From 12 Steps to 26,000 Feet: Bayside Marin Alum Conquers Nepalese Mountain

One of the most powerful lessons of recovery is discovering that once you’re on the right path, there’s no place you can’t go.

In most cases, that lesson is a metaphor. But one Bayside Marin alumnus took the concept a bit more literally.

Darren D., who completed treatment at Bayside Marin more than a decade ago, recently summited the eighth highest mountain in the world. Located in the Nepalese Himalayas, the mountain called Manaslu rises more than 26,750 feet above sea level.

Darren reached the peak as part of a group that included eight other climbers, five Sherpas, and three support staff members. Just getting to the basecamp involved a week’s travel from Kathmandu.

But for Darren, the excursion was even longer than that.

“My journey started in 2006 with Bayside Marin,” Darren said. “That was the year when I finally got brutally honest with myself. I had to make a decision regarding where my life was headed and what I was doing. I had to take a look at the goals I had set for my life and figure out why I kept failing.”

Darren had once been a vibrant, active person. That stopped, he said, when alcohol became the central focus of his life.

“What I was doing to myself was basically a slow suicide,” he recalled. “Slowly, alcohol took me down, and then it took me down again and again. I always lost the battle. I always ended up with some sort of problem and consequence directly related back to booze.”

No matter how hard he tried, Darren said, he couldn’t pull himself out of the downward spiral.

“I was a shell of myself,” he said. “The thought of trying to rebuild my life was overwhelming. There was no way I could do it – it was just too hard.”

Then he did something surprising: He stopped fighting, and he asked for help. That request led to Bayside Marin, which in turn led to a renewed belief in the power of possibility, and to a mountain peak in Nepal.

“When I stopped fighting and accepted help, I gained the strength and serenity that I had always been trying to obtain,” he said. “Finally, I had peace in my life.”

When Darren left Bayside Marin, he took that sense of peace with him. He also took a renewed perspective on life, an understanding of the 12-Step Recovery Model, and an appreciation for the myth of control and the power of trust.

“The similarities between a climbing team and my recovery ‘herd’ are uncanny,” Darren said. “Our relationships are built on trust. We take it one step at a time, we ask for help and advice when we need it, and we understand that we are not in control – Mother Nature is.”

Giving up control over his life, taking responsibility for his actions, and remaining in the present have enabled Darren to accomplish much more than he ever thought he could.

“There was a time when I couldn’t even climb out of bed, let alone climb a 26,750-foot mountain in Nepal,” he said. “But I followed those who came before me. I listened and followed suggestions.”

Today, Darren D. continues to work on his climbing skills and his recovery skills. And he takes nothing for granted.

“Climbing mountains and staying sober aren’t accomplished by taking one big step. There are so many small steps that have such an enormous impact,” he said. “And with those many smaller steps, I am back doing the things I love. I am forever grateful.”