BOUND FOR GLORY
How Northbound Treatment Services Founder Paul Alexander started a new path in young adult addiction treatment with the Collegebound Program.
As a certified addiction treatment specialist, Paul Alexander understands why it’s important for people in early recovery to avoid major life changes. It’s hard enough to stay sober. Why add to the stress by starting a new romance, changing careers or moving residences?
As a person in recovery, Alexander also understands why that doesn’t work for everyone. It didn’t for him. After two false starts, Alexander only got — and stayed — sober because he made a major life change. With just 30 days sober, the 23-year-old enrolled in a drug and alcohol studies class at Saddleback College in Mission Viejo, California.
Three times a week, Alexander would leave the safe and secure bubble where he was in treatment, drive 30 miles to the community college and walk into an environment full of threats to sobriety (peer pressure, easy access to drugs and alcohol, stress, anxiety, academic pressures). After class, he returned to the treatment center, where he refocused on his recovery, learned his triggers and how to stay alert to signs of relapse, and developed healthy strategies for coping with stress.
It is often suggested that people new to recovery put off going to college until they feel strong enough to face such a challenge. But for Alexander, it was the opportunity to further his education and truly turn his life around while within the supportive and highly accountable treatment environment that made him feel strong enough to face the challenge of sobriety.
“I didn’t just want to get a ‘get-well job’ and go to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings,” Alexander says. “That’s not recovery. I wanted to be challenged. I wanted to do something with my life.”
And he did. In 2008, Alexander founded Northbound Treatment Services in Newport Beach, California, where young adults can participate in Collegebound, a program that supports students as they work toward a GED; enroll in and attend local colleges, universities and trade schools; and engage in all aspects of treatment, including meeting with their therapist, attending groups, participating in addiction education and working the 12 steps.
“When we first started doing this, people thought we were nuts,” Alexander says. “‘You can’t send a student to school early in recovery! They’ll relapse!’ We found the exact opposite. We saw that it really complemented their recovery. It built their self-esteem. It gave them goals and purpose and meaning in their life. It gave them a reason to stay sober.”
While still a client at a treatment center — and a student at Saddleback College — Alexander had an idea to take his experience pursuing his educational goals early in sobriety and turn it into a program within a residential treatment center that assists individuals in reintegrating back into the college environment.