Outdoor adventure keeps former abusers focused

By R. Scott Rappold

The Gazette

Published: Wednesday, Dec. 29 2010 6:39 p.m. MST

Michele Crane, right, with Phoenix Multiport helps Chelsea Hill, top left, make her way up one of the climbing walls at City Rock climbing facility on Dec. 10, 2010 in Colorado Springs, Colo. Phoenix Multiport helps individuals who are recovering alcoholic and substance abusers by them pursue physical outdoor activities such as rock climbing.

The Gazette, Bryan Oller, Associated Press

Enlarge photo»

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Kelly Fraser was down and out.

He lost his house and spent 23 days in jail as he struggled with addiction to methamphetamine.

But that was three years ago. On a recent Friday night, he was among two dozen recovering addicts at downtown Colorado Springs climbing gym CityRock, scaling sheer walls to heights he once thought unreachable.

After all, there is more than one way to get high.

"A key to my own sobriety was being active," said Fraser, 38. "It gave me something to do. A lot of addicts, when they're recovering, really sit around and mope."

The climbing session was sponsored by Phoenix Multisport, a nonprofit addiction recovery group founded three years ago in Denver by Scott Strode.

The group has helped 2,300 people in Colorado recover from addiction, through group exercise and outdoor activities. A chapter launched in Colorado Springs over summer.

Strode got involved in climbing during his own recovery from alcohol and cocaine addictions, and attributes his 13 years of success to staying active.

When he first quit, Strode said he lost his friends and felt isolated, sitting around at home with nothing to do, afraid that if he went out, he would slip into old patterns.

"For me, it was about achieving something I put my mind to. It made me feel valuable again," he said.

Phoenix Multisport holds several events a week, including hikes, walks, bike rides and ski trips. It's free, except for overnight trips, and they require participants have at least 48 hours' sobriety. The nonprofit survives on grants and donations.

Many people get involved following recommendations from judges and probation officers. That is how Todd Jones, 33, heard of Phoenix Multisport.

With six months of sobriety, he spoke of the same idleness, the feeling that, without drugs or alcohol, there was nothing to do. Taking part in the weekly climbs and hikes has filled that void, and helped him meet like-minded people going through the same difficulties.

"We have a common bond. We understand where each other is coming from," Jones said.

Strode said the program is not a substitute for treatment and 12-step programs, nor is it affiliated with groups like Alcoholics Anonymous.

Chelsea Hill, 20, attended her first Phoenix Multisport event this month, as she nears one year of sobriety. She found positive energy and people willing to help. And she found a release.

"It's letting some steam go, knowing you can do something, because a lot of people in addiction have a low self-esteem lifestyle," she said. "It's a life high. It's a natural high."

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