Living in the Moment; How Adventure Therapy Influences the Journey Toward Sobriety

In many cases, problems with alcohol and drugs begin as “just a bit of fun.” Getting high using substances is an easy way to remove yourself from your problems and get a short-term high that seems to help you forget your troubles. What’s more, companies spend billions of dollars to associate this feeling with having a good time. This is not a long-term solution for anything, however.

Sobriety does not have Madison Avenue behind it. Far fewer companies benefit if you go into your weekend thinking that you can have fun by yourself – no drugs or alcohol necessary.

But putting the fun back into sobriety is exactly what adventure therapy is all about. Let’s take a look at how some holistic substance abuse treatment centers are using adventure therapy to successfully bring people back into a more balanced lifestyle without the feeling of missing out on the good times in life.

What Is Adventure Therapy?

Adventure therapy is part physical fitness program, part therapy, and all about the adventure. Many holistic dual diagnosis treatment centers use this kind of therapy to treat multiple conditions at once, including PTSD, depression, and anxiety. The point of the treatment is to keep the patient excited about the process of actual life, the same feeling that drugs and alcohol are trying to simulate.

The Journal of Child and Family Studies published a study showcasing the efficacy of wilderness therapy. 95% of the participants in the therapy found it hugely beneficial. Six-week interviews found that parents of participating teens reported great improvements in attitude, behavior, and mindset in the teens.

Adventure therapy usually takes place outside with a robust physical fitness program. It also takes place in groups around activities that are usually outside of the everyday lifestyle of the participants. These activities may include things like surfing, hiking, roping, camping, and even mountain climbing. Although teens are advised by trained professionals, they must work with each other a great deal. These standards are based on a number of psychological truths.

The Psychology Behind the Adventure

Three of the major concepts behind adventure therapy include cognitive behavioral therapy, systems theory, and experiential learning. Because it takes place outside of the traditional therapy environment, the thought patterns that may lead to drug and alcohol abuse are already being interrupted. Because it has its basis in this kind of pattern interruption, adventure is a great kind of therapy for people of all ages and backgrounds.

Many feelings that naturally occur within the auspices of an engaging adventure are the same “highs” that come from drugs – things like runner’s euphoria, plateau breakthrough, and just good old fashioned adrenaline can completely replace the need for a synthetic high if the mind is appropriately refocused.

There is also a calmness that being in nature provides the mind. Simply going outdoors has been shown in numerous studies to reduce levels of anxiety, stress, and depression. The body creates less cortisol, which is the chemical that the mind translates as the “fight or flight” trigger. This is often the condition that triggers substance use in patients. Extended time in nature has also been shown to balance arousal in the nervous system and mood disturbance.

Living in the Moment

Adrenalin therapy works well as a holistic substance abuse treatment because it addresses so many conditions at once. For instance, anxiety and depression often stem from the same place. However, they can cause two separate and distinct kinds of physiological responses in the same person. In many cases, it takes a holistic solution to address these conditions.

The physical fitness program in adventure sobriety therapy helps to keep the mind at the moment and away from thinking about substances. When a patient is trying to navigate whitewater rapids or climb a steep mountain wall, his mind has to focus on the physical task at hand. The feeling of victory that comes from accomplishing a goal is a feeling that can be just as addicting as any feeling from drugs – however, there is no negative side effect.

If you are trying to find an adventure sobriety program, then make sure to look in holistic dual diagnosis treatment centers. These are the centers with the philosophy to embrace a treatment program that looks to the mental, emotional and physical states of the patient as intricately connected. Living in the moment can be a great way to build the social skills necessary to move away from substance abuse in the long term as well as provide the adrenaline to push the body past its need for those substances in the present.


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