RUMFORD — The message to Mountain Valley High School freshmen at an assembly was “The right decisions don’t always happen the first time, but there is always a road back to right.” This is the theme of a school-wide drug and alcohol program known as A Road Back.
Kristen Provencher, health teacher, kicked off the assembly with, “A Road Back is a program that we have designed to help answer your questions and let you know that addiction is real. For some of you, it is a part of your everyday life. Everyone in this room falls into one of the three populations.”
School social worker David Walton explained the three populations: users, affected and nonuser/nonaffected. “Users range from a person who has simply tried a drug or alcohol all the way to an addict. Users may also be people in recovery. Affected are people who love or are concerned about the user. Often they find ways to make excuses for the user or compensate for the user’s behavior. Nonuser/nonaffected are people who are not touched by drugs or alcohol. Very few people fit in this population.”
Then Provencher detailed the progression from learning phase, to seeking phase, to harmful dependence, to chronic phase also known as addiction.
She said, “In this case, tolerance is not a good or cool thing. It’s dangerous. If you know of someone who is a user or affected, please get an adult involved. The adult may be me or Mr. Walton or a trusted teacher or anyone who works at school.”
To help the students understand the different populations, Natalie Simmons’ theater arts students performed five scenarios. “This is improv,” explained Simmons. “A pair of students will be called forward and given a card with their roles. When I say ‘action’ they will act out the roles.”
Brittany Wakefield played college student talking to her Mom, Allie Nasatowicz. In this scenario, Nasatowicz revealed that she was prepared to leave Brittany’s dad. She explained, “Dad drinks and pushes me around. I love him but sometimes love isn’t enough.”
The students in the audience concluded that both mother and daughter are part of the affected population.
Next, Cody Smith played a drug dealer named Rob and Nikki Hodgkins was his friend Massey. Massey reveals that someone died of an overdose at a party that they attended the previous night.
Rob realized that he sold the drugs to the victim of the overdose. He said, “It’s not my problem that guy chose to buy the drugs and chose to use them. I know what I’m doing is wrong but I need to get to college to help my family.”
Again both Rob and Massey are in the affected population.
The next scenario featured Andrew Phelps and Morgan Gordon as brother and sister. Gordon found pills in Phelps’s room. She pleads, “You’re my big brother. I need you. I love you. Don’t do this.” Then she begins to cry.
In this case, Phelps’s character is a user and Gordon’s character is affected.
Chelsea Gaudet was a teacher who noticed that student Allie Nasatowicz was falling behind in schoolwork and asked what was happening in Nasatowicz’s life. After several attempts to find out what was causing the issue. Nasatowicz finally revealed, “Lately, I’ve been drinking a lot. When I drink, I don’t have to think about Mom not caring and Dad not being there. I’m all alone and going nowhere.” Based on her personal experience as a recovering alcoholic, Gaudet offered to help Nasatowicz find assistance.
In this case, both are users.
The final scenario featured Karyssa Kneeland as an alcoholic mother and Gordon as her daughter. Gordon pleads with her mother to be able to go away to college. Kneeland’s response is “You’re taking away my lifeline. You can’t go.”
Gordon replies with tears in her eyes and a catch in her throat, “I can’t take care of you anymore. I’ve always been there for you. I have to go.”
The audience recognized Gordon’s character as affected and Kneeland’s character as a user.
The Road Back program was created last year by Simmons, Provencher and Walton. Upperclassmen learned of the program in a school-wide assembly followed by small group discussions in their homerooms.