Dan had been struggling with addiction for most of his life.
He had reached the lowest of lows, stealing from loved ones and lying to cover his tracks. He began to hate himself for who he had become through his drug and alcohol use.
Dan came to Project Horse unsure of what to expect. He had not spent much time around horses and was feeling nervous. Reeses, one of the older, wiser members of our equine therapy team immediately chose Dan. It had been a very long time since Dan felt "safe" to be himself with anyone. With encouragement to simply get to know Reeses, we noticed a shift in both Dan and the mare. Reeses began to nudge Dan's chest, especially his heart area. When asked what the horse might be doing, Dan stated that Reeses wanted him to reveal something that has been causing his heart pain.
We gave them some space to "talk". As horse and man stood together, we heard Reeses exhaling deeply and watched her yawn several times, lowering her head. It was as if Reeses was taking in Dan’s pain and then releasing it for him... Reeses was helping Dan process the emotions that had kept him imprisoned within his addictions.
When ready, Dan rejoined us with tear-filled eyes but a big smile on his face. He explained that he had not felt safe exposing his deepest feelings and hardest experiences to another person for fear of judgment, or even worse, further self-judgment. Being with this powerful yet sensitive horse enabled Dan to admit some of the horrors of his secret life in addiction, and this became the first step in breaking the chains that had bound him for so long. Reeses offered Dan the opportunity for honest and nonjudgmental communication - something that can be challenging with other people, even those with great intentions. Reeses' support helped Dan to feel hope… hope to change and to heal, and hope for a life free from the grip of addiction.
Reeses immediately recognized what Dan needed, and through her gentle but strong presence, the mare offered Dan the chance to let go of the old stories, gently nudging him towards light, health and hope.