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The Sandstone Care young adults, led by the Academic and Vocational Director Ben Digati, headed into the foothills on Saturday. They knew some adventure was in store, but exactly what awaited was a mystery. They were greeted by Sandstone Care’s Family Therapist, Nancy Brittain, who had laid out an assortment of wooden pieces of various shapes. Holes were burned through some, some were cylindrical while others looked like crude bow and arrows. What was all this?

The young men were about to learn the primitive skill of making a bow drill fire – no matches, no lighter, just friction to create a flame.

What exactly does making a friction fire have to do with recovery?

For one thing, it’s hard. It’s a rare person that succeeds the first time they pick up a set.

It requires a lot of careful preparation – carving a spindle to fit the hole in the fireboard just so, greasing the top rock to reduce friction, tightening the bow to fit the spindle. If any of the preparation is off, it is possible to put in a great deal of effort and still not succeed. A person may be determined to stay sober, but without proper supports in place, without fine-tuning the pieces of the puzzle such as family roles, social supports, lifestyle, and diet, it may be hard to succeed in spite of our best efforts.

It happens in a community. Maybe eventually you will build a bow drill fire on your own. But everyone starts with pieces of a set gifted by an elder, someone who has learned themselves and now has gifts to share and wisdom to impart. It would be a long road indeed and there would be few success stories if every person had to teach themselves to build a fire without the collective wisdom of those who had gone before. We would have to discover through long trial and error which types of wood are best, and how to position our body for efficiency. Asking for and accepting help are just as essential in recovery as in learning a skill like a bow drill fire.

Self-esteem and positive self-regard are not created solely through positive self-talk (though this is important, too). Self-esteem is created through acts of self-efficacy – through challenging ourselves and succeeding. It is by attempting difficult tasks, grappling with failure and eventually finding success, over and over, that we build a solid sense of self and an appropriate confidence in our abilities.

As the sun dropped lower in the sky and the shadows stretched longer, the young men walked back toward the van, arms sore from the effort, having accomplished something that few people in the world can claim to have done – making a fire – no matches, no lighter, just friction to create a flame.

About Sandstone Care

Sandstone Care is a Denver, Colorado-based treatment program for young adults and adolescents struggling with substance abuse and co-occurring disorders. Sandstone Care offers a full continuum of outpatient care including Extended Care, Day Treatment, Intensive Outpatient, and General Outpatient Programs for young adults (ages 18-30) and adolescents & troubled teens (ages 13-18). Sandstone Care believes that successful outcomes are achieved through a systemic, evidence-based approach that addresses the entire individual as well as their environment – this means providing academic & vocational support to help individuals achieve their goals and discover their strengths, family participation to educate and support the entire family system, psychiatric and dietitian evaluations and support to promote a healthy mind and body, as well as community-based activities along with the more traditional evidence-based group and individual therapy. If you or a loved one needs additional support, call our confidential line, at (888) 850-1890 or fill out the form on our website, and our admissions team will be able to answer any questions as well as guide you and your loved ones toward the path of long-lasting recovery. For more information, visit