Keegan Wicks and his mother Laurie came in to speak to our class about recovery and how it impacts families. Keegan, who has been in recovery for eight years, works at The Rase Project, an organization based in Harrisburg that offers support services to people seeking treatment for addiction. His mother Laurie is a recovery advocate for the Pennsylvania Parent Panel Advisory Council.

I thought it was interesting to hear about Keegan’s personal story. He grew up having a pretty normal childhood, he said. He had supportive parents and did well in school. He said that he didn’t see addiction in his future (something we’ve heard echoed from several guests).

It was enlightening to hear that Keegan was so aware of the downsides of substance use as a teen, but still struggled with addiction despite this. Keegan said that while growing up he didn’t think he would ever use substances, because he saw what addiction did to his idols, like Kurt Cobain and Jim Morrison. However, Keegan said once he started using drugs and alcohol to cope with mental health issues, he no longer cared about what addiction had done to his heroes.

Another part of the Wicks’ talk that I think stands out is when Laurie detailed the struggles she faced while supporting Keegan in his treatment. She said that when Keegan entered an in-patient facility, she was also caring for her terminally ill mother, who had cancer. Laurie described her mother’s hospital care as “empathetic,” while she described Keegan’s treatment for addiction as “punitive” and “militant.” This comparison was striking. She also noted how she could visit her mother 24/7 at the hospital, while there was a 10-day “blackout” period when Keegan entered treatment, meaning his mother and other family members couldn’t contact him at all.

I enjoyed hearing Laurie and Keegan’s perspectives on the recovery process and what they think could be done to make it run more smoothly. I’m grateful they were willing to share their stories with us.