I just turned 35. And to celebrate that, and some other significant personal milestones, I am heading out on the Arizona National Scenic Trail (AZT) in early April. Nearly 800 miles in length, from Mexico to Utah, I'll have plenty of time to complete what this journey really means for me, both metaphor, and victory.
Some of you know that the last few years have been a bit rocky for me. I left the ranch and my partner and moved to the Pacific Northwest in 2016. In my stress and disorientation, I reached to old habits: drugs and alcohol. I accumulated credit card debt, got enmeshed with a drug dealer, and basically spiraled out of control.
But the Universe is a pretty up-front teacher. After a scrape with the law after Christmas of 2017, and a frank conversation with a true friend, I realized I had a problem, and I needed help. In March of 2018 I enrolled in Intensive Outpatient Therapy for 9 months, paying for it out of pocket. Because the two jobs I worked gave me close proximity to alcohol, I stepped back from those managerial positions and worked as a housepainter, gardener, stone mason's assistant, cook, and finally, started my own gardening business, Must Like Plants last Fall.
I moved out of my downtown apartment (above a bar, no less), and started a series of housesitting and couch-surfing adventures. Much to my absolute chagrin, I used an EBT card and stood in line at the Food Bank for the first time. Yet my needs were always met, and sometimes, my wants too. The generosity of other people has astonished me.
I've hit a few bumps, and faced an insane amount of challenges. This winter, when my hand was injured and I wouldn't work, I started reading Clarissa Pinkola Estes' The Women Who Run With the Wolves. It couldn't have been a better fit for where I was at in life, and the idea of a visit to the desert started forming.
While I have lived in beautiful places all over the US, the desertscape is truly the outward manifestation of my inscape. After so much time and energy invested in my healing, my sobriety, my recovery, I craved a space to simply be.
A few weeks ago, researching campsites in the southwest, I came upon the AZT. Immediately I knew that was my trip. I haven't backpacked in years, let alone in a desert, but I have accumulated gear and bought my plane ticket.
I am giving myself two months to do this hike. I don't know if I will finish it. I don't know how long it will take, or all of the why's of it. I just know I need to go, so I am going. The lucidity of sobriety has recharged my life. I am learning to love who I am, and what I am capable of, and to follow my intuition.
There is NO WAY in the world that I could be where I am today, in a supportive, positive community, without the individuals that have taken a chance on me, investing time and resources, listening to late night rants and teary-eyed heartbreaks, witnessing frustrations and grown-up tantrums. So many people, near and far, have taken a chance on me, and now it's time for me to take a chance on myself.
So this is my long-winded way of saying for my birthday this year, I would love nothing more than to have a little help with this trip. Without a permanent residence, and all of my other belongings tucked in storage, I don't need or want any more things: I want to experience this way of being, in a landscape I miss more than I can describe. Prayers, thoughts, notes, hugs, phone calls—you can't put a price on those either.
Thank you for hearing me. For listening. For being here.