When I decided to become a therapist, I was in my early 20’s. I thought I was beginning a career where I could put my skills to use to take away others’ pain. I was introduced to therapy early in life due to my many struggles in childhood and my mother’s instinct to seek guidance from child psychologists. I thought I had wisdom to offer—wisdom gleaned from the years of challenge and from the self-evaluation that therapy often offers. It wasn’t long into my career before I realized that I wasn’t in the business of helping people feel happy, but rather I was in the business of helping people feel everything. The ability to allow for the painful feelings of others is difficult as a therapist and almost intolerable as a parent. It also became clear early on that any wisdom I had was gleaned from my own struggles and mistakes and that offering advice to anyone was both arrogant and misguided. Trying to steer people in the direction I deemed best, removes the essential aspect that adds worth and depth to our human experience.
I am firstly a yogi by profession and by passion. One of the supreme focuses and goals of a yoga practice is to find balance in all things – the body, perceptions, lifestyle, discernment. So… to be true to my path, I decided it might be healthy to present a recipe that might not fit the healthiest of the “healthy” models… for once. To be sure, a healthy life cannot be sustained by the ‘perfect’ diet. A healthy lifestyle is about what feeds us but not necessarily (or not exclusively) about food. Remember when you were a kid and playing with friends took precedent over coming in for dinner? Your mom had to demand that you come inside and, even then, you ate half of what you should have just to get back out to play some more. Or when you were in love and food was the last thing on your mind? It was something else entirely that fueled you! Food might be a part of the puzzle but sustenance is complex and multidimensional. So this week in the field, we focused on using food to evoke comfort in a way that is balanced – to conjure positive memories, bring us together as friends, family, or community. For me, nothing brings comfort like my mom’s chicken noodle soup. So put down the kale chips and try this recipe out! I hope it warms your belly and heart like it does mine!
I woke up. Where am I? How did I get here? It occurs to me that I am in my car, which is upside down. I am drunk. My car is still running. I start to panic. How could this happen? This can’t be real. My body is numb except for a sharp pain in my left shoulder where my body bounced off of the doorframe. I kick the passenger door open, step out and sink waist deep into swamp water. My car is wedged between a concrete drainage pipe and a mound of dry soil. The carriage is suspended over water. It was the scariest moment of my life. That was the night before I checked into rehab. One and a half years before I finally got sober. I was 18 years old.
An important part of the journey back to health and well-being is to remember how to self-soothe when life is turbulent. At Second Nature, we encourage our clients and students to establish discipline around self-care. Creating comfort in simple, healthy ways is an essential part of that discipline and can be SO much fun to explore! The following recipe is incredibly simple and full of time-tested medicinal properties!!
Diving the Depths of Our Story
One of the first assignments completed by participants upon arriving to Second Nature Entrada is a life story. Reading the life story is the first introduction a person will make to the group and little direction is given on how to write it. What stands out to me is how consistently people write their stories as a linear journey that highlights the events leading to Second Nature. The subtle labels that clients put on themselves – addict, unmotivated, anxious, etc. – tell a story of people with little dimension who have “messed up” and need to “get back on track.”
I love being a substance abuse counselor. My formal education and professional experience over the past 11 years has brought depth and complexity to my life that challenges and enriches me daily. In truth, however, my first love is music. I’ve been writing and performing music since I was 16 years old. I wish I could adequately relate to you the thrill I get when I finish writing a new song and the absolute rush of performing that song for a crowd full of friends and family. This passion started when I was a toddler. When other kids were playing t-ball I was rocking out in front of a mirror, pretending to be the newest member of my favorite band – Metallica. Have you ever done that? Stood in front of the mirror, lip-syncing or singing along to your favorite band? Pretty nerdy, right? But we’ve all done it. I still contend that I am pretty much the greatest air-guitar player ever. No, seriously. I do. Yes, music is my passion and I couldn’t imagine loving it more than I do.
From a former client in Group 8 at Second Nature Entrada…
Today I celebrate my 9th month of sobriety and I can’t help but think back to when it all began…December 5th I arrived in Utah at Second Nature, scared and alone. Those of you who were there my first week might remember me as frightened and angry, even volatile. As the weeks went on, I began to find myself and slowly became me. Me…what could that even be? Me without drugs? ‘Is that even a thing,’ I thought to myself. Sure enough it was and still is. I can’t begin to explain the changes that were happening — the freedom I felt in having my “freedom” stripped from me. I found comfort in the vulnerability of clients and staff and sure enough their authenticity rubbed off on me. I found myself exposed. I stood there anticipating rejection waiting for it but what came instead I will never forget. I was figuratively embraced. Embraced as a human being who had struggled and fallen, embraced as someone who wasn’t hopeless or helpless — embraced as me. I cannot thank Second Nature enough. You gave me the skills I needed to take back my life and for this I am eternally grateful.
The first few weeks in wilderness are not only challenging for the program participant, but also for the parents. The plethora of emotions that parents often experience can be overwhelming. The relief of not having to worry all night about a child’s safety can morph into guilt over feeling that relief, combined with fear for the child’s wellbeing in a new environment, augmented by anxiety over the probability (or lack thereof) of meaningful and sustainable change beginning with this wilderness experience – just to name a few! It is not uncommon for anger to emerge with the realization of just how disrupted their lives have been by the child’s issues and poor choices.
I have the privilege of hosting Parent Workshops in Southern Utah on a regular basis. I am often amazed by the fact that the parents who seem to be the most busy are the very ones who most often find time to travel across the country to spend two days reflecting on how to best support their child’s growth and development in the wilderness. I know that there are always more things to do than there is time to do them! And so this is where we, as part of the human “race”, must evaluate our priorities. Taking time to build our own tool box is a great part of parenting!!!
My first encounter with a client outside of therapy was a scenario that had played out in my mind many different ways, most seemed to be characterized by feelings of awkwardness and discomfort. I had heard of a lot of strange stories of counselors and field instructors running into their clients and I was not looking forward to it. As a counselor, the ethics state that if I come in contact with a client outside of therapy I cannot smile, wave, or do anything that would indicate a connection to that individual. The initiation of contact or acknowledgement of familiarity has to come from the client. If a conversation were to take place it is also my responsibility to avoid any language that would reveal the nature of our relationship and protect client confidentiality. In other words, it’s a tricky situation that could play out a million different ways and there are a lot of aspects that are out of my control. I think my uneasiness and fear related to the situation is understandable. Luckily, my first experience was a positive one.