Annual Alumni Rafting Trip

By Nick Redmond, MARR Alumnus and Alumni Coordinator

The MARR Annual Alumni Rafting Trip is one of the best events of the year. Such a wonderful time spent with great people.

The reason it’s one of my favorite things is that it’s exciting, beyond the normal experiences of daily life, and right in the middle of the amazing scenery of the Tennessee Valley.

We had an extraordinary turnout this year with 25 men and women joining us! But we are always looking for more! 

"My life in active addiction was so lonely and isolated. I wasn't really living; I was just existing. One of the things I read early on in recovery is 'You will find release from care, boredom, and worry.' I have found this to be so true! Events like this are so important to me. Not only do I feel connected to my peers in recovery, but I feel fully alive and joyful! The rafting trip was especially meaningful to me because we were able to enjoy time in nature without any distractions. Thanks to MARR and my recovery network, I don't ever have to feel alone again. What an absolute miracle!"

Michelle Hezlep, MARR Alumna

We started out with a demonstration at the rafting company headquarters followed by a bus ride to the spot where we launch into the river. (The bus ride itself turned out to be an adventure this year because our bus broke down and we had to be rescued!) Once we arrived, we donned our life vests and helmets, grabbed our paddles, and set off down the rushing river.

The course we take in on the Ocoee River is the same route used as the professional Olympic rafting venue from the 1996 Olympic games!

Halfway through the day we pulled the rafts to the side of the river for a catered lunch while we discuss the crazy things that just happened on the first 5 miles of the river.

 

Then it was off to the second half of the river, carrying the raft down the side of the enormous dam and off to more and more Level 4 rapids. Once we arrive, a select person is chosen for the most special of positions known as “riding the bull,” which involves sitting up front and hanging on for one’s life.

The river trip always ends with applause and a sense of accomplishment. Then we get back on the bus to return to base where we review the pictures from the day and scheme about which alum we’re going to rope into joining us next year to “ride the bull”!

So, why is it important that we do these things? What does any of this have to do with recovery? 

For me, one of the missing pieces in finding long-term sobriety was having FUN in sobriety. I always thought that I needed to drink in order to fully enjoy these types of activities. Little did I know that having fun and doing these out-of-the-ordinary things is so much more enjoyable while sober. I get to connect with nature and my fellow community mates and friends. This is where I find spirituality.

We’re doing good work. They told me when I got to MARR that if I stayed close to MARR then I’ll stay sober. “Staying close” means more than just geographically nearby–it’s about staying connected to the people who have experienced the same transformation that I have.

I always try to live by these principles in all my affairs, and keep on the good path (or in this case, the river). The path is good, and the river is even better!

For me, doing things like a rafting trip 2 hours away from home is a great way to get closer to God, myself, and my community.  It’s also a lot of fun to watch my old roommates fall out of a boat! 

MARR’s Alumni Network is how we continue to be successful at helping get others the help that they need. Events like these keep older alums involved, letting them know completing treatment at MARR and going on to lives that are happy, joyous, and free. It also shows the newcomers that it is better on the other side. We do recover.