You may be wondering why a substance abuse and treatment program would select sailing as a foundation for addiction treatment and recovery. The answer is simply – because it helped treat and heal me.
Growing up in Eastern North Carolina, family summer vacations were spent on the Pamlico River when I was a mere toddler. These vacation jaunts continued annually through my teens until I left for college the summer of my 18th year. Many memories have long faded, but a few remain. When I was ten, I noticed this small sailboat and its captain, a young girl, not much older than me, who appeared almost daily cutting through the chop of the Pamlico just beyond the reach of the piers jutting out in front of the cottage-dotted shoreline. Every day, almost like clockwork, she sailed by, gave a pleasant wave, heeling up and down the river in total control of her craft. The following year on my 11th birthday, only weeks before our annual vacation to the Pamlico, a red-hulled, red and white striped-sail Snark was unveiled as my eleven-year-old birthday present from mom and dad. Seeds of passion were planted.
I eventually grew out of the summer trips and vacations to Pamlico to pursue my own life journey as a young adult, college co-ed, and later a career advertising executive striving to be a productive citizen. Eventually, I would leave the inland waters of the East for the landlocked flatlands of the Midwest. When the water of North Carolina finally called me home, I would return in the throws of full-blown alcoholism and addiction, consumed mainly with a desire to use. Although I was a high achiever, alcoholism slowly chipped away my achievements, taking nearly everything I had worked so hard to gain.
With the help of treatment, counseling, and good life coaching, my recovery plan included reconnecting with the people, places, and activities that once brought joy, and most importantly…serenity. Sailing was and remains that aspect of peace.
On a weekend trip a few years ago to visit my sister and brother-in-law while on vacation in Oriental, North Carolina, I was invited to sail on a 42-foot sloop, something I had never before done. That was a turning point and milestone. With the permission and participation of my wife, Lynne, we would return to Oriental first for me to attend sailing school, become certified, and then charter our own 20 – 30-footers, a goal I had set for myself as part of my recovery plan. I had finally discovered something more significant than me and something greater than my desire to drink.
In recovery, we must refocus our energy, efforts, and knowledge of how to regain the life we’ve lost. We must uncover new passions and motivations that energize and fulfill us, taking the place of the energy we so aptly applied to substance abuse. Sailing requires an understanding of elements beyond our control. Elements like weather conditions, wind direction, water conditions, currents, knowledge of navigation, and other boating traffic. There are rules we must follow, or we risk harm to ourselves and others. Appropriately trained and prepared, we can manage these conditions beyond our control and steer a safe course to our destination. Does this sound a lot like life? Especially life in recovery? It should. There are many things beyond our control. But, it doesn’t mean we can’t have control if we have the appropriate skills to apply in situations that cause us disruption.
The desire to become a better sailor, the credibility to charter my own adventures, and spend time with family and friends on the water gave me a renewed focus. Earning the US Sailing and American Sailing Association credentials and certifications gave me a sense of accomplishment, something positive to build upon, enjoy and feel rewarded for the hard work in recovery. Recovery is hard work but it can also be adventurous and fun if we can simply view it differently. This is why Crossings is a different kind of recovery program.
Author Roy Page is the founder of Crossings Addiction Recovery, a North Carolina-based nonprofit that equips those seeking sobriety and recovery with new life skills, support for you and your family, and a reconnection to your spiritual foundation.