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The Why and How of Using Nature to Ditch Addiction (Emily Holland)

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There’s something about getting hooked on nature that can help you move past the things that are stealing or numbing your ability to experience life. For the sober or sober-curious, heading outside can offer the fresh perspective and push needed to find freedom from reliance on substances or habits that distract from living fully.

That’s the subject Emily Holland explores in her own podcast, Nature Untold. In this episode of Humans Outside, Emily shares with us the lessons she’s learned about heading outside for sobriety from her guests and through her own journey. She offers a window into how our listeners can use the outdoors that way, too.

Some of the good stuff:

[2:31] Emily Holland’s favorite outdoor space

[4:52] How Emily became someone who likes to go outside

[9:40] Why she got sober

[14:08] What COVID had to do with it

[22:19] What is “sobriety” anyway?

[29:18] What sobriety has to do with going outside

[33:09] Is sobriety especially important for people who want to be close to nature?

[36:16] What’s the most powerful sobriety tool from nature?

[38:42] How to use nature for sobriety

[49:02] Emily’s favorite and most essential outdoor gear

[51:47] Emily’s favorite outdoor moment

Connect with this episode:

Register for our newsletter to win a decal: https://humansoutside.com/newsletter

Follow us on Instagram and share your outdoor life with the hashtag #humansoutside365.

Here’s an edited transcript of our conversation on The Humans Outside Podcast.

Listen to the episode on iTunes, Google Podcasts, or wherever you find your favorite podcasts.

Amy Bushatz 0:52

For so many of us, nature makes the perfect escape. Sometimes we use it as a vacation escape. For me, it’s a daily practice of taking the time to escape indoor pressures and distractions and center myself. We can also use it as a way to escape other kinds of life stresses like family or work. But nature also makes a great container, if you will, to work through the weight of choices we’ve made or traumas that chase us. And that includes those that come in the form of addiction. Today’s guest, Emily Holland, personally works to use nature to pursue a life of sobriety, while also spending time learning from others who are doing the same thing through her podcast, Nature Untold. Today, Emily is going to help us explore fleeing addiction and chasing sobriety with nature. Emily, welcome to Humans Outside. I am a longtime fan. Your podcast has been accompanying me on some long runs recently. So that’s pretty fun. And another way we run away from stuff, literally by running. I know you’ve done running stuff in the past or currently. So maybe we’ll talk about that. But before anything else, talk to us about your favorite outdoor place. We like to imagine ourselves having our conversation in our guest’s favorite outdoor space, just like we’re hanging out. I hope we’re having a cup of coffee. So where are we with you today?

Emily Holland 2:31

Yeah, that’s such a good question. I love that you frame up the conversation like that. So my favorite outdoor place of all time is any Alpine lake that I can get to in the Rocky Mountains in the month of July or August where it’s really warm. And you can get up there and sometimes take a dip if you’re feeling adventurous, but it’s usually surrounded by huge peaks around it. And it’s always a beautiful spot to have a snack, watch my dog play in it, all those types of things. So that’s absolutely my favorite outdoor space. And an Alpine lake is usually pretty far away from any other people.

I’ve been diving, no pun intended, into a little bit more of some cold water dips in order to help regulate some of my anxieties and depressive tendencies. And I don’t know if there’s any science based thing that is getting me there, but you know, I feel really good after I jump into a cold body of water, so I’m just gonna go with it.

AB 3:47

Yeah, if nothing else, it distracts you from you know, literally everything else. Cuz all you can think about is how cold you are now.

EH 4:07

I met someone recently. It was just like a friend’s girlfriend. And they were doing a dip in this like tiny creek where we were camping one day, and she was just like sprinting into the river. And she was like — you just got to not think and dive in. So I’ve been thinking about that statement over and over again, every time I do a dip, but also just like, as I’m going careening towards a new part of my life and just trying to think about her and that statement as I move forward.

AB 4:36

Yeah, it’s broadly applicable. How did you become someone who likes to go outside, what’s your outdoor journey? How do we like a spot where we’re careening into cold Alpine lakes? What happened?

EH 4:52

I grew up in upstate New York and a lot of people, when I say I’m from New York, they’re like — oh, the city. And that is so far from the truth. From my experience, upstate New York is, first of all, huge for people who are not familiar with the Northeast, and also really beautiful outdoor spaces. So I grew up sort of in the foothills, I would say, of the Adirondack Mountains, which are a really beautiful Appalachian Mountain Range. And I grew up on a Christmas tree farm, actually, in upstate New York. So I learned from an early age to really work with my hands, you know, me and my sisters worked on the farm to help my parents and get our hands dirty, getting fertilizer on every tree, taking care of nature around us. My mom has a huge garden. And so she kind of instilled that in us, I didn’t at the time really enjoy it. But I learned later on that that is something that’s very healing. And then also we did a lot of camping, boating, hiking, and my mom very much instilled in us from an early age that nature was healing because she would take us on like, these nature walks literally just in our backyard and establish like what types of plants were there and like, do sort of these discovery walks with us when we were really young. So that’s how it started. And then like, a lot of kids and angsty teens and college students, I was like — get me the hell out of my hometown and get me to some cities and experiencing new things. And I moved away from going outdoors, and then came back to it later and well, my early 20s and realized it would be a really crucial part of my life and kind of what I wanted to center my life around.

AB 6:45

Hmm. And you got into content creation, and podcasting, and all that good stuff in that. So how do you go from — Oh, outside, good stuff — to — I think I’m gonna do this as a job.

EH 7:00

So the entire time that I have been content creating up until two weeks ago, I have had a full time job separately. So it’s been a long slow burn of a journey. But I really started going outside. And I started just having like, really profound moments out there in which I felt like I was really coming back into myself and I was like, healing certain parts of my past that I really wanted to heal. And I also started going outdoors with my now partner a lot more. And so there was all this, like growth that was happening. And I was just feeling really reflective. So I started just naturally writing about my experience outdoors. And through that process, I sort of met someone, his name is Jonathan Ronzo. And we started working together, I started working for him, rather, writing a couple blogs here and there for his company Explorer Inspired. And then we started to work together a little bit more closely. And we started doing some podcast production on the Stokecast, which is a podcast that interviews outdoor entrepreneurs and athletes and advocates and that was really amazing. And I was able to talk to a lot of my heroes in the outdoor space in this podcast, long form interview way. And I’m sure you can resonate with this, like having a podcast — anyone can do it. But it’s also like a ton of work and not always communicated that it is so much work. And at the same time, it’s like my selfish excuse to have really intimate conversations with someone that I just want to talk to. So all of that coming together to create just like, I wanted to go full time into content creation and to being more involved in storytelling. I quit my corporate job a couple weeks ago and now I really am in it.

AB 9:01

That’s a really scary, scary leap. Not unlike other scary leaps that we take in our lives that we’re going to talk about here today. In early 2020, you decided to make a pretty big life change to focus on sobriety. So give us a snapshot, if you don’t mind, into your journey to that point. How do we go from living life to making that decision, and then really leaning into it?

EH 9:40

Yeah. Well, I know I always ask this of other people that I’m interviewing and it’s always interesting because it’s like, you know, cramming 15 years of alcohol abuse into, you know, like a three minute story. But basically, the long and short of it is that I started drinking very young, I was 14 when I started drinking, and I never really stopped and I used it as a numbing agent, I used it to feel confident, to feel sexy, to feel cool. I used it in every aspect of my life. And as I started going into the outdoors more again, I started to feel more of myself. Whereas when I was drinking a lot and moved away from the outdoors, when I was a teenager and early 20s, I just felt like I was watching someone else’s life and like, I wasn’t living my own life. And so, in that time period, when I started going outdoors, again, I’m learning how to trust my body, I’m learning how to feel feelings, I’m learning how to heal things, and with the help of therapy. So with those couple years after I started going back and be outdoors, I started naturally, like moving away from alcohol, I was still drinking, but not to the extent that I was in my teens and early 20 years, where I was like blacking out every single weekend, driving drunk all the time, like making incredibly dangerous decisions. And so I started to move away from alcohol. And I started doing dry months here and there. So I do like a dry January every year. And then sometimes I’ll do something like a dry August, or just random breaks from alcohol. And I said, I think two and a half years ago or more, I think eventually, I’m not going to drink anymore. But I didn’t feel ready to do it at the time. And so once I moved to Colorado, and in mid 2019, started going back to therapy and had a really great therapist who was helping me through some stuff. And with that, and then just really wanting to like fully build a life that I really, really was excited to live, I decided at the beginning of 2020, I’m going to do this dry month again. And then after that dry month of January 2020, I had like one, one drink on February 1, a Truly seltzer. It immediately altered my mood, it made me feel out of control. And it just put me in sort of a spiral of like picking fights with my partner and that kind of stuff. I tried again to moderate, like, I had another drink, I think two or three times, like one at a time. And I just hated how it was making me feel. And I decided that I was going to stop and I was gonna give myself a quarter. So I was gonna give myself three months to not drink at all, and then sort of see where I was at that point. And I mean, I’m, like, nearing a year and a half at this point. And I don’t see myself drinking again in the future. But I’d never say I will never drink again, because I do not know what life will hand me. And I don’t want to put so much pressure on myself that it causes this whole other issue. So that’s sort of the long and short of it into the journey to get to the decision to stop.

13:17

2020, January — interesting timing. Obviously we didn’t know that it would be a difficult time to put the pause button on something that, you know, that gives you comfort in ways or makes you feel better or whatever, right, like whatever alcohol does for you, or the iterations of what it does or doesn’t do for you. Early 2020 wasn’t a great time to put that challenge on yourself. Or maybe it was a great time, but it was certainly a harder time. So I’m wondering what, how COVID played into your ability to keep that. Did it make it harder? Did it make it easier? I could see it going both ways. So talk to us about that.

14:08

Yeah, I’ll definitely speak from my experience, because I know a lot of people really struggled last year with substance abuse and with their sobriety as well. So it could go either way. My experience was that I was really ready to be done with it. And so I just felt like the timing actually didn’t totally matter . Of course, pandemic timing matters, but not for my sobriety. In fact, I think it was actually pretty helpful because a lot of the early struggles that I had heard of with sobriety were like going to the bar for the first time with your friends and not drinking with them while they’re drinking around you. And so I just felt like it was a really good time for me to stop. And I still had a month I think, in between really when I stopped and when everything shut down on like, what it was like March 13, or whatever. I had a ski trip in there that I had gone on with friends who were all drinking, I had, you know, multiple, like date nights with my partner who does still drink as well, like I had some things under my belt that were okay. So the first couple of months were okay, and I was okay with also taking a break and not being super busy all the time. And that helped me just have more space to reflect on what I was trying to do with this sobriety piece. And then there were a few moments when the holidays came that I didn’t anticipate being as hard as they really were, you know, for Thanksgiving, for example. Me and my partner, it was just the two of us, we couldn’t go home and see our families because that’s when, as you know, everything spiked again. And so that was really like one of the most hard days I think I’ve had, because I was really tempted to drink because I was just super sad. And that and then the election cycle last year was very stressful. And there was that week of like, you know, Election Day to that Saturday morning where everything was called, whereas like maniacally checking CNN, like every two seconds to try to figure out, like, what’s going on. And so at the end of that, where we learned what the results were, you know, a lot of other people had this opportunity to release through alcohol, and I didn’t feel like I had a release. And so actually, that was a great opportunity for me to reflect on why it was hard for me. And then, you know, go into the outdoors to help kind of release some of that.

AB 16:53

I really resonate with that. I also don’t drink, I stopped in August of 2019. I felt like alcohol didn’t fit my goals. And I felt like I was being pressured into doing something I didn’t want to do in a social setting. I will also say alcohol, specifically, beer is an easy way to make you care a little bit less about something stressful. Easy, until it isn’t. Right? Well, what I mean by that is, it feels like the easy button. And so the times that I felt the most pressure or internal desire to break that were around these stressful events, like you’re talking about. When work gets really, really stressful, and it’s a lot and I think — if I had a beer right now, I would care about this less. And that would be good for me, right? Like, from an emotional standpoint, we could all do for me to care about this less than I do. And it reminds me of the scene in friends where Ross is really uptight about his sandwich. And he is like, medicated, essentially by a doctor. And he said something to the effect of — well, I definitely don’t care about my sandwich. And that’s kind of the vibe that I’m going for here. So those are the times that are stressful, that are tempting for me, when I feel like this is a very, very stressful situation. You know, the world’s imploding or my family is stressing me out or my job is too stressful. And I want to take a step back. But you’re absolutely right. It also offers that opportunity for me to look at — why am I here right now? Because I’m not tempted to drink any other time. So what’s going on with me that I’m like, the only solution to this is a beer. There are other solutions. And what are they? And let’s go ahead and use some of those.

EH 19:10

I mean, if there’s nothing else in life, like the thing that you have is yourself and why not take every opportunity that you can to learn about yourself, to know yourself, to really dive into who you are, and why you are reacting to certain things a certain way or why you want certain things. That is one of the most beautiful things about life is continuous exploration of self. Do I think everyone needs to be sober? That’s everyone else’s decision. Do I think this is a great opportunity for me personally, to continue to know myself more and more and more? Absolutely.

AB 19:51

Yeah. So I want to talk a lot about nature and what it has to do with this. But before we do that, can you talk to us about what sobriety is? What it’s not, why it’s not drinking or not doing substances? I guess I’m asking, how do you define sobriety? You know, in your work on your podcast, and in your discussions with people who are coming at it from all angles?

EH 20:31

So this is an interesting question. Because I personally don’t have a definition for all of sobriety. I have my own definition. And, that’s what I asked people too, because what I think is important that I’ve learned, and that people don’t often understand if they’re not totally in the space or don’t have any experience with it is that everyone’s journey is really, really different. Although there are some things that are super connected, very resonant, are long, all different types of journeys. Everyone’s journey is different. And because of that, there needs to be different definitions for sobriety, and whatever someone thinks makes sense for them as far as sobriety is what makes sense for them, and no one else can tell them differently, right? I’ll say that as sort of a disclaimer upfront. So for me, right now, and this might change. Sobriety means I don’t drink alcohol. I don’t drink alcohol. I still take CBD. I’m not opposed to utilizing THC for therapeutic modalities. I’m not opposed to those things. Do I use them in everyday life? No, but I don’t drink alcohol. And that’s my main thing. Now, I think eventually, my definition of sobriety for myself will change and that it may be more of like things that take me out of my integrity, or something along those lines, but I’m just not at that place yet. And that’s totally fine, too. And I think that’s another point that I’d like to make, is that it may change with what’s helpful for you at the time and the way that you want to define it. That’s the definition that I would utilize at the moment.

AB 22:13

What do you hear from the folks who come on your podcast? What definitions do they use?

EH 22:19

Some folks will say, no drugs, no alcohol at all. Some folks will say some are sober-curious, right. So they’ll say, sobriety for me is just about, like I said before, continuous learning about self, it’s about continuous exploration of self, or someone will say sobriety for me means that I don’t utilize anything that would help me numb myself to experiences. So it really does run the gamut. And then some folks are, you know, love or sex addicts or codependents. And so for them, sobriety is continuous boundary setting, it’s continuous unpacking of past traumas that lead them to where they are. So it really is all over the place. And I think that traditionally, not just in the outdoor realm, but in general in the United States culture, and maybe even North America, we think about sobriety as this thing that people have to do, because they’re addicts. And we think about, like, jail cells, we think about AA circles. And we think about like, you know, people on the street, right, like people who have gone so far that they, you know, are homeless now and all these like pretty traumatized experiences. And, and those are still incredibly true. But there’s a lot more people that don’t resonate with that. And that’s not their experience. And I think that if we offer more opportunities for people to see that these experiences are varied, and all of them are important at the same time, then more people will feel seen and heard and hopefully make decisions that are better for their own health and/or sobriety.

24:13

I appreciate this broadening of the definition of sobriety to include all of those different walks, because I think when we talk about addiction, a couple things. One, it can seem like someone else’s problem, like something not only does not impact you personally, but does not impact anyone you know, which I think we can all agree is probably not true, right? Like part of addiction is hiding it. Somebody on your podcast was talking about creating a family tree of addiction in their family, and I’m sorry, listened to this while I was running, so I had a lot of time on my hands. So I started envisioning this family tree of mine and – Whoa, okay. And that was true, especially if I broadened the definition of addiction to not just alcohol. And then the other thing is that we are pigeon holed in how we think about these things because of popular media, because we see this sort of glorification of these different types of addictions, and then how people do deal with them. It’s no longer taboo to talk about this stuff, which is great. Okay, but then, because we don’t talk about other kinds of addictions or other types of sobriety, we think about them in the framework of that one definition. So like, like, oh, gambling, alcohol. Well, that’s totally normal, right? And that just means you don’t drink, right? And you go to AA, and then we know what that looks like, because we saw it on This is Us, and you know, all that stuff, right? Again, like there are pros and cons to that. But it’s also important to stop and say — what you’re being presented with may not be the broadest or even the most accurate picture of what we’re talking about and how this can impact you.

EH 26:20

I’m just all about the idea of nuance since I started this podcast, because there’s no black and white experience that’s the correct experience that you must have to become sober. There’s no answer to that. That can be really scary. But it also could be super empowering, because you are in control, unless you have a physical dependence where other parts of the medical community come into that. But you are in control of the way that you go down this path, for the most part, and that is really empowering. And to move people from thinking that the only reason someone doesn’t drink is because they’re an addict and they crashed their car, and whatever, to move to an idea of — well, I can’t drink, well, I don’t want to drink or I have to be sober to I get to be sober, you know, those types of changes. Terminology can be really crucial for folks to think about it in just a little bit of a newer way. And not only if they’re just struggling themselves, but also if they have anyone in their community that’s currently struggling with something in the addiction or substance abuse space. So anytime you can be a little bit better of a community member by having more empathy and compassion for different experiences, that’s a win for me.

AB 27:58

What you’re saying, though, translates also to how we use nature. It’s a mistake to pigeonhole our ability or someone else’s ability to use nature, by our definition, it’s a mistake to say — oh, like you’re not going on a backpacking trip, so you’re not really going outside. And of course, that’s not true. So there’s all sorts of broad, broad applications. Okay, so speaking of nature, we don’t always think about sobriety and nature as being linked, I would say we don’t think about sobriety in nature, like not just not always, but like, that’s not a thing. But you do, and it’s the premise of your podcast. So what does sobriety have to do with going outside?

EH 29:18

I think the way that this came about was just thinking about my own sobriety, and then I consider myself part of like the outdoor community and outdoor industry at large. I was looking around for consistent stories being told in a consistent media or platform, and I couldn’t find it, that we’re telling varied stories of varied types of outdoor community members, meaning someone, to your point, who’s going on a backpacking trip, cool, but also someone who like walks their dog along the creek on a daily basis, like that person is just as much a part of the outdoor community as someone who’s going to summit Everest, in my opinion, really. And so I just didn’t see a lot of people telling their stories in our communities. And at the same time, especially in the Mountain West, there’s a really high percentage of mental health issues and a high percentage of addiction and also suicide. And so I was starting to see this connection of — Okay, well, I think that there’s more people who struggle with this than we know about, why don’t we know about them? Obviously, there’s stigmas attached. Could we allow them to tell their stories in long form interviews? That’s why I started it. And I think that the way in which I’ve learned about sobriety through this podcast, is through how people are healing, and much of that is through their experiences outdoors. And so that can totally be a bunch of different things, right. Some people love skiing, they love like backcountry skiing, awesome. Some people love mountain biking, some people love hiking. But all these people, what they have in common, if they’re going into the outdoors, is that they have a sense of seeking, they know that the world is bigger than just them. And that is a self awareness, or I guess a more global awareness that not every population has. And so people who are in the recovery space and are outdoorsy have this really unique perspective where they’re incredibly intuitive seekers. I’m blown away by every conversation I have with these folks. Because, first of all, they’re not like media-trained. They’re people who are like you and me, right? They’re just out there doing their thing. They’re just so thoughtful and profound. I’m getting a little choked up, just thinking about it. It’s a profound type of conversation to have. And also, there’s just not enough conversations about this at large. And especially in the outdoor industry, where we go to all these trade events. And there’s happy hour starting at 2pm, every single trade booth and no options for anyone who’s sober. They literally don’t even have bottles of water sometimes at these places. So like, you’re working in this like juxtaposition of an industry that really values alcohol, it seems, from what they’re projecting on the outside, and then also the people in it who are struggling and sometimes sick and stay that way, because they think it’s the norm, they think it’s what they should be doing.

AB 32:50

Do you think there’s a compelling case for sobriety for people who want to center themselves on being closer to using nature more so than other people?

33:09

I think there’s a compelling case for sobriety for anyone. I think that one other thing to note is that, again, this kind of goes back to nuance is like, yes, we are all healing in the outdoors, but outdoors and nature itself is not going to heal you. So I think that certainly people who are already going into the outdoors, they have that like kind of gear in place where sobriety would probably aid their experiences in the outdoors and aid their healing out there. And then there’s the other side of that, where there’s a lot of groups of people who are in recovery, who go through programs or part of like sober living houses, or treatment centers, that have connections with these nonprofit groups that take people outside to help them with their recovery. And that way, the way that nature can be super metaphorical in that way, like climbing, for example, it’s like one foot at a time. Like that kind of thinking or even hiking in itself, like helping you ground yourself. You know, there’s so many metaphors in nature, that people who are already sober are trying to be in recovery, could tap into a new part of themselves that they didn’t even know existed through, you know, going into the outdoors, sometimes for the first time. So there’s sort of the people who are already in the outdoor space who are really into nature, tapped into it, and they’re sober. And then there’s people who are in recovery, or are wanting to be in recovery, on the other side who have yet to go into the outdoors and who I think would really benefit from that sort of metaphorical experience in nature.

AB 35:00

Have you been surprised by the number of nature minded people who are in a sobriety journey?

EH 35:05

Yes, I posted in a large Facebook group that has basically all the outdoor industry folks in it, it’s like 25,000 people, I got like hundreds of comments of people who are ready to be interviewed. And since then, people just like slide me names. Every week, I get a couple more names of people like — Oh, you should reach out to this person, you should reach out to this person. And I never knew about any of that, like, I didn’t have any of those examples. And some of them have been interviewed for certain things here and there, but not anywhere that I have seen before I started doing this. So I think it is surprising. And I think, because it’s so surprising, that it is a testament that there’s still a huge stigma around it. And I’m unpacking that. But also as an industry and community, we need to unpack it even more.

AB 36:00

What’s the most powerful tool when heading into nature for sobriety that you’ve learned so far, either from your own journey or from interviewing these people who you’ve been talking about?

EH 36:16

The idea or the ability to be present, like that is the thing that gets totally unlocked from nature and sobriety, things I never noticed before. I mean, I’m out here, like naming different types of birds now, like, I look at all the flowers, everything warrants my attention. And in a great way, when I’m outside, like, I feel like before, I was just like, trudging it out, and like working alcohol out of my body and like trying to, you know, only go outside to stay in shape. And whereas now I feel like this really a much deeper connection with nature in general. And the time that I spent outside, I feel I have so much more of a present mindset, where before, you just don’t have as much brain space, when you are consumed by a substance. Even if you’re taking a break from it, you’re like — Okay, well, I can’t drink today, and I want to drink tomorrow. You’re constantly thinking about it, even if you’re not even around, right? So it opens up all this brain space for you to like, feel wonder about the world and like, be amazed by the nature around you. And again, that can be an Alpine Lake like we’re sitting at right now. Or it can be the creek that I ran on the bike path earlier with my dog, just like staring at the little bubbling creek. This present mindset becomes a big tool in nature that sobriety has given me that I definitely didn’t have before.

AB 38:08

We’ve talked about a bunch of different tools. I’m wondering if we can give people three or four tips, maybe that you’ve learned about sobriety on your journey, or from the people you’ve interviewed to take away with them after listening to this, so that they can lean into sobriety outside. We spent a lot of time talking about the why today. So let’s talk a little bit about the how, and give some folks some action items.

38:42

I love that. So the first thing I would recommend, if possible, if you’re not physically dependent on a substance, and we can talk about that as well, is to take a break. So this is primarily from alcohol, but if you have a sex addiction, this is also very relevant. So taking a break, I often say like, dry runs are awesome, because you learn something one way or another, you learn that you want to get rid of this thing out of your life for however long you want it to, I’d never say forever, as I mentioned, or you learn, okay, I feel that I need alcohol all the time. I can’t stop drinking, that’s a good thing to learn. And then at the end of that you have all this new data about yourself to be able to go forth and be like — okay, maybe I need to get therapy for this thing, because it’s coming up a lot as I’m sober. Or maybe I need to, you know, find a sober community in my local area because I don’t know a lot of people who are. So all those things you’re learning just from taking a little bit of time off from whatever the thing is that you feel addicted to or dependent on. So that’s the first thing I would say.

The second thing I’d say is, much like what you kind of preach on this podcast, is get outside every damn day. Doesn’t matter what you’re doing. It could be a long trail run like you’re talking about, but like, I follow you on Instagram, and I know that sometimes it’s like hot tub time. And that’s cool too. Get outside every day. If you need some literature, if you’re like a science minded person, I know you had Florence Williams, I believe her name is, on the show. Her book is great, so you have sort of like this data to tell you why it is so good for you to go outside. So that’s the second thing I would say.

The third thing I would say is find a community that speaks to you. And what I mean by that is, there’s a lot of different communities out there that are kind of targeting different types of individuals when it comes to sobriety or sober curiosity. And that’s awesome. I’m all for that. But you have to find the one that speaks most closely to how you feel and what you identify with. Right. So for some people, that is a that’s, you know, SLA, which is Sex and Love Anonymous. And then AA, there’s all of the As, you know, you could go to any of those communities for whatever ails you. Then there’s things like the Luckiest Club, which is a virtual membership, where there’s it’s all about sobriety, generally, from alcohol, all different types of sort of like affinity groups in that sobriety. Instagram is also a great place to just hop into. There’s tons of sober accounts that have virtual meetups, in person meetups, all kinds of stuff like that. The Tempest is a great organization. So just finding these communities that really speak to you, right? AA is awesome, and it’s helped tons of people get sober, but it’s not for everyone. And neither are some of these other options. So just finding the thing that is for you, I think is best. And then for me, I mean, I always recommend, as we’re going through this to have a therapist, but that is dependent on you know, if you like therapy, if you want to go to therapy, just find something in which you can have some sort of level of support as you go through, especially like the first couple months.

AB 42:30

Having that support is so key for anything, you know, when you’re making a new habit, or when you’re ditching a habit, as it were, or making a new habit around ditching a habit, I think that’s the thing. So now that you know that group of people around you who are moving in the same direction, and even just hitting that like button on Instagram can be a form of support. Actual humans that you know, or can talk to, are a big deal, and definitely something you should look into. You noted earlier how you were shocked by how many people came out of the woodwork who are dealing with this problem. And I think that that is pertinent to the accountability discussion as well. Because when you start being authentic about something like this, you’re going to find that there are people who are walking this journey to who maybe didn’t, if they didn’t reach out and say — Hey, this is me as well. But now you’re giving them the gift of your authenticity, so that they can see that that’s true. And now what do you know, you have a buddy on the journey, which is really helpful to know that you’re not the only crazy person out there who decided that, even though all of your friends look like they’re having a blast drinking beers on the top of a mountain, that’s not for you.

EH 44:03

And I think also, like with the sharing thing, it’s — I mean, I don’t go to AA. But there’s a lot of tenets that I think are really great. Just like there’s a lot of things in the Bible that I think are really great. But I don’t go to church. So with that, one of the tenets is to be of service to others. And not everyone is ready to share their journey. And so understanding of that, sure, and when you’re ready to share if you can, but when you do share, you don’t even know the level of impact that you have on someone. You have no idea because no one, really, I mean, a lot of people don’t reach out and say like — hey, because you posted this one post, I now do this and this. So the more that you can share your journey, it keeps accountability for you, but it also has this really widespread effect that you’ll never know the true meaning of, but that you can know deep down inside that it is helping other people. Some of them will come out of the woodwork. Some of them never will. And that’s okay. But that’s a way that you can also like be of service to others if you’re ready to share.

AB 45:10

Totally. Oh, so good. I hope that talking about this serves that purpose for some folks today. I have to say, like, I don’t regret giving up alcohol. I’ve talked about this a little bit before, I gave up beer. I have not had, I maybe have had one sip of beer, like some sip of my husband’s beer at some point. I don’t think so though. Um, and I decided that after a year of no alcohol at all, over a year, actually, I decided that the only thing I missed was when it was not a crutch. Like, it wasn’t that I missed it because I was having a hard day. It was more like — this is festive, and I kind of enjoyed it. I was having boozy hot chocolate at Christmas. And so I was like, good. Yeah, I was like — this is a perfectly legitimate reason for me to say I don’t drink but I am going to have boozy hot chocolate on Christmas Day. That sounds fine. Listen, I had my boozy hot chocolate on Christmas. And it made me feel so sick. It gave me an immediate headache. I was like — this is disgusting. I do not feel like I’m having fun. I feel like I have a headache. Zero stars. That did nothing for me. It did not make my holiday more festive.

EH 46:47

Especially with the holidays, you’re so connected. Like I really wanted red wine with our lasagna we had on Thanksgiving. And I was like — Oh my gosh, it’s so good. But I love the way Ruby Warrington wrote a book called Sober Curious, which I think is a really helpful book for people who are thinking about maybe trying sobriety out a little bit. But she doesn’t like the terminology relapses, which I don’t really like that, either, it has a really negative connotation to it. When she has a drink of alcohol, which is not often, she says — Oh, that was a reminder for me that I really want that. And, that’s okay. And you need reminders in every other aspect of your life of what you like, and what you don’t like, and what’s good for you and what’s bad for you. So, you know, unless it’s like, physical dependence, that’s part of the journey for a lot of folks. And that’s totally okay. And I’m so glad you shared that because people are like, really hesitant to share that kind of stuff. And I think that’s really important for people to hear that it doesn’t need to be this black and white thing.

47:53

I’d say I was a little sad, because I went through the first Christmas, um, you know, missing this thing that I thought I wanted. So I spent like a year being like — on Christmas Day, I’m gonna have hot chocolate with Irish cream in it. It’s gonna be so much fun. And it was not fun. It was a major letdown.

Alright, so we’ve come to the end of our time together. I love to hear recommendations from guests at the end of our time on just sort of like your favorite and most essential outdoor gear since we’re all outdoor users. I have actually heard some recommendations for some of my most favorite things in the section and I’ll think about it for a while and then I go out and get me one and it is life changing. A perfect example is the Kula cloth, which I’ve talked about before and would never have heard of that, probably, had someone not recommended it. And so yeah, so what are your favorite and most essential outdoor gear items?

EH 49:02

Yes. I have so many that I could say. So my favorite piece of outdoor gear is my trail running vest from Patagonia. It’s like literally beat up but I love it because it has like these expandable pockets on the outside like a lot of trail running vest do, but it’s a two liter so it’s actually like pretty big so I can go on hikes with it long hikes with it as well and not not just trail running. And so that one is my all time favorite. It has so many pockets, some big fan pockets. That’s like my all time favorite. I would say my newest piece of gear that I’m like really loving, it’s kind of frivolous, is this small lantern from UST Gear and it’s like this collapsible lantern that has like a carabiner on it basically and it can just you know light up your outside picnic table if you’re camping. I used it to car camp two nights ago, and I put it on my car camping hook thing. And that one is like, so nice. And it has three settings. So you can like do mood lighting.

So the most essential, I have to say, we’re trail runners, so we have to be able to talk about poop. So I have a trowel, a little shovel. It’s like less than an ounce, I think. And I bring it with me on trail runs, because I’ve had experiences in the past where I’ve had to go and I didn’t have anything to dig a hole with, which is how you do leave no trace with poops. So that is probably my most essential because, you know, trail running it, it loosens stuff up for you. And if you gotta go, you gotta go.

AB 50:47

The struggle is real, and I’ll leave it at that. Because I think we would go to a place that people don’t want to hear about right now. But, cosigned.

We like to walk out of our podcast imagining ourselves with our guests in sort of their favorite outdoor moment, just sort of cap it off. Think of it as your happy place. Think about it as something that you just really love to revisit in your mind. When you close your eyes and just picture your favorite outdoor moment ever, where are you? What are you doing?

EH 51:47

It’s up in the Wind River range in Wyoming. And when we first moved out here, we went and did a backpacking trip in what’s called the Cirque of the Towers up there. And, you know, I hadn’t done much backpacking. I’d done a little bit here and there, but I hadn’t done anything to the level that we were doing at the, you know, elevation or anything like that. And, I mean, there was a moment in which you’re on this loop, and you’re coming up over the Texas Pass the way that we went. And after Texas Pass is basically like this Cirque of Towers. So it’s a circle of huge rock towers around you. And of course, an Alpine Lake right in the middle. And so I come up over this and like we have been living in Colorado less than two months at that point. And I was just so excited to live in the West and I come up over this. And I literally just like started crying because in front of me was this Alpine lake and these huge rock spires and incredibly green grass on the bottom of this floor of the circle. And so we hiked down into the Cirque and there’s little rivers running all throughout and little cute vermin running throughout. And we get down in front of the lake. And it’s just an enormous field of wildflower flowers in front of this lake in green, green grass. And I just sat there with my beautiful partner and my beautiful, silly silly rescue dog with her little pack on. And I just thought to myself — I cannot believe we get to see this, that we get to live this life, and I will never forget that. I’ve been back there again last summer. I’ll probably go again this summer because it was the moment where I realized, like, what my life could really be and it was at a freakin Alpine lake to really take us right back to the beginning of this conversation.

AB 53:53

So beautiful. I can imagine myself there. And I hope listeners can as well. Emily, thank you so much for sharing your journey and the lessons you’ve learned with us today on Humans Outside.

EH 54:03

Yeah, thanks so much for having me. It was a blast. And I love what you’re doing with the show and the 20 minutes every day. So thanks so much.

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