One of my favorite activities in the world is hiking. Several weeks ago I went with a friend on a seven mile hike in the mountains. I found the trail online, drove to the head of the trail, parked my car and started walking along the mountain trail in search of the destination, which was a waterfall. For the first part of the hike I had my head down, looking intently at the trail, making sure my footing was secure and making sure I wasn’t getting lost. About one mile into the hike I began paying closer attention to my surroundings. I was walking with my head up and finding amazing scenery to take pictures of. Because I was no longer staring at the ground, I stumbled occasionally on a tree root or a rock in the middle of the trail but I was easily able to regain my balance and continue moving forward. Some parts of the trail were particularly challenging and I stumbled more so I walked slower or asked my friend to physically support me while I continued looking at the surroundings.
At one point during the hike, my friend said, “We’re hiking to see a waterfall. It’s going to take forever at the rate we’re going because you keep stopping to take pictures.” My comment to her was, “it’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey.”
As those words came out of my mouth I was washed over with the realization that I could have been speaking of the process of recovery. I actually stopped on the trail, sat on a rock and took some time to reflect on my words. I thought about the initial part of the hike where I was unsure of the trail and so I was making sure to pay close attention to where I was going and what my footing was like. This is very much like early recovery. When we decide to make the journey toward wellness, it’s very unsettling at first because we’re used to being ill. So when we start walking our path of recovery we are careful, follow directions, and pay close attention so we don’t get lost.
Eventually we realize that by staring only at the ground, we are missing part of the process of the journey to wellness. There is usually some anxiety at this point, perhaps even a feeling of being overwhelmed because it’s very scary to think about being able to look at your progress while still making positive steps forward. That’s where support comes in. When I was hiking a more difficult part of the trail, I asked my friend to hold my arm so that I could still take in the beauty of our process to the top of the waterfall but at the same time I knew I had some support in making sure I didn’t fall off track. In recovery, support is essential. It allows us to have trust in ourselves that we will continue to progress. It allows us to feel connected to a greater whole. It allows us to be able to take chances and keep our eyes open to the process.
If I had only paid attention to the destination of our hike, I would have missed so many unique opportunities to see things in nature that I didn’t even know existed. I saw a red-tailed hawk along the trail and stood for about 10 minutes in amazement at the beauty of that animal. I saw various parts of the river and even recorded the sound so I could make my own relaxation tape. There were so many amazing things to see on the journey to our destination. Likewise, in the process of recovery we make changes that are nothing short of beautiful and amazing. The key is to take time to appreciate the process of recovery; to realize that the destination is important, but the beauty of recovery comes from the journey.