The journey that brought us to these mountains began more than 10 years ago, on a summer night in June 1994 when I walked into the basement meeting room of a church in Arlington, Virginia, and listened to a group of men and women talk about their addiction to alcohol.

It took 20 years to reach that room – 20 years of refusing to deal with a dependency on a bottle. That first step towards recovery began on on hot night on June 6, 1994. I didn’t drink again but, four months later, I found a replacement addiction by starting a political news web site called Capitol Hill Blue. For the next decade, that web site replaced booze as the dominant force in my life – less destructive, perhaps, to brain cells but just as addictive.

Several times in the past, I tried to walk away, only to come back because the lure of politics – whether as participant or observer – is too strong to resist. But I promised myself and the woman I love that things would change. That promise, broken too many times over the past decade, was, for the most part, kept last year when we sold the condo in Arlington and left the National Capital Region for the last time as residents. I tried, also, at that time to walk away from an addiction called Capitol Hill Blue. It lasted for a while but I returned a little over a month ago and found myself writing about politics with all the anger, vitriol and passion that has – for too many years – driven my blood pressure to record highs and my health to dangerous lows.

No more. Like one drink or one cigarette, a political addict cannot stop with one column about the crimes and misdemeanors of our elected officials. It’s all or nothing and, for someone with a proven past of dependency, it must be nothing.

So I walked away from Capitol Hill Blue for the last time this weekend, shutting the door behind me and promising, one more time, to never look back. I can’t look back. It’s too seductive, too enticing and too damn dangerous. Cold turkey is the only answer.

Ask a Democrat what’s wrong with our society and government and they will point to Republicans. Ask a Republican and the finger naturally gets pointed back at Democrats. They are both wrong. They need to stand, side-by-side, and look in the mirror and admit they, as parts of a corrupt, decaying system called politics, are the problem.

But it is a problem that cannot be solved by constantly blaming the other side for this nation’s ills. It’s not George W. Bush’s fault or Bill Clinton’s fault or even Tom DeLay’s fault. It’s a system that places political allegiance above love of country and political expediency above what’s best for the nation. A political solution is not possible when politics itself is the problem. Until people stop thinking of themselves as Democrats or Republicans or Libertarians and start thinking of themselves as Americans this country will continue its headlong rush into the abyss.

I can’t stop what is happening to this country. Never could. So I refuse to be trampled by the stampede. I came home to rest, reflect, photograph the beauty of nature and write about what’s right with our land, not ponder on its self-destructive addictions. Others can march to a political drumbeat. I chose a different drum, one without party, without partisanship and without anger.

Once more, I stand before a group of friends and strangers and say, “My name is Doug and I’m an addict.” Then I start a long, painful road to recovery. It’s a journey I must complete and one last promise I must keep.