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Nature & Nurture: Big Bend Retreat 2022

Maintaining sobriety following treatment can be arduous work, but at Driftwood, we believe life must be enjoyable to sustain long-term recovery. According to Mason Aselage, Director of Recovery Services, “Recovery is about more than abstinence. It’s about building relationships, having new experiences, and most importantly – rediscovering what we love about life.” Along with Alumni Coordinator Evan Thornton, Mason has developed a philosophy of enjoyment for Driftwood’s Alumni Program that doesn't take itself too seriously. As a result, alumni meetings, social gatherings, and service opportunities are characterized by joyful reunions and fits of uncontrollable laughter. The fun, relaxed atmosphere that Evan and Mason have created brings necessary levity to the heavy, emotional work of early recovery.

As of March, Mason and Evan have organized a series of sober hangouts with increasing success: from wakeboarding, to paintballing, to awareness walks, to party barges. This month, they undertook their most ambitious challenge: leading a four-day camping trip in Big Bend National Park.

Last Thursday, fourteen former clients and Driftwood staff set out from Austin, TX, on an eight-hour drive west. The group’s energy was electric from the start; everyone was giddy to get going and had no complaints about the long journey ahead. Some in the group were experienced hikers; a few had no experience camping sober. This range in mastery led to hilarious moments as the group pitched their tents in the Chisos Basin, but everyone came together with incredible teamwork. Of course, no outing would be complete without the Driftwood Culinary experience, so the Drifters were lucky that chef, Peyton, agreed to come along to help cook meals by the campfire.

The group rose early for a 14-mile hike around the south rim of the basin. From start to finish, the weather was perfect for early fall in the desert. Most alumni had never hiked such a long distance before, so there was a collective feeling of accomplishment by the end of the day. That night, Mason led a recovery meeting where alumni reflected on the day’s experience. In addition, each person wrote a letter to themselves that they would send out in one year, with words of compassion and encouragement to help them through times of struggle.

The highlight of day three was a guided rafting trip on the Rio Grande. What would usually take a full day took only half the time because the water was so high. The group was all laughs as they sped down the river between towering, red canyons. The day concluded with a two-mile hike to Balanced Rock, followed by live music and country cooking at the Starlight Theater in Terlingua.

As the vans pulled out of the campsite on Sunday, an alumna thought to herself that the only low of the trip was not seeing a bear. The group observed a snowy white owl the night before, and expectations had become very high between the perfect weather and the clear, starry skies. As she thought this, one of her friends pointed out the van's window to a black bear outside their campsite. Mason had given them the challenge of creating their own joy, and by the end of the trip, the Driftwood alumni group had proven themselves powerful manifesters.

About her colleague, Evan Thornton says, “I am so grateful for Mason. He is a joy to work with, and his guidance and ideas have made the alumni program grow exponentially.” The same may be said for Evan, who has stepped into her new role and navigated challenging circumstances with maturity and grace. Together, Evan and Mason make an unstoppable team – proving that outside the heavily structured treatment environment, opportunities for fun and connection abound!

Driftwood's Alumni family is a peer-driven network that provides accountability, service, and encouragement for long-term recovery post-treatment. Our Alumni Coordinator, Evan Thornton, and Director of Client Services, Mason Aselage, encourage Alumni to remain engaged with the Driftwood family by organizing ongoing meetings, socials, and service opportunities.

Upcoming Events

  • Family Support Group with Lauren Walther: 2nd & 4th Mondays @ 6:30 CST
  • Six Flags Fright Fest in San Antonio on 10/14 @ 6 PM
  • Paintballing in November (date TBA)
  • Holiday Party at Driftwood on 12/10 from 5 PM - 8 PM
  • H&I Meetings Weekly on Mondays @ 7 PM CST – on campus and online.
  • Alumni Meetings Weekly @ 7 PM CST – in person and virtual.
  • Quarterly Workshops featuring consulting psychologists like Ted Klontz and Stevie Stanford.

Connect with Us

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Big Bend 2022