This is a comment by Mike on the post “At What Price, Adventure? Avalanches and Extreme Sports“.
I used to be an extreme rock climber. I was into free soloing (climbing without ropes) on large cliffs. The kind of route where if you fall, you die.
I loved the feeling of complete control. All of your emotions shut off and you are left with total focus. There is no pain, no fear, no frustration, no worry, just complete control.
This was before I had confronted the realities of my abusive childhood.
In reality I was expressing years of anger and rage, by hurting the only person who I was allowed to hurt, myself. The reality is that sports like free soloing, BASE jumping, technical scuba diving and others are forms of Russian roulette. The odds of death are better than one in six, but they are still activities that have a reasonable chance of killing you.
When I started to get into BASE jumping, I described to my mentor how I wanted to BASE jump because when I was high up a cliff, sometimes I just wanted to jump off. His response was “I get that.” There was no realization from either of us, that maybe a desire to jump off cliffs was unhealthy.
Now that I am in recovery, and have started letting the anger out as anger, I no longer have the desire to jump off a cliff, or a bridge, or get into deep cold water and keep swimming down as I gasp for air.
Now that I have woken up to the abuse, I can see the effects of abuse in a lot of people who are involved in these communities. Most of my hardcore climbing friends who are in relationships, are in abusive relationships, with them as the primary victim. Since I have been able to talk about my childhood, and gently expose parts of it, some of my climbing friends started disclosing things to me.
I think that these sports are extreme coping mechanisms. Taken on by people who have experienced abuse, but do not abuse others, instead they abuse themselves.
Now I still climb, but I do so with ropes, like a healthy person who wants an exciting hobby with no risk of death.
We are not heroes, we need help.
Photo credit: Flickr / LaertesCTB