Wilderness Experience

Please read this incredible story of recovery from a very brave young woman named Allie!  For so many young adults in the throes of addiction, the hardest step is the first step:  agreeing to go to treatment.  We find that the wilderness experience gives young adults time to reflect, time to slow down, and time to get reconnected to their bodies and nature in a supportive environment.  Heather, the therapist Allie mentions, is Heather Schnoebelen, the clinical director at Four Circles. She is a person for whom we have a great deal of respect.  The Price Group often refers young people to this great program, Four Circles Recovery Center.  May and Louise just toured Safe Harbor on July 17, 2012 and loved what they saw there.  We wish Allie and all the young women at Safe Harbor the very best!

My name is Allie and I have a little over two years in recovery from drugs and alcohol. On May 6, 2010 I woke up to my mother standing over me, looking at the track marks on my arm with a look of disgust on her face. It was the day I was supposed to graduate from the University of Colorado in Boulder, and I knew that I had failed all my classes due to my addiction.  My family was in town to celebrate my achievement and instead I had disappointed them all by relapsing yet again.  My daily life had become an endless torture that surrounded finding a way and means to get high, and trying to balance a concoction of drugs that would not kill me but keep me checked out enough so that I wouldn’t have to participate in daily life.  By this point, I had overdosed many times, and the idea of death did not scare me anymore.  Life just felt too difficult for me to deal with.  My life had become unrecognizable to me.  Not only was I hopelessly addicted to drugs and alcohol, but I was also in a codependent and abusive relationship that I could not leave.  I always felt as if I never had the instructions to life and I never knew how to manage or handle my emotions besides using drugs and alcohol.  The day after my family stood by me through my graduation, we decided I needed treatment again.  I had tried conventional treatment centers and was unsuccessful in staying sober.  We found Four Circles with the help of a professional, and I knew in my heart that a wilderness program was right for me.  The decision to leave what was familiar to me was terrifying, but I knew that I had to commit if I wanted to live and not keep on ending up in psych wards and institutions.  I arrived at Four Circles a few days later and was immediately overwhelmed and terrified of what was to come.  I was promptly stripped of all my belongings and issued hiking gear and clothing.  This triggered a panic attack due to the fact that I no longer had my clothing and possessions to define me.  I was left to look like everyone else and ended up finding myself when I was no longer distracted by my possessions.

I was introduced to the wilderness aspect of the program with adventure week. We participated in activities like rock climbing, canoeing, fly-fishing, and fly tying.  I was skeptical at first to participate and afraid of failing at anything. However, once I started having fun and found some hidden talents in the activities I was hooked and began remembering what it was like to enjoy anything. Once we began hiking, my body and mind went into shock from lack of exercise and fear of the unknown. However, when I allowed myself to put all my prejudices aside and look at the beauty around me I was able to love hiking and camping.  It became an escape and the most therapeutic aspect of my experience.  Towards the end of my time in treatment I even preferred to be out in the field instead of on base camp.  The most profound experience I had while at Four Circles was the solo.  To be left alone with my thoughts and a journal allowed for soul searching and self-discovery like I had never experienced.

The staff at Four Circles had a huge effect on my experience while in the program and to help mold my early days in sobriety.  Not only were many of them sober and working programs themselves, but they all seemed to have an understanding nature while maintaining a sense of order and stability that I was craving.   I was finally learning to be comfortable to be honest with people about who I really am and to show vulnerability.  The staff and the other girls that were in my group supported me through every difficult moment that came up in the 75 days that I was at Four Circles and also helped me celebrate every triumph. I also benefitted a tremendous amount from working with my therapist, Heather, at Four Circles.  I had never connected with a therapist or a counselor before and learned to trust her with my darkest secrets that I was resigned to take to the grave.  Heather taught me how to accept myself, to set aside the idea that I would someday be perfect and feel at ease with who I am; imperfections and all. She also helped me to realize that if I were to remain sober I would have to cut all ties with my abusive fiancé and that continuing our relationship would conclude with dying an alcoholic death. While this was painful information to accept, I knew it was my only chance at a sober and meaningful life that I knew in my heart I deserved.

After I completed my treatment at Four Circles, my counselor suggested that I do an aftercare program at Safe Harbor in Newport Beach, California. Upon arriving, I instantly felt a sense of ease and comfort and knew that I had found a new home.  While I was at Safe Harbor, I transitioned slowly back into a more normal routine and schedule that I would maintain for months to come. I was taught how to participate in society as a sober woman. I completed 90 days in the inpatient program and 7 months in sober living as a house manager. In November of 2011, I became employed by Safe Harbor and am still work there today as a support staff and a Registered Recovery Worker. I am honored to work a job where I am actively giving back to a program that saved my life and that gave so freely to me. Everyday I get to go to work and meet girls that are in the same position I was in two years ago and try to share my experience, strength, and hope in order to help them in their journey. I never thought I would be able to keep a job, let alone love the work I get to do. Today I have a great relationship with my family and a network of friends that have supported me through many hardships. I also am planning on graduating from CU Boulder, after taking online courses, this fall and continuing with school for counseling.

In summary, I would just like to express my gratitude to Four Circles. I know that I would not be where I am today if it were not for my time in the wilderness and working with all the amazing staff. Four Circles allowed me to find a God of my own understanding and helped me to see that I no longer had to view myself as a victim of circumstance. The program also gave me an opportunity to rebuild my relationship with my family, for which I am truly blessed.

(photo and article source)

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