I love this time of year for a number of reasons. First, its spring, new things are growing, the days are longer and mostly the weather is happier. Second, nature is beckoning us to come and enjoy all the beautiful colors and fragrances of new growth. Lastly, Easter is the season of hope and redemption. No matter where you are in life, consider yourself on course in your life journey. If things are going well – great! If you find that you are struggling with challenges or addictions, all is not lost. This is a great time to chart a new path.
Recovery Beyond is a new organization fulfilling a promise started 6 years ago by providing life changing experiences to our neighbors in drug and alcohol addiction recovery. As an organization we understand that in order ‘to truly address the problems of addiction recovery and homelessness we need to find solutions that go beyond the norm’. Our mission is ‘to develop, fund, and deliver programs, services, or items that complement the efforts of established recovery/homelessness programs in unconventional ways’.
Recently, Pope Francis spoke of the three H’s – this descriptor fits our new organization. The first, H is for HEAD, we have to gain the knowledge and wisdom to know what we believe and to see what needs to be done to alleviate the suffering we see. The second H is for HEART, to develop compassion for our neighbors in need before we can act. The third H is for HANDS. Our hands (namely our actions) are the only way we show what we believe, and the compassion we have, working together to draw the best out of ourselves; to act with love and compassion toward our neighbors in need. If we neglect the wisdom that comes from this discipline we fail to grow and love in the most complete way. Our goals are to help people make lasting positive changes and to redeem a life of love for themselves and those they care about.
Imagine your active commitment is to help and support the change you desire to make and to help others be successful. Please join our Community of Compassion Club by committing to a sustainable gift of $20 a month. Any tax deductible gift is extremely appreciated. The impact this makes on our small organization goes a long way to meeting the needs of those carrying the burden of addiction and homelessness and to find redemption. Please visit our donation page at: www.recoverybp.org/donate/
Mike was tired of being lonely and was hungry for more.
Growing up in Puerto Rico and surrounded by a hard family life, at a young age Mike came to believe he was unlovable. Never living with his mom and dad at the same time, the feeling of “home” and “security” was uncommon. The people that were supposed to love him the most, not only neglected him, but eventually left him altogether. After decades of living with low self-esteem, hating himself, and using drugs and alcohol to cope with the pain, Mike desperately wanted a change.
After finishing a free meal at the Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission, Mike noticed the hope of the men’s lives in the addiction recovery program at this mission. That’s all he needed; he was in for a change, hoping for one that would last a lifetime. That hope would turn into more life and love than he expected to ever find. Shortly after joining the program, Mike joined the climbing team. More like a family, this team supported him in recovery and changed his paradigm on relationships altogether.
“It was a family away from family. When I knew no one in Seattle, all of a sudden I was with a bunch of people that were giving me more love than I’ve been given in long time.”
“Truly what helped the most was being around others constantly, especially through physical training and hiking created new friendships. I began to trust the climb team. Overtime, the constant encouragement and camaraderie of the climbing team began changing me. I began believing and knowing that the men and women I was around had my back no matter what. This changed me forever. “
“These accomplishments will never be forgotten. I talk to a lot of guys I climbed with in 2015 still and we all have been significantly impacted by this climbing program. This becomes like a family or really church. We check-in, encourage, and support one another through life’s ups-and-downs”
Mike now works at Amazon and Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission, and is on his 3rd year of sobriety.
Growing up in the northwest, Sam never knew stable and healthy relationships. Between his family never settling in one place, his mom struggling with a drug addiction and eventually leaving her family for a gang member; the pain of broken relationships only grew. Sam had to grow up quicker than most. Learning how to fend for himself, he quickly got mixed up with the wrong crowd. An addiction to meth and selling drugs became his life after serious heartbreak and failed work opportunities. Sam eventually found himself homeless and desperate. Looking for help, Sam checked himself into the addiction recovery program at Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission. He knew anything positive would be better than the life he was currently living.
Sam found hope and life there. And over that year, Sam decided to continue to challenge himself and join the climbing team. This team challenged him not only to grow in healthy relationships, but also grow in his relationship with himself. Sam was overweight, out of shape and he knew it. Being out of shape, put him “behind” the rest. He knew the challenge ahead was significant. To succeed he knew he needed to not quit on himself, and when he wanted to quit, Sam learned that his team would not quit on him either.
More and more self-confidence grew workout after workout for Sam. He learned he could do more than he ever imagined with the encouragement of a team and learned what teamwork was really all about for the first time. Unknown to him, the largest challenge he faced was still ahead. After months of training and getting into shape, Sam unfortunately failed to summit Mt. Hood (A mountain, climbers must summit to continue on to Mt. Rainier ). His climbing with the team had ended.
Sam was frustrated with himself and felt like a failure. Sam was faced with a difficult question, “How am I going to respond to this difficulty?” With the support of his leaders, and the encouragement of the team, Sam decided to continue to show up. He continued to train, continued to support those climbing, and took on a new role; ‘team encourager’. Before the team left for Mt. Rainier, Sam helped load the van, prepare meals and load packs. He also did something no one expected, he wrote a letter of encouragement to each of his teammates for each of them to read up on the mountain. This response was transformative. This was a summit Sam climbed for all; one that will always be regarded as a “higher summit” than any mountain top.
“The reward was not the mountain, it was the relationships and lessons we learned along the way. They say it’s not about the destination, but the journey, and this has never been truer.”
“I felt healthy as a person. I had never felt like that before. The guys would say ‘we need you here’ or ‘we need you still, to encourage us, please don’t leave’. They didn’t look at me like I was not on the team. They wanted me there. This brotherhood and this team changed me”.
“These people chose to be a part of this program. These guys were bold and strong. They were like family. We were a core group that really came to love each other. We all really wanted to be good, to do good, to live good lives, and to show others how to do the same. It’s been two years and we still check up on each other. This family and this good still continues today.”
Sam remains healthy and connected to his team of support, and recently received a great job as a correctional officer at a state prison.
“It is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves” – Edmund Hillary
The 2017 Climb Team
An ocean of clouds spilling over the vast landscape below, coated in a warming generous sunrise; a view only given to the few that journey ten thousand steps upward; only a final switchback to go now. Ice crunching and splintering below each foot; an ice axe in hand, holding vertigo at bay. Exhausted, a team of women and men take their final strides upward to the anticipated summit. A finale, a crescendo of accomplishment begins to play louder and louder in the background. Washington’s highest mountain top, a jagged ice-dome, towering over 14,000 feet, is conquered. The iconic Mt. Rainier is topped. This cohort breathes heavy and breathes deep, beaming with euphoric enthusiasm and celebrating as they reach this unprecedented height. These courageous fighters do the seemingly impossible, and accomplish a goal they set out for months before.
The summit of any mountain can best be understood by the journey in which it’s reached. There is more to this “summit” than meets the eye. Understanding the beginning of this story is important and for these climbers, the journey upward started a long time ago.
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For the past six years, Climbing Out has trained, mentored, and journeyed up mountains with recovering addicts; helping them achieve goals beyond anything they ever thought possible. Our program uses climbing mountains as both a literal and figurative metaphor for the effort required to turn one’s life around. Each year, we partner with year-long recovery programs in Washington State, inviting men and women to join this climbing program. Our purpose goes beyond normal recovery approaches, adding physical fitness, personal achievement, and the highest level of teamwork and commitment to one’s personal recovery. We finish the year with a final summit of Mt. Rainier, a five day ascent as the culminating event of achievement.
This year, five program climbers from Tacoma Rescue Mission have joined the 2017 team. They have been training and climbing since November and are already making significant strides in their recovery. Their sights are set on the ultimate physical task of climbing Mt. Rainier. Through sustained hard work and support from a team, by August this year we hope each climber stands atop that snowy giant. I would like to briefly introduce you to the team, and as we journey through the summer ahead, you will hear more from each climber, the significance of this upward “climb” for them, and the heights we travel along the way.
- Abi Brewer, from Lakewood, WA, is a mother and an aspiring tattoo artist. She seeks to one day share her story and help others that have found themselves struggling like she once did. For her, the climb team has shown that she can do more than she thinks she can, creating hope toward becoming the type of mother and woman she wants to become.
- Matthew Arthur loves learning life lessons through training and climbing. “Doing things I don’t want to do, putting in the hard work, ends up showing up in other areas of my life” said Matthew. As he continues to grow, his goal is to build life changing relationships to help him move forward; becoming the best father for his daughter and eventually go back to school near Tacoma, WA where he grew up.
- Steve Dempsey, originally from central Idaho, is finding success and recovery this year in his program at Tacoma Rescue Mission and being a part of the climbing team. “I have realized the importance of team in my recovery process and that I can push myself further than I thought with the help of God and others.” Steve’s goals forward are to stay sober, go back to school, and have healthy relationships with his family and God.
- Tisha Moore, has a determined spirit, challenging herself to keep pushing every step of the way. Growing up in Pierce County, Tisha intends on joining a machinist’s apprenticeship program after graduating. When asked what her favorite part of the climb team is, Tisha said “It’s the amazing feeling of reaching each goal with teamwork, consistency and perseverance”
- Christian Winterholler, from Kent, WA, desires to be the best hardworking and loving father for his two sons. He keeps showing up to the climb team even when it’s been uncomfortable. With determined patience and holding a positive outlook, he is finding that hurdles in life can be overcome. Teamwork has also been a new life lesson for Christian. As challenges arise, whether in climbing or in life, he has begun to allow others to help him up along the way.
We each have our mountains in life; some small, and some large; each with its own necessary training, jagged peaks to scale, and potential unforeseen hazards along the way. We have learned through our Climbing Out Program, that it takes a team to climb up and over these hills; we cannot do it alone. As this team journeys toward Mt. Rainier in the months ahead, I invite you to look on, be inspired by these five climbers, and consider your own personal mountain ahead and the team required to climb it. We believe the view from the top is definitely worth the ten thousand steps upward.
See you out on the trail…