By Vicki Hogue-Davies
Scott Strode has been in recovery from substance abuse for more than 19 years, but it’s his athleticism that has come to define him. Strode’s journey to sobriety led him to found Phoenix Multisport, which has locations in Newport Beach, Colorado and Massachusetts, to help others recovering from alcoholism and drug addiction stay on a healthy path. Free to those in recovery, the gym is funded by individual donations, has worked with various treatment centers and offers a variety of programs such as strength training, yoga, CrossFit, indoor rock climbing, surfing, paddleboarding and more.
Newport Beach Magazine: Why did you start Phoenix Multisport?
Scott Strode: I saw this huge gap in services. After formal treatment, there was really not much out there designed as a recovery support tool, which is one reason I think that relapses happen so frequently. There is very little people can connect with, aside from 12-step programs, that help support them in long-term recovery. For myself, when I got sober I found that [the physical activities I did] were a huge part of transforming my identity and helping me see myself as something other than an addict and alcoholic. I started to see myself as a climber, a cyclist, a triathlete. The activities brought an inherent feeling of empowerment and self-worth.
SS: There is something about the exercise component that helps change the brain chemistry. And when you come to Phoenix, the group here believes in you until you believe in yourself. There is something really powerful and empowering about that, because so many times—through addiction and early childhood trauma and all the things that may be happening in somebody’s life—the self-esteem is really wounded. On top of that, our team members are proud of their recovery. We wear “sober” T-shirts and Phoenix Multi-sport T-shirts and that helps to break down the stigma and let go of some of the shame we used to carry related to our addiction.
NBM: How does your program compare to a more traditional 12-step program?
SS: I wouldn’t compare it to a 12-step. A 12-step is a powerful tool for people in recovery. Phoenix is one more tool in the tool box. We can use all the different tools, which include 12-step, Phoenix, formal treatment, therapy and sober living programs, to build the house. You could also say Phoenix is one more arrow in the quiver.
NBM: How does someone get started in the program?
SS: People have to be clean and sober for 48 hours before they come. All the equipment is provided by us and … free, so they can just show up. They can come as often or as little as they want. But once they come, they have to adhere to a code of conduct, which they sign, and that code helps frame a supportive environment that is emotionally and physically safe. For a lot of folks who are early in their recovery, it helps to have those guidelines. People don’t have to have any [fitness] experience to come to Phoenix. The coaches, who are in recovery themselves, do a great job of making fitness accessible to anyone, no matter what their background. They could be a former professional athlete or they could be brand new to fitness, and we will find a workout that speaks to them.
NBM: What recent changes have you made to the program?
SS: Beginning this June, we are inviting paying members who are not in the Phoenix program to join our gym. So people coming to us for their fitness will also help pay our bills and … help empower the folks we are helping, because all of our coaches are people who have come through the Phoenix program. You can help somebody heal by doing your personal training at our place or by joining our gym. It is a little bit different than the average gym in that regard.
NBM: What inspires you in your work?
SS: Two things drive and inspire me. I am driven to combat the substance abuse crisis in our country. I believe it is our No. 1 health crisis. We are losing more people to overdoses from opiates than we are from motor vehicle accidents. We need to do something about it and this is my way of making a difference. I am inspired by the resiliency of the human spirit and how I see people change and overcome their addictions and become contributing members of our society as they start to heal in recovery.