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“It’s up the mountain or it is down into the grave.”

The hardest thing for anyone with first-hand experience of addiction is recovery. The hooks and snares of the disease are so powerful that even amid true despair (e.g. loss of friends, family and home) one will still have a desire to use. In many cases, physical dependence is so strong that to stop using means terrible withdrawal symptoms. Without assistance, relapse typically occurs within the first couple days of trying to quit.

While the disease of addiction is extremely difficult to recover from, it is possible. But it requires hard work day in and day out. It demands that one essentially throw everything you think you know out the window, and adopt a new set of principles and traditions. Recovering addicts and alcoholics must themselves to use muscles, both physical and mental, that they didn’t even know they had. At times it is painful, every part of you wants to quit recovery and have you return to the paradoxical comfort of one’s disease. But those who are determined to live life one day at a time and never drink or drug again, appreciating the fact that this is life or death, will push forward into the unknown.

In many ways, recovering from a disease that is trying its best to kill you, is like scaling a mountain. If you are to be successful, one must train on a regular basis to be in the shape required to have a fighting chance of making it to the summit. In recovery, success rests on a daily commitment to stay spiritually fit, failure to do so typically results in relapse at some point. Just like on a mountain, one’s environment in everyday life is unpredictable. Things happening in real time require that you have the tools necessary to defend oneself from the elements. On that mountain, what could look like a sudden change in weather, in the real world of everyday life for people recovering from addiction—that can be risky people, places or things.

The mountain analogy may seem corny, trite or vapid. But that doesn’t make it any less true. For serious mountain climbers, such as those who have scaled peaks like Everest, et al, there is an expression that is tossed around sometimes known as the “point of no return.” Simply put, the point of no return is the point beyond which one must continue one’s current course of action, because turning back is physically impossible; to turn back would carry a serious risk of injury or death. It could be said that people who battled addiction for years to the point of needing recovery, essentially reach a point of no return. Having to make a choice between life (recovery) or death (active addiction). You either keep climbing in recovery, or you turn back into the abyss.


A New High

Such was the case for a number of recovering addicts living in a homeless shelter in Seattle. A documentary released this year, A New High, chronicles the harrowing story of a former Army Ranger who leads people who want to reclaim their lives from addiction, up 14,400 ft. Mt Rainier. The participants took part in a yearlong addiction treatment program, part of which was preparing them for the climb. The film was directed by Samuel Miron and Stephen Scott Scarpulla.

“I think we all have preconceptions about what ‘homeless people’ and/or ‘addicts’ look like,” Scarpulla told The Fix. “Hopefully, this film puts all of those notions to bed. After my first week in the shelter, I quickly learned that addiction doesn’t always resemble a guy on a corner with a cardboard box. It can look like your best friend, your neighbor, your boss, your lover. Addiction doesn’t discriminate. And the more we recognize that openly in films and media, the more we can combat the stigma and get a clearer picture of truth.” 

Please take a moment to watch the short trailer below:

If you are having trouble watching the clip, please click here.

“I don’t think I really understood how personal this film was going to be for many people, nor how life changing the experience was going to be for me,” Miron said. “If A New High causes just one conversation to happen that helps just one person feel that it is okay for him or her to ask for help, for me, the film will be a resounding success.”


The Journey of Recovery

Naturally, most people’s road to recovery will probably not include a mountain over 10,000 feet tall. Yet, at times, in early recovery one may feel like they are on the side of the Matterhorn (not the Disneyland ride). The pains of early recovery are of the utmost importance, especially when you consider that most good things in this world come by way of a struggle, whether that be efforts to earn a degree or working the 12-Steps of recovery to earn back humanity.

Making the decision to seek help for addiction takes enormous courage. But help is available if you would ask of it. If you or a loved one’s life has become unmanageable due to the disease of addiction, please contact Hope by the Sea today.