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Importance of Survival Skills

Transcending addiction and redefining recovery: Jacki Hillios at TEDxBoulder


Translator: Mohand Habchi
Reviewer: ali alshalali I work with people who many of you stereotypically love. They’re alcoholics. They’re buzzers and they’re drunks. They’re addicts. They’re pill poppers and they’re junkies. You see, I’ve always wanted to understand
why people do what they do. Because I believe
if can figure out the why, then I can find ways to help them. Help them find a better life and heal. So I worked as clinician
for probably about 15 years, and I watched as drugs and alcohol destroyed people’s lives. I made the decision to go back to school and I got my PhD. Because I thought, maybe, through research I can find
some of the answers to the questions that I couldn’t answer as a clinician. And what is really exciting is
I’m finding some of those answers, and I’m going to share
some of those answers with you here tonight. When I was a clinician, I watched so many people
who wanted to get sober, work really hard to try getting sober but they just couldn’t. And then again, it wasn’t
because they didn’t want to, but because things just got in their way. So let me tell you
a little bit about Anna. When I met Anna, she was trying to get clean from meth. She has probably been in treatment
maybe five or six times, and she burned all of her bridges. But she told she wanted to get clean and so we found her program
where she could go. This particular program, was going to be a little be tough because it’s a no smoking program, and Anna smokes cigarettes
in addition to the meth. And she was there
for may be a couple hours before she lit up. There were no second chances. They kicked her out. They actually drove down the road
to the 7-11 and dropped her off. She had no money and no phone. And really her only opportunity
at that moment, her only choice, was to hitchhike back to the meth house. And that’s what she did. I heard from Anna
a couple of weeks later and she wanted to try again. But this time, in order for her to get into treatment, she was going to have
to go through a detox program. She went to three detox programs before she actually found one
that would take her. The first one she went to
was a medical detox. And well, if you’re not going to die,
they don’t want to admit you to the program. There’s no risk, why bother? And when you come off meth, it really hurts, but you don’t die. The second program she went to, was cash only. She had no money. You can’t pay, you can’t stay. But she found this third program
and they finally admitted her. Ten hours after she was
admitted to the program, my cell phone run. It was 4 in the morning. The nurse on the other line told me
that she was done. She had completed her detox treatment. And now they wanted me
to come and get her. It’s 4 o’clock in the morning. But you see if didn’t come
and get her, they also said, they were going to make her just leave. And I knew where
she was going to end up. So I went and I got her, and this is where things
actually got really hard. Because, now she is
on a waitlist for treatment. We didn’t know if it was going to take a day, a week or a month
for her to get in. And she had no idea what to do next. Anna is not alone. In America today, there’s 23 million people
struggling with addiction. And of those, 10% are able to get treatment. And of the people who get treatment, 40 to 60% of them
relapse within the first year. So after a year, only about half of the people
are still sober. And the question remains, even they’ve gotten treatment,
what will they do when they get home. What’s next? And what about that 90% of people
who don’t get treatment at all. What are they supposed to do? You see, chances are, their cell phones are filled
with phone numbers of people who they drink
and they used with. They can go back
to the bars and the parties. They really just
don’t know what to do, because they burned
all of their bridges. Think about that for a moment. If you were one of these people, what would you do? Can you even imagine what tomorrow might be like? About ten years ago, I was climbing at the Rock Gym
in Boston, Massachusetts, and I met this guy named Scott Strode. And we became friends
and climbing partners. Scott! He told me he’s on recovery. I didn’t really think anything of it because the truth is we were climbing
and we were having so much fun. And there was this one
New year’s Eve weekend, a whole group of people got together and we went ice climbing. And again, knock it out of the park, we had so much fun. A few weeks after that holiday weekend, Scott told me that it was the first time
that holiday come and gone, and he hadn’t thought about drinking. He shared with me this idea he had
for doing things different. He wanted to take what he had learned from his personal experience on recovery and give it to other people. And me, I thought it was a no-brainer. You see, Scott got sober after years of binge drinking
and lot of cocaine. And lucky for him, he wandered into a boxing gym. And then, mountaineering, and then triathlon. And with every mountain he climbed, and with every finish line he crossed his recovery was stronger. But what he struggled with
was the stigma and the shame. Telling people he was
on recovery was really hard, and he often felt alone. When I met Scott, it changed my life because I realized something
from spending time with him. And that was that people
are not their disease. So not long after this great weekend, Scott was very inspired and he decided he wanted
to make this happen. So he moved here,
to Boulder, Colorado, and he started a program
called “Phoenix Multisport,” and he asked me to help him. So we created this program, where addicts were no longer
defined by their addiction, instead, shoulders to shoulders they climbed mountains
and they inspired others. And in 2006, Phoenix Multisport was born. It is a practical community for people who are on recovery
from drugs and alcohol and gets them involved
in an active lifestyle. And through things
such as climbing and hicking and running and cycling and strength training, people are finding the strength
and the support they need to recover. In Colorado, right now, in Front Range, Phoenix has served over 8000 people. (Applause) (Applause ends) In case anybody is wondering, we have goals of taking over the world. Public: Yeah! Our instructors facilitate
probably 45 events a week, which is really amazing, because what it means is that, every day of the week
there’s something for people to do and there’s some way for them to connect. They don’t have to be alone. The other thing that is really unique
about Phoenix Multisport, is that all of our instructors,
are what we call peer professionals. Which means,
they’re in recovery themselves. Because we believe that
they’re in this unique position of knowing what really works
and what doesn’t, and what matters most. And they can also connect people
into a broader sober community. That as a clinician,
I just could never do. It’s pretty amazing! The other thing people
ask me all the time. If we’re just replacing
one addiction for another, the alcohol and drugs we’re replacing that
with running and climbing, the answer is no. The sport brings people together, but it’s the experiences people have: it’s the fun and the people
that keep them coming back and help them heal. A lot of our members
wear T-shirts that say Phoenix Multisport
or sober across the chest. You see it’s really hard
to be tied to stigma and shame when so many people around you are proud of who they are and they’re open about their recovery. In the beginning, I told you about that 23 million
who were struggling with addiction. Half of the people went to treatment
actually were able to stay sober. At Phoenix, three quarters of the people
who come to our programming stay sober. (Applause) (Applause ends) And what’s also really amazing is that when we ask people
who relapsed if they’d come back, over 90% of them said yes and that they’d come back without any feeling
of shame or guilt or worry. And that’s huge, because addictions
are chronic relapsing conditions. And if we can get people to come back, at least we can minimize
the damage that has been done and get them back on track
and moving forward. So we call that a huge win. We also believe that recovery
is more than sobriety alone. And our participants tell us
that by participating in Phoenix, they actually are seeing benefits. To their physical health. Their mental health. And their quality of life. (Applause) (Applause ends) So while I’ve been part
of Phoenix Multisport, I’ve learned three really
important things about recovery. And the first one is people matter. Going it alone by yourself
on recovery is really hard. But when you do it together, it just makes it all that much easier. Second, fun matters! Because if you’re not having fun today, you don’t see joy, you have no hope for tomorrow. And that brings me to my third point. Tomorrow matters. If we can imagine a better tomorrow and we have hope for our future, and we see a bright tomorrow, it makes dealing with the crap
we have to deal with today a lot easier. Together these three things
are creating a tipping point, Where living sober
is just a little bit easier. It’s a little more accessible. It’s valued. And before I leave tonight, I have one last thing because I think this is really important for recovery or beyond, and that is that people
are not their disease. It doesn’t matter
if they struggle with addiction, diabetes, depression, cancer. It’s a piece of who they’re. That’s it. And when we tell somebody
struggling with addiction, that they’re an addict or a junky, what we’re telling them
is they are their disease. What I want you to think about: they’re actually the person
sitting next to you. It’s your mother and it’s your brother
and it’s your sister. It’s your cousin,
it’s your best friend, it’s you. They’re also teachers and mentors. They’re engineers. They’re doctors. They’re lawyers. They’re even presidents. So you remember Anna? While she waited to get into
that treatment program, she came to Phoenix Multisport everyday. I had a lunch with Anna
a couple weeks ago. She has been sober for five years. (Applause) (Applause ends) Anna was and always will be more than her disease. And the people that I work with
at Phoenix Multisport, you might not agree, but I got to tell you, they’re not just alcoholics
and drunks and boozers, addicts and dope fiends. They’re so much more. Thank you. (Applause)

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