If your family has ever dealt with a loved one who is addicted to alcohol or drugs, then my heart goes out to you; my compassion and empathy is profound. An addict will sell themselves, give up their children, cut off ties with family, and wander from place to place or live in the streets and alleyways. Their thoughts have been in drug mode for so long they don’t know how to think normal thoughts anymore. They don’t know how to “pull themselves up by the bootstraps” and get clean.
It’s not because they don’t want to. Their self-loathing is immense; their pain from the disappointment of losing themselves and sometimes their families is deep. The uphill climb to “clean” is a monstrous mountain to them that seems so gigantic that they fail before they even begin the first ascent.
Does the drug abuse come from undiagnosed mental illness? Did it begin with casual use as a young person and then became the demon-clawed monkey on their backs? Was it some horrible experience that first drew them to the escape from real life into the fantasy life of drugs or alcohol?
The reason isn’t important. The overcoming is. The ability to live the rest of their lives without the use of drugs or alcohol is what matters, not the whys.
Teen Challenge is a place for these lost souls, these hopeless people, to be saved. Quite literally. Here is their mission statement:
“To provide youth, adults and families with an effective and comprehensive Christian faith-based solution to life-controlling drug and alcohol problems in order to become productive members of society. By applying biblical principles, Teen Challenge endeavors to help people become mentally-sound, emotionally-balanced, socially-adjusted, physically-well, and spiritually-alive.”
It is not for those who aren’t ready to climb up out of the pit, nor is it for those looking for an easy road to sobriety. This program is the hardest thing any person will probably ever do in their lifetime for themselves. From day one there is no smoking, no foul talk, no talk of the street, no disrespecting the counselors… the list goes on and on. From day one there is a work ethic in place, a hygiene standard, an accountability practiced… just a few of the things used to build self-worth.
The program is about one year and can be all the way to two years. The men (the median age is 35) sleep in bunk beds with their clothes and shoes and personal items neatly in place, and those beds made up military style of the mornings which begins around 5:30 or so. They have work details, jobs in the community, for which they are not paid. They are immersed in Bible study and surrounded by encouraging people. They are required to dress in accordance with the dress code and go to church regularly.
This program is not for sissies. This program works.
Prison costs about $23,000 a year to house an inmate; Teen Challenge is less than half that. My question to judges, both state and federal, is why are you not utilizing this program? The fact that it is based on voluntary entry and the person is able to leave at any time is always the excuse used when sentencing an addict to prison instead of Teen Challenge. But that is no issue in reality. If the person leaves, then it’s off to prison.
The rigorous routine at Teen Challenge serves only to enhance the lives of those who stay, creating persons with skills and abilities to stay sober. The atmosphere in a prison serves only to degrade even further an already beaten man/woman, offering nothing more than a housing unit until they are released. Being ordered to Teen Challenge is a win-win situation. The offender makes it through the program and lives a productive life: society wins. The offender leaves the program and is then sent to prison: society still wins.
Why not give that person a chance? Why not see if this person can be in the statistical group of graduates, as they are called, who never go back to drugs? Why not?
Here is the web site to learn more of Teen Challenge: http://teenchallengeusa.com/