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Rehab Through Travel: The Long-Distance Hiking Way

So you’re hooked on that sweet Bolivian Marching Powder. Or perhaps it’s Black Tar that calls your name in the night? Maybe it’s something quasi innocent but still consuming, like alcohol, “the drink,” as it were. Whatever the substance, you need help. But what if the traditional route to sobriety just doesn’t jive with your lifestyle? If the thought of bland white walls and singing religious songs arm in arm with strangers puts a funny feeling in your gut? That’s OK. There’s another way, you can find redemption through the winding and isolated trails of America’s premiere long-distance hikes. Gather up your gear, flush your Whiz-Bang down the toilet and hit the dirt path.

Cold Turkey
There’s no gradual reduction when you choose the long-distance hiking route to sobriety. For one, being deep in the wilderness, say on the PCT or the AT, means that whichever substance kept you bound to mind-expansive dementia will almost assuredly be inaccessible. It’s just not where the laboratories operate. If you can keep from ditching out on the expedition, you’ll have no choice but to drop your vice.

Misery Is Addiction Leaving the Body
Long-distance hiking is difficult enough on its own, couple that with trying to kick a habit and you’re in for some serious pain. Expect mood swings, night sweats, abundant vomiting, and maybe even hallucinogenic flashbacks. This will all suck, undoubtedly. But take a look at your surroundings and realize that nothing compares to the sweeping vistas of Sierra Nevada granite or the Blue Ridge forests of Appalachia. Remember, no great thing was ever achieved easily. It’s through suffering that our souls expand and our characters progress.

Trading Habits
Most drug rehab programs last between two and six weeks, some longer depending on how deep in the drug mud you’ve wallowed. Hiking one of America’s long-distance trails is a many-month endeavor, which means you’ll have plenty of time for not only dropping the habit, but also getting used to life without it. But once again, reality invades. Some of us have addictive personalities, and while you drop your drug addiction, you simply might trade it in for another one: long-distance hiking. But where’s the harm in that, right? If you’re going to be and addict, you may as well be a healthy one.

Your troubles are two-fold here. After having just hiked for several months, it may be difficult to relate to a faster-paced, urban lifestyle. As for the drugs, you’ll need to find new friends who don’t push you to your old ways. Reintegration means finding people who can keep you in line and taking the time to go out hiking.

Sobriety can be accomplished through many methods, but long-distance hiking offers the most colorful journey, where physical hardship and superb scenery collide to suggest an alternative route, a healthier way to live.

By Bryan Schatz


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