“There are still speed bumps,” Taylor Reed says. “It’s an ongoing journey.”
Reed, 26, is part of the New Life Program at Harvest Farm, operated by Denver Rescue Mission. Located north of Wellington just west of I-25, the program accepts up to 72 men in a nine to 12-month program designed to assist them in breaking addiction cycles and moving toward self-sufficiency. Reed has been a resident at the farm for seven months.
Harvest Farm was established in 1988 when Denver Rescue Mission took over the former Mercy Farm. They derive some income from raising and selling grass-fed beef to the public. They also raise vegetables for their own use.
In March, 2018, when Reed found his way to Harvest Farm, he was down to a few tough choices. With sincerity and candor, he shared his story. He grew up in rural Colorado in a family where drugs and alcohol were always part of the scene. “It started when I was six or seven,” Reed said of his addiction. “My family are high-functioning despite their drug and alcohol use and manage to be successful in spite of their habits.” He knows now that he is different.
He was working in an oil field near Cheyenne, Wyoming, when two events pushed him over the edge. A close friend died of an overdose, and his girlfriend dumped him. At the time he was struggling with sobriety, having spent two 30-day stints in treatment in the past.
At what he now sees as a tipping point in his life, Reed returned home to work with his brother repairing fences on a ranch. He had no problem finding drugs in the Lamar-Pueblo area near where he lived. “Highway 50 is commonly known as the ‘heroin highway,’” he explained. Before long, his paycheck was not enough to cover his drug habit. He began robbing drug dealers and running from the police. He was using as frequently as 12 times a day. He attempted suicide, consuming a dose four times the strength of his usual hit. “I woke up angry that I wasn’t dead,” he said. “I was crazy.”
The following incident forced him into a decision. Either he was going to get clean, go to prison or die. He describes sharing a drug dose with a “using acquaintance” which he does not classify as a friend. Reed has a high tolerance for drugs but his acquaintance passed out and was not breathing when Reed tossed him into the back of his pickup and sped toward the nearest hospital 20 miles away. “The guy came back to life and popped up in the truck bed,” Reed said.
A subsequent police chase ended up with Reed in county jail for a couple of weeks and a six-year sentence for avoiding police, a class five felony. Last March an understanding judge gave him a choice: treatment or prison.
At Harvest Farm he met chaplain Peter Keohane. For months now, Reed has been working hard to, in his words, “become the person I want to be.” His relationship with Keohane, who has been in recovery for 22 years and at Harvest Farm for five, has been critical in his steps toward recovery. Keohane earned his divinity degree from Denver Theological Seminary after his recovery. Both men acknowledge the importance of their faith in their lives.
There are many paths to recovery, according to Keohane. The 12-step program is available along with counseling, group therapy, psycho-education therapy, work and animal-assisted therapy. “Everyone is different and must be approached as an individual. We also recognize that no one is perfect,” Keohane said. While the Harvest Farm program is faith-based, religion is never forced on anyone. Keohane loves his work and says, “It’s a joy to work here.”
During phase one at the farm, residents are not allowed to leave the premises. Men work in the kitchen, on the farm or repairing and maintaining vehicles. During this time they are offered counseling and must prove their ability to settle in and benefit from the program.
In phase two, they may leave the premises accompanied by someone at a higher level in the program. During this time, Reed continued his work at the farm. Now in phase three, he is able to commute to Fort Lupton where he works in a welding operation.
He will complete the New Life Program next April. He plans to find work in an oil field or as a heavy equipment operator. He will join an aftercare program at the farm and will have access to counseling and to Keohane. “Community is an important aspect while in recovery,” Keohane said. When asked about success rates, he explained that success is hard to quantify. “Some guys leave here and never do alcohol or drugs again. Others learn to manage limited use, and some find it impossible to break the cycle. We do accept men for a second try,” he said.
“Huge,” Reed says when asked about the role Christianity has played in his recovery. One day down the road, he wants to become a public speaker addressing addiction issues to an audience of young people.
Harvest Farm is free to participants and operates entirely on donations.