I was on my fourth trip to the Grand Canyon in my fifth year of recovery. My normie girlfriend and I started out from Albuquerque at 10:30 a.m. We arrived at the canyon by evening. Our travel time totaled 11 hours and 500 miles of open road, AA speaker tapes, laughs, food, wrong turns and beautiful country.
We settled into our room for dinner and a night’s rest, to be followed by an epic hike in the morning. Our plan was to hike the Kaibab trail seven miles down to the bottom of the canyon to Phantom Ranch. There we would stay overnight, followed by a long, 10-mile hike out on Wednesday.
I was told early on that recovery was about living life: “If you ain’t living, you ain’t sober,” people told me. I heard similar sayings, like, “Go live your life,” and “If you’re not knocking the cover off the ball of life, you might as well go get drunk.” These were just a few not-so-subtle suggestions that were given to me. That all sounded like good advice, so I took it.
My journey into the world of being sober has brought a host of G.O.D. acronyms to my attention. There’s Good Orderly Direction, Group Of Drunks, Gift Of Desperation (my sponsor’s favorite) and, on this day hiking the Grand Canyon, the Great OutDoors (my favorite). The outdoors keeps me in the moment, keeps me in the positive, helps me gain perspective. Hikes like this are done one step at a time, just like we do it in AA.
Morning came, and off we went. A four-mile-long bus ride from our room left us at the Kaibab trailhead. Just a few steps in and the beauty of the canyon revealed itself. Never old, always beautiful. The majesty of this place reminds me that God’s in charge. Seven miles of a well-carved trail, turn after turn, showed one postcard scene after another. I thanked “The Boss,” my Higher Power, for the good work that he does. My trusty companion and I prayed throughout the trip for fun and safety. And we got it. Thanks, Boss.
The end of our first day brought us to the bottom of the canyon. We rested, showered and relaxed. A few hours of down time left me time to read some AA literature. I read “Bill’s Story,” “The Doctor’s Opinion” and “More about Alcoholism.” I was amazed at how much they talked about God in the early days. I’m familiar with the Big Book, but it hits me differently every time. I thought, This is recovery, alive and well at the bottom of the Grand Canyon!
Later we had a steak dinner and did some “sign-making,” in which we depicted our day’s adventures on a piece of drawing paper with lots of magic markers. We saved them. I’ve learned to fill up my time now with positive things like this, as most of my time, especially after a long hike, used to be spent drinking. But not this day. No craving, no desire—the Boss was at work.
Wednesday morning we got up early at 6 o’clock for breakfast and headed for the hike of 10 miles and 5,000 vertical feet up to the South Rim via the Bright Angel Trail. It was lots of pictures and lots of “step work” to the top.
The weather threatened to snow, but I’ve learned to be prepared. I once heard in a meeting that somehow things always work out. I remembered that as I pondered how a snowstorm would impact our hike. I did what was in front of me and left the results up to God. I read that in the back of the Big Book. The weather cooperated and things worked out—just like I’ve learned in AA.
My girlfriend’s fitness counter registered 20,000 steps from beginning to end of the hike. Thank goodness Bill W. kept his spiritual journey to a total of 12 Steps! Twenty thousand Steps would have been a bit much for my sponsor and me to handle.
We finally arrived at the end of our hike, after more than seven hours from bottom to top. We were both tired and grateful that we’d made it safely to the top.
I never take great experiences like these incredible hikes for granted. It’s such a gift to be able to do this. Although I do it with my own two feet, I’m well aware that everyone I’ve ever met in AA has had something to do with me being here. I’ve never done it alone and I hope I never try.