“When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened to us.“Helen Keller
In this weekly update, I plan on exploring the events currently occurring on both campuses, a therapeutic group that is very important to me, new exercise activities, and the creative writing group.
At Frye, new students are working to acclimate to their new and sometimes challenging environment. The students are learning important life skills such as making their bed, improved manners, accepting responsibilities and carrying through on community responsibilities. As many students struggle with their emotions and frustrations in this unfamiliar setting, Ironwood provides many therapeutic groups such as DBT and social skills to cope. At the Farmhouse, we celebrated one of our student’s 18th birthday this week, celebrating with a fettuccine alfredo dinner and a cake dessert. We are also excited to celebrate a Farmhouse student’s graduation on Friday! He has worked very hard to get where he is today, and we all couldn’t be more excited for him to return home and start his new life.
Recovery is a group that is offered at the Farmhouse to those who have struggled with substance abuse, or other addictive behaviors. It gives us students the opportunity to share experiences from home and process those events without judgment. The group is a safe environment to share those sorts of topics that are otherwise not talked about throughout a regular day. Through processing that time of our lives, it’s much easier to see how our lives were in shambles and how we didn’t even realize it. Students also learn about the effects that substance abuse has on our body. By learning about the consequences of using, it gives the students a reason, among many, why it is not worth jeopardizing our lives and health. Recovery provides the freedom to bond with peers about similar struggles, and research alternatives and coping mechanisms to prevent relapse. Additionally, the group actively presents other ways that we can find happiness such as a walk on the beautiful beach, spending time with family, reading a book, and more – activities that we often overlooked at home and didn’t appreciate as we should have. As a student in recovery, the group has given me a lot of opportunities and knowledge that I would not have otherwise, and has given me many reasons to change direction.
The girls group recently discovered exercise CDs in the garage. During free time, we are trying out “Zumba” to fill the time, have fun with their peers, all while being active. The videos incorporate many different cultural dances such as salsa, samba, and flamenco. The Zumba instructor encourages constant movement and enthusiasm in the dances which creates a very good work out for the students. In addition to the Zumba videos, the girls discovered strength and cardio videos that make exercise interesting and more engaging. Strength videos span about 20 minutes, combining body weight, and weight work outs for full body or isolated parts. The videos provide an engaging and supportive environment with the excitement and encouragement from the speaker of the video. I have never seen my group more excited and motivated during exercise. It is a great way for students to put in full effort, all while laughing and having fun.
Every Friday following the character development group, students take a creative writing supplement if they are not a part of the music group. Recently, the creative writing group has been working on different types of poetry. This week, we did a fabricated autobiography. Students could create a poem, freestyle, building a life for themselves. Personally, I incorporated crazy things such as I have 100 siblings, I went to the Olympics, and I won the Nobel Peace Prize. As we shared our poems, hearing the other student’s fabricated life stories was not only hilarious, but provided a bonding opportunity between us. Much of our time is spent doing important responsibilities, so it was fun to finally have time to lie back, have fun, and use my imagination.
This week’s weekly update, I wanted to emphasize the happiness that we can find here at Ironwood. At home, I often overlooked the small things that make life worth living. Recovery has opened my eyes to other ways I can find happiness and how much better off I am without substances. Enrichment activities such as exercise brings me a lot of joy as I am an athlete and needed some more engaging workouts. The workout videos have bonded the girl’s group for a common goal and discovered a way to laugh and have fun while being productive in exercise. Creative writing gives the students time to let their imagination run wild, bond with their peers, and laugh at our creations. Overall, it has been a great week at Ironwood, and I can’t wait to see what the next week holds for us.
* Last night, as I was driving home and before reading this note, I shared this author’s conclusion on how good this week was at Ironwood. A wave of new residents, a graduation, chock full schedules and non-stop action. The noticeable variant was the pulse…or vibe…or energy that was present and flowing from each day. Our Ironwood kids (and staff) seemed more open and enthusiastic than typical, there was a sense of extra connection and everyone being a part of something greater.
I’m not sure why? Perhaps it’s the season, or just the fact that systems/relationships are always evolving with Ironwood finding it’s sweet spot…for a time?
It’s always our hope that Ironwood will successfully deliver firm structure and support to residents, while also remaining connected…human to human. Our residents need to be kept safe and we will always hold firm to high expectations and thoughtful standards. However, we also recognize that our teens are, well…teens…and teens are also needing and deserving of the great gifts of laughter, joy, accomplishment and camaraderie.
Ironwood is a community and we are grateful for everything that we have at this point in time. We hope you are doing well back home and finding some comfort in the progress that you are seeing in your sons and daughters. Have a great weekend!