The Fires That Light Inner Strength At Legacy Treatment Center

Fire is an essential aspect of an authentic experience in the wilderness. It provides light and warmth during the cold and dark night, and it is used to cook food. At Legacy Treatment Center, a premier adult Wilderness Therapy program for young adult men, the team sits around the fire, with the fire in the center. It’s central place is not accidental. Fire allows individuals in the group to feel a sense of camaraderie. It creates our Campfire Culture that makes the Legacy experience so special for our clients.

The importance of fire at Legacy goes beyond the sense of warmth and camaraderie that any group might feel sitting around a fire. At Legacy, clients are expected to make fire without matches or a lighter, by means of a bow drill kit.  The kit includes the bow itself and the cordage tied to it, as well as a spindle, a fire board, a top rock, and a nest. Making fire in this way is a difficult process, requiring much preparation, patience, and resilience. 

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No part of the fire kit is insignificant; every part matters. Making a workable kit requires a good deal of time. First, the materials are gathered from the land. Usually, the fireboard and spindle are harvested from the same tree or plant. In the desert, sage is often used. Once the spindle and fireboard have been harvested, the wood must be carved. To make the bow, clients look for a piece of wood that has a natural curve. The nest is typically made with the bark of a juniper tree. There is no shortcut in the process of making the kit. It takes time and patience. 

Making a fire with a bow drill is called “busting.” Once the kit has been sufficiently prepared, the actual busting process begins. One must put pressure on the fireboard, spinning the spindle by means of long and steady bow strokes, keeping one’s hand firmly on the top rock. Initially, the client attempting to bust is likely to feel frustrated. Very few people will bust on their first try. Failure is almost inevitable, and the client’s relationship to failure will quickly become apparent. Do they give up after the first try, feeling apathetic and unwilling to persevere? Do they get angry and short-tempered, yelling obscenities and throwing things? Do they get antsy and restless and feel like running away? Do they grow sad and morose? Feel inadequate? With a little guidance from our supportive staff, the client can become aware of emotional reactions to the initial failure. Becoming aware of these reactions to this particular challenge can help the client become aware of typical patterns of reaction to life’s disappointments and setbacks. This self-awareness is a prerequisite for change. Recovery from addiction and other behavioral compulsions cannot take place without it. 

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Recovery requires the same perseverance, the same steadfastness and commitment, as does learning how to bust a fire with a bow drill. The individual in recovery will be faced with the same emotions one faces in the process of busting: many times one might feel like giving up or running away because of life’s challenges. It is important to learn to deal with and overcome rage and sadness.

After hours or perhaps days of trying to bust, if the client continues to persevere in the process,  they will eventually create enough friction to make a coal. After all the work put in to make the kit and learn how to use it, the client will feel a sense of genuine accomplishment. With the help of materials they gathered themselves, and after many hours of frustration and exertion, they have created fire. Not only will the fire keep an individual warm and well-fed, it will keep the other members of the team warm and well-fed. All the work put into the process by an individual, this fire will help ensure the comfort of the whole team. It will also provide a feeling of satisfaction and confidence that will last long after the food has been eaten and the fire died out.