Feathers in the Soul

Feathers in the Soul recounts a family’s struggle and offers step by step advice of numerous addiction specialists, treatment professionals, and the wise words of people who have succeeded in gaining sobriety. This book gives direction and advice to the families and friends of those suffering from addiction, or substance use disorder (SUD). It is a book of hope and recovery. Substance use disorder is difficult to recognize in young people. When parents do see a problem and decide to act, the advice they receive is often wrong, conflicting, or opportunistic. Even when treatment is excellent, the first rehab often doesn’t work. Relapse is frequent, and each time is life-threatening.


Most of the literature on addiction is either an academic treatise or a personal journey. Feathers in the Soul bridges the two camps by showing how a family learned to recognize and handle a young man’s addiction and offering readers the latest in research-based treatment pathways, the input and expertise of successful treatment experts, and the words of people in recovery. It lists steps to help parents identify the disease, outlines the risk factors that contribute to addiction, talks about what families should look for (and avoid) in treatment facilities, discusses how to help and love an addict without enabling him/her, and examines what changes are taking place in addiction treatment and what can be accomplished at grass roots and national levels.

Chapter I


“I need my phone, Mom.” Danny loomed, crowding me at the bathroom sink. It was a Saturday morning during our younger son’s junior year in high school. My husband had taken away Danny’s cell phone and asked me to hold it while he went to the office. Earlier in the week, we’d discovered a soda can, sloshing with the remnants of marijuana cigarettes, in the back yard. We’d been struggling with Danny’s and his friends’ pot-smoking for a couple of years and were disappointed at the latest discovery.

The Beginning. Or was it?

“When you’ve finished your homework. Two teachers emailed me last week. Come on, just do it.” “Give it to me.” His restless eyes darted among items on the countertop. “You heard me.” I spit toothpaste into the sink. “I have a test this morning and need to leave. Do your work and I’ll give you the phone.” “I need it now.” He grabbed my phone, which was sitting next to the sink. I had never felt the need to hide my passcode from my sons, and Danny plugged it in. Then he changed it.

I gaped at him. “Hey, change it back. I mean it.” “Now you know what I feel like.” “Fix my phone.” “Not until you give me mine.” “You’ll get it as soon as you get your work done.” He tossed my locked phone onto the counter. He shouted, I shouted. “Just do your work!” “Give me my phone!” “Fix mine!” He swung a fist at the wall, then took a step toward me. Frightened by his rage and the ragged hole in the drywall, I dropped my toothbrush and held up a hand. “Stop this!” “I want my phone!” What was going on? What had happened to my witty, lovable son? What happened to me?


This book will help you to:

1. Identify when your loved one needs outside help
2. Change your own behavior to facilitate recovery
3. Understand the disease/disorder at the root of substance abuse
4. Understand biological reasons why use is out of a person’s control
5. Learn what to expect on the path to recovery
6. Understand the biological reasons behind return to use
7. Anticipate relapse and see it as a process of recovery
8. Work on your own anxieties and fears about your loved one
9. Help you find the treatment center that fits your loved one’s needs, and point out what to avoid.
10. Hear in the words of young people in recovery how family and friends can help
11. Learn about the disease and people’s reactions to it
12. Raise your voice to implement much-needed change in how our communities approach substance abuse and recovery


When a loved one, especially your child, becomes addicted to a substance, no matter what, you are left facing one of the worst nightmares that can happen to a person, left with basically no guidance except smarmy self-help books with bumper sticker titles that are meaningless to anyone actually in the situation. Feathers in the Soul gives honest help, with no contrived or simple answers. This book is not theoretical. It tells the truth. It proves that if you are in the worst spot in your life, someone else has been there before you and can guide you through it.

Tim Sandlin

How is it that we don’t train teachers, counselors, and school administrators to recognize and support adolescents showing signs of addiction? The ``no tolerance`` stance is failing us and our students. Numerous studies show that early treatment and care is essential for the treatment of addiction. Though Feathers in the Soul is directed to friends and family members, the guidelines outlined in this book also apply directly to schools. We teachers are on the front line, in a unique position to come to the aid of struggling students whose families may not be capable of helping. LIke Beautiful Boy, Feathers in the Soul courageously offers a family's struggles and experiences. Feathers, however, added the expertise of treatment specialists, scientists, and people in recovery in order to offer step by step guidelines on how to deal with this complex disease. For example, the book explains the concepts of ``tough love,`` ``letting go,`` and different mutual support programs. Feathers stresses the importance of offering love, understanding, and hope to the adolescent, even as s/he denies, struggles, and fights for life against a disease that kills too many. As an educator with 38 years experience, I wonder how many students I could have saved if only I had had this information. I plan to request that our state offer this book to all teachers and parents as required reading for middle and high school grades.

Lori Phillips

This is a powerful and personal story about one mother's struggle with her son's addiction, told in a heart-wrenching narrative interwoven with practical advice on how to navigate the complicated and emotionally traumatic path toward finding help. Along the way, we see the toll addiction inflicts on loved ones, learn how drugs alter the brain, and come to understand why there is no easy, one-size-fits-all solution for recovery. I recommend this book to parents, teachers, family members...anyone who knows an addict and/or needs to learn the behavioral danger signals that could point to potential addiction. I commend the author on her bravery in sharing her honest, frightening, yet hope-filled story.

K. Huffman

Feathers in the Soul is a family's soul-baring and eye-opening account of dealing with a child's drug addiction as described through the eyes of a mother. This book chronicles the various chicanes and switchbacks on the tortuous road to recovery. A must read for any family struggling with addiction.

Gregory Spears