Daring to be Different: Peer-to-Peer Youth and Family Recovery Support

Just last Tuesday I met with a tired and distraught single mother over a cup of coffee to offer recovery support following the sentencing of her adolescent son to 6 years in prison.
Weeping, distraught, and full of fear about his life, she described how his path of drug use, criminal activity and resistance to all treatment efforts had failed. She felt helpless and like she was being “mean to him” because she recently called him a liar.
She admitted to being obsessed with worry and asked, “How do you let go of your children? Isn’t it different with our kids, isn’t it natural to want to rescue them and protect them from harm and difficulty?”

Knowing how far to go with our responsibilities as parents, and learning about “detaching with love” are tough lessons for many families and caregivers to learn about. Many families feel shame and guilt about their youth’s addiction and legal issues, and are afraid to ask for help.
Family co-recovery is often about learning about the right balance of responsibility to our children as they become young adults. Families often benefit from peer-to-peer recovery mentoring as they learn how to have healthy conversations with their youth, and the difference between nurturing, setting limits, setting boundaries, and controlling our kids. Sharing tools, experience and strength with someone else in recovery can lead to success responding to our youth in new more responsible ways, especially while they are rebuilding their lives.
Families respond to recovery coaching and its messages of hope, encouragement and support because to most parents, their kids do matter. Sometimes we forget that parents are not always responsible for controlling their adolescents (as they might be with a child). Youth need to be allowed to evolve, working through stages of autonomy, independence and making many of their own choices, which is about forming their own process for living and learning.
Youth and family peer-to-peer recovery support models help communities to improve the way they work with youth and families involved in the juvenile justice and substance abuse treatment systems.
What we have found in successful peer-to-peer recovery support models is that they improve the way caregivers respond and hold their kids accountable for their actions and they make invaluable connections with natural recovery capital in their community to bridge between systems, the courts, treatment, and recovery communities.
Our model at Connecticut Turning To Youth and Families (CTYF) has emerged from partnerships between youth and families learning about the stages of recovery together through their own lived experiences. Their videos, stories, blogs, chats and events – watch Anna and Michelle’s family story here -- are a testament to the power of uncovering existing recovery assets across our country.
Considering doing something similar in your community? Check us out online, or drop me an email; we're always glad to help others organizing to address youth and family co-recovery.
Donna Aligata is the Executive Director of CTYF and a family member in recovery. She recently completed brand-new training materials specific to youth and family peer models for delivering recovery support. Donna and CTYF are passionate about training others to offer their own peer-to-peer recovery support programs in their communities. CTYF is happy to share what they have lived and learned and they are currently offering technical assistance for the cross-fertilization and replication of the support programs highlighted on their website. 

Updated: February 08 2018