Greetings from Vermont, fellow hikers, the name’s Jared! Its great to meet you! This fall, at the end of August, I will be setting out on my first thru-hike on Vermont’s Long Trail, and it will also be my first solo trip. Some friends may be able to join me, but at the moment, it looks like it’s just me, myself, and I! I spent a lot of time thinking about this trip, and what it would take to enable me to get there (hence the title of this post), so I would like to explain a little bit about myself and why this is important to me.
First things first: I am Jared, and I am a recovering alcoholic. My last drink was on September 26th, 2021. I don’t know what happened that day, because apparently I woke up spewing blood Exorcist style (massive gastrointestinal bleed; totally not cool, man), and I had an acute case of encephalitis, which is basically a free frontal lobotomy (most Certainly not cool). I woke up four days later (probably when they pulled the catheter out, apparently this is common, if you’re going to wake up at all), and then I was informed that I needed a new liver. The doctors had no idea how much my liver could regenerate, because this was not the first time I had almost shuffled off the old mortal coil, and only time would tell what my recovery, if any, would look like. I had been trying to quit drinking and using drugs for almost 8 years at that point, having periods of sanity, but always returning to cheap vodka, a cheap chaser, and way too many cigarettes (food was occasionally involved).
So, I obviously had a decision to make, so I made it. I decided I wasn’t ready to die yet, and the only way I knew that was going to happen was to get sober, and STAY sober, which is the hardest part. After all, everybody quits every night when they go to sleep, right? The tricky part is waking up and not taking a drink. Once I got out of the hospital, looking remarkably like a George A. Romero zombie, or the guy from Sin City, I dragged myself back to the rooms (if you know, you know), and dove right in. Turns out, it works, at least for me! So, how did all this lead up to the decision to spend over 3 weeks in the woods?
Isolation Years, No Longer
I was an isolation drinker. I was more or less drunk all day, every day, and the people who loved me eventually couldn’t stand to be around me. Therefore, I really only went out to the liquor store, or to a part time job that I enjoyed, mostly because I could sneak beers from the walk-in cooler. I had given up on all my healthy hobbies just to stay at home and drink myself to death, which wasn’t exactly what I intended, but that’s what was happening. After my moment of clarity in the hospital, and getting what remained of my life in some order, I began to see all these articles on my phone about thru-hiking, the AT, PCT, the CDT, and began reading some really epic blogs on The Trek. There was so much to research: about shelters, how to go ultralight, or at least lighter, how to choose a pack…I read gear reviews, about calorie and nutrient ratios, and all that fun jazz. Good thing I love to read!
I have to pay careful attention to my diet (high calorie, low sodium, high protein), have to take lots of meds and vitamins, and it has paid off. I live a normal life at this point, and have been pushing myself to get ready for the LT. It isn’t very fun sometimes, but it is totally worth it, just like this adventure will be. Finances, time, and support are all great, so I could take a month out there, though I am going to try and make it a cool 26 days; a couple zero days will be necessary for sure, especially before I tackle Mt. Mansfield (full disclosure: I hate heights, and I like falling from them even less). I am committed, and I will crush that mountain, or whimper slowly over it! Getting in some day hikes and a few overnights this summer has been great for prep, and I feel ready. I want to be soaking up the world without all the extraneous crap out there, and give myself (and hopefully others) some experience and hope. And, if I meet my timeline, I will arrive back home just in time to celebrate one full year of sobriety. Right now, the future has never looked so bright!
Till We Meet Again…
Happy trails friends, and to paraphrase the world’s most interesting man (a fellow Vermonter, by the way): I don’t always thru-hike, but when I do, I do it with a smile.
Until next time, peace!
P.S. Just to let everybody know, I don’t condemn other people for drinking, that’s their choice, and I respect that. I just don’t have that privilege anymore. I’m not here to preach about sobriety and tell other people how to live their lives; my sobriety only comes into these posts because I am pushing myself outside of my comfort zone in a big way.
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