When Wilderness Boot Camps Take Tough Love Too Far

The third girl, who has striking red hair and light blue eyes, jumps in.

“It was so hard being away from my parents, being in the middle of nowhere and realizing I had to face my problems full on,” she says. “But everything here is a metaphor for life. Like, learning how to build a fire, or hiking, which is a big stress. You go into bowing thinking, no way can I make a fire with a stick and a rock. It’s so hard the first time, but you learn how. I remember the first time I tried, I was crying, like, ‘I’m never going to be able to do this.’ But now I can.”

Their experience stands in stark contrast to Marc Fleming’s stay at Tierra Blanca. Even over the phone, the pain in his voice is palpable.

“My only escape from the program was when I would sleep, because then I would dream that I wasn’t there,” he says. “I actually created a world where the program was the nightmare and my dreams were my real life. I would tell myself this is all just a bad dream and eventually it’s going to be over and I’ll never have to experience it again.”

He pauses for a moment. “Then I would wake up and realize where I was, and that nobody—not a single person—was going to come help me. I was completely alone.”

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Sulome Anderson

Sulome Anderson is a freelance journalist based in Beirut.

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