Sunlight peeks through the trees on a spring day at Starvation Falls in the Columbia River Gorge, Oregon.
I am releasing this image on a bittersweet day. And I'm about to pour a little bit of my heart out here.
Four years ago to this day, September 24th, I celebrated my first day of freedom from alcohol. This fact isn't something that I advertise about my life, but it's not something I'm ashamed of either. It's a part of me and it's something that I deal with every single day.
These anniversaries are hard. It's not just the celebration of a new direction in life, but also a distinct remembrance of the events that led me to where I am. I hurt my friends and family, I compromised the lives of those around me, I let people down, I jeopardize the safety of my son, and I felt the guilt about it all every.. single.. day. The guilt made me drink more. Even when I wanted nothing more in the world than to NOT drink.. I still did. It was a never ending cycle. The deeper I dug my hole, the colder and darker it got, the lonelier I became, and the farther a hope of escape seemed... and so.. the more I drank.
I tried everything in my power to stop.. or to at least lessen the damage I was causing: I tried drinking only beer, I tried to drink only when I wasn't caring for my son, I tried to drink only socially, I tried to drink only on weekends, only on even days.. then only on odd days, I tried to not buy alcohol on my way home from work, I tried to put the money I would spend on alcohol into a savings account for my son whenever I felt the urge, and I tried to quit FOR my son. Afterall.. I thought my love for him was the strongest thing in my life. I was wrong.
Alcohol was the strongest thing in my life.
I wasn't able to get sober until I realized that I had to stop fighting. I had to surrender. I had to be willing to do whatever it took to get clean. That meant that I had to find something bigger than myself that I could believe in. For me... it's Mother Earth. It's nature.
This is a major reason why I am so profoundly connected to the beauty around me. It's where I got sober. In my early days I needed to find something to occupy my mind.. to distract. I hiked 5-6 days a week.. as often as I could. I hiked long, steep, ass-kicking trails. I dunked my feet in the waters, I drenched myself in the rains, and I threw my arms up at the vistas. I released.. I absorbed. I lived.
Life hasn't gotten 'better' in the past four years. In fact it's been the hardest four years of my life. But now I get to wake up every single day and try to be the best person I can be. I surround myself with people and things that build me up instead of tear me down and I try to do that for others. I get to hold my girlfriend's hand. I get to run my fingers through my son's hair. I get to wake up for sunrise and stay up for sunset.
I get to live.
One day.. one minute.. at a time. Photo © copyright by TJ Thorne.