Phoenix Multisport in Colorado Springs offers sober, active community to those in recovery

March 7, 2016 Updated: March 7, 2016 at 8:14 am
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Kaley Jones helps Jessica Courtney up after they finished their circuit training class Wednesday, March 2, 2016, at the Phoenix Multisport gym in Colorado Springs.(The Gazette, Christian Murdock)

Drug court or prison.

The choice was obvious to Todd Jones. Facing three felony charges for possession of methamphetamines in 2010, Jones either could do prison time or go through drug court. The latter, if successful, promised a sealed record and no time behind bars.

During his year in drug court, Jones learned of Phoenix Multisport, an active community for people recovering from alcohol and substance abuse. His initial foray into the group - rock climbing at CityRock - strongly impacted his recovery. He connected so well with the community that he became a volunteer and eventually an employee.

"Isolation is a big problem for people trying to stay sober, and I had been isolating up until that point," said Jones, community manager of the Colorado Springs chapter. "I didn't have a lot of tools in my tool shed of things to do in my free time. Phoenix provided those tools for me. Even if I'd had the wherewithal to go to CityRock and pay and say, 'I want to climb,' sooner or later somebody would have said, 'Hey, you want to go get a beer after this?,' and that would have been back to jail for me."

Phoenix Multisport opened nine years ago in Boulder with the intention of welcoming anyone with 48 hours of sobriety and a commitment to a sober lifestyle. The Springs location opened six years ago and offers at least one activity daily, including climbing, hiking, running, strength training, yoga, road cycling, mountain biking, art night and family dinners. Instructors are also in recovery, befitting of the peer-to-peer support model to which Phoenix subscribes.

"We're here to share our strength, experience and hope with another person, and it's kind of, 'Here's how we did this; how we stay sober,'" Jones said.

Phoenix is funded through a grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, grants from private foundations, donations and community support.

Since opening, it has serviced about 3,000 people in the Springs and 17,000 across the country, including locations in Denver, Boston and Orange County, Calif.

Team members (the term for those who attend Phoenix activities) attest to the positive effect that Phoenix has had on their recovery - 88 percent of those who filled out a survey for the organization said the community helps them avoid relapse. And for those with legal entanglements, like Jones, 77 percent noted that participation at Phoenix helped them stay out of legal trouble.

"I wish to God Phoenix was around when I got sober 11 years ago," said Roslyn Beall, 51, who got sober on her third attempt. "It changed my life."

Beall took a rock climbing class with Phoenix five years ago and eventually became a volunteer. The organization paid for her to get certified as a climbing wall instructor.

"I can't tell you how hard it was to stay sober," she said. "All of my activities outside of work were drinking. When I went there, I was thanking God for those people who are coming in and finding out about it in early sobriety."

Addiction can be a serious drain on a city, Jones said, so it's important to have this type of organization.

"If I had gone to prison I'd be draining out taxpayer dollars," he said. "But now I am a taxpayer and a property owner. I work here and live here. I'm a positive to the community instead of a negative."

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