The Great Outdoors As An Addiction Recovery Tool

shutterstock_185359805During a 2003 interview on 60 Minutes, NFL Hall-of-Famer, Lawrence “L.T.” Taylor talked about his drug and alcohol abuse problems and about how he used golf to help in his recover from those problems. L.T.’s life both during and after his NFL career has not been without controversy, but his discussion in 2003 about getting into the outdoors (even if that outdoor environment was a manicured golf course) shows the potential of getting back to nature as a means to enhance an addiction rehab and recovery program. Self-help programs such as Outward Bound have known the benefits of outdoor activities for many years. Addiction recovery centers are now latching on to “rewilding” to improve their own recovery programs.


The physical benefits of being outside can work wonders in an addiction recovery program. Research has not quantified the effects, but researchers have long observed the better sense of well-being that people report after getting into fresh air with the smells and sounds of nature around them. Changes that include removing an addict from the environment that contributed to his or her addiction are common in behavioral therapy recovery programs. With this in mind, the positive effects of  the outdoors may be as simple as getting a person away from the triggers and stresses that contributed to an addiction and into an environment that allows him or her to focus on something that is more positive.


Some outdoor-themed recovery programs involve physical challenges such as rock climbing or pioneering that are designed to increase the participant’s self-esteem. If you challenge yourself and complete a difficult physical task that you did not think you would be able to accomplish, you can build on that experience to accomplish what may be a more difficult task of overcoming a substance addiction. Some of these more active outdoor programs can expose you to a level of physical danger. That danger can satisfy your need for an adrenalin rush, but you should balance the danger with any safety precautions that are included in the program. Too much physical risk and stress can drive you back to the destructive habits that got you into recovery in the first instance.


In any case, your best rehab and recovery program will be one that is customized for you.  It’s possible that incorporating an outdoor component into your recovery program will not work for you. Counselors and therapists have reported that outdoor programs are more beneficial for younger patients and people who have more active lifestyles. If you are entering a treatment program, you should discuss your lifestyle preferences in detail with your physician and counselors. If you are a hands-on, interactive person, you can quickly become bored with more passive talk or group therapy. Outdoor therapy and nature programs can be a strong alternative for you. Look for a program that is accredited and talk to your insurance carriers to see which programs they might cover.


The staff and counselors are LEAD treatment have worked to develop customized rehab and recovery programs that appeal to couch potatoes, adrenalin junkies, and everyone between those two extremes. If you have questions, concerns and inquiries about incorporating an outdoor component into your own recovery program, please call them at 800-380-0012 to explore the options that might be available to you.