Welcome to a Four Part Series on how one community and a growing number of other communities are bringing recovery deeply into the lives of its teens both through a specific recovery high school experience and through the Alternative Peer Group experience which together elevate the power of recovery in the lives of teens and their families. Today part one: Welcome to Archway Academy – How the day begins. Look for part two: How Archway does academics; Part three: How APG’s are changing the lives of young people; Part Four: Generation Found – the movie that tells the story of hope for teens in recovery – all of these in future editions of the BALM weekly newsletter and on this blog page of http://www.familyrecoveryresources.com
Most high school students who struggle with substance use disorder and decide to get sober, face the double challenge of finding a new peer group in recovery and having to figure out how to cope with the trigger-filled environment of a school where their dealer, their co-users, and their drug customers are often all housed at the place they must go to everyday…
The city of Houston has been leading the way in helping a growing group of students in recovery find an answer to both dilemmas.
There are 38 recovery high schools in the US and two of them are housed in Houston.
The school we visited, Archway Academy, also has the unique and important distinction of being the largest recovery high school in the nation.
Last week, just before the BALM Institute Practicum Weekend, 7 members of the BALM Community of Coaches visited Archway Academy early on Thursday morning.
I’m writing this post to share with you the amazing school we found in the heart of the museum district in downtown Houston and to encourage all of you dear BALM readers, to consider how a school such as this one, plus the unique APG (Alternative Peer Group) program that all students are required to participate in throughout their high school career, might take recovery in your hometown to a higher level for the teens in your area.
Housed in an Episcopal Church with a long reputation for caring about addiction recovery, Archway Academy is run by Sasha McLean, LMFT, LPC and a team of high school teachers and recovery coaches who are there for their students’ holistic development.
While Sasha will be the first to tell you that the primary purpose of the school is for the 75 students there to get a first rate high school education and to find themselves as people with the ability and skills to get through high school and prepare to move on to the next educational and/or career of their choice, this school is much more than just a high school.
She asked us to arrive early to experience the morning routine of the school and and so we did. From the start, all of us were greatly moved by the experience. The entire student body gathers each morning from 7:45 to 8:30 AM for a morning check in. Sometimes they do it by gender. This day, it was the entire student body minus the Student Council who were starting the day with their own meeting on the day we visited.
Beginning with the third step prayer (easily found in the AA Big Book) the students commit themselves to a day centered on God’s will rather than their own. Then, they share what is going on with them. It is a meeting of sorts, but different. If a student is going through a rough patch, they share it with the group and others share feedback (if the sharer is open to getting feedback) and their own experience and support to help the person choose another day in recovery. Listening to the depth of the sharing and the power of the support the students gave to each other was powerful beyond words. The adults in the room, interject as needed and occasionally give assignments to the individual students sharing or invite them to stop by after the meeting to help them further. This level of support could not be given in a non-recovery environment beyond treatment and yet, it quickly became evident that to stem the tide of and mange teen relapse (which is what most teens experience in early recovery) it is crucial.
During the check in, at some point, everyone stood up to share how much time they have in recovery and that went from a few days if they had slipped, to up to four years (yes, there were people graduating who had been in the school since ninth grade!)
At the end of the sharing, Sasha, their executive director and the ‘mom’ of the program, asked the students if they would be willing to share their experience of the school and its impact on their lives and recovery with us.
What I heard in that room that day was an affirmation of what we know about recovery for young people:
- the need for family involvement
- support from significant adults
- meaningful sober activities on an ongoing basis throughout high school and beyond to insure an ongoing sober lifestyle
- the value of sober peers who understand and can lend a hand up
- finding out in sobriety that you can do so much more than you thought you would ever be able to do when you were using
The inspiration we as BALM coaches experienced during that visit recharged us in the work we are doing to help families blaze the trail to recovery in their homes!
By the way, this summer the work begins in the BALM community on the next curriculum adaptation of the 12 principles, this one for parents of teens as they navigate not only the need to set boundaries, but also limits, in a developmentally appropriate way. Thank you to BALM Coaches Beth Gross, Tracy Ward, and Fern Weis as they lead that process forward.
See you next week in Bev’s Corner as we explore the Archway approach to high school academia and how the supports built into the day and the powerful academic focus of the faculty make it all possible.
On another note, The BALM Institute Practicum was a powerful experience for the 22 of us who attended this year. There was coaching and learning going on in every nook and cranny of the hotel! All the best to the 15 powerful coach trainees who were observed through the Practicum weekend and will soon be taking their certification exams so they can better bring their powerful gifts with sharing BALM Family Recovery with families near and far! And a great thanks to Fran Fisher, MCC for her audacious teaching and coaching guidance and skills, Mark Scannell and Jen Fisher for adding their observation skills to the weekend, thus helping coaches to grow and develop, Tracy Ward for making the clocks run on time through the weekend and all participants for their commitment to becoming the BEST coaches they can be!