Recovery Kayaking – The Uncomplicated Joy

woman kayaking to improve recovery

It’s not the Nile – The daring-do of kayaking the Flint River …

Sobriety, once you get the hang of it, makes life uncomplicated. Take kayaking for example. In my active addiction, a kayaking trip would have been an elaborate affair. I would leave the sunblock, water and bug spray behind, but stockpile wine in plastic water bottles. My balance was so bad, I would never have been able to navigate the tippy launch from a dock or slippery shore. Forget portaging. And I actually chuckle at the thought of myself, in active addiction, trying to stow carry-ons and drag the kayack to a roof rack after consuming a bottle of wine (or more) on a hot afternoon.


What is Recovery Kayaking?

The longer I am sober, the more convinced I become that physical exercise out of doors is a key component to lasting recovery. Even the memory of these excursions can quell a craving. So, when I am feeling vulnerable, I visualize my kayak paddle dipping into lily-pad choked water. Or I see the path of a favorite hiking trail in my mind’s eye. Then I plan the next outing in my head or pack and go right then.


And this summer, I’ve been visualizing my new kayak…


people kayaking for addiction recovery

Water, water everywhere …


I bought an inflatable kayak on Amazon for $70.00 in April. The truth is, I bought what I thought was an inferior product out of frustration with two retail stores. Because the $399 inflatable kayak I thought I wanted was too difficult for them to locate, order, ship inexpensively or sell me. Do not get me started on that …suffice to say the kayak I did get is my favorite new toy.


Recovery kaying is the same as recovery hiking, or recovery weight lifting, hang-gliding or dog walking. Because it involves the uncomplicated joy of full-throttle physical exercise while sober. Only you perform it on water. (And it requires a bit more upper body strength than dog-walking).


Here’s Why Kayaking is so Good for your Recovery:

Have boat will travel

An inflatable kayak is very portable, so there is no excuse for not setting off on a new adventure. Mine fits in a bag in the trunk! Or you can get a roof rack or trailer if you don’t want to blow up the component parts every time you hit the water (100 hand pumps and done – I counted).


Kayaking occupies mind and hands

I am always looking for activities that take up big chunks of my thoughts and energy. Skiing is a good example – the kind of sport where all you think about is turn, turn here, watch that kid, turn, you are going too fast! Get talked into kayaking the muddy Flint River, with downed trees and sharp rocks, in a non-puncture-proof craft and your head and hands will be fully occupied.


All body exercise …

Kayaking makes you look better and feel healthier my friends. With natural Vitamin D, a rigorous upper body and core workout and the confidence a new recovery success brings.


Fresh air, natural beauty and recall

There is nothing like finding a beaver’s den in a remote canal or watching a grey heron take off or hearing a loon family scream as they paddle by, to cement this wonderful activity in the neural pathways forever. And recalling a positive afternoon on the water extends the benefits. So does writing about it!



Recovery kayaking in community or solitude

If you have friends who like to kayak – great! It’s a blast to do with others, especially on challenging rivers. But, if you want an activity that’s made for bathing in splendorous solitude, find a quiet pond and allow yourself to ponder …


Most kinds of weather

There was one “recovery kayaking” trip Up North in April when we started out at 7 AM in 36 degrees. I do not recommend this without waterproof ski gloves. Although I kayaked so fast to keep from getting the dreaded “hypothermia” my partner kept warning me of, it was like having a motor on board. That trip aside, kayaking works in hot weather, and with a bit of pre-planning, chilly weather too.


Newfound common sense in practice

I’m still amazing myself regularly because I am so sensible these days. “Sensible” is not a word my friends would have used to describe me during my active addiction. There is a great feeling of accomplishment in remembering component parts, planning for weather and packing needed supplies. A far cry from the drunken woman who set off in a sputtering jet ski to a remote island in The Bahamas without sunscreen or a cell phone (but with a screw cap bottle of white wine).


The ADDED Benefits of Kayaking with a Clear Head

There are so many things to enjoy about a summer with a clear head. Corny as it may seem, just watching and listening to birds is a joy when your brain is intact. And when you get out on the water in a quiet, self propelled kayak, the pleasures abound. If I haven’t convinced you yet, studies show that alcohol is linked to an increased risk of skin cancer and accidental drowning incidents, so you are experiencing a much safer summer as well!


Get out there and enjoy your recovery! Be proud of your accomplishments. Be mindful of the beauty that surrounds you … And for recovery’s sake, buy a cheapo kayak and GO …


after marilyn head shot bio

Marilyn Spiller is a viral writer, recovery coach, and recovery advocate. She is the Marketing Director at Sanford, responsible for written and creative content, website design, new media, promotions, subscriber outreach, and SEO. Excursions Magazine is a particular source of pride; it serves a wide range of readers, and “excursion” has become part of the company vernacular, describing Sanford’s signature experiential outings for those in treatment. She also developed and hosts the podcast Anatomy of Addiction and is Vice President of the Board of JACK Mental Health Advocacy.