How the Great Outdoors Helped a Pastor on His Sobriety Journey

United Methodist pastor Matt Hall shares how a summer ministering to hikers along the Appalachian Trail influenced his recovery from drug addiction.


Guideposts Video: Inspiring True Stories


Hi Guideposts readers, my name’s Matt Hall. I served as the 2017 Appalachian Trail chaplain. On the trail, my name was Trigger. I currently serve at First United Methodist Church in Maryville, Tennessee.

My thru-hike helped me in my recovery journey by allowing me to make a physical amends to a body that I’d abused by alcohol and drugs for so many years, while being able to use my body as a tool of ministry.

My thru-hike lasted five months, walking through 14 states and covering over 2,190 miles through the Appalachian Mountains, from Maine to Georgia. I encountered thru-hikers, day hikers and section hikers all along the way. I stayed outdoors in shelters and shared living space with other hikers.

The first day of my hike, I was summiting Mount Katahdin as I was going southbound from there. That day I was coming to the summit and I could feel the hair on my arms standing up, knowing that I was surely in the presence of God.

It turns out I was also in the presence of an electrical storm, but even in the midst of that storm, God was with me, as I was with people made in his image.

I believe that experiencing the outdoors and taking on a challenge can help anyone in recovery, because it allows us to firmly be connected to our Creator and allows us also the ability to connect with others and disconnect from so many of the things that distract us in this modern day.

Any advice I would give to someone struggling with recovery or seeking recovery for the first time would be to reach out to someone locally. There are many organizations that are willing to help. Your local church can help find a recovery ministry or an AA or NA meeting of any sorts.

Share this story

Community Newsletter

Get More Inspiration Delivered to Your Inbox

Check out our collection of Guideposts videos and find exclusive celebrity interviews, inspirational stories of hope, and practical life advice.

Randall Liberty, who experienced PTSD following his military service in Iraq, offers tips for recognizing the disorder in friends and loved ones and advice on how to help them find healing.

Donate to change a life together
Scroll to Top