The Only Life I Could Save

“From a mother’s harrowing journey into the dark abyss of fear to the bright light of hope, help and healing, this story unfolds the vivid gamut of emotions any parent knows when a child becomes entangled in alcohol or other drug use. A must-read for anyone who wants to know what to do (and not to do) to help a loved one recover from addiction.”
—William Cope Moyers, New York Times bestselling author of Broken


“Kathy Ketcham is a gifted storyteller and uses her considerable resources from a life devoted to the telling of other's stories to provide an unfiltered, visceral immersion into her own families experience with addiction. This book is both an essential, informed resource for any family facing addiction and a sacred tale of a mother's personal transformation. Kathy exposes the impotent powerlessness of a parent attempting to cure a child's addiction, as well as a powerful, personal portrayal of her healing journey. I recommend this book to any family struggling with addiction.”
—Marvin D. Seppala, MD, Chief Medical Officer, Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation


“Eloquent and moving...Ketcham’s engaging writing style will capture and sustain the interest of the many families battling addiction in their children as they fear the worst but hope for a good outcome modeled after [her son’s] recovery.”
—David Smith, MD, Founder of Haight Ashbury Free Clinics


“What is it like for a mother (and an addictions expert) to experience her teenage son’s drift into addiction and struggle through treatments before finding his own road to recovery? That question is answered in Katherine Ketcham’s riveting story, The Only Life I Could Save. This both heartbreaking and uplifting story will offer readers an insider’s view of the family experience of addiction, treatment, and recovery. Highly recommended.”
—William White, author of Slaying the Dragon

“Katherine eloquently captures a rarely told story that hits close to home for me and one in three households in America. When addiction enters your home, it leaves parents lost and searching for answers for one of the most challenging health issues any person can face - especially a child. This story articulates the struggle, but most importantly inspires optimism throughout a powerful journey to recovery that will lead families to continue to work through the challenges of addiction and remain hopeful.”  — Greg Williams, Filmmaker, founder of Facing Addiction 

“I’ve been treating addictions as a clinical psychologist for over 40 years, and I’ve never met anyone who understands the emotional, spiritual and psychological experience of an addicted human being as well as Kathy Ketcham.”
—Arthur P. Ciaramicoli, EdD. PhD., author of The Stress Solution


“[A] wise and wonderful masterpiece...The Only Life I Could Save is a powerful and insightful work... The current national addiction crisis has created a plethora of books, podcasts and documentaries on how to best respond to this epidemic, but this book is different. Katherine Ketcham knows addiction. Not only is she a best-selling author and expert on the disease, she has also experienced addiction firsthand through her son Ben’s journey through addiction and recovery.”
—Susan Broderick, Associate Research Professor, Georgetown University


“There are many books written on addiction, but this one will grab you and hold you tight.  It will show you that beauty and love are always there for the finding.”
—Debra Jay, author of It Takes a Family


“With addiction, no matter how deep the despair of the family, there is hope.  No matter how sick the addict, the miracle of recovery is possible.  These truths are beautifully brought home in Kathy Ketcham’s latest wonderful book, The Only Life I Could Save.”
—Charlie Kester, Owner, Lakeside Milam Recovery Centers

“Ketcham’s powerful story and the vulnerability with which she shares it hit hard—both in your head and in your heart. Her storytelling elicits a visceral and emotional reaction that awakens and heals . . . I had to stop to wipe away tears. Her story is my story, my mother’s story, and all of our stories. It’s a must-read for anyone seeking to understand the inevitable roller coaster ride of life, how awareness and acceptance are the landing pads to peace, and a reminder of the humanity and spirit that exists in all of us.”
—Rick Shamberg, CEO of Gray Wolf Ranch


“Remarkable book…I was so deeply touched with the rawness of Kathy’s journey and her courage to hold nothing back…This is a MUST read for all persons struggling with how to save their addicted loved ones from addiction.”
—Joyce Sundin, Intervention Specialist


“This book gave me goosebumps—repeatedly. It is gripping, wise, and soulful. An instant classic.”
—Jeff Jay, author of Navigating Grace

 “Katherine Ketcham captures the essence of a family deep in the throes of the insidious disease of addiction. Despite her expertise in the field, Kathy finds herself as helpless as any parent watching the deterioration of a loved one before her eyes, caught in the same fear and denial she has warned against in a trove of published works on the topic. I felt like a voyeur sitting at the Ketcham family table observing the frightening, frustrating, maddening and ultimately hopeful travails of dealing directly with the active addiction of her son Ben. As a person in long-term recovery, I found The Only Life I Could Save to be chillingly accurate in its description of a mother trapped in despair, actually rereading her own books in an effort to find comfort and perhaps some answers within. As a parent of a teenage son and daughter, I was gripped by the stories within the story, knowing there was a ‘happy’ ending to come but realizing my family’s journey is still underway. Kathy has brought a needed light into this darkness called addiction, sharing a timeless story that addresses a very contemporary issue.”
—Don Fertman Chief Development Officer, Subway

 

 “At a time when we lose 144 people a day to accidental drug overdose in our country, Kathy Ketcham captures the raw emotion of watching a child taken hold by addiction and a parent’s desperate fight to save them.  Her beautifully-recounted journey will help countless families struggling in solitude to realize that they are not alone and give them hope that, like Ben, their child can find long-term recovery.”
—Marcia Lee Taylor, Chief Policy Officer, Partnership for Drug-Free Kids

 

“An intimate, poignant description of one family’s valiant efforts to cope as their son spirals into the cunning grip of addiction, told through the heart and lens of a loving mother. Katherine Ketch, a deeply informed author and expert in addiction, painfully deconstructs her son’s progression into the inferno, illustrating how addiction is non-discriminatory, even in loving, functional families. Her fear and anguish force her to seek understanding from her spiritual life, revealing that addiction is but another part of the family tapestry.”
—Cherlyne Short Majors, PhD, Behavioral Health Consultant

 

“There is a critical need for this courageous, inspiring book.  Finally those of us who work in the addiction treatment field have a book that we can recommend to suffering families, written by an addiction expert and loving mother who offers her firsthand perspective on the destructive nature of drug addiction and the difficulties so often encountered on the pathway to long-term recovery.  The recovery process takes time, but with the family’s loving support, exposure to good treatment, continuing care, mentoring and mutual support, the “miracle” of recovery is a reality for millions.  A must-read for any parent concerned about the epidemic of drug addiction in this country.”
—Nicholas Pace, MD, Clinical Associate Professor of Medicine, NYU


“The statistics on the opioid epidemic currently devastating our country fail to reveal the true impact of substance abuse and addiction. From her own struggles with her son’s addiction, Ketcham powerfully reveals how, as the ripple effects create havoc and despair in the family, a parent can experience addiction as an unrecognizable “demon.” Despite being an expert on teen substance abusers, Ketcham initially was blind to the extent of her son’s problems.  But, as the addiction exploded into the family, her expertise was shattered as her feelings as a mother overwhelmed her.  This account, evolving as smoothly as a novel, reveals the soul-searching journey to recovery that Ketcham, her son, and each of the family members, was compelled to undergo. The beauty of the book is that in telling her story Ketcham’s expertise come back into play helping make sense of what happened, serving as an inspiration and resource to the many families across the country that are dealing with this crisis.”   
—Angela Diaz, MD, PhD, Director, Mt. Sinai Adolescent Health Center

 

 “This is a story of real life.  The life of a mother whose journey takes her full circle as she tries to help her child.  Fearlessly honest, The Only Life I Could Save provides a clear vision into the reality families face when a loved one is struggling with the disease of addiction.  Kathy and her family’s willingness to share their story will help other families discover they are not alone and learn that regardless of how things look from the outside, there are other families with the same challenges, the same hopes, the same fears.”
—Scott Munson, Executive Director, Sundown M Ranch

 

 “Kathy Ketcham has written a mother’s spiritual geography of witnessing her youngest child’s descent into addiction. As she watches her teenage son begin to use drugs addictively, she engages in the inevitable self-blame and desperate search for solutions common among parents of addicted children. Author of many previous books about addiction and recovery, she ironically finds little comfort in those works—and thus, like so many authors, she has written the book she needed to read, with the desire to help just one other parent who at any given moment may be staring into a dark vortex of fear for their addicted child’s life. The book offers many practical strategies for negotiating this fear, including the poignant practice of writing love letters to our children. Above all it is a lyrical, intelligent reflection about the nature of surrender and the myriad qualities of the providence that lives within all of us.”
—Jennifer Matesa, author of Sex in Recovery and The Recovering Body

 

 “The Only Life I Could Save is the very best of all the books written on the desperate challenges of addiction in a family.  So many books on addiction are written with sad endings but this is the beautifully written one that has many poignant new beginnings, hope and yes, gratitude. An emotional and meaningful description of the pain and frustration family members experience when loving a chemically impaired child.”
—Ginny Lyford Asp, coauthor of Living on the Edge

 

 “Profound, raw and visceral!  Once again, Ketcham grips the reader with passion and clarity, disclosing the hidden nature of drug and alcohol addiction, its ravages and the pathway to recovery.  Unlike her resume of collaborative scholarly and objective works on the disease model of addiction, she now opens the curtain to her own story. A mother and her addicted son. A family in distress. What to do, how to cope, where to turn.   In her usual poignant fashion, she uniquely exposes her own journey—“walking the walk,” unveiling the mystery of addiction—this time through the eyes and agony of life experience.”
—L. Ann Mueller, MD, author of Eating Right to Live Sober


“This is the story of a nationally recognized author about addiction, a skilled writer with several compelling books dealing with addiction issues that have educated and inspired countless thousands over 30+ years. It teaches that even addiction experts can become immobilized as their confusion, unbearable fear, and heartbreak take over and shield them from seeing the reality they are facing that a child is be claimed by addiction.  It carries the reader through a decade of the author's disbelief, denial and terror as she watched her talented, charming and loving son disappear into the clutches of addiction.  It chronicles, in powerful yet tender language, how desperation transformed her into "every mother" who sees each good moment as a sign of improvement, each promise a step toward healing the deepening chasm between her son and his family, believing her love can help wrestle him from the tenacious claws of addiction and then the deepening panic that even a loving and supportive husband cannot still.  The realization over many years of attempts to fix and to control her son's deteriorating life brought the author to the freeing awareness of this remarkable and beautifully written book.

Ketcham has given us a treasured must read for countless audiences.  It belongs in every pediatrician's office and in the offices of every school counselor, assistant principal, youth minister and adolescent therapist because most cannot comprehend the terror parents experience as their child slips away, nor the devastation that is plaguing the family long before an "incident" occurs. This story is powerful evidence that pediatricians and family doctors, school officials, neighbors, youth leaders, coaches and all caring adults must take responsibility for "saying something if they see something." They must consistently and firmly address any use of any drug throughout the school years because of the profound developmental damage that is done by this brain-based illness.  They must understand that most young people do not get the prolonged and powerful recovery programs that finally reach through to the author's son. And they must understand that the early -- well before high school -- and consistent interference with the use of any drug is still the best route and that it is the responsibility of the adults in a young person's life to insure that possibility.  

“This story has a still-evolving happy ending for both Mom and son.  Too many parents have a different ending.  This book can be a gentle and loving guide about what to do and what not to do for the growing number of parents facing a child's addiction. It is also a powerful tool for deepening the understanding of addiction's destruction of a family and could bring more happy endings if the deep pain in a mother's heart could be better understood by the people close to her who remain silent.   

“This is a much - needed story for our time, beautifully and lovingly written by a mother desperately trying to pull her son from the clutches of addiction. It can guide other parents to know what not to do and what to do when a child begins slipping away and lead hopefully to the happy ending this story reveals following a decade of despair. It teaches countless lessons not only for other parents and families struggling to make sense of what is unthinkable to them, it also carries a  profound message to all the adults in the lives of young people about their missed opportunities.  It demonstrates that addiction quickly captures the young person's brain and holds on tenaciously and that parents alone cannot fix it; but they can save themselves. It can teach neighbors, pediatricians, youth ministers, coaches, school administrators and counselors that treating any use of drugs other than as a major concern is a disservice to parents and an injustice to the child. To intervene, to speak up, to express concern to parents who cannot see their reality is the greatest kindness. I recommend this book broadly. There are critical messages for all of us between its covers.”
—Sis Wenger, President and CEO, National Association for Children of Addiction