I vividly remember my one and only attempt to go camping for one night when I was still using drugs and alcohol. After hiking deep into the wilderness with a group of friends, we arrived at our campsite, and quickly realized we only had one cooler, when we were supposed to have two. One had food in it, one held all the alcohol. We all held our breath, staring at the closed cooler, hoping we had grabbed the important one. Slowly, I lifted the lid. Cheers erupted as the cooler was opened to reveal bottles of Jim Beam and Southern Comfort. Who needs food anyway, right? Well, apparently we did. Two people threw up on the campfire, one person passed out in the middle of the forest, and waking up starving with a hangover while having to pack-up camp made for the worst morning of my entire life. I hated camping, and vowed that morning I would never, EVER, sleep in the wilderness, again.
Sobriety has this funny way of surprising you with the unexpected, though. Getting sober gave me a fresh set of eyes, and a clear mind to decide for myself the things that I like and dislike. For example, when I was drinking, I thought I was a very quiet, shy, introvert. Sober, I absolutely love being surrounded by people, and can’t get enough of the contagious energy of laughter amongst friends. One of the most confusing and straight out of left field surprises has been the realization that I do, in fact, absolutely love camping. So much so that, in the past two years, I have planned three camping events for large groups of friends. We’ve visited Paradise Campground in the Santa Ynez Mountains, as well as Pine Knot Campground at Big Bear Lake. Our latest trip took us to Joshua Tree National Park to explore Black Rock Campground, and the beautiful 29 Palms Oasis Hiking Trail.
Planning these events has become a way for me to share with my friends the new passion that I have found for the outdoors – a love that never would have been discovered if I hadn’t put down the drink, and opened my eyes to the world around me. Try new things once you get sober. Go to the sober dance, even though you’ve always hated dancing. Offer to share your story, even though you’ve always been afraid of public speaking. Go to the beach with friends, even though you’ve always been very body conscious. Visit the sky slide in Los Angeles, even though you’ve always been afraid of heights. Go camping, even though you’ve always hated the outdoors. You never know how much you’ve changed in sobriety, until you experience it yourself.
Stay tuned for a firsthand account of our latest wilderness adventure, from our Editor in Chief, David!