Nashville program helps teens return to path of sobriety

(Photo: WKRN)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Keeping kids off drugs is an issue that’s important to many parents, but it’s also something they struggle with.

In Nashville, there are plenty of programs dedicated to ensuring kids stay on the path of sobriety. The director of one program sat down with News 2 to offer some solid advice.

Getting kids in the front door for treatment at Youth Overcoming Drug Abuse, a division of STARS, is not easy. And even after they’re there, program director James Bush knows the kids aren’t necessarily happy about being there.

“A lot of them don’t like it when they come here. That’s the stigma of treatment,” said Bush.

Bush is talking about all the teenagers he sees in his treatment program, YODA.

Some of the most common things he says include: “I’m just on marijuana; I’m just taking the edge off. I’m not an addict,” he says.

James Bush (Photo: WKRN)

Another is, “Treatment is for addicts; that’s not me.”

The next wall Bush has to break down is to get to the real root of why these kids are on drugs in the first place.

Bush says, more often than not, the drug use is a symptom of something that’s happened in their lives.

“You have some kid who has been traumatized in their lives, sexual assault, witnessing violence, committing the violence or maybe being neglected. All of them are just looking for ways to cope,” he says.

Another big part of Bush’s job is helping parents navigate the treatment program.

Here are a few simple, no-nonsense tips he says parents can use at home. First, lead by example.

“If you are smoking copious amounts of marijuana, that’s not going to work when you say do as I say not as I do. that doesn’t work,” he explained.

Also, don’t be naive.

“We just had someone two months ago where the parent couldn’t believe their kid was using marijuana, ‘not my kid,’ and so on,” remembers Bush.

He told News 2 one of the most important and difficult things for parents to do is to simply talk to your kid. It’s sometimes easier said than done, so Bush says to think of it this way.

“How would you want someone to come to you about drugs? How would you want someone to talk to you about it?” he explained.

Don’t forget to stay calm.

“If you have a situation where the parent is going ballistic, that may make the kid want to smoke even more or drink even more,” says Bush.

Then, ask for help.

“If you have a kid who is suffering from mental health disorder, take them to the doctor, tell them,” says Bush.

And remember, in places like YODA and STARS, there is no judgement. Only people there to listen and above all–help.

“You are going to get through this, because others have,” says Bush.

STARS is a nonprofit organization that supports young people through the social and emotional barriers they face. For more information, click here.

YODA is an intensive outpatient program for adolescents with substance use disorder and co-occurring disorders. To learn more, click here.

Click here to read more on Teens and Drugs.