Former teen addicts, now in rehab, describe new life, hope

Kathleen said Daytop's program has transformed her life - from desperate dead-end addictions to a life full of fun and hope.

She's now aiming, she said, on a degree in psychology and a career as a school counselor, with an avocation of working with Habitat for Humanity.

As she headed toward another class, Kathleen credited the Daytop staff for her transformation, whether it was her English teacher's encouragement when he read her essays detailing her troubles, or how each counselor or staff member recurringly demonstrate how they truly care about the teenagers in rehab.

The Daytop center's program was working to help orient her in a new direction, Kathleen said, unlike various other programs and facilities she'd encountered.

"They care about you here and help you with your issues, no matter what they are," she said.

Each weekday at Daytop is filled with academic classes, followed by group sessions in which teens are coached on new approaches to their lives. These new attitudes and boosted awareness creates a sense of security, joy and fulfillment, the teenagers revealed Thursday in therapy sessions and interviews.

At Daytop, staff members and students greet each other by first names. Teen clients are encouraged to openly share their insecurities, fears and troubles, as well as their feelings of pride, hope, gratitude and accomplishment.

This occurs in group sessions several times per day - giving a voice to youth who before Daytop rarely expressed sentiments or feelings. Opportunities to do so include the program's Morning Meeting, or in evening sessions.

Morning Meeting is a two-part session, the first 20 minutes to air problems and disappointments, followed by 20 minutes for affirmations and joys.

One teenager talked Thursday about how several males, by kicking fruit over the cafeteria floor, showed disrespect for both Daytop and the other teens who had to clean up. He asked for the culprits to identify themselves and take responsibility - and a half-dozen teens stood up. Another boy also expressed dismay, noting a rest room had been trashed, and the toilet stuffed with towels. He also challenged the perpetrators to stand up. They did, amid non-judgmental comments from the teens. Brendan, a former addict, reminded them of their responsibility to their peers.

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