PAINTBALL: Team Building in Drug Treatment

Dave had run out of ammunition. The opposing team was bearing down on him and his teammates -- the few of his teammates that remained. Paintballs exploded in puffs of yellow on the inflatable, plastic ...obstacles arranged around the enclosed, outdoor arena. "I'm out! I'm out of ammo," Dave yelled. To his right, a teammate told him to wait it out and returned to firing at the opposing group of masked gunmen continuing their approach. Crouching behind one of the inflatables, Dave seemed resigned to his fate. But then, from his right, another teammate made a mad dash out of cover, dodging enemy fire before taking refuge beside Dave. The inflatable cone they hid behind thumped and popped with the sound of incoming fire. The heroic paintballer that came to Dave's aid popped off the plastic lid of the horn-shaped hopper that held his gun's paintballs. Dave did the same, and his teammate shared the remainder of his ammunition. Together they held off the opposing team for a short while longer, but by then they were outnumbered. The opposing team won. "We were out in the middle of the field and I had to give Dave my ammo," Casey said. "Help out a fellow soldier." This month, Turnbridge drug treatment brought more than twenty of its Phase I and Phase II participants on an outing to Hogan's Alley Paintball in Meriden, Conn., just one of the many day trips that Turnbridge Extended Care Sober Living clients participate in throughout their stay. These trips are, of course, about having fun. But as Casey shows, they can also be important team-building exercises that help clients form bonds of trust that remain long after the thrill of a paintball match has faded -- bonds that last throughout their time at Turnbridge and beyond. "This is my first time ever doing something like this. It's a blast," Casey says. "I like it a lot." Many of the drug treatment clients at Hogan's Alley had either never played paintball before, or, if they had, they had done so only a few times when they were younger. "It's different. It's just cool," Michael said. "It's just a fun hobby. I've played a couple times before. But it's something I'd definitely be willing to pick up. It's an adrenaline rush. It's fun. It's something you can do with sober buddies, you know. A fun activity that's healthy for sober young men." After the game, the group hung around under the large canvas tent outside of the arena, decompressing, and chatting. They peeled off their shirts and compared welts. Everybody had at least one or two, and some of them looked pretty nasty, but that's all part of the fun. Sitting on the picnic tables under the tent, one of the clients who used to play paintball when he was younger said, "In sobriety it's so much better." Another called out, "Yeah, you can feel the adrenaline. It's just different. It's cool. It's more fun."