Greg Williams’ new documentary Generation Found premiered last Tuesday at local theaters around the country. This is Williams’ second feature length film and a follow-up to his 2013 film The Anonymous People.
The documentary was shot in Houston and focuses on the role that recovery high schools can play in helping to keep teenage addicts sober. For those of who are not aware, recovery high schools are alternative high schools for teenagers with addiction problems, where recovery is a focused part of the curriculum. The schools offer students the ability to create a sober community with their peers that would not be available to them within their local high school environment. The schools also offer structure and support that their normal high schools would not be able to provide and this has proven to be a successful method in helping teenagers maintain sobriety. At this point, there are a limited number of treatment options for young people that work in an effective manner at a local level. Most young people must go away for any treatment services and then return home to the environment that was a huge contributing factor and somehow stay sober amidst a culture that is saturated with drinking and drug use.
The documentary takes place mainly in Archway Academy, which is one such recovery high school in the Houston area run by Sasha Mclean, who is a licensed professional counselor that is also in recovery. The film follows the struggles and triumphs of a number of students at Archway, all while framing the story in the larger narrative of how to best serve young addicts.
The current form of treatment and recovery options available to many young people do not truly offer them what they need for successful sobriety and the film exposes this by presenting recovery high schools as successful alternatives. The recovery high school is one part of a larger pipeline of support that is offered to these young people, which starts when they enter into resident treatment, continues with their enrollment in a recovery highs school, is supplemented with Alternative Peer Groups, and follows them with support throughout college. By offering support every step of the way into young adulthood, this method of recovery seeks to surround these young people with recovery, therefore giving them the best possible chance for sustained abstinence.
Williams’ presentation of the material is palatable and persuasive, as I left the theater rethinking my own opinion on what it takes to get sober. For a long time I believed that someone truly had to hit bottom in order for sobriety to take hold, and while this still is the truth, I started to think what if offered these young people the ability for another option? What if we really did afford them an opportunity to get out of the high school environment where drugs and alcohol are so prevalent and present to them a vision of recovery that was relatable and exciting? Would this possibly keep them from following the tough path ahead of years of addiction and damage? Williams seems to think so and the students in the film are a testimony to this idea. Williams life itself is a testament to this possibility.
While only a few of students at Archway were actually featured in the film, these students talked real sobriety and shared thoughts about the fellowship that is created in these schools that were similar to my own experience in recovery.
At just under an hour and a half runtime, the film keeps its message and narrative clean and to the point. There was nothing superfluous in the documentary and this helped to keep me engaged in the film. A number of times throughout the documentary I found myself getting choked up as I thought about my own experience as a youth in addiction and what my parents must have gone through.
A number of the parents who were featured in the film sounded exactly like my parents did when I was caught up in addiction in my youth. The exasperation, fear, and sadness in their voice was recognizable and I could actually feel their pain coming through the movie screen. Though sadness was not the overall feel of the film and the message intended was that of hope.
The scene in particular that truly showed the possibility that recovery high schools offer was the graduation scene. This was probably my favorite scene of the film and seeing the beaming faces of parents whom not but a few years ago were distraught and at their wit’s end brought tears to my eyes. Their children, who if not given the opportunity of attending a recovery high school would have more than likely been in a very different situation, walked across the stage to get their diplomas, now productive members of their families. It was a beautiful thing to watch and made me grateful for everything that I have in my life.
The film also briefly showed the struggles that the students faced after graduation, which I am glad it did because it was a thought I had while watching the film. About half way through I thought to myself, this is great and all but what happens once these kids are no longer surrounded by the support they receive at these schools? The answer is that they can continue to stay sober, just like anyone else, but it will be an adjustment and struggle. They followed one student into her freshman year in college and she expressed the struggles she was facing of assimilating back into the “real world”, but luckily she was not alone and was aware of the collegiate recovery services that were available to her.
Generation Found is a great documentary and I highly recommend that you go see it. It is an independent film and as such it is only being shown upon request. You can see if a screening is offered near you by going to the Generation Found website and if it is not you can try to set up a screening in a local theater at Gathr Films.
Rose Lockinger is a passionate member of the recovery community. A rebel who found her cause, she uses blogging and social media to raise the awareness about the disease of addiction. She has visited all over North and South America. Single mom to two beautiful children she has learned parenting is without a doubt the most rewarding job in the world. Currently the Outreach Director at Stodzy Internet Marketing.