After our first year, we interviewed our recovery climbers. Every one of them said that the team experience was more meaningful to them than the summit itself. So we re-focused the program to emphasize team building and healthy relationships. We added community climbers alongside those climbing out of homelessness.
This year was the first year we had no effective route to the summit, and the emphasis on team-building paid huge dividends. We may not have been able to reach the mountain’s highest point, but the relationships were a true “high point” for all involved…and more enduring!
Life really is about relationships, and so is climbing. Our senior guide and friend Leon Davis was asked by one of our recovery climbers which mountain was his favorite to climb. He said, “I don’t think I have a favorite mountain, but I have had some favorite outings. Those really were about who I was with.” That’s what we got this year, Leon: and it really is the true summit.
They say ‘you can never go home’, but that’s exactly what we are doing. This fall the Climbing Out of Homelessness Program will return to Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission. Our partnership with UGM began in 2011, based on a need to enhance the addiction recovery program. Taking a crazy idea that shakes up the perception of people by endeavoring to climb a mountain. Little did we know at the time, what a great metaphor that would become, both figuratively and literally. This isn’t just another physical fitness program; it’s a community way of helping our neighbors overcome the challenges of all types of addiction. Help us celebrate this homecoming by making a tax deductible donation today.
Consider joining our Community of Compassion. By making an ongoing monthly donation of $20, you can give a new way of life for our program climbers. There are many ways to give, please see other suggestions on our website at https://recoverybp.org/how-you-can-help/
Changing the face of homelessness is really up to us. We support climbers in a number of ways. You may already be supporting one of the missions doing great work to alleviate addiction and its consequences. Our Climbing Out of Homelessness program helps make long lasting change possible. A community of compassion and support makes all the difference for the success of recovery. None of us achieve anything significant without the support of community. Our community is the key to this wonderful transformation.
On Saturday, August 12th our climbing team gathered for the pre-climb dinner at Wild Berry Restaurant in Ashford, Washington at the base of Mount Rainier. The next morning this jubilant group would start the final climb of the year, up 14,411 feet of Mount Rainier, one of the highest peaks in the continental US.
To say they were excited would be a gross understatement. To say that they were amazed at the 10 months of progress they had made would be much more truthful. As a group, the program and volunteer climbers were in a state of awe. Even though the actual climb was a day away, this was the culminating event; the place where each person was recognized for how far they had come and for the truly wondrous person they were becoming.
The relationships that form on this journey of healing to wholeness are the most satisfying and predictable part of the transformation each person has undergone. I chose this headliner quote from Matthew Kelly because it sums up the essence of our whole approach to partnering in the treatment and therapy that each person needs to find during their recovery process toward the life they were meant to live. Truly “when we reveal our faults and failings, … people do begin to love us” and at a much deeper level. Perhaps even for the first time in our lives.
“When we reveal our faults and failings, … people do begin to love us” – Matthew Kelly
Maybe in a way that we are now more prepared to accept; in our brokenness we begin to understand why we need each other. The love expressed was deeply humbling and beautifully expressed. Sometimes it’s in the little things that happened during preparatory events or it was in the deep bond that had formed from personal needs being meant on both sides of the relationship. Other times it was in the deep and trusting bond that helped someone realize the potential for good they had inside.
The value of each life and the contribution one can make, no matter when you start. The realization was a huge part of the transformative process the Climbing Out program tries to offer.
The mere fact that ‘strangers’ bonded so completely and that the transformations we witness are so astounding, is a blessing. A blessing for all who are part of this program and who are able to view the changes, the challenges and glorious successes our climbers spoke about Saturday night.
Life is very hard for someone who ends up on the streets homeless after experiencing the tragic impact of drug or alcohol abuse. This outcome is not what they planned or even what they wanted; but the ability to climb out of that situation takes the same drive, guts and effort that is does to climb a 14,000 foot mountain.
As a society, we do not make it any easier for them either. As a society, we are to blame oftentimes for the series of blows that causes someone to fall this far; and we are also responsible for providing the solutions to help this pattern be reversed; to even prevent it from happening to others to begin with.
Recovery Beyond’s mission is “To develop, fund, and deliver programs, services, or items that complement the efforts of established recovery/homelessness programs in unconventional ways.”
We ask you to join our Community of Compassion by becoming involved, by helping us continue to expand and offer programs that actually are getting results to help even more people and offered through more missions. Please visit our donate page to see who you can be responsible for delivering winning solutions.
More about the climb’s outcome in our upcoming newsletter and later blogs. Sign up to receive our newsletter below.
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Photo credit: Art Wolf
Recovery is what we are all about, developing the right physical, emotional, relational and spiritual framework with a good measure of resilience to keep addictive behaviors in check. While each person’s path to recovery is unique, there are certain actions that determine the overall success of treatment and the endurance needed for long-term recovery.
Recovery Beyond works in partnership with missions who offer drug, alcohol and other addiction recovery programs. We focus on the other gradients of the individual’s life not covered by the missions to help participants understand and heal the causes and effects of past behaviors, friendships and social structure that led to their current situation. This process assists in determining what is helpful and not helpful in moving forward to a life of sobriety. Oftentimes people just need to learn how others cope with life’s messiness. No one has a simple life; trouble goes hand in hand of living as a human being. Everyone experiences pressures, failures, trials and disappointments; we all need to learn how to negotiate these pitfalls and to grow as a result. It’s the decisions we make and the actions we take that determine whether we come through the experiences stronger and better prepared to live well. This does not happen all by itself.
I like to think about this as taking care of the ‘big rocks’; the really important things in life; the areas we need to experience before we can grow. Recent research we undertook with past program participants found that a high percentage struggled with spiritual issues. This struggle produced a great deal of uncertainty, doubt and insecurity which eventually lead to abusing alcohol, drugs or involvement in other addictions.
We can’t always see beyond the big rocks, even when they are right in front of us. Sometimes just recognizing what they are is a major challenge all on its own. We need people who love us to mentor and provide wisdom or insights into what is happening and why. Sharing a personal story is the best way to relate and work through the work of unraveling the tangled web weaved in error. That’s why what we have been doing for six years has obtained very respectable results; the last three years measured at 85% sustained sobriety. It truly is taking one day at a time and asking for help when life becomes overwhelming. Our community of caring replaces damaged relationships or dysfunctional family patterns and allows a path to nurturing healthy relationships and building a new support system.
So what can you do to help?
We are expanding to another mission in the fall; watch for an upcoming Recovery Beyond ‘Movie Night’ this fall, where we share the story of our 2013 climb and the lives of those who addressed life’s big rocks. Some will be present to talk about their journey.
Recurring donations is the easiest and best way to become part of our team. Other ways to give include:
- Donating new or gently used climbing equipment and clothing. Everything our climbers use is either donated or purchased for them. See our website for ideas and the types of equipment needed.
- Time – we have a strong group of dedicated volunteers who help on the all the outings to get climbers ready for the major events and to exercise or work out to assure the endurance needed to climb mountains. As we expand to another mission, there will be more openings available.
- Encourage one of our program climbers; our website makes it easy to reach out share your story and help someone else lead a more fulfilling life.
- Finally, pray for each person’s success. Remember the spiritual hole is usually the hardest one to fill. It is in the love shown daily by our wonderful team of volunteers that leads others to developing a life of faith and a means to putting the big rocks in the right order.
Please join us today.
“The single biggest variable that’s correlated with adult homelessness is childhood maltreatment, childhood abuse, abandonment, trauma and neglect.” Mike Johnson – Rachel Belle article, July 27, 2016
Winter air pours across my exposed neck and face as I reach out to grasp the handle of a large timber-framed door. Slowly the door creaks open, leading inside a friendly mountain lodge. I move through a few more doors, and finally come to meet the team. It’s almost nine in the evening and the climb team is gathered inside the Timberline Lodge at the base of Mt. Hood, preparing for their first mountain climb. Some are huddled by a stone fireplace keeping warm, others are making final gear adjustments on the floor, and a few pace about, trying to relax before we set-trail. Nervous chatter fills this space. Anticipation, excitement, and fear are palpable between each “hello”.
A few large north-facing windows frame the moment best. I walk over and peer out. Mt. Hood stands tall and silent, covered in crystallized white ice and snow, somber and ready for our arrival. The mountain is slowly turning a deep blue and orange as the sun fades behind the hills. A beautiful and thrilling sight. I take a deep breath, a moment to calm and center myself. I check my watch, it’s now nine o’clock and time to go. Turning back, I cut through the team’s excited chatter, and announce, “Alright, it’s time”.
As if we are readying ourselves for battle, we make our final gear preparation, tightening our boots, securing our helmets, adjusting our packs and wielding our ice axes in hand. We are ready to climb. With five months of training behind us, now an entire mountain is looming overhead. For the next few hours we put it all on the line. A four mile trek, and six thousand feet of elevation gain up to the summit. A serious gut-check. An adventure, filled with perseverance, fear, and achievement. We gather for a final briefing, shout our team mantra “No Limits!”, and set up the snowy hill. No turning back now. Off we go into the darkness; one step up at a time.
One month ago, the climb team was on it’s way up the snowy slopes of Mt. Hood, testing it’s limits for the first time. Our team mantra since our first hike has been “no limits!”, a statement reminding ourselves that we can go farther and do more together. This mantra was put to the test on Mt. Hood. We met our limit that night. Only one program climber made it to the summit. As we sauntered back down the mountain, failure hung overhead and the team was at a crossroads.
“Will we go on? ‘No limits’, really? Can we actually go farther together?” Valid, unspoken questions standing in the face of a newly formed team.
As I look back on the Mt. Hood climb and our ascent upward, I’d like to share my reflections and the story that’s unraveling.
Each year we come to this point. A true test of “team”; a real moment of definition. Everyone reaches Mt. Hood, ready or not, and we climb. Not knowing what the mountain will give us or how the team will perform. And it seems that year after year this mountain becomes a turning point in the story; a real change of perspective.
This year was quite the gut check. To start, before we even arrived at Mt. Hood, two of our program climbers could not climb for a few personal reasons. Next, we climbed with a strong and constant thirty mile-an-hour wind, sucking the energy right out of us as we hiked. After seven hours of slow climbing, three climbers called it quits only five hundred feet from the summit. Exhausted and freezing, we were down to one program climber out of six. We reached the top through a near-vertical ice chute called “the Pearly Gates”. This was a tough climb.
For those that made it to the top, there was excitement and pride. For those that did not, disappointment and failure. If you do not climb Mt. Hood, you do not continue on. Summiting Mt. Hood is the prerequisite climb to our Mt. Rainier climb in August.
Failure is a part of life, but never easy. This makes life hard. The challenge of failure becomes less about the actual failure itself and more about how we choose to respond in the face of failure. With such little success after a first difficult climb what are we supposed to do next? How would we respond in the face a failure?
As a leader, I have made it very clear that both in climbing and in life, it’s not about the summit of a mountain, but the journey it takes to get there. Often we have no idea what life will give us or what will be around each bend. It’s important we are ready and well supported to take on the challenges that come our way. Sometimes we have to change our plans, adjust, and reset our perspective. We have to take a turn in the road.
For those climbers that did not summit Mt. Hood that night, that was supposed to be the end. After a few days of emails back and forth, we were reminded that “the team” itself was the most important part of the program. We shout “no limits!” before every workout or climb for a reason, and we were going to stick by this mantra. We were a team, summit or not. We were going to stick with it, train harder, and continue on together this year.
Mountains are not easy to climb, that’s why we climb them. They challenge us significantly in each faculty of our being. Since Mt. Hood each climber has reflected on their experience differently. But one underlying theme that’s risen is that we are a team, and we will continue on together. Many have mentioned that their perspective shifted days following that climb. They realized that the team and the relationships they formed are the most important part of this program. That together, with trust and hard work, they can do more together than apart. A turning point in the story; a real change of perspective.
Mt. Rainier comes in 54 days. And 54 days with more twists and turns in this story. But together, we are stronger. “No Limits!” remains our mantra, whether we fail or succeed, we continue forward.
This painting by David Lee is a favorite because I see the story of life embodied in it.
The lotus flower is very beautiful, yet the circumstances around its growth and development are anything but beautiful. This flower normally grows in swamp like conditions.
From the Buddhist tradition, we learn that the lotus flower has several meanings; the first is fortune.
It grows in muddy waters, and it is in this environment it rises and blooms above the murk. The second meaning is purification of spirit which is born in murkiness, but transforms itself through growth. Lastly, is faithfulness where those who work to rise above the muddy waters will need to be faithful followers. In this case, the red lotus flower refers to compassion and love. A fully bloomed flower represents full enlightenment and self-awareness.
All humans are born in a world where there is suffering. This suffering is simply a part of the human experience. Suffering makes us stronger and teaches us to resist temptations. When we banish negative thoughts from our mind we are able to break free of the muddy water and become our better selves. Learning to navigate through the mud teaches us to choose the right, but often the more difficult path, over the easy one.
In many ways, I see the lotus flower as a symbol of the lives we each face. Hopefully, we each turn out to be as lovely a person as God intended us to be. But it is usually not without overcoming rugged environments, situations and decisions. Some of these decisions can have major consequences. That is what we do with our Climbing Out Program; we help change the circumstances of the lives we touch. We share new behaviors and skills to create more fertile ground for good growth. It takes all the compassion and love our community can provide to bring about healing and joy, looking forward to new friends, new goals, and a new life.
Sharing our journey with others who want only what’s best for us keeps us on the path of improvement, a path that over time also leads to great peace.
“Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out going to the mountains is going home; that wilderness is a necessity…” – John Muir
After six months of hiking, city runs and rope training, anticipation for what’s next is at an all-time high. This journey of preparation and training takes the 2017 climb team to Oregon’s tallest peak…
… a mountaineering “icebreaker” of sorts. Welcome to mountaineering folks.
In one week this team of courageous fighters will attempt its summit. An alluring, jagged, ice-covered tower, hovering east over Portland; this eleven thousand-foot mountain is the first significant test in the journey toward Mount Rainier.
Climbing mountains is tough. It just is. It takes sustained hard work; months of training, overcoming, and challenging oneself to keep going. To take on the steep slopes of Mt Hood, each climber has had to put in hours and hours of training to be able to stand atop the summit.
Back in the early days of November, we began this journey upward. The invitation was out for all Tacoma Rescue Mission men and women to join. The only requirement was a commitment to the team and a desire for a real life change. Since then, some have come and gone, but two women and three men have stuck with it. These five have dedicated themselves to weekly workouts, monthly hikes, and new relationships.
We have hiked all over the cascade hills and mountains. Recently our team hiked Mailbox Peak, as well as Mount Si, with fully-loaded mountaineering packs (see pictures below). Led by Recovery Beyond Paradigm founder and experienced mountaineer, Mark Ursino; each hike added a new level of climbing expertise and mountaineering knowledge. Each climber has gained the tools and mountaineering skills to climb Mt. Hood with a great amount of confidence. Additionally, through deepening relationships, the team is growing to trust one another and rely on the teamwork necessary to summit such great heights.
As this team sets in for its final work week of preparation, like any mountain we face in life, we can expect a few bumps along the way. We each need support to get up, and keep going. You are invited to join us here for updates, and as you look on, we invite you to encourage these courageous women and men.
(You can encourage a climber here: Encourage A Climber . Scroll to the bottom and leave a note!)
In the late evening hours of May 19th, we will ascend upward toward the summit of Mt Hood. One step closer to our goal of summiting Mt. Rainier.
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/
“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…
Recovery Beyond > Program Spotlights