a pile of tomatoes sitting in a bucket


Cultivating a sober mindset

Anxiety and depression began to consume my life around the age of 13, and would continue to control each aspect of it up until I learned how to live again during my time at Spring Lake Ranch.

Going into my last year of middle school, something inside me changed and I was no longer able to function without experiencing an overwhelming wave of anxiety. About a year into this new on-edge way of living I got prescribed a low dose of Paxil (an anti-anxiety/anti-depression medication) and, for a while, this worked. My freshman year of high school was extremely ordinary. I started playing sports again, and went to dances and parties, and really seemed to have all my anxiety and depression under control.

However, this newfound teenage normality was short-lived. It was around this time that I began to experiment with drugs and alcohol, and I got kicked out of school at 16. By the time I could return, I was once again controlled by my anxiety and depression. Over the next seven years I would be arrested numerous times, exhaust most of my relationships (besides the toxic ones), total cars, and find myself completely engulfed in chaos, misery, drugs, and alcohol. Somewhere in my mid-twenties, after a few hospitalizations due to overdoses, I entered a treatment center in Georgia. Even though I was sober I did not have a sober mindset and was dismissed from the program after only two weeks.

The staff at the Ranch truly made all the difference in my experience.

Upon my return home, I continued to drink and experiment with other drugs. Once again over the next few years Imy life repeated the same destructive patterns as before. Although my life was out of control, I was never able to make the connection that drugs and alcohol severely affected my mental health. Desperately, I tried everything I could to live a normal, happy, and healthy life, and control my anxiety and depression. I saw countless physiatrists, therapists and doctors, took numerous medications for anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, and ADHD. I tried everything from ketamine treatments to naturopaths. I was even diagnosed with an autoimmune deficiency and treated by an Immunologist for two years. Nothing seemed to work. Ultimately, I would end up overdosed on my front porch for the last time.

After leaving the hospital against medical advice I knew I needed to figure my life out and finally deal with everything that had brought me to this point. I began to investigate all my options and came across Spring Lake Ranch. I nervously came to the Ranch in mid-June, and although my mind was racing and my body full of anxiety I was optimistic that this was where I was supposed to be. A few days after I arrived there was an off-the-Hill canoe trip which I absolutely dreaded. I had just begun to feel secure about my decision to come to the Ranch and that was going to be ripped away by an all-day outing on a river with people I didn’t know, in a place I didn’t know. After a night of tossing and turning, the morning of the trip came, and to my surprise I was told I had an option: instead of going, I could spent that day at the lake getting to know my clinician Gina. It was after this day I realized this place wasn’t like other facilities; the people there genuinely cared about what I actually needed to get better. The staff at the Ranch truly made all the difference in my experience.

group walking along path outside in front of forest

From the admissions process, to driving me down to look at apartments in southern Vermont multiple times, the Ranch staff was involved in every aspect of my life there and transition into life afterwards. I had never felt a sense of community and stability in any of my relationships like I did in the relationships I built with staff and other residents. Each day, I began to look forward to waking up, attending community meetings, working on Farm Crew, going to clinical groups, and then relaxing after with other residents. Playing sports, swimming or paddle boarding, hanging out with the goats and Jersey cow Norman, or creating in the art room were all favorites. I had finally found someplace that felt like home; all my anxieties started to melt away.

Upon leaving the Ranch I decided to settle in a small town in southern Vermont. Moving away from my life in Connecticut was something I never imagined for myself. I don’t think that could have been possible had I not gone to the Ranch and gained the skills I did. Even though my stay has been over for some time now, I still feel unbelievably supported by many people who work there and keep in contact with them. In the future, it is my hope that I will be able to work at the Ranch and give residents the same positive and life-changing experience that I had.

CARF Accredited: Spring Lake Ranch programs are CARF accredited. The CARF accreditation signals our commitment to continually improving services, encouraging feedback, and serving the community.

Spring Lake Ranch is a member of the American Residential Treatment Association (ARTA). ARTA members are dedicated to providing extraordinary care to adults with mental illness.