“Hi, my name’s Kyle and I’m an alcoholic…”
I’ve said those words countless times in meetings, to counselors, and mental health professionals. During certain phases of the substance abuse recovery journey, I think it is incredibly valuable to deeply and fundamentally accept your personal failures. Failure to do so is wildly dangerous and a quick road to relapse. Accepting the depth and severity of my own actions and flaws allowed me to change my thinking and my relationship with alcohol. I’m thankful to have been able to walk that path.
It took a while before I began to feel stifled by the labels: addict, alcoholic, failure. It took some more time to identify my unhappiness with substance abuse recovery programs; the unhappiness I finally identified was the fundamental hopelessness at their core. They seem to be built on the idea that addicts are broken and can never be whole again. Built on the idea that management of symptoms is our best outcome and only option. As I spent more time in recovery and realized the strength of the connection between substance abuse and mental health, I began to wonder if there wasn’t a better way for addicts to think about themselves. Shame, guilt, and fear are powerful motivators, valuable tools for some addicts to help avoid relapse…but I felt that there had to be something more.
During my time in in-patient recovery with the VA I began to glimpse that something. I, and a few others, started meeting up every day to play volleyball and began to invite others to join us. Watching veterans and addicts playing their hearts out and laughing with new friends without a thought for their failures finally brought it all into focus.
“Hi, I’m Kyle, and I like volleyball and relaxed afternoons with friends. I like putting down the weight of my failures and enjoying activities not because they keep me sober, but because there is a huge part of me and every other addict that has NOTHING to do with our substance abuse.”
Within the substance abuse recovery community, EVERYTHING has to do with addiction. Every meeting, every call, every question asked. Addiction is all-consuming, but part of the recovery journey is to discover and re-discover the parts of ourselves to which drugs and alcohol are completely irrelevant.
After completing my time in in-patient recovery, I returned to the Seattle area and began to try and find a group that could match my ideals and hopes for the future. Thankfully, I found Recovery Beyond.
I’ve had the opportunity to meet wonderful people and start friendships. I’ve climbed mountains I hadn’t and learned to play tennis. I’ve begun to enjoy parts of my life I thought I might never be able to and parts I’d left behind.
I’ve walked the road of recovery for a long time now, and now I’m where I’d like to be, beyond.
Name: Sarah Farrens
From: Spanaway, WA
A Little Bit About Sarah
For Sarah, a native of Spanaway, motherhood was the best motivation to turn her life around. “I have these two beautiful children (Ally is 5 and Bubba is 3) that I wasn’t being the best mom too, so I was willing to try anything,” she said of joining the Climbing Out climb team. 30-day-programs had failed her before, and she had to hit rock bottom before finding her way here. “[The Climb Team] is a commitment I’m sticking to!” she says, “It is a healthy replacement that gets me motivated to be strong and healthy.” Her goals outside of the climb itself include pursuing a career as a substance abuse counselor while becoming the best mom to her kids.
Two days ago, on August 8th, 2018, Sarah did the unthinkable. She stood atop Mt. Rainier. 14,410ft, the tallest peak in Washington, and a great metaphor for what she has come to accomplish this last year. We couldn’t be more proud of her. A year ago to the day, she was on another relapse. Today she tells us she feels like a whole new person, a better mom, a better friend, and a now one heck of a mountain climber! She did it!
On August 7th, hours before her summit climb, we interviewed Sarah about her experience being on this team. Here is what she had to say.
RBP: What is the main thing you’ve been given from this climb team?
Sarah: “A family and a network of support. These people are my family now. I’ve never had relationships like this. I can trust and be trusted now. Also, I have healthy muscles and am so much happier than before, so that’s nice too!”
RBP: Do you think you would have the same success without this program?
Sarah: “I don’t think so. The outdoors brings some sort of peace to me. The ability to breathe. The ability to get outside yourself. I love how small it makes you feel; it puts things in perspective. And mountain climbing can be kind of messy too, but it’s a good mess. A mess where I can meet myself in a “whole” way. The reason I started drinking is that I was so insecure. I felt like a mess. You get a lot of things in addiction you wouldn’t normally get in sober life. Now I have more time and the confidence to do things. I’ve been like “Woah, I can do this without all of that” (addiction). It gives me something different to seek.”
RBP: Why do you climb?
Sarah: “A year ago, I could barely get out of bed in the morning ya know. Now I get to do something like this (points to Mt. Rainier from Camp Muir). I am excited to share this with my kids and for them to know that mommy did this for them. I want to show them how to do life right. I want them to see they can do things!”
RBP: Do your kids realize what you’re doing right now?
Sarah: “When I tell them I’m climbing that mountain (points to Mt. Rainier), they say “you’re doing what Mom? How do you do that? How do you get up there?” They know that mommy is climbing mountains, but I don’t think they fully get it (she laughs)”
RBP: What is this giving them? Why are you doing this?
Sarah: “I want to show them, and myself that I can stick with things. That I can work hard and accomplish great things. I want them to know that I would climb to the top of a mountain for them each and every day.”
RBP: What do you think has been the biggest change they’ve seen in you as their mom?
Sarah: “That their mommy is there for them now and that there is mental stability in the home. I can be there now, I am present, and I can take care fo them as their mom. We can move forward as a family, whereas last year I couldn’t do that. This means the world to me.”
Please consider supporting Sarah and the other climber’s like her by joining our Community Of Compassion.
She is on our team.
Becky Vinson is known for her deep love of others and an “I-can-do-that” attitude. This last year, she was one of our community climbers with our Climbing Out program. Her wit, sass, and southern charm is top-notch in our book. Becky is one of a kind. Recently we had the opportunity to interview her and hear more about what makes Becky, Becky. She shared her ups and downs, the courage needed along the way and some of her reflections on the climbing program.
We are glad to know her. She is on our team.
Becky lived through more real-life nightmares than most kids ever should. One of her earlier memories was losing her father. He was murdered at a local pool hall after a fight broke out. Her family was devastated and she felt horrified that she never was able to say “goodbye”. Things got worse. Home life was hell. With a very abusive step-father at home, home was not “home” at all. During Becky’s senior year in high school she was kicked out of her house. She was homeless and just looking to catch a break.
Growing up on a hog farm in North Carolina teaches a kid a thing or two about hard work. She possessed some deep seeded grit and toughness, or at least enough to keep moving. Becky knew she had to do something more than stay homeless and one day, she finally caught her break.
There was a posting for a military test in town and if you showed up you would get donuts. She thought, “I don’t think the military is for me, but I’ll go for the donuts and take the test.” She ate donuts, and to her surprise, she aced the test. “Every branch of the military was calling,” said Becky. The first shimmer of light was breaking through. She thought, “this will get me off the streets. They have food. I will get education and money. I have to do this.”
“Every branch of the military was calling.” The first shimmer of light was breaking through. She thought, “this will get me off the streets.”
A few months later she was at boot camp facing another challenge; one that became a defining moment in her story.
“I’ll never forget this as long as I live. During one of our trainings, I really wanted to take a breather; I couldn’t keep going. They don’t let you do that there. The drill sergeant was yelling at me and I told him ‘I can’t do it’! I think he saw I was actually trying and I was serious. The sergeant broke out of character a bit and said, ‘Listen if you put your mind to it, you can do it’. That’s pretty much all I needed. Thank God, he said that! That changed my mind set forever. I already was doing this, but it sunk in deep then. And it’s changed me forever. It’s now the attitude I always hold.”
After the military Becky continued to beat the odds. She aced most of the ACT and decided to become a nurse. “I could then finally legit go to college; I knew I was smart. No one in my family went to college. When I was young I was told I was dumb and I trusted that. It was totally false. To come from being homeless to going to college; this is still my greatest personal achievement to date. I was so happy to be there! I was like ‘EDUCATE ME, I’M ALL IN!'”
“‘Listen if you put your mind to it, you can do it’. That’s pretty much all I needed.”
This narrative of overcoming impossible challenges continued on and on. As a senior in college she adopted a 14-year-old kid from a church she was attending. He went on to play in the NFL. She traveled to other countries to help with their medical practice. She knew that administering medicine was needed in those desperate lands, so she went back to school and became a nurse practitioner.
This past year we journeyed with Becky’s and her story as she joined our Climbing Out climbing team.
She wanted to face another challenge; the “impossible” goal of climbing Mt. Rainier. And also to do it with what she calls “MY PEOPLE”. “If they can do it, I can do it, and vice versa. This is just another obstacle and I am not afraid.” Becky’s vibrant personality became a gift for the entire team. And more importantly, Becky, like the rest of the obstacles in her life, continued to show up with the attitude of “If you put your mind to it, you can do it.” On a fitness level, she was a long shot to be ready and able to climb. But by the summer, Becky had “wow-ed” us. She trained and trained and trained. She was ready. And she climbed mountains.
Some significantly challenging moments earlier in life made Becky the woman she is today. Taught her she is stronger than she thinks she is, and wth a team you can go far in life. Becky, you are a dangerously-brave, fun-hearted mountain climber my friend.
“This is one of the most life-changing volunteer experiences I’ve ever had.”
When asked “what would you say to others considering volunteering?” Becky’s replied by saying: “You’d be a fool not to do it. I am a person that does enormous amounts of volunteer work everywhere I’ve been. This is one of the most life-changing volunteer experiences I’ve ever had. Try it out!”
Becky’s story inspires us. She is on our team.
Stories of Recovery
Recovery Beyond > Stories of Recovery