Two 19-year-olds who have struggled with drug addiction now are working daily to help others with their battles.
What began with “normal teen experimentation” with marijuana and alcohol quickly escalated to a dangerous, out-of-control existence, they said.
But, Aaron's been sober more than 14 months, and Kayley for a year as of last Monday.
For their sake and that of the teens they mentor daily, they pray that time does march on, instead of stopping and starting over.
Aaron and Kayley each have undergone drug use that spanned a few years. They now serve as peer recovery coaches in Teen Recovery Solutions' after-school and weekend program for teens who are seeking support in their recovery and want to finish high school.
“Even if they say they don't want it sometimes,” Kayley said, “I know that somewhere in there I'm helping them and that helps me so much.
“We're all the same, we're all searching for something to fill those feelings that we hate.”
It takes support
Teen Recovery Solutions, formerly Oklahoma Outreach Foundation, includes Mission Academy high school and the Mission Peer Group.
The private recovery high school helps teens recover from drug and alcohol addictions while allowing them to finish high school. It is a recovery-based environment in which the student can complete their high school requirements for graduation rather than going back to their previous school setting, where relapse often occurs with the same friends, said Janet Oden, executive director of Teen Recovery Solutions.
While students of the academy are required to participate in the alternative peer group, the program is also open to students of other Oklahoma City metro-area schools who are battling substance abuse.
Mike Maddox, Clinical Director at Teen Recovery Solutions, went to Houston to observe just such a program that stresses good peer involvement through positive social activities. The model was created to address the teens' social, psychological and emotional issues. Plus, it involves a lot of family participation. For example, there are sessions with the parents in which they are asked to set healthy boundaries, letting the teens know what they expect such as being honest and following the rules.
“Alternative peer groups have demonstrated a 90 percent recovery rate for teens versus only a 10 percent to 50 percent recovery rate for other recovery programs,” Oden said. “Recovery takes support and that's what is being offered at Mission Academy and the Mission Peer Group.”
It takes time
“Teens have got to have fun in recovery, or they're going to go back to using drugs and alcohol,” Maddox said of the alternative peer group. “It's about teaching them how to have fun without getting high or drunk.
“Counseling in itself, treatment in itself, it's not a quick fix. It's a process of change over time. It's getting away from that immediate gratification of drugs and alcohol.”