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One of the striking distinctives of the west when coming from the east are the wide open vistas. Your view ranges for miles on end unimpeded by vegetation, buildings (in the rural areas, which is much of the west), or the haze of humidity. When I return to my long-time home of western NC I marvel at the explosion of green, a rich verdancy foreign to western high deserts. Running trails in the NC mountains brings you sometimes through magical rhododendron tunnels so thick on each side and above you that you feel there is no other path than the one you are on. From vistas of miles all around, you barely see 10 feet in any direction but the path you are traveling. In addiction, sometimes you can feel there are no options but the path you are on. The rhododendron is so thick you can’t see any other path to pursue to your right or to your left. The path you are on can feel inevitable. Those who love them may have instead the western high desert view seeing so many options for how their life could go. The western open expanses of possibilities for freedom has been constricted down to the narrow dirt trail encased by the rhododendron of frustration, fear, failure, job or school and relational consequences, societal judgement and shaming, and the constant demand of the physical brain telling them they need substances to survive. Do you recognize this place in your own life? Have you felt stripped of options, the world narrowing down to a pin-hole camera’s view? Have you felt encased, in a tunnel, moving along a path you do not want to be on but feel enslaved to? I think we all have been, or will be, in a similar place. And what helps? How about allowing others to speak into our lives and open our perspectives? To help us see that the bars that imprison us that we are shaking so vigorously for freedom are actually only in front of us and not surrounding us, that we can get out of the jail by turning to the openings at the right or left. If you are struggling, seek the perspectives and insights of those around you, they may see the open door you are blind to. Trust and take steps in that direction and see what happens.

Addiction is a treatable brain disease disabling decision making.

Updated: Oct 20, 2021

Meet my permanent active support team, my wife Beth. She finds us campsites each day, shops, cooks, and picks me up or drops me off when it cannot coincide with a campsite. She is working harder than I am. Loki, named after Joel’s dog, his sobriety companion who accompanied him in his 18 wheeler, is along for the duration as well. A number of you have communicated to me about joining the journey for a few days at different points. Another number of you have helped in the preparation for the trip, with communications or advice or training or in other important ways. Many of you have donated through GoFundMe, 100% going to SUD organizations in prevention and education, treatment and recovery, and homelessness. Others of you give encouragement through social media, text, email, or phone. All of these contributions helped fill the void of my injury, my weaknesses, my grieving, and my doubt. In Joel’s Steps is a community and not a solo effort. I could not do this alone. I’m trying ‘cause of a little help from my friends.

And so is the process of recovery. It takes the decision and commitment to take the first step towards the freedom of sobriety by an addicted individual, but then there is a community of support available to help where they, like me, are damaged, where they are weak, where they are diseased, and where they despair. That support helps repair their broken mind, give strength, catalyze healing, and give hope. They can try ‘cause they have a little help from their friends

How we view their struggle, individually and societally, has a huge impact on the success of treatment, its availability, and on its demand. Please help by sharing any of this information, a post, the website, etc with friends and contacts. Be a friend to others in this struggle, offer a little help.

Go ahead, sing the song in your head right now. Sticks with you doesn’t it? Do any of us think we can really get by without a little help from our friends?

Addiction is a brain disease,

It breaks the brain’s decision-making functionality,

It is treatable.

InJoelsteps on Strava, FB, Instagram, Racery, and GoFundMe

Updated: Aug 1, 2021

These long, lonely roads I am riding now bring Joel to mind more intensely. Many of you knew our son Joel, but many of you did not. Many that did know him knew him as a boy growing up but did not know him later during his struggles with addiction, or after his recovery. Joel was a marvelous professional chef. He was very creative with flavor combinations and his plating eye was exquisite. He showed an interest in cooking back to early childhood. On several occasions when my office staff would come over for a meal, Joel would plan and prepare it at 10 years old. Joel was an Eagle Scout becoming the youngest in his troop at the time to earn the rank. After a couple difficult listening years for his parents, Joel became a very good drummer. He had 3 full drum sets taking up our music cottage where his bands would practice. Joel loved animals and had a wide range of pets and spent summers volunteering at a pet store. His dog Loki later in his life prompted us to name our new dog Loki as well, in his honor. Joel was a best friend to many. Joel was a loving father to his son. And back to the roads, Joel was a cross-country trucker his last couple of years. He entered every state in the lower 48 except for two. I am likely riding the Elliptigo on some of the same roads he was on in the last few years. Long, lonely, and now very hot roads replicating some of his life experience. All of my uncountable memories of Joel growing up, of his mighty battles with substances, and of his post recovery life before a deadly relapse are defined by the person he became post recovery. He came out the other side intact, all of who he was as a boy pre-addiction, but enhanced, wizened, matured, and gentled. He had exhibited such strength in continuing to get back up after being knocked back down by relapses, yet he had developed a humility and a kind empathy for others’ struggles which surpassed my own even today. He was so grateful for each day clean and recognized his need for grace. Our son had gone through a fire far hotter than the roads I ride today and come, literally and symbolically, and like the Phoenix had arisen anew, fresh, vital, better. We all have that opportunity when we go through the fire, but I especially would like to communicate Joel’s hope to those needing or entering recovery. As Joel wrote, “Thank you God for the life I do not know yet”, for someday sooner than you think, you can experience that after your walk through the fire.

Addiction is a brain disease that is treatable that breaks healthy decision-making

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