Helping Teens with Addictions See the Light at the End of the Tunnel

When I was 17, I started counseling younger teens in 12 step programs. These were great kids with good hearts and sad stories. They were bright souls who, like me, had found a problem with drugs, alcohol, or other addictive behaviors and substances. I spent years in programs helping these wonderful kids. I will always be thankful for my time in the 12 step programs, as they worked for me and offered me a chance to help others. But I’d be lying if I said that they helped everyone.

Some of the kids had trouble opening up. Some didn’t want to lose face in front of others. Then there were those who just didn’t do well cooped up in a room for hours every week talking.

I lost some of the best people I’ve ever met to boredom and fear.

Over my years of counseling teens, I realized that one of the biggest problems was that they felt they were shunned, unwanted young adults who were suffering alone. Even in a room full of kids in similar situations, they couldn’t find a connection with others. Even with over a million teens suffering from substance abuse, they couldn’t stop feeling like they were on the outside.

Part of that problem was that they just didn’t seem to be able to disconnect from the way their lives were. They were afraid of losing face. They cared more about how they seemed on Facebook or Twitter. They didn’t want to seem like losers to their friends.

I didn’t want to lose another good kid to substance abuse or to the pressure of keeping up appearances. I started looking around for other ways to help these amazing kids see that there is life after addiction.

One of the best ways I found was through wilderness therapy. If you’re a teen struggling with addiction or a parent of a teen who is struggling, I highly encourage you to look into this type of amazing program. Especially if other programs haven’t worked in the past.

What is it?

This type of therapy takes teens who are struggling with addiction out of their comfort zone by sending them into the wilderness. The terrain changes from state to state, but this can mean anything from barren deserts to lush forests. A group of teens will be lead by 2–5 therapists into the wilderness. They are taught life and survival skills and are given a chance to be heard, express themselves, and avoid temptation.

How does it work?

It works by taking you or your teen out of the cycle of bad habits. By taking you out of your comfort zone and putting you somewhere entirely new, you’re forced to break that mental state of redundancy. You’re able to unplug, unwind, and learn healthier habits. When you undertake this sort of a program, you’re forced to relearn how to live your life — and you make great friends along the way!

Why should you try it?

Whether you’re just now seeking help, or you’ve been in and out of programs and therapy before, giving this program a try is one of the best things you can do. Why keep trying the same things that have not been working for you? You are worth trying something different, something new that will help you feel better. It allows you a unique opportunity to trust and rely on yourself, new friends, and helpful adults that offer no judgments.

Don’t let yourself be another good kid lost to mistakes and poor choices. You might have been the one who decided to try whatever you’re hooked on, but you didn’t choose to be addicted to it. Making mistakes doesn’t make you a bad person. You deserve to get better.

There is life after addiction — I’m proof of that. I’m a wife, a mother of 3, a balloon artist. Some of my best friends are proof of that. They’re business owners, managers, counselors, friends, lovers, family.

Your addiction doesn’t define you — you do.

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