Coping with addiction often involves defining a person’s life by what they can’t do.
At the age of 23, Brendan Leonard was defining his life in that fashion. He couldn’t drink alcohol, and he couldn’t get arrested again. In his memoir, Sixty Meters to Anywhere, Leonard describes his struggle reinventing himself from someone who had a hard time at weddings and drinking socially into someone who could achieve things without the use of alcohol as a crutch.
A few years later, sober and with a graduate degree, Leonard was still feeling lost in life. His brother gave him a lightly used, 60-meter climbing rope for Christmas. Through this rope, Leonard was able to reconstruct his identity as someone who could do things. Someone who could climb through his pain and insecurities to the tops of high peaks and hard trad routes. Someone who could teach others to climb and keep his partners safe in the backcountry.
Sixty Meters to Anywhere is a brutally honest book. Leonard doesn’t shy away from the hard topics of his alcoholism and how he treated others while drinking. It is a fantastic piece of self reflection. He delves deeply into the roots and causes of his insecurities and the struggle he had dealing with them.
He also does not shy away from the difficulty he had getting into climbing and the many unglamorous effects climbing can have on the body, from altitude sickness to torn up hands. He balances these pitfalls with many of the benefits he found in climbing such as determination, balance, focus and confidence, and he shows how he applied them to his own life.
Leonard balances his struggles with depression and addiction with humor and beauty. His relationships with his family are touching. His experiences with his mother, teaching her to climb, and with his grandmother as she grows older are especially heartfelt and touching, while his interactions with his father are inspirational and often full of humor.
Sixty Meters to Anywhere is an extremely touching memoir of a young man deserving a second chance and finding himself in the mountains. His story shows many of the troubles young people face finding where they belong and the rough road they might travel to find their way.
Leonard shows how the focus he learned climbing, and the lessons he learned from hard falls, allowed him a second chance in life, one that he would not have to live in quiet desperation.
Leonard is the creator of www.Semi-Rad.com and his writing has apeared in many outdoor publications. He will be speaking at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Maria’s Bookshop. His books are available at the Durango Public Library and Durango’s local bookstores.