• Nancy Alspaugh-Jackson

A New Freedom and a New Happiness

Updated: Apr 2

It was our first day of our new program at Special Spirit, Recovery at The Ranch. Eva and I were ready, the horses and animals are always ready, to welcome those in recovery from alcohol and drug addiction. I had participated in a similar program of equine assisted learning when I was in treatment for my own addiction issues 3 years ago, and it had been such a healing experience for me that I dreamed of running my own program one day. One of my favorite quotes is “nothing is impossible for a crafter of dreams.” Today I would be living a dream come true.


The 4 young people from Tarzana Recovery Center came with open hearts and open minds. We checked in with each other physically, intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually. It was clear from the very beginning that this group was willing to be brutally honest about their own experiences. We held an AA meeting prior to working with the horses. The shares we listened to were raw, vulnerable, and often difficult to hear. These were stories of young lives filled with unimaginable trauma and challenges. These were stories of families where addiction issues ran deep. And now these young people had the courage to seek a better way of living, the courage to break the cycle of addiction. Tears flowed freely as the pain of old ways of living were shared. Today was about hope and as the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous says, finding a new freedom and a new happiness.


Then it was time for the animals. First the group bonded with the over 40 animals found at Special Spirit. Horses, alpacas, pigs, goats, sheep, ponies, mini horses, dogs, cats, and a donkey showed them unconditional love. The joy in the air was palpable.


Finally, it was on to the equine assisted learning activities. The exercise for this day was a metaphor for leaving an old way of life behind and discovering a new way of life. The group led the horses from one boxed area of the arena to another, using problem solving, teamwork and communication skills. And as always, there were lessons to be learned from the horses themselves – trust being the most important lesson of all.


The day ended with meditation and visualization exercises. We grounded ourselves with the sacred energy of the ranch and its animals and visualized the positive energy of the day running throughout our bodies, with an intention of carrying that energy into our lives. The Lord’s Prayer was said, and a group hug followed, the perfect ending to a perfect afternoon.


A new freedom and a new happiness, indeed.







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