004 Kellie Christensen from Mountain Valley Recovery
“Hard work builds self esteem and self worth.”
Today we are joined by Kellie Christensen from Mountain Valley Recovery. She and her husband Judd Christensen run a recovery center that includes a working ranch, recreational therapy, equine therapy, and focuses on recovery for men. Their patients can also learn a new set of trade skills and how to work hard. She also says, “They don’t know how to have fun without using.” so they also learn how to enjoy nature, hobbies, and life in recovery. She talks about the value of having a community both as an individual in recovery and as a facility in a region. She is passionate about fighting to have a healthy life.
The Illuminate Recovery Podcast is about Mental Health, Mental Illness, and Addiction Recovery. Shining light on ways to cope, manage, and inspire. Beyond the self care we discuss, you may need the help of a licensed professional. Curt Neider and Shelley Mangum are a part of Illuminate Billing Advocates. They are committed to helping better the industry and adding value to the lives of listeners by sharing tools, insights, and success stories of those who are working on their mental health.
Transcript (no grammar): hard work builds self-esteem and self-worth today we are joined by kelly christensen from mountain valley recovery she and her husband judd christensen run a recovery center that includes a working ranch recreational therapy equine therapy and focuses on recovery for men their patients can also learn a new set of trade skills and how to work hard she also says they don't know how to have fun without using so they also learn how to enjoy nature hobbies and life and recovery she talks about the value of having a community both as an individual in recovery and as a facility in a region she's passionate about fighting to have a healthy life enjoy welcome to the illuminate recovery podcast we shed light on mental health issues mental illness and addiction recovery ways to cope manage and inspire beyond self-care we will discuss you may need the help of a licensed professional my name is kurt knighter i'm a husband father entrepreneur a handyman and a student of life i avoid conflict i deflect with humor and i'm fascinated by the human experience and i'm shelley mangum i am a clinical mental health counselor and my favorite role of all times is grandma i am a seeker of truth and i feel like life should be approached with tremendous curiosity i asked the dumb questions i fill in the gaps we are so excited today to have kelly christensen with us kelly runs a residential treatment facility for substance abuse um and kelly your your facility is mainly men correct crack exclusively men why don't you take just a minute and talk about the story talk about how you ended up in recovery i mean because and kind of talk about where you're located too because i think it's a little bit unique yeah yeah thank you shelley um yeah we are i'll first start out by saying that we are located in a small town it's called holden utah um it's literally in the middle of nowhere central utah on a big ranch it's wonderful it's beautiful quiet but yeah um i i have an interesting story i personally have never struggled with substance abuse i really didn't know anything about it um about nine years ago i met my wonderful husband judd he is co-owner as well with mountain valley recovery um and he is today 16 years clean from addiction he went through um a very hard struggle in his life um and so his story really inspires me um and motivates me but um so we're married we have five children of our own few college kids some kids still high school middle school age um so we have a wonderful family um but he when we got married i was working as a surgical tech um at the nephi hospital um i was working long hours i was commuting an hour um it was it was really hard because i was a mother and i wanted to be a mother um but i also wanted to work i'm pretty busy body my kids were in school all day so i needed to find something and i i love helping i love serving um so i quit my job because it was it was really um it was really hard and the hours were long so i quit and i just i just couldn't um find something that i was gonna love and um i knew a lady in town her and her husband owned a recovery center which was life skills and we got talking and she would talk to me a lot about what they do and it was just fascinating and my husband was part of this industry this recovery and so i wanted to learn more about it and so you know i just kept talking to her we became friends and i remember um really just searching and i woke up one night about four in the morning and i'll never forget this i had um just an overwhelming feeling that i needed to go work at this program and i thought well on earth i don't know anything about this what would i even offer them what would i do um so the next morning i talked to judd about it and i said you should really work here and he was like well on earth you know what are you gonna do there what do you i say i don't know but i'm inspired so i listened to my feelings i drove out there i asked to meet with them i told them i wanted to work there i'm not sure why i don't know what i have to offer but give me something i can file i can run a computer i can run something in the office give me something and um they said well you know we really don't have anything right now but we'll get back to you so i got home and kind of defeated but i still just had this this desire to just keep asking um within 15 minutes the phone rang and they said you know what we we need you we don't know why but we want you here um we'll create a part-time job in the office for you not really sure yet but let's visit and so um i i started working there uh part-time and um i i absolutely enjoyed it it was fulfilling that void that i always had i was a happy person but i just wanted to help more um and so it turned into where i was the the director of the program after a few years um and years after years running it i was just so passionate uh my judge came and helped run the 12-step program there he was taking the guys in the program to the ranch teaching them skills and and working hard so we were just creating this amazing uh relationship with these guys and we absolutely loved it um just passionate for i i learned a lot for sure um and then the the family um decided that they were selling they've done it for a lot of years and they're retiring so they offered it to judd and i we thought how on earth are we gonna buy this we have no means we don't have the funding this you know but we knew um after a lot of prayer we just knew that this is something that we had to do we wanted to do our family wanted to do our kids were involved they loved it um and so we just went to town it was really really hard there was a lot of obstacles that got in the way there were times where i wanted to throw in the towel and say i we just can't do this i mean we had to buy a piece of property we had to build a new home we had to create all this um what we did have was a family ranch and so we did have that aspect that we wanted to keep in our program um but we when we had a lot of people backing us a lot of people helping us and cheering us on and so um we did it we um we were able to buy 80 acres we built a new home we're still building structures um we we've incorporated a lot of the old program we did change the name to mountain valley recovery um and we also added a lot more there was a lot of missing pieces that i feel like that we incorporated to just make it such a wonderful program um and so yeah a long story short uh that's how i got here um and it's it's been great it's been the best thing we've ever done wow wow i love those kind of stories they give you chills and goosebumps or at least as i do i can feel it going you know what you were you know you were kind of led to where you went and how how that all came about you had no idea where this was going to go absolutely i had i had no idea i didn't know the first thing about addiction i heard my husband's story and it was inspiring what he went through and i wanted to be part of it oh that's fantastic so he had been sober quite a while before you met your husband yeah he had been yep yeah so have you seen i mean maybe this is a point but have you seen that that history and his recovery play a role in your marriage oh absolutely yeah he he inspires me every day he is our rock and it's because of what he has went through i mean he had to climb out of the depths of hell um he had a child he um he had to fight tooth and nail for his life um and and he did it and so he he definitely inspires me and motivates me every single day he's amazing very cool it sounds like we better have judd be be on our podcast too it sounds like he's got a story he needs to tell oh absolutely i told him he should be doing this so don't worry i'll ask him perfect all right so you talked about some of the missing pieces that that maybe weren't incorporated in the initial program but that you wanted to incorporate in yours can you talk about a few of those missing pieces yeah for sure so um it's a working ranch we believe in hard work that's what builds self-esteem that's what builds self-worth accomplishment that's what these guys need in order to live a happy successful sober life um and so that aspect was there the working hard the structure the everyday schedule the grind the accomplishments um but there was always a missing piece of um i know that we didn't have a full-time therapist out there which i don't believe just sitting in the room talking about your problems is is going to help the problem either but i feel like they need to get to the root of the problem so then they can move on um and so we brought in the most amazing therapist chet lupo he's our clinical director he's here a few days a week and he um he does groups he does individual therapy family therapy um we brought in recreational therapy that there wasn't before we feel like um you know they just don't know how to have fun not using and so we have to create real life for them um so we we've gone to yellowstone for a week on a camping trip we just went snowboarding and and skiing at a ski resort and chet took him our therapist he gets a lot of one-on-one just out and about as well not just sitting in a room um we go bowling we go to motivational speakers we go fishing we go ice fishing and we just create real life and so i feel like that was a missing piece the therapy the groups the family therapy also because those relationships are broken and you have to repair those um the recreational therapy um so the work opportunity at um the last three months they're able to get a job and um be in society but still accountable to us um budgeting helping them budget money um and so yeah those are some of the things that we brought in um to just bring it all together i feel like it's just such a great program now it's taken a lot of work um but i feel like we have a great a great treatment team and a great program because of it that's so amazing and and unlike i mean some programs will do the wreck therapy and they'll do some of the other things but i don't know that every program has a ranch right that's where these guys can get out there and hands on and what kind of things do they engage in what kind of activities on the ranch itself yeah so we have we have turkeys we have horses we have cows dogs you name it we have all the animals and that in itself is just great therapy for the guys the equine therapy um that we do is amazing it's getting them on a horse um they have to learn to trust the horse the horse trusts them it builds a relationship um we're out in the middle of nowhere on in the mountains on cattle drives um just that they get to recover the hustle and bustle of the city life is gone and they just they get on these animals and it just it just does wonders for them um and so it's pretty it's pretty amazing what horses really do in recovery that's fantastic i know that um that i've been down to the new the new facility that you've built this home that's fantastic and it's in the middle of a field so you've really had to start from square one um and and i you know i remember coming into the conference room and seeing the conference table tell me about the conference table oh the conference table so i have this big vision i wanted this big beautiful conference table and my husband and our team said you know our that's a great project for our guys get them in the shop because we have a shop and we do a lot of woodwork in there let's get them in there let's let them do that and i thought you know what you're right let's have them do it and so they did we started from scratch not really knowing how to build this huge conference table and um they did it our guys built this beautiful black wood conference table that we use and it's in our home and they are so proud of it it's something that they they started a project from start to finish they accomplished something and that in itself is such a self-esteem builder right there but yeah it's it's beautiful it's beautiful and it is i'll test it's a beautiful conference table and you have built a beautiful home there and they take so much pride those guys will go out there and they place they place the is it the stones i forget what's around the driveway but they went out and placed all this stuff and they're raking out the driveway and they take such pride in where they're living yeah they really do um we we don't really even like to call it a program we like to call it our family ranch and it's their home um we want them to take pride in it and yeah they have they have really enjoyed it we're starting some landscaping because we didn't get it done before snowfall so we're starting landscaping right now and they're excited to do that but they really do they they look at what they've done and it's it's such an accomplishment they take great pride in what they're doing that is so cool it sounds like and i love i mean you basically said it this is really a kind of not not to replace their families and some of them some of them don't have really a family structure and some of them do that they can go back to but you guys really um create this family and this joining this this unity among those guys what how do you see that affect their recovery oh it's huge and like you said some of them really are here on their own they don't have family they don't have support and we are all that they have um and then the the the ones that do have family um the relationship there is really broken and really rough so we have to repair that but um for their for them it's a sense of belonging um they know they are loved they're a part of something bigger than they ever have been um they you know they've learned so much here there's only 15 of them and so we're able to individually meet their needs but yeah they just feel um they feel loved they feel wanted our community is amazing they love what we do they they saw my husband judd since he was little running and gunning um from his whole community and they see what he's become and done and so um they're they're part of a huge community family too and it's huge for their recovery because they build those healthy friendships um and and they a lot of them stay here and and the community supports them and loves them and they know that they have a safe place and and they have a family to come to yes we don't want to replace their family but a lot of their parents say keep them keep them there we love them we'll come visit them you be their family too and so it just it works great wow that's incredible and you talked about the community being part of their recovery and part of that belonging how does the community play into it and what you know so often uh people in in the community are really kind of opposed to bringing a residential treatment facility and having you know people that deal with addiction in their neighborhoods tell me how your community is yeah absolutely and i still feel that there may be some still here in the community that feel that way not you know anyone that i really know of but i'm sure there is because that you know if you don't really know about it it definitely is a little scary um but our community is very involved there um there are a lot of them are teaching them these different skills and these different traits they go out in the community and and they work with their businesses in construction or cement or woodwork or welding or whatever it is farming and our community is very highly involved in teaching them those they also um run a spiritual group on every tuesday evening here in our community we have a few couples that do that and the community comes um anyone's welcome and they come and they support our guys so we feel like spirituality is huge um if they don't have that they can't sustain um whatever it is that they find they have to find that spirituality part and our community um runs a bible study for that and so that's really amazing um yeah they they ask them to you know we're having games at our house can they come um they they have cattle drives they they um help with just everything in the area uh community service we do a lot of service because we believe you know you lose yourself in service and and it works and so anybody that needs service we have little old ladies who who call and ask can you guys come help me move this or do that and so um the guys love it they love to serve and yeah our community really is great um i feel like we're very special in that way we're very unique and like i said i i do feel like it's because judd was born and raised here they watched his struggles they watched what he went through they watched him become the most amazing person that he could possibly be right now and he's giving back and he's helping and so it just works that's incredible um i'm curious to to someone who's coming to your program you know maybe a young man or you know a young adult who's coming to your program from the very beginning what what do you see transition or transform in their lives as they get towards the end of their program yeah and so um we're nine to 12 months program so when they come here um you know they're pretty they're pretty lost um and we have different levels that they go through um we have three levels and um with the therapy the work aspect when they get to a certain level they're they're able to kind of say okay i really love this area i want to learn more in the construction or the welding and so they they start learning more in that area and they are progressing and progressing and then in the the last stage the last three months of our program which is called the mentor program they are able to have a cell phone back they get to work three days a week i mean it's usually the people that have been helping them be skilled um trait building skills that hire them um and so now they're getting a real paycheck we help them budget their money um and they're out in society but still accountable to us um and then at graduation they have to come up with a great exit plan uh before we even let them graduate and at this point we also have a silver levine that they can move into a lot of um we really strive to tell um these guys you can't go back home right away you can't go back where all started it just won't work so we've created um an aftercare program that is is great they now have a full-time job they have money in the bank they have somewhere to live we set them up and i think that's really what sets us apart is we don't say okay your treatment's over see you later good luck um they have somewhere to live they have money they have goals um they're surrounded by great people around here that help them um and then we just we transition them into that house um and they even come and work for us sometimes on weekends helping they're still going to meetings um and so it they just stay connected with us and it does it works really well and how many i mean i know you've had a lot of a lot of men go through your program and graduate and they've done living and eventually i mean i know some of them stay but some of them transition out um what's that like for them because we know that that aftercare right that what are you going to do how are you going to make that transition back into life and you've already given them a really good boost but when they go back home how much connection do you have and what's that like for them right and a lot of them a lot of them to be honest don't go home um they they make their life somewhere else they do stay here for quite a while and then after a few years they venture off um which is great because little towns are hard to find find a good wife in these little towns um and so they do venture off um and we we stay very connected with them um they call us they text us they come back they speak to our guys we we get invitations to weddings and oh i just had a baby um and so we stay very very connected to them and you know and sometimes they do go home and they feel like you know i'm struggling right now i've i have to come back and regroup and they come back and regroup um sometimes they come in to stay with us for a couple weeks and we go to dinner and have a good time and they just need to regroup and so um they know leaving here um that they always have a great community and that we're just a phone call away because it is it's scary to to leave and and not have that but um yeah we we create a great relationship with them and we keep it we we talk to him all the time that's incredible and i love that that you've created such a safe place that they can call and say look i'm struggling i gotta i gotta you know get grounded again i need to settle down and get some you know figure out what what i'm missing and they come back and they it's safe or they can call you and and how cool is that because that's one of the major pieces that's missing from their lives initially oh absolutely yep that it's for sure like i said we just create a family bond and we're always their family so and they do know that and so as you kind of told your story and and you said that there were times where you were just ready to hang it up and just like this is too much and i can't i just i'm ready to be done can you talk about some of those those barriers that came along the way and and kind of how you got past them oh absolutely so when when we first bought it we thought you know they want banks on this money down and we don't have it so we literally put up everything we own for this our our house our land um everything we own is is attached to our program um and it was i don't know if you guys remember in 2019 they um they shut the government down for a while do you remember that yes and that is right when we were trying to get our loans so that was shut down they were telling us no sba was saying well we have a hold and we had to get this thing bought by a certain time period or we couldn't do it um so that was one of the things that gotten away somehow um the bank finagle to do a bridge loan for us we were able to get the money for the land but now then came okay now we need money for the the house we have to build this house so go in and you know here's all of our all of our assets again and um covent covet hits in the middle of everything and and so the sba's like we're not doing loans right now so once again that bridge loan um came through we had some amazing people really helping us backing us um that yeah and our local bank was awesome they were able to finagle things um in order to be able to create these loans um and so it just felt like barrier after barrier every every week it was okay we're gonna do this and then something would come back we need this or we need that um and yeah i i probably spent more time on my knees during those times than i ever have and i knew i felt this is i would tell judd this this is what we're supposed to do we we have to keep going we can't give up um my husband's been through it and um i i see what it has done for him and the other guys that i've worked with and so i just knew we were supposed to do it and those were a lot of barriers and humps that we had to get through um and yeah we're still we're still um trying to to create our big uh ranch here too and like i said we're we're doing it and little by little step by step and i feel like it's the the lord's hands are in all we do and and we're able to do it that's incredible so so i want to i want to ask and this may be a little bit personal you can always say no if you know if i have something close but but you are so passionate about this work and you're so clear that that you have to be doing the work to me either says that you know and you didn't go through judd's recovery so it says that there's probably a history there in your own life and in your own family that probably brought you to a bigger picture a bigger passion for this work is there a story there yeah there is i don't share very often um i yeah as when i was though my mom suffered from mental illness horrifically um and she still does every single day we have to help her through it and um growing up i we really had to struggle um with that and uh i had to rely on a lot of people in our community to help us um you know my sisters we had we had no money my mom was in and out of the hospital um we we basically had to raise ourselves um and so i was very very passionate for mental illness because it was a huge part of my life and so i knew the mental illness was out there i didn't know that the addiction was out there um and so it kind of goes hand to hand also and so i i really felt passionate to help with mental illness um but also a lot of things that people don't know about me i was married before and i had three children also um by myself and i was married before and um that was definitely my biggest failure in life was my ex-husband um i married him not knowing that he was an alcoholic he was very abusive mentally physically emotionally and it led me to the darkest place i was in a black hole i lost everything that i that i had about myself i had no self-confidence i've lost all my values my beliefs i didn't even know who i was um i didn't know how to climb out of this horrific place i was in um and i knew that i had to my kids were really struggling i put them through hell basically um and i decided i'm gonna go back to school i i i'm gonna go back to school he hated everything about it but i did it anyway and i i just remember sitting in one of my communications classes and i was i we were talking about abuse and i could check mark on all of that i was in an abusive relationship and that was the fork in the road where i knew i had to change my life and and i did so it was one of the greatest blessings also i would never go back and change it for anything um and so i got myself out of there and um i gained my self-confidence again i knew who i was um and i i just knew that i wanted to help people that were struggling maybe not in substance abuse i had no idea but i wanted to save the world i wanted to help people in mental illness in abusive relationships i wanted to help them get better and save the world and so then when i met judd his story absolutely sorry if i get emotional it it touched my heart so much and i wanted to be a bit a part of something bigger than i've ever been and i thought you know what i have been through hard times and struggles i know what they go through i know that they're struggling every single day and battling um i know mental illness i learned substance abuse and so that is my passion um i i my passion and motivation for continuing this is watching the guys come through broken um sad not knowing what they're going to do and progress and progress and you know when they graduate and they're standing up at graduation just seeing the amazing person that they've become they've recreated this new life and the parents coming and saying i have my son back but even a better version of him um and just knowing that i saved even one life is worth it to me so i'm very passionate about what i do whoa i guess so and that's that's huge that's huge and as i think about you know your relationship with judd and you know that story would not have necessarily been so endearing had you not been through everything that you had gone through right and and fought your way back to your identity and who you were and trying to take care of your kids and and all of those pieces and i suspect in some ways that that knowing that judd was able to you know take his his patterns and and his illness and turn it around was also really healing for you too to know that there's another side to that story yeah absolutely i feel like judd and i are a great team we are we are um he's my rock i'm his rock um we've been through lots and lots of struggles in our life and we've both fought out of them and climbed out of the depths of hell and we are who we are because of them and we we love ourselves um and we like ourselves for that and yeah his his story was inspiring because you hear in the industry we're in in addiction you hear a lot of stories um failures there's there's not very many many success stories that you hear and um when i heard his story and i thought he did it i thought you know anyone can do if they really want to do it they can do it they have to just have the safe place in the tools and what he got um they could do it and so i i we wanted to do more um and that's why we continue doing that yeah for sure we're a great team oh that's so fantastic and and but you're both in it together right it's not that it's a smooth ride it's it's this bumpy ride and you guys are both trying to figure it out but you're both in it together to figure it out right it's not one against the other it's let's figure it out together oh absolutely that's in our in our you know when we come home at the end of the day you know he has his his part in in the recovery i have my part and when we come at the end of the day um yeah we talk through things there's a lot to figure out it's a bumpy road and sometimes we and there's times where we don't agree on things and but we're able to talk it out and come up with good solutions and because really the the guys are what matters most and so whatever's best for them is what we're gonna do and we yeah we navigate through a lot yeah i can only imagine we could talk for hours on all of the different challenges that you guys have had to have to come up against i'm curious as you've been through and you've been through a ton and you say you know you don't really have the addiction story but boy you have a story and it's a powerful and passionate story who who are the people that you would give credit to for for helping you through all of that for mentoring you and and and being that support network for you oh that's a that's a great question because i have a few of them um you know and and like we've said before we've talked about mentoring and it doesn't need to be this big person with this big degree um a lot of times parents are are our mentors our whole life but i have a lot of mentors you know like i said my mom um struggled with mental illness we were we as there's five girls in our family we're all a year apart and we had to stick together my sisters are sorry if i get emotional are my rock they were if they're my mentors um we had to help each other we had to be there for each other we had to pick each other up and still through all my struggles my sisters were always there she was thick and thin through my hardest times they helped me through my very very hardest time to get out of my dark dark holes that i was in um and they were also there for my victories for for my awesome times too they're cheering me on and they're happy when i'm happy they're sad when i'm sad bringing me up so definitely um i would say my sisters they have been there through thick and thin but also my mother she has taught me even through her mental illness and her struggles she's taught me to never give up to keep going every single day and she still teaches me that um and so she definitely has inspired me um to be a strong woman and to keep going to not give up so those are those are my biggest mentors yeah because that's you know you know we i don't know we're we're still trying to come out of uh of a place where we really didn't understand mental illness right i mean years ago we would put him in an institute so that we didn't have to see what was going on and today we know that there's help for them and the best help is the family right is to create this space around them and and although it was probably the hardest things that you and your sisters did you're still this connection with your mom you still love her and care about her and she's probably the person she is today because of you of you and your sisters oh absolutely yeah mental illness back then was hard my mom was locked up in psych words and and all sorts of different treatments and medication to where she actually has been addicted to prescriptions we've had to help her through that as well um through suicide um through a lot of things at a very very young age and so yeah family that's that's all we had and we we have such a tight relationship because of that so like i've said before i would never trade it for the world if i had to do it over again through those struggles i would do a hundred thousand times over um because of the things that we have learned and we are so close because of