This past summer, my daughter and I planned to hike a section of the Appalachian Trail. Although we both loved the outdoors and were frequent day hikers, neither of us had attempted an overnight backpacking experience. After watching numerous on-line videos for advice, studying trail maps, and loading our packs, we set off for adventure, compass in hand and a smile on our faces.
Seasoned backpackers will tell you that “newbies” on the trail are easily recognized by the size of their packs, carrying everything but the kitchen sink. We were no exception. Our packs were easily half our body weight and towered over our heads. After the first mile, we got the hang of balancing our loads and conquered one steep ascent after another.
All was well until I had the misfortune to misstep and “roll” on a stick. I was thrown off balance, my feet went out from under me, and I found myself looking up at the sky, my fall cushioned by my pack. My daughter ran to my aid but was quickly overcome with fits of laughter at the sight of me attempting to get back on my feet.
Every effort to stand up was negated by the heavy pack. No matter how I tried, I was stuck, much like an overturned turtle. After valiant efforts to right myself, I lay exhausted by the situation, needing some kind of helping hand to stand. Once I gave up fighting the pack weight, a thought came to me. If I just unclipped my pack, I would be able to stand. I did. Now free from the weight of my burden, I stood upright.
My experience on the trail holds many lessons for me when compared to Al-Anon. Many of us carried a burden from the effects of alcoholism, causing us to lose our balance and get stuck. Our best efforts were ineffective in “righting” ourselves in our relationships and lives. For me, the experience, strength, and hope provided by the program are the freeing solutions to the family disease of alcoholism. The Steps and Traditions help me unclip the burden of the effects of growing up with alcoholism, allowing me to proceed down the trail of life upright and balanced.
By Mary Jo H.
The Forum, May 2016
Reprinted with permission of Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters, Inc., Virginia Beach, VA.