For many teenagers, fun is connected with partying. However, for others, having “fun” by drinking, smoking and doing party drugs has led to real serious consequences, eroding their relationships with themselves, their families and their higher power.
Clearfork Academy, a residential, Christ-centered treatment center in Fort Worth, Texas, aims to help youth learn that they can have fun without substance use. By holding boys accountable and teaching them to rediscover how to have a good time in a healthy way, Clearfork helps teens get into long-term recovery.
A critical part of this mission is instilling clients, ages 13 to 17, with Clearfork’s core values: honor, unity, sacrifice, transparency, legacy, excellence, and fun.
“Our core values really are not words that we just kind of came up with in a brainstorming session,” said Clearfork’s founder and CEO, Austin Davis. “They are quite literally posted on my refrigerator at home and they represent something that comes out of who we are and who we are helping young men develop into. These are the marks we aspire to each day.”
The values have been posted around campus since Clearfork started, and one day a client noticed that they spell out an appropriate message.
“One of our teens said, ‘Hey, did you know the core values spell out H.U.S.T.L.E. and Fun?’” Davis recalled. “It was a mind-blowing revelation that nearly knocked me off my feet. Those two things on their own – hustle and fun – are purely representative of my entire life. They resonated so clearly with me in that moment.”
Today, Davis and the other staff members at Clearfork Academy help boys learn how to put in the hard work and hustle of living in recovery, while still having fun along the way. Here’s how Clearfork Academy’s core values come together to make that happen:
Teaching teens to focus on honoring themselves, their family and God is a way to provide accountability and a simple test of whether a decision is a good one or not.
“We believe that if we cannot honor ourselves, honor God, and honor other people that we should not be doing what we are doing,” Davis explained. “If I am making a decision, I have to run it through the vertical filter that I have with God. If it gives honor to Him and it checks off that way, then I can proceed. Furthermore, I need to assess how my actions align with my values and how I am honoring myself.”
This affects not just clients, but also the decisions that Davis and other staff members at Clearfork Academy make.
“It is the firm foundation on which all other values can be formed,” Davis said.
Addiction is a disease of isolation, so unity in recovery helps people build connects and strengthen their sobriety.
“We have a common unity, that of grace and of addiction and empathy for our fellow human,” Davis said. “We all face trials and tribulations and we use unity to collaborate, connect and engage our young men.”
Having a feeling of unity and accountability to the group can help keep people on track.
“We can hold each other accountable and uphold that other core value honor,” Davis said. “It not only protects us and keeps us right in the middle of the fight, it gets us further than we could ever get on our own and that on its own is so important for anyone in recovery.”
As a Christ-based treatment center, Clearfork Academy holds the core value of sacrifice in line with the sacrifice that God made for man. Although the sacrifices that clients and staff make pale in comparison, they still provide important lessons.
“If we can demonstrate sacrifice on a level that is understandable to our teens, then that further inspires their personal growth,” Davis said. “There may be a moment when they feel like it is out of their element to show encouragement and uplifting actions to a peer, but sacrificing their self, their time and their emotions to help a distressed friend will always go further than they could imagine.”
Often, this facilitates growth mentally, physically, spiritually, and in relationships.
“We find significant growth in our teens when they do something that is outside of themselves,” Davis said.
For teens and their families, opening themselves up to treatment is scary because they are so vulnerable. Clearkfork Academy is committed to being transparent about treatment goals and plans so that people never feel that their vulnerability is being taken advantage of.
“We say what we mean and mean what we say,” Davis said. This includes outlining expectations in regards to financial costs and recovery.
“We hold steadfast to this belief because without our word we are worth nothing,” Davis said. “Once we communicate the expectations then we can manage them.”
At Clearfork Academy, teens are able to get their lives on track, so that they can have a legacy to be proud of.
“We have this tagline, ‘Leading teens to a #NewLegacy,’” Davis said. “It is so impactful and instrumental for us because we can show our teens the reality that today’s decisions will ultimately affect the very distant storyline that they may not get the benefit of seeing.”
Likewise, the treatment center itself is building a legacy of helping change lives.
“Legacy encapsulates the whole journey here at Clearfork Academy because I think of it as we are affecting the future generation of this kid and the change in their life could be infectious,” Davis said. “Our hope is that when the teen goes home, they are affecting change everywhere, that they will be a catalyst that propels their future generations into their own calling.”
Davis has high expectations, of himself, his staff and his clients.
“We practice excellence in our treatment planning, treatment goals, in the way we dress and the way we communicate. We cannot operate without this value in mind,” Davis said.
At Clearfork, everything must be better than the recommended bar. This demonstrates to clients that they can exceed expectations.
“Our team exudes excellence in every aspect of the programming, and we expect that out of our teens as well,” he said. “We do not allow them to discount themselves and we continue to remind them that there is greatness and excellence inside of them. They are unrelenting warriors that can move mountains and they can do it well.”
Everyone needs balance in their lives, which is why Clearfork balances the hard work of recovery with learning to let loose and have fun in a healthy way.
“If we cannot have fun with what we do here we are going to burn out,” Davis said.
Trips to go rock climbing, mountain biking, kayaking or paintballing help clients learn to have fun in recovery, and ensure the staff always love their jobs.
“Therapy can be overly exhausting and extremely taxing emotionally so we like to take some of that stress away by embodying the idea of fun,” Davis said.
Using these principals, the team at Clearfork Academy is able to help teens succeed in sobriety.
“From every individual that has a hand in this company, to me, all the way down to a contractor that works at our campus a couple of hours a year, every person exemplifies these standards,” Davis said. “It has been engrained in us so that we can lead these teens to a new legacy.”