Before and After: A Reflection from a Youth Resident of ARCH

A teen reflects on their growth in handling emotions and forming a positive mindset.
Close-up of a teen handwriting in a journal.
Close-up of a teen handwriting in a journal.

The following is a reflection from a youth resident of ARCH, VOA Alaska’s residential treatment center. The text below has been reprinted as written, with minor edits for language (marked in brackets), clarity, and ease of reading.

Before I Regulated My Emotions:

This was something that I struggled with for a while. Including when I was small, I had really bad anger issues and I still do. So every time you know I got mad I’d have a bunch of irrational thoughts and I had no self-control so I’d act on the first thought/impulse I had. I would cuss, yell, throw/break stuff or throw hands with people all the time.

And what I’ve learned from being in therapy was that anger is a “secondary emotion” and I was always sad all the time or I had bad anxiety and my home I wasn’t allowed to be sad/cry. I also hated talking about my feelings and crying and “being a lil [baby]” so I’d put on an angry mask and mess things up.

That’s another reason that led me to my addiction to alcohol and other drugs was that I couldn’t handle/regulate my emotions properly and whenever I picked up a bottle or took a line, I would feel really euphoric and I would no longer feel any bad feelings.

But then my “fun” partying days ended and I just started to use so I wouldn’t be sick and feel [terrible], but since alcohol is a depressant and stimulants use up all your feel “good” chemicals in your brain, I ended up more depressed than I’d have ever been.

And that’s when my anger issues got a lot worse and I started beating up my brother and my mom and I got charged and put on probation so that wasn’t good at all. So yeah, not handling my anger or negative emotions properly led me to this [wrong] path and then I kinda just ended up in treatments and detention centers.

Present Me Handling My Emotions:

Well now I’m in my 8th treatment center and I’m actually trying to take it serious now that I’ve spent most of my adolescence being put away to get help that I didn’t want.

Yes I still get emotional but that’s a normal human function and instead of blowing up, I go talk to my team. I use my intervention to go on walks, listen to music and take showers. Now I actually think about my consequences before I act on my emotions because dude, it’s really tiring to watch myself do all of this extra nonsense and get into a deep hole where I have to use extra shovels and extra help to get out of it. When in reality I could have been using my self-control or PPRA [pause, process, respond accordingly] and not be in situations like this anymore.

Now when I’m feeling sad instead of putting on a mask, I just cry it out or talk to someone, write it down and not dwell on all of the negatives. Because having a negative mindset all of the time can lead to me feeling really bad and acting out.

And now I get productive and not hang around people who are surrounded by negativity.

ARCH empowers youth to address their substance use and improve their mental health in a structured, therapeutic environment. Learn more at