“The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena … who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat. “
I was unpredictable, sometimes violent, abusing drugs and alcohol, and failing at school. My parents were concerned for both me and the family and finally sent me to an out-of-state adventure based treatment program for about 3 months. Towards the end of the program, I decided to give sobriety an honest shot when I returned home. I had already detoxed in the program and figured at least temporary sobriety would ease the transition to living at home. When I returned home, my parent almost immediately began searching for an outpatient program for me to be involved in. In retrospect, this was a very good move on their part. Unfortunately, quality youth focused outpatient programs can be hard to come by and ultimately I ended up finding an amazing community within Alcoholics Anonymous. Over the next few years I became heavily involved with the program.
Even though I was sober, there was still quite a bit of conflict at home and my parent’s continued to question my sobriety. I think the fact so many issues remained within the family despite the fact I was living a sober lifestyle was difficult for my parents to process. Perhaps they thought putting me through an expensive residential treatment program could return our family to something more closely resembling what we all desired. They certainly would not be the first desperate parents to fall into this way of thinking. The fact was, I was still a fiercely independent young man full of teenage angst and there was very little trust within the home. With this combination, conflict was inevitable. I had been to a number of counselors and therapists before I was sent away, but none of them really made a difference for me or my family.
John was different from the beginning. It wasn’t just the climbing and the outdoor approach – it was how he reached out to me and was willing to meet me where I was at as an individual. He saw me, understood where I was, and let that be okay while still maintaining boundaries and holding me to a high standard. The ability to do this with a guarded and angry young man is a unique gift and something John excels at. As mentioned, I was experiencing intense conflict with my parents, especially my father. He is a very intense ‘type A’ personality, and I felt he saw me as ‘wrong’ instead of ‘different’. John accepted who I was, and changed the focus from what was wrong with me and how to fix it to what I was doing and where I wanted to go. He felt more like a mentor than a traditional therapist. Based on what I was choosing and why, my way of thinking started changing. Gradually, as my way of thinking changed, my way of being began to change. When I think back to who I was then, how I thought and interacted with the world – that person isn’t even familiar to me. That kid is part of my story and helps me gain perspective in my relationships and in my introspection, but he seems like a person apart from who I am now.
I finished my time with John when I graduated high school and moved with my family to their new home in Ohio. When I turned 18, I moved myself back to Colorado and came back to the 2Xtreme program to participate in 2Xtreme Dream – Mt. Elbrus. It was great to be part of that experience and to be part of a team of young men all sharing their experience, strength and hope along with their struggles. I am often asked what 2Xtreme Dream did for me – or meant to me. It is a difficult thing to articulate. The impact, the meaning, of that time in my life can perhaps only be completely comprehended by my teammates who shared the experience in an individual yet collective way – and then no words are needed. My experience with 2Xtreme Dream developed and cemented the values of team work and steadfast commitment to oneself and others despite sometimes intense conflict. The 2Xtreme Dream permanently changed both me as an individual and the direction of my life for the better. Permanent change is a rare thing for a program to achieve, and coming up on a decade after the fact, I struggle to think of any other experience which has had such a lasting and profound positive impact on my life.
Today, I am married and recently graduated college with a degree in Outdoor Leadership and Experiential Education. I am pursuing a career in federal land management and my wife and I are discussing our options. We live in a small community that we love and have created our own chosen family and support network. We are weighing the best way to fulfill our career goals, while trying to remain in this environment we love. One of the more difficult adult lessons I have been working through lately is recognizing that pursuing one option inevitably entails foreclosing on others. We live in Gunnison, Colorado, and the area and community supports a wide range of high quality climbing and many other outdoor recreation opportunities we enjoy. I am involved with our local mentoring program which has led me to working with our county juvenile services and local school system. My mantra has been “give me the most difficult case”. This has allowed me to meet and work with some amazing young men. Throughout college I was active as a lead instructor for Wilderness Pursuits; the college’s outdoor adventure program. This offered me the opportunity to develop and implement outdoor education programming with an emphasis on youth personal development through a partnership with the local high school and Bureau of Land Management. I am also active during the winter months with the Lake City Ice Park about 60 miles to the south of us. The ice park offers ice climbing opportunities to everyone from beginner to expert in an easy to access and, relative to the sport, controlled environment. This service is a labor of love carried out by a dedicated team of volunteers and is offered free of charge to everyone.
Today I am blessed to have an amazing relationship with both my mother and father rooted in respect and trust. I routinely call my father, who is perhaps the hardest working and most dedicated person I know, for advice or simply to talk. Time with family has become the most precious gift I have. What was once impossible has become a source of incredible joy.
Life still throws its challenges my way. I am still fiercely independent and sometimes prone to reacting with anger before finding grace. My time with John did not remove life’s obstacles from my path, rather, it contributed to my ability to overcome and learn from them. John and I have discussed meeting up soon to go ice climbing – with me likely on the sharp end of the rope this time. I am looking forward to reconnecting with John and meeting on a peer level doing something we both love.