"It is not the Mountains we Conquer, but Ourselves" Sir Edmund Hillary

Growing up north of Atlanta allowed my family to reside at the Gateway of the North Georgia Mountains. Countless weekends were spent exploring the sights and beauty of the abundant waterfalls, trails, and forests. Excitement was really heightened at the discovery of a new trail or waterfall that had eluded us before. It was not uncommon to pull off the side of the road, mount up with shoes and gear, and off we'd go on another exploration. However, hiking in the mountains can sometimes be very deceiving - like when you think you've reached the top only to find there are more switchbacks and you're only half way there! That can be so frustrating, especially when you're tired and just want to quit. Other times you're unsure if you're even on the right path. But by pushing on, the real beauty is often revealed and that perseverance feels good. Gradually, you begin to TRUST that you are on the right path and you continue to persevere-seeking more beauty and new discoveries as you strive to reach the top. 

Although I typically do not hike alone, I often feel true solitude and find myself reflecting on how my life has been impacted by this journey I'm on. I once read that "addiction teaches us many lessons" and I've found that to be very true. Those life lessons come from a multitude of experiences, and sometimes as I'm walking those mountain trails, I find myself thinking of what I've learned from both my hiking and recovery experiences.

First, I'm grateful for all those that have gone before me, working hard to smooth out a trail so that my walk will be a bit easier. How grateful I felt to walk into that first meeting and find so many new faces welcoming me.  I also sense an important obligation to mark a clear path for those who will come after me. As you well know, we are not the first, nor the last, to walk this journey. Today, it is important for me to be present when that new family walks through our door. 

I especially love the quiet and stillness of hiking an empty trail as it reminds me how I need to periodically escape the "noise" in life, because it is in that quiet stillness that we find the courage to keep pushing forward. Likewise, I've learned to set aside quiet time each day to pray, meditate, and journal my thoughts. 

Climbing a mountain trail leaves us with two choices: reach the destination or turn around. Reaching our destination requires the perseverance of putting one foot in front of the other. Just like when life gets tough, we must try to remember that all we can do is keep pushing forward. Ultimately, we find that we can travel further and accomplish much more than we thought.

Hiking has also taught me to lighten my load because carrying too many physical possessions becomes quite cumbersome. Just like in life, I've learned that I need to detach from or let go of the baggage that is weighing me down.

Climbing a mountain trail requires us to choose our steps carefully to avoid any unnecessary harm or injuries. I've learned that decisions in life need to be made with the same precision and care and the focus needs to be on keeping "me" safe and healthy.  

In 2018, I invite you to climb a mountain to serenity as there are always new paths to be found in life and new lessons to be learned. Be grateful for those who have gone before you and be willing to shine a light on the path for others to follow.