Road to Recovery: From Addiction and Stage 4 Cancer to the Appalachian Trail

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Friday, November 21, 2014

For years, CCAR Executive Director Phil Valentine has devoted himself to sharing his recovery from addiction in an effort to help others. But recently, Phil has been going on long walks, buying hiking equipment and reading books about the Appalachian Trail. On March 19, 2015, exactly five years after Phil was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer of the tongue, he will embark on a half-year long journey on the Appalachian Trail to spread the powerful message of recovery throughout the nation.

Now26 years in recovery, Phil is living proof that with daily recovery and a positive outlook, you can overcome any obstacle. After receiving his diagnosis in 2010, friends were confused as to why Phil didn't seem upset. He readily replied, "Well, why not me? If I truly am a man of faith and integrity, then why not?" Phil did get through it; his treatment consisted of 2 inpatient chemo stays, 39 radiation treatments and a feeding tube. He knows how fortunate he is to be able to say that his cancer is now in remission.

But the battle didn't end with the treatment. He experienced severe withdrawal symptoms when tapering off the pain medication he'd been prescribed. One day, while fighting through these symptoms, Phil strongly felt that he was to hike the entire 2,175 miles of the Appalachian Trail. At the time, this seemed strange to Phil, who had never even seen the trail. He explains, I tried to ignore it. But it kind of grew into a fire."

On the five-year anniversary of his diagnosis, March 19, 2015, Phil will begin his Appalachian walk. He plans to travel 11-12 miles each day speaking to local community leaders about recovery along the route. CCAR will sponsor the walk: and during the trip, Phil will document his experience in real time via social media and hopes to write a book about the journey upon completion. His thoughts and words will offer strong support for all those in recovery and seeking recovery throughout the United States.

Phil is confident and excited about beginning this unique chapter in his life and is supported by many people who have faith in his journey. As he puts it, "This is the biggest adventure I have taken in my life. I have no idea whether I can do the whole thing; I have no idea what it's going to be like, but I have a lot of people rooting for me and a lot of support so I like my chances."


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