20 under 40: Kalynn Smith keeps spirits high during lowest of times | SteamboatToday.com

20 under 40: Kalynn Smith keeps spirits high during lowest of times

Kalynn Smith
John F. Russell/Steamboat Pilot & Today

Kalynn Smith might be the toughest dork in Routt County.

Smith, a standup comedian, Steamboat Cabaret writer and performer, and Star Wars fanatic, fights on the behalf of others with tenacity and ferocity.

The 33-year-old works as the executive director of the Routt County Alcohol Council, the oldest drug addiction treatment facility in Routt County, where she teaches involuntary commitment addiction classes that her clients take through court orders or the Department of Motor Vehicles. 

“I think they’re really happy to have someone like Kalynn guide them through that process and really help them find a better version of themselves,” said Kyle Beckler, Smith’s boyfriend whom she met shortly after moving to Steamboat in 2012.

Smith and her staff provide both moderation and abstinence-based substance abuse counseling. Smith said in her line of work, it’s important not to be judgmental, and counselors should instead seek to understand a person’s relationship with drugs and alcohol which is different in every case. 

“When the choice is theirs, when it’s not the courts that are making this choice for them, we want to make sure that it’s an informed choice,” said Smith. “And it’s really hard to know if you’re over a line if you don’t know where the line is.”

Smith’s coworkers praise her ability to describe complex mental health subjects in ways that are approachable and creative.

“A lot of treatment facilities, everybody there is on the same page, and we are not,” Smith said. “So, that’s always kind of the creative aspect of our job is meeting all the needs that have different clients.”

If you go

What: 2022 20 Under 40 Celebration

When: 5 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 1

Where: Snow Bowl Steamboat, 2090 Snow Bowl Plaza

Tickets: steamboatpilot.com/20under40

The COVID-19 pandemic was especially difficult for Smith and her staff.

“The relapse potential at that point in history was probably greater than it may have ever been,” said Smith. “Even John Mulaney relapsed,” she said, referring to the famous comedian.

In May, 2020, tragedy struck her workplace and the mental health community when the Routt County Alcohol Council’s founder and executive director — and Smith’s mentor — Dr. Thomas Traynor died by suicide.

“We never closed,” Smith said. “After Tom’s suicide, we stayed open. We stayed open for our clients, we stayed open through the pandemic.”

Smith became the youngest executive director in RCAC’s history. She stepped into the role with aplomb and courage.

Six months later, her mother died. Through the turbulent time in Smith’s life, she stayed connected to the things that are important to her and bring her joy. She says humor is an important coping mechanism.

After stepping away for a short time, she returned to comedy.

“I think instead of security questions for lost passwords, there should be insecurity questions like ‘what’s the thing you hate most about your face?” she said.

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