Hike the World believes in fostering a strong sense of community between hikers and shining a light on mental health awareness by using nature as a healthy way to ease anxiety, depression and grief. Through leading guided hikes, we have stumbled across countless stories about people using nature as a way to help pull them through intense personal struggle.
We share these trail stories as a way to let you know that you are not alone. Depression is normal. Anxiety is normal. Addiction is normal. The only way to destigmatize these topics is to share our struggles because everyone has them.
Kenny has a powerful story about how hiking and nature helped him on his journey towards sobriety. We are extremely thankful to him for allowing us to share it.
Hiking for Sobriety by Kenny
I drank, I drugged, I lost. That was my life since I can remember until five years ago. I grew up in New Bedford, Massachusetts in a small but loving Portuguese family. I went to a small catholic school where I felt like I never fit in. Little did I know that my self-esteem and self-worth issues were going to run my life in the coming years of my life.
After catholic school, I got introduced to the public school system. Going into high school I thought that it was my time to “re-invent” myself, that I could fit in and make real friends. My insecurities though led me to the guys hanging at the corner before school smoking cigarettes and drinking M/D 20-20 before school. Fast forward four years and I have an aggressive opiate addiction and I thought I had it all figured out. In reality, I had no idea what I was doing and I was completely ruining my life day by day.
After five years my addiction worsened. I overdosed on March 14th,2014.
That was the turning point. I surrendered and got honest with my sister. I told her I didn’t know what I was doing anymore. I haven’t found it necessary to take a drink or drug since March 16th, 2014.
When I got sober, I started hearing that I needed to get something that was bigger than me that would help me in my journey. I would hear people say, “If you’re so special, go move the ocean!” “Go move a mountain.” That made sense to me. I started living a healthier lifestyle, exercising and pushing myself to higher altitudes became my new “addiction”. I was training at the gym hard and lost some weight and felt happy. I wanted more so I set out to do some hiking. In the beginning, I did quick easy trails but I found something in the woods. Serenity.
It all clicked. I found peace and joy on the trail. I went home that first day and set out to climb mountains. I thought if I felt like that on a trail how would I feel on top on Mt. Washington? And so I did just that. I started with 3000 then 4000-foot mountains. Every time I hit the summit I felt fulfilled and part of something bigger. September 20th, 2016, I summited Mt. Washington for the first time. I’ll be doing it again this year in August 2019. I’ve summited Mt. Lousa in Portugal when on vacation. The top of the mountain is my happy place nowadays.
From drug addicted alcoholic with nothing going for himself to summiting a mountain 6000 plus feet in elevation. I love hiking, I love nature. It reconnected me to the world. I continue today to hike the trail and climb mountains and every time I find that same feeling I felt that first time: serenity. I encourage anyone that struggles with any form of mental health issues to get in the woods and push yourself. It could change your life.