Kids Find Help in
Joe, who had been using for about four years, has been sober for 70 days already. "My life was really bad. It sucked," said Joe. "I didn't really want to do anything unless it involved drugs. I had no friends. I was miserable."
Julie, 14, was cross-addicted, meaning her addiction to alcohol automatically made her addicted to other chemical substances. She started using drugs because she liked it and her friends were doing it. She has been sober for 92 days.
Jeanne, who has been sober for 73 days, was using for two or three years before she came to the center.
Great Lakes Recovery seems to have made a positive impact on each of the kids' lives. "I'm more happy with myself and what I'm doing," explains Joe. "I'm in the 10th grade. I used to go to an alternative school and it was kind of bad because everyone there did drugs. I did pretty good in school here. My parents are more proud of me and have more trust in me."
Jeanne's life has also improved. "I dropped out of school my senior year," she said. "(Now) I'm going to school, and when I get out I'll only have to get a couple credits, and I'll be able to graduate and get my diploma. I plan on going to college afterwards, too. My family has changed a lot and I've got different friends now."
Now that they're sober, some have found that people treat them differently.
"I used to be around people that were using," said John. "Now I'm around people that are usually sober, and they are a lot nicer."
When asked to describe his perfect life, Joe answered: "I'd be happy, rich, study, and I wouldn't be a using loser."
"My perfect life would be in a rich neighborhood because I know I wouldn't be in the projects. I'd probably have better friends, not drug-selling buddies, and I think I'd go to school," said Julie.
"My three wishes would be not to have gotten myself into this mess in the first place. Just be happy and healthy. Have more loyal friends, friends that didn't pressure me into doing stuff that I don't need to get myself into," Jeanne said. John's only wish was to stay sober. Joe's wish? "I wish I would have listened in D.A.R.E. class a little better."
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The Great Lakes Recovery Center in Marquette is a safe place for teens to make changes in their lives and empower themselves, says the center's clinical supervisor. "It's a place to get grounded and to find out who they are and what their spirit is about," says supervisor Jane Henry.
The center is a year-round school through the Marquette-Alger Intermediate School District. The day starts at 6 a.m. The residents shower, eat breakfast they cooked themselves, and have a small group to talk about their feelings by 7:00. At 8:30, school begins. After lunch they have gym, and four days out of the week they have a recreation activity. In the evenings, the kids have therapy groups. The groups deal with substance abuse, family issues and self-esteem building.
On average, youth stay at the center for about three months. Every week the staff does an evaluation called "level of care index," where they evaluate whether the residents are achieving the goals of their treatment plan. Twenty percent of the kids are at the center of their own free will. The other 80 percent are there on court orders. Alcohol and marijuana are the leading substances in use, and inhalants are a serious problem with younger clients. Sixty to 75 percent of the clients are from the Upper Peninsula, but they also come from the northern Lower Peninsula.
"I think one of the things we do the best is probably to respect our clients as young men and women," says Henry, "and value wherever they are on their path in this world, and help them love themselves and make healthy choices. I think we're good at loving the kids unconditionally. Hopefully that will enable them to create a new identity, someone who is not labeled one way or another, but who is able to achieve so much."