During A Million Steps on the Camino de Santiago, I imagined the ranks of Romans and millions of pilgrims who crossed before me. I felt an attachment to my predecessors and became charged with the energy they left behind. I was walking in the footsteps of two million people and leaving my own prints as a welcome mat to those who would follow me. Knowing that these people had been here allowed me to feel a connection to a community when none was present. Early in my life, I followed a different path that was plowed by my father and his father.
Beer debuted in Jr. High. The grip was encompassing, but like my father, I was given the functional gene. Good grades and a solid business career masked the disease. During the walk, I began to think about my days in college and how many drunken nights I had wasted being wasted. I did a little accounting and figured that those nights lasted for 24 years! I realized that my adult life really began on the day my Dad died and I made a commitment to sobriety. I thought about my Dad and how he had missed a big opportunity to regain his life on Jan 18, 1964, the day his alcoholic Dad died and I was born.
When I stopped drinking in 2001, the reflections were quite astounding. I started thinking and feeling again. While stuck in the fog of alcohol, I had no ability to see that it completely permeated my life. I was like a person wrapped in a big wad of blankets who could not feel the chill of winter due to the insulation. Alcohol prevented feelings from penetrating my head, heart, and soul. Booze infiltrated 99% of social occasions and was usually a precursor to most activities. What else would one do at a tailgate party? Dinner without wine…are you kidding? Friday night…bring it on.
Signs and faith in signs were very important throughout my journey. Walking nearly 500 miles through a foreign land without a map, dependent on little yellow arrows, can wrack anyone’s nerves. By letting go of the worry and placing trust in the arrows, I became confident that I would eventually arrive in Santiago. No need to question or overthink these little arrows. There were two times that I lost the Camino, each lasting for less than one kilometer. Within 100 steps, I knew in my head and heart that I was on the wrong path.
In the busy world of today, there are signs everywhere that will lead us down a path of contentment. Be open to the signs, listen to your heart, and act on the message. If you are in the wrong job, wrong relationship, or wrong country, there is probably a big neon sign begging you for change. Listen and change. There are an equivalent number of neon markers that point to a positive path. While going through life, pay attention to these affirming signs and keep marching forward with passion and enthusiasm.
For 24 years, life gave me daily red lights and I blew through each one. Do not follow those footsteps.