Categories
Adolescence Recovery School Self-Care

It’s Cool to Go Back to School: Sober

As summer fades, we begin to feel the pull of school and all that it entails. Walking into any store right now will confirm this, hook, line and sinker. Target has their entire back section stocked to the brim with back to school supplies. Seriously. It’s happening right now and we can’t avoid it. It’s time to wipe the sand from beneath our feet and get ready to rock our backpacks once again.

Often, the dilemma for those who got sober or stayed sober through the summer break is this:  How do we navigate going back to school without getting sucked into the rabbit hole of drugs and alcohol, or stress and anxiety, or all of the above? Is it even plausible to keep our old friends or is moving on safer? Will we still be hip or cool now that the crutch of a bottle or a pocket full of pills has been removed? For some, yes, it’s possible to go back into those spaces without falling down, for others, perhaps not. The answers to these questions are really contingent on the individual. Just as addiction and mental health don’t fit into a one-size-fits-all category, neither does recovery. There are definitely some suggestions that might help you find the way to your own answers and help you get back to school using a safe, sober strategy.

  • Make sure you are going to meetings. Now, more than ever, you will need the security and support of a recovery community.
  • Do you have a sponsor? If not, get one, stat. If you do have one, make sure you continue to work with him or her and continue to check in on a regular basis.
  • Ask your school advisor or counselor if there are any sober clubs or groups at your school. You are more than likely not alone in your recovery.
  • If there isn’t a sober group or club at school, start one!
  • Make new friends. Some of your old ones may, in fact, have to go. It’s for the best anyway. You are on a new path now.
  • Stay connected. There’s nothing worse than finding oneself in a situation where you feel emotionally alone and unsupported.
  • Ask for help–no matter what. It is not a sign of strength to suck it up; it’s a sign of strength to ask for help. (Took me forever to “get” this one!)
  • Get excited about school and about learning in general. You are feeding your brain, after all.
  • Make school your full-time job, in other words, give it 100% of your energy.
  • Keep your sobriety your priority and make school your driving force.

Don’t forget to have fun! Life is so much better when you have a sense of humor.

Categories
Anniversary Blogs School Service Treatment

Adriana Camarillo: Educational Director at Visions Day School

Adriana Camarillo joined the Visions team in 2006 as one of our educators. She worked at our residential facilities and eventually became part of the Outpatient/Day School team, working closely with Joseph Rogers and Fiona Ray. In 2011, she left to pursue other things, but she is back in full force and we are beyond grateful!

Adriana has recently earned her masters degree in Educational Counseling coupled with a Pupil Services credential, a testament to Adriana’s bold and thorough educational background. Dri, ever-dedicated to her students,  remains true to the age-old art of teaching. For example, she will deftly find the very thing that sullied a student’s relationship to math, and reignite their desire to learn one of their toughest subjects. It’s a great testament to her character that Adriana teaches to the student and not to the test. She is truly a remarkable teacher.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention this, though: Adriana is funny! Hilarious, really. She’s able to bring a mix of firm boundaries and humor to a room full of adolescents—they love her and respect her for this! We are honored she came back to us after a year away—Visions is truly blessed to have such an incredible teaching team!

The staff can’t agree more! Check out what they had to say:

“Adriana is a stable presence at the Day School. She remains calm in the midst of the daily press of business, always ready to help our students regardless of what else is happening. She is an amazing resource for students preparing for college, helping with SAT prep, application essays, and the bureaucratic maze of forms and requirements. “Dri” is absolutely reliable and someone the students can count on for help and support. Dri is a real team player, and the one you always want around to make you laugh when things get difficult.” – Joseph Rogers

“Adriana is an amazing person to work with. She is very passionate and understanding. She has a great personality that is infectious (and sometimes too happy for me!). I’m proud to work alongside her and most importantly, proud to call her my friend.” — Ryan Cox

“Adriana is a selfless, loyal and inspiring person. You can always count on her to brighten your day with a wide smile and a positive attitude. She approaches teaching and mentoring students with fortitude and conviction. Adriana understands her students, picking up on their subtle nuances and adapting her academic plans based on the individual. She listens with an open mind and an open heart while instilling hope for their future. Her students are lucky to have her and I am lucky to know her. She makes us all better people.” Fiona Ray

“Guess who’s back…back again?  Dri is back…tell a friend.  We could not be more excited to have Adriana back in our world! She has always been an example for our students, teaching with poise and balance, and never letting the toughest challenges scare her, in fact, she finds the best way to reach her kids and turns those challenges into triumphs.  Adriana brings just the right amount of humor and boundaries so the kids know that she is always looking out for their best interests.  We are excited to welcome her back with open arms!” – Amanda and Chris Shumow

Now let’s get to Adriana’s answers to those silly questions we always ask:

1: Who was your first influential teacher and why?

Throughout my life I have had a number of influential teachers. Some were amazing because they remembered my name year after year. Others were amazing because they were interesting and worked at keeping us entertained while they taught. I think the first teacher to influence me was Ms. MacDonald. She was a great teacher. She listened, she challenged me, and she believed in me. I still see her around sometimes and she remembers me. Things like that have always mattered to me.

2: What is the most challenging yet satisfying subject you teach? 

I think that the most challenging subject for me would be math. I have always loved math but that is rarely the case for other people. It’s most challenging because most students have a poor representation of math and therefore, they do not like it. I like getting students to understand the concepts and overcome their dislike for the subject.

3: If money were no object, where would you live? 

If money were no object, I would live in San Francisco but I would definitely have a few vacation homes in Hawaii, Chicago, L.A., and New York. And of course, I would love to travel the world to see all the beautiful places this world has to offer.

4: What’s your favorite season?

California doesn’t really have all four season but I love Fall. I love the way the weather feels. I love wearing hoodies and jeans. I love the color of the trees and the smell.

5: If you were a Muppet, who would you be?  

A Muppet? Ummm, I think I’d be Fozzie Bear mostly because I like to make people laugh. Usually my jokes aren’t followed by tomatoes but I enjoy smiling and I like the people around me to smile too.

6: What TV show has serious consequences if interrupted? 

I’m not a big tv person. But there are three shows that cannot be interrupted. Those are Sons of Anarchy, Dexter, and Smash. They are my favorite shows and I usually watch each episode twice. Once for viewing pleasure and the second time to make sure i got everything the first time.

7: What’s your Starbucks order?

I’m not a fan of complicated coffee orders. I like iced non-fat caramel machiatto.

8: What did you want to be when you grew up? 

 

I always wanted to be a nurse growing up and i actually began college in a nursing program but after taking a few courses, I realized that nursing wasn’t for me and I decided to pursue teaching instead. I still love the idea of being a nurse but I can’t handle the “gross” aspect involved in caring for other health and I hate blood.

9: Do you sing in the car when you’re driving along? And better yet, do you stop singing at a stoplight?

I sing every where! Car, shower, classroom, store… you name it and I have probably sang a song or two. I don’t have a particularly great voice but I just love singing. It makes me happy and people usually respond well to the stranger who is serenading them in the line at the grocery store. Needless to say, I don’t stop when I get to a stoplight, in fact, I usually use that time to sing louder and add in a few dance moves.

10: Why do you choose to work for Visions?

I began working for Visions with very little information of what I was getting myself into. I was with them for almost 5 years. I left briefly this last year to teach middle school and now I am back. I came back mainly because it is my home. My coworkers are like family and I have never felt so welcomed and appreciated in one place. Working here has combined my love of helping youth with an enjoyable environment that allows me to truly say “I love what I do.”

Categories
Recovery School Service Treatment

Visions Outpatient and Day School Gets a Facelift!

Stepping into our 10th year of business, we took a quick breath to enjoy the adventures life had brought to us as a company.  Our second breath was in true Visions form: an analysis of how we can continue to evolve in the next 10 years. It started small by first addressing our Mission Statement, making sure we continue striving to be the Visions we can be.  Next, we reflected on each of our programs, examining areas in which we could improve.  Do we as a team believe in ourselves?  Do our families and teens believe in us?  A value that the Shumows always wanted was to invest in a supportive and caring staff culture.  In return, they knew that would create a platform to provide the utmost in exemplary care for their clients. It has been quite a process, combing through every level of the Visions experience, and fine-tuning the environments and their processes, but it’s been well worth the effort. It’s wonderful to recognize how this fresh breath has propelled us into our next decade.

One of our largest projects this past year was to bring our 8-year old Brentwood Outpatient Facility up to date with our ever so quickly evolving teen needs.  This called for a sophisticated facelift and an adjustment to our technology.  Our vision for Visions Outpatient & Day School was to create an educational environment that was something our teens looked forward to being a part of on a daily basis.  The Goal: a cyber café with a touch of warmth and wit.  What we have now are clean, streamlined, modern classrooms, filled with natural light and charming colors, and new Mac computers to create an environment that is conducive to learning and healing.

Check out the new digs: [slideshow id=3]

The new technology allows for teacher and students to be on the same page, something typically variable due to individualized educational goals. While every client may not be working on the same subject at the same time, with this updated technology, our teachers can access any subject or lesson plan at lightning speed. There are some truly terrific, new amenities to behold in our classrooms: There is a beautiful, community table, which encourages a European approach to lunchtime, creating a connective environment for our clients and staff alike. The walls are lined with an innovative framework of natural wood, designed to hang art with non-traditional clamps–this is something I want to recreate myself, it’s so cool! Ultimately, our new classroom design allows for effective and immediate communication between our teachers and students. It has also created a virtually paperless classroom, which meets the needs of the modern Internet driven educational system we thrive in.

In addition to the classrooms, we’ve also revamped our therapists’ offices. They were given a mini-facelift of their own, and they genuinely look and feel like a place where healing can and will continue to occur. Our updated environment is both therapeutic and welcoming, allowing our extraordinary team to work with our clients via an easier system of support and inter-office efficiency.

With gratitude, we must give a well-deserved shout-out to the wonderful designer Curtis Micklish, who handcrafted the majority of our new furniture and designed a unique space for our teens to thrive! Curtis has already been recognized by the modern design industry for the work he has put together for Visions. You can also check out Curtis’ blog and/or purchase his wares on his Etsy page!

We have stepped into our 10th year in style and we couldn’t be more excited! Here’s to another 10 years and beyond.

Thank you to Christina Howard for her eloquent input to this blog. 

Categories
Adolescence Bullying Communication Mental Health Parenting School Social Anxiety Stress

Time to Stop the Bullies

It hurts to be bullied. It hurts the spirit and the body, the confidence and self-worth. No one should have to live in that kind of fear or circumstance. So what are we going to do about it?

With the advent of the internet, bullying’s primary setting isn’t merely in schools and playgrounds anymore: it also thrives in the technological halls of the cyber world. It’s pervasive. There are two types of bullies:  popular, well-connected with social power, overly concerned about maintaining that popularity, and liking to be in charge. The second type tends to be the kid who is more isolated from their peers, easily pressured, has low self-esteem, is less involved in school and doesn’t easily identify with the emotions or feelings of others.

Those at risk of being bullied are kids who are perceived as separate or different from the norms or social mores of our culture. They are often seen as weak, they tend to be anxious or depressed, they are less popular, and are often viewed as annoying or provocative. As a result, these kids are more susceptible to falling prey to bullying behaviors, behaviors which aren’t always as black and white as we once thought. Here are some examples:

Physical bullying:

  • Hitting/kicking/ pinching
  • Spitting
  • Pushing/Tripping
  • Intentionally breaking someone’s things;
  • Making mean or rude hand gestures.

Verbal bullying:

  • Name calling: weirdo, freak, fag, idiot, ad infinitum.
  • Teasing
  • Threats to cause harm

Social bullying:

  • Leaving someone out on purpose;
  • Telling others not to be friends with someone;
  • Rumor spreading;
  • Public humiliation.

Cyber bullying:

  • Mean text messages or emails;
  • Rumors sent by email or posted on social media sites;
  • Fake profiles on sites like Facebook, Tumblr, et cetera.
  • Embarrassing photos or videos

Keep in mind, the most reported bullying happens on school grounds: in the hallways and on recess yards. It also occurs travelling to and from school. But nothing is really sacred. Cyber bullying is growing like wildfire as kids become increasingly savvy with technology.

It’s common for kids who are being bullied not to tell anyone because they may be afraid of the vengeful repercussions from the bullies themselves. Bullying is, in its very nature, a power structure built on dominance and fear-driven control. When someone is being terrorized by fearful tactics, it takes an incredible amount of courage to seek help. In the mind of the bullied, it’s a risk they are not always willing to take, so instead, the fear gets internalized, making its appearance in various ways:

  • Unexplained injuries;
  • Lost or damaged possessions;
  • Frequent headaches, stomachaches, feeling sick or faked illnesses;
  • Changes in eating habits: some may skip meals, some may binge. Some kids might come home hungry because their lunch was bullied away from them;
  • Sleep disturbances: insomnia or nightmares;
  • Declining grades, loss of interest in schoolwork, not wanting to go to school at all;
  • Loss of friends or avoidance of social situations;
  • Feelings of helplessness or decreased self-esteem;
  • Self-destructive behaviors: self-harming, running away, isolating, suicidal ideation.

Despite the fact that many schools have implemented anti-bullying policies, the administration doesn’t always carry them out in the most effective ways. I’ve experienced a principal in my son’s school who typically punishes the victim along with the bully, creating situation of victim-blaming, which encourages the bully and fundamentally creates shame in the bullied. In this particular case, a child ended up reverting inward and internalizing the fear, ultimately trying to handle it on his own. As a result, the persistent concern about being called a snitch or weak drove this child’s efforts toward self-directed management of the situation. Unfortunately, this is a perfect situation for the bully, and in many ways, this maintains the bully’s position of control. Not surprisingly, the bullying hasn’t stopped.

As parents, we need to find safe, productive ways to stop bullying behaviors. We can:

  • Work with the teacher to help raise awareness in the classroom. There are activities geared toward educating  kids
  • Make regular appearances at the school. Sometimes, the mere presence of a parent can stop bullying in its tracks.
  • Get up to speed on those social networking sites and explore safer ways to navigate technology
  • Find ways to present a unified front against bullying.
  • Establish an anti-bullying task force or committee. There’s power in numbers.
  • Help establish an environment of tolerance, acceptance of others, and respect.

This is also a great opportunity to take your kids to see Bully or go see it yourself if you can. It’s a limited engagement, but one you don’t want to miss. Time to take charge and stop bullying in its tracks.

For more information and for resources, check out:

Stopbullying.gov

SoulShoppe

Challenge Day

Categories
Recovery School

School: Getting Back in the Groove

Even without addiction issues, going back to school can be a bear. Going from middle school to high school is a huge shift, but more often than not, you’re not away from home. However, the shift from high school to college can be huge, especially if going to college means living on your own. All of a sudden the safety of any parental input (no matter how annoying it may be) is gone–trust me when I say this, you’ll eventually miss the family dinners you fought so hard to get out of.
There are a few things to keep in mind when going back to school, particularly when most schools and colleges are starting and our nerves are shaking. If we’re newly sober, then the heat is really on, particularly when we’re going back to our old stomping grounds.
  • Stay connected with your sponsor and others in sobriety. 
  • Set firm boundaries with old friends that may be weary of the new you. If they want you to “hang out” like you used to before you “went away,” say no. Real friends won’t try to drag you down. 
  • Maintain open communication, not only with your sponsor and friends, but with your parents and therapists as well. Recovery is a net: if you weave a wide enough web, you are more apt to create an environment of emotional and physical safety. 
  • Develop a healthy exercise program. Sometimes, a good run or a long bike ride can clear a muddled mind. This is a great area to create a buddy system. If you don’t do it one day, you didn’t fail! 
  • Make realistic goals. You don’t have to do everything at once. 
  • Remember to be kind to your body: just because you’re sober doesn’t mean you can start poisoning your system with junk food. 
  • HALT: never get too Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired 
  • Show up no matter what. You’re not only showing up for others, you’re showing up for yourself and your sobriety.
The reality is, school can be frightening: the newness, the change, and the idea of venturing into the unknown. Taking things one breathe at a time is key to survival. Sleep is your friend, cry if you need to, and ask for help. Everything is going to be okay!Resources:
Angels at Risk