Ready to Launch: Forming the Right Relationships in Recovery


I’m not what you would call an “outdoorsy” type, but six years into my recovery I stood on the side of a mountain in southeast Tennessee waiting for my boyfriend, Guy, to jump off. Somehow Guy talked me into watching he and his friends hang glide. For anyone not familiar with this sport, it’s basically jumping off a cliff with a giant kite on your back and hoping air currents will help you to the ground—without dying.

There was a ramp protruding off the side of the mountain, and I held my breath as Guy stepped onto it. Two of his friends checked every inch of his contraption—how the struts were placed along the wings, how he was strapped into the harness, how the bar in front which is supposed to control the direction of this thing was working—and gave him the “Ready to Launch” sign.

Guy stepped to the very edge of the ramp—the place where it looked like the sky met earth – and I was certain sure he was going to fall to his death. His buddies, who were crazy as well, stepped to the edge with him and each held one end of the vast wings. Suddenly, with a warrior’s whoop, Guy jumped off the cliff.

Immediately, the hang glider sank, and I couldn’t see him anymore. I knew this was a bad idea! Then a mystical, magical, some might even say miraculous, sight appeared…This giant kite, with my boyfriend still securely in place, began rising and floating through the air, over fields and ponds, and people—all of the life of the valley spread out below.

I raced to the truck and swiftly drove to the landing field where I arrived in time to watch him slowly circle and sink until his feet hit the ground running and he brought the kite to a stop. I was amazed.

Now, 24 years later, I’ve watched him do this many times. At some point in our journey it occurred to me hang gliding is a metaphor for recovery and the life changing relationships developed in recovery.

  • Although each of us is responsible for our own recovery, none of us can do it alone. We need those people who help us into our recovery hang glider—the nurses, doctors, counselors and loved ones who help us get treatment.
  • We need those people who will check our recovery equipment– ask us questions– the right questions. Are we going to meetings? Have a home group? A sponsor? Are we working the steps? Helping others? Doing service?
  • And we need those special few who will walk to the edge of the cliffs–of crisis, depression, despair, whatever comes–and encourage us to take that leap of faith.

We take that leap of faith out into the void only because others have helped us. And time and time again, the breath of a power greater than ourselves catches us, and we rise.

2010 CSF Headshot sm 2Cinde Stewart Freeman is Cumberland Heights’ Chief Clinical Officer and has been with Cumberland Heights for 25 years. During her tenure Cinde has served in nursing, clinical management and administrative roles.

Cinde is a bachelor’s prepared nurse with a master’s degree in counseling. She served on the Board of Directors at both AWARE and Thistle Farms. Cinde has developed and presented professional trainings on a wide variety of clinical skills, as well as process improvement, clinical supervision, and workplace wellness. She is an Oral Examiner for the Tennessee Board of Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselors and a Qualified Clinical Supervisor for the LADAC.