Every Friday and Saturday we take our teens and do something exciting. Whether that’s spray painting at castle hill, bowling, and arcade, or just throwing a house party, we always make sure that something fun is going on. However, we may plan a fun event but the crazy, ridiculous things the teens do are what make it fun. I can recall a night not too long ago where we did a scavenger hunt. We went out to dinner together and then afterward, we split off into two teams, 4 teens 1 volunteer and 1 staff member per team. The two teams then hopped into a car and drove off to start completing items off the list. Some of these items included taking a picture of a teammate in the back of a cop car, swimming in the UT fountain, sword fighting with lightsabers in Walmart, pretending to have major irritable bowel syndrome in a public place etc… My favorite one, and the one that won us the game was going through a drive-through on the hood of a car, ordering a milkshake and then as soon as they give it to you, you yell “I’VE BEEN LOOKING FORWARD TO THIS ALL DAY!” and then dumping the milkshake on your head.
Now, if you have never familiarised yourself with an APG, you might be looking at these items saying to yourself “How the HECK would this keep teens sober?”
Allow me to explain why these seemingly ridiculous activities have such a HUGE healing component to them.
1. It shows the teen that they can have fun in sobriety.
More often than not, teens associate drugs with fun, and sobriety with boredom. They have convinced themselves that it is impossible to have fun in sobriety. This event usually squashes the delusion instantly. And usually, after an event like this, they have a moment where they think, “Wow…so now the craziest night I have ever had… I was completely sober for it…” Not too many adults can even say that.
2. They can bond with one another.
I don’t know about you, but the best friends I have are the ones that have seen me do the most ridiculous things and act like a complete fool. If you looked at people who went through APG’s together in the past, which I have had the pleasure to do, you will see that they all still hang out together. And when one of them falls off the wagon, the others help to bring them back up. Even groups in their upper 20s and 30s still all hang out together. That is a powerful testament to the lasting effects of an APG and the bonds that are formed within them.
3. It teaches vulnerability and comfort with one’s self.
How many of you reading this would go into a public place and yell “Where is the bathroom! I need to find a bathroom!” While holding onto your pants and stomach? My guess would be not too many. I know I would feel embarrassed. But these kids understand that even though it’s slightly embarrassing, no matter what the group is going to honor and respect that they are showing each other the goofiest, most absurd parts of them. The fact that they feel comfortable enough in themselves to do this is absolutely amazing.
4. It shows trust…which is usually something they haven’t seen in a while.
The Idea of APG staff saying to a handful of teenagers “Hey, go do these ridiculous things and have fun doing them.” is powerful for a teen who has had a lot of trust lost in their family and group around them. This is their opportunity to step up and have fun within the boundaries. And it also gives the group members an opportunity to hold each other accountable if need be.
I was one of the people who poured a milkshake on my head, as was 3 other team members and I just want to point out that the teens who did that with me, have graduated and gone off to college, and even though their lives are hectic with school, work, and normal everyday responsibilities, they still come back and volunteer weekly.