Series | Catalysts

Rethinking addiction recovery with fitness

The Boston Red Sox teams up with a free, sober active community using the transformative power of sport to help people heal from addiction.
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In partnership with Stand Together

Drug addiction statistics in the US show that in 2017 about 21 million people were struggling with an addiction to at least one substance.

As drug overdose deaths climb higher, The Phoenix challenges the thinking behind traditional models for addiction recovery services with free gym facilities open to anyone sober for at least 48 hours.

The Phoenix founder, Scott Strode, builds active communities of recovering addicts in an effort to save lives through the power of health and fitness. At the same time, The Phoenix is partnering with the Boston Red Sox to transform the way people think about addicts, addiction, and recovery.

The Inner Workings of Addiction

First and foremost, addiction is not a choice. It’s a disease. People with substance abuse disorders are often aware of the problem, but can’t stop even when they want to.

Addiction is a complicated brain disease characterized by substance use, which is compulsively perpetuated, despite the harmful consequences. Those suffering from this severe form of substance use disorder are extremely focused on using substances to the point that it eclipses most other aspects of their lives.

People suffering from addiction continue to use, even though they’re fully aware that it will have, or already has had, dangerous consequences.

Substance abuse disorder actually changes the physical wiring of the brain, which results in altered behavior, thinking, and even bodily functions. Brain scans of people suffering from addiction show physical changes in the areas of the brain responsible for decision making, judgement, memory, learning, and behavior control. These changes to the brain’s wiring last long after the immediate effects of the drug wear off.

The Root of the Issue: Causes of Drug Addiction

On the surface, it can be difficult to discern a singular reason why one individual is predisposed to developing a severe substance use disorder, while another is not. Heredity, however, does play a clearly defined role.

About 40 to 60 percent of a person’s risk of addiction can be attributed to genetics and environmental factors which affect a person’s genetic expression. In other words, if someone is genetically predisposed to addiction and placed in an environment that encourages substance abuse, these individuals stand a higher likelihood of developing a substance abuse disorder.

How to Beat Addiction With Fitness

Addictions are the number one cause of premature death and preventable illness. Between 1999 and 2017, more than 700,000 Americans died from a drug overdose, and in the last 30 years, deaths from drug overdoses have more than tripled. So how can we attempt to solve this nationwide crisis?

The first step to recovery is recognizing the problem. Individuals who do not actually believe they have an addiction, or who think they can stop at any time, typically do not experience as successful recoveries as those who recognize the problem.

Many people seeking drug addiction help require a multifaceted treatment approach. For some, this might include a combination of therapy with a mental health professional, medication to relieve withdrawal symptoms, possible hospitalization, and active participation in a drug addiction recovery group. This is where The Phoenix comes in.

Groups like The Phoenix make recovery from addiction and living a normal, healthy life possible. As an addict in recovery, The Phoenix’s founder, Scott Strode understands his community’s struggles on an extremely personal level. He recognizes the isolation that occurs the moment a person decides to sever ties with an unhealthy behavior.

Making the choice to seek sobriety and stick with it can separate a person from their group of friends, their former activities, and the places where they once felt most at home. During this delicate, yet vital time in a recovering addict’s journey, it’s essential that they find a supportive community.

The Phoenix reduces the odds of relapse by providing people who are 48-hours sober with a welcoming, supportive addiction recovery group, in which the mentors are also in recovery. The Phoenix encourages members to stay sober by staying active, as Strode has done since he first dedicated himself to sobriety.

In addition to their gym facilities, The Phoenix also offers guided outdoor excursions. By giving members the opportunity to summit mountains, strengthen their bodies, and challenge themselves physically, The Phoenix not only builds up members’ health, but also provides a new identity. Instead of addicts, members become bodybuilders, mountain climbers, cyclists, and runners.

Exercise and physical health draw people to The Phoenix, but they keep coming back for the community it’s created. Members celebrate sobriety as a point of pride and view the experiences of those who have overcome addiction as assets, not liabilities.

Get Involved

Support The Phoenix mission of helping people find freedom from addiction through physical activity by making a donation.

Support From The Red Sox 

Now, a Major League Baseball team is acknowledging the nationwide need for a solution to the overdose crisis, and has decided to support The Phoenix’s efforts.

Thanks to help from the Stand Together, the Red Sox became aware of the Boston beginnings of Scott Strode’s recovery process, the importance of the organization’s mission, and its incredible track record.

As a part of their partnership with the Red Sox, The Phoenix and its members have access to Fenway Park. They utilize the stadium to organize open-air workouts and events, which also welcome participation from local EMTs and first responders.

They use Fenway Park days to honor the work of first responders, who often provide the first step to sobriety in their daily work. Many emergency responders never get the chance to see the people whose lives they save make it into recovery.

As a result of their partnership with the Red Sox, The Phoenix not only provides addiction and recovery support to recovering addicts, but also helps these medical emergency professionals see the true benefit of the work they do.

They’re given the rewarding opportunity to encounter individuals, whom they might have saved, staying healthy and making the most of their lives.

Ultimately, all people are capable of transformation, and The Phoenix helps members stay sober by believing in them and teaching them how to believe in themselves.

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