There are days that are a struggle, nights it seems the sun will never rise. There is heat, cold, fire, and rain: all in quantity and intensity I never understood before I lived intimately with them. Mostly, however, living on a ranch, there is understanding.

I discovered I can do jobs of which I never thought I was capable. The work isn’t all hard, of course, but there are jobs that use all your muscle and create rivers of sweat. In testing my limits in them, I found new strength, a resolve that can see me through anything, and a joy in finishing that sets a bar of its own in personal satisfaction.

I discovered joy in dust and muck. Grinning from ear to ear, I realize I’ll be clean again later. Now, like a child, I can splash in the mud and feel sand in my mouth and not complain about my dirty face or feel somehow less vital than someone in a fine suit. The ranch taught me that work and lives of real importance can, and usually do, get lived out every day in the field and in the barn, in the tractor and surrounded by livestock. The shower that rinses away the grit and the soil don’t wash off a feeling of connection to the land, indeed, to the planet that getting them on there created in the first place.

On the ranch I discovered the exhilaration of sunrise; not just that deep orange glow and break of light that comes from watching the sun break over the horizon from a kitchen window but an full-on sunrise, from inky dark through rosy pink and, finally, sunlight streaming onto my face, all from the open field. It’s different than watching the final stages from a house, where it seems only like a light bulb taken from dim to full. No, it’s more like watching the world give birth to the day. It can lighten the load of a long night or even embolden a faint heart.

Mostly, however, what I learned on the ranch was that life is a series of chances to move forward, to find the opportunity in the problem, to push yourself as far as you want and find you can succeed where you never dreamed you could even survive. I learned on the ranch who I am.

Four years ago, I was at my lowest point. I’ve been addicted to pretty much every drug there is, but heroin was the worst. I was at my low point four years ago. It got to the point where I lost my job, my apartment, my girlfriend. I was homeless, stealing from people to get my fix for the day. One February day in 2014, I decided I didn’t want to do it anymore. I called up my Uncle, who was living in Colorado at his ranch, and I asked him if I could come live with him after I got clean. He agreed, and I headed off to rehab.

I went to The Recovery Village in Colorado, and the first thing I did was go through detox. The withdrawal period was rough. I didn’t think I was going to make it through. I went into the inpatient program when I was done with detox. That’s when things really started to change for me. The addiction specialists there helped me see that I had a disease that needed to be treated. It wasn’t just that I was weak and had no self-control. I was sick.

I transitioned to outpatient care, and then I moved in with my uncle. It was very kind of him to allow me to move in, but he wasn’t going to just let me sit on my ass. He put me to work. Every day, I would help him tend to the cows and the corn that he grows. After a few months, I found that my life was entirely different. But I loved it. I worked really hard every day, and at the end of the day, I was satisfied. It was so much better than chasing every high, always chasing the next rush, the next sense of pleasure. That was all I cared about. I was selfish.

Now I do everything I can to help my uncle. By allowing me to live here and work with him, he has saved my life. And I am entirely grateful.

Well, 2018 is here, and it’s a New Year. This is now my third New Year at the ranch although I’ve almost been here for four years total. And I have never been happier. Everything is amazing out here in Bent County, Colorado, and that is definitely something that I have found to be true in my life. When I look back on my days on the streets of New York, I can’t even fathom how different my life used to be.

So do I have any New Year’s resolutions? Yes, I have quite a few. Let me tell you a little bit about them.

I want to start working out. My uncle got a treadmill, and I’m going to start using it.

I want to work really hard on the ranch all year. I want to help my uncle make more money and do really well with his business.

I want to write a book about my experiences with addiction and how farming and working at the ranch has helped me to overcome them. This blog will be a great way for me to get into writing a book.

Other than that, I just want to live life to the fullest. I want to cease the day. I don’t want to have any regrets at the end of my life. Getting clean and sober was a major achievement. Now that I’ve done that, everything is really good in my life, but it could always get better.

So what about you? What are your New Year’s resolutions? I would love to hear about them. Leave me a comment or stop by the contact page and write me an e-mail. I really want to hear from my readers. This blog means a great deal to me, and I hope that it means something to you, too.

My uncle and I have a great Christmas tradition here on the ranch. Let me tell you all about it.

Every year on Christmas day, we always take the day off. A few of my uncles’ farmer friends come over, and we all eat a huge breakfast that we work on cooking. Bacon, eggs, pancakes, the works. Then we sit around the fire and we all open presents with each other. After that, my uncle breaks out his guitar, and we all take turns singing country versions of Christmas songs. It’s a real cowboy Christmas, and I love it.

I think back to that last Christmas I had on the streets of New York four years ago, and I think about the contrast between the Christmases I’m having now, and my mind is blown.

Four years ago, I was homeless on the street, trying to figure out how I was going to get my dope, and now here I am surrounded by warmth and friends and family, good food and good songs. I’ve never been happier. I’ve never been more at peace.

If you are struggling with addiction, I want you to know that you should never give up hope. You can turn your life around. You just have to be willing to ask for the help that you need.

A good place to start might be 12-step meetings. I’ve met quite a few awesome people in the meetings of Narcotics Anonymous. There’s a whole community of people who don’t use drugs or alcohol, and you could be one of them.

You may need to start out with detox and then inpatient treatment in a rehab like I did. Luckily, there are quite a few great rehab programs all over the country where you can go to get help. And that is certainly something that you will discover to be a factual statement once you start looking into your options. Don’t lose hope.