by Patrick Monahan
My name is Patrick Monahan and I am 20 years old. I came to the Beartooth Mountain Ascent Program in January of 2011. My stay ended in November of the same year. That probably doesn’t sound like a long time to anyone reading this, however it seemed like a lifetime from my perspective. A lifetime of learning, mending, growing, and especially, being sober. I say “being sober” very casually because even though I used cocaine once and drank very heavily in college, my main downfall was my mental addiction to marijuana.
I grew up in a very strict, homeschooled and God-fearing house. I always went to church and did things with my family and relatives. I never thought for a second growing up that I would ever get drunk or even have an alcoholic drink till I was “of age”. That pattern was broken at 16 when I got drunk for the first time at a friend’s house. Even more prominent than the drinking rules were my family’s and relatives teachings about drugs. Up until about 3 years ago, I wouldn’t have been able to tell you how to spell marijuana, let alone know what it looks or feels like. That soon changed. From the age of 17 until just before my 20th birthday, my life consisted of getting high, partying, and spending just about every penny I earned or came upon on supporting those destructive habits. God very quickly became hardly a thought in the dark corners of my mind. It started very gradually at the end of my senior year when I smoked pot for the first time at a rock concert.
After graduation and my acceptance into Washburn University, my life spiraled quickly out of control. Four months later, after hundreds of parties and long days and nights spent in a fog of smoke and alcohol with very little educational growth and several wasted musical scholarships with jazz piano and voice, I dropped out of college. After that, I couch-surfed from trailer parks, to friends and relatives houses, back home a few times, and eventually in and out of homeless shelters. At this point my life was a blur.
My addiction to cigarettes was draining my family’s and my own pocketbook as was marijuana. I stole and lied constantly about stealing money from just about everyone I knew or met to go blow it in one afternoon or night to feel good or to help others do the same. During this time I cannot remember many things that I said to someone that wasn’t a lie or a fabrication of the truth. I lost several jobs because of positive UA’s and assumed a great amount of debt through the course of 3 years ruining many relationships with my family and friends along the way. I would get into verbal and physical arguments with my parents, (especially my father), that would put many R-rated movies to shame. I cared for no-one but myself.
That what was in the forefront of my addiction, however, underneath the criminal side of it with many nights in jail and countless nights and days spent in courtrooms and on the phone with lawyers; my mind was being overtaken by hard rock and rap music, casual sexual encounters, pornography, bad influences and a general attitude of screw the world and do what I want to do. My life was going absolutely nowhere. Death or prison was most definitely just around the corner.
It took me a long time and hundreds of second and third chances to see that light. Beartooth was that light. My mother and father had done the majority of the searching over the years with rehabs, counselors, medication and countless hours in prayer for me and the saving of my life. It was actually my dad who stumbled upon Beartooth on the internet and discussed it first with my mom. They kept the idea from me for some time to see if things would turn around. However, after this proved to not happen, they told me about it. At first, I was very argumentative and unwilling. I had now been in 2 other rehabs and seen several therapists and even though the ranch sounded interesting and different, I guess my initial thought was that it was just another place for me to waste my time and my parents’ money. After talking with them, relatives, and friends about it, my options became very small. It was either Beartooth or the street. Having already experienced “the streets” in the few months that I spent in and out of homeless shelters, I was not at all eager to live another second in one of those places. Having no money to my name and nowhere else to turn, I boarded the plane for Cody, Wyoming.
The months that followed at Beartooth Mountain Ascent were very surreal and eye-opening. That is a cheap attempt to describe the transformation that took place with me both inside and out. Besides the fact of the incredible view of the Rocky Mountains and vast desert lands that encompassed me daily, words cannot describe the wealth of knowledge about ranch work and life that I experienced and learned. I was dealt and participated in my share of trouble at the ranch, however, overall, I grew tremendously as a son, brother, cousin, friend, and person.
I learned skills that I will use till the day I die. With cow work, irrigation, fencing, and especially riding horses, they shaped me into the very well-rounded and hard-working man that I am continuing to become to this day.
I learned how to more positively interact with the people around me, the right words to use to mend my family relationships, and I believe, most important of all, I overcame my constant state of falsehood. I cannot explain the joy that comes from being truthful with myself and other people on a daily basis. I don’t have to hide anything anymore, or be looking behind my back constantly. It is a true mental freedom to not be lying anymore.
Beartooth taught me all these skills and how to put them to use. I owe my life to the directors and staff of this program. What I thought would be a waste of time and money became an experience that I will never forget. I even took up a new interest in cooking. I often thought while I was at Beartooth that it would never end or I would never look back and I thought for sure that I would be running to board the plane home. That is and was not the case. It was a very bittersweet departure. With all the friends that I made that came through the program, and the very close relationship that was made between me and one of the staff members there, I look back on it as the most important part of my life up to this point.
I feel that I can face life now with new eyes and far better morals. I don’t think I’ve had my last alcoholic beverage or even been to my last party, however, I learned the extreme importance of moderation in all things. With a new-found relationship with God, my family, and everyone around me, I am ready to face the world with a spring in my step and a smile on my face. I owe the staff and directors at Beartooth Mountain Ascent my very life and I hope if you are experiencing even a fraction of what I went through or maybe you are going through something much worse, I encourage you to look into this program. It helped me and I know it can help you and your family. It is my prayer that God will bless all who read this or come in contact with this program.
I believe that everything happens for a reason and we learn from our mistakes. My mistakes began once I was in high school. I went from being in a small school to a large high school, and the change in my social group made me have low self esteem. This led to me being dependent on girls who only led to me getting hurt and losing my friends. I played baseball ever since I can remember and always wanted to play professionally. When I got tired of getting hurt, I became completely dependent on baseball for happiness. I still felt alone inside and needed something to fill the void in my life. I became curious about weed, tried it and liked it. That led to smoking as much as I possibly could every single day. I then received a scholarship to play baseball and shortly after getting it, got it revoked after getting caught with marijuana and receiving a DWI. I went to rehab and got out thinking I would get to play summer baseball, but my coach never let me pitch because of rumors being spread by a teammate. I wound up quitting because of lack of playing time and false accusations. Losing baseball led to my downward spirals. I started selling drugs and stealing from my parents to support my habit. Then I got caught trying to sell some stolen golf clubs. I was arrested and my lawyer suggested some type of rehab or boys ranch to receive some help and to hopefully lessen my sentence. I decided to go for the program and do what it takes to not go to prison.
When I arrived at Beartooth Mountain Ascent, I had no idea what I had gotten myself into. At first I didn’t care about finishing the program because I missed my girlfriend Reggie and did as little as possible just to get by. After the first three weeks I realized I had been taking my life at home for granted and I needed to change the direction my life was going for a better future for myself and my family. I finally accepted the program for what it is and began working harder and taking pride in my work. This program helped me take a step back to look at my life and realize what I needed to change to grow.
Overall, Beartooth gave me perspective on life as a whole and taught me to be a man of virtue. This program gave me life skills and knowledge needed for future jobs, if necessary. It also helped me grow in my faith and realize my potential. For once I got the chance to notice my life had revolved around instant gratification. Beartooth made me focus on a better future and securing better relationships. This was a good experience to do things I would have never done and realize what is really important in life. Love, and life itself. Cowboy up!
Before I arrived at Beartooth MT Ascent, I was hopelessly in search of any means to escape the despair and emptiness of my depression. Sometimes that “escape” would be Rachel my girlfriend, other-times it would be some form of electronic entertainment, and still other-times it would be sleep. I had given up addressing any negative emotions that might arise or even trying to find a solution to the problem, since a strew of medications over the past 18 months had failed to alleviate the burdening feelings. Coupled with the constant reminder of my shortcomings over the past couple of years, including flunking college, my inability to find a job, and my most recent failure to take care of my grandmother in california, I was spiraling deeper and deeper into the depression with little desire or motivation to overcome my downfall. Like a prisoner chained inside a cell I was emotionally exhausted without any foreseeable prospect of freedom. I believe that remote setting, the work outside in the fresh air and sunshine, as well as the regular sleep and wake cycles helped me overcome my depression. The program at Beartooth MT Ascent, itself has helped to heal me personally (especially my relationship with my father) it has rewarded me ample time to reflect and introspect my life with the help of the holy spirit. More than anything, it has been during the quit moments of personal devotion that has moved me to rediscover myself.