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Sober school


A unique program offers school for teens recovering from substance abuse.

Kent Anderson January 2nd, 2013

In an unmarked building on an ordinary corner in northwest Oklahoma City, learning is taking place. Healing happens here, too.

Janet Oden and Mike Maddox
Credit: Mark Hancock

Now in its seventh year, Mission Academy is a project of Teen Recovery Solutions, formerly known as the Oklahoma Outreach Foundation. The fully accredited, private high school is designed for teens emerging from treatment for drug and alcohol abuse.

“Some concerned citizens discovered that kids who came out of treatment for alcohol abuse or addiction found it difficult to return to their home high schools and be successful,” said Janet Oden, executive director of Teen Recovery Solutions. “They often ended up with the same peers, in the same situation, without the support they needed.”

So a school was born, one that not only teaches algebra and history and English, but also promotes a clean and sober environment. Mission Academy can accept up to 12 students. Six are currently enrolled, with an average stay of two years. Funding is from tuition, foundation grants and private donations.

The school day begins with a morning group session. Then it’s on to the classrooms. After the school day is Mission Peer Group, which is also open to students not enrolled at the school. Each day has a different focus, ranging from recreation to recovery therapy, but everything Mission Academy does aims to create a positive environment for teens at a vulnerable and difficult time.

“I started using in high school,” said 16-year-old Kevin (Oklahoma Gazette has changed his name to protect his identity). “One of my buddies gave me Xanax once when I was having a bad day. After that, I started doing whatever I could find: smoking weed and doing pills, whatever I could get my hands on, anything to make me feel better. After a while it stopped making me feel better.”

After descending deeply into addiction — he began to get shakes and sweats on days he could not get high before school — Kevin was admitted to inpatient rehab.

“It was like a whole other reality when I heard about it,” Kevin said of Mission Academy. “When I was about to get out of rehab, I was worried I would have to go back to my old school. There wasn’t much chance there to talk about my feelings there. I was really scared. When I came here, I saw there were people here who cared and understood. This is a safe place.”

Kevin has now been sober for 17 months, and is looking toward the future. He is considering working in computer game design.

In the meantime, in the unmarked building, the healing continues. “The most rewarding thing is to see teens and families come here together and find some solutions for how to come back together as a family,” said Mike Maddox, clinical director at Teen Recovery Solutions.

 
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