Do what you think you can’t do

Today on the way to Annapolis Rocks I looked at an up hill section a good 2 miles out and just wanted to sit down and cry. It was one of those elevation climbs that just goes on forever, divided up by logs you have to step up on. Frankly it sucked. It was the 3rd or 4th of those today and my feet are cooked. But there’s a blogger I watch on YouTube who has a very contagious upbeat attitude about life and her motto is “Do what you think you can’t do”. Mary’s words very much got me up that last hill today!

On the plus side – and there are of course many –  today has been a day of so much wild life! White tailed deer sprung out on me because I was a bit too quiet and startled them. I just about got run over! I saw two black snakes that cared nothing about me at all. There seem to be villages of chipmunks everywhere. They like to watch as we pass. As if we are a rather sad parade with no bands or floats. We hear woodpeckers in the morning and I’ve seen several cardinals today.

Trail legs wise we are getting stronger but blisters are a thing. Doing all the right things to prevent them but it is what it is. We soaked our feet in a spring this evening and it was bliss!

In other news I fell yesterday and took a rock to the knee. Carelessness on my part. Hint: stop to put your phone away. The injury caused my knee to give way today, so fall number two. I’m less than thrilled. Boone and I are going to rest our injuries tomorrow. We are tough but not stupid.

Do what you think you can’t do applies to sitting tight when you don’t really want to. At least the view here is stunning and I have my comfy shoes!

Let’s talk about real

IMG_5615Nothing could have prepared me for the AT. No amount of running stairs. Not walking – certainly not in very flat Houston. Squats helped. Stretching was good, and I don’t regret and of the preparation. What does prepare you for the trail? The trail!

This is only day two and there are some lessons I have learned. First be sure to ease in. Every NOBO thruhiker passing us so far has been so kind and generous with advice. Universally it has been go slow to avoid injury. People who don’t do this spiral down and drop out. Without fail.

Second the weight and fit of my pack is damn important. I have to take it seriously. Take what I need and coincider luxuries carefully.

Third – hydrate. Hydrate.  Hydrate. Powerade – yum.

Finally my feet are my best friend. Camp shoes are my favorite thing right now. More than food. Not more than water. That would be silly.

Oh…and hanging bear bags? Hysterical, hard and deeply satisfying when you hit your branch!!!

One Oppurtunity?

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It’s 2 o’clock in the morning and I’ve got Eminem lyrics on repeat in my head.

Look
If you had
One shot
Or one opportunity
To seize everything you ever wanted
In one moment
Would you capture
Or just let it slip?

We leave in 4 short hours to drive to Harpers Ferry, West Virginia for the beginning of our Appalachian Trail Flip Flop hike. I’m struggling to sleep because this has been a dream of mine since my middle teens and to finally be about to step out on that trail is a bit overwhelming. It kind of feels like that one shot or one opportunity. Certainly a self made condition. Plus my pack is heavier than I would like!

One of the common videos and/blogs most thru hikers do Is a pre trip gear rundown but I just didn’t have the time or inclination. Did I mention finished our move and had our last kid graduate in the last 7 days? Ok..yes…only obsessively!!

What I’m carrying is really same things as most. The lightest tent I could afford, a Big Agnes Cooper Spur UL2 – but a two man because ….. claustrophobic slightly and my husband plans to visit. Across the board from my self inflating sleeping pad to my darn tough socks I took advice and managed some good sales. At the half way mark I plan on doing a video on what was really useful and what was not! I do have a feeling some stuff will go home. Simply because I just don’t want to carry the weight.

As Boone and I take our first steps on the AT on the 11th we also begin the first official day of our fundraiser for Shatterproof. Shatterproof is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to ending the devastation that addiction causes families. It began as a fathers promise after he lost his son to the disease. This could have been our family, with myself and one of our children in recovery. Boone and I would like to raise $1 for each mile walked for a total of $2190 in the course of our adventure. We are walking to promote Prevention, that Treatment is effective and should be available and Long Term Recovery is possible.

If you wish to donate a link appears here on my blog. It can also be found on my Instagram page and on my Facebook page. Don’t forget to check and see if your employer matches donations!

Ok! Enough begging. It’s now time to rest my mind. I’m thrilled to take you all along for the ride. Just can’t wait to get going!

Living with Intention

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A year go I began this blog with every intention of sharing my thoughts on my real life experiences in longterm recovery. However my intentions and my follow through can be very different things. It’s very easy for me generate reasons to procrastinate: daily life is busy, I’m not sure there is really the audience that others for my blather and it’s just plain scary to share personal thoughts. However the reality is that it this point in my life I have lost touch with being mindful and living a truly intention life and change is a must.

Many people have asked why hike the Appalachian Trail? I’m 52, have had a shoulder replacement and a couple of spinal injuries. Am I being sensible? Maybe not but I have a drive. A very strong drive to work on making a journey back to living an intentional life. To integrating mindfulness back into who I am as a person, as I was in the very beginning of my recovery. For a long time now I have been living my life without being actively present. Seeking meaning in trivial aspects of life and being left wanting more….but more of what exactly? That is the million dollar question  and what I have determined is that what I’m seeking is meaning. This beccame glaring obvious when at my mothers bedside having the honor of helping her ease out of this life. The least trival thing I have done in my lifetime. While there is much meaning from my family I need more from the rest of my life and it is my responsibly to find it.

Mindfullness is the practice of focussing on the present moment and accepting it without any judgement. Harder than it sounds! Do I accept assignments and quit at the halfway point? Go to the gym and decide enough is enough? Am I going head home because I have blisters, its raining and I’m cold or hike on to achieve my  2190 mile goal? Will I give it my all? Focusing my attention on my intentional decisions will make an eye opening experience and hopefully bring me back to where I need to be.

Hiking is obviously great physically but also mentally. Being in nature is where I began my mindfulness practice, watering horses at Wonderland farm. Using that opportunity to tune into both my own experience and the world around me. Being on the AT will give me a chance to do that in a much larger way. Drawing much closer to the natural world. So much closer….and probably longing for a shower like never before!

The Woman in the Mirror

In the summer of 2006 my husband, three kids and I were going east to attend a family reunion. I was seeing people i hadn’t seen in decades with my arm casted to the shoulder and trying to hide my out of control alcoholism. I no longer even looked in the mirror because what i was seeing wasn’t even me.

I had always had the family reputation for being just that little bit wild and volatile. It was not a secret that in my younger years I had experimented with drugs but it was assumed that my career as a substance misuse counselor/educator indicated that those days were long behind me. Unfortunately what close family members knew was that over the years since I had been a stay at home mother my alcohol consumption had increased to epic proportions and even my husband was unaware that I was approaching a quart of vodka and a box of wine per day. My arm had been broken falling out of bed drunk. The previous February i had suffered a gastric bleed and almost died in the middle of our kitchen. That I thought I was going to hide anything about my drinking, or the state of my health, is laughable today. Also very sad. I didn’t want to drink in front of family members, I drank alone, so i hid bourbon in the garage. As i was gulping from the bottle my husband walked in. Such a look of disgust, sadness, horror, fear and disappointment all at once. He made it clear that when we got home I must got to a residential treatment program. No discussion.

I had been to many detox programs when I wanted to feel better physically, Reset my body so I could use again but at a more reasonable level. Maybe like a normal person. There were many tries to control my drinking and so many rules. The hard drugs had long since ceased to be a factor. It is true that working in the field using heroin or cocaine lost its appeal. Prescription drugs were an occasional thing but it always came back to alcohol because it was easy. It was also easy to get my husband to bend to my demands. By the summer of 2006 he had reached his limit. I was so close to death and his response was clear. “Go to rehab now and I will leave you in 90 days. Don’t go and I leave you today”. Either way this was lose/lose for me. I was going to have to either sober up enough to get a job or convince him yet again to get off my back.

Off to Rehab I went and convinced them to let me come home each night because of that broken arm. You see I could shower. Such a manipulator. I would go to a 7am AA meeting then to the treatment center and back home. For 25 days this worked and I convinced all I was swell and to let me go. That led to a 4 day run of booze and pills, being left passed out on the driveway, a neighbor calling the cops – who I then assaulted – and me begging to go back to treatment.

While in treatment I still didn’t want to get clean until my husband staged an intervention. He made it very clear, at high volume, that I “no longer brought anything to the table”. That was news to me! I thought I was the table. As far as I was concerned the world revolved around me, me needs, thoughts, feelings and timetable. For 18 years this man had adored me, and in many ways enabled my behavior, and he just wasn’t buying it anymore. I had nowhere to go, and frankly this had been going on since my first drink when I was 8, and I was just tired. Done. I have to admit I wasn’t done quietly though. I was told to go to process group, but I did that with a lot of slammed doors and swearing!!

My journey in recovery began with a lot to learn. I started using before learning long division. Or skills like telling the truth, taking responsibility for my actions, following through with commitments and living within rules. Learning to shut up and listen wasn’t easy but it was key to getting rid of my anger and sitting in rooms with people just like myself. Following a bunch of steps felt really punitive at first. Then those same steps began to feel like a special set of guidelines that I should have been given at the beginning of my life. That secret code other people had that enabled them to slide through things with ease. Once that anger lifted I was able to expand from my initial program of recovery and add in individual therapy, family therapy, exercise, nutritional counseling and a simple “recovery” job to fill my time. I did discover an underlying mental health condition which came as no big surprise. So many of us are dual diagnosed and have used drug and/or alcohol to self medicate. I also gave back to other people who were struggling like me, especially woman, and trained to work as a Peer Support Specialist. My fear that my husband and children would not forgive me, or trust me again, began to subside as the years began to add up.

Today as a woman in longterm substance and mental health recovery I haven’t felt the need to use drugs or alcohol since Sept 12 2006. I no longer work as a Peer Support Specialist but I haven’t closed that door. I do speaking engagements, continue to give back to people just like me, and do advocacy work to push for better healthcare coverage for substance use disorders and mental health. Everyone should have the benefit of the treatment options I was given. I am so very lucky to be alive after 33 years of use and I am aware of that.

If I could talk to the woman I was that summer 9 1/2 years ago i would tell her that “It will be OK. trust the process and you will like what you see in that mirror.”