Working Their Way Through Recovery
By Angel Naivalu, MSW
Making Boys into Men – the Old-Fashioned Way. It’s worked for eons of time, and it’s been working well for Greg Kesler, Owner of Life Skills Recovery Ranch, for over 25 years.
Decades ago, Western Horseman Magazine wrote an article about Greg and his ranching lifestyle. That article happened to be read by a young man in California who desperately needed help and direction in life. He wrote Greg a letter asking if he could come and stay at his ranch, to which Greg agreed. The man ended up staying and working at the Ranch for the next 2 ½ years. It was from this point on that the referrals started pouring in: mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, and friends – all seeking help for wayward loved ones – continued to call and ask if there was room for them at the Ranch. It was not Greg’s intention to have a treatment facility – he simply owned a ranch!
In 2015, Austin was a 24-year-old living in Salt Lake City. He was barely surviving and heavily abusing drugs and alcohol when he learned that his brother had passed away due to complications from donating a kidney to their sister. Austin had no skills to cope with the shocking loss of his brother. He ended up stealing thousands of dollars from his mother to pay for his drug addiction. “What that did was it showed me where drugs had taken me. Because during this horrible time, I was being selfish. I was stealing money…I made his death all about me.”
Austin’s mother finally gave him an ultimatum: either he would complete the one-year program at Life Skills Ranch, or she would not have any relationship with him. Faced with this choice, he conceded to enter the program.
When Austin arrived at Life Skills Ranch, he was broken. He had no skills except begging for money to feed his addiction. He had no hope and he hated who he had become. He wasn’t new to treatment programs either, having previously been enrolled in 7 different in-patient treatment centers. “Every single 30, 60, or 90-day program you can think of,” he says. “And 15 sober living homes.”
To his surprise, Life Skills Ranch was a new experience. Austin believes that the reason for his success at the Ranch, verses previous programs, was the length of the program itself and the daily work schedule that helped him build confidence, self-esteem, value, and self-worth. “Every day, when you’re out there accomplishing tasks… it feels good. You’ve been failing at life for however long you’ve been doing drugs…then all the sudden, you’re dependable.”
Life Skills Ranch recovery program is a year-long experience, mentoring 12-15 adult men at a time in daily life on a working ranch: cows to milk, horses to tend, chickens to feed, fences to build, and church on Sundays. The men are up at 5:30 a.m. each day for a peer-led devotional, followed by breakfast and a book discussion. The day-to-day routines reinforce the program’s 4 core principles: integrity, ambition, skills, and a relationship with the Savior, Jesus Christ. “There’s no magic here,” says Greg. “We just do the same things our grandfathers and great-grandfathers did raising their sons.”
Greg’s philosophy for life is what he seeks to instill in every program participant. “I started with nothing but a dream, but learned you can have anything you want. It doesn’t matter where you start. If you just do your best and work hard, with integrity, ambition, skills and a relationship with the Savior… you’ll float to the top every time.”
That’s definitely the case for Austin and many like him. Austin successfully completed and graduated from Life Skills one-year program. He has chosen to remain at the Ranch as staff, and has been working there for the past 1 ½ years.
For more information on Life Skills Recovery Ranch, call 435-253-1887 or visit www.lifeskillsrecoveryranch.com