The summer of 2019 has been a fun time of wild adventure on the journey. Full of hiking, camping, tail gate markets, mushroom foraging and leading walks, moving my son into our home, trips out of town and exploring deeper on the local scene. This time of year is always full of goodness and exemplifies the idea of ‘living by doing it, not just looking at it’. As I write this today, I celebrate exactly two years of sobriety, yesterday was my sons nineteenth birthday and in a few short weeks I’ll be off to the Grand Canyon with my love on yet another adventure! I even got my first tattoo. This week also marks a visit from my mother to the mountains for the first time, along with my sister, her husband and their little baby.
This year has been a lush one on the mushroom scene. Starting the year with a great morel season led into a truly abundant one for Chantrelles, Chicken of the Wood, Leatherbacks and others. This meant nice growth for my business that is in it’s second year officially. I’ve been enjoying vending the local tail gate markets, joining new ones around the area. Also leading mushroom and plant walks, teaching new friends and visitors is such a fulfilling experience. I even get a chance to hold a workshop at the LEAF festival this fall, which is a true honor.
We made a few road trips that made for sweet little get aways. Spending my dearest ones birthday at Roan Mountain, hiking into Cravers Gap and spending my sons birthday weekend biking the Creeper Trail. We camped several times off the Blue Ridge Parkway, taking Ms. Joplin, my girlfriends 1973 VW bus, out into the woods. These trips refresh and reset the soul, bringing such inner peace in challenging times. It’s a dream for me to share my love for being in the forest with the people I love the most. Biking the Creeper was a magical time. Transformed from a railway to a biking trail, a project called rails to trails, this 34 mile stretch was full really cool bridges to cross through beautifully lush forest landscape. The trail starts with a down hill glide where pedaling isn’t required at all but don’t let that fool you, the rest of the way, although mostly flat, is a test of endurance. There was some nice historical points to check out, old train stations and the Appalachian Trail intersecting at different spots along the way. We camped in small campground in Abingdon, VA and stopped for lunch in the cute, little town of Damascus. It is a must do for people that like to bike. Our trip to Cravers Gap was also wonderful. The hike offered amazing vistas and balds before dipping into the forest. It followed the Appalachian Trail and was also a historical section. Revolutionary and Civil war soldiers traveled the same routes and we ended at an old barn dating back to those days. the hike was tough, very steep in places and it tested my troubled knees but was well worth the effort.
On the home front we made the most of what was going on in our cool, little city of Asheville. We started volunteering at Head Count, an organization that signs up people to vote. We saw Matisyahu, Slightly Stoopid, Trevor Hall, and John Butler Trio. We went to LEAF downtown and saw Stephen Marley and Arrested Development. Every summer there is a free outdoor community theater put on by the Montford Players and we attended a few plays, King Arthur and Robin Hood. Another highlight was doing the local farm tour. It was pretty neat to visit some farms around us and see exactly how they do what they do, got some fresh vegetables, goat cheese, humanly raised meats and hang with some really chill, friendly goats. We even saw a family of bears that crossed our path. Doing the tail gates for me is always rewarding, making new connections, building a new customer base, and having the chance to provide natural, alternative medicine and wild crafted mushrooms to people is living a passion and dream come true.
And there was the milestone of hitting two years of sobriety! I am proud of myself to say the least. Being in recovery is no walk in the park, it’s had many challenges. I feel better and clearer than at any point in my life. Finding pride in accomplishments is something that is kind of new for me. For the better part of my addiction I found myself in a place of self hatred, low self esteem and isolated in how I felt. Reflecting on where I was two years ago and before, I can hardly recognize that version of myself, it’s hard to imagine those feelings and behaviors. I spent a lot of time then lying, cheating, being reckless and destructive, caring little for myself and others, I was a lost soul, uncomfortable in my own skin. I did things and acted in ways I am extremely ashamed of to this day, memories that still plague my mind. Recently I gifted myself a tattoo that holds within it much meaning. The overall idea was to forever cover scars I left on myself while in addiction, in extreme examples of my addiction I self punished myself in black outs , trying to make up for my wrongs and undo what I had done. I designed a piece of art to symbolize a few things that are special to me. The tree represents my growth, the owl is my spirit animal and stands for wisdom, the Dharma wheel is my spiritual path, the mushrooms of Reishi and Chaga are my passion and healing and the eye is for observing the world, my life and ever watchful. The whole piece is also a representation of my art. It still needs color, which is coming at the end of the month and I plan on extending it to cover one more scar on my forearm. The process of getting the tattoo was highly triggering for me. The pain I felt during and after reminded me of the days after spending long, dark nights isolated in blacked out realms and doing self harm. Talking about that out loud is freeing, for many years I kept it hid, I told no one and was steeped in shame. Holding heavy feelings inside I learned is dangerous as you never know when or how they may surface or under what influence or situation. This is simply part of my story and I no longer need to keep it inside, instead know that it was just another storm weathered. Recovery has not been easy by any means, triggers such as these, cravings, desires, sorrows and a healing mind that still pieces lost parts of my life together are all challenges to staying sober. Not to mention living in a city and culture of constant temptation. These past two years have seen the losses of both my fathers, a dear friend and the first person I ever mentored in recovery, another dear friend fighting a severe stage 4 cancer diagnosis, as well as losing friends and acquaintances in their battles with sobriety. I’ve seen friends and others I’ve worked with relapse and have been on the brink of it myself many times but overall have relayed upon mediation, support of friends and family and attended meetings when I know I needed them to get through and make the right choices and gather strength and inspiration. Since I’ve been in recovery I’ve done more amazing things than I ever thought possible, I have begun work as a substance abuse counselor, became peer support certified, started my own business harvesting, selling and teaching medicinal and edible mushrooms, grown closer to my family, deepened my relationship with my loving and overly supportive partner in a connection that is healthy and beautiful, began repairing my connection with my son who now lives with me, traveling and exploring really cool parts of our country, even internationally and I feel better than I ever have in the past both mentally and physically. Ultimately I am in recovery for myself but also for all of them, for all the people who fight the same fight as I do in addiction, for all those who lost the battle and for everyone who has yet to fight but I hope will. I’m grateful and owe everything to my recovery community, programs, to my sponsor and everyone that acted as true angels with their support and services, also the unseen ones that I believe exist out there. Recovery is something that happens in every moment and every day, it is not easy by any means and I honor every one of us doing it. Life is beautiful for me with a new, clean, clear pair of eyes, mind and body, having a renewed sense of purpose and direction to follow. This is the path and I’ve only just begun this wonderful journey. Keep going is the motto and that’s what I intend to do! My main recovery program Refuge Recovery had a major split and a newly formed Recovery Dharma has emerged, I’m excited to be a part of this new beginning.