“This place is magic,” mused 23-year-old James Swain while on a break from removing unwanted shrubs and misplaced boulders at a property about a half-hour north of Santa Barbara. “It has given me a feeling of self-worth that I never had before.”

He then motioned to the four other brawny men working alongside him. “These guys are my brothers,” said Swain. “We’re all looking out for each other. These are the first true relationships I’ve had where I’m able to be myself.”

Recovery Ranch residents James Swain and Chris Mason
Allie Cole

Swain is one of the seven men currently living at Recovery Ranch, a structured sober living home for men in Santa Ynez that’s grown substantially after opening its doors on January 1 of this year. Since then, two more houses have been opened as well as a rustic barn that the residents helped convert into a large gym.

During their six-month stay, each Recovery Ranch resident follows Alcoholics Anonymous’s 12-step program while also participating in structured activities such as golfing, fishing, and community service projects. “Here, we work hard and play hard,” said co-owner Daniel Ross. “The men have to learn how to fish and golf to teach patience, tolerance, and etiquette. It’s all part of teaching them to live like gentlemen.”

The exterior of Recovery Ranch in Santa Ynez.
Allie Cole

Each day, the men read from The Pyramid to Success Playbook by Coach John Wooden to encourage each other to “make each day their masterpiece.” The men also participate in a “positive/negative attitude check” exercise where each man is instructed to write positive and negative behavior traits for one another.

“There’s a lot of action in this program,” said Ross. “We want them to have a hard time here. We want to push them so their character defects show. We’re not here to be their friends. We’re not here to coddle them. We’re trying to save their lives.”

Ross explained that the facility is not simply about getting sober but rather a place that will help the men to have beautiful, well-rounded lives. “Our goal is to really prepare them for life so they can put their best foot forward and have a new lifestyles as gentlemen,” he said.

The new barn at Recovery Ranch.
Allie Cole

Much of Recovery Ranch’s curriculum is centered around service to others. The residents of Recovery Ranch regularly help out fellow community members with projects and daily tasks, and are always reminded to give back.

Chris Mason, an ex-heroin addict and Recovery Ranch resident, spoke about his plans after graduating from the program. “I’m hoping that they’ll ask me to stay and be a manager,” he said. “I want to help other addicts. I want to give the gift that I’ve been given.”

There’s a “Cheeseburger Scholarship Fundraiser” for Recovery Ranch this Sunday, March 18, 10 a.m.-3 p.m. on-site at 3694 Tivola Street in Santa Ynez. For more info, call (805) 252-5661 or email therecoveryranch@gmail.com


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