Historically speaking...
In the spring of 1971, Father Charles Wyatt-Brown, the rector of Palmer Memorial Episcopal Church in Houston, Texas (www.palmerchurch.org) began holding meetings in his church to help a group of young people with alcohol and other substance abuse problems. The meetings followed a twelve-step program similar to that of Alcoholics Anonymous.

One of the early attendees of the meetings at the church was Bob, a 28 year-old alcoholic and heroin addict who had recently been released from prison. Although like many addicts, Bob was reluctant at first to fully embrace recovery, he eventually got sober and stayed sober with the help and support of his peers under the watchful eye of Father Charlie.

Father Charlie had watched Bob progress in recovery and respond favorably to the love and attention he received from his group of recovering peers. He thought that having someone like Bob talk to teenagers on the brink of making similar mistakes would surely have an impact on some if not most of them. Who better to relate to a teenager than someone who had been there?

Eventually, Father Charlie offered Bob the job of janitor at Palmer Church. He told him to talk to the teenagers who came around the church and tell them about himself. Bob began to gather a regular group who came around to visit with him. By July of 1971, Father Charlie received community support to pay Bob to be a "youth counselor." A couple of days later, with six teenagers between the ages of 13 to 16 present, Bob and Father Charlie called the first meeting of the Palmer Drug Abuse Program.

The original group of teenagers discovered that if they loved, accepted and supported one another, they could stop using drugs and alcohol and stay that way. They also learned that through loving and helping each other, they began to feel good about themselves. They also discovered the strength and unity and power that comes from the "love of the group." These principles of love and understanding remain the foundation of PDAP 30 plus years later!

And so it grows...
From the beginning, there have been only three standing rules at PDAP meetings:

  • Do not attend meetings or any activities high or holding (in possession of alcohol or other drugs)
  • There will be no sex at any PDAP function
  • There will be no violence at any PDAP function

With those three rather obvious tenets, the program continued to grow and flourish. After a few months of meetings, the group decided that a better-defined program would give them more tools for their fight to stay sober. They took the Twelve Steps of Alcoholic Anonymous and tailored them to fit their age group, special needs and understanding. These same Twelve Steps of PDAP are ones still used today.

After PDAP became a formal organization with regularly scheduled meetings, parents of some of the teenagers started bringing their children and waiting around until the meeting was over. A small group of "regulars" started visiting together around a coffee pot at the church. Over time, this group of parents discovered that families share the problem of drug abuse and also need help. They established the first Parent Group, which began meeting at Palmer Church. The Parent Group adopted the Twelve Steps for their program, as did the teenager group.

As the group of teenagers meeting at the church continued to expand, some members of the group reached the age of 17. While the original intent was to serve 13-16 year-olds, one of the older PDAP counselors volunteered to run a meeting for PDAPers over the age of 16, and the first Older Group satellite office away from Palmer Episcopal Church was started to serve 17 to 25 year-olds. A few years after that, a counselor created a recovery group meeting for those 25 years and older called OTHers (Over-The-Hillers) that blossomed over time. In just a few short years, PDAP had grown to serve all ages of alcohol and drug users, as well as their parents and spouses in need of help and fellowship.

A symbol of success...
There are two primary symbols PDAP uses to acknowledge sobriety and family involvement. Teenagers and adults involved in the PDAP recovery groups receive a "Monkey Fist" for 30 days of continuous sobriety. Parents receive the "Parents Heart" for participation in PDAP family group for 30 days.

The "Monkey Fist" is a mariner's knot used by ships to help them dock. A baseball sized knot with lines attached is thrown from the ship to the dock-the first contact the ship has with land. The crew on shore catches the knot, secures the line to the dock and pulls the ship to shore. At PDAP we have adopted this as a symbol representing our sobriety as we are being pulled in from the sea of drugs and alcohol. The fist symbolizes first contact to solid ground, with the group symbolizing the crew that pulls the newcomer safely to shore. Traditionally, the small leather monkey fist is suspended on a leather thong around the PDAPer's neck. This symbol also serves as the PDAP logo.

The Johnson Institute reports that if a family is involved in a recovery program then the users have an 80% higher chance of success then those who do not have family involved. In the PDAP Family Group the symbol for program participation is the Parent's Heart. The heart is made from carved wood, and is also suspended on a leather thong. Embossed on the heart is a Monkey Fist symbolizing the drug abuser who lives in each PDAP parentÕs heart.

Houston, we too have a problem...
As with any successful enterprise, expansion is a logical next step in the evolutionary chain. Using the Palmer Church as a "home base," PDAP satellite offices opened up across the Houston area so a recovery group meeting was never far away from those teenagers and young adults who wanted it. Soon a group of parents in Dallas asked for a center of their own. The rector of the Church of Incarnation in Dallas established the first satellite outside of Houston. San Antonio was next with an office opening at Christ Episcopal Church. Other cities in Texas followed suit with satellites opening in Corpus Christi, Midland, McAllen, Brownsville, Victoria and Austin. Eventually, as word spread, cities outside of Texas opened satellite offices including Hobbs, New Mexico, Tulsa, Oklahoma and Ventura, California.

Although there have been attempts to coordinate satellite expansion and maintain continuity among sites through a national organization, these efforts were short-lived. Today, the affairs of Palmer Drug Abuse Program are handled by Palmer Drug Abuse Program Services, Incorporated, which consists of most of the administrative directors of the PDAP satellite offices and Palmer Drug Abuse Program Training, Incorporated, which consists of most of the direct program staff at the satellite locations.

Be a part of PDAP...
If you are interested in opening an independent satellite office, PDAP Services, Inc. is willing to help. To get more information, please contact PDAP Services, Inc. at (956) 687-7714. We have program start-up literature available that includes information on incorporation, IRS tax exemption, creating by-laws and even a sample funding budget. Members from PDAP Services, Inc. are also available to consult with interested parties by telephone or in person as need be.

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