Ironwood Maine Web Update

“We are all alone, born alone, die alone, and we shall all someday look back on our lives and see that, in spite of our company, we were alone the whole way. I do not say lonely—at least, not all the time—but essentially, and finally, alone. This is what makes your self-respect so important, and I don’t see how you can respect yourself if you must look in the hearts and minds of others for your happiness.”

Hunter S. Thompson

            Here at Ironwood, there are many opportunities for students to have a more individualized experience in order to have their own specific and unique needs fulfilled. Of course, there are similarities between students, though these are used to structure the program. For some students, there are challenges or topics of focus in their lives and programs that need more guidance and personalized support. This is the main reason for one of the three Ironwood campuses: the Lakehouse. 

            Located (who would’ve guessed?) on a lake surrounded by the beautiful and natural Maine scenery is the homey, rustic looking log cabin that houses the Lakehouse students. Along the long and winding driveway, tall and imposing evergreen trees frame the dirt road. To the left, a private tennis court next to an open field. To the right, the shimmering lake peeks out from the brush and branches. A basketball hoop, kayaks, and a garden are all included at this campus as well. My personal favorite is the dock, which juts out onto the lake and provides the perfect place to sit and think.

            This environment is vastly different from the enclosed and carefully structured Farmhouse as well as the solid and foundational atmosphere at Frye, as the students there are chosen and trusted with different responsibilities and privileges. One example is how more personal effects can be sent in from home. At the Farmhouse, a similar privilege is allowed, although the clothing and products must be new and ordered directly to Ironwood. This Lakehouse privilege allows students and their families to have more of an ‘outside world’ experience. This is because Lakehouse students regularly stay longer than the usual amount of time at Ironwood. For the average Lakehouse student, they’ve finished high school, are at or over a specific age, have a specific focus point available at the Lakehouse, and are staying for an extended period of time. There are definitely some exceptions, and students have come and gone in under the average amount of time. Some students have even been very young when they arrive at the Lakehouse. Again, it’s all about the individual student and what they need.

            In terms of staff, the Lakehouse has a great team of supportive individuals. Just like Frye and the Farmhouse, there is a supervisor and a manager designated for the Lakehouse campus. Together they work with you to accomplish different goals outlined in the BSP (Behavioral Specialization Program) that allow for both short and long term effects. Outside of the Lakehouse leadership, there are also many wonderful staff members that work regularly at the campus.

            The Lakehouse shares another similarity with the Farmhouse, which are the Lakehouse cats. As a part of the therapeutic program, both Snowball and Mufasa are well-loved members of the Lakehouse who bring their interesting personalities and calming presence to all students. They aren’t the only animals that are a part of the Lakehouse student’s lives though, and the students have the opportunity to help out with alpacas at a local farm. The Lakehouse really isn’t all fun though, and there are definitely difficulties that arise from being a student at the campus. 

            The first aspect is the drive. Every day the Lakehouse drives 40 minutes to get to the Farmhouse for school and daily activities. It isn’t a horrible drive, though it can be long and tedious. Another big part of the Lakehouse is that everyone is a part of one big group, no matter their gender orientation. This allows students to become friends and create lasting bonds that may have not been possible at the Farmhouse, where the groups are kept mainly separate. This can be a challenge for many students because often in times of rehabilitation and treatment, it can be easy to want to fill the parts in your life that don’t have to be filled, like romantic relationships. But the Lakehouse does not have that purpose or intent in mind whatsoever. In fact, it’s the opposite, where students learn to be happy with their lives and themselves instead of needing the validation and attention of another; they become independent. This factor especially reinforces the idea that the Lakehouse tries to have more of what some could deem ‘average’. Multiple home visits also reinforce that idea, and the option is offered at the Lakehouse.

            A home visit is when a student receives the opportunity to go home and return to where they’ve been. This means working through difficult situations, communicating with others, getting along with family in person, seeing people you haven’t seen in a while, and putting your work into action. With all of the learning and striving done at Ironwood, you are finally able to test yourself outside of Ironwood, where the situations and people aren’t monitored or limited like here. The duration can vary, although the student is usually away for 2 weeks. This applies to both the Farmhouse and the Lakehouse, although at the Lakehouse there is much more flexibility. Multiple home visits and/or longer home visits are possible. This is because the Farmhouse is mainly meant for students to better themselves and move towards graduation. For the Lakehouse, there isn’t such a specific and set timeline. Instead of the average 9-12 months, it’s from 14 to 20 to 9, really whatever fits for the individual student. 

            Sometimes what really fits for the individual student is becoming gray, or a Level 5. At Ironwood, the level system is very important. Levels 1 and 2 are spent at Frye while levels 3 and 4 are spent at the Farmhouse. Sometimes, depending on age, readiness, and other factors, a student will go over to the Lakehouse as a green, or a level 3. Most students at the Lakehouse will go over in blue, or level 4, though. Some even aspire to being gray, an earned and somewhat rare color. To be in gray means that you have not only surpassed all of the expectations and rules of all of the levels before it, you are also proven to be ready for the many privileges of being gray. There are a lot, from being able to alter your appearance to going on walks or jogging without needing a staff or paying a merit, the latter being what a level 4 would have to do. Even these privileges must be met equally with trust and responsibility. To be gray is to be yet another step closer to your life at home, just at your home away from home. Although students can be gray while at the Farmhouse, it really doesn’t ever happen, and only when extremely specific circumstances require it. 

            Being gray is just another great opportunity offered at the Lakehouse, among many others utilized by students and their families. It truly is a wonderful aspect of Ironwood, and it helps support individual with specific needs of all kinds. 

            Thank you for reading, and I hope you enjoyed your week!