Carson ends up driving me to get something to eat.  He calls one of his work buddies to meet us there.

The last thing I want is to talk to anybody.  I’m in no state of mind to discuss anything about my life, especially with someone I don’t know.  Carson has a habit of doing things that in the moment really annoy me, but afterward, I usually appreciate it (OK, almost always appreciate it).

Carson leaves me at the restaurant with this guy, and goes off to run an errand.  I’m forced to talk to him (annoying part).  His name is Seth.

Seth somehow completely turns my spirits around.  We have a wonderful, engaging conversation.  I share with him my recent history.  He is very kind and encouraging.  He’s willing to help out any way he can (the appreciation part).

After a half an hour or so, I feel like I’m more back to myself.  My personality comes out and it’s nice to know it’s still in there.

Seth takes me back to Carson’s office.  I hang out until he’s done working.

I haven’t spoken to or seen Seth since that time, but I’ll always remember how much he helped me out of a dark place that day!

Still, I’m basically dead weight.  I can tell Carson doesn’t know what to do with me.  I don’t know what to do with myself.

I try and get him to let me sleep in his truck.  That idea goes nowhere fast.

The only thing Carson can come up with is a halfway house.  The thought of that tears me up; it’s too painful to even think about.  I already feel like I don’t belong anywhere, and being dropped off at some random shelter would just confirm it.

I’m sick of people trying to get rid of me.  It hurts.  But, alas, there are simply no viable options.

We end up having dinner at a restaurant with 2 guys getting ready to graduate from the John Volken Academy.  They’ve finished their 2 years!  We drive them back to the ranch.

Click here for more information on the John Volken Academy at The Welcome Home Ranch.

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I don’t have a good feeling about where this is going at all.

It’s dark when we arrive.  A bunch of guys are outside just hanging out.  Carson introduces me to several of them.  They’re all healthy, normal, well-groomed, cool dudes.  They don’t appear or seem like addicts at all, especially the worst of the worst of addicts.  They’re polite, outgoing, friendly, and accepting.  Strangely, they all seem to be very happy and genuinely positive about being there.

It seems like each person tries to sell me on staying.  I talk with one of the youngest ones there.  We share jail stories.  He would end up leaving the program early.  Not long afterward, somehow he falls off a roof and dies.  I’m told he was in a good space at the time of his death.  He was a great kid with a kind heart, loaded with potential.  I would get to know him well in the coming months.

As great as all these dudes are, they’re all hardcore addicts of hardcore drugs, like meth and heroin.  My heart and mind are completely closed to even thinking about checking in to such an intensive treatment place like this.  I don’t need it, and I don’t belong here, plus…

I am married with 6 children!  AND, I’m not an addict…or so I think.  I haven’t had any medication for over 2 months now.  Since being out of jail, I haven’t even thought about or craved them at all.

I only think about my family.  The withdrawals from missing them are as bad or worse than the drug withdrawals.

I feel everyone wants me at the ranch simply because it’s a place for me to be contained.

All I want is to be with my wife and kids.  I still have no idea where they are.  I haven’t spoken to or seen any of them in about 2 months now.

The pain and hurt I feel when I think of my 9-year-old daughter, 7-year-old son, and 3-year-old son is indescribable.  I know they must be hurting and unable to comprehend fully what’s happened.  Their secure little worlds have been blown to pieces.  Dad is nowhere to be found.  One day, in an instant, he just disappears and never comes back.

Two of the senior guys from the ranch take me inside and downstairs to the basement of one of the ranch houses.  I sit in a chair. The two of them sit opposite me.

The main one is a guy named Tate Gunning.  He influences me the most.  He does most of the talking, but both are very loving and accepting.  To be honest, it feels good to me.  It softens my heart and opens it a little.  Tate tells it to me straight.  What I remember most though is how genuine and authentic his concern for me seemed to be.  It is the feeling of love and acceptance coming from him I remember the most.

Click below to watch a 3-minute video on Tate’s addiction story and experience at the ranch.  He is a superstar athlete (football and baseball) before he falls hard into drugs and addiction for over 10 years.

It’s late and it’s quite clear if I don’t stay here, I’m going to a homeless shelter.

I ask for 30 minutes to take a walk and do what I could never imagine I would.  Think about actually checking in to this place.

I stroll out onto the ranch by myself.  It’s pitch black, quiet and very peaceful.  Everything is still.  There’s a big horse arena where they host rodeos.  I’m all alone.  There is a good feeling about this place.  I come to terms with the fact that every other possible option is closed off to me whether I like it or not.

Below is an areal photo of the entire ranch.  It’s a beautiful, peaceful setting.

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After thinking and praying about it, I decide to do what was once unfathomable to me.  I decide I’ll enroll.  It’s a sudden and almost miraculous change of heart. It’s still all extremely humbling.

I will only do it though on one condition.  It has to be understood that I will NOT be staying for 2 years.  I commit to 3-6 months.

Carson tells me at 6 months we’ll evaluate where I am.

He’s shocked at my change of heart and decision to stay.  I’m quite shocked as well.

Without me around, he calls my wife and tells her about this “miracle.”  Nobody thought I would actually do it, including, or especially, me.

Carson relays to me that she breaks down and cries she is so happy.  He tells me she will drop the restraining order once I’ve been their 30 days, and that she’ll be there for me when I get out.  I find out later that he, well, embellishes the truth to a great extent.

But, you know what?  I don’t even care.  It’s the first hopeful news I hear in the past 2 months.  I’ll never let him live it down, but I’m glad he said what he did.  I so desperately needed some hope at the time.  I’d stay there 5 years shoveling manure if I knew Amy would be there for me once I finished.  That’s one thing I learn from this whole ordeal.  How deep and committed my love is for her.

Carson drives off into the night, and I’m left there with my bags and a bunch of guys I don’t know.  As I watch him drive off, I imagine how incredible it would be to have a home and family to drive home to.

Even though I’m older, and married, and have 6 kids, I’m treated no differently than anybody else at the ranch.  The first thing all newbies have to do is get their head shaved.  So, I do.  I then have to turn in all my belongings.

They issue me some clothes to wear, let me take a shower, and I eat a bowl of cereal.

I’m then assigned a buddy.  He’s kind of like a trainer.  I have to be in his eyesight all day every day.  I can’t even leave my room until he comes and gets me.  If I go to the bathroom he has to be right outside the door.

My trainer’s name is Zach Wilson.  He’s about 8 feet tall!  He’s super nice and helpful right off the bat.  He’s around 30 years old and has lived on the streets addicted to meth and heroin for years.  He’s been in the program for about 10 months.

After the introduction, it’s time for bed.  I have to be up at 5:00am ready to work.  I feel a bit of peace that I have a roof over my head and I don’t have to worry about how or what I’m going to eat.

I’m still in extreme shock and disbelief.  Everything I’m experiencing, everywhere I go, every new person I talk to is all so surreal.  Nothing about anything feels real or like my life.  I might as well be on another planet far, far away.   That’s what it feels like to me.

It’s just all so humbling and baffling.

I can’t really sleep and 5:00am comes quickly.  I get up.  I slide on the jeans they gave me, slip on the work boots, shave (it’s a rule that you shave every morning), and wait for my buddy to come get me.  We head upstairs.

Even though it’s breakfast time, you have to ask someone for anything and everything you want.  If I want cereal, I have to ask, “Can I have some cereal?”  If I need to go to the bathroom, I have to ask for permission.  There are many strict rules.  More on those later.

As for now, there’s one thing I know for sure.  I won’t be seeing or speaking to my wife or kids for at least 6 months.  I’m completely in the dark as to where any of them are or what their plans are.  All indications are they’re moving on with their life without me.  I carry the hurt and pain of it all inside me 24/7.

I’ve experienced all the horrors of losing my loved ones, my business, jail, loneliness, homelessness, and addiction.  Now I’m going to live and experience every facet of an addiction recovery and treatment center.

I’ll soon find out Amy didn’t make any of the promises I was told she did.  For now, I’m motivated and committed to prove myself and to do it all on her terms.

It won’t be long before I learn for myself that I am in fact an addict.  I’m going to learn a lot of new things on the ranch.  I’m also going to go through many, many humbling experiences.

One thing never changes though.  The constant, agonizing pain and hurt I feel in my heart every waking hour of every day.

As for now, it’s still dark outside.  We’ve finished breakfast and a quick early morning planning meeting.  Zach and I walk out the door to get to work.  It’s going to be 117º today.

6 thoughts on “A Change of Heart

  1. Just read your whole story, my brother shared it with our family and I think we have all read it now. It’s incredible. Thank you for sharing. This is humbling and real and eye opening. Thank you. And your family and friends are heroes too!!! I’d love to hear your wife’s side one day.

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    1. Hi Becca. Thank you for your kind comment. I also hope my wife shares it from her perspective when she’s ready. As for now, she reads and “approves” each of my posts before I publish them. My 3 older daughter’s perspectives would be very eye-opening as well. They were incredibly traumatized by it all. Each of our perspectives and experiences are vastly different. They’re champs for the way they’ve pulled through. They’re the victims in all of this.

      Like

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