Addiction is powerful, all-consuming, and life ending. Stepping away from it can seem impossible. How do you go on? How do you get back to being the person that you once were? The truth is, you don’t. Even when you seek out help and go to treatment, recovery is a long road of rebuilding yourself, finding yourself, and redefining what is important to you and to your life. God should be an important part of that. But, how do you connect with God? Especially after time spent completely separate from Him in the throes of addiction? How do you find the peace to feel worth of connecting to Him?
While there are many aspects to finding God in recovery, taking time to spend time in His creation is an important and wonderful way to take time to appreciate God, to find space in yourself to connect to Him, and to let him into your life so you can recover. God’s wondrous creation is most visible when you are in it and going out into nature can be a powerful addition to your recovery.
It’s difficult to talk to God when you’re caught up in everyday life. In material things. In media and television. Life is busy, stressful, and often far from focused on taking a few minutes to talk to God and truly talk to Him about you and your life. Going into nature is an ideal time and place to separate yourself from all of it, to set aside time to deliberately contemplate life, to connect with God, and to appreciate what you have.
How? Consider finding a local park, path, or area you can walk or sit in. It should be accessible; this should be a regular habit. Try to go for at least a few hours a week. If possible, spending 20-30 minutes a day walking through a park will give you time to stop and contemplate your life, what you are grateful for, and what you have to change, every single day. Don’t overdo it, don’t feel the need to make it a competition, and if you’d rather go sit and meditate under a tree, read a book, or practice journaling outside instead, that’s also an option.
Spending time alone, walking in nature, is a well-documented way to connect to yourself and to God. People who do so at least a few days a week see improvements in happiness, connect to their spirituality, and say they feel fewer negative emotions. In “A Philosophy of Walking”, Frederic Gros details how many of the world’s most influential philosophers and writers have made habits of spending large amounts of time in nature, simply walking and connecting with God, their thoughts, and the world around them.
Most people feel a certain sense of wonder and mystery when faced with the great beauty of God’s creation. We feel awe at trees and mountains, curiosity, happiness. There’s a certain wonder inspired by the fluttering of a butterfly, peace by the rolling waves of a lake or the sea, and pure joy from a cool breeze ruffling the grass on a warm sunny day. It’s true that people feel better in Nature. And that’s only natural, God made it for us.
And God said: ‘Behold, I have given you every herb yielding seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed–to you it shall be for food; 30 and to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is a living soul, [I have given] every green herb for food.’ And it was so.
You feel at home outside in nature because it was made for you. Partaking of it, experiencing it, and truly appreciating the joy and wonder that is nature will help you experience the joy that is life in recovery. You could never revel in the beauty of nature when craving your next hit of drugs or alcohol. This is a reward reserved for you in recovery and in sobriety and as you experience it, you will experience God’s love for you in creating it.
You can experience wonder in a nearby park, looking at a tree, climbing it. But if you want to truly separate yourself from your modern life of man-made buildings and technology, consider making time to go out into real wilderness. Plan a hiking expedition, go climbing (with proper training and safety), or go camping somewhere you can appreciate nature in all the raw glory of God. Many recovery centers are situated where you can easily move to the mountains or to the sea for this reason. Going out in nature will help you to recognize the higher power of God and move into your recovery with peace and open arms.
As addicts, we often look for the bad in everything. The sun is too hot, the rain too wet, people too demanding, jobs too much pressure. As you move into recovery, it’s critical that you push yourself in the opposite direction by not only looking for but being the good you want to see in the world. Many of us find the first sensations of that outside, in nature.
How can you not move closer to God when appreciating His works and His Glory? Every tree leaf that rustles in the breeze is a hymn to His name. Every blade of grass, a testament to His enduring power. As you spend more time in nature, you appreciate Him, you take time to reflect, to contemplate, to stop, and to talk with openness and honesty. You give yourself time and peace to truly be honest with God and as you do so, you move closer.
Spending time outside is not the only step to recovering from an addiction, it is not the only way to get closer to or to connect to God, but it is a powerful way to aid your other efforts, to give yourself peace, and to aid your other efforts.
If you or a loved one is struggling with a substance use disorder, seeking out professional help – which combines the knowledge God has given us with therapy, counseling, and prayer; coming together in spirituality and love of God, and working together to find each other – is the most important aspect of your recovery. Asking for help is a sign of strength, and a sign of humility, as you recognize that you cannot do this alone. If you need help, from God, and from your brothers and sisters that are the human race, it is there.