How Adult & Teen Challenge Recovery Centers are Different

Adult & Teen Challenge has proven to be the most successful alcohol and substance abuse addiction treatment network in the world, providing long-term recovery for tens of thousands of individuals. Started 60 years ago in New York, it is the largest and longest continuously operated group of addiction recovery centers, with over 200 centers in the U.S. and over 1,200 centers worldwide.

Here’s How Adult & Teen Challenge Works

Adult & Teen Challenge uncovers and deals with the underlying root causes of addiction. They approach addiction as starting from an individual’s own unfulfilled longing, or void in their life. They believe that addictions are usually triggered by deep felt issues, so unless those issues are dealt with first, getting the individual off the substance they are addicted to is just a short-term solution. Without filling the void and causing life change, the addict will go right back to their addiction after a few days, weeks or months.

Any addict can go through detox and get off alcohol or drugs for a short time, especially in a highly monitored environment. The goal of Adult & Teen Challenge is to provide long-term recovery and training, to bring about lifetime avoidance of addictive substances once the individual leaves their rehab facility, even when hard knocks hit.

Adult & Teen Challenge believes that addictions start out of an individual’s need to cover up or temporarily liberate themselves from internal anxiety from a need for love, success, forgiveness, belonging, acceptance, a spiritual void, or a lack of life purpose. Drugs or alcohol provide temporary relief for the mental anguish they are feeling. However, these substances are so powerful that they will take hold and build a chemical dependency in their body, blocking any ability for the addict to stop on their own. The dependency becomes painful to break, sometimes leading to life-threatening withdrawal symptoms.

Once invited in, these substances often take over the individual’s mindset and cause a physical dependency, preventing them from stopping on their own. The cost of maintaining their habit can sometimes cause the addict to turn to theft (even from their own family), or selling drugs, which can lead to jail sentences. The substances are also needed in higher and higher quantities or more frequently to achieve the same effect, until the addict overdoses or otherwise destroys their own body.

Without a totally new life focus, addicts will return to their addiction even after attending a rehab. They will ravage their relationships, trustworthiness, career, finances and their physical and mental health. Some will even die from overdosing. The addiction will utterly destroy them.

Why Recovery Takes Time – Time that Adult & Teen Challenge will Devote to Them

To unwrap the layers of addiction, Adult & Teen Challenge centers take several steps, and these steps cannot be rushed. Once they are understood, it is easy to see why it takes months, not days or weeks, to accomplish. Typical high-cost, short-term rehabs are quite convincing, saying they can solve additions in a much shorter period of time. They are a joke in the media due to their ineffectiveness. We often hear of celebrities attending one rehab after another, never solving their addiction. That is because their life issues have not been dealt with.

Have you wondered why the rehab industry generally keeps their term in rehab short? First, because it is more palatable to the addict, employer, or the family for the problem to be “fixed” quicker.  Secondly, because most insurances will only participate in the first 90 days.  So, the expensive rehabs make the most money by having a revolving door. That wreaks havoc on the individual and their loved ones.  Addicts have to go back to short-term rehabs again and again, with relapses in-between. Their loved ones completely run out of money in the process, since insurance only covers a portion of the cost. And in-between, the addict goes right back to their habit and messes up their body and brain all over again. This creates a roller-coaster existence for them and their loved ones. The addiction is never truly solved.

Adult & Teen Challenge centers are operated as nonprofits, so their fees are very low. They focus on permanent recovery, no matter how long it takes.  They limit the cost for the individual or their family to a minimum, seeking most of their operational funding from donations from the community.  That support gives these centers enough time to work with each addict to totally transform their life, for good.  And that is why Adult & Teen Challenge programs are so successful.

short term rehabs

The Steps

The first step to recovery is “detox”.  Detoxing is meant to purge the substances and their immediate control over the addicted individual. This alone can take weeks or even months, depending on the substance. It is done in a highly monitored and daily tested environment.

After detox is completed, the real work begins! But real life change cannot happen from a few days or weeks of counseling.  Change happens day in and day out, over many months, as the individual lives in an environment where their lies, negatives motivations, and improper actions are constantly challenged by their peers.  It happens as the individual makes mistakes and is called out for those mistakes by those who have come through the program or who have been in it longer.

For Adult & Teen Challenge, time is their greatest tool, along with the wise counsel of their seasoned staff.  The addicts, now no longer addicted but still weak, learn to think and act differently. Habits are not formed overnight — they take months to master. Repetition is the key, so living a life free of drugs or alcohol is worked on over many weeks to achieve proper thinking and actions. This helps good decisions and avoidance to become more natural and automatic.

Adult & Teen Challenge works on the underlying person, rebuilding them up from the inside out.  The addict learns to “own” their mistakes, solve them, and not repeat them.  Along with their staff, most who have come through the program themselves, elder peers in the program are a critical force in showing the way. These individuals who have been in the program longer and naturally mentor others, lifting up the newer residents. 

Deliverance = Reliance on a Higher Power

The addict has failed, again and again, on many levels.  They know they cannot change on their own, due to their own feelings of inadequacy, guilt, and repeated past failures.  So, from the very start of Adult , a reliance on a “Higher Power” is emphasized.  They believe in the life-changing effect that a personal relationship with God through His Son Jesus Christ can have on an addict’s life.  None of us can change our own hearts — we need to cry out to our Maker and put the hard work on His shoulders.  Christ and the Holy Spirit become a constant companion to the addict, bringing peace, fulfillment, purpose, kindness, truthfulness, and a desire to be clean and to do what is right.  

At first, an addict or alcoholic feels unforgivable; like a huge failure for all of the hurt and damage, they have done. But once they realize that God will accept them as they are, and forgive them unconditionally, a whole new window opens up to them.  They again feel worthy of moving on — worthy of being forgiven —  because the Creator of the Universe has forgiven them and has taken a huge burden off their shoulders.  A deep desire wells up within them to also seek the forgiveness of others, and to serve others.  That is a critical step forward.  They gain the strength and a burning desire to seek the forgiveness of others in their life that they have harmed (which often is just about everyone they know).  Surprisingly to them, others who see the change in their demeanor and attitudes are more than happy to forgive them, and that’s a huge relief to them.

Reintroducing Truth To the Addict’s Life

If there is one thing that is common to all addicts it is that they have become the best liars — to friends, employers, family, and even to themselves.  Moreover, they are blame-shifters, never taking responsibility for their own actions. Introducing Christ into their life also means introducing truth, where truth had become lost to them. Most of our staff are former addicts themselves, so they can see through the lies of the residents. Truth and transparency become a pivotal focus from this point forward, often taught with tough love, but always approached with acceptance, understanding, and care.  Eventually, the addict or alcoholic realizes that the only way to live is to put away their constant lies and approach life from the truth, with the help of Christ.

Change Doesn’t Really Sink in Unless it is Lived

After several months, residents in Adult & Teen Challenge are clean from drugs and alcohol, straight with God, and curbing their lying to themselves and others.  But they still need a new path forward and a plan or they could fall right back into their old ways.  They still need a few months to exercise and practice their new life. The program, therefore, shifts toward introducing new positive elements into their life, including service, compassion, vocation, and a strong work ethic.  There is still a partial void in the former addict’s life having to do with their future and their purpose in life.  So, more time here helps them build strength and walls to block the potential for relapse.  Confidence, poise, and a healthy vocation must be developed by gradually moving them outside of the protected, drug-free environment in Adult & Teen Challenge. Service work to the community teaches the residents humility and yet it is fulfilling to them to produce something each day, no matter how menial.  The work is initially done in groups, with each member of the group watching out for the others, all the while testing their own resolve to stay clean and to hold each other accountable.  Menial work gradually shifts to a focus on finding a fulfilling vocation that the former addict can successfully move into after graduating if they had none previously.  We help them get launched in that new vocation.  

How Does Adult & Teen Challenge Charge So Little?

Adult & Teen Challenge addiction treatment programs are supported by the community and recoup only a small part of their cost from the tuition that is charged.  We have nearly 60 years of evidence that this model works, so the community gets behind us.  We are very successful at transforming individuals who were once enslaved by addiction into vibrant, productive, and peaceful individuals who care for others.  The community is therefore very grateful!  

In an Adult Outcomes Study by The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)

  • 92% of Adult & Teen Challenge graduates reported good to excellent health a year later.
  • 86% of Adult & Teen Challenge graduates reported they were drug-free a year later.
  • 72% of Adult & Teen Challenge graduates continued their education upon completion of the program. 
  • 75% of Adult & Teen Challenge graduates were employed a year later, with 73% being fully self-supporting. 

Compare these numbers with statistics of most other short-term rehabs, which are typically in the single digits!