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Day 66, Sept 4, Charleston, SC.

Today, Saturday, my brother Stewart Sanders, sister-in-law Sara Sanders, and sister Susannah Winiski joined Beth and me on the final walk to the ocean to complete the cross-country portion of InJoelSteps. Their presence was a blessing beyond measure. Later we went to the Angel Oak on John’s Island, a 400 year old, wise and wondrous evergreen, deliriously asymmetric, richly wending and creatively dancing with its branches in all directions. A glorious blooming of individuality that makes me think of the potential within each of us for expression on the other side of the storms of life. The Angel Oak is one of the posted photos. Another is a picture of me in a 19th c. 7x7x7’ jail in Monticello, UT representing the imprisonment of addiction. Our journey west to east through the heart of the country represented the passage from behind the prison bars of addiction to the creative freedom of the Angel Oak.

Your presence these last 2 months by following, giving, responding, commenting, sharing, story-telling, and encouraging has been integral to its progression. Thank you. InJoelSteps continues now as a writing, video, and storytelling and collection project to educate and change hearts about SUD. Community opinions and relationship connections matter. There is a beauty that only comes through brokenness.

Addiction is a treatable brain disease that disables decision-making, and stigma handicaps its treatment and prevention.

In honor of Joel Kenneth Sanders

11/28/1990 - 4/18/2019

Day 65, Sept 3, Sullivan’s Island, SC

Friday’s ride was short, slow, and delicious, including tidal flats and the soaring heights of the Cooper River Bridge, historic Battery Park and stately mansions in Charleston to the quiet Sullivan’s Island, all in a mild sunny clime. I got off the Elliptigo today for good but will finish with a walk to the beach and the Atlantic with family Saturday, the same way Beth and I walked San Francisco 2 months ago to start InJoelSteps. Terry will finish his cross country ride Sunday when his family joins him.

From painful long and steep climbs, cars or trucks brushing frighteningly close, excoriating heat, frustrating headwinds, the loneliness on the road, to logistical struggles, there was much about this journey that was stressful and challenging, that broke me down, and much more about it that inspired awe. I stand viscerally confounded by the size of this country and the long empty spaces between clusters of people. Sometimes a person in recovery just needs their effort and struggle navigating that distance through fear, frustration, pain, and loneliness to be acknowledged and recognized for their success on that difficult road, one much harder than the one I am symbolically and by proxy, completing.

I’ve come to believe that this world is built upon a foundation of paradoxes, of conflicting truths, and that one truth can be a path to its seeming opposite. That brokenness opens a doorway to healing and beauty. That the most profound grief can be a window into a sublime gratitude. That the suffering of the addicted can be a road into a character founded on humility and strength. And that there is a healing weakness that can reveal genuine strength.

Tomorrow, we walk to the ocean, freeing Joel’s ashes that I have carried across the country in his steps, and this portion of InJoelSteps will end. I will transition into another phase emphasizing story collection and telling via writing and video to continue to humanize the alarming statistics surrounding SUD, progressively fatiguing the prejudicial bars of stigma that handicap treatment and prevention of this family crisis.

Our presence in person or collective attitude helps to bring the beauty only seen on the far side of brokenness.

Addiction is a treatable brain disease that disables decision-making, and stigma disables healing.

Updated: Sep 4, 2021

Day 65, Sept 2, near Charleston, SC.

As Dorothy said, “we’re not in Kansas anymore”. Another beautiful riding day, this time some of it on backroads with infrequent cars so Terry and I could ride side by side and talk. At least until the last half hour of riding on Hwy 78 into Summerville where we found road construction, heavy and fast traffic including lots of trucks. I was focused on moving down the road as quickly as possible when Terry spoke reasonably that we had to get off. He might have saved us.

Since addiction is a brain disease that disables decision making, listening to others in recovery is important to get a perspective that you cannot see while enslaved. You may be saved by them.

Holding unexamined views of others, e.g. that substance use disorder sufferers have a moral or character flaw or choice, is the same. Opening ourselves to the perspectives of science and compassion, we may be saved from our own judgmental prison. The reduction in stigmatization of those with SUD and their families changes the cultural narrative and saves others. Addiction and its stigma are both treatable diseases.

I listened to Terry, we shuttled out of the danger, and tomorrow we can ride the west Ashley bike trail into historic Charleston and onto Sullivan Island. Then, on Saturday, Beth and I, accompanied by some of our family, will take the walk to the ocean to complete the coast to coast journey portion of InJoelSteps.

Addiction is a treatable brain disease that disables decision making, and its stigma disables healing.


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