'The Day A Mountain Changed My Life' June winner: anonymousPublished: 2nd October 2018
Discover the winning entries from our monthly writing competition capturing memorable mountain days.
There was a mountain, but I don’t know which one. A long time ago I fell, headlong, into addiction. Fortunately, I found myself on a rehab programme, part of which was a week at a centre somewhere in the wilds of Wales, away from the places and people that enabled our various addictions.
None of us, through our lifestyle choices, were at the peak of fitness, so the activities were a torment. It wasn’t just the exercise. We were all suffering from the long-term symptoms of physical withdrawal, which varied according to our drug of choice. More importantly we had been wrenched out of our cosy, if squalid, circle of acquaintances and dealers, and away from whatever it was we craved. The focus of my life had been wrenched away from me and it was all I could think about, every waking minute of every long, damp day. The culmination of this week of misery was, predictably, to climb a mountain.
I hated it. Everything about it. I have snapshot memories of blinding clarity – a rock shaped like a cow, the bright purple of a rucksack being carried through the trees in front of me, someone’s mud-covered arse at one of our rest stops. And I remember sounds – the incessant, maddening swish of our nylon jackets, the grunts and coughs of the people before and behind me, my own choking, gasping breath.
We came out of the trees and there was the top. We stopped, coughed, spat. It was nowhere. We could see for miles under the low cloud and there was nothing, just more tree-covered hills like this one slouching off into the distance.
We didn’t wait to be told to turn around. It wasn’t any easier going down.
The week shuddered to a damp close and we were driven back to the city. Back to the programme, to group therapy and the relentless itch of craving.
A blur of days passed. Sitting in a session on relationships, staring out at the traffic, I jerk into wakefulness. I wasn’t thinking of my loss, I was smelling grass, feeling the ache in my thighs and the sweaty deadweight of the rucksack on my back.
I completed the programme and shortly after I moved away. I walk now and live quietly and carefully. I have true friends who lead me into light and air over turf and rocks. I never look back.
Photo credit: Tom Bailey
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