Because it works: A journey through a recovery school
Adolescent substance abuse and dependence is an ever growing problem in high schools today. In the world of substance abuse treatment there is little doubt that most young men and women will need help in maintaining their recovery. Recovery schools are a place where students starting a path of sobriety can find a group of like-minded peers in an educational environment focused not only on sobriety goals, but academic achievement as well. The purpose of this study initially was to understand the factors that support academic achievement and the special contribution that recovery coaches working alongside teachers in that environment give to students. Over the course of the study it evolved to include an autoethnographic look at how my role as the mother of a son recovering from substance abuse determined the lens with which I looked at a recovery school. This study included four teachers, two recovery coaches, a site director, and the Executive Director as well as two focus groups of students. The teachers, recovery coaches, and directors were observed and interviewed. The students were interviewed in a group setting separated by gender. Two themes emerged through data analysis. The recovery school’s success was a result of a strong organizational structure consisting of a unique partnership, strong leadership, and exceptional teamwork between the recovery coaches and the teachers. It was also successful because of the environment that it provided to students. The students felt safe to acknowledge who they were, they felt recognized as individuals, and they felt accepted into a family community. In addition to the themes derived from data gathering, Chapter IV also includes a personal narrative describing my journey through my son’s addiction and subsequent recovery and how it affected my perception of recovery schools.