Burning Tree is founded on the concepts of integrity, excellence, and authenticity.
When you hear David Elliott tell his story, you soon realize that while Lady Luck or the perfect alignment of the planets may have played a part, it was nothing less than Divine Intervention. The year was 1991, and David, facing 20 years in prison, had a moment of clarity. It had taken 27 years for that moment to arrive.
His story begins in South East Texas, where at the age of 14 he took his first drink of alcohol because, as he says, “It was convenient.” It would take just one year until he experienced his first blackout at the age of 15. Quickly spiraling out of control, David caught a glimpse of his future. On New Year’s Eve, at the age of 18, partying with not one but two dates, he recognized enough of a problem that he quit drinking. He just stopped.
Money and the accumulation of “stuff” temporarily replaced alcohol. Of course, a little pot now and then never hurt anyone, did it? David had learned a trade. He was a smuggler now, and it was a career choice that would put him in front of judges nine times in less than two years. And somewhere along the way he crossed an invisible line. In his late 20’s, he had already been in multiple drug-treatment programs for a cocaine habit that had a grip on him. Ordered by the courts once more to check into yet another treatment program, he was instead searching for an associate who owed him money. The drugs he could buy with a hundred dollars were vastly more important than his freedom. He was, in his own words, “completely at the mercy of a mental obsession.” He couldn’t stop.
But in 1991, a power greater than David Elliott’s obsession brought him to his knees.
“I knew I was powerless, I knew I needed a long-term program, and I knew right then I was willing to do whatever it would take to not drink or use again,” he says today.
What he didn’t know at the time was that he had just worked the first three steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. A sponsor soon helped him make it official. Now a client at a long-term treatment center in Tucson, Arizona, the last thing on David’s mind was sticking around after his year was up. But stick around he did, working at the center for another 18 months. His time working with recovering alcoholics and addicts planted the seed for his future dream: to open a premier treatment facility.
David stayed away from Texas for five years, and when he came back, it was as the owner of a cattle ranch. Once again though, the accumulation of money and things weren’t enough. And the seed that had been planted in Tucson began to grow. The place where he got sober had closed a while ago, and in another moment of clarity, David made a decision.
“I wanted to build a facility like the one that changed my life,” he said. And so he did.
Buying the ranch that was to become Burning Tree was just the start as he spent a year designing the program, formulating policy and procedure, hiring a staff, and getting licensed. And all along sticking with the lessons he learned in Tucson; strict but supportive, Burning Tree Ranch would be a place where men and women would learn how to live with integrity, a safe place where clients would learn how to live rather than just surviving. His program would teach integrity, excellence and authenticity, in addition to a working knowledge of the 12 steps.
That the Burning Tree program was a success quickly became obvious. From 20 clients in the first few months, the Kaufman, Texas, facility was soon operating at capacity. Elliott says that he felt bad when they were too full to accept additional patients. And so another seed began to grow. This time the seed would become Burning Tree Lodge. Located in Elgin, Texas, the new facility literally doubles the capacity of the Burning Tree programs.
While the land and the beds have doubled, the program remains untouched. David set out to re-create the very program that he went through. And this program would be molded after the concepts of integrity, excellence and authenticity.
Now almost 20 years since his moment of clarity in 1991, David Elliott insists that he’s had help all along.
“If I had thought about it too long, I never would have done it,” says the Burning Tree founder.
“I just pray every day, and ask God to guide Burning Tree.”