Healing a Nation: Introducing Sober Ranch 2014

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My roots go deep onto the soil on this continent. My grandmother was Ho-Chunk, from Wisconsin, taken as a child with all of her 9 siblings and sent to a boarding school, then adopted into a Dutch family, never fully recovering from the damage done. Like millions of Indian people across this country, that hurt and pain was passed on to me, in what we are now recognizing as Generational Trauma, and Cultural Trauma.

It comes in many forms, the most common result is alcoholism, addiction, depression, and suicide. In my case, it was extreme addiction and alcoholism, for over 26 years. I began drinking and using at age 14, which is now a late start for most Indian children.  I spent much of my teen years on a Southern California Reservation perfecting my drinking and drug abuse. I wrote a book about these experiences and how returning to my culture and traditions brought sanity and sobriety back into my life. (The Thirteenth Step; Amazon)

After sobering up, I learned all I could about this insidious disease, and received degrees in Drug and Alcohol Counseling, and became a CAADAC Certified Counselor, and a trained Interventionist. Last year The Creator presented me with an opportunity to put my experience, strength and hope into practice. I took over ownership of Sober Ranch, a 67 acre remote mens Drug and Alcohol Treatment Center on top of Palomar Mountain in north-eastern San Diego County in Southern California.

Sober Ranch was then a successful treatment center run strictly on the basis of the tenants of AA, which was very effective.
But even more powerful is the land that this center is on. This is an ancient oak and pine grove that was once a large Cupa Indian village, with physical and spiritual evidence of their presence everywhere. It is one of the very few areas of this mountain that has never burned. The peaceful and serene atmosphere alone is healing. At 4000 feet in elevation, it is above much of the southern California pollution, and our water comes from an ancient aquifer hundreds of feet beneath us. Our electricity comes from the sun, other than the necessary pumping of the well to keep our tank full.

In the early 1900’s, it was occupied by Nate Harrison, a newly freed slave who homesteaded there and became a local legend. After that it was an active horse ranch, and we use the stables and corrals and riding ring now for our equine therapy.

After working in the recovery field for years, and seeing the dismal failure of most programs, I began searching for reasons for the low rate of success, and what could be done to change it into more positive outcomes. The biggest problem was the fact that while Native Americans have the highest rates of alcoholism, drug addiction, and other dysfunctions, we have almost no culturally competent programs that address our situation specifically. AA, NA, CA, all of the A’s, are great, but they lack that certain cultural aspect that makes it universally appealing and useable for Indians with this disease. It took ceremony to bring me back, after nothing else had worked. And I began to see that is the missing link in helping our people beat this disease. It is a spiritual malady, and requires a spiritual solution. And we are naturally spiritual people, if we stay away from those things that are not part of our culture and traditions. Drugs and alcohol are not part of any of our culture or traditions, regardless of what too many people may think.

I rewrote the Sober Ranch program to include and emphasize Native Culture, pan-tribal ceremony, sweat lodge, Medicine Wheel, Horsemanship, outdoor work and activities, Tipi ceremony and meetings, and other earth based healing modalities. We have Native American house managers, counselors, and therapist. And 5 nights a week all clients go down the mountain to local AA and NA meetings on the three adjacent Indian Reservations. We have specific therapy based on the concepts of childhood, cultural, and generational trauma, which has affected all Indians, whether they know it or not. It is the key to staying sober; facing our trauma, dealing with it, forgiving self and others, and moving forward from there.

This Native track is for anyone who wants to avail themselves to it, and it typically becomes the route all clients take, regardless of bloodline. Native spirituality can be a very healing experience, and everyone has there own path to recovery. But I am convinced that it is much easier for Indian people to recover using the ways we have used for thousands of years. It worked for our ancestors, and there is good reason to believe it works for us now, and will work for our descendants, 7 generations from now.

I understand there are some treatment centers in the planning stages now, and for this I am grateful. I have been speaking at Conventions and Reservations for a long time all over the country about the need for Indian treatment centers. We need thousands of them. But this one is open now, with beds available (as of right now), able to help anyone in need today. And when the new ones are up and running, I will be able to refer many clients to them. Right now the need is for a women’s treatment center, I could fill that up in a week. We just don’t have enough buildings to do that, and mixing the sexes only becomes a distractions to everyone's program of recovery.

Sober Ranch is for men only, 18 years and older, it is private pay, and we do not take Insurance because we have found that Insurance does not put the client first, they do not let us use our most effective programs, and want clients ‘cured and sent home’ much sooner than they are ready. We charge about 1/3 of the typical treatment center, and we do have some partial scholarships available under certain situations to help the client get better. I took Sober Ranch over to give back, to pay it forward, and to help those who are on the same wrong road I was once on, and show how to find the Red Road of Sobriety that I am on now. It is not about money, as our expenses usually exceed our income. But to see the life come back into a mans eyes, the color come back into his skin, and the smile to return to his face, that is the payout we are all working for.

See soberranch.com for more information. AHo.