Conquering the Climb
On a recent episode of sober.coffee, the boys took a left turn and ended up on Mount Everest. You never know what's going to happen on these podcasts. Lol
Through conversation, we agreed that there are some striking similarities in attempting the climb of the famous peak and the mountain of recovery. Humor us as we walk the path together:
10s of thousand have successfully made the trek up the oft-fatal terrain of Mount Everest, nestled between Nepal and Tibet. Hundreds have died. The causes include mountain sickness, exhaustion, frostbite, falls, rain, snow, avalanches, rockfalls, and cracks.
The 29,032-foot journey typically takes some 40 days. And in almost all cases, is voyaged in a group. High winds, low oxygen levels, and sub-zero temperatures toughen the quest. It is suggested that trekkers be determined and physically fit.
This post will consider six components and attempt to relate them to recovery.
“Made a decision” - the hiker must commit and begin the preparation cycle with dedication and determination that supersedes the average aspiration. Long before the climb starts, the mountaineer must ensure physical fitness and mental aptitude and make provisions for the required tools and training.
One is powerless over the elements lest they are prepared.
Like alcoholism, those with the most success are climbing the mountain or fighting the battle - for themselves. For they envision life post-hike and desire that outcome for themselves. But, a load of determination, short-shorts, and a pair of flip-flops will most certainly lead to fatal failure. Action and preparedness must follow the decision.
For this analogy, we will consider the 8-day slog to “base camp” as life in the early days of sobriety. To be clear, this is no bunny hill, as a dozen people die each year on the trail to Everest basecamps. But when we come into recovery, the relief from pain is almost immediately felt, and we seem safe on a path.
We hike with others and see that they, like us, put one foot in front of the next.
We have the confidence, the facts, that thousands of hikers before us have succeeded.
The 8-10 miles of tramping daily requires a light load but includes needed essentials. In recovery, we also need to lighten the pack, releasing ourselves from toxic people, places, and things while having the necessities of guidance and community.
After the initiating phase, we begin the trip to the summit, or our unique destination, sobriety.
Real work is inevitable in any meaningful endeavor. And learning, especially for first-timers, is part of the journey. For example, hikers on Mount Everest face new challenges daily, but with proper preparation overcome the obstacles to forge ahead. Sobriety is similar to walking uphill, which is so different from walking on flat terrain.
The journey demands purposeful action, caution, and guidance, which we will discuss below.
For the climber, altitude sickness. Acute mountain sickness, unpredictable weather, extreme cold temperature, Khumbu icefall, summit Fever, crevasses, and lack of experience can spell demise.
For the recoveree, the danger is found in “going solo,” complacency, over-confidence, bad advice, uncontrolled character defects, hunger, loneliness, anger, and fatigue.
Tools required include team, momentum, humility, following a proven path, discipline, a healthy focus, community, thankfulness, and rest.
This is the life and death differentiator.
Sherpa’s, members of the Himalayan people living on the borders of Nepal and Tibet, are renowned for their skill in mountaineering; consider them “high mountain guides.” The Sherpa has conquered the mountain and lends his guidance and experience to the newcomers and returnees alike.
A climb without a guide can be devastating.
The outfitter carries a heavy load, usually equivalent to their body weight. They haul their supplies as well as essentials for hikers.
In addition to the hike, teams of Nepali mountain workers have the risky job of fixing ropes along the routes to the summit, preparing the climbers in advance. As a result, over 1/3 of the deaths on the famous mountain have been Sherpas – which underlines the service and risks they take.
Do you see where we are going with this? They are, in essence, a sponsor. They have walked the path before and know the risks and dangers. They lead, guide, and support the travelers walking step by step with them throughout the expedition.
**An interesting note is that the Sherpas do a spiritual ritual before climbing the mountain to ask the mountain for permission to climb. Sound like step 3?
Unlike many other mountain expeditions, you can trek to Everest Base Camp without a guide. Though you can hike this trail alone, it is recommended to use the local Sherpas.
In addition to the guide, it is highly recommended that you travel in “rope teams”; this is done for the safety of each individual.
Climbers of Mount Everest usually climb with 8 to 12 comrades.
Society cares for one another. Groups watch out for one another. Rope teams don’t allow one to stray too far from the herd, or they could get hurt or die. The community sets the pace. Society encourages and is held accountable. As a result, the community has a better chance of reaching the summit successfully than does the solo hiker.
Mental and physical exhaustion accelerate as the hikers move down the mountain. However, this is no time for complacency. Many have died shortly after the triumph of the climb. Therefore, staying focused on completing the trek and being aware of the conditions is crucial for the descent.
This is a perfect warning for all on the journey of sobriety. Our quest is NEVER complete. The mountain of recovery is ad infinitum.
Complacency can lead to relapse, which could lead to death.
In summary, approach recovery with purpose and passion; Commit and take steps (literally). Be prepared for all inevitabilities. Employ a guide. Follow the path marked out. And pray to the mountain.
Most of all, enjoy the view!
Thoughts and ideas for this blog post were taken and built upon from a bonus drop sober.coffee podcast titled #115 Climbing the mountain – together…The podcast dropped on 06/077/2023. Click here to hear the podcast.
Alcoholics Anonymous and AA are registered trademarks of Alcoholics World Service. Inc. References to AA, the 12 steps, and 12 traditions does not mean that AA has reviewed or approved the contents of this publication nor that AA agrees with the views expressed herein. This publication is intended to support personal growth and should not be considered a substitute for healthcare professionals' advice. The author’s advice and viewpoints are their own.