In today’s guest post from Nerdy Sober Hipsters, the author shares her story of a physical uphill climb and the spiritual awakening she experienced in the process. You may read the original post here.
In gratitude, harmony and support,
How to Find Strength When You Don’t Have Any
At times, the word “stressed” doesn’t even begin to describe the way that I feel towards life. I knew that I was taking on a huge challenge when I decided to go back to college at just shy of two years sober. However, even my neurotic, organized, controlling self could not have entirely prepared myself for the barrage of emotions that I would face in trying to balance my sobriety with school, work, family and relationships. “Slightly overwhelmed but holding it together with caffeine and tears” is my current state of living. So, this past weekend, I took a much needed vacation to San Diego, and naively took on the 8 mile hike to the fondly and aptly named, Potato Chip Rock.
Potato Chip Rock is a heavily-trafficked 8-mile round-trip hike with 1,700 feet of elevation gain. It is no joke. What starts out as a seemingly easy and beautiful hike around Poway Lake, quickly and aggressively becomes the literal hike from hell. 3.5 miles, straight up a mountain with infinite switchbacks and hundreds of absolutely agonizing man made steps. The trail, while stunning, left my lungs wheezing and my legs turned to jelly.
It was right around half-way up the mountain that I sat down yet again to take a water break and had all but decided that this was a challenge that I would not complete. There was absolutely no way that I was going to be able to continue up to the top of this god-forsaken mountain. I was trying my absolute hardest to hide my internal defeat from my boyfriend, when he said to me, “You know, when you feel like your body can’t go any further, you’ve really only used about 40% of your energy.” Now, I don’t know if his statistic is correct. However, I was on a mountain in the middle of nowhere and had no reception, which meant I also had no way of fact-checking him or proving him wrong. So, I accepted his word as fact and decided that my only obstacle was my self-doubt. I was creating my failure in my head. Mustering whatever courage and strength that I had left, I trudged on.
We were near the top of the trail when my emotions regarding my ability to make it to the top overwhelmed me. It wasn’t just this hike that was affecting me so powerfully. The emotions were an exact match to how I’ve felt in life overall lately. I’ve fallen prey to this poisonous idea that perhaps, giving my all will not carry me through to the finish line. I believe it is a fear that plagues not only alcoholics, but rather a human condition that we all face. I am in my last semester at college, about to start my externship in Medical Assisting, and closing in on finally obtaining my first college degree. Victory is so close that I can taste it. Yet, with every step I take, the fear grows. It seems that in the beginning, I was so far removed from the possibility that I could obtain a college degree, small setbacks and failures didn’t seem so big. I had time. Time to fail, and time to get back up again. Now though, the weight of every challenge that I have overcome, every setback I have smoothed over, and every failure that I have tried and tried again at, is resting on my shoulders. I have come too far to fail.
It was in this moment that I realized there was no way that I could do this alone. I closed my eyes and asked the universe for more strength. With every step I took I had to ask for the power to take another step. And every step granted to me brought me closer and closer to the top of that mountain. I know that it is not my own willpower that carried me to the top, because I ran out of my own willpower long before I reached Potato Chip Rock. I firmly believe that the universe knew how much I needed this victory to revive my motivation in my own life. The reality is that my own strength and courage is not what will carry me through with school. I have to draw power from a source greater than myself, a power that would not have brought me this far just to drop me on my head with the finish line in sight.
I am painfully aware of the inevitable ups and downs of life. Living life with a calm understanding that no victory or set back will last forever allows me to strive for and reach my full potential. In moments of defeat, overwhelming anxiety or fear, I strive to allow myself to feel every emotion, so that my return to serenity is a small victory in itself. This sets the pace for me to rebuild my motivation. In contrast, when I am triumphant over my obstacles, when gratitude and a sense of pride course through me, I humbly remind myself of where I have come from, and the hardships that I have faced along my path. History will repeat itself. I accept the fact that there is still a long road ahead, and while I have risen above the challenges, there will be many more. Matching victory with humility, and defeat with self-love and motivation, is what keeps me going. As alcoholics and addicts, we may at times feel like we’ve been dealt a short hand because every day is a challenge- a battle to stay sober. But it is when we realize and face the challenges of everyday life, even when we are afraid, that we grow.