Nature as Savior: Road to Recovery
Connor Boyle had finally made it. After landing a coveted spot as an attorney for a highly successful Boston law firm, he was primed for a secure and fulfilling career. Except he hated it. “When I first looked out the window in the office, it hit me,” Boyle says. “I thought ‘this is it’?” Boyle says he knew that very moment he wasn’t in the right place. But he toiled away at the firm and subsequent other businesses for the next decade, trying in vain to make his new career make up for his lack of passion for the profession.
“Nobody was handing out any trophies, nobody was watching. There was no validation, no sense of accomplishment. We were just showing up,” he says. “I was going to do this for sixty years and then die. That thought terrified me.” Boyle grew up in Littleton, New Hampshire, excelling in both sports and academics, captaining his basketball and soccer teams while graduating as the school’s valedictorian. Graduating from Bates College and later Northeastern Law School, Boyle appeared to be on his way to a life of financial and professional security. But he came to the quick realization he was not cut out for his new career. To make matters worse, Boyle was losing himself to alcohol, an attempt to escape the everyday life he knew wasn’t for him. Over the next decade, Boyle developed an eating disorder along with his alcohol consumption, layering himself in a world of depression, anxiety and a complete loss of self worth.
“I got to a point where I was never, ever hung over,” he says. “That’s because I never stopped drinking. I’d make sure I had it available to me at all times, at work, home, wherever.” Boyle gradually stopped going out socially, preferring instead to drink, eat and purge by himself. Boyle never got fired and continued to do many things to disguise the horror he was living in private. “I worked out, ran the Boston Marathon, did some other races, showed up to work, the whole thing.”
In 2015, Boyle checked into a Tennessee rehabilitation program, one which he still credits for being one of the best experiences he’s ever had. But ultimately, he wasn’t done with his addictions as he returned to his old ways, hitting his “emotional and spiritual rock bottom” two years later. During this time, Boyle lost his spirit and felt as empty emotionally and physically as he ever did. “I just didn’t care,” he says. “I was the lowest and most disconnected with life as I had ever been.” At the urging of his family, he finally ended up at a North Carolina wilderness treatment program for addiction, a move which he credits with saving his life. “It changed everything,” he says. “It sounds kind of crazy I realize, but at that time, with all the stuff I was going through, the moment I got into the woods it all kind of just went away.”
Boyle credits the support of his family (his brother and parents) along with immersing himself in nature for putting him on the path to recovery for good. Having taken virtually any and all medications available for his troubles, Boyle found he was able to jettison all of it once he committed to being immersed in nature, something he has maintained every day since this momentous life change.
Boyle committed himself fully to getting into the woods and helping others experiencing their own difficulties with addiction, taking a job as a recovery specialist for a New Hampshire-based facility, a job which offered him a modest income but tremendous experience in working with others dealing with all kinds of addiction issues, including alcohol and opioids. Boyle kept going forward, successfully completing a month-long program to earn his certifications as both an Emergency Medical Technician and Wilderness First Responder, qualifications which led to him taking a job this fall as a specialist for a Montana-based youth recovery wilderness program. For Boyle, the road to becoming who he was supposed to be has been a long, difficult and circuitous path which should have left him dead but instead led him to something he never could have imagined years ago when he was at his lowest point of his life.
“Life is cool,” he says. “There’s a lot going on and a lot to do and we need to accept who we are and what we think and do. We need to acknowledge our own selves, accept who we are, the whole thing. It’s a liberating thing.”