Jan B. Shares Her Recovery Adventure to Iceland

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smiling woman poses in front of waterfall in field

In our home, ‘normal is just a setting on the dryer’. We have ups and downs. I remember thinking, and often hear people say: “How will I have fun without booze? How will I get through a crisis without the salve of a few drinks?” Nowadays, I don’t want to sully joy with a hangover or fuel anxiety with toxins. I find these moments in life more manageable and enjoyable with clarity of mind and authentic presence.

How did I get there? By doing the work, finding my tribe, and building my toolbox. I am a believer in there being multiple pathways to recovery. The 12 steps saved my life. AA scooped me up and loved me when it seemed no one else would. Women For Sobriety and She Recovers enhance my recovery with positivity and connection. Soberful provides the Five Pillars of Sustainable Sobriety, which support me in daily life. I journal each day noting how the five pillars keep me grounded and how I stabilize myself with: Connection, Process, Balance, Growth and Movement. The following journal entry represents how my toolbox, program and pillars support me in highs, lows and in between.

Destination: Iceland, summer 2021.

In October of 2020, a friend shared that her long-dreamed project Recovery Run Adventures, was coming to fruition.

I casually said “I want to go to Iceland”, to which she replied, “Come.”

Note: I am NOT a runner. I tried to back out multiple times over the coming months feeling like a fish out of water, creating excuses such as, “I would be a burden,” or COVID concerns – etc. But my dear friend kept encouraging me along.

I am fairly adept at traveling on my own. Additionally, 2020-2021 schooled me with many lessons in last-minute COVID pivoting, despite well-laid plans. I decided to embrace my inner Carpe Diem spirit and told myself, “Go for it!”

Driving to Boston mid-August to meet some of the group members for the first time, I was full of trepidation. These women were on their way to run the Iceland Half Marathon.

Straight off the plane for a swim in the blue lagoon, followed by a hike up an active volcano, I fell in love with my new friends. They immediately got to meet the whole Jan as I faceplanted and ended up with gashed knees on the Volcano trail! They scooped me up, brushed me off, saved me from the Volcano, and the trip continued in stride.

We shared a gorgeous house, seamlessly (nine women, two bathrooms). Some had early morning coffee in pajamas and others headed out for a morning 5-8 miles around the beautiful hills overlooking Reykjavik. Our local host, accustomed to partying vacationers, picked us up early each morning, surprised to find nine women bright eyed and bushy tailed, roaring and ready to go.

We marveled at the Icelandic nation with their revered respect for women, the planet, and each other. Women are equals — that’s that, full stop. I have never been to such a pristine country, both aesthetically and adaptability-wise, with their natural, clean resources living in harmony with the earth. 91 percent of Icelanders are COVID vaccinated, with only one virus-related death recorded in 2021. I felt safe, grateful, and grounded.

Mother Nature entrusted some of her most majestic beauty to Iceland. Her intensity and energy is in full vigor: powerful waterfalls, tenacious rainbows, exploding geysers, crashing tectonic plates, with a dash of Game of Thrones, all embraced by our team of nine incredible women! The names invoke magic as do their manifestations. Seljalandsfoss, Skógar, Reynisfjara, Sólheimajökull, Mýrdalsjökull are just some of the breathtaking locales we visited. Sky high waterfalls, black sand beaches, massive glaciers, puffins, and more.

My inner Elsa felt at home with the cool temperatures. Snow appeared on our first outing, as the seemingly one lane roads, built for two, wound around the mountains revealing the Snæfellsjökull Glacier. Golden pink sand beaches facing southeast turn around to glacier-covered mountains looking northwest – it’s absolute heaven. Bucolic farms, fuzzy sheep, Icelandic horses, and fishing villages grace the landscape. We found health, balance, beauty, and magnificence at every turn.

GROWTH: I would not have experienced such deep felt emotion if I had been drinking. I would not have gone if I listened to my inner critic. The trip was filled with MOVEMENT – no hangovers, rather unbridled puissance. I used my years of PROCESS to work through my trepidations. I found BALANCE when runners ran, and I photographed. Nine recovered women sharing a house, meals, mornings, magnificence, each other, our stories, our tears, our laughter…CONNECTION truly is the opposite of addiction.

I am so grateful to Margaret Ward, the leader of Recovery Run Adventures, for encouraging me to step outside my comfort zone, join this tribe of women , and set out on adventure. Five years ago, I joined the Mountainside Sober trip to Costa Rica. I love to travel. One of the mindset switches I had to make was erasing the association between beach and beer, happy hour and cocktails. Now I like to walk the beach without the need to drink. Next travel lesson with Margaret is touring Chianti without wine. We shall wake with yoga, ride bikes through the Tuscan countryside, forage for herbs, engage in cooking lessons, tour medieval hillside villages, and more – no booze necessary.

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