‘Healthy Alternatives to Drugs and Alcohol’ is an innovative program out of Boulder, Colorado started by Avani Dilger who is a teacher at both the high school and graduate school levels. She is also a Certified Addiction Counselor. The program’s other name is ‘Natural Highs’ http://www.naturalhighs.us/ because it teaches ways to connect and feel positive without drugs and alcohol. The six-week program discusses the harms of drugs and alcohol and offers art, dance, philosophy, nutrition, yerba mate circles (a popular hospitality ritual where everyone drinks green tea together) and other strategies for creating community and stress management, while providing a venue to discuss substance abuse and whatever other issues may be on students’ minds.
The program has been offered at New Vista High School since 2006, and has been so successful that other high schools and universities in the area have adopted it. As far as its effects, 43% of students in the class of 2011 at New Vista reported that they decided to stay clean and sober after attending the course. An additional 43% reported that they reduced their substance use. 100% of students who answered the questionnaire said that they would recommend the class to a friend.
The students have created sober parties for holidays and Fridays with food, films, artwork, aromatherapy, dance presentations, poetry and music (including a sober rave!) They say that finding friends and experiencing confidence in this type of a supportive, sober setting has been very valuable to them. Parents also speak appreciatively of the program. One student explained that he learned “recovery and sobriety are more than just abstaining- there are things I can do to lead a healthy life that build up all the places in my brain that are broken down.”
“Natural Highs isn’t a simple program to explain the importance of, it is my life. Natural Highs helped me be a happier person and a sober person. It taught me how to appreciate the small things and myself. It showed me my passion in herbalism which I will continue after high school. It taught me how to be a leader and how to break out of my shell. Without Natural Highs I wouldn’t have met any of the amazing members who truly changed my life for the best. Natural Highs taught me how beautiful the world is and how you can be sober and be supported and praised for it, not looked down upon in other groups. I love being in Action Group because you personally get to help and set up awesome events while working with amazing people and help out in your community. Also, I feel as if people look up to you if you are in Natural Highs. I could rant for hours and hours, pages and pages about how important Natural Highs is to me and how I honestly don’t think I would be alive right now if it weren’t for this program. It is the most important best thing that has ever happened to me.” (New Vista Senior)
“Natural Highs has brought me out of one of the darkest most lonely and scary times in my life. It has given me a beautiful understanding of my body, my mind, and has helped me discover who I am and what path I want to take in this world. Along with that Natural Highs has given me a community and a safe open environment to express myself and learn more about who I am. This program has opened so many doors for me and brought so many new passions to my life. I envision Natural Highs becoming a revolution. It will sweep the nation because the techniques and knowledge and experiences obtained from this class are so innovative and beneficial and over all life changing. So thank you Avani and the whole Natural Highs team for changing mine and so many other people’s lives.” (New Vista student)
“It is the only drug prevention program that works without scare tactics or exaggeration and it truly helps with my sobriety.”
“I think this course should be mandatory at all schools because it is a good environment for all to learn about the facts about drugs & alcohol so you are able to make good choices about these substances.”