Location: Pico Camp
I woke up this morning feeling significantly better though I was starving. I hadn’t eaten anything yesterday and everything that was in my stomach I threw up. The rain fell hard this morning in a frightening thunderstorm. The peak above the shelter was certainly hit by lightning. The wind blew loudly through the trees. I pulled a Pop-Tart from my food bag that hung on the mouse trapeze and I took it with me into my sleeping bag. I couldn’t decide whether I was ready to eat it or not. I did anyway and hoped for the best. I fell back asleep and woke up an hour later without the urge to vomit. I think I have passed the worst of the detox process.
Last night I dreamed about the question that I fell asleep asking myself, ‘Can I live with alcohol in m life?’ I can’t remember the details of the dreams, but this morning I woke up asking the same question. Although I felt like hiking today, I have decided to take a lonely day at Pico Camp to seriously consider the question, ‘Can I live with alcohol in my life?’
It’s strange to think that I am sitting in a cabin in the mountains of Vermont. If I had been asked a few months ago, ‘Where do you think you’ll be in August?’ I don’t think I would have said Vermont. I knew then that I would be on the trail, but I didn’t really know where. I have been moving slowly on my trip, but if it weren’t for my pace I wouldn’t have had the adventure I’ve experienced. I couldn’t say whether the adventure I would have had by moving faster would be better or not, but it would have undoubtedly been different. If I have enjoyed one thing especially on the trail, it will have to be the fact that I never know where I’ll be twenty minutes from now. Will I be dodging lightning, carrying a litter, or fall and break my leg and be carried on a litter? I just never know. The spontaneity of the lifestyle excites me. It makes me happy.
I spent this afternoon in the cabin. I cooked two rice meals and ate both entirely. I read a couple of not-so-short short stories and thought about my question. I needed to be alone to think, and good fortune has allowed me the solitude. Many people passed the enclosed shelter as I sat at this metal table searching for the answer, yet not one has even peeked inside. As though there were a ‘Do not disturb’ sign on the door handle, I have been allowed to sit and think without distraction. I have found an answer to my question here within myself, in this tiny cabin buried in the tall pines of the Vermont Green Mountains.
Alcohol has only ever hurt me. The only benefits that I could think of all day were superficial at best. Sure I have had great times while drinking, but they could be enjoyed without it. I saddened me today when I thought about the activities that I partake and realized that they all, in one way or another, involve alcohol.
I can seldom remember in my life when I went fishing without drinking. I love fishing. It is one of the things that I miss the most while walking in the woods. Whenever I fish, I drink. It is a simple as that. But, does drinking make fishing any more fun? I think it might make certain events that happen a little funnier and may cause some things to happen that wouldn’t if I were sober, like losing a fish in the boat or losing my balance at the wrong time. Fishing can be enjoyed without alcohol. Alcohol only makes the trips more dangerous. Suppose I was to get stopped by the Coast Guard while driving above the legal BAC limit, I could get my fishing privileges revoked. Doubtful I control my alcohol consumption so that I return to port under the legal BAC.
I drink heavily when I hang out at the beach. The beach gives me an excuse to drink heavily, not just because everyone else is drinking, but because I associate drinking with fun and I intend to have fun at the beach. I take beers to the sandbar and drink there in the afternoons. One after another I consume in the hot sun. When it’s time to return to the house, I load the boat with drinks and beer cans and time my trip to the docks so that I don’t get caught by Wildlife Patrol or the police. I come home and nap. When I wake up, the boat is trashed and I can hardly remember how it happened.
Still I wake up and drink again. The second party begins. Because it is dark, it means I can get really smashed. I will likely pass out. I wake up the next morning and both I and the house are wrecked. I only remember the things I regret, and alcohol made me commit regrettable acts.
A trip for me to the beach ends with a long day of cleaning with a two day hangover. I can’t enjoy Sunday on a weekend because of the damage I’ve caused Friday and Saturday. Certainly the beach can be fun without alcohol.
The months before I left for the AT I struggled with alcohol and laziness. When sitting in Raleigh in front of the television or computer I usually had a beer with me. If I only drank a few I was fine, but I usually didn’t drink just a few. One show led to another, one inning or quarter to another, and before I knew it, I was drunk. I put off chores and homework. I went to bed late and woke up late. I wake up only remembering the regrettable things, and that I had not completed my work. Usually people tell me of my actions because I can’t remember them.
Certainly I can enjoy a night of television without drinking. Certainly I can write without drinking. If I can’t go to the bar without drinking, then I shouldn’t go to the bar. Because I can’t control my drinking, the bar always tempts me. If I am not a drinker, if I won’t drink, then the bar cannot tempt me.
Of all the ridiculous things that I have done, my DUI highlights the insanity of my drinking. I nearly killed myself and another woman. I nearly ended my life. I can still picture the woman and dog in the headlights of the car, and I still remember swerving enough just to miss both of them. That night has changed my life forever. Who knows what track I would be in if I stayed at Hale? Life would be different, but the end would be the same if I didn’t stop drinking.
Alcohol has only contributed to dismantling the things I build. I must realize that it doesn’t make me a better writer, listener, or friend. Alcohol doesn’t make me a better person. Generally it makes me a worse person. I anger the people around me, I am delinquent in my responsibilities, and I am physically harming my body by punishing it with alcohol.
A simple fact remains no matter which perspective my alcohol use is viewed from; I can’t control my drinking. Drinking controls me. It threatens nearly everything that I do, love, and want to do. Alcohol threatens to ruin this hike: a dream I have kept secretly for years but only had the courage to attempt in the last few months. Alcohol though is attacking my dream. When I get to town I immediately start drinking. Usually I take a zero because I am hung over. Drinking disrupts my time table. I won’t finish this trip if I drink alcohol. No doubt.
The time has come in my life for me to make many major decisions. Decisions of whether my life should go left or right. I am facing a split in the road, and I must choose which direction to turn. I choose to lead a life without alcohol. Every effort must be made to eliminate alcohol from my life. If it remains a part of me, it will end me. Alcohol will drown my dreams bit by bit as I fail to accomplish the tiny steps required of the larger dream. To achieve my dreams, I cannot drink alcohol.
Every step of this journey has brought me to another level of self-realization. I have taken the opportunity to separate myself from many of the distractions of the outside world. Because I experience such drastic contrasts between days of harmful drinking and purifying hiking, I have been allowed the wonderful chance to recognize how many of my life decisions have not been the best for me. I have found answers to questions in the strangest places on this trip and the best advice with the strangest people. I never know what the next day holds for me, whether I hike or not. But, having resolved this particular dilemma in my life, one that has been begging for resolution for years, I can move on with my trip. Eventually this problem would have to be faced. I just hope that it hasn’t been left unattended for too long. Hopefully my hike is not ruined. I am so far behind schedule.
It is the evening now. I have gotten ready for bed and I am about to crawl into my sleeping bag and read until I fall asleep. The sun is just setting. I watch the shadows of mountains move across one another for thirty miles. There are grey clouds in the sky. It will probably rain tonight. The sunset is not an explosion of color as I have become accustomed to in these mountains. Instead pale colors mix above the faded peaks. After considering my alcohol use and coming to a definite decision, I am suddenly at a true sense of peace internally. I’m smiling a bit, showing my happiness to no one. I’m breathing much more easily as I sit at this metal table watching the evening and listening to the birds and wind. Everything is going to be okay, I know that now, and it moves me nearly to tears.