As the water gathered around her feet as she stood in her living room, Rachel Graham wondered how she ended up in this place, in this moment. There was the quiet after the front door had closed behind her. There was the odd silence that remained once the nanny and her kids had left the house. Rather, it would have been silent if not for the repetitive drip-drip-dripping of the water as she stood in her flooded living room. Just 24 hours earlier, she had been happily married and the mother of two children. Now, she was a wife who just found out that her husband was a hostage to addiction and was on a destructive personal and financial path that accompanies addiction. Twenty-four hours. That’s all it took for her world to be submerged in chaos.
Rachel cried out to God, with tears streaming down her face and desperation spilling from her heart. Her voice cracked as she wailed for God’s mercy, and then she dropped to her knees. The floor saturated beneath her, and her tears dripped into the flood, creating her own ocean of despair. Deliverance is what she sought, and grace is what she received. She felt all of her anger, all of her hurt, and all of her grief slowly lessen. As though being gently raised into divine arms, she found solace in knowing that not only would she be all right but others would be, too.
Rachel Graham called out. God answered.
And, together with a talented team, Healing Springs Ranch was born.
When Rachel received the news that her house was flooding, she had choices to face and decisions to make. She could sit back and watch as the water slowly began to rise, hoping that, eventually, the flooding would stop on its own. She could frantically grab buckets and do her best to empty the water out faster than it was rising. Or she could turn the source off and go in. She could walk right into the flood, endure the water, and find the leak. In this moment of distress and panic, the decision was hard because she just wanted the water to stop rushing in by any means necessary. But regardless of what approach she took, the reality was that deep down inside, lying in places unseen, a pipe was broken. And until that pipe was fixed, she would always run the risk of another flood.
When Rachel Graham found herself walking through the recovery process with her husband, she was fortunate enough to also be three months into the Integral Leadership Program (ILP) at Stagen Leadership Academy. With each step along her journey, she was supported by peer leaders of all stripes and calibers whom she could trust, lean on, and learn from.
As her ILP journey progressed, a parallel path emerged between the ruins of her marriage falling apart and the personal growth that occurred as she dug through the wreckage to find her own strength. She learned that when it comes to loving someone with addiction and loving someone with mental illness, she still had choices to make; she could address the symptom of the rising waters, or she could go in and find the source of the leak. She learned that when her husband turned to his addictions, they weren’t the primary issues; rather, they were symptoms of something else that was broken in a man, a good man. In seeking help for her family, Rachel unfortunately found that most treatment centers chose to address the rising water instead of the cracked pipes. And herein lies the remarkable grace bestowed upon her in the midst of her flood: she received the ability to see a student in herself, to find true compassion towards others who struggle and towards humans in general, all while learning more about herself and owning her piece of this destruction. Rachel saw a way to turn her darkest moment into her life’s purpose and, together with the team, created a treatment system that would help heal the whole person, not just the addiction. And it was her training in ILP that personally gave her the mental and emotional stamina and infrastructure to do so.
In the wake of the destruction of her safe and reliable life with her then-husband, what Rachel and the Healing Springs Ranch team has created is nothing short of remarkable. When patients walk into Healing Springs Ranch—the two-year-old residential treatment center tucked away on 50 acres of Texan land—they are being welcomed as more than the sum of their parts. They are being treated not only for substance abuse and mental illness but for shame, sexual trauma, and emotional and physical wounds that are rooted back in childhood. Through the basics of therapy, education, adequate sleep, proper hydration, and balanced diets, the treatment and care patients receive at Healing Springs Ranch restores their minds and bodies. Through therapy, spiritual guidance, family therapy, and esteem-building, residents get to restore their souls. The center uncovers the cracks in each individual’s pipes and ensures that the deepest part of their selves is being healed. Even more importantly, though, Healing Springs Ranch teaches patients the difficult task of going through the water. Residents learn how to sit with their uncomfortable feelings and to understand their emotions rather than fear or deny them. In turn, they get to see their strengths, unleash their gifts, and find their worth. And they learn that none of us have to walk through this life alone, that perhaps those cracks are where our true deepest connections are found. Maybe in our darkness is when we need each other the most. In a time when depression, addiction, and suicide seem to be reaching epidemic levels, in a time when we are finally starting to see that wealth, beauty, and fame can’t fill the holes inside our hearts, seeing hope in a human’s brokenness seems like a truly revolutionary act.
Rachel Graham is still recovering alongside the patients who come to the Ranch for healing. She welcomes them from a place of experience and knowing, because there is still grief to feel and hurt to surrender. They face their demons together and they find their light together. They walk through water together and they stand tall together. Some of them find God, some of them find their way to a healthy home, and some of them find potential they never knew they had. But all of them find a long-lost piece of themselves.
The waters have begun to recede in Rachel Graham’s world, and while she continues to wade through the flood of a purpose found and a life radically changed, there is an immense gratitude that seeps out of her seemingly ordinary moments: saying goodnight to her children each day, embracing her own healing, creating friendship with the man she used to call her husband, and learning to stand on a new foundation that she has built together with her team.
With grace, perseverance, and the support she discovered through the guidance and community she forged while attending the ILP at Stagen Leadership Academy, Rachel Graham is taking the challenge that was handed to her and using it to create something beautiful. In turn, she is not only hoping to heal herself and others, but she is hoping to heal an entire recovery system that is currently enduring a few cracks of its own.