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

"We should be grateful for all the privileges we have," he said.

Others then talked about personal concerns. Kathleen said that her impending re-entry to society was scary because of the possibility of reverting to her old habits.

"I'm 'mad' nervous about going back," she said. Another teen talked about how hard it was to deal with the death of her grandmother. A boy talked about a feeling of personal rejection, and another client offered an apology.

Structure is a key element to the Daytop program.

Teen residents not only attend their classes and group sessions, but they are also assigned various responsibilities, including landscaping, cooking, cleanup and light maintenance. Lights are turned off in all dorm rooms at 10:30 p.m., and there's 24-hour monitoring by staff.

Structuring clients' time and behavior is key to the program's success, Daytop staff said. Not only are there high expectations for dress - shirts must be neat and tucked in, no sagging pants - but the teens are expected to be courteous, aware, helpful and to contribute to the facility's success. Not only are alcohol, drugs and cigarettes banned, but there are no cell phones, iPods, or such electronic devices allowed.

The teens generally attend one to two years.

Clients not only have drug addiction problems, but other issues as well. Some of the clients are intent on harming themselves by cutting their skin, others have eating disorders, and some are survivors of abuse and neglect, Daytop Managing Director Brian Gamarello said. He noted that most all Daytop's clients have gone through substance detoxification prior to admission.

About half of Daytop alumni enroll in college, and most all the other half go to work in jobs, officials said. Some Daytop alumni have studied at Ivy League schools, and more than a few have pursued illustrious careers in law, finance and science, they said.

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