This past week on May the 22nd I embarked on a 3,491-mile trek across the United States in my new home, the voyager van. One might ask why, or whom did I make this journey with; my answer, myself, and because I could. Just a little over three years ago I surrendered my driver licenses for the 3rd time in my life. Three DUI’s, three embarrassing court appearances, three humbling and harsh reminders of just how much my disease controlled my life and my decision making.
Before my last drink, I would have never dreamt that one day I type in the coordinates for the Gorge Amphitheatre, Washington because I could.
Now more than three years in active recovery I can appreciate what Susan Gale once said to the fullest; 'The longer you have to wait for something, the more you will appreciate it when it finally arrives. The harder you have to fight for something, the more priceless it will become once you achieve it. And the more pain you have to endure on your journey, the sweeter the arrival at your destination. All good things are worth waiting for and worth fighting for!"
Typing in those coordinates was a reminder that when I take my time, focus on my daily task, and not allow myself to get in my way, that most things in life are achievable, or at least manageable.
This leg of the trip would include a stop in Dallas TX, BBQ in Amarillo TX at Tyler’s BBQ, a visit to Cadillac Ranch, and a sunrise hike at the Grand Canyon in Arizona.
I made my first visit to Yosemite National Park in California, a hello, and a goodbye to a good friend in Reno NV, and a sunny drive through Oregon on my way to Washington.
My journey through sobriety is no different than anyone else that I have connected with on the road, we all have our ups and downs, but I often forget that. I wear my A.D.R as a reminder that when I put on my bracelet that I need to be patient. A daily reminder that it took me more than three years to regain back my rights to start this journey. A daily reminder of what life was like without my ability drive.
So much of my life, and now my sobriety, has been learning how to manage my time, day by day, sometimes hour by hour, focusing on today, and not worrying about yesterday, nor what will happen tomorrow. I plan for the best, not the worst. I try and make the best out of every bad situation and stay focused on the positive, and nothing could have challenged all of these aspects of my life like this first leg of my journey.
The start of this journey has been a testament to the tools I've acquire in my recovery. A tool box full of ready available tools to deal with the stressful situations in my life. My latest tool, like my coin was in my early sobriety, I wear my bracelet is a reminder of just how far I have come in my recovery.
A friend once reminded me during my earlier recovery; life doesn’t get easier because you decided to stop drinking, it just becomes more manageable. In life, I still have to deal with deaths, bills, health issues, and unexpected daily hassles like car issues, but no longer are my worries things I can't control. Today my bracelet is a reminder that this too shall pass.
As life would have it, it didn't take long for this journey to remind me that I need to be patient. When I left Alabama last Monday, I didn’t plan to be the 2nd driver to arrive at the scene of an 18-wheeler flipped over at 3 AM in the middle of the Texas desert. The first car being in shock, or maybe just unwilling to help, I jumped out of my car to make sure the driver was alive. Thankfully he was driver, but this incident was just a reminder how quickly one's life can change.
I only mention this story for one selfish reason; I was on a mission to arrive at the Grand Canyon before the sun would rise over the horizon that morning. I had already done my research, and the sun would show all of its beauty at 5:13 in the morning. With that in mind, I now set in neutral, waiting several hours in traffic. With each minute that passed, I quickly realized that watching the sunrise was going to be impossible. I thought back to all of the time I had spent at my last gas stop. The minutes that I wasted eating in at subway rather than in my car. I honestly beat myself up because my watch said I would not arrive until 5:33, approximately 20 minutes after the sun would be high in the sky.
I thought about speeding, but that didn’t seem realistic considering I couldn’t afford a speeding ticket, nor am I in the fastest of vehicles on this journey. I looked for a few alternate routes, but to no luck. 20 minutes, it was pretty disheartening to say the least. Sulking in my misery, I had to accept the fact that seeing the Grand Canyon for my first time, second time visiting, (that story is for another post) would be a bucket list non the less, just not the way I wanted to see it, sunrise and all.
Patiently cruising down the highway, miserable, like the angel she is, my GPS welcomed me to Arizona, her voice letting me know I would arrive at my destination at 4:33 A.M. Nearly 40 Minutes prior to when the sun would rise. I hadn’t been speeding, nor did I take an alternative route. Then I realized, my watch was still set in central time. I literally cussed out a poor guy that almost killed himself, flipped his big rig, all because I hadn’t changed the time on my watch. I let the actions or just plain misfortune of another person affect how I felt for the next few hours of my life.
You ask what a 3,491-mile trek across the United States taught me? It taught me that taking my time doesn't mean you will arrive late, it just means certain things in our lives are out of our control.
This journey led me into California, a state I didn't plan to visit for nearly three more weeks, but now I can say I slept under the stars in death-valley. I spent more time in Reno than I originally anticipated, but it allowed me to spend more time with an old friend that I anticipated. I drove a few extra hours out of the way to visit Cadillac Ranch, something I knew nothing about but left utterly mesmerized by the art installation. I arguably ate the tastiest brisket I have ever ordered, and that is saying a lot from a BBQ fanatic. In all, I tacked on a few extra miles, but I also have a few more stories to tell the kids one day.
In all, I still arrived at my destination in time to see the first performer I originally set out to see. Sure, I didn’t’ stick to original plan, but life is about making adjustments, so be patient, and take your time, life is a journey, not a sprint, and I am reminded of that each time I put on my recovery bracelet.
I have now traveled to Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, California, Oregon, and Washington. #48 on the bucket-list was fun. I can now say I have watched a music show over the Columbia River Gorge while learning a critical lesson in life; some of the best things in life are definetly worth waiting for.