Monday, 21 September 2015

Climbing Everest

Often I hear people say that they are grateful for the years, decades even, that they lost due to alcoholism, because it made them who they are: stronger, more compassionate, more enlightened.

And I think "Really? Grateful?"

I try not to regret the drinking years, after all, an awful lot of it was a great deal of fun, but I find it hard to go so far as gratitude.

Now, if God had found it in herself to make me one of those irritating people who can have a glass of vino and then genuinely not want a second one (or the whole bottle), then I would feel grateful.

I was thinking about this when, over the weekend, the family SM went to the movies to see Everest, a fabulous film about the death of twelve climbers near the summit of Everest in May 1996.

One of the climbers that day was an American doctor called, rather appropriately, Beck Weathers. He'd taken up mountaineering as a way of coping with debilitating bouts of depression.

When a terrible blizzard struck as the climbers were descending the mountain, Beck was left for dead by his fellow mountaineers. They believed that there was no way he would make it down the mountain alive.

Beck remembers 'dying', but when the sun rose he saw a vision of his family in front of him. Beck was almost totally blind by this point, unable to feel his hands or face, one arm was frozen over his head, and he hadn't eaten for three days or had any water for two.

Despite this, Beck managed to walk, alone, back to the nearest camp where, a second time, he was left alone in a tent to die. Again he refused to do so, and was eventually airlifted off the mountain by helicopter.

After watching the film, I read an interview with Beck. He talks about how he lost both his hands. Then, he was sitting in a chair back home when a chunk of his right eyebrow fell off. Later, he walked down the hall and his left big toe broke off and went skittering away, followed a while afterwards, by his nose.

You would think, wouldn't you, that Beck would feel a bit bitter? About losing so many crucial body parts. About being left for dead by his fellow climbers. But no.

Beck says: would I do it again? The answer is yes, even if I knew everything that was going to happen. I traded my hands for my family and my future. It is a bargain I readily accept. For the first time in my life I have peace. I searched all over the world for that which would fulfil me, and all along it was in my own back yard. I am a blessed individual. Even better, I know it.

Beck is grateful!

This made me feel incredibly humble.

So, next time I'm struggling with the Wine Witch, I'm going to remember Beck, walking blind, with a frozen nose and hands, his arm stuck above his head, and I'm going to think THIS IS NOTHING!

The human spirit can achieve way more than this. You just have to believe, keep that vision of your loved ones in front of you, and put one frozen foot in front of the other.

Beck traded his hands for his family and his future, and to find peace. All we need to do is to step away from the bottle....

That's a much easier mountain to climb, even if it doesn't always feel that way.

(Huge congrats to Jennifer from Canada, who's made it to 6 MONTHS SOBER and is now standing on the summit of Everest on a clear, sunny day with no blizzard in sight!)

Love SM x


  1. I read about this amazing man too and I remember thinking to myself "so you can't drink, first world problem right there" It remind me to not be so self absorbed and realise that I am very lucky, I mean, I still have my nose and toes intact for a start!.

  2. I have so much to be thankful for.
    I think reading about people who have so much gratitude is helpful.
    I want to read some of Hellen Keller's works.