Germantown: Beating the Devil of Addiction

In the middle of Germantown is a house that looks fairly inconspicuous from the road on which it sits. Aside from a sign that says “Teen Challenge” sitting on the front lawn, one might believe that it is just another large, old house that dots the neighborhood. Rather, the Christian rehab facility is part of an international chapter of Teen Challenge, a group that began in 1958.

In their first week of the program Kenneth Voss and Rob Healy expressed some initial surprise. “You know, it’s like anything else. You’re told something going to be one way and then it’s slightly different. It’s not good or bad, it’s just not what you expect and then you have to adjust,” Voss said.

“What is hard to get used to is living with a bunch of other guys, sharing a room and the same space you were used to having as yours everywhere else,” Healy added.

When they were two months into the program, the two expressed more comfort with the program.

“After that first week it seemed that time flew by really fast, but now I’ve been here two months and it almost feels like you hit a two-month wall, where you keep doing the same things. It’s almost like you’re going through another readjustment program to try and keep yourself focused why you’re here,” Healy said.

Another student in the program, James Hellard, explained the daily routine. “We wake up about 6:15 a.m., come downstairs around 7 a.m. after we get cleaned up. Then we have Bible study for half an hour before breakfast, then after that we do chores and clean the house, just general cleanup stuff. Then we have more group study work, then we have something in a classroom setting until 11 a.m. Then we have a half hour break before another Bible study where we are until noon. Then we have lunch until we go into a classroom setting to do work in the curriculum they have set out for us. Three nights a week we have class from about 6:30 p.m. to about 8:30 p.m. and then it’s free after that.”

“It keeps you occupied. Downtime is not good for people in our position. We’re trying to get our lives together, idle time is not a good thing,” Hellard added.

From spending even a little time with the students of Teen Challenge one really gets a sense of the brotherhood there. While the men are all there for different problems, they really are there to support each other.

Another student, Harry Cavanagh says of the program: “It’s weird, I’ve been here the longest of anyone else, and the last group here had a lot of problems that without going into detail involved some people being asked to leave. These guys here now though, it’s really close. We’re going to have 10 people graduate to the next program together, which is the most of anyone at this Teen Challenge in a long time.”

Phil Wrubleski, a student who was in the room with Cavanagh, added that the camaraderie between all the members in the group really was helping in his recovery. “You know, there’s a dozen other guys here who know what you’re going through, and they’re here for the same reason.”

This is perhaps exemplified best at dinner, when grace is said by one of the administrators who urges the students at Teen Challenge to keep focused on their goal. Cavanagh talks about wanting to work in a recording studio after this program is over, while a few of the other guys talk about Penn State football. The entire situation seems completely normal, which would destroy the preconception of a rehab facility that many in the public would have.

When asked about the hardest part of the program so far, Wrubleski takes no time in answering. “Thanksgiving was really rough, cause at this point you can contact your family but you can’t see them. We had a dinner. A local church made all the food and it was really nice, but it wasn’t quite the same, ’cause it can never be how your family does it. What’s really going to get me is Christmas.”

These guys come from all over the country because of problems they’ve had, and they are at Teen Challenge in an attempt to get better. While drug rehabilitation is a life-long process, it seems like these guys are making honest attempts at improving themselves.

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