Illumination . . . Embrace what’s trying to kill you.

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September 22, 2019
I actually dread moments like this one, the one I’m sitting in right now, on the side of a mountain, waiting. I’ve been thinking of climbing Kilimanjaro for years, imagining what it might be like, watching films, studying maps, talking to people who have climbed it before me. Now it’s my turn and I’m worried that I’m not ready. To be clear, I’m fully prepared to climb to the top, physically speaking. But I don’t do adventures in order to finish them, I do them so that I can feel - every.single.thing - along the way. But what if I don’t? Feel something, I mean.

When I was an active, using drug addict, I wanted to be invisible, to disappear. If I had a feeling of any kind, I drowned it with booze or stuffed it into a pipe and smoked it. I would do anything to make sure I felt nothing.

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Sorting out how, when, and where to CLIMB ON.

In the years before I got sober, I used to watch other people feel things and wonder why I didn’t feel the way they appeared to feel. I wondered if maybe I was just broken, incapable of deep emotions of any sort. Today, I understand that I was comparing my insides to their outsides, measuring how they looked against how I felt. In any regard, it wasn’t fair to me or to them. I couldn’t possibly know how they were really feeling, what demons they were fighting. I compared myself to how they looked and I came up lacking. One thing I knew for sure was that I felt empty and disconnected. I wanted to feel something else, anything else.

In the 27 years of sobriety I’ve piled up so far, I have slowly learned how to connect to my feelings, all of them, by just allowing them to flow, and most importantly, not trying to categorize them as good or bad, negative or positive. I just feel what I feel. Instead of being invisible, I want to experience the bright light of illumination shining on me. Whatever I feel, I’ll gladly accept. Feeling something is always better than feeling nothing.

In early sobriety, I actively tried to pound the addict out of me, to rid myself of obsession. If I could have had my addict surgically removed, I would have done it in a second

Nothing but clouds as far as I could see from camp: then a mystical peephole appeared revealing what awaited me . . .

But the years, not to mention some incredible mentors, have taught me that my addictive nature is actually all the best parts of me and if I can just aim my obsessive nature towards the good, I will get exactly what I need out of every experience.

That’s why this moment, laying here in a tent at 15,000 feet, causes trepidation. What will I feel when I summit, if I summit? But even as I write these words, I know that there is no right answer, no perfect feeling to match the experience. I have to just trust the process, to focus all of my attention on my effort rather than the results. I have to be in this moment, in this tent, on this mountain and be grateful that I no longer give my attention to that which is trying to kill me. Instead, I am fully focused on experiences that will save me.


September 26, 2019
One thing about mountains is that they make communication with the outside world nearly impossible. This is a good thing....unless you are trying to send out a blog post.

When I wrote the post you’ve just read, I was anxious and ready to get on with it. I wanted to feel the thin air of the top, but also find some new meaning buried in the pursuit of that peak. I am happy to say that as of yesterday, I achieved both of these goals. I completed my journey from the lowest place in Africa, Lake Assal in Djibouti, to the top of Kilimanjaro.

We all spend our lives moving between life’s lows and highs, it’s just part of being alive. The good times never last but neither do the hard times. What matters most is that we keep moving forward, trusting that tomorrow will bring new opportunities to climb another mountain, even if we have to start at the very bottom. What happens to us is not nearly as important as what we do about it.

I will let this experience settle into my mind and body and spirit. As I sit here at the Mount Kilimanjaro airport, about to head home, I will wait for the right words to rise to the top. When they do, I’ll talk about everything that happened, good and bad, and then I’ll move on to the next thing.

See you down the trail,

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When I open myself up to feel, the beauty of nature is intense.