Best-selling author Koren Zailckas has fragmented memories of the day she blacked out from intoxication at age 16. Zailckas, now 33, recalls partying with a group of friends on a dock and then waking up the next day at home in a hospital gown.
After blacking out on the dock, she couldn't walk or talk, and her parents had to rush her to the hospital to have her stomach pumped. Though the experience served as a serious red flag, it was only the beginning of a long road to recovery from alcoholism, she said Tuesday night to an audience of about 300 people during the Teen Recovery Solutions' “An Evening of Courage and Inspiration” charity dinner.
Zailckas is known for her debut book, “Smashed,” which chronicles her decadelong struggle with alcohol abuse, beginning at age 14, in an effort to explain binge drinking among America's youth.
She served as guest speaker for the dinner hosted at the Skirvin Hotel. The event raised more than $140,000 for the nonprofit organization, formerly known as the Oklahoma Outreach Foundation, which facilitates treatment and recovery programs for teens coping with dependency on alcohol and other drugs.
Teen Recovery Solutions leads Mission Academy, one of 24 recovery high schools in the United States. The students enrolled in the school are able to complete their education while achieving and maintaining a recovery lifestyle. The organization also provides counseling services and supports an after-school and weekend peer group that allows students to build relationships with other teens who have committed to a sober lifestyle.
“I think programs like Teen Recovery Solutions are fantastic,” Zailckas said. “Kids are drinking so much younger these days than they ever did before. The problem is so pervasive that kids need a safe place to turn to so they can recover early in life and move forward with their lives.”
Advocate of therapy
Zailckas said she is an advocate for therapy and unconditional love in the recovery process.
“Therapy helped me to get to the root of some childhood issues and begin to heal. Recovering is a lifelong process, and it's a gift. Hardships can open up new opportunities, and programs like these are so great because they give teens a place to get started.”
Teen Recovery Solutions officials also presented attorney Reggie Whitten with the “Dare to Believe” award. Whitten is founder of Fighting Addiction Through Education.
FATE is a nonprofit organization with a mission to educate the public on alcohol and substance abuse and reduce addiction rates in Oklahoma. The organization also has a special focus on teens.
Whitten spearheaded the organization in memory of his son, Brandon, who was addicted to prescription drugs and alcohol, and died at age 25 in a motorcycle accident caused by substance abuse.
Janet Oden, executive director of Teen Recovery Solutions, said she hopes people are inspired by both Zailckas' and Whitten's stories.
“In the three and a half years that I have worked for this wonderful organization, I have seen teens reclaim their future, integrity and hope,” Oden said. “I have seen families reunited and the wounds of the disease of chemical abuse healed in the process of recovery. I have seen joy returned and success achieved.
“We want people to know that there is hope and that there are solutions to the disease of chemical abuse and addiction. It's important for people to know that together as a community we can make a powerful difference in the lives of teens. Research shows us that the recovery rate for teens without support is 15 percent, but with a recovery group and supportive high school, the recovery rate is 85 to 90 percent long term. Our teens are our greatest resource, and they are worth fighting for.”
For more information about Teen Recovery Solutions, visit www.teenrecoverysolutions.org.