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I own my self; I own my actions
DeSoto County Alternative Center
Posted On: Friday, October 26, 2012

There is a common saying frequently heard at twelve step meetings such as Alcoholic's Anonymous: "If you go to the barber shop enough, you are going to get a haircut."  Now, one might ask: "Why would you go to the barber shop if it weren't to get a haircut?" That is a valid point but not the one that is being made.  It implies that if an addict frequents areas of temptation often enough, they are going to use.  This puts the responsibility back on the addict. It isn't the bar's fault the recovering alcoholic took a drink.  The alcoholic knew what was waiting for him/her inside the door.   The fault lies with addict's decision to go inside. A decision made with the knowledge of the potential consequences.

Now let's take the typical student at DCAC.  When asked what they did to get sent to the alternative center, typical responses include: "I got caught with weed but it wasn't mine;" "I got to fightin' this girl because she was runnin' her mouth;" "The teacher wrote me up when the whole class was talking;" or a personal favorite, "I told the teacher off because she disrespected me."  In every case, the blame is deflected to someone else; rather it be the teacher, the friend, the other girl, etc.  In few cases does the student say, "I got in a fight;" I was holding drugs;" I was disrespectful."  These students are quick to assume adult status. Quick to call themselves men and women.  Quick to demand respect. But things begin to slow down when they are asked to perform one of the more basic (albeit harder) of adult tasks: taking ownership of their actions.

One of the unique things about DCAC is the students' feedback sheets.  Every student receives a feedback every day that is a record of their observed behavior in the classrooms, hallways, cafeteria, or any other place on the school campus.  DCAC staff are told to be objective when writing on the feedback sheets.  Stick to the behavior observed.  If John isn't following directions give him the demerit and write Not Following Directions. If Sue is talking give her the demerit and write Talking. There is a method to all of this.   The student receives their feedback sheet with their demerit and a written record of their behavior.  They are not fond of this method, because the feedback sheet is personal to them.  They do not like seeing their negative behavior written in black ink staring back at them. This is one of the many ways DCAC attempts to teach the student to own their own behaviors.

Staff hears daily from students "...but he was talking to me..." or "...but she passed me the note..." and the student commonly hears the response, "did you respond to him?" or "did you accept her note?"  Then the voice falls silent and the eyes drop.  And usually three or four weeks into the program, staff begins to hear more I's than he's and she's.  And a remarkable thing begins to happen.  Because they begin to take ownership of their actions, they begin to pay attention to what triggers the negative actions.  Suddenly, the fight was not because "she was runnin' her mouth" but because "I did not have the self-control to avoid physical confrontation."  The friend is no longer blamed, but instead, "I should not be around drugs regardless of whose they are."  Every student doesn't get it every time, but small steps lead to big improvements.   

And as an aside, not all of the focus at DCAC is owning negative behaviors.  Staff encourages the students to own their strengths and positive attributes too. But isn't that always a little easier?

Lindsay Bates--DCAC Staff


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