Indescribable is the only word that comes to mind when I think of how I felt the first time I walked through the gates of Recovery Ranch with my son. It was as if Jesus himself came down, looked me in the eyes and said, "This is it; leave him here and your fears will turn to hope, your frustrations to love and your despair to pride." I know this sounds crazy, but there is no other way to describe the peace I was feeling that I was so sure I would never feel again. Through the entire tour, I kept telling myself that I needed to dig deep to find the courage to tell my boy that he wouldn't be coming home with me. I will never forget the unbearable pain that I felt that day as I drove away with him begging me not to leave him, but I knew in my heart that this place was our saving grace, a way out of the nightmare we had been living; a way out of having to bury my son. It has been over two years since that day and we not only have our son back, but we have a new extended family. We love each and every brother who has passed through those gates and have gained a passion to help other families, help other young men find their way to the Ranch, and help those who suffer from not only the disease of addiction, but the disease of stigma about those who are fighting the battle of their lives. The ranch provides a perfect balance of discipline and grace, work and fun. The transformation of so many young men takes place right before your eyes and one can't help but feel blessed to be a part of such an organization. We are eternally grateful to Daniel Ross and Andy Kirk for caring enough to give back by creating such an amazing program that has undoubtedly changed and saved many lives. We love you all.
January 29, 2013 – November 25, 2014
Thanksgiving at Recovery Ranch
All of us who shared Thanksgiving together made our way to Recovery Ranch for different reasons, but what our stories have in common are incomprehensible heartache and chaos. Despite that pain, we are the lucky ones. We are the ones who made it to the ranch.
My son’s journey began with a violent assault at age 14 causing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Shortly after, he became critically ill and was not diagnosed accurately for months. In the meantime, he was given Oxycontin to ease the pain, and the rest…is history. That story was told in both or our first testimonies, a lifetime ago.
This week, by the grace of God, we celebrated our second Thanksgiving at Recovery Ranch. Last year, I spoke through tears as I thanked Daniel and Andy for the most amazing example of paying it forward that I had ever seen. For the first time in years I was sitting next to a young man that I actually recognized as my son. It was truly a miracle.
This year, there were so many more things that I wanted to say, but once again, I just couldn’t find the words in my heart that were worthy enough for the occasion, so I kept it short. We all know that in life things change and people move on, so this Thanksgiving I was speaking, or trying to speak to Daniel, his wife Jill, the brothers and all of the amazing, but broken families who were together in that barn as part of the process of putting the pieces of their lives back together.
I will now attempt the impossible task in writing, because there really are no words that have the capacity to express the depth of the gratitude, love, and appreciation we all feel for Daniel, Jill, and the brothers who have stuck around post graduation to pay it forward. Their willingness to sacrifice and to go above and beyond the call of duty time and time again to save a life is unsurpassable. It is near impossible to grasp the time and energy they have put into re-teaching our sons, our fathers and our brothers self worth again and how to live as honorable men with character and compassion for fellow human beings as well as giving them back their souls that were stolen in the midst of their disease.
Secondly, I wanted to address all of the beautiful people who filled that barn full of hope. There is a phrase that teachers use often in Japan and I teach it to all of my students. The phrase is, “Shikata ga nai” and in English it means, “It must be dealt with. No whining!” Yes, we were crowded during our amazing Thanksgiving dinner. Big deal! We were surrounded by love, hope, and healing. The option? Plenty of space with only half the number of lives being transformed. Shikata ga nai ~ All was how it should be. It’s so easy sometimes to forget where we came from. Thanksgiving 2012, I did not recognize the boy sitting across the table from me, I did not understand addiction, I did not want to understand, and I believed that just as I had “fixed” so many other child raising issues, I could fix this one too and with every single ounce of my being I tried, but to no avail. We could have been sitting in a pigpen being served bread and water because what mattered most was the fact that my son was sitting next to me, alive and well.
After a stint at CRC and a stay with relatives on a farm in Iowa, it became quite clear that this was not enough ~ OUR BOY ~ this stranger that we loved so dearly was ripping our family apart and he was killing himself. He needed help and we were in way over our heads. I had heard about a ranch in Santa Ynez that just might be able to help Jared. Somehow, I convinced him to go on a tour of the facility with me. As I said at dinner, the instant that I walked through those gates and was greeted by several gentlemen, there was a voice from above that said loud and clear, “Don’t you feel the love? This is it!” I was under no preconception that this was a “pamper my son better” place. Nobody misled me. From our first telephone conversation, the staff was clear that this is where the pampering stops and becoming a man begins. And yet, I felt compassion like never before.
When Jared was out touring the grounds and I was in the office getting the specifics, I was asked if I was prepared to leave him, drive away and not look back. What mother is ever ready to drive away from her child who is begging her not to leave him, who is promising to come back and stay if I just let him come home for a few days, who was saying that he just needed one more chance. “OH MY GOD, HELP ME” I prayed. I knew what I had to do to save the life of my son, but I also knew that he could quite possibly hate me forever. Again, that voice in my head, “Do you need him to love you more than you need him to be alive?” I’m not going to lie and say that it was easy to drive away; my beautiful boy chasing the car and texting me to please come back and get him, but I would rather him hate me than have to bury him and those were the two choices I had left. This was, without a doubt, the hardest day of my life. Sure, like most, he made a couple of escape attempts in the beginning, but we had circled the wagons at home and every family member and every friend knew that their only job, if he called, was to tell him to go back to the ranch.
I remember telling myself, “I have made a decision and there might be times that I have doubts or disagree with the program, but I have chosen Recovery Ranch so I must surrender and hand over all trust to them or I will sabotage my son’s chance to recover.” Easy? No way. Some days it was so hard just to get out of bed. My favorite speaker’s voice would play over and over in my head, just as it did on those nights when we had no idea know where Jared was. I would hear her say, “No matter how much pain you are in, no matter how hard the situation, YOU HAVE TO GET BACK UP!” And one day at a time, that is what I did. What was the option? Answer his calls? Believe him?
Pick him up? Plan a funeral? Absolutely not.
January 29, 2015 will be two years at the Ranch for Jared ~ for our family. They are now our extended family and I feel so honored and blessed. I have no doubt that there have been times that I have made Daniel crazy, but that’s my job, I’m a mom!
In May, the Ranch gave Jared the opportunity of a lifetime. He got to travel to Alaska and work as a boat tender for the summer with two other brothers. What Jared learned and experienced is immeasurable. We even joined him on the boat for a week, but as the end of summer grew close, the gentlemen began to get cold feet about returning to the ranch after having so much freedom. They had given their word that they would return and we had trusted them.
The late night conversations on the phone with Jared were exhausting, but I finally figured out two things;
#1 - Jared’s problem wasn’t so much about going back to the ranch as it was the fear of feeling like a failure if he had to walk back through those gates alone, without his brothers, if they refused to go back. I told him that his training at the ranch was much like the Marines; Honor, Courage and Commitment and he had committed to going back and he would do just that with his head held high.
#2- Over the summer, Jared had done a lot of self-evaluation and he had begun to question when an addict is ready to trust his own instincts again and not rely on others to help separate fact from fiction, honesty from manipulation and when is he far enough along in recovery for the next chapter. He was beginning to feel like maybe this trip had given him the ability to trust his own instincts again and it was time for the next step. When we talked, he would emphasize how well he had come to know his shipmate (brother) and how very much he trusted him. Jared was stuck between a rock and a hard place because he knew our agreement was that he must complete his Wooden to show that he was committed to sobriety before we would be of any assistance to him. This did not stop him from trying during those late night conversations, but there is recovery talk and there is relapse talk and I had been working hard to learn everything I could about addiction and I knew that standing firm was critical. He was told that we would pick him up at the airport and give him a ride to the ranch, period. We strongly believed that as part of his recovery he needed to go back and face his brothers about both the successes and the failures that had taken place in Alaska. If he had other plans, he was on his own.
Jared’s dad and I decided that if after a month at the ranch Jared still felt this strongly about having reached this new level of better judgment and sobriety, that we would sit down with him and Daniel and discuss his options, but not until he fulfilled his commitment and faced his fears. Filled with pride about his decision to return to the ranch, we picked up our young man at the airport. Upon arrival to the ranch, there was quite a welcoming party waiting. There were huge welcome home signs, hugs galore and brothers everywhere. Jared might have returned alone, but he wasn’t alone for long. Tears fell down my cheeks as I watched Jared and Daniel Ross embrace. The love was palpable.
Sadly, the shipmate Jared had placed so much trust in chose to go home from the airport and within a couple of days, relapsed. We were all devastated, but maybe this was just what Jared needed…validation that recovery is a lifetime journey with many chapters, he still had room to grow during this chapter, and there was no hurry. He had been fooled and this was a wake up call. It wasn’t more than a few days after arriving back to the ranch that I received a call from Jared and he said, “Mom, I am right where I need to be. I am home.” He went on to say how good it felt to know that he had money in the bank from his job in Alaska, so he knew that if he wanted to, he could leave, but then he added, “Mom, this time I am here by choice, I need to be here and I don’t want to leave!”
~ ANOTHER BEST DAY OF MY LIFE ~
~ SO MUCH LOVE, GRATITUDE, AND ADMIRATION TO RECOVERY RANCH ~
~ MY NEVER ENDING LOVE, PRIDE AND ADMIRATION TO MY SON ~
~ GOD BLESS RECOVERY RANCH ~
I love you to the moon and back.