Almost Lost: The True Story of an Anonymous Teenager's Life on the Streets

Almost Lost: The True Story of an Anonymous Teenager's Life on the Streets

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by Beatrice Sparks

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Who in his right mind wants to talk to a shrink? I don't want to talk about anything. I don't want to feel anything, taste anything ... or anything. The lyrics "just dying to die" run around in my brain day and night...

Fifteen-year-old Sam is in pain. He comes to the therapist's office unwillingly, angry, depressed, and filled with guilt over his own

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Who in his right mind wants to talk to a shrink? I don't want to talk about anything. I don't want to feel anything, taste anything ... or anything. The lyrics "just dying to die" run around in my brain day and night...

Fifteen-year-old Sam is in pain. He comes to the therapist's office unwillingly, angry, depressed, and filled with guilt over his own self-destructive behavior. He is being drawn deeper and deeper into a black hole of despair from which he sees no way out.

The Road Back

This is the Real-life story of Sam's Recovery, told from tapes of his therapy sessions. It tells what drove him to leave home, how he survived on the street, and why he was desperate to escape from the brutality of the gang that had become his "family" and from the torment of his own self-loathing. For every teen who has experienced the pain and loneliness of a no-way-out darkness, and for all those who love them, here is the light that can lead the way back.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Presented as edited transcripts of taped counseling sessions Sparks (It Happened to Nancy) conducted with a 15-year-old patient, Sammy, this book pieces together a sobering story of a boy "almost lost" to depression. At his mother's insistence, the suicidal teenager begins talking to the perspicacious therapist, acknowledging that his inner pain is so deep that "sometimes even my hair hurts." Sammy can be almost astonishingly articulate as he gradually reveals the traumatic incidents from his past that have stripped away his self-esteem and self-respect. The caring therapist provides him with a variety of exercises, charts and "mind games" to help him get rid of the "fetid garbage" he is carrying around: his decision to join a gang in hopes of gaining a "family," experimentation with drugs and alcohol, experience as a victim of a drive-by shooting and his debilitating, unresolved bitterness toward his abusive estranged father. Though the transcripts shape a clearly defined portrait of an intelligent, determined teen, some of the patient-therapist conversations recorded here may seem lengthy and repetitious to the general YA reader. Yet for those coping with depression, Sparks's account provides inspiration, some rudimentary practical tools and a resounding endorsement of the potential benefits of therapy. Ages 12-up. (June)
School Library Journal
Gr 9 UpSammy, 15, ran away from home in depression and despair, and this is the story of his return to his family and his road to recovery. The book was written from tapes of his therapy sessions. In eight months, he transformed from being a gang member surviving in the streets to the glue that brought his parents together again. He graphically describes his reasons for joining the gang, his initiation, and its activities. The text is mainly a dialogue between Sammy and his counselor and occasionally one of his family members. The therapist uses various psychological techniques such as positive light therapy, optical illusions, positive thinking, etc. It is hard to imagine that the troubled teenager described in the beginning could change so dramatically so quickly and cure his father's cocaine habit, recover from depression, and restore his parents' marriage. Although this book attempts to give troubled students hope and a role model to follow, the scenario described is hardly the norm, and the young man comes across as wise beyond his years in the counseling sessions.Sandra L. Doggett, Urbana High School, Walkersville, MD

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HarperCollins Publishers
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13 Years

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Almost Lost EPB
Chapter One

Paula Gordon Chart
Tuesday, March 29, 10:10 A.M.Paula Gordon, Registered Nurse, called regarding
therapy for her son Samuel Gordon, age 15

Samuel has gone from being a bright, happy, funny, usually self-confident boy to someone who often seems "almost an old senile stranger."

  1. His mother notices a continuing loss of selfesteem.
  2. Difficulty in concentration and/or remembering.
  3. Unusual irritability.
  4. Spurts of, for no apparent reason, blatant hostility.
  5. Appetite loss. On rare occasions, gorging.
  6. Melancholy periods that come oftener, stay longer.
  7. Times when he locks himself in his room and she can hear him crying pitifully.
  8. He seems to feel completely detached from everyone and everything.
  9. His grades have fallen from As and Bs to Ds and Fs.
  10. He has quit his part-time job.
Samuel Gordon — Monday, April 4, 2:00 P.M.
Samuel Gordon Chart
Monday, April 4, 2:00 p.m.Edited tape from first visitSAMUEL (SAMMY) GORDON, 15 years old

"Hi, Samuel. I'm Doctor B."

"Hi." Samuel sounded as depleted as if he had just done his best, but still finished dead last, in an exhausting marathon that he had really wanted to win.

"Do you like to be called Samuel, Sam, Sammy, or something else?"

He shrugged.

"I want you to know that anything you say in this session is completely between the two of us. I am required by law to keep it confidential. I am even more bound by my own code of ethics to honor and respect your thoughts and concepts and words absolutely."

Samuel continues. "What I really want is for you and the rest of the whole screwed-up world, including me, to just quickly and quietly dissolve into nothing, never-was, nothingness."

"You don't know me but

"I kind of know you through your books."

"I hope you know how much I cared for each of those kids. "

"I guess."

"Do you think I would care less about you?"

He shrugged.

"I want to be completely honest with you so that you can feel safe in being straightforward and honest with me — that is, if you want to be. Does that sound fair?"

"Ummm ...

"If I feel someone I talk with is an endangerment to himself or herself, or to others, I might on a rare occasion feel it necessary to seek help beyond my own ability, but only in a professional way. I hope that makes sense to you."

"It doesn't. Why can't everybody just live, or not live, their own life?"

"Because sometimes people can't see their glorious future through their glucky present."

"That's Establishment horse hockey."

"Your mom told me that you didn't want to come, didn't think you needed to come."

"For once the warden and keeper was right."

"Did you have any particular reason for not wanting to see me?"

"Why would anyone in their right mind wanna see a shrink?"

"What's the difference between seeing a medical doctor when you suffer from physical pain and seeing a therapist when you're hurting mentally? Isn't the pain you have now as real as any pain could be?"

"It's not really pain. It's. . ."

"You mean it's not like a broken leg."


"But it's still deep, dark, cold discomfort isn't it?"

(Deep sigh.) "Sometimes even my hair hurts."

"Would you like to talk about what is hurting you?"


"Would it help to try to find out why you're sad?" "Uh-huh."

Samuel pulled into himself like a turtle pulling into its shell.

"Would you like to feel better? Like your old, old, olden self?"

"I almost don't even remember that person."

"But would you like to go back again to a happy, uncluttered, unpressured existence?"

"I'm not sure I ever was that way."

"Do you think maybe you're depressed?"

"No way! My mom probably gave you a bunch of gobbly goop poop about that. Actually, she has not clue one. What she's really looking for is absolute, complete remote control of my life."

"You think she wants to completely control your life?"

"Seems like it."

"How does that make you feel?"

"Like hell. Makes me wanna get the hell outta there and off the planet."

"Does your mom know that?"

"She should. I've told her often enough."

"Think about this question for a minute. Maybe your mom's pushy, but do you think she tries to give you suggestions and guidelines and boundaries because she hates you or because she loves you?"

"Who knows?"

"You honestly don't know?"

'I honestly don't care."

"Did you know that depression is a lot more than just a long downer? It's loneliness, apathy, loss of interest and pleasure and curiosity. I wish you'd talk with me about depression even if you don't have it. Lots of kids do, you know. In fact, it is estimated that over eighteen million people today suffer from depression, many, many of them kids!"

"Eighteen million?"

"The sad thing is that lots of depression goes undiagnosed and untreated because people don't want to accept the symptoms for what they are. They don't know that it can be diagnosed and treated. Anyone who is going through a state of unhappiness or nonfeeling deserves to know that it is practically always temporary and that he or she is not alone! Not the only person in the entire universe who feels that way, but just one out of eighteen million."

"I thought I was the only one so sort of unhinged and out of touch."

"Believe me, you're not! I'd say that most kids go through some degree of depression, at one point or another before they become adults. And they're usually pretty good at covering it up. There are probably many kids you know who, to...

Almost Lost EPB
. Copyright © by Beatrice Sparks. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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