety, but Courtney is grateful for each and every challenge: for she’s fully surrendered and has created a life she’s excited to share with her family, her boyfriend, Tyler, and her community. Our clients tell us that Courtney’s story brings them tremendous hope. It helps them to realize that going to treatment is not always a “one-and-done” experience, and that relapse can be, and more often than not, is instrumental in building longterm sobriety, and sustainable recovery.

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