When I was 16 years old, I was an extremely rebellious teenager (to say the least). It got to the point that my parents couldn’t handle it anymore and they sent me to a lockdown facility in La Verkin, Utah for 15 months. When I first arrived at the program, I was stripped of everything that I identified myself with: clothes, jewelry, make up, and pretty much every other thing you can think of. I couldn’t tweeze my eyebrows, shave my legs, use a hair tie, and I wasn’t allowed to talk to most of the people there. It was a terrifying world to enter into at the age of 16.
After about 7 months in the program, I had advanced to a level that I was able to join the cross country team. Our coach would take us up into the mountains and drop us off and tell us to run and not stop. It was so challenging when I first started because I hadn’t done any form of exercise in YEARS! I would become so exhausted that I felt I couldn’t run one more second. I would start to walk, and my coach would put the van in reverse, pull next to me, and yell at me to keep running. “NO WALKING!” he would say. I would resent him big time in the moment, but I look back on those experiences now and am so grateful that he held me to a higher standard then I thought I was capable.
In this program, we would spend most of our days in group therapy, individual therapy, and school classes. It was very tough emotionally to be discussing the painful experiences that had brought us to the program, all day every day. The only reprieve I found was our cross country practices.
Something about the clean air and beauty of the mountains, the sound of rocks underneath my shoes, and the challenge of pushing myself to do something hard, was healing for my soul. I loved the feeling of completing a 6 or 7 mile run, and finishing with a beautiful view of a new place. It was a feeling I never wanted to forget, almost a spiritual high. I had found a new love of the outdoors.