People recovering from addictions often undergo spiritual transformations as they learn ways to live their lives free from substances and destructive behaviors. Jim Gray, founder of Serenity Ranch in Tees, Alberta, also wanted to give those who passed through his treatment center a physical reminder of their commitment to sobriety, so he created a cemetery where they can symbolically bury their addictions.
More than 135 headstones and crosses have been placed in the graveyard during the past few years, bearing messages such as this one by Marcel in February 2007:
Here lies my addiction and obsession with alcohol. I leave behind this cunning, baffling, powerful disease. May it rest in hell.
In burying his 14-year addiction last year, Ian wrote on its grave:
I am leaving you behind. No more will you be in my mind. Forever I bury you here. Now I am not afraid to face fear. I am stronger now and have come to believe God will help me defeat this insanity. Never again will you torment me for I have found peace and serenity.
Gray was inspired to start the cemetery after seeing a similar concept while traveling around Europe. The addictions are buried in a funeral ceremony in which a counselor beating a deer-skin drum leads participants to a fire pit where they burn the record of their character defects, misdeeds, and things holding them back that they wrote during the 12-Step process. “It's not about secrecy,” Gray explains. “It's about letting go.” Afterward, they mark the final resting places of their addictions. The ceremonies are held every Thursday at the 23-bed residential treatment center for men and women.
For more information about Serenity Ranch, visit http://www.serenityranch.ca.
Behavioral Healthcare 2009 April;29(4):22