Autumn is an especially warm human being. She sits with her knees tucked into her chest and her arms, decorated in bracelets, wrapped comfortably around shins. She looks entirely at home on the director’s office couch, sporting warm socks, no shoes, and a childlike smile. Her hair is parted down the center, died in a vibrant red on one side and jet black on the other. As she speaks she twirls a single quartz crystal between her thumb and forefinger.
She explains to me her difficult road and how she arrived at Landmark this last semester. Like many students who find themselves struggling with substance abuse issues, her story includes escaping pain, trauma, and abuse. Diagnosed with PTSD and Dissociative Identity Disorder, Autumn spent time in various treatment centers. She explains how this eventual diagnosis came as a relief and confirmed something more was going on and needed to be treated. She remarks now, with good humor and acceptance, “there is never a dull moment in my mind.”
For Autumn, dealing with a diagnosis like this has made her time in mainstream school painful. She tried online school and other various environments, but found herself overwhelmed and constantly triggered by large groups. She also found herself migrating towards unhealthy relationships and toxic friendships. It became increasingly difficult to focus; attendance became a major issue and a normal version of teenage life seemed and felt impossible.
Struggling with a diagnosis and getting through school, Autumn fell into a severe hydrocodone addiction after a wisdom tooth operation. The door to painkillers began a struggle with substance abuse. She explains, “even when the physical pain was gone I found that emotional pain was still there. I struggled with constant self abuse including a pill addiction…I was overdosing nearly every day last year and having seizures.”
Her bottom came over holiday break in 2017. “I felt like was breaking and needed to make a change.” She decided to try to recommit to sobriety and attempt school again. While she enjoyed various programs that were self-paced and individualized, she felt alone and isolated and wanted to try Landmark to connect with other students who have shared similar experiences. “I love it here so far” she explains, “it’s small and relaxed. Our work is individualized and there’s a manageable structure, but can be who we are. Everyone here is an individual and doesn’t have to pretend to be something else.”
Autumn says she has learned a lot from the staff and instructors here. Michael’s instruction, in particular, that focus on teaching self-compassion and self-love has impacted her greatly. “I get a taste of what a sober life could be like and it’s exciting.”
Autumn would love to help others who have gone through similar experiences. She expresses an interest in educating people about mental illness and wants to help correct the glamorization of self harm in media. It’s clear her experiences is powerful and her tender demeanor will be an asset to helping others someday.
The first thing you’d notice about Ashley is her sweetness and her organic receptivity to the world around her. Her large eyes sparkle behind expressive lashes. There is a brightness to her and an inherent enchantment with the way she sees the world. She is more soft spoken in this moment as she reflects about her sobriety and her history at Landmark Community School. We have just been critiquing her latest art project- an extremely precise chalk drawing of symmetrical spheres with gradiated colors blended to a flawless perfection. She explains she was instructed to work with chalk and music, but the design is just what came out of her. “I was in a pretty harmonious mood that day. I was feeling pretty happy I think.” Her hair falls around her face framing the side of her thoughtful smile.
She was one of the school’s first enrolled students and remains with the program to graduate this May. She brims with gratitude, humility, and a little awe reflecting upon how she is back on schedule to graduate this May despite complicated years in toxic relationships and fighting drug addiction.
“Growing up, I was a star student. I loved school and doing a good job. Even after I started using, I kept a 4.4 grade average, but when I switched schools, I fell into some really tough relationships and experiences and I started using.” Ashley first encountered opioids after an intense surgery. After experiences with abuse and trauma in a relationship, she explains that school began to be too much. The daily cognitive dissonance of trying to feel and be “normal” with the internal stress she felt, eventually lead to self-medicating. “I would find myself leaving school unable to stop sobbing… after awhile it just was easier to be and stay high.”
When she first heard of Landmark, she was urged by her family to attend orientation. Again she left sobbing, but after a few days, Ashley felt an impulse to try school in a recovery environment. After her first day, she didn’t leave overwhelmed and sobbing. “I felt like I was not being judged…I felt that somebody understood and that was huge.” Ashley talks about how trying to stay sober has been a process of reclaiming her identity. “You wonder, after using, if you are ever going to feel like yourself again… this has been a process of separating myself from my using. I guess I feel a return to my self.”
Ashley lights up immediately when asked about what she’s going to do after graduation. She is considering college for animal biology with aims to be a large animal vet. She plans to travel first, hopefully working in a program with elephants in Thailand. She has a warmth and sensitivity which enables her to feel almost immediately connected to animals. “I’m in a program right now where I work with horses.” She pulls out a picture of her with a beautiful regal chestnut; her look in the photo is serenity and joy doing this work and connecting with animals. It easy to see her future in this picture- bright and full of positive energy and compassion towards others.
On Thursday, November 9 at 5:00 p.m., Springs Recovery Connection is hosting an Opioid Prevention class.
Overdose prevention with access to Narcan training
Learn how you can save lives by preventing overdoses and administering Narcan.
During the training you will learn:
· how to prevent an overdose
· how to recognize an overdose
· how to administer lifesaving Narcan
· rescue breathing
· call 911
Following the class, Landmark staff member, Heather Phillips will lead the center’s Addiction Education Series at 6:00 p.m. Heather is a Licensed Professional Counselor and has been working in this field for many years and has a vast amount experience working with young people and families.
Feel free to ask questions and get support for this journey from addiction to recovery. Please invite anyone who might be struggling with an addiction issue in their family and are looking for some relief. If you are a family member who is not currently struggling with this issue, please feel free to come and offer support to our newer families who are in need of guidance, compassion and understanding.
You are welcome to attend one or both of these programs held at:
When I walk into the room, Chad is leaning over a math problem with furrowed eyebrows over his dark brown eyes. His teachers are teasing him. “So… do you think you are going to do that again?” They half scold, half smile.
Chad has just eaten a large amount of Ghost Pepper chili powder. His eyes water and he’s clearly still stunned. It was a dare, of course, at lunch. While his demeanor is seemingly serious, he surprises you quickly with his sarcasm and, now, his pepper-eating shenanigans. He has a warmth and sensitivity once he begins talking and he listens intently, regarding carefully those around and in front of him.
Along with his girlfriend Ashley, Chad was among the first of Landmark’s students. He says he decided to give the first orientation a try when the school was just opening. “I had dabbled on and off with trying to stay sober. When I heard about it here, we decided to check it out… and we wanted to stay.”
He frequented various high schools, from Sierra to the trades school, E3, through Harrison. He was trying to make it through and study mechanics. Overtime, his lifestyle and attendance left him with few credits to realistically graduate from a traditional school. “I’m getting my GED here. I have passed most of the tests and am working on math.” When I inquire about why he is willing to try to make it work here, he expresses sincerely, “Many teachers here are former users…They’re better now and they can relate.” He says this with a little more reflection. “I see myself in these kids,” he mentions after a moment.
Chad, like many younger addicts, experienced drug and alcohol exposure at a young age. It was a matter of time before he would use regularly himself. By the time he was in his later teens, he saw himself absolutely deteriorating. “We were walking skeletons.” Even after a seizure, Chad had a hard time staying sober. “I’m just grateful, I’m here.” He explains that this “bottoming out” was hard to see partly because of his age. Now, he expresses he now has a hope about the future and that he sees a way to provide for himself or a family, if he can get his GED, study automotive mechanics, and stay clean. He discusses how others, like Ashley’s dad, went from being an enemy to a parent figure. “He sees potential in me.”
When I ask what thoughts Chad would like to share with others out there, who may be struggling, he says, “I came close to death and I feel like my calling is to help others if I can…to tell my story.” He takes a moment, beyond how he has laughed and is nursing his stomach from his lunchtime hilarities, to regard the the sentiment more earnestly. “ I’d say, If you’re feeling hopeless, there’s always a chance, a hope, change.”
Join us at Landmark Community School on November 2 at 6:30 p.m. for a round table, solution-oriented discussion about marijuana and its impact on adolescents. We’ve invited guest speaker, Jo McGuire, who serves on the board of directors for the Drug and Alcohol Testing Industry Association and co-chairs the Marijuana Education Committee, assisting educators with youth drug prevention and parent education. The event is sponsored by Mission Possible.
Join us on Friday, August 4 from 11-1 for an open house. Join Landmark teachers and students for tours of the school and a BBQ. Staff will be on hand to answer questions about our Compass and Pathway programs for high school students and our open enrollment for Fall 2017.
STEM Lead Teacher
Landmark Community School, a program of Community Prep School, is seeking a full time STEM Lead
Teacher to engage in building-level management, teaching, and student services. This professional works
with students on a daily basis to provide academic instruction and tutoring, and to support improved
personal outcomes for students recovering from addiction. Candidates must possess a multi-faceted skill
set consisting of requisite academic knowledge and skills, management skills, as well as effective people
skills which will translate into exceptional performance in a recovery high school environment.
Literacy & Humanities Lead Teacher
Landmark Community School, a program of Community Prep School, is seeking a full time Literacy &
Humanities Lead Teacher to engage in building-level management, teaching, and student services. This
professional works with students on a daily basis to provide academic instruction and tutoring, and to
support improved personal outcomes for students recovering from addiction. Candidates must possess a
multi-faceted skill set consisting of requisite academic knowledge and skills, management skills, as well
as effective people skills which will translate into exceptional performance in a recovery high school
Photos by Brian Tryon.
Instructor Greg Cope leads a compass exercise with student open house attendees.
Photos by Brian Tryon.
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