5 Months in, 1 Month Out

5 Months in, 1 Month Out
February 13, 2018 Heather Starbuck

5 months without my Matt.

I still think about him every minute of everyday, the memories reel through my mind on loop. Scattered across the years, the highs, the lows, pivotal moments to subtle stolen kisses. I’m continuously surprised at not only which memories I retain but also when one particular moment over another decides to spontaneously flood my thoughts.

With every answer I think I’ve found, I develop a multitude of new questions. Sometimes I just write why why why continuously for pages on end. Addiction, this epidemic, our loss of Matt, it’s so complex with variables coming in all directions. A perfect storm of societal failure, fractured family, shame and rejection, big pharma greed, parasitic ‘friends’ and internal unresolved pain. What I know is we’ve collectively dug a deep hole, and perhaps the first steps out for us and our loved ones is compassion and understanding. At least at the current moment, and in this weakened raw state, that’s all I can offer until I learn what direction I’ll be going next.

For now… walking keeps me sane. Perhaps after a month on the trail I’ll actually be driven insane by said walking. But, these days, it’s walk or debilitating depression. Grief is surprisingly good preparation for months in the backcountry. I live off the bare minimum, maybe rotating through 3 outfits, a shower every few days, apathy for outward appearance and/or opinions, frequent out loud conversations with myself and my dog, minimal meal requirements and desire to think alone outside…. a lot. With the exception of me and Matt’s sister getting lost for some miles in the snow the other day, it’s safe to say, I belong in the woods for a while.

In preparation, I hike a couple times each week and recently added baby walking to the regimen. As a precursor, I’ve been incredibly blessed by Matt’s friend’s wife who has taken me in, tears, breakdowns and all, for the past few months. Being surrounded by her compassion and wisdom along with her three adorable little youngins has literally kept me alive during these dark days. She has an adorable 2 year old who happens to weigh just about 30 pounds, ideal for weight training with the toddler backpack. I may look a little insane jogging around the mall with the baby bouncing along in the backpack but it really works the quads.  Additionally, the baby pushes my mental stamina along our walks, loudly requesting in my ear ‘let’s go home’, ‘I want some candy’ or my favorite, ‘I want to get out’. All of which I know will actually be running through my head over the next six months… what better way to prepare!

Theo’s backpack arrives today… so he will soon be joining in the weight training fun. I’ve acquired most of my gear, thanks to my longest childhood friend, outdoor guru and north face rep, Katherine. Overall, I’m trying to prepare as I can, but I realize it’s impossible to truly know what I’m in for until actually walking those trails. I’m ready to just take it as it comes.

In just over a month, I start my trek in Georgia. My little sister Rachel, well versed in backpacking, will be joining me for a week to help me get my feet on the ground. From then, I can’t really predict where it will take me… but as it stands, I’m just rolling with the punches.  Thank you so much for following this journey. If you know of anyone along the path from GA to ME in the addiction field or in recovery who you think I should talk to (or walk with) on this pilgrimage of learning and healing please let me know. Also, if you have suggested reading material, please send my way as I’m compiling my downloads.


P.S. I set up a few items that will benefit Matt’s fund for opioid recovery based on wonderful ‘Mattisms’, unique sayings and mannerisms iconic to our dear friend Matt. You can order them here.

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