I am doing my best to keep up with all the blogs I read, trying to get my book sold, I am gearing up for a survival lecture in August, headed out of state to check out a RAD RTC, I am also spearheading radonline, I am hip deep in a mailing campaign for that project and on top of all of that, I am trying to run a survival school at Eastfork State Park. If I don't reply on all the blogs that I read, it's not you..I am just bunched up for time!
**update: I will be having minor surgery as well...OY!**
I found my my voice on the river.
(This is the FIRST time I have told this story, it's a very sacred story to me)
I decided last night, as I was leaving the emergency room that I would talk about something very special that happened to me a few years ago that I believe was the actual start of my recovery. I thought it would be best to talk about how I found my own voice after my life was completely destroyed and riddled with horrible memories.
I knew that deep down I had to make a fundamental change in my life. I didn't know how to do this. My survival mechanics were lying, stealing, drinking and manipulating. I didn't have a conscience. I had nothing to cling to. I had no friends, no job, no future. I both came to rely upon the very survival instincts that were killing me. In many respects, R.A.D. is a catch 22 in that the survival mechanics that R.A.D. sufferers will utilize are the very same mechanics that will eventually tear them apart.
My world was coming to an end very fast. It was either change or die.
That change came with a river.
While I was living with my parents (At the tender age of 30) I saw a movie called "Into The Wild". I saw the story of someone alot like myself. The story talks about how a young man had to shed his belief system in order to "Find himself". I won't spoil the story for those that haven't seen the movie. He travels across the country, seeing awe inspiring sights and learning to live with nothing. He was very much a vagabond and he was also trying to find that self realization and actualization.
This was the answer I was looking for. I knew what I had to do. I had to PROVE to MYSELF that I could, in effect, survive on my own. I had to prove to myself that I had self worth no matter how meager to others. It was paramount to my survival that I found that edge that I could straddle between life and death. I had to push the limits of myself in order to find my own values and core beliefs. It was time.
So, I started traveling into the woods. Deep into the back country. I would trek out without really telling anyone where I was going. It just so happened that the Ohio River was the spot where I found my own rebirth. This is great stuff, the stuff of legend that alot of people talk about but very few have the opportunity as adults to experience.
It was 22 degrees outside when I loaded up my military hiking pack with nothing but food, 1 set of clothes, a digital camera and nothing else. I was so fed up with my own life, I made the decision that I was going to measure myself against the elements. I was either going to freeze to death or I was going to walk out of the woods a different person. This, believed was the last chance I had to prove to myself that I could survive on my own, without hurting someone else in the process. If I froze to death, it would have been a noble undertaking in my opinion at the time. Change or die.
I set out on my journey along the Ohio Riverbanks, through thickets, hills, crevasses and I did have to ford the river in one place. I finally made it to the spot where I wanted set up camp. Oddly, I was proud of the fact I was able to make it so far. I could see a storm coming in. Considering the fact that I had no shelter, 1 set of clothes and I was already soaked, there was a serious danger of hypothermia.
I found some huge dead tree limbs. The garbage bag I brought with me was the only object that I had that could provide some shelter. I immediately started a fire and began building a survival shelter. It was hard work, and as the clouds loomed overhead, I had to shed clothes.
Before I knew it, I had found my value.
With my shelter complete, a warming fire started and munching down on an MRE the most beautiful thing in my life happened. It began to snow.
The riverbanks and the surrounding area were devoid of any sound, except the running river and the snow hitting my shelter. The pattering of the snow against my shelter reminded me without this object that I built with my own hands, on my own saved my life. Not only was I alive, I was with nature and I was seeing the most beautiful landscape that I have ever seen. The silence left me with nothing but own shadows to look upon.
I was so ecstatic that I had saved my own life and created something that was mine and mine alone I had to call a friend. I was almost shouting/crying about how beautiful and how proud I was of the accomplishment that I had made. I learned to survive without the constraints of the society I had come to hate with such passion. I was far away from all the people I had hurt and hurt me in return. I was in a place that was my own, that no one will ever be able to take away from me.
The snow, the smell of the fire, the running water and the fact that while I was shivering, I was alive was one of the purest expressions of happiness that I have ever experienced before. I was truly ALIVE.
What I did was extremely dangerous, but it was necessary. I had to challenge myself and face my own mortality. I had to learn how to live all over again.
My family of course was extremely confused. I was shedding the belief system that never fit me in adoption and building my OWN core belief system. I always knew my adoption felt more like a pre-fabricated life that didn't belong to me. All of the things that were taught to me weren't mine. They were someone else's. The more times that I walked into the woods alone, the more lessons I learned about my values and life.
My family didn't understand how a computer tech savvy person could transform into a bearded hiker that took too many dangerous chances in the woods. I am sure it was scary for my family and a few times, I came close to dying in the woods (but that's another story). Everything my adoptive family believed in and taught me never fit me. This was the real me. I was learning that the woods was my home. I was learning that that all the glamour and glitz and shiny gold plated dreams weren't for me.
The simplicity of learning to live my life on my own terms took over. The connections had I believe were finally reset. I had to learned to live with nothing and survive on my own.
Those days on the river are long gone and this is the first time I am talking about this experience with the community. For a long time, I only shared it with two other people on this planet. It's an important story and a story that I think is time to share.
There are still days where I long to be on the river. I long to feel the sting of freezing snow along a white landscape. There are still days I yearn to smell that fire all over again and listen to the pattering of snow hitting my shelter. I still long to hear the sound of silence. I still yearn to feel the biting half frozen water as I ford a river with a 50 pound pack.
I still hike and I still camp out but it's nothing like that winter years ago.
Perhaps, it's best to leave those waters behind and look towards new ones.