Going up that Hill

After being in a residential treatment center in 2010, in which I treated both my addiction and bipolar disorder for eight weeks, I transitioned to extended care. Extended care was intended to facilitate my reintegration into the rhythms of life beyond the institution. Once in the extended program, I soon learned that in order to complete treatment, I would have to continue with the program for another three months. From my perspective, that seemed like a daunting task.

Group therapy was run by a counselor named Jim. In the culture of the treatment center, Jim was a spiritual giant. Many of us referred to him as Yoda. He was small in stature, but he imbued a level of peace and authenticity that is hard to describe. You had to experience it. Probably the best way to understand Jim and his approach to recovery was to experience his Friday afternoon, mandatory Tai Chi session. Every client in extended care started their weekend with Tai Chi. Silence, peace, and reverence were often achieved by us newly recovering addicts as we moved from pose to pose.

One thing always puzzled me about Jim. In our morning group therapy sessions, he would acknowledge our struggles adjusting to our reintegration into society by talking about his morning dog walk. Jim would often say, “I can relate to what you are saying because when my dogs wake me up in the morning, I know that I need to get up and care for them in the same way that I care for my recovery. I have to go up that hill. Over and over again. Morning after morning. I’m just going up that hill.” As a 29-year-old recovering addict with sixty days of sobriety under my belt, I had no idea what “going up that hill” meant.

Today, my beagle wakes me up before my alarm. My Shih Tzu hops off the bed with an unmistakable sound of both his paws and nails hitting the hardwood floor. Undoubtedly, my Greyhound follows his two dog brothers downstairs and expects his 6:00 am breakfast. After all of the dogs eat, I walk around the block, and in order to get back to my place, I go up that hill. The hill that leads to my house is the last part of the walk. Everything is downhill or flat before the final stretch home. My Greyhound lags behind as we trudge up the small incline. I feel the incline of the hill in my barely awake body. The morning chill awakens my lungs. All of these events of my daily routine are inevitable but necessary.

After thirteen and a half years, I can truly say I finally know what my counselor, Jim, was talking about. “Going up that hill” means different things for different people. Jim acknowledged that true spiritual presence and an attitude of acceptance is attainable if your first priority is the mundane, humble, and necessary drudgery of spiritual conditioning.

Ubiquitous Spirit of the everyday, you exist even in the most menial tasks. We give thanks for the mundane activities that center us each day.

Seth Perry

Seth Perry

ELCA Pastor -Devotional Blogger- Mental Health Recovery Educator-Living Well with Bipolar Type 1


4 Responses

  1. I’ve climbed that hill my whole life. The difference for the last almost 10 years is I don’t do it alone anymore. 🙏. I’ve been taught how to ask for help and enjoy the view along the way.

    Thanks to many people but especially Jim and Judi

    1. Jodie, you’re story is still an inspiration to me. You overcame so much in your first 30 days and I am glad you stuck with it. I’m glad that you mentioned Judi too. Stepping into treatment in 2010 was so confusing. Jim and Judi made sense of the chaos of early recovery little by little!

  2. I totally get what you mean, you had to experience Jim.

    I had to come back for the run in June after I got out in April and when I saw Jim, I began to cry with the motions of happiness and my daughter 13 year old daughter asked “why do you love him so much”.

    I was speechless, it is beyond words how much I love him and how yeah is it done?

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A devotion. Sometimes you aren't ready to understand a lesson. In group therapy I heard the same thing over and over again. It took me 13 years to fully grasp the lesson that a counselor had imparted.