Teen substance use prevention is being discussed by officials from The Way Out Recovery Rehab Santa Clarita and Drug Free Youth in Santa Clarita Valley (DFY in SCV).
“The teenage years are, in my opinion, probably the most stressful time in our life,” said Bob Sharits, The Way Out Recovery SCV’s program director. “Most drug use starts between the ages of 12 and 17, and at that age I think we’re the most vulnerable.”
School districts in Santa Clarita have partnerships with DFY in SCV “to educate and empower students to make good choices, leading towards positive and healthy behaviors,” according to officials.
“It’s a prevention effort, and what it does is it helps kids to really sort of be proud to be sober, encourage others to be sober and make sober the cool thing,” Sharits said. “If we could get that message out to more and more kids at a younger and younger age, less and less people are going to end up coming through my door.”
As the head of DFY in SCV’s junior high school programs, Casey Miller aims to talk about common teen issues and celebrate that the program’s teens have decided to be sober.
During her junior high years, members of Miller’s family struggled with addiction, and she is taking that experience to help her relate to the program’s teens.
“It’s so important to reach out as that relatable person and that friend that can be there for them,” she said.
The leader of DFY in SCV’s high school programs, Liz Arambula, also had family members struggle with addiction when she was an adolescent, and she aims to tell the program’s teens that it doesn’t make them any less of a person as a result.
“Just because you know someone in your family, or your parents or sibling who may have struggled with addiction, … it doesn’t make you any less of a person,” Arambula said. “You still have the same opportunities that everybody else has, and maybe you have a bigger platform to talk to people about it, because now we’re in this program where it’s okay to talk about it openly. We’re not hiding it anymore.”
Personal shame often prevents teens and adults alike from opening up to others about their struggles, according to Sharits, so a program like DFY in SCV acts as an importance safe space for students.
“I envision this world where we can walk around and talk openly about what’s going on with us without a backpack full of shame,” Sharits said. “Wouldn’t it be nice to get past that?”
DFY in SCV isn’t only for teens who are close with someone struggling with addiction, however, and is also for teens who want to stop using or commit themselves to sobriety before they’ve ever used, according to Arambula.
“We have students that come to us from all walks of life,” she said. “Those that are impacted negatively because they know someone who is using, those that have already used and need a way out, and those that are just curious and want to reap the benefits of being sober. I think that’s the beauty of the program, is that we’re helping everybody.”
For more information about DFY in SCV, click here.