Hey friends, Carlee here. Phew! The first leg of Rock-N-Ride has been successfully completed. For those of you who have been living under a rock the past month, Rock-N-Ride is an initiative started by Road Recovery, a non-profit partner, mentoring organization and friend of Youth Voices Matter-NY. In celebration of Road Recovery’s 20th anniversary, Gene Bowen, founder of Road Recovery, decided that he would ride his bike (not a motorcycle but an actual bicycle) across New York State to the different Youth Recovery Clubhouses (YRC’s). I know what you’re thinking, and yes I thought he was crazy too, but this adventure has opened my eyes and my heart in a way I never thought possible. (Let me be clear and say that I did NOT ride my bike but travelled from the comfort of my car)
Our first stop at a YRC was the TC Commons Clubhouse in Elmira, NY – a quaint little town in the southern tier and a perfect starting point. Here we engaged in conversations with young people about advocacy and doing the right thing. Some of the youth shared on the topics of bullying and family member’s substance use. It was eye-opening to hear stories from these young people, some as young as elementary school. After our discussion it was field day. These kids had a blast with water balloons, basketball, and even a dunk tank! It really was perfect.
Next stop, Canandaigua, NY – a beautiful lakeside town just southeast of my home city, Rochester. We gathered at Canandaigua CrossFit, known for its intense workouts and caring staff. We participated in another discussion with youth. This time, the topic of being strong for others came up. One individual shared about his experience with family members he has lost and how he stayed strong during those times. Another young lady was courageous enough to share about her aunt’s struggle with substance use. I was blown away by the honesty and the impact these stories had. Afterward, all of us joined together with the owner of Canandaigua CrossFit to partake in some interesting (and freakin’ challenging) workouts with youth from EPIC Zone. We rolled and flipped tires, threw medicine balls, and even jumped in Canandaigua Lake to cool off. The second stop of the Rock-n-Ride did not disappoint.
Stop number three, The Spot Clubhouse in Oswego, NY – a college town with unique charm nestled on the southern edge of Lake Ontario. The YVM-NY and Road Recovery teams met with young people at the Youth Recovery Clubhouse affiliated with Oswego County Opportunities and had interesting conversations about substance use and trauma. Several young people shared their experiences with physical, sexual, and emotional trauma, as well as dependence on substances. Other youth encouraged these individuals to keep doing the things that help them heal. Two youth in particular spoke about how journaling helps them cope with different situations. I found this fascinating because that’s exactly what I do. When everyone was done sharing, we ate food and kept the conversation going. There was nothing super fancy or elaborate about this event – but as these kids spoke, there was so much weight in their words and honesty that at times I would get emotional. I was truly moved by the remarkable insight and experience these young people possess.
Last stop of route one, Horizons Clubhouse in Massena, NY – a small town plopped in the north country of New York. So far north that you can actually see Canada. As we arrived, we were greeted by friendly staff. Young people started to join us and we ended up having an in-depth conversation with them about life after treatment and what is needed to help them sustain recovery. A couple young people suggested that they wanted more things to do and more events. Many young people were from other parts of the state and expressed concerns about going back home after they leave treatment. Youth Voices Matter-NY was able to provide them with support for when they return home. There were two young men who were from my region of the state and it was nice to be able to talk with them about specific struggles they are facing in their respective communities. After talking with the young adults, we played games at the clubhouse and had a BBQ. The young people that attended this event were left knowing that better days are coming and they will be supported when they leave treatment.
Overall, the first leg of Rock-N-Ride was unbelievable. At times it is hard to believe that this is my job and I have the privilege of doing this service work. I am so grateful for this opportunity because it has opened my eyes to so much. I’m looking forward to the second leg of Rock-N-Ride at Oneonta Teen Center, Creative Connections Youth Clubhouse and the 2018 New York State Recovery Conference (August 19). I encourage anyone reading this to talk to a young person today. It doesn’t have to be a long conversation but pick their brains on different things and I promise you’ll be amazed at what you will learn. In addition to reaching out to young people, I challenge those reading this blog to speak out about how YOU are recovering today. Whether it be from addiction, abuse, mental health, or a crappy day, how do you find peace at the end of the day?
Take care friends.