The Gifts of Outdoor Adventures in Early Recovery
February 11, 2019
There are so many ways that spending time in the great outdoors supports and reflects the journey of recovery from addiction. The only way to hike up a mountain, is one step at a time. Here are a few of our favorite gifts that come from the outdoor adventures at Perspectives Sober Living and Integrated Treatment.
In our current day and age, we are hyper-connected via technology, but often disconnected from ourselves, our friends, families, and higher power. Spending time outdoors in nature, gives us the opportunity to reconnect with a sense of who we are, through the practice of slowing down. As we slow down our pace, our nervous system slips back into balance. Our minds relax so we can think and feel more clearly. We naturally appreciate things that we are often too busy to notice. We leave with a renewed sense of appreciation for our recovery and the path that it has taken us to arrive, right where we are.
Present Moment Awareness
For many of us in recovery, we struggle with being in the present moment. So often our minds are caught up in the past, which can lead to remorse, or projecting into the future which can create anxiety. When we get outside in nature, and specifically spend time hiking, it requires us to become present. We need to see where we are going on the trail. The awe and beauty of the nature all around invites us to settle into the present moment, with ease. Instead of “trying to be present,” we find moments, minutes, maybe even hours have gone by, and we realize we haven’t thought about the past or the future. We have simply been living in the present.
Learning How to Be with New Experiences
For many of us, going hiking in a place we’ve never been brings us to the edges of our comfort zone. This is a beautiful metaphor for recovery. In early recovery, we are constantly brushing up on experiences that are brand new, because we’ve never had them sober. There can be a natural resistance to new things because it feels awkward and uncomfortable at first. These same feelings can arise out on the trail. When we can learn how to be at the edge of our comfort zone, and lean into the resistance, we develop new skills, experiences, and relationships. We learn a whole new way of life.
Since the beginning of time, humans have spent time in nature to connect with a power greater than themselves. Nature has a remarkable ability to bring a sense of awe and wonder to the human experience. And our connection with a higher power is a fundamental aspect of recovery from addiction. We take the time to notice something bigger than us, that makes the sun rise and the trees grow. We begin to have an experience with that power which is big enough to help us stay sober.
There is an old saying, “we are not a glum lot” from the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous. Many times, those in early recovery can have the misconception that life in sobriety means there is no more fun! This couldn’t be farther from the truth. For many of us, we have more fun in recovery than we ever had in our addiction. We can feel true joy and laugh in a way that many of us haven’t ever experienced. Being out in nature helps create a sense of fun, as we make our way through the ups and downs of the trail with friends in recovery. The laughter, jokes, and sometimes even happy tears build a foundation for lifelong friendship.
Every few months, all of the residents of our Sober Living Program take an outdoor adventure trip. Last weekend, we went to Springer Mountain, the trailhead of The Appalachian Trail. The photos speak for themselves, and the memories will last a lifetime.