In our own words: Stories from those who have been there and are determined to give back. Featuring contributions from the Avenues Recovery Family.
This weekend, the guys at Avenues in Jamison, PA, went camping.
While camping for me has always been a healing experience, it’s a challenging experience as well. It’s uncomfortable. It goes against nearly all the external things we seek in life. It disrupts the conveniences we are all so used to relying on. But maybe its two sides of the same coin. Adversity makes you dig deep inside, and inside is where the healing happens.
Our weekend reflected that.
Some of the men were hesitant- they had never camped before. Others hated the idea, mostly because they had been forced to camp in the past, and there were those up for an adventure regardless of where or how it was. Friday, we arrived at the campground in the pouring rain. Our first challenge. Instead of packing up and packing out we found joy in getting soaked together. In that rain, we built our tents, set up our canopies, prepared dinner, and made use of whatever Mother Nature offered us.
Challenge accepted, and challenge overcome.
Morning came. We crawled hesitantly out of our tents, unsure what the day would bring but ready to take it on. We found a shining sun and and singing birds. We wrung out our wet belongings and started the day grateful.
Grateful the rain was gone, and grateful for each other.
Together the guys choose to take on different roles. Everyone found a way to fit and a way to shine. We all helped each other. The men traded advice on the skills they were good at, or that they were eager to learn. Throughout the day I watched the guys smile silently. They took photos. They stopped and looked around appreciating their surroundings. We hiked beautiful trails leading to the beach for a swim in the lake. It was peaceful there, surrounded by mountains and families enjoying the warm weather.
The rain came back again. No one ran for cover. The guys stood in that rain, faces turned up to the sky, embracing the unpredictability of nature and the beauty that comes with that. The sky darkened and we got a fire going. We brewed coffee, cooked dinner, and made s’mores. As the sun went down, the stars seemed to shine brighter than ever before.
Around that campfire, we all looked up in amazement, humbled by the beauty of the universe and hopeful of finding our rightful place within it. We shared our stories, our hopes, our dreams. We encouraged each other and challenged each other to dream bigger. And in the light of those flames, we knew that our dreams were indeed possible to achieve.
The guys went to back to their tents. In the stillness you heard chirping crickets mixed with the laughter of satisfied men- men who’d had a good day. The next morning, we ate breakfast and talked about our night. In many ways it was the best of our lives. We came together one more time to clean up, making sure to leave everything exactly the way we had found it.
Our camping trip was uncomfortable at first, but we made it through that discomfort by coming together and helping each other. Once we made it through that situation, we were able to appreciate the moment and be fully present.
We were given no choice but to accept and take action. And take action we did.
As a result of our acceptance we experienced growth. We gained knowledge and the strength to make it through the following day, and we made that day count. Throughout the weekend we surrounded ourselves with a power greater than us. In recognizing that, we were able to appreciate the adversity and find the beauty and good in it. It drove us to learn, to try new things. It drove us to help each other and to allow others to help us. It encouraged us to think bigger. It gave us the confidence to take more chances and do wonderful things.
We drove away from the campsite happy, at peace, closer than ever before. Gratitude and pride radiated from the group. We had done more than just camping. We spent a weekend living the program and seeing that it works! We opened the toolbox we are being given at Avenues and using everything inside. We took an uncomfortable situation and came out internally better for it. Closer, more trusting, grateful, open-minded, willing and stronger.
The group had seen firsthand that their progress was real.
And there is nothing more powerful than that.