“The harder you fall, the heavier your heart; the heavier your heart, the stronger you climb; the stronger you climb, the higher your pedestal.”
On a weekly basis, Sober College clients are given the opportunity to indoor rock climb in order to challenge themselves physically and mentally. For many, rock climbing is a new experience that instills excitement and wonderment. First-time climbers are taught how to tie a proper climbing knot and are then tested before being given a harness and climbing shoes. After passing the test, clients are free to try their hand at any of the hundreds of routes the gym has to offer. Each route is rated based on a universal scale that ranges from 5.0 to 5.15d.
Some clients come in expecting to get shutdown by the easiest routes, but quickly find that they have more potential than they realized. Gradually increasing in difficulty from one climb to the next, clients eventually come to a point where they are unable to finish a given route. Many will try and try again, only to repeatedly get shutdown. After experiencing this, one client said, “I can’t wait to come back next week so I can try that route when I’m not so tired!” For those who continue to stick with climbing, improvements in balance, muscle strength and muscle endurance occur, allowing them to progress through harder routes each time they return to the gym.
In recovery, it is important for us to recognize our improvements and to understand that while we may become stuck at certain times, we can always strengthen ourselves and learn from our mistakes. In climbing, some routes require a very specific move in order to get to the next step and continue the climb; at other times, there can be any number of moves that can be used in order to ascend. As we learn what works and what doesn’t, we provide ourselves with the tools of knowledge and experience, which can be saved and used in the future.
For me, climbing was a passion that was lost to drugs and alcohol. Upon entering Sober College, I took full advantage of the opportunity to climb, never missing a single week. Climbing offered me a healthy escape from my fears, worries and troubles. It became something spiritual. It became something I looked forward to each and every day. When climbing, my focus was on nothing more than the route, the next move, how I would get there and simply maintaining my balance. It helped me to always remember to be mindful. It taught me to deal with my fears and to conquer them. As I began to climb outdoors again, it became my escape from the city – from the hustle and bustle of the concrete jungle.
Just like in life, climbing requires us to keep in mind our limitations. However, these limitations are never static in the sense that they can always be raised as one’s own ability progresses. My failures in climbing have only provided me with motivation: Motivation to continue to try, to push my limits and my own expectations … To aim for the stars and to take one step at a time in getting there.
We, as addicts and alcoholics, often suffer from low self-esteem and a fear of rising to our own potential. Due to our addictions, many of us believe that we’ve fallen so far from our expectations and our loved ones that there is no chance we can repair the damage we’ve done. That’s a mistake. It’s remembering these low moments (and learning from the fall) that help us appreciate the highs of recovery.
Having had a past filled with hazy memories and little to no regard for my own wellbeing, I’ve slowly and steadily come to the realization that setting my goals based on my past is no way to live. Instead, I now understand that my experiences in life have cumulated into a perspective that is much different than the majority of “normal” people. I also realize that there is nothing preventing me from using my own experiences on my journey of recovery to better both myself and others.
As Nelson Mandela once said, “The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.”