For people recovering from substance-use disorders, it can be hard to find sober activities.

This can be especially tough in the Monadnock Region, with many social outings held in bars or at events, like sports games, surrounded by alcohol.

To help, Reality Check — a nonprofit in Jaffrey that offers drug and alcohol prevention resources, education and recovery services — is starting a hiking group for those in recovery this summer, aimed at utilizing the region’s expansive outdoors to help people heal.

The idea was sparked by Sarah Desaulniers, a substance use prevention specialist at the Turnpike Road facility. She’s an avid hiker and understands how exercise outdoors can be healing.

“For people in recovery specifically, what they get when they use drugs is dopamine … and exercise gives you the same thing,” she said.

“It gets you out of the house and doing something,” she added. “And it gives you people to be doing things with.”

Regular exercise can be beneficial to anyone, but especially those with a history of substance misuse. When paired with other types of treatment, exercise can help prevent relapse by providing a reliable routine, filling spare time, managing mental health and boosting self-esteem.

Nelson Hayden, executive director of The Doorway in Keene, said the benefits of hiking are “tremendous” for people in recovery.

In addition to the various physical benefits — such as improved cardiovascular health, muscle strength and bone density — hiking allows people to absorb powers of nature, like sunlight’s vitamin D and fresh air, according to Hayden.

Those who exercise regularly also tend to enjoy better moods and lowered anxiety, he noted.

“I am happy that [Reality Check] is doing this as a group as the social connection of people recovering together is invaluable,” he said in a text.

Desaulniers echoed this, saying that it can be challenging for people in recovery to find sober friends.

“If you’re somebody who’s in recovery, chances are you lost a big friend group … ,” she explained. “Especially for people who are around my age, in their early 20s, alcohol … is so normal everywhere you go.”

People who aren’t in recovery are also welcome to join the group, Desaulniers said, such as those who’ve lost a loved one to addiction or anyone who wants to be part of a sober activity.

The free hiking group, called Rogue Recovery, will convene on the first Sunday of each month, starting June 5. The hikes will be easy or moderate, Desaulniers said, so that all levels of experience are welcome. (Pets can tag along, too, as long as the trail allows it).

The first hike will be at 10:30 a.m. at Temple Mountain in Temple, with the group meeting at the Route 101 trailhead. If needed, people can park at Reality Check, at 17 Turnpike Road, by 10 a.m. and get a ride to the trail. Those in need of transportation entirely can carpool with other group members, Desaulniers said.

The hikes will run until October, when the weather gets colder. Depending on how things go in its first year, Desaulniers said the group hopes to hike biweekly in 2023 and start earlier in the year.

Those who are interested in participating can join Reality Check’s Rogue Recovery Facebook group.

“I’d love to be able to support people through this,” Desaulniers said, “and help them heal their mind, their body, their soul.”

This article originally ran in The Check-Up, the new weekly email newsletter from The Sentinel’s Monadnock Region Health Reporting Lab. To sign up for the newsletter, and get the latest from health reporter Olivia Belanger delivered for free to your inbox every Monday, visit sentinelsource.com/newsletters/newsletters_signup

Olivia Belanger can be reached at 603-352-1234, extension 1439, or obelanger@keenesentinel.com. Follow her on Twitter @OBelangerKS.

Olivia Belanger is the health reporter for The Sentinel, covering issues from the opioid crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic to mental health services in the region. A N.H. native, she joined The Sentinel team in August 2019.