Grant helps Health Partnership expand Clean and Sober events
Steamboat Springs resident Christopher Ray spent many hours through the three-day Memorial Day weekend helping dozens of people have a fun and healthy holiday with outdoor activities from yoga to a barbecue at local parks.
As a person in recovery from substance use disorder and a certified peer recovery coach, Ray appreciates how important it is to have group support in order to maintain a clean and sober lifestyle. In the resort and tourism atmosphere, that is not always so easy, Ray said.
“When I first got sober, and I went to a local outdoor concert in summer 2019, I had to leave because I felt uncomfortable in my new sobriety,” Ray said. “If I would have had a group of like-minded people to hang out with, I would have felt more at ease and not left the concert. I left the concert and went directly to a 12-step program meeting.”
As a peer recovery specialist for The Health Partnership, a nonprofit organization that serves Routt, Moffat and Rio Blanco counties, Ray helps organize Clean and Sober events, such as multiple free workouts each week, and special events, such as biking, hiking, campouts, a cooking class June 9 and a picnic with games June 12 in Steamboat. Partnership staff along with volunteers in recovery also organize events in Craig, such as a disk golf event June 11 and a game night June 17.
The Health Partnership’s Clean and Sober recovery support program received a major boost in May with the receipt of a $167,000 Colorado Health Foundation’s Northwest Colorado Peer Recovery Supports Grant. The grant will allow the partnership to expand services to more people struggling with substance use disorder, including hopeful growth of the program into Rio Blanco County and hiring two new peer recovery specialists, including a bilingual Spanish speaker.
The Clean and Sober program offers community-based activities for those in recovery, loved ones supporting those in recovery, sober curious individuals or those choosing a sober lifestyle.
“The main focus of what we do with these events is to break down the stigma of someone in recovery and show that folks can be active, healthy and social and live full lives,” Ray said. “Events give us a chance to meet people where they are, find out what kind of help they are looking for and how we can find what’s going to work for them.”
Since the local program started two years ago, more than 540 people follow the Clean and Sober Steamboat Facebook page, which promotes sober fun through outdoor activities, connection, community and fitness. The program also hosts a private Facebook group called So-Boat that started in spring 2019, maintaining a stable interest of up to 150 members. After the COVID-19 pandemic hit hard, the So-Boat Facebook group tripled to 486 current members.
“We have seen our program grow because of the accessibility to resources and breaking down of stigma through our peer recovery program,” Ray said. “The need is becoming more apparent, and people are becoming more comfortable talking about their addiction and mental health needs.”
The peer recovery coach said the importance of clean and sober resources in rural and tourist-based communities is greater compared to larger urban areas, which traditionally have more resources available.
“The culture of partying and of rural self-independence encourages substance abuse and avoidance of getting help,” Ray said. “It’s a combination of glorified party life and glorification of self reliance where people don’t reach out for help. It’s a deadly combination for a community that needs help in addressing addiction and mental health issues.”
One intention of the Clean and Sober program is to create sober sections at large public events, such as concerts, with a sober section kickoff in Craig during Whittle the Wood concerts June 26.
“In a town like this, where a lot of social happenings are centered around drinking alcohol, we try to offer an alternative,” Ray said.
Ray hopes to help make conversations about addition more approachable. He said any type of person could be struggling with substance use disorder as “people can be functioning and hide it.” Local addiction issues stem from alcohol, stimulants, such as cocaine and methamphetamine, or from opioid drugs, such as Fentanyl and heroin, Ray said.
The peer recovery specialist has lived in Routt County for eight years and is in recovery from drug and alcohol issues after completing an in-patient rehab program in 2018 at Foundry Treatment Center Steamboat.
More information about Clean and Sober events in Routt and Moffat counties is available at TheHealthPartnership.org/event-calendar or the Facebook groups Facebook.com/cleanandsobersteamboat and Facebook.com/cleanandsobercraig.
To reach Suzie Romig, call 970-871-4205 or email sromig@SteamboatPilot.com.
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