"Phil Valentine’s call to walk the Appalachian Trail is a vivid example of moving beyond recovery FROM life-threating illnesses as a means of recovering TO a life of extraordinary possibilities. Thousands of us who have shared the challenges and unexpected gifts from such recovery journeys will be walking in spirit with him.” ~Bill White
A Message from Sandy Valentine
January 12, 2015
In the fall of 2010, Phil began talking to me about a calling to walk the Appalachian Trail. I’d like to say that this is the first time Phil approached me with the idea of walking across the country, but it is not. Flashback to fall of 1992, Phil and I had been dating for about a year. We had rejected all the conventional wisdom from AA sponsors. The message to Phil – “You should not get into a relationship the first year following a divorce.” The message to me – “You should not get into a relationship the first year of your sobriety.” After 21 years of marriage am I laughing at the advice? No, no, no. I would give anyone the same advice today in a similar circumstance. But I do believe that God had a mighty hand in our relationship then, and today.
Back to my story, after a year of dating, Phil felt we should break up. As his spirituality had grown in recovery, he felt his Higher Power may be calling him to walk the earth – I think he even had it in mind to do it barefoot. He didn’t think it would be fair to me to continue our relationship. Long story short, we broke up for 9 days, got married a year later, and now have a blended family of five incredible children and one amazing son in law.
Me, “So you want to walk to leave our family (4 years in the future) for six months and walk the AT?” Phil, “Yes, and I’d like your support.” Me: “We are beach bums.” Phil: “I know, crazy isn’t it? Do I have your support?” Me: “Sure honey, absolutely.” I’m wondering who you think is nuttier. My perspective was that we had just navigated 5 months of chemo and radiation that truly almost killed him in the quest to kill the disease. He had spent the last few weeks breaking free of the prescription medications, and wasn’t completely right minded yet. Well, Phil’s unique version of right minded anyway. There was no WAY, he was going to actually do this thing. So as parents do when their young children share that they want to be a super hero when they grow up, I simply said, “Sure honey, absolutely.”
I have now experienced 4 years of daily conversation about this AT journey. The start date has remained the same, and firmly committed to – 3.19.2015, the 5th anniversary of his diagnosis of Stage 4 tongue cancer. My cynicism that this was just a passing fancy was erased about 2 years ago. And my belief that this is his purpose in life during this season is absolute.
Am I ready to take on our family obligations solo for that time? Definitely. I know my strengths and weaknesses all too well. My almost 30 years in corporate world have given me confidence that I can organize and manage. How will I feel not to have my guy by my side? Not completely sure, but God hasn’t ever let me down, and I know He will be with me even when Phil is not.
I can’t wait to see what is in store for Phil, and for us, through this journey. Thanks for tagging along with us.