Back2Basics Outdoor Adventures 4 stars
This Arizona rehab prescribes high doses of AA meetings and backpacking for young guys who not only need to get sober, but also learn the basics (think cooking and cleaning) of living in the real world.
Like Outward Bound for addicts, Back2Basics Outdoor Adventures, in Flagstaff, Arizona, is a highly active, Into the Wild-type rehab that helps young men in their late teens and twenties kick alcohol and drugs while learning how to get along in the real world—from learning how to cook to getting job skills at a new café internship.
Back2Basics’ six-month program is made up of both in-town time, at the rehab’s 12-bed residential facility, and weekly three- to four-day backpacking, camping and rafting trips to destinations including Moab, the Grand Canyon, Joshua Tree, Superstition Springs, Zion National Park and more, all while having AA meetings out under the Southwestern night sky. “The camaraderie with the other residents and the meetings out there were what impacted me most,” said one B2B grad. For the most part, residents are straight, white and from affluent families, with a few middle-class and Hispanic guys in the mix as well. But as for their station in life, residents are united: "Most of [them] were in a situation similar to mine,” said one young man. “Just sort of in between.”
Time spent in town isn’t wasted just twiddling your thumbs, though, waiting to get back out on the trail. When in Flagstaff, residents keep busy with a robust slate of chores, 12-step meetings, group and individual therapy, and lots of physical activity, including kung fu, hiking, biking, yoga and more. “I was in shape for sure after all that every day,” said one B2B alum. Most residents room with one other person, depending on how many people are in the house at the time. Days at Back2Basics typically begin by making your bed, showers and breafkast, followed by an AA meeting and then working out or taking a fitness class at the Flagstaff Athletic Club.
After lunch, residents—who must enroll at either Northern Arizona University or Cocomino Community College—attend classes or do schoolwork and chores, including laundry and a once-a-week “deep cleaning” of the rehab’s houses. Smokers also can put in “work hours” on special projects, from painting to minor home-repair jobs, to earn cigarettes (or dip). In the summer, one of these special projects is a house garden, which residents care for by planting, watering and composting.
This theme of self-sufficiency is extended in the kitchen, as residents are charged with cooking dinner for their whole rehab crew, including crafting the menu and shopping for groceries. Surprisingly, this doesn’t result in Top Ramen seven nights a week. With guidance from Chef Kathy, residents make sure each meal hits all the food-group high points, including a protein, a starch, a vegetable and so on. Coffee is brewing all the time at Back2Basics, whereas sugar is more limited. You won’t feel like you’re on a lemon-cleanse diet, though—as one guy put it, “There isn’t anything like Gushers [fruit snacks] stashed away in the pantry, but there is always something you can find to snack on.” Another resident managed to satisfy his (and others’) sugar cravings in a clever manner: “I just baked all the time,” he said.
If anyone gets out of line, B2B staff aren’t afraid to mix it up with their charges—and residents say that’s a good thing. “They called us out,” one said. “My BS was thick but they definitely worded it so I could hear it.” Rule-breakers can be punished with anything from extra house chores to writing assignments on how their errant behavior might be habitual, with a book-report-style delivery to the group for feedback. Privileges potentially on the chopping block include watching DVD movies (there’s no cable TV) and phone calls. The former are restricted to evenings and weekends, while the latter are kept to a weekly half hour with one’s family. Cell phones are disallowed, and the Internet can only be used for homework.
Treatment-wise, the rehab puts a lot of emphasis on working a strong 12-step program, including finding a sponsor in the local AA community and practicing the steps. Residents will hit roughly six meetings a week—and that’s not counting those held on the trail. As for religion, residents are encouraged only to find a god of their own understanding, although anyone who wants to attend church can do so.
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