How We’re Different
Teen Challenge recently changed it name to “Adult and Teen Challenge,” though it has also served adults for decades.
For 50 years, our substance abuse addiction recovery program has provided a proven long-term and permanent recovery from addictions. We are the largest and longest continuously operated group of addiction recovery centers in the world, with over 200 centers in the U.S. and 1,300 centers worldwide.
Rather than considering addiction a “disease,” we look to the underlying root causes of the problem. We approach addiction as starting from an individual’s unfulfilled longing or a void in their life. The addiction was triggered by these deep felt issues, so unless those are dealt with, getting the individual off the substance they are addicted to is just a short term solution. Without life change, they will go right back to the drug or alcohol after a few days, weeks or months. Any addict can go through detox and get off alcohol or drugs for a short time, while in a monitored environment. Our goal is to provide long-term recovery and lifetime avoidance of addictive substances once the individual leaves our rehab, even when hard knocks hit.
Calling addiction a “disease” is short-sighted and only deals with the symptoms of a deeper problem. While it is obvious that drugs and alcohol do affect the brain and actions once they are introduced, and those brain changes make it much harder for the addict to get off the substance, the addiction is actually precipitated by deeper personal issues. Addicts typically start “using” out of a personal need to cover up internal issues, such as a need for love, success, forgiveness, belonging, acceptance, a spiritual void, or a lack of life purpose. The addict fills such voids in their life with drugs or alcohol, which provide a temporary cover-up to the mental anguish. However, the substances will take hold and build a dependency, taking away the addict’s ability to stop on their own. The dependency becomes too powerful. Attempts to get off the substance can lead to painful and sometimes life-threatening withdrawal symptoms.
Once invited in, these substances can and often do entirely take over the individual and their mindset, mentally or physically preventing them from stopping on their own. The cost of maintaining a habit can sometimes cause the addict to turn to theft (even from their own family) or selling drugs, and that can lead to jail sentences. Usually the substances are needed in higher and higher quantities or more frequently to achieve the same effect, until the addict overdoses or otherwise destroys their own body.
Without a totally new mindset and life focus to fill the void, the addict will return to their addiction again and again, ravaging their relationships, trustworthiness, career, finances and their physical and mental health. The addiction will utterly destroy them.
So, to unwrap the layers of addition, we take several steps, and these steps cannot be rushed. Once you understand them, you will see why it takes up to a year to accomplish. Typical high-cost, short-term rehabs are quite convincing that they can solve additions in a much shorter period of time. They are a joke in the media — we often hear of celebrities attending one after another and never solving their addiction. That is because their life issues have not been dealt with.
Have you wondered why the rehab industry generally keeps their term short? First, because it is more palatable to the addict or their family for the problem to be “fixed” quicker. Secondly, because most insurance programs will only participate in the first 90 days. So, the expensive rehabs make the most money by having a revolving door. On the contrary, we are nonprofit, to keep costs low, and we don’t take insurance. We focus our efforts on permanent recovery, no matter how long it takes, not on profits, insurance and repeat customers. We keep the cost for the individual or their family to a minimum, seeking most of our operational funding from donations from the community. That support gives us enough time to work with each addict to totally transform their life, for good. And that is why Adult and Teen Challenge programs are so successful.
Why These Steps Can Take A Full Year
The first step is to detox and to purge the substances and their immediate control over the addicted individual, which alone can take weeks or even months in a highly monitored and daily tested environment. Withdrawal can be an anguishing, difficult and sometimes dangerous experience. After that period, real change cannot happen from a few days or weeks of counseling — it happens day in and day out, over many months, as the individual lives in an environment where their lies, negatives motivations, and improper actions are constantly challenged. It happens as they make mistakes, are called out for those mistakes by the staff or other peers in the program, helping them to gradually learn to think and act differently. As in building any healthy habit, repetition is the key to long-term success, so it becomes natural and automatic.
We work on underlying person, rebuilding them up from the inside out. The addict learns to “own” their mistakes and works to solve them. Peers in the program are a critical force in showing them the way (another reason why the long-term aspect is so powerful, because individuals who have been in the program longer naturally mentor and lift up the newer intakes).
Deliverance = Reliance on a Higher Power
The addict has failed again and again, on many levels. They know they cannot change on their own, due to their own feelings of inadequacy, guilt and repeated past failures. So from the very start, a reliance on a “higher power” is emphasized. We believe in the life-changing effect that a personal relationship with Jesus Christ can have on an addict’s their life. They cannot change their own hearts — they need to cry out to their Maker and put the hard work on His shoulders. Christ and the Holy Spirit become their constant companion, bringing them peace, fulfillment, purpose, kindness, truthfulness and a desire to do good.
At first, the addict feels unforgivable; like a huge failure for all of the hurt and damage they have done. But once they realize that Jesus Christ will accept them as they are, and forgive them unconditionally, a whole new window opens up to them. They again feel worthy of moving on — worthy of being forgiven — because the Creator of the Universe has forgiven them and has taken a huge burden off their shoulders. A deep desire wells up within them to also seek the forgiveness of others, and that is a critical step forward. Through Christ they gain the strength and a burning desire to seek the forgiveness of others in their life that they have harmed. Surprisingly to them, others who see the change in their demeanor and attitudes are more than happy to forgive them, and that’s a huge relief.
Reintroducing Truth To the Addict’s Life
If there is one thing that is common to all addicts it is that they have become the best of liars — to friends, employers, family and even to themselves. Moreover, they are blame-shifters, never taking responsibility for their own actions. Introducing Christ into their life also means introducing truth, where truth had become lost to them. Former addicts can see through the lies of new intakes, so they are a very effective tool of the program to hold the newer peers accountable. Truth and transparency become a pivotal focus from this point forward, often taught with tough love, but always approached with acceptance, understanding and care. Eventually, the addict realizes that the only way to live is to put away their constant lies and approach life from the truth, with the help of Christ.
Christ is the “Sponsor”… the Church is the Meeting Place
In most rehab programs and in the 12-Step model, a sponsor (another former addict who will hold the individual accountable) is needed for the remainder of the addict’s life to keep them from relapsing, along with regular once or twice a week AA or NA meetings. However, in our program, Jesus Christ becomes the former addict’s “Sponsor,” along with the support of a family of like-minded believers in a local church. The Church provide the regular fellowship needed to keep the former addict in line. This family-friendly model continues to build up the individual. Rather than attending AA or NA meetings for the remainder of their life, the former addict attends a church with friends and family. They can move forward in life, rather than constantly being brought back to their difficult past or told that they have a lifelong “disease.”
Change Doesn’t Really Sink in Unless it is Lived
While temporarily clean from drugs, straight with God, and after curbing their lying to themselves and others, they still need a new path forward and a plan or they could fall right back into their old ways. The program therefore shifts toward introducing new elements into their life, including: humility, compassion, vocation and a strong work ethic. There is still a partial void in the former addict’s life having to do with their future. So, several months of hard work needs to happen. Confidence, poise, and a healthy vocation must be built. The addict is assigned work while gradually moving outside of the protected, drug-free environment in our facility. Such service work to the community teaches the resident humility and yet it is fulfilling to them to produce something each day, no matter how menial. The work is initially done in groups, with each member of the group watching out for the others, all the while testing their own resolve to stay clean and to hold each other accountable. Menial work gradually shifts to a focus on finding a fulfilling vocation that the former addict can successfully move into after graduating, if they had none previously. We help them get launched in that new vocation.
How Do We Charge So Little?
Adult and Teen Challenge programs are supported by the community and recoup only a small part of their cost from the tuition that is charged. We have 50 years of evidence that this model works, so the community gets behind us. We are very successful at transforming individuals who were once enslaved by addiction into vibrant, productive and peaceful individuals who care for others. The community is therefore very grateful!
In an Adult and Teen Challenge Outcomes Study by The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)
- 92% of graduates reported good to excellent health a year later.
- 86% reported they were drug-free a year later.
- 72% of the graduates continued their education upon completion of the program.
- 75% of the graduates were employed a year later, with 73% being fully self-supported by earning their own salary.
Compare these numbers with statistics of most other short-term rehabs, which are typically in the single digits!
- Legal Trouble?
We do accept individuals who have been in trouble with the law or are in jail. Courts have allowed addicts time here in lieu of jail, because they know how effective our program can be to completely change hearts and lives.
- Personal Growth
We help the addict sprout new leafs and grow a new life, free of addiction and the pain that led them to their addiction. We are all about planting the seeds of new life and helping the individual grow into a new creature in Christ.
- Vocationally Focused
We teach humility, care, trustworthiness and the traits of a good worker. We help the former addict find a new vocation and rebuild their future. Having a strong future plan keeps the individual excited about life and self-supporting.
What Our Past Residents Say
“I grew up in a good home, but in high school, I started hanging around people who smoked pot. I started to identify myself with that crowd at a time when people are trying to figure out who they are. When I was 17 years old, I was in a really bad car accident. Due to my injury, I was prescribed some pain medication. I liked that…too much…so I became addicted to it. Then when I couldn’t get the meds any longer, I found heroin, which was cheaper and easier to find on the street. So, I fell into a 5-year heroin addiction. When I was younger I had goals and dreams. It’s amazing when you get into this stuff how the goals and dreams go out the window. At a low point in my life, I called Adult & Teen Challenge. I had tried everything else and nothing else worked. Since coming here God has restored my life and my family.”
“I was raised in a Christian home…. active in youth camps and helping in the community. My parents got divorced, but I still had a good relationship with my father and mother. When I was 13 years old I woke up one morning and my mom had passed away from an aneurism. That was the day my world fell apart. My mom was my best friend, and now she was gone. That day I gave up on life and on myself. After my mom passed away I moved in with my dad, which meant I had to move to another town and change schools. By the time I was 15, I had made new friends and started doing drugs to fill the void. Within a year I was a full-blown alcoholic and an addict and was in and out of jail. I was hurting! I couldn’t understand why I had to lose my mom. When I was 20 years old I got into more trouble, and was given the option of coming to Adult & Teen Challenge or go to jail. Since being here, God has done amazing things in my life. He has completely restored the trust and love back in my family, and turned my world upside down. I actually like who I’m becoming now. I can talk to my family without hiding who I am and what I’m feeling. God has also put a desire in me to become a youth pastor and that is something I intend to pursue.”
“I grew up in a great home where I was taught right from wrong. On the outside my life looked great; I made good grades and excelled in golf. I was even offered a scholarship to play golf in college, but by then my life had gone into a spiral. My junior year of high school I began experimenting with marijuana and alcohol. I soon started experimenting with other drugs and by my senior year I was addicted. Near the end of my senior year I was caught with drugs in my possession and that cost me my scholarship. I began using even heavier; trying any drug I could get my hands on. Then, one day I tried oxycontin and I was overtaken. The oxycontin and Xanax had me bound with no hope. For three years I continued to use rampantly. I was in and out of rehabs, psychiatric facilities, and had acquired numerous legal charges. My family was fed up with me and I was sleeping in my truck. I was dependent on the drugs physically. My life was being completely destroyed by my addiction but nothing was stopping me. Through all of the madness and drugs my mother never ceased to pray for me. Then in an intervention I agreed to give Adult & Teen Challenge a try and that was the best decision I ever made. The Lord has set me free from the bondage in which I was so tightly wrapped and that emptiness I once felt is gone. Because of God and His love I am a new man, full of joy and hope.”