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Big steps on the Appalachian Trail for a Hartford executive

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HARTFORD-- The road to recovery might be long, but it is attainable.

That's the message from the executive director of the Connecticut Community for Addiction Recovery, Phil Valentine. Valentine has been hiking the Appalachian Trail since February to help "put a face" on recovery, and he doesn't shy away from climbing boulders, dodging snakes or sleeping in tents.

Phil ValentineValentine was addicted to cocaine and alcohol since the late 80s, but is now clean and has been involved with the CCAR for 16 years.

Valentine took his first step on his hike of the Appalachian Trail on March 19, the fifth anniversary of the day he was diagnosed with stage 4 tongue cancer. "Part of this is a spiritual quest," Valentine said of his journey, which was inspired by both his recovery from additions and his being in remission from cancer.

The trek began on Springer Mountain in Georgia, and he plans to finish u in Katahdin Maine in late September. In all, he's set to hit 14 states along his 2,180-mile hike.

On Monday, Valentine was visiting his Hartford office just for a day because he arrived in Kent on Saturday -- 1,467 miles into his 2,200 mile walking trip. "The toughest part is being away from my wife and kids," the father of five said. Valentine added, "I didn't know how hard it would be until I got out there but the rewards are phenomenal."

There was a rousing lunchtime reception for Valentine from his staff at the CCAR offices on Wethersfield Avenue in Hartford on Monday. Cheers and hugs greeted their leader, now 50 pounds lighter.

Deb Dettor, the managing director at the Connecticut Community for Addiction Recovery, said, "We love the opportunity to say to the public you can be in recovery from alcohol and drug addiction life long." Phil Valentine

Virginia Adams, the center manager, said, "He's awesome, he's celebrating recovery from stage 4 cancer and celebrating recovery from addiction, this is amazing."

Valentine is set to return to the Appalachian Trail on Tuesday morning, and he has 700 miles left to complete.

"You can go into recovery and do extraordinary things," he said.

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