Every year, way deep in the valleys of mid Wales, on one of the highest peaks in the UK a group of warriors assemble to tackle one of the biggest mountains out there. Yes the Royal Marine Commandos do train here on a daily basis, however these aren’t the warriors I was referring to.
Arranged half way through July, in order to (try) and get the best weather, the warriors that congregate at the bottom ready to climb Pen-Y-Fan mountan are indeed hundreds of recovery warriors.
A blend of people currently in recovery, substance misuse organisations and various rehabs in Wales all in the name of the Choose Life / Drug aid recovery walk;
If ever there was a sight of mixed emotions and capabilities it was here. There was fear, there was courage, determination, team work and pure pride all rolled into one place.
As people of all different ages, sexes, races and physical abilites congregate for the annual motivational speech by the organisers , the fear and nerves are palpable.
As the assent begins, you start to see something which is so beautiful and rare in this modern day and age. No judgement towards addicts or ex addicts, all equal, no one calling us junkies or crackheads, no police beating on black people all because I of their ‘addiction’ but really it’s their race but more beautifully no competition and an overwhelming feeling of team spirit. All addicts equal.
Normally we are cast aside by society, but all pulling together, spurring each other on, arms linked supporting those who are struggling with comments of support on both the way up and the way down.
The fear then turns to determination as half way up you can see the struggles of various people but the support from others is driving them up.
When we reach the summit, nearly 1000 metres above sea level, there is a the most amazing view ever, not only can you see for hundreds of miles across Wales on a beautiful summers day but you see faces of pure pride, satisfaction and joy.
A lot of the people involved including myself haven’t achieved anything this great in their lives or certainly for years but they’ve made it and boy when you get to the top it’s worth every second. That feeling of it’s good to be alive hits you and makes you realise why sobriety is so important.
After a quick 15 minutes break and queue to have the iconic photo at the peak of the mountain, the teams and those who have climbed together, me personally was with my rehab center Brynawel, that moment, a reminder that we can climb a mountain as big as Pen Y Fan when most of us initially thought we had no chance.
Of course this event could have been anywhere and doing anything really but the reality is the climbing of a mountain this colossal is purely a metaphor for the fight against addiction.
When you first give up your substance it seems like the impossible task, a challenge you don’t feel like you can complete and something that will get the better of you. Powerless.
Step by step, with the help of your support network you begin to climb and just like each day of sobriety that passes it gets easier and easier.
You think about giving up but you are inspired by those around you, eventually you get to the top and it all becomes worth it. You’ve got your life back and you can finally look around, perfectly present in your own body and mind and just admire the view with an immense sense of pride.
The journey down then is nothing but pure joy, just like your journey in life without substances, and the irony is you don’t look back on the way down unlike on the way up where you look back thinking I can’t do this anymore. You just enjoy the ride.
The ultimate metaphor and the ultimate achievement.
For those who completed it or those who just pushed themselves as far as their bodies would let them, I’m proud to call you all my fellow warriors and I hope this is the moments that our lives are kick-started.
Fighting addiction is a mountain, but it’s worth it just to see the view from the top