The Bustache


You know those “On this day, X years ago…” reminders we get from FB, iPhotos, or the TimeHop App? The ones that happily proclaim, “Whether you like it our not, let’s remember one year ago today!” Well, they risk a certain cringe factor for this Alcoholic of yours. 1 year ago? 2 years ago? The memories are welcomed! They show images of us traipsing through forests, baking bread, and loving ourselves and each other.

But 3+ years ago? Well, I never know if these pictures will show some secretly inebriated escapade I don’t fully remember. Or the struggle of yet another failed attempt at sobriety. Or a memory of a lie I told to cover my daily drinking habits.

Case in point, Google just reminded me that 3-years ago today, Steve and I were on one of the most epic adventures we’ve ever embarked on. We spent 3-days dog mushing in the Alaskan wilderness (and this was after an unforgettable New Year’s Eve that included the biggest bonfire, most illegal (but not really illegal by Alaskan standards) fireworks, and wondrous Aurora Borealis show anyone could ask for). It was a dream come true and a bucket list item for us both. 

We were each given 6 dogs to pull us 35-miles a day across the frozen landscape just outside the long shadow of Denali. The temperature ranged from -20 to -35 degrees fahrenheit. And the daylight lasted a total of 4 hours: 11:00am – 3:00pm.

It was absolute heaven.

I just cannot explain the euphoria of gliding across the ice and snow powered solely by the enthusiasm of a pack of puppers who are having the time of their lives. We teatered between being giddy and awestruck as adrenaline kept us hyper-aware and present for every glorious moment.

Apparently, this is a rather unique opportunity, as far as dog sledding goes (though we naively didn’t know it at the time). When we reserved our trip in 2018, there were only 2 outfits in the world that allowed tourists to drive their own sled – the one we booked in outside of Fairbanks, Alaska, and another one in Norway, I think? And to be honest, there is probably a good reason it isn’t more common. You are pretty much guaranteed to fall off your sled and lose your team at least once (twice for me!). At times you will be holding on for dear life as you fly on a narrow track through dense trees. You’ll learn the definition of “bone-chilling cold.”  You might have to ford a not-quite-frozen-all-the-way-through river. And while we had the time of our lives, we’d often find ourselves thinking, “I can’t believe they are actually letting us do this!”

I’ve never posted or written about this trip – even though it was probably one of the most legendary travel experiences of my life. And the reason is this:

The day we got back to California, after 60ish days sober, I relapsed, Steve asked for a divorce, and I soon found myself in rehab… again. It was a Shakespearan level of juxtaposed joy and tragedy. With a single sip of wine the happiest of times became the worst. Poof. The clock struck twelve, and I became a pumpkin.

I don’t really know why I am writing about it now. I mean, Google’s relentless, life-infiltrating, endlessly-invasive algorithm is one reason, I suppose. But I guess it’s how I felt when these images popped into my feed today that matters most. 

I scrolled through the pictures of poofy jumpsuits, gorgeous dogs, and perpetual sunsets, teetering more towards happiness than regret. I can fully recall the bliss without bracing for the blunder to come. I don’t pity or hate the person I see. I actually look at her and feel excited for the journey ahead. “You think you’re happy now, girly? Just you wait.”

Before, it felt disingenuous to share these images without context. Because, despite the famous idiom, a picture isn’t always worth a thousand words. Sometimes, you need the long-form caption to fully understand. So, here ya go. You’re welcome.

In the words of the great Google and without further ado, “On this day, 3 years ago…”

3 thoughts on “Teetering

    1. I have never followed any other blog. It started out as an inspiration to keep me excited about repairing and refurbishing my ’78 Riviera bus, which is in Colorado. As for myself and my wife, we live near the area where you went mushing in Denali Borough. I almost unsubscribed a time or two, but I waited, and waited for your story to continue. When you began your stories about addiction and recovery, I knew there was a reason I hung in there.
      Thank you for sharing your struggles. It reminds me how far I have come and how much courage it takes to keep putting one foot in front of the other, especially when faith waivers. Though our challenges present themselves differently, I am familiar with the familial challenges and how changing can move others from their comfort zone.
      Please remember you are not alone and the occasional feelings of terminal uniqueness will pass.
      Thanks again for sharing,
      Chris S.
      p.s. The path to instant results, is infinite patience.

      1. Hi Chris! What a treasure your comment is. And boy, are you one patient guy! You hung on with hope I certainly didn’t even have at times. Writing about The Bustache was one of the best times of my life. I look back at many of these posts pre-2014, and truly feel happiness.

        I guess, as that happiness has returned again (sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly), I’ve felt compelled to write again. And this comment makes me want to keep going. I honor our shared struggles, in whatever form they take. And I truly appreciate the reminder of community. Terminal uniqueness was my jam for a long time, but I am relieved to start letting that go.

        Don’t be a stranger, internet friend! Thank you.
        ~Sierra :-(D

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