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Meet Kyla, our April Specialist Spotlight! Kyla is a recovery coach at the oldest recovery high school in the United States. P.E.A.S.E. Academy, which stands for Peers Enjoying a Sober Education, is located in Minneapolis and has been serving students since 1989. Get to know Kyla and learn more about the amazing work she does below!

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

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Hello, I’m Kyla! A person in long term recovery, Minnesota native and dog Mom!

What inspired you to become a peer specialist?

I was really discouraged when I entered into recovery and found it very difficult to find my place. I drank to fit in and it was very difficult to feel like you didn’t belong, even in recovery. The path that I was told I needed to be on to survive was not my path, and it led me to some scary hopeless places. I really wanted to be sober, so I found a class at Minnesota Recovery Connection and decided to give it a try. We worked through a book called the Artist’s Way, and I started to see the worth in recovery. From there I was on a mission to find things that worked for ME; things that brought me peace and joy.

My journey of recovery started with an understanding that there were things I had to do, there were specific actions I had to take and beliefs I had to surrender to. But they weren’t me and that was extremely damaging. I never want people to feel the way I did- I want them to know there are 100’s of ways to recover, and that they are heard and they are supported.

Tell us a about P.E.A.S.E Academy.

Ah, P.E.A.S.E. Academy. Not a day has gone by I wake up and dread going to work, which means everything to me. These kids are some of the strongest and most passionate individuals I have encountered. They struggle and they fall but resilience is a common theme here. Peer groups have shown to be highly effective in recovery programs for teens. Teenagers seem to care a great deal about what their peers think of them and putting them in a situation with accountability to these same peers generally brings out more favorable results. The students here hold each other accountable, and great things emerge from the peer support groups P.E.A.S.E. offers. It’s a family here.

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What do you enjoy most about working with a younger age demographic?

They always keep me on my toes. Their lives are ever changing and I get to stand next to them as they navigate through challenges and triumphs. They are extremely courageous and fight every single day. They survived for a long time in a world that perpetuated drugs and alcohol and they stand strong against it, even sometimes under some intense peer pressure. If you had asked me at 16 to be brutally honest with myself, and others and be vulnerable as a person in recovery, I don’t believe I would have been able to. They’re teenagers, so I can’t say there aren’t days I don’t shut my door and hide under my desk, but the moments I spend laughing and genuinely perplexed and amazed far surpass the time spent in hiding.

On the flip side, are there any specific challenges you face with a younger group?

Their culture is so deeply entrenched in idolizing what they see on social media; the majority of which is substance use and abuse masked by house music and “lit AF” parties. It’s an overload of social influences telling them who to be and these artists they look up to aren’t singing songs about joy, peace and living life without drugs. Social media is great at filtering reality. The ugly, dark and deadly nights that addiction takes aren’t captured and posted. The biggest challenge is showing them that there is life beyond substance use, parties and getting the most likes, and it’s amazing and something worth fighting for. That a like on Instagram is nothing in comparison to real human connection; they can find that validation and sense of worth within themselves and in ways that are tangible and healthy.

What have you learned about yourself through your journey working as a peer specialist?

That my experience is valid and my story is important. I’ve learned how to live life on my own terms in full acceptance of who I am. This journey so far has taught me that the most powerful thing I can do Is embrace and accept myself in my most vulnerable and genuine form.

What hobbies do you like to participate in outside of work?

I have my own side hustle - I resell clothes! It’s called Racks of Recovery! I found thrifting to be very therapeutic and still do! I love going on a good bargain hunt with friends - it’s a great way to explore the city! I also love to take my fur baby to the dog park and enjoy a good road trip. I love to read and travel and just explore the things around me.

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