Mural depicts road to recovery at Sunrise House

New Jersey Herald

Photos by Eric Sucar/NJH
The large mural that was painted by some of the patients at the Sunrise House in Lafayette on Friday, June 9.  The mural, which took about two weeks to complete (one hour a day), is a compilation of eight different drawings patients created.

Herald Staff Writer


Step into the group room at Sunrise House and two doors open to reveal a flaming sun rising behind tall mountains. A paved road leads directly toward the sun with one road sign marking its path: The “Road 2 Recovery.”

The mural was painted by eight teens currently struggling with drug and alcohol addictions. The purpose of the brightly painted wall was to celebrate recovery — a difficult path to tread.

“The group decided the theme would be the ‘Road to Recovery,’ showing the first steps on the path to a different life,” said Katherine “Kate” Smith, clinical coordinator of Sunrise House’s adolescent drug treatment unit. “The purpose was to show them they can finish something they started.”

For more than five years, Sunrise House, an addiction recovery and treatment center in Lafayette, has helped teenagers through “Teen and Clean,” a program aimed at teens with cocaine, marijuana, heroin and alcohol addictions. About 100 youths go through the program each year, with more than one-third from Sussex County, according to Chief Executive Officer Phil Horowitz.

While in the program, which lasts 14 to 28 days, teens participate in group counseling, family therapy, 12-step support, family education, recreational activities, medical detoxification, psychological evaluation and academic tutoring.

The program also uses art therapy to help teens who have difficulty with expression cope with the recovery process, said Smith, a board-certified art therapist.

“Sometimes you need to look at something you’re feeling internally on the outside of yourself,” she said.

Art therapy also promotes group cohesion, Horowitz said.

“Part of the dynamics of adolescent substance abuse is peer pressure,” Horowitz said. “We take the synergy that leads to drug abuse and use the same power to pull them together for a positive end that’s inspiring to them.”

Colorful road signs made by the teens line the walls of the winding halls that lead to the group room.

A stop sign that stays “sobriety” and a “drug free zone” parking sign indicate the struggles the teens may face along the way.

“Recovery has to be fun for kids,” Smith said of the various art projects lining the walls.

The names of the teens who designed and created the mural were not released but the group, many of whom were admitted at the same time, is nearly finished with the program, Smith said. In fact, on Friday they were out burning letters they had written to their drugs of choice in a symbolic gesture that they were finished with their addiction, she said.

During a question-and-answer session the previous day, the teens were asked what they thought was the biggest misconception about recovery.

“That it’s easy,” was the reply.

For more information on Teen and Clean, the adolescent inpatient substance abuse unit at Sunrise House in Lafayette, call (973) 383-6300 or visit

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