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From Ruin to Redemption: Iowa Family's Long Journey Leads to Recovery and Healing

It was the first home visit by the Boys Town Family Consultant, and it didn’t go well.

Ryan Doyle was strung out and paranoid as he sat on a tattered recliner cursing the CIA, convinced “they” were trying to kill him. His wife, Juliana, stared blankly and swayed back and forth. She bore the telltale signs of a meth addict… hollow face, rotted teeth, scabs and scars.

Addiction had robbed the couple of their health, their jobs and their child.

The Doyle’s 9-year-old son, John Ryan (JR), had tested positive for narcotics during a routine medical exam, which then triggered an Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) investigation. JR was placed in foster care, and the family was referred to Boys Town Iowa In-Home Family Services ® for support and counseling.

When services began, Ryan and Juliana were defensive and hostile, treating the Family Consultant, who they saw as a “stranger” in their home, with belligerence and mistrust.

Overcoming the couple’s suspicions took much patience and effort. The Consultant spent considerable time listening to their rants, offering sympathetic words of understanding and showing compassion without judgment. It took several months, but the Doyles’ arguing and resistance eventually faded as they grew more at ease with the Consultant’s weekly visits. They started listening and, most importantly, began taking to heart the realities of their situation.

Meth is highly addictive, and the Doyles’ road to recovery proved to be an uphill, uneven and ongoing battle. The Consultant spoke honestly and forcefully to the couple about getting treatment for their addictions and educated them about local recovery programs. The couple also was reminded that they would have to get clean if they ever wanted JR home again. Juliana voluntarily agreed to outpatient treatment. Ryan did not and was later involuntarily committed to an inpatient facility.

While addiction specialists addressed the Doyles’ inner demons, the Consultant addressed the family’s dynamics.   

The Consultant coordinated and supervised visits between the Doyles and their son so they could maintain a presence in his life. The poignant gatherings served as powerful motivation for Ryan and Juliana to try to quit their drug habit. Before, during and after the visits, the Consultant taught the couple parenting techniques, including positive discipline, praise and appropriate consequences. When Ryan graduated to an outpatient treatment program, the Consultant worked with him and Juliana on ways to create structure and routines in their home – concepts that were lacking during their drug-fueled days.

Turning their lives around didn’t happen overnight; both Ryan and Juliana suffered relapses. Both had their dark moments, moments they described as being filled with “resentment, guilt, shame and despair.” Yet through the turmoil and the triumphs, their Consultant stood by them to offer encouragement, support and the occasional reprimand.

After 18 months in drug treatment and nearly two years of Boys Town services, Ryan’s and Juliana’s greatest hopes were realized… they were living drug free and their son was home. Despite a long history of bad choices and questionable judgment, the couple didn’t quit on their treatment or Boys Town, and Boys Town didn’t give up on them.

Today, Ryan and Juliana describe their family life as “healthy and honest.” Both have stable employment and housing, and take advantage of support programs in their community. JR is nurtured and loved, and even admits to liking his parents’ house rules and routines. He says they make him feel safe and secure.

The couple is also sharing their experience with other parents who are caught up in Iowa’s child welfare system. The Doyles hope that by telling their story, families facing their own demons will be inspired to get help and start their journey toward redemption.

The stories provided about the children and families in our care are real. In some cases, names may be changed and details altered to protect their privacy and therapeutic interests.