I was so grateful to be able to watch the screening of this new documentary called Generation Found which was held at The Music Hall Loft in Portsmouth, NH last night. It was an incredibly amazing, inspirational, and thought-provoking story about a community coming together to create a youth addiction recovery revolution in their hometown. The large city of Houston, Texas was devastated by an epidemic of addiction and was faced with the reality of burying or locking up their youth at an alarming rate. It was amazing to see how so many leaders in the community came together to build the world’s largest peer-driven youth and family recovery community.
One of the questions that started the whole revolution was “Why are our children dying?” The community realized if they didn’t start talking about substance abuse among their adolescents and families, they would never be able to find a solution to the problem and it would only get much worse. The film showed some very interesting statistics, such as that 9 out of 10 of those with an addiction began drinking, smoking or using illicit drugs in their adolescence. The film showed that by creating a sober high school where every kid there is in recovery reduces the shame and stigma of addiction thereby allowing their recovery to be more effective. They are all very supportive of each other and help each other in their recoveries. They also have special bonds with their teachers and even their principal because they really care about how the kids are doing and feeling — they will often be talking to kids in the hallways. There is much love and acceptance in these sober high schools which in turn helps the kids feel loved, respected, and appreciated which builds their self-esteem, self-confidence, and feeling of belonging in their community. This type of positive peer pressure is what forms close bonds and the kids at this sober high school all feel connected to each other as if they are a family — they look out for each other and have each other’s back. They teach the kids that they don’t have to be perfect but they do have to be honest with themselves and others.
Another important change to this community was building Alternative Peer Groups (APGs) for the kids in this community. APGs contribute to the recovering adolescent’s success by providing a fun factor. While enrolled in an APG, the adolescent still gets to be a kid. They are encouraged to learn how to have as much sober fun as possible within healthy boundaries. Alternative Peer Groups strive to develop healthy decision making through fun and challenging activities. The APG incorporates a variety of weekday and weekend social activities into the recovery process so that adolescents can learn how to have fun while remaining sober. Recovery has to be as much fun if not more than using drugs in order to get adolescents “hooked”.
This was such a powerful model for what all cities and small towns in the United States should be striving for. Addiction in this day and age looks different than it did in past decades. We need to find new and creative ways to support and strengthen our current recovery programs and really address where substance abuse starts which is in adolescence.
I highly recommend viewing this documentary!
Posted by: Angela Whiting, North Hampton, NH.