"Getting to the top is optional. Getting down is mandatory." ~ Ed Viesturs, No Shortcuts to the Top: Climbing the World's 14 Highest PeaksWe are all on various stages of recovery, from the tar pits, cloud forests and primordial stews of our initial crawl out of ours and our loved ones' vortices, to views from peaks and plateaus of what our lives can be if we continue to SEEK and SEE our own true REAL. Our children too are traveling their own pathways, winding in and out of THE ADDICTION'S grasp, battling with it and their personal demons of self doubt, negativity and isolation.
For our children in recovery, for those who have come to the realization they cannot and will not continue to live lives dictated by THE ADDICTION, their journey may seem almost complete. They are, it would seem, on a path to those vistas we have hoped and prayed they would enjoy someday.
It's a nice thought to believe they're on their way. While I like to think of a parent's journey as one with many uphills, down hills, twists and turns with breathtaking flora and fauna along the way (kind of like a marathon), our children's recovery, once begun, is a shock to them.
"OK, I've made my decision to take back my life, so now what the hell do I do?"I'm not a trail runner, rock or mountain climber. I do not have the inner ear, or maybe even the cojones for either. So when I was searching for ideas for this chapter I had to research the whole climbing experience from the top down. It was then I happened upon the quotation above:
"Getting to the top is optional. Getting down is mandatory.""That's it!" I thought. This encapsulates the journey of the recovering addict, or at least what I have seen from a parent's perspective.
Finally getting to that peak exhilaration of life out of the vortex' pull must be to the addict like the adrenaline rush of the mountain climber as he or she ascends to the top of a chosen summit.
But what goes up, must come down, the challenge isn't finished until it's finished. The mountain climber looks down, says, "OK, here I go," and begins the descent. There's no chopper awaiting to whisk him off the precipice, no wings to become grounded, safe and secure from et montem istum to terra firma.
It's daunting, terrifying. Looking down to the relief of solid ground and the steps, possible missteps, slips and unsecured finger and toe holds to get there, it's no wonder many of our children in recovery go clean, then stall, remain stagnant, and pause.
Sometimes they pause for a long time.
Moving down that mountain requires baby steps, a skill their recently drug-ravaged brains don't yet possess in their grey-matter arsenal. We can help with words of encouragement or even by offering a temporary place for encampment on the peak. But temporary is a relative term and can become just another roadblock on the pathway. It's just not safe up there, forever.
There's a storm coming for sure. Get off that mountain - NOW!
Have you seen the movie Everest?
We can step in by asking where they want to be in a year or six months and how they're going to get there. They know, they already have a plan in their heads on how to get down off that mountain peak. They're either waiting for that chopper that's never coming (parent rescue) or are convinced the descent must be immediate, a dangerous impossibility. The baby steps are the oxygen tanks they'll need along the way and the bivouacs for much needed respites on their journey.
They prepared their way during the ascent. It's all there awaiting them, the oxygen canisters, the outcroppings on the vertical cliffs.
It's just that first step that's a doozy, the commitment to value themselves above THE ADDICTION. What they don't realize is that once they begin the descent there's no turning back, and each step will build on the next in a cascade of increasing self worth and self love.
Now, where was that last toe hold?
"Rob, you've gotta get moving. You've gotta come on down." ~ Jan Arnold to husband Rob Hall - Everest The Movie