A mountain could be considered an obstacle.
A wilderness might be viewed as a place of loneliness.
But students of Teen Recovery Solutions in Oklahoma City recently traveled to the Guadalupe Mountains in West Texas to face their challenges in a remote setting with teens from Houston who also are recovering from alcohol and/or drug abuse.
Mike Maddox, clinical director at Teen Recovery Solutions, went to Houston last summer to observe a program that stresses good peer involvement through positive social activities. The model was created to address the teens' social, psychological and emotional issues. That visit established a connection between the two programs.
So in March, about 40 students from the Texas program and six students, two recovery coaches and Maddox, all from Teen Recovery Solutions, met in the mountains for a spring wilderness retreat. Part of the focus was to share not only time together hiking, but honesty.
“The retreats are kind of rewards, but also ways for the kids to connect with other recovering teens and just get away,” Maddox said. “They try to get closer with a spiritual connection in recovery and develop other relationships with other recovering teens.”
Michael and McKenna, students at Teen Recovery Solutions, had separate moments when they were by themselves and experienced the spiritual connection they had sought.
Although those moments came in solitude, students also were asked to work together in activities such as making camp.
Among the most powerful experiences were recovery meetings at a campfire.
“Those were probably the best I've ever been to,” Michael said. “I think part of it was because we were all generally the same age. You're around people generally in the same situation. They know where you are coming from.”
McKenna listened as teens shared struggles in their recovery.
“There was one night when five to less than 10 people came out with honesty about their relapse,” she said. “I thought that was really cool because you know that's hard to just say in front of a lot of people. They hadn't told anybody. There was just so much honesty.”
About the program
Teen Recovery Solutions, formerly Oklahoma Outreach Foundation, includes Mission Academy high school and the Mission Peer Group.
The private recovery high school, currently with 10 students, assists teens in recovering from drug and alcohol abuse 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.
Michael said the trip helped him develop relationships.
“I came back a lot closer with people from the school,” Michael said. “The last night we stayed up all night long.”
Being able to talk to someone day or night is one aspect McKenna appreciates about the school. “The whole environment is that you can just call anybody, any time and they'll answer,” McKenna said. “They'll talk with you for however long you want and they'll make you feel a little better. They'll give you advice.”
Maddox said part of the goal of Teen Recovery Solutions is to continue to help develop the recovery community for teens in the Oklahoma City metro area. That includes the classroom, as well as after-school and retreat activities.
“Teens have got to have fun in recovery, or they're going to go back to using drugs and alcohol,” Maddox said. “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.”