Former addict climbs to Everest base camp
Latimer describes his recovery journey from living in the woods in Waldorf to reaching Mount Everest’s base camp
When Anthony Latimer first saw the peak of Mount Everest, he thought of all the places he had been.
One of those places was the lowest point of his life, when he lived in a dead man’s tent in the woods of Waldorf, trying to drink himself to the point of passing out.
The day he saw the highest point on earth was Oct. 9 — his five-year anniversary of sobriety. Five days later, he reached the mountain’s base camp that is 17,000 feet high. That was the pinnacle of his journey, since his climbing party did not continue to the summit of the 29,029-foot mountain.
For days, Latimer climbed with “Monkedy” sticking his head out of the zipper of his black backpack. Monkedy is a stuffed monkey his mother, Amy Gray, bought for him before he was born. It was his toy as a child before he gave it to his 11-year-old daughter.
Monkedy is a reminder of how far he has come. In five years, he climbed out of his rock bottom to stand 17,000 feet high at the base camp of the world’s highest mountain.
“Isn’t this something?” the 42-year-old thought to himself. “No one had any hope that I was going to be anything.”
Since 2003 when he swallowed his first Percocet, Latimer quickly became addicted to opioids. But he said his addiction problem can be traced back to 1987 when he got Lyme disease from a tick bite at the age of 12. Partially to manage the pain, he tried marijuana, alcohol, meth and cocaine. He also quickly learned that drugs can change how one feels, and it became a convenient tool he used to change his state of being when he didn’t want to feel the emotions.
From there, things quickly went downhill — he lost his job, his house, his wife and his daughter.
Toward the end of his nine-year addiction, he lived in the woods behind a fastfood restaurant in Waldorf for three months. At the time, his only belongings were a shirt, a pair of pants and a pair of shoes.
One day, “one guy killed himself; I got his tent and stuff,” he said. “I thought it was a good day.”
The possessions Latimer inherited from the dead man included a tent, an air mattress, a blanket, some clothes and some rocks. About four feet away from his newly acquired tent was a hole dug out, which people used as a latrine.
The next day, he walked two miles to go to a phone booth that didn’t require quarters to call his twin brother, Jeff Latimer.
On the other end of the line, his family had been waiting for that phone call for years.
“I was hopeful, but skeptical,” said Latimer’s mother, Amy Gray of Mechanicsville, of her son’s call for help.
Throughout her son’s opioid addiction, Gray said she was living in “constant fear.” She was afraid to pick up the phone whenever it rang; she was afraid to answer the door whenever there’s a knock. If her son didn’t change, she knew it was only a matter of time before he was going to die.
“It was horrible. There’s no way to describe it,” Gray said. “You never sleep. You worry 24 hours a day, seven days a week, wondering if you are doing the right thing, saying the right thing.”
As a mother, knowing her son was living in the woods and not doing anything about it out of fear of enabling him was the hardest thing she had ever done.
“Every day, my stomach was in my throat,” she said. “You never escape it.”
After the call, Latimer checked into a treatment program offered at Walden’s Anchor in Charlotte Hall. When Jeff Latimer dropped him off at Anchor, he also gave him an empty notebook and asked him to write down his goals.
During his first night at Anchor, Anthony Latimer wrote down two goals: Take a shower every day and eat every meal offered to him. All he wanted was to be clean and not be hungry.
In the years that followed, Anthony went above and beyond his initial two goals. He runs multiple small businesses as well as a sober home in Calvert County. He married his wife, Jodie Latimer, a year and a half ago, and reconnected with his daughter.
But he never forgot Mount Everest.
When he was about 15, he was sent to Prince George’s Hospital Center for rehabilitation. When he was there, he overheard a conversation his mother had with a nurse. In response to his mother’s question on what was wrong with him, the nurse said people like Anthony are “extremists.”
“If they are not doing that, they would be climbing Mount Everest,” he recalled hearing the nurse say.
That line stayed with him ever since. After four years of getting his life back to- gether, he felt he was ready to reach for the sky.
For a year, Anthony went to the gym to train for his trip, running six miles and climbing 200 flights on a stair-climbing machine six days a week.
Throughout his recovery, he was inspired and encouraged by other people in recovery. What he learned was once people are inspired, their reality changes and their belief system transforms.
Once that happens, a person can do anything, he said.
Gam Savoy, who met Anthony at Anchor five years ago and lives in Waldorf, has the same belief. Out of a group of 35, the two of them were the only two who still remained sober a few months later.
As adventurous as his friend, Savoy still plans on going skydiving and bungee-jumping.
Anthony’s Everest trip “just shows how much you can do if you change your way of thinking,” Savoy said.
When Gray first heard her son was going to climb the world’s highest mountain so far away in Nepal, she was worried. But she knew how much it meant to him and those around him.
“He felt he was at the bottom; he wanted to move toward the top,” she said.
Anthony wants to keep climbing. His next goal is Machu Picchu in the Peruvian Andes. He also plans to run the 2018 New York City Marathon.
To him, the sky is the limit.
Above, Anthony Latimer stands on the porch of his home on Oct. 27. Below left, Latimer has tattoos that say “Stay Strong,” with one word on the inside of each arm. When he used heroin, his method was injection through his arms. If he were to pick up the needles again, which he doesn’t believe will ever happen, he said he would see the tattoo as the last preventative measure. Below right, Latimer stands at the base camp of Mount Everest at 17,000 feet high Oct. 14.