Climbing Mt. Recovery

              by Butch Smith

To  those who have struggled with them,
the mountains reveal beauties that they will not disclose
to those who have made no effort.”

-Sir Francis Younghusband-

                  “Butch, we need to go to the backroom and talk to you.” Those words spoken to me by two
State Board of Pharmacy     investigators at 8:20AM on August 16, 1999 still hit me in the stomach 
when I remember that day nearly ten years ago. Two hours later I had no job, my pharmacy career 
was shredded, and my life as I knew it was over. Welcome to Mt. Recovery and the climb of my life.
I  hadn’t planned on joining an expedition at that moment, but as any successful mountain climber 
knows you don’t climb the mountain alone and you need an experienced guide if you want to make
it to the top.      

Within days I had hooked up with an expedition of other pharmacists being led up the mountain by 
expert guide, PRO Inc . I signed the standard agreement (contract) which spelled out the things I would
need to do to successfully make my way to the top. The climb was ready to begin and I was definitely
ready to get started after the misery of the past years of addiction. I went to    treatment immediately,
contacted my PRO advocate, got a sponsor, started going to 12-step meetings , Caduceus meetings,
and our monthly PRO meetings. The expedition took on a life of its own as I continued to climb. I found
that life looked a whole lot different from a higher elevation. My old problems were still in view, but from
my new elevation they looked smaller and more manageable. I also learned from the climb up that 
from higher altitudes I could also see beyond my problems. I could see other pharmacists who had
experienced more hardships than myself successfully regain not only their pharmacy license but more
importantly had become healthy and happy again.

As with any climb, whether on Mt Everest or on Mt. Recovery, the mountain demands something of you.
It will test, among many things, your character, your resolve, your patience, your endurance, and  your 
faith. I remember the frustration of the long legal processes, how would my family hold up to this 
situation, worries about finances, the worry about my reputation in town and if I would ever be able
to work here again, and ,as all pharmacists on this expedition worry about, will I ever get my license
reinstated. All legitimate concerns and all very common concerns to those on this expedition. The
great thing I have found on Mt. Recovery, which keeps me excited about climbing it today, is the 
fellowship on the mountain. As I said earlier, successful climbing on Mt. Recovery is a team sport not
a one man show. That’s why we have meetings, and advocates, and sponsors. That is why there is
PRO Inc. The British mountain climber, Don Willans, once said, “There are two kinds of mountain 
climbers. Smart ones and dead ones.”  The smart ones realize that there is strength in numbers. 
Someone will be there to back you up if you are struggling.  PRO Inc is simply a group of climbers who
have gotten together and set their sights on higher ground . Our success comes from working together
providing support and backup for each other.

There is, however, the other group. The ones who leave the climb when the going gets hard. Some 
return to the mountain at a later time if they are lucky. But as we have unfortunately seen often enough,
some fall off the mountain forever and it is never easy to watch. The program of recovery gives us so
many great tools (or gear) to successfully climb this mountain. All kinds of meetings, the 12-steps,
sponsors, contracts, and fellowship with others sharing a common bond are just some of the many 
tools available to the person who is into serious climbing.  You don’t need any of this stuff though if 
you just want to think about climbing or just talk about it. If you really want to join up with the expedition
on Mt. Recovery  however, you need to “gear up” and don’t let it deteriorate because your life truly 
depends on it.

In the end, successfully climbing Mt Recovery is about commitment. Commitment from you and
commitment from your fellow climbers. There are days when commitment to the climb is the only thing
that keeps you from heading back to the valley. But if you successfully climb for a time you find that
everyone faces adversity along the way and by giving up you won’t end the adversity. Just the opposite
normally occurs; namely, you will find more suffering not less and then you also get to meet up with your
old friends, guilt and shame. To wrap this up, I want to give you a quote from George Mallory the 
famous climber and leader of some of the first expeditions up Mt. Everest. This quote talks about
the need for commitment and it could not be more appropriate for all of us climbing Mt Recovery today.
 

“If there’s anything else you want 
to accomplish, go do it. When you’re finished 
and the only passion you have left is this mountain,
then—-and only then—will you be ready to climb”

George Mallory       

Butch

 © P.R.O. Inc. 2012