I’m not much of a writer. My website has been up for many years, and my roots in the hiking community extend back to 2003, but my desire to communicate using the written word has never been a priority. Fame was not something I desired. I appeared on a television show (and a handful of podcasts) not in an effort to acquire fame, but to present my lifestyle as a credible possibility for others to emulate if they desired an alternative to the dominant paradigm. Of the many ways one can choose to live their life, this was mine. In a world rife with rampant consumerism and rat-race ideology, living the life of a mountain hobo was interesting enough to others that they reached out for instruction. As if the path to becoming a hiking bum wasn’t self-explanatory. Eschew debt. Live simply. Make adventure a priority and it’ll transform the way you navigate the world.
It was inevitable that I’d reach some level of notoriety if I kept hiking though, and many miles later I have built up a fair bit of credibility…but that’s not why I’m here. It’s only been very recently that I’ve started promoting myself to a wider audience, both through YouTube videos and sharing regular content on Instagram. Even this piece I’m typing now is out of character for me, as most my blog posts have been gear reviews. But I’m recently going through some enormous personal growth, and my partner believes that writing is constructive. I have enough faith in her wisdom to at least try it.
Social media is a relatively new experience for me. I’ve had a Facebook account since 2009 (along with this website) but stopped posting with any regularity long ago. It was an interesting way to keep in touch with the friends and family I didn’t email regularly, but that platform never held much allure. Seeing baby pictures and blurry photos of food didn’t interest me, and the biased political nonsense that passed as facts made my eyes roll so hard they hurt. In 2015 I started an Instagram account as a way for my girlfriend to see photos I took while hiking, but since I wasn’t much of a photographer, there wasn’t much for me to share. Being that I grew up before cheap/lightweight digital photography, I preferred to take each moment in through my eyes instead of a lens. That Instagram account lay dormant until 2017 when I hiked the Florida Trail. With the help of a fancy new smartphone, I started to document my trip up and across the state, taking ridiculous photos of myself wearing goofy shirts and playing on exercise equipment. I tried not to take myself too seriously.
Stumbling into the world of Instagram was strange. While I had gained notoriety in the hiking community (due to long walks year after year), it was almost entirely among people I’d met face-to-face on trail. People recognized me from my contributions to Yogi’s Guidebooks, but the only folks who read those books were those prepping for a long hike of the Pacific Crest or Continental Divide Trails. Not a large or far removed audience. When I started posting on a regular basis on Instagram last year, my readership skyrocketed, reaching nearly 10k in a matter of months. Suddenly ALL THESE PEOPLE were able to communicate with me directly, many of whom would never have learned my name otherwise. In the social media spotlight, with barely any concept of how it functioned, I continued to make fun of myself for short shorts and terrible dance moves. Soon I was sharing parts of my life both past and present. Old photos from thru hikes in the early 2000s, new pics from ultra running events, eventually opening up about my pursuit and eventual attainment of sobriety. I never thought I’d share something as personal as substance abuse with strangers, but there I was, communicating with the world about my failures as a human.
I’m now nearly two years sober, but I still have a lot to accomplish. Two years may sound like a long time, but there are layers of damage I now need to start peeling back, and the twenty years of alcohol abuse I subjected myself to created some deep scars. Finding the reasons why I drank, exploring the anger and roots behind my addiction, seeing how the ripples of alcoholism still reverberate through my words. These are the new problems to solve. The substance I abused isn’t there, but the echoes still are. They come up at inopportune times, reminding me of the person I used to be, and hammering home the changes I need to make to become the person I want to become. Meditation helps. So does immersing myself in books (mostly based on recommendations), and attending meetings with others who have experienced similar addictions. Going on long runs, lifting kettlebells and doing push-ups, regular attendance at the gym…all these help. My friend network, diverse as it is, also contains a few (or more) old drunks like me who have shucked off the yoke of alcohol and been reborn. Finding kindred spirits is immensely helpful and is the main reason I decided to start sharing my own battle so publicly. If I could reach out and help others battling substance abuse, it would become my real gift to the world. Helping hikers shed pack weight and choose comfortable shoes is definitely worthwhile, but I found the idea of somehow aiding people in healing from addiction much more compelling.
Trouble is, I don’t think I’m ready for that. I deactivated my social media recently because I don’t believe I’m in a position to share my journey quite yet. I’m sober, but I haven’t learned enough about myself to be a public figure. I’m still blundering along, making mistakes and fucking up. There is no alcohol in me anymore, but I’m still acting like a drunk. I beat alcohol, but haven’t conquered the emotions that caused me to drink in the first place. My journey as a sober human is still in its infancy, and until I learn to better control my emotions, I don’t consider myself qualified to share my experiences. I’ll continue to write here on my website, since this platform is much smaller and personable, but I’m taking a break from social media for the time being. Maybe I’ll come back. Maybe not. To be honest, I’ve really enjoyed these past couple weeks without it. Not staring at my phone has been refreshing. I’ve unplugged from the machine for the most part, only using my laptop to Google healthy food recipes and finding interesting classes at the gym. Instead of viewing the world through a screen I choose sociable dinners with friends, long walks with my girlfriend, and taking in sunsets with my naked eyes instead of a lens.