Long Road to Katahdin

Hi everyone, just thought I’d use this post to introduce myself. My name is Mike and I’m from Boston, Massachusetts, 33 years old and I’m getting ready to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail. I grew up with a loving and supportive family that has always been there, and I consider myself lucky for that. I have two amazing younger sisters and I’ve had great friends all throughout my life. My grandfather used to take me for walks in the woods all the time to teach me all about the plants and animals indigenous to Massachusetts and I loved every single second of it. I spent most of my childhood playing in the woods and terrifying my mother with the various critters I’d catch and bring home.

I wasn’t the easiest kid to raise but my parents have done more than everything possible to make sure I grew up to be a good man and I can’t emphasize enough how much they have done for me. My parents scraped by to send me to good schools and I did well enough to get into college at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, where I studied entomology (insects). Unfortunately for me instead of picking up the books, I reached for a bottle and never looked back. I dropped out as a senior and continued to drink as my sole focus until I was hospitalized and nearly died. Unfortunately, that wasn’t enough for me to stop and this behavior continued in large spurts for most of the next ten years or so.

I drove out to California on a whim in 2012 as I wasn’t happy where I was in Massachusetts, and I wanted to seek adventure. I settled in Ocean Beach, which is a small beach town in San Diego. It was amazing there and I learned a lot about myself and what I could handle. Unfortunately, my drinking problem continued to rear its ugly head and every time life started getting good, I would drown myself in liquor and wipe out any progress I had. I’ll spare you the details of the next several years but just assume they weren’t a whole lot of fun aside from a few bright spots.

Back to My Roots

Finally, in 2018 I suffered a fractured vertebra and decided I couldn’t handle my lifestyle any further. My sister Jaimee was very adamant that I come stay with her until I got on my feet, but pride just would not let me accept the help. After many difficult conversations, I relented and told her I would be coming home to Massachusetts. That conversation literally saved my life I believe.

I came home on December 1, 2018, battered, bruised, and feeling defeated. My father went out of his way to drive an hour both ways to pick me up and spend time with me every week. He never lost faith and did everything in his power to help me, just as he did throughout all my years of drinking. I’ll admit, all I wanted to do was hide in shame, but my family wouldn’t stand by and let me wallow in self-pity. My sister Jaimee let me stay with her, her boyfriend, Chris, and my six-year-old nephew, Isaiah. She never once asked for money or help; she just let me stay, helped me get better, and showed me true, unconditional love. My nephew means the world to me and I’m truly grateful for all the time I have been able to spend with the little guy. His smile will melt your heart. Trust me on that.

So, long story short, it has taken a tremendous amount of work and dedication to get to where I am. There’s a good chance I wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for the amazing support system that my family provided, and I’m truly grateful. There’s still a lifetime of work ahead of me but I finally feel like I can handle it, even if it is just one day at a time.

Hitting the Trail

I went on a camping trip with a few friends mid-September in Rangeley, Maine, and I was really blown away by the experience. It was far from my first time camping but the remoteness of the campsite was a different pace for sure. Here I was with a couple of people who really knew what they were doing, and I was blown away by their skill level out there in the woods. I tried to absorb everything that I could from those guys and somehow a switch was flipped. I felt like I was plugged in and in my element for pretty much every moment I was out there. It was really an indescribable feeling.

One night around the fire we began talking about the Appalachian Trail. Everyone I was with spoke of how great an experience it would be but each person had their own reason for why it wouldn’t be feasible. All had very valid reasons why disappearing for six months into the wilderness might not be the greatest life decision. It seemed like I was the only one there without any real impediment to doing something crazy like that. I was single, no kids, no pets, and experiencing a transitional phase back home in Massachusetts. I work full time and although I am grateful for the job I have, I wouldn’t consider it a career. That conversation planted a seed in my head that seemed to sprout overnight. I couldn’t stop thinking about the trail now. It called to me.

 

Change in Direction

There are a million reasons for doing this, but primarily I’m doing this to change the direction of my life. I hope to see what I’m made of and I’m keeping an open mind about where I want to go from here. I feel like this is my chance to finally grow up and start moving in a positive direction. For the first time in forever I genuinely have hope and purpose, and it’s an overwhelming feeling. Better late than never.

Well, thanks for reading all of that. I hope my story will someday help others who want to change their lives for the better. I will be leaving March 2020 as a solo NOBO hiker and I will be sharing the experience with anyone who wants to listen!

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Comments 22

  • AR : Nov 23rd

    Wonderful Mike, looking forward to seeing your success on your journey

    Reply
  • missjannamarie : Nov 23rd

    This is amazing! Such an incredible journey and I’m so excited for this next chapter of your life!

    Reply
  • Detox : Nov 23rd

    See you out there my friend. Got sober in Mission Beach back in the mid 80’s. There is a good recent thread on white blaze about sobriety on the AT. You will find the support you need… if you look for it. Sounds like things in your life are falling into place. Keep the focus inward. See you out there my friend.

    Reply
    • Mike Moccia : Nov 24th

      I appreciate the advice and congrats on staying sober! Hope to see you out there.

      Reply
      • Sara Caldwell : Nov 26th

        Thanks for being open about your sobriety. I also deal with sobriety and taking each day as it comes. We are all walking each other home. I am so grateful for my 8 months sobriety. Now my family wants me around again. They see my progress and love me for who I am now.

        Reply
  • Jaimee : Nov 23rd

    You are strong and you will succeed. You say such nice things about me but in the end you are an inspiration and a model of resilience. All my love and support you already know!

    Reply
  • Tammy : Nov 24th

    I’m really excited for you and this new journey in life. 👍💪🏻🏕😃

    Reply
  • Bruce Hall : Nov 24th

    I wish the best for you. Work the program; the program works. Sober 30 years. Still working it.

    Reply
  • Donna Campbell : Nov 24th

    Congratulations on your sobriety. I got sober about the same age you are (that was 23 years ago for me) and I so wish that I had done more hiking back then. However, I don’t regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it and I’m grateful my sober friends and I have taken up hiking, even though it was later in life for us, as we have had a blast doing so.
    This will be a wonderful opportunity for you. Just remember that there will be temptations even on the trail to “slip” and drink. Just choose to not take a drink that day while you are sober. That’s what I’ve done and it’s worked for 23 plus years.
    I wish you all the best and my friends and I will be following your progress!

    Reply
    • Mike Moccia : Nov 24th

      It’s really nice to hear someone got it at my age and stuck with it for 23 years. Thats amazing. I’ll certainly stay vigilant, I appreciate your kind words Donna!

      Reply
  • Jenna Russell : Nov 24th

    NOBO hsre also starting in March. I will be celebrating 10 yrs sober on the trail. I will be starting 3/21. Hope to see ya on the trail

    Reply
    • Mike Moccia : Nov 24th

      I’m sure we’ll run into each other. Congrats on 10 years! See you on the trail.

      Reply
  • Anne : Nov 24th

    GOD created the AT!! Best rehab, recovery, healing program ever!! Jesus is my friend and therapist all along the trail and never leaves me or lets me down. AMEN!! May you be blessed on your journey!!

    Reply
  • Susan Dubay : Nov 24th

    Have you considered writing for a career? You’re a good writer. Definitely keep a daily log of your adventures.

    Reply
    • Mike Moccia : Nov 24th

      I haven’t but I did enjoy writing this so we’ll see how it goes. I really appreciate the kind words, made my day!

      Reply
  • Anna : Nov 24th

    Mike,

    I applaud you for making a positive change in your life. I too am in recovery, and spent my first day sober on March 28th, 2013 and never looked back. Hiking is my escape and keeps me grounded. I am working on the NH 48 and the NE67. If I could take 6 months off from work, I’d hike the AT in a heart beat. Good luck to you, and I hope you are able to heal your soul. Easy does it.

    Reply
    • Mike Moccia : Nov 24th

      Thanks a lot, I hope to hear you have your 7 years when I’m on the trail!

      Reply
  • Rachel Lee : Nov 25th

    Congrats on your sobriety! Four years sober off of opiates/benzos as of November 12th of this year. I, too, found a spark of joy in my sobriety in long-distance hiking. The woods are a magical place and are a wonderful place to heal. I hope you have a wonderful long walk and that you gain whatever it is you are looking to from this journey. I look forward to following your journey!

    Reply
  • Dennis M : Nov 25th

    Great stuff Mike! I pray that God will be with you every step and that you know His presence.

    Reply
  • Homebound : Nov 25th

    Good luck Mike. My hubby just finished the trail on August 10th, 2019 after beginning the trail on March 19, 2019. I’m not sure people really “find” themselves, however, I pray you learn to “understand” yourself. You are an individual and no one else anywhere is like you. Do your own hike and may God touch your adventure.

    Reply
  • Alvin Humphrey : Nov 25th

    Good Luck to you Mike!! I’m a 200+ mi section-hiker, planning my own thru-hike in the next 2 years. As you prepare yourself physically, emotionally, you should check out some great films out there – one good one – The Way, with Martin Sheen. One take-away from this one – the Trail won’t solve or change your personal struggles in life ‘but’ it certainly can be a fantastic and life-changing effort to help steer you in the right direction. Yes!, the Trail will provide – but it has to be more than that – through God, the Trail, many future Trail Family friends, and your experiences-on-trail – use ALL of that to help you change direction!! You Can Do This – One White-Blaze at a Time!

    Reply
  • Beth : Nov 30th

    Best of luck! I hope you keep us up to date on your journey! Keep writing! I’ll be pulling for you.

    Reply

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