Partnering with Bridges Alternative Peer Group for Teens Who Are in Recovery

Bridges—Seattle APG holds space for youth to engage in safe, sober fun at their fully staffed drop-in center as well as at staff-supervised off-site activities. Bridges provides wrap-around services to the families in early recovery and beyond by connecting them to resources in the community for clinical and therapeutic support as well as higher levels of treatment. Bridges APG offers the bridge from active addiction back to a meaningful life for youth and young adults ages 13-24 and their families.

Restorative Support Services:

Youth support groups, young adult support groups, family support groups; four-week education program for new/incoming parents; service opportunities for youth and families, life skills; expressive arts program; music- creating, playing; producing fine art, graffiti art, creative writing; sober summer camps & sober school break camps; social functions & activities; youth retreats, young adults & families retreats; crisis intervention & crisis management; case management and relapse prevention strategies; open community recovery meetings for youth, young adults and families; community education program, and community outreach.

“The teens we work with aren’t one offs. We have youth from schools all over, and they are just the ones that made a decision to be in recovery. The challenge these teens face is not something you can just “get over,” it is an excruciating process of self-growth during a critical time of development. Other teens get to worry about grades and sports and social stuff. The teens we work with are forced to face their own mortality while still doing those things, as well as managing illness that disrupts all of those things.“ – Ryan Orrison, SUDP, Program Director

Making sobriety fun is what enthusiastic recovery is all about – Bridges has been highly successful in achieving long-term adolescent recovery through an inclusive framework and a network of like-minded peers. Bridges uses the APG model as a wraparound service to create sustainable sobriety and recovery for teens and their families. The APG model was created to address the emotional, psychological, spiritual and social needs of teens struggling with substance abuse issues. It focuses on peer connection, support, education, family involvement and enthusiastic recovery with fun activities. Peer connection and support is forged in group sessions and 12-step meetings, and followed up by fun group activities, which can include music and art programs, camping, hiking, bowling, paddleboarding, kayaking and more.

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Support and education is an ongoing process. Knowledge is power and because addiction is a disease, there is a lot to learn. In the APG model, they weave support and education through recovery support meetings for the teens, weekly meetings for the parents and weekly family meetings when parents and teens get together. Family involvement is required. As the teen recovers, they change. For these positive changes to be sustainable, parents must also be on a new path of recovery as well. Research indicates that when the whole family is part of the recovery process, there is a much higher likelihood of long-term recovery for the teen as well as improved family relationships – this is a key reason for Bridges’ successful outcomes.

Reflections from Bridges Alternative Peer Group

What types of counseling (if any) have you received in the past two months?

Substance use counseling, family therapy, drug & alcohol therapy, mental health therapy/outpatient, trauma EMDR, counseling at Bridges’ APG.

What are your biggest sobriety challenges on a typical day?

Not hanging out with old friends, not using, intrusive thoughts, filling the hole of boredom, keeping up with my work, occasional cravings, Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.), replacing drug use with bad/negative habits, and being honest and real with myself about my feelings.

What coping methods have been successful in maintaining your sobriety?

Video games, drawing, driving, breathing, exercise, meetings and self-care, cigarettes, events that risk my life, writing in journal about feelings & in general; organizing, cleaning, Interagency Recovery School, Bridges & overall community; new habits, sobriety counseling, AA, not using, talking to other addicts, the Twelve Steps.

What advice would you give your younger self about the problems with substance use?

Don’t try it because you think it’s cool, just smoke less, make sure you are with safe people when you use, find ways to cope with yourself, ask your mother for help, don’t use – it will get worse, no altered state changes how your life is – embrace yourself and work through things and on self security.

What could have prevented you from substance use?

Myself, not hanging out with the people I used to; There were a lot of factors in my use, I’m naturally addicted; It’s just sad, get and ask for help earlier on.

What are your school and career goals? What steps are you taking toward those goals?

Graduation, get rich, get my diploma, get a job, make good money, making plans and following up with them; school – not fail a college course; career – find a job that involves the use of multiple languages; graduate, attend college, I’m running in sports and working on college applications, graduation and working; college, I have looked at a lot of schools and I am going back to get my blackbelt in TaeKwonDo.

Bridges Seattle APG has contributed to life-saving addiction counseling for youth who otherwise would most likely continue their substance use. A grieving mother in a WRA meeting shared her heartfelt anguish over losing her son to substance use while in a rehabilitation facility. She said that after many years of her son’s mental illness and substance use, she had not heard about any type of youth oriented substance use recovery organizations. Sadly, she lost her son before she heard about Bridges Seattle Alternative Peer Group Recovery Program. Unfortunately, there is a growing need for more programs like Bridges as substance use has increased dramatically within the last several years in Washington state. While drug abuse at any age is dangerous, for teens, these substances can damage the developing brain at a crucial time during their growth.

A Call to Action for Life-Saving Support to expand Bridges programs

Bridges offers financial support through donations so each family in need of their services are never turned away. The donations go toward salaries for the mentors and staff who have earned the trust of the teens in recovery. It’s about relationship-building especially when a young person is unstable and needs a trusted adult to help them. The Bridges services offer restoration of our community’s youth who are at risk of falling deeper into dangerous addictive behaviors. About 1 — BRIDGES – Seattle APG.

According to the National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics, Teenagers in Washington are 33.36% more likely to have used drugs in the last month than the average American teen. Teenage Drug Use Statistics [2023]: Data & Trends on Abuse (drugabusestatistics.org)

Marijuana use can lead to the development of problem use, known as a marijuana use disorder, which takes the form of addiction in severe cases. Recent data suggest that 30% of those who use marijuana may have some degree of marijuana use disorder. People who begin using marijuana before the age of 18 are four to seven times more likely to develop a marijuana use disorder than adults. Is marijuana addictive? | National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) (nih.gov).

Reading the Signs of Substance Addiction

Concerning signs indicate that there may be a problem that should be looked into—not that there is definitely a problem. It is important to first speak with the young person to get a better understanding of the situation. Many teens may show behaviors in adolescence that are indicative of substance abuse, but can also be considered normal behaviors while growing up. It is important to take notice if there are several signs happening at the same time, if they occur suddenly, and if the behaviors are extreme.

The following behaviors might indicate drug or alcohol abuse: Mood changes (temper flare-ups, irritability, defensiveness); Academic problems (poor attendance, low grades, disciplinary action); Changing friends and a reluctance to have parents/family get to know the new friends; A “nothing matters” attitude (lack of involvement in former interests, general low energy); Finding substances (drug or alcohol) in the person’s room or personal effects; Physical or mental changes (memory lapses, poor concentration, lack of coordination, slurred speech, etc.) Warning Signs | Youth.gov.