Member Highlight - Stefanie Kim
Stefanie is a member of our Los Angeles Chapter and was brave enough to share how hiking helped her overcome addiction.
My name is Stefanie and hiking helped me deal with my depression and anxiety. From the outside, I look and act like the happiest and most positive person. What people don’t see is the years of self torture and punishment I've obsessively put myself through because I didn't know how to navigate the adversities life threw at me.
I started drinking and experimenting with drugs when I was 16. By 22 years old, I developed a crippling eating disorder. I thought that in order to deal with my past, the easiest solution was to avoid it, and the easiest way to avoid it was to avoid myself. This sent me in such a rapid downward spiral, but I didn't care. I finally accepted that I was severely depressed about 2 years ago after a very hard breakup and my alcoholism and eating disorder skyrocketed. I tried and tried again to change my life, but to no avail. I lost almost everything during that time.
2 years ago, I decided to call up some friends to go hiking with me on Sundays. I just needed to get out. My first time back on the trails was to hike Bridge to Nowhere. Something about that day, and that long ass hike, made me feel empowered. I hiked 10 miles and felt SO GOOD (aside from spraining both of my ankles 5 miles in and hiking back out with them). I hiked every Sunday after that. Then I started hiking twice a week, sometimes three times a week. I traveled to Oregon, Washington, and Nevada to hike. I finished my 52 hike challenge in 48 weeks and finished 5/6 of the 6POP (Gorgonio caught on fire). Every time I planned a hike, I also planned to stay clean that week so I can conquer these mountains, and every time I summited, I felt euphoria. It was the best high I could ask for, and it was healthy! and free! and honestly, there is nothing more therapeutic than connecting with nature and realizing that your problems aren't that big at all.
You know what's bigger? The mountains. The trees. The rivers. Your soul. Your heart.
I go hiking to free myself. I go hiking to ground myself, get in touch with a higher being, and to appreciate the natural beauty that the Earth has gifted us with. I go hiking to find myself. Recovery has been a tough road, and Im nowhere near perfect, but one thing I know forsure is that this passion will always be a constant in my life.
When I'm feeling like things are going south, I retreat to the mountains. Nature not only taught me how to forgive those who have burned me, broken me, and trashed me, but most importantly, she taught me how to forgive myself.
You are so loved.