Four years ago, Gail Bramlet, our Office Manager at Entrada, approached me with an exciting idea. At the time, there were a fair number of alumni families looking to give back to the program in order to help other families with the sometimes burdensome costs of treatment. After a few discussions over coffee, we hatched the idea of the Second Nature Alumni Foundation. We decided rather than pooling money with the scholarships Evoke already offers that we should find a way to engage families that have been inspired by the healing power of wilderness therapy and have a desire to help others access the same experience. We also wanted to make the funds available to families looking at other programs as well, as we believe the right fit is of the utmost importance for effective treatment.
Viewing entries tagged with 'alumn'
For years I based my life on external validation and thought that my purpose was to make everyone around me happy. It was not until after my parents split up, and I came out of a very intense depression that I realized how important self-validation is and how to manage where I put my energy.
I walked out of the theatre after seeing the play Wilderness with all of the feelings that I had felt when I was a teenager in a Wilderness Therapy Program fresh on my mind again. I was 13 when I went to the wilderness. I got “gooned,” or transported to the program straight from Juvenile Hall. I knew it was coming because my dad owned the program and I had gotten myself into enough trouble. I knew when they dropped me off out there in the middle of nowhere that it would be a long journey. I didn’t know, however, all that I would learn and the person that I would become by the time I left.
During my son’s time in Wilderness Therapy, my wife and I were asked to come for a day visit. The goal was nebulous, but I assumed it was simply to have some time to connect and to possibly provide his therapist with some information for future family therapy work. We made our trip out to the field area—only getting lost twice—and finally arrived at the boy's group. Our reunion was tender and tearful. The simple way we used to describe the therapy to our youngest child, Isabella, was that Jake “was in the mountains, learning how to be happy.” It had been 8 weeks since we had last seen Jake, and after hugs and greetings, we sat down to learn about how and what he was doing. Although I had served hundreds of families as a Wilderness Therapist, I had never quite experienced the kind of joy I felt from seeing all this new growth and insight in my son.
I remember being so baffled by Chief Saba and his family’s ability to drop everything to spend time with me. He was a man slight in stature but mighty in reputation. The chief of roughly 250 thousand Batongan people of Southern Zimbabwe, faced with starvation, disease and political violence, respected by other tribal leaders but despised by Mugabe, the country’s president. He was humble, soft-spoken, loved an occasional beer and cared deeply about his family. I always felt awkward and self-conscious driving unannounced into his territory knowing that he and his many wives, brothers, and children would stop working in the fields, stop taking care of, what I saw as, the most crucial aspects of life in the harsh, sandy terrain of Kariba just to say hi. I finally asked him once why he was okay with stopping their daily chores to spend hours with me. His reply has haunted me to this day, “We survive because of our connections to each other. Don’t forget that.” These words became a torchlight that guided me, subconsciously, to Second Nature.
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.
It can be a difficult decision to have your daughter or son leave home to participate in a therapeutic wilderness program. There can be elements of the unknown, thoughts that “my child is not that sick” or overwhelming feelings of uncertainty, shame or guilt. Frequently your child doesn’t want to go, they think they don’t need help, don’t want help, or believe they can get the help they need at home. While home treatment can absolutely work for some, others can be so lost they need to create some physical separation, so the child can truly focus on their own personal well-being. In a recent blog article, a previous student of a wilderness therapy program, referring to herself as a “treatment-kid”, expressed her feelings before leaving home:
Walking into school, when I was seven years old,
My mind was blank and innocent, ready to fit the mold.
Tabula rasa, blank slate, my life waiting to unfold.
And when I sat down, this, this was what I was told:
My Journey: Second Nature Entrada
October 22, 2012- December 18, 2012
My journey at Second Nature Entrada is one I will never forget. It was the start of the rest of my life. The feelings and emotions I had before entering the wilderness were ones I never thought would change. Feelings of emptiness, heavy sadness, hopelessness, and anger swirled in my body as I boarded the plane to go to Utah. I remember feeling anxious and overwhelmed, not knowing what to expect and not knowing what I had just signed myself up for. At this point I felt this program was my last shot at living, feeling like if it didn’t “work” I was destined to committing suicide. I held my breath, my heart beating out of my chest… I got off the plane, ready or not– my journey begins.