I look up. I think I can do it. From down here it doesn’t look so bad. Step one… two… then three. I have someone there to catch me. I take some deep breaths. Keep looking up. Four… five. Whoa! Five was a tough one. I had to really stretch to reach that one. Six, seven, eight. I keep focused on breathing, not looking down. Nine, 10, 11 and 12. At the top! I attempt to stand, but I stumble a little. This is really shaky. Relax. Breathe. I stand up. From here, I can see for miles. This is higher than I thought! I have no choice but to look down, up, and all around, taking it all in. I confront the voice that says it can’t be done. I let go of all my fear and jump. Falling, falling, stop! I have been caught! I slowly drift back down to the ground. Now with feet firmly planted I am ready to face more challenges. I look back up and the weight of what just happened hits me – I just climbed a 25′ foot pole, stood on the top, and leapt off.
The facilitator asks me to share what that experience was like. I talk about how I had to admit I am powerless over gravity. About when I stumbled, I began to trust in the rope, the harness, and the facilitator on the belay and how relying fully on them kept me from falling. About how my Higher Power holds me. About how my group encouraged and sometimes pushed me on. About how I had a spiritual experience when I looked all around me from a high place. It dawns on me, there were 12 staples to climb on. 12 steps. I get it.
The ropes course experience at Cumberland Heights allows patients to experience their treatment in a dynamic way. These experiential activities place the participant in scenarios, often outside of comfort zones, that allow emergence of a core truth about themselves. Concepts of powerlessness, surrender, keeping it simple, honesty, courage, community support, trust, faith, and many others emerge. The participant is able to draw parallels and metaphors from their experience in an activity to the recovery process. This knowledge can be transferred to practical application to their recovery journey.
As the Recreation Therapist at Cumberland Heights, I get great joy in seeing people experience that “Aha! moment.”
Jimmy Hudgens, B.A.
“You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.” – Plato