RaymondTollefsen

Sobering adventure: Recovering drug addicts turn Svalbard into ultimate rehab facility during extended outdoor expedition

Read Time:1 Minute, 42 Second

An extended expedition in Svalbard is challenging enough without the complications such as drug withdrawal symptoms. But Raymond Tollefsen said it’s one place he knows he’s safe from the most deadly threat to his well-being.

“The times I’ve been clean for a couple of months I also used the wilderness because I couldn’t stay clean in town,” he said.

Tollefsen, 42, a Svelvik resident, said he has been a drug addict almost continuously since he was 10. Now clean for three years, he’s helping guide and organize a three-month wilderness expedition exploring various parts of Norway, including a two-week voyage in Svalbard, as part of the Veien Ut program.

Like other groups on extended trips, they train for the extreme conditions, meticulously plan details such as what food and gear to bring, and take turns on polar bear guard duty. Unlike other groups, there’s no beer in the evenings and the chatter is frequently light on laughs.

“We sit in groups and share,” Tollefsen said. “We talk about guilt and share, and be honest with each other.”

“There’s a lot of tears.”

And while just staying alive in the remote areas of Svalbard would seemingly demand all of a person’s attention, Tollefsen said that actually works in favor of many dealing with recovery from addiction.

“That’s the perfect defocus when you have to master the nature and the elements,” he said.

In fact, a relapse by some members occurred during a stopover in Tromsø, an addition after last year’s inaugural wilderness trip meant to give participants a bit of a break.

“Three of them didn’t come back,” Tollefsen said. “They started drinking, they started shooting up and then they started having sex.”

They were found the next day, broke and broken down, and are still participating in the trip.

“We don’t give up on anyone,” Tollefsen said.

The group is scheduled to return to Longyearbyen in mid-September, where they will be greeted by friends and family in a celebration marking the end of the three-month outing.

About Post Author

Mark Sabbatini

I'm a professional transient living on a tiny Norwegian island next door to the North Pole, where once a week (or thereabouts) I pollute our extreme and pristine environment with paper fishwrappers decorated with seemingly random letters that would cause a thousand monkeys with a thousand typewriters to die of humiliation. Such is the wisdom one acquires after more than 25 years in the world's second-least-respected occupation, much of it roaming the seven continents in search of jazz, unrecognizable street food and escorts I f****d with by insisting they give me the platonic tours of their cities promised in their ads. But it turns out this tiny group of islands known as Svalbard is my True Love and, generous contributions from you willing, I'll keep littering until they dig my body out when my climate-change-deformed apartment collapses or they exile my penniless ass because I'm not even worthy of washing your dirty dishes.
Happy
Happy
0 %
Sad
Sad
0 %
Excited
Excited
0 %
Sleepy
Sleepy
0 %
Angry
Angry
0 %
Surprise
Surprise
0 %

Average Rating

5 Star
0%
4 Star
0%
3 Star
0%
2 Star
0%
1 Star
0%
plasticboat Previous post Random weirdness for the week of Sept. 1, 2015
Next post Rant: Somebody saw a spaceship and alien beings in Longyearbyen. Somebody else assumed we’d be the newspaper that would jump on the story. So we did.