Zach and I walk toward the horse stalls. He towers over me. I stop and take a good look around. It’s a beautiful and peaceful place. All the landscaping is manicured nicely. There are pretty, fresh flowers around the courtyard. I can see the outline of the San Tan Mountains off in the distance. It is quiet and calm. It certainly smells like a ranch…and, I’m hot already.
Zach is responsible for maintaining and cleaning the big horse barns and to make sure over a hundred horse stalls are cleaned to standard every day. I’m now his official assistant.
Just a few months ago I was the CEO of two successful companies. I had a nice, air-conditioned office to work out of. I lived in a beautiful home with my family. We seemingly had everything going for us.
Now, there is nothing left that resembles our former life. I’m alone living with 20 dudes, and I’m working in scorching heat on a ranch…and I don’t get paid a cent. But, I do get room, board, and food.
It feels like I’m living in the twilight zone.
I’ve said this before, but in no way does this feel like my life. I don’t know where the real Jeremy Bowman went, but he’s not inside me. It’s like a broken, shattered soul commandeered my body, and I’m now living this other person’s life.
I’m not known for my manual labor skills or work, but being in work boots, jeans, and a tee-shirt out on a ranch feels good to my soul. There is something calming and healing about it. I’m ready to give this my best shot. I still don’t consider myself an addict, and I can’t imagine healing without being with Amy. Maybe everyone else is right though, and I can heal on my own.
I hate the heat, but love to get dirty. We walk by dozens of horse stalls on our way to the barn. We pick up a couple of wheel barrels and head to our assigned horse stalls. Zach shows me what to do…over and over again. It’s actually really simple, but there is a proper technique apparently I need to learn.
In essence, I shovel up all the straw in the horses stall that has horse manure and pee saturating it. The odor is horrendous. Once the wheel barrel is full of all the nastiness, I haul it to a large pile and dump and head back to fill it again. Once I’ve cleaned the stall all out, I drag bails of hay to the stall and put new straw down and make it look nice.
Everyone on the ranch has several assigned stalls to clean every day.
Below meet Nic Mott. He’s now graduated and doing great. But, here are the real wheel barrels:). The big pile in the background is where we dump all the nastiness.
Once we’re finished with the stalls and have had lunch we go back out and clean the outdoor bathrooms, the horse shower stalls, and sweep the equipment rooms. We walk the horses back and forth from the pastures. That alone takes hours. It’s still morning when it hits over 100º and it just keeps getting hotter. I’m drenched in sweat, dirt, and horse *****.
It’s non-stop, humbling work. By the time we’re done the first day, it’s a deadly 117º, and I’m spent.
They switch up responsibilities regularly. We’re over the horse barns now, but we could be told at any time that we’re now the cooks and have to cook every lunch and dinner for every person. Or, we could be given a myriad of other responsibilities.
We are fed incredibly well!
I feel awkward and frankly embarrassed being here. It’s terribly humbling. I just don’t fit the mold. I’m an older married guy with lots of kids surrounded by young single dudes. Yet, they’re all my seniors on the ranch, and I follow their directions.
We’re up so early and work in such ungodly heat all day that by 9PM it’s bedtime. I lie in bed awake for hours on end though. All I ever think about is my family. I mean every waking hour! And even in my sleep I dream about them. I wake up thinking about them.
I NEVER think about my medication. I have no cravings. There is no tempatation whatsoever to get my hands on some. It’s crystal clear to me now that I have to choose between the medication and my family. That one is a no brainer. Being with my family is my new craving. And, it’s intense.
It’s my first Sunday there. I make sure and go to church with a group of LDS guys there on the ranch. We are never allowed to leave the property without special permission, but they do let us go to church. It’s incredibly difficult to muster up the courage to show my face there…and especially my newly shaved head. Our family is very well known throughout the area. I know there will be people there I know. And, sure enough, there are.
I’m sitting in a Sunday School class and I know the instructor and he knows me. He welcomes me out loud in front of everyone. Then, he asks if I’m there visiting from the high council (the high council in our church is a leadership position where you travel to different congregations and train and help them). He obviously hasn’t heard anything that’s happened.
I simply say, “No, I’m on the ranch.”
It’s a noticeably awkward moment.
Everyone there knows what that means. All LDS guys on the ranch go to this congregation. I can tell the instructor feels a bit embarrassed for me and doesn’t know what to say. I’m told he stops by the ranch later that evening to apologize even though he did nothing wrong.
I have other friends there as well. They’re very kind and encouraging toward me.
I can only imagine though what goes through their mind.
Church is a very painful experience. I see couples and families sitting together and it hurts. But, I force myself to go every Sunday. I also pray constantly. I have too much pain inside to feel comforted, but I know God is aware of me and hears my prayers.
I’m as determined as ever to come out of this on top no matter what it takes.
We have group meetings once or twice a week. We also have 12-step meetings.
I’m sitting in my first 12-step meeting and someone describes very simply what an addict is. For the very first time, even after all I’ve been through, it hits me square between the eyes. He just described me to the tee over the past several months. All denial is dissolved. The lights go on and I see clearly that I AM in fact an addict just like every other person in the room.
At first, I’m angry. I’ve lived my whole life avoiding harmful, addictive substances. How in the world then did I become an addict? It doesn’t seem fair. It doesn’t seem right. In fact, it feels plain cruel. In my mind, I didn’t choose this. It’s something that happened TO me, and I’m deeply hurt that it did.
Shortly after that meeting, I’m out working with a few of the guys. We’re talking a little about different drugs. I add that one thing I’ve never been is high (I thought getting high was just what happens when you smoke pot). Everyone busts out in laughter. I’m confused. One of them explains to me what being high is and really means.
When he does, I’m shocked. I reply, “Well hell, I’ve been high then for 3 straight years!”
They get a kick out of it. I, on the other hand, am extremely embarrassed. How could I have been so clueless, so unaware? Everything that happens to an addict’s life, has happened to mine…to the extreme. It has destroyed every aspect of it.
Although I went to the ranch kicking and screaming, the next phase of my life there is going to be very eye-opening and healing in a lot of ways. It is also going to be very humbling.
I wish I could say the worst is behind me now, but that’s just not the case.
The lowest, hardest point in my entire life is still yet to come.