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

The Calvert Recorder - - Front Page - By DAN­DAN ZOU dzou@somd­news.com Twit­ter: @Dan­danEn­tNews

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.

STAFF PHO­TOS BY DAN­DAN ZOU

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.

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