DENVER — At The Phoenix, a typical gym class always includes a little bit of socializing, a lot of laughter and a lot of sweat. But aside from exercise, the gym’s main focus is to create connections with others in order to stay sober from alcohol and/or drugs.
“You’re able to connect on a different level and feel safe,” said Mika Mumme, a member and employee at The Phoenix, which is considered an active, sober community. “There’s definitely a family here, if people are struggling. Even if you’re not sober but you’re figuring out your journey there are people here who can understand and relate. There’s definitely a home here.”
The Phoenix is a nonprofit organization offering in-person programming in various locations across 36 states, including Colorado. There are group exercise classes, organized hikes, bike rides, climbing activities and rafting — all geared specifically toward sober people. Its motto is "rise and recover."
Gym for active sobriety in Denver
People in sobriety find active ways to connect
Mumme is three-and-a-half years sober from alcohol and believes it’s important for sober people to have different ways to bond with each other.
“Really what we want to do is build community around fitness to help raise each other up and stay sober,” she explained. “The only cost of membership is 48 hours of sobriety to come in and use any of the programming.”
Phoenix member Breanne Lubinsky knows all too well that the path to quitting alcohol is a uniquely difficult one. She feels the best way to achieve success is support from the people around her.
“I come here because it’s a sober gym and I mostly come here for the community in that it’s all likeminded people and we’re all here for the same journey of being better, being a better version of ourselves and obviously we get to work out while doing it,” she said.
This May, Lubinsky will celebrate three years without alcohol. After getting diagnosed with depression a few years ago, she started to question her relationship with booze.
“Why drink alcohol, which is a depressant, when I’m already depressed enough? I was using alcohol as a coping mechanism for my depression. It just didn’t make sense to me, so I went sober and completely quit alcohol because it wasn’t helping me. It made my mood worse,” she explained.
Lubinsky’s membership at the Phoenix is an important part of her regular self-care regimen. "It keeps me on track. Every once in a while, I still get a craving for vodka and coke, that was my go-to. When I’m down or depressed and don’t want to do anything, Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday I come here to the Phoenix, and [Phoenix trainers] kick my butt and I walk out of here feeling better,” she said.
Mumme wants people to know that recovery journey isn’t one size fits all, there are different ways to get and stay sober. “It’s important to have a place where you can lower the barrier of entry and just be human again," she said. "And you get to be friends with other people and create relationships with other people in a setting that isn’t forced and feels more natural and supportive.
To commemorate her three-year path in sobriety, Lubinsky is having an outdoor party with kick ball, axe throwing, and other yard games. And instead of champagne, they will be toasting cupcakes. “At this point I celebrate my sobriety birthday more than my regular birthday because without sobriety there are no birthdays," she told Rocky Mountain PBS. "For me three years sober is more important than turning 29."
Dana Knowles is a multimedia journalist at Rocky Mountain PBS and can be reached at email@example.com.