Stories of loss, love, healing and support were all central in the youth addiction recovery documentary “Generation Found,” as students and those undergoing recovery gathered in Laurel Hall Wednesday night for a viewing of the film.
The screening was hosted by the University of Connecticut’s Counseling Services Office and the UConn Recovery Community (URC). “Generation Found” focused on various adolescent recovery groups in the area of Houston, Texas, such as the Center for Success and Independence and Archway Academy, which is the largest recovery high school within the US.
The film followed Archway’s graduating class of 2014, and several other individuals, as they went through the process of recovery from addiction to substances such as alcohol, prescription drugs and heroin. According to the film, 90 percent of all addictions begin in adolescence, making it a critical time for intervention and change.
“Part of what recovery is, [is] faith,” said Sasha McLean, the executive director of Archway. “[It’s] the faith you can be sober.”
McLean had been addicted to alcohol herself, she said in the film, using it to self-medicate and cope with her anxiety and panic attacks. Since becoming sober, she went on to help found Archway.
The basis of Archway and other recovery groups, according to the film, is to give adolescents a “sober space” to recover and encounter positive peer pressure to stay sober.
One of the founding ideas for this principle is rooted in Alternate Peer Groups, which offers a space for teenagers to interact with others going their age through recovery and support one another, according to the film.
With Archway, as a recovery high school, students enrolled can not only have that support group, but also get a chance to recover their GPA and graduate so they can attend college or get a job, according to the film.
URC aims to create a community like this, especially with the new recovery housing implementation currently set for Fall 2017, said Anne Thompson Heller, a professor at UConn and a marriage and family therapist.
Heller, who herself has been in long term recovery over eight years and who helped to organize the event, said that she hoped that ‘Generation Found’ would help motivate those in recovery themselves.
“We wanted a documentary that celebrated recovery,” Heller said. “The film is inspiring, and it shows real life examples of how recovery saves lives.”
Many of the people who attended the screening were in recovery themselves, and heard about the event through URC or their own support groups.
“[It] was really inspiring and motivational,” said Ryan Murphy, a second semester animal science major who is two years sober. “I definitely think having a recovery group in [high school] would have been helpful. Having [one] is really beneficial to people on campus.”
Though peer-based recovery is a successful option for many, some members of the audience said that the documentary failed to explore other options for those in recovery.
“I think it’s a great thing, but I was also concerned… that [the film said] it might be the only option for people,” said Brian Dalena, a Plainville resident who has been sober for eight years. “I had to make the choice. It’s not the only way people can do [recovery].”
Overall, recovery is a long term process, Heller said, and people need to recognize the causes and treatment for the disease of addiction.
“It’s a journey, and that’s something people can identify with,” she said. “The earlier we provide treatment, the better the outcome. This is a chronic disease that requires long-term support.”
Marlese Lessing is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. She tweets @marlese_lessing.