“Sober living after addiction does not present an appealing option for young people in recovery who might have criminal records or bad credit and cannot afford or manage to live alone,” says Wangda. For him, the willingness to do something and the support that he received from the mountaineering community provided him structure, and a group of peers that was crucial in his transition.
“When an individual is diagnosed with cancer, they are treated with kindness, compassion and understanding. Cancer patients are not cut off by their families or judged for being ill. This is how it should be for addicts trying to recover, as well,” he says. “Unfortunately, this is not the case.”
From a teenager who got into fights to a mountaineer who assists others with their struggles, Wangda hopes his story can be the light that other drug abusers see on the other side of the tunnel. “Through my seven summits expedition, I want to carry a message to different parts of the world. The message that I wish I had received for myself: Say no to drugs.”
When asked what it is about climbing mountains that helped him recover from two decades of addiction, he quotes Edmund Hillary, “It is not the mountains that I conquer, it is myself.”
The mountain is the quintessential metaphor of Wangda’s journey. He says: “Flat, effortless terrain untarnished by rocks did not produce the sober version of me. It’s the grueling climb of the mountain that showed me what I’m truly capable of.’’