Back2Basics Outdoor Adventures 3.5 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.
1600 W University Ave #109
Flagstaff, AZ 86001
Phone: (928) 814-2220
Price: $8,500/mo. (with a six-month commitment)
Overall: 3.5 stars
Accommodations: 3.5 stars
Treatment: 4 stars
Food: 3.5 stars
Exclusively for young men in their late teens and early 20s, B2B is more than a rehab—it’s a life reboot. With a minimum commitment of six months, this is true long-term treatment for those who are at the end of their ropes. But thanks to a unique program of outdoor adventures throughout the Southwest, the time might just fly by.
Young men from 18-30 come to B2B from a range of backgrounds that skews towards white and upper-middle class but also typically includes some Latinos. Many are college dropouts struggling with hard drugs like heroin, leaving their families desperate for a solution. While most are straight, gay alums don’t feel singled out. Residents tend to look past their differences and form strong bonds. As one alum said, “We all share a common goal and that is sobriety.” Several others reported still being “real friends” with their cohort, who “were all super supportive and helped [them] get through the hard times.”
While staying at the facility in Flagstaff, residents sleep two to a room. The packed schedule includes a rigorous rotation of daily chores, including special work projects such as house painting or tending the summer garden that can be used to buy “credit” toward movies, cigarettes or new clothes. Health is emphasized at B2B, so each day includes time for the gym (which offers a pool, yoga and sport courts) and Qi Gong kung fu is available twice a week. Starting in their second month, residents may make just one 30-minute phone call to their parents per week. Internet use outside of college homework is prohibited, and while there is a TV with a DVD player for movies in the evenings, cable is not available. Six months seems a long time to go without Internet, but alums assured us that the ban was “for good reasons” and that the other activities kept them plenty occupied.
The food is anything but basic. Residents not only learn how to shop for their own groceries but also get an education in nutritious cooking. Under staff supervision, they take turns cooking together and eat family style. Favorites include homemade pizza, lasagna and steak as well as the “legendary” chicken Caesar salad. Each meal contains plenty of protein, fruits and veggies, and one formerly emaciated resident reported gaining 40 much needed pounds. Coffee and healthy snacks are available all day, though sweets are rarely offered.
Since so many arrive at B2B “living on their parents’ dime,” they offer a Life Skills program that teaches healthy independent living, from grocery shopping to balancing a budget. Career counseling is available, and students have the opportunity to take courses at Northern Arizona University or Coconino Community College. Some get opportunities to build on their cooking courses and earn an apprenticeship with a local cafe. They can also take their newfound cooking skills into the realm of community service at the Flagstaff Family Food Center. Other community service options include cleanups and trail restoration, in keeping with B2B’s wilderness spirit.
But the program’s main attraction is the extensive outdoor trips to such destinations as the Grand Canyon, Joshua Tree and Moab. Each week residents spend two to four days in the wilderness, whether it be backpacking, climbing, rafting, kayaking, surfing or snowboarding. Most name these trips as the most memorable part of their experience. The physical and emotional benefits of wilderness therapy play a major role in treatment at B2B. As one well-spoken alum puts it, “12-step is a big component, but it is the exposure to the outdoors and life-skills that help residents develop their own multifaceted recovery.”
As for regular old treatment, four licensed staff therapists provide a program of individual and group counseling, both of which are described as “very helpful.” While there are no doctors in residence, access to offsite hospitals is easy and handled promptly. On wilderness trips, the leaders had Wilderness First Responder and CPR training to ensure everybody’s safety. “Back to Basics is very good at specializing treatment to fit individuals,” one alum reports. Still, it’s important to keep in mind that this is true as long as clients are game for 12-step. Everyone attends daily AA meetings and is required to have a sponsor, whom they can telephone as needed, but graduates report not feeling like religion was thrust upon them.
Of course, since boys will be boys, there’s also the issue of discipline. The staff can be stern, but since some are former residents themselves they “come from a place of understanding.” A typical punishment for an infraction like waking up late involves a loss of TV or movie privileges. “If a resident needs tough love then they get it,” an alum explains. “If a resident needs compassion and understanding, it is given to them from the heart.”
After the initial six-month program, many opt for another six months of transitional sober living care called Beyond the Basics. Financing is available through several lending programs.
Most alumni emphatically credit their sobriety to B2B. “This could very well be the best decision of my life,” says one. Another echoes, “B2B gave me my life back.” Like any long-term program, though, it’s an investment best for those who have hit their limit: “If you’re not completely sure you want to be sober, don’t waste your time and money,” reports one impassioned alum. “This program is for people who want it.”
For those who are ready to get clean, B2B delivers. “If I could go back and choose any rehab, money not an option, I would choose B2B 100 times over,” gushes one. “This program is unique and the residents and staff have a family relationship. People care here and that's what makes it so successful.”