TEEN CHALLENGE1

Justin Franich, executive director of Shenandoah Teen Challenge, stands outside the men’s lodge in Basye. Teen Challenge uses a 12-month, faith-based recovery program for people fighting drug addiction.

BAYSE, Va. — Patients at Shenandoah Valley Teen Challenge are encouraged to kick their drug habits not through medicinally assisted methods but with the help of God.

The Shenandoah Valley location in Bayse is one of about 300 Teen Challenge facilities in the world, which Justin Franich, co-executive director of the local branch, said makes for the largest faith-based recovery program. Each facility is independent and raises its operating funds, which he said comes to about $35,000 per month to pay its staff of seven and other expenses.

The Bayse location, with facilities nestled between the mountains, houses about 30 residents who participate in what Franich described as a year-long “holistic” approach to sobriety. This, he said, means a “mind, body and spirit” rehabilitation and “unapologetically Christian program.”

Franich said he believes in the method because it kept him sober for 13 years after battling methamphetamine addiction from age 15-20.

“I believe in this program,” he said. “Teen Challenge has been the vehicle that’s allowed me to get my family back.”

He added that no rehabilitation program “is one size fits all” and that Teen Challenge is not for everybody.

Franich said the price to check in is $1,675, and that all incoming residents must have detoxed prior to admittance “because, with the opioids, it’s just too dangerous.” Being a Christian is not mandatory, and the facility will not turn anybody away for their religious beliefs, but he said potential students should be aware that the Bible and Christian beliefs will be taught.

The rehabilitation is broken into three phases: induction, training and re-entry. The daily schedule includes a 6:30 a.m. wake-up call followed by chores, a 9 a.m. class, lunch at noon and a 10:30 p.m. bedtime. No access to cars, cellphones or email is allowed.

He said induction spans the program’s first five months, during which practical biblical teachings cover topics including attitude, temptation and addressing failure. Patients also undergo targeted personal studies dealing with issues that directly affect them.

“Not everyone is going to be dealing with the same problem at the same time...Obviously, the surface is drugs, but there are reasons people chose to use drugs and chose to go down that path. So we really want to get at that so that we can deal with the root and not just the cause,” he said.

During induction, students also meet with a mentor weekly during which 36 topics are covered for what Franich said: “provide a base for conversation.”

During the five-month training phase, every student is employed with Friendship Industries in Harrisonburg. Part of these incomes is used to pay rent to Team Challenge while they keep $200 per week from the job.

“What we’re trying to do there is emulate life outside of Team Challenge while they’re still in the protection of the center...we’re able to address some of those real-life challenges,” he said.

The transition — or what Franich said is “life plan and recovery” — phase addresses what the students’ plan for life after the center. They stop working at the factory, and he said “we begin to work with them during that month on a daily basis” to “put all your pieces in place so that you’re not going home without a plan.”

He said that addiction is a selfish behavior and when Team Challenge presents Christianity to addicts, they are given the opportunity to serve something greater than themselves.

“It’s the opposite of addiction; it’s serving a greater purpose. And for somebody that gets ahold of that and finds a purpose greater than themselves to serve, they’ll stay sober, and we believe it,” he said.

While Franich said he does not look down on other recovery methods, he said the faith-based method worked best for him. He added that there is no reason that the Bible and science should not coincide with one another regarding recovery.

He noted a Romans verse in the Bible that states that one should “not conform to the pattern of this world but to be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”

“We believe that as an individual digs into the Bible, begins to live this lifestyle of Christianity, that the brain will reset itself and it will rewire itself. So, I personally don’t think the Bible and science contradict. I actually think one just confirms what the other says,” he said.

Contact Josh Gully at jgully@nvdaily.com