Kids & Drugs & Rock & Roll

At the Crossroads Program in Chesterfield, teen sobriety is supposed to be fun. It's also expensive -- and not everyone's buying.

Philippe's insecurity doesn't surprise former counselor Rob Van Pelt. "They chop the legs out from beneath these parents, and they do it quickly," he says. "You've got to remember: These parents are embarrassed. They're failures. This is one that I remember vividly [telling parents]: 'You've had sixteen years to help your kid adjust and run his life. Did you do a good job? Because you just brought him to me with a needle sticking out of his arm. You're missing the boat somewhere along the line. And I got the answers that kid needs.' You get a real heavy bat to swing."

Two weeks after completing Crossroads' intensive outpatient program, Philippe's son relapsed. He would later tell her that he used drugs during much of the ensuing five-month period, during which he continued attending group meetings. He ultimately left Crossroads when he was busted for smoking pot at school and ordered by a judge to attend an inpatient rehab program.

Szachta says the program is based on honesty and does not administer drug testing. Members must adhere to three rules: "No fixing. No fighting. No fucking." (Many former clients complain that the program regulates dating, though that's a common practice among drug-rehab programs.) He doesn't publish sobriety success rates for his program and says Crossroads last tabulated a success rate in the late 1990s, defining "success" as a client who remained sober for a year after completing intensive outpatient. By that measure, he says Crossroads boasted a success rate of 80 percent.

The eye of the storm: Some say Crossroads owner 
Frank Szachta is a godsend; others say he's made a 
deal with the devil.
Anthony Camera
The eye of the storm: Some say Crossroads owner Frank Szachta is a godsend; others say he's made a deal with the devil.
Within weeks of entering the program, Aimee 
Moreland had moved in with another Crossroads 
Becca Young
Within weeks of entering the program, Aimee Moreland had moved in with another Crossroads family.

On the topic of school, Szachta says the dropout rate among clients hovers around 8 percent, although that figure includes only clients who attend support-group meetings and does not account for those currently in outpatient treatment. "A lot of those kids are still pursuing school," he asserts. "Parents will say: 'He's sober now -- when's he going to go to college?' Well, hold on! A minute ago you were, like, 'I hope he doesn't die next week,' and now you're wondering when he's going to go to college?

"There are no 30-day wonders or instant cures," Szachta adds. "I would love to say we could do a couple of appointments with people and they'd be all better. But if sobriety's the goal, it's not that easy."

In addition to the twice-weekly support-group meetings and myriad social functions, Beth Roussel soon enrolled her daughter in Crossroads' intensive outpatient program.

"I saw a change, in that I knew she wasn't getting high. She seemed happy," says Roussel, who'd begun attending weekly meetings for Crossroads parents. "But really, there was nothing to fight about: I never saw her. I saw her on Friday nights for about fifteen minutes to say, 'How's the week been going? What are you guys doing tonight? Here's your money. Here's your cigarettes. Have a good time. Be careful. Put your seatbelt on, and I love you.' Aside from that, I never really saw her.

"She'd come in and give me a hug. It was always, 'I love you,' with a big hug. What parent doesn't like that?" Roussel asks. "I thought, 'Oh my gosh, they're making such a big breakthrough with my kid. Apparently they've made her realize that her mom and dad really love her.' But what you don't know is that [your kid is] playing the Parent Game."

Roussel says Moreland seemed happy in intensive outpatient treatment. Like most Crossroads kids, she'd cut ties with her old doping buddies and made fast friends with fellow clients. Roussel says counselors were generally positive in their reports about Aimee's progress. Most important, she knew her daughter wasn't getting high. So it came as a shock when after four weeks Roussel was informed that her daughter "just wasn't getting it."

She says Aimee's counselors advised that she be sent to Step Two, an intensive inpatient treatment program in Arizona that was affiliated with Crossroads and owned by Frank Szachta's mentor, Bob Meehan.

"Now I've got her counselors, who I trusted completely, telling me that they're afraid she's going to use again in two weeks when she got out [of outpatient], so we better do something quick," Roussel says.

When word got out that she was leaning toward sending her daughter for 45 days in Arizona, Roussel says, her fellow Crossroads parents lined up to support her. "They give you a lot of love. You get a lot more attention," she says. "When people know you're sending your kid [for intensive treatment], you get kudos. It's like: 'Oh! You're such an awesome parent that you'll just do anything for your child!'"

Through her home-healthcare business, Roussel had managed to accumulate some savings she'd planned to spend on remodeling her kitchen. Instead, she says, she emptied her bank account to purchase a plane ticket to Arizona and draw up a cashier's check for about $14,000.

Aimee Moreland says a girl in the group held a sleepover in her honor the night before her flight, attended by nearly every girl in the program: "I've got, like, 30 kids following me around the airport," she says of the sendoff. "They're singing, telling me they love me."

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