Three years ago I wouldn’t have thought I was capable of running up a mountain that rises more than 2000 feet above sea level. Then again neither would I have considered it possible that I might one day not only stop drinking alcohol but also feel great about making such a decision.
This morning at 6 am I was eating a bowl of muesli by way of sustenance to get me up the mountain outside our holiday cottage. By 7 am, we were jogging through a field of cows with the sun casting a beautiful rose-tinted early morning glow all across the valley and rugged peaks laid out before us.
As we jogged upwards through the bracken and occasional sheep, the white houses in the valley bottom growing smaller with every step, I thought about how running up a mountain is similar in many ways to the process of becoming alcohol-free.
There’s the hard slog at the foot of the ascent when your legs are growing accustomed to the challenge and the summit is nowhere to be seen – just arduous sidestepping through muddy fields, trying to avoid cow pats and rocks whilst feeling somewhat apprehensive about what lies ahead.
As you get into your stride, the terrain gradually transforms from farmers’ fields to rugged mountainside with bracken and boulders all around, and the steep incline becomes more real – you suddenly comprehend the task before you, acknowledging that this climb is going to take every last ounce of strength you can muster. It’s tough going; head down, eyes trained to the ground, focus, focus, focus.
Occasionally you stop and turn around to catch a glimpse of how far you’ve come and even though the view isn’t yet at its optimum you know what’s coming – the hint of what awaits you at the summit is enough to keep bolstering your efforts and drive your feet further forwards. So on you go, beginning to feel the sensation of achievement.
At the top you get your reward; lying all around is the most fantastic spectacle, you can see for miles. You’ve never known such clarity, the skies are bright blue, the sea is just visible in the far distance and the world has regained some perspective – the little things you worried about are no longer an issue and the stuff that really matters is suddenly obvious.
At the top of a mountain, life makes sense.