The Beautiful, Brutal Summit

Sitting in an AA meeting this afternoon, I noticed a theme begin to emerge (as often happens when kindred spirits share). The theme revolved around the triumphs and challenges of ascending a mountain. I laughed to myself as I recently listened to one of my closest friends describe her experience climbing Mt. Rainier. Four months ago she trekked to Mt. Everest base camp (have I mentioned this wife, web/catalog producer and mother of two inspires me daily?).

Her account of the Mt. Rainier climb went something like this:

Amazing…breathtaking…brutal…will never do it again.

Isn’t that what climbing a mountain is really all about: the beauty of sunlight on snow and the darkness of deep, shadowy crevasses?

When she asked me how my week had been, in her absence, I said, “Fine, but I sure as hell didn’t summit a 14,000 foot peak.”

Her response: “Recovery is your summit.”

Yep. Couldn’t have said it better myself.

The mountain that is recovery feels extremely daunting at times. Some days I feel like I’ve barely left the car, boots unlaced. Other days feel like I’m trudging slowly and steadily, gaining altitude one step at a time. From what I heard in today’s meeting, I’m not alone in feeling this way. As one fellow alcoholic reflected:

Some days, mountaineering just feels like reaching false summit after false summit.

It’s during the tough times that I have to remember the wisdom of William Blake: “Great things are done when men and mountains meet; this is not done by jostling in the street.”

To evolve as individuals and move forward in life, we have to push ourselves and let unhealthy habits and patterns fall away. Easier said than done, to be sure- but SO worth it in the long run.

Today I give thanks that my friend reached her summit and made it back alive- and a bit stronger and wiser than she was before she left home. Because, as Sir Edmond Hillary sagely noted: It’s not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.”


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