Twelve years ago, on a family vacation to Montana – before addiction arrived in our family – I discovered hiking. It was one of the most unexpected and exhilarating endeavors I had ever experienced.
Almost immediately, I saw parallels between hiking and my professional life. Hiking involved perseverance, focus and stamina. Even more importantly, I discovered that it required carefully staying on a rugged trail, one foot in front of the other, while also requiring that I look ahead to where I was going. And even more important than that, it also brought immense satisfaction when I paused to look back and see how far I’d come.
One hike in particular sticks in my mind. My daughter, Sober Son and I set out with family friends who were experienced hikers. We trusted them and knew they would guide us. We believed we would make it to the pay off – a beautiful mountain-top lake. But first we had to hoof it up a tough elevation (several thousand feet) with seemingly never-ending switchbacks, then wander along a deeply forested path, then cross a wide-open meadow before veering off to our destination. Several hours and miles later, we made it. We were so proud of ourselves. That feeling stays with me to this day.
A few years later, this time with my husband and our youngest son as well as another family, we made the trek again. Another eureka moment hit me: Hiking also paralleled my personal life. At this point, our Sober Son was starting to struggle but we didn’t really know the cause or implications. We think this is about the time he was starting to use marijuana back home with a neighbor kid. This time, I had a new realization:
I realized that life is a hike and even when it’s hard, it can be enjoyable and immensely fulfilling no matter what the trail brings.
Summer after summer, I looked forward to more mountain hikes, clearing my head and taking in life.
During these next years, Sober Son was not with us on family vacation. The hikes were cathartic for me even as I wished he was with us because he’s always been a climber – the two year old on the playground who scaled the monkey bars when other toddlers were content in the safety swing.
I prayed and wished him the return of these healthy feelings on his own terms.
Although the trail of addiction was full of detours for Sober Son and our family, we never stopped hiking our way through it all. Today’s hikes, gratefully, are about sobriety and recovery and about all the new trails ahead.
This really hit me on a mother-son spring break trip last week to Nevada. Sober Son and I hiked new trails. These ones, albeit vastly different terrain from Montana, offered a similar experience in terms of exhilaration and large rocks perfectly formed for climbing, and Sober Son scaled new heights and experienced once again the delight of pursuit and accomplishment, metaphorically, physically and emotionally. I have such faith in his continued journey and am so grateful for the opportunity to climb with him.
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