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Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Breaking the Rules of Substance Use Disorder: Camp COASA Helps Children to Understand and Speak Up About the Disease

“The rules for kids who grow up in families with substance use disorder are, ‘Don’t talk, don’t trust, and don’t feel,” said Maureen McGlame, Director of COASA (Children of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse program), a Boston program of the RFK Community Alliance and an affiliate of NACOA (National Association for Children of Addiction).

“What we do is work with kids to help them learn how to break these rules without getting hurt or hurting anyone else,” she said.

Located at the Labouré Center in South Boston, Camp COASA is a week-long program for children living with the stress of alcohol and/or other substance-use disorders at home or within the family.

Throughout the course of the week, the campers learn what McGlame calls ‘the seven C’s:’ ‘I didn’t cause it [the substance use disorder], I can’t cure it, I control it, I can take care of myself, I can communicate my feelings, I can make healthy choices and I can celebrate being me.”

The campers begin each session with a reflection or brief mindfulness practice to help them center themselves, followed by a strength-building workout to help them build resilience.

Throughout the course of the week, the kids forge connections with one another that create opportunities for growth, healing, and fun, all at the same time.

While each afternoon at camp is reserved for a carefree group outing, including rock-climbing and visits to Castle Island and the Boston Aquarium, the most impactful portion of the camp, McGlame said, is the important information they receive throughout the week and the powerful, healing connections that are formed among the group.

September is National Recovery Month and Catholic Charities Boston offers a variety of counseling and mental health support services to help with substance use disorders. In addition to Camp COASA, the Agency offers weekend retreats for men and women with family members with substance use or in recovery. The Family Counseling and Guidance Center at Catholic Charities also provides professional care for individuals struggling with a wide variety of life challenges, including substance abuse counseling and family and relationship support. To learn more, visit

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