DENVER - Whether it's weight loss or a healthier routine, the gym is often a place where people go to make a change in their life. But what about turning a life around? On Champa Street in the heart of downtown Denver, that is the mission of Phoenix Multisport.
"I was a heroin addict," gym member Dan Vandenberg said.
Dan is like every other person that walks through Phoenix's front door, in one way or another. It is a sober community for those recovering from substance use disorder, commonly called addiction.
"If you spent a lot of your adolescence and adult life drinking and drugging, and then you get clean and sober, what are you going to do with that time?" the gym's founder Scott Strode said.
The gym offers crossfit, boxing, weight lifting, yoga, and fitness classes every day of the week. It is open and free to anyone who is trying to get or stay clean. The main rule?
"Having 48 hours of continuous sobriety," Vandenberg said.
"You might do therapy and treatment and a 12 step program but finding the supportive network of people you find in here," Strode said, "I kind of think about it like finding a new tribe that supports you in your recovery."
Rich Shock found that tribe. He was an addict, homeless on the streets of Denver. Until he found Phoenix.
"It's a sense of community. There's a certain energy and power here when we engage in this together we're not just pushing out bodies we're pushing each other, supporting each other," Shock said.
The Navy veteran is now one of a group of vets that comes here weekly.
"I love walking through the door. The smiles, the hugs, the fun competition we have with each other," he said. "It's like an oasis in the desert of sickness in a way."
You'll find many of the people that come here to work out wearing shirts reading 'sober' or 'Phoenix.' The name has an important meaning.
"The story of the phoenix rising from the ashes, that is a story that so many people in recovery from substance use disorder connect with," Scott Strode said.
That includes the founder himself. Strode found himself using and abusing drugs in his twenties. Until he found a boxing gym and turned his life around. Eventually he opened his own gym.
Ten years later, Strode has spread Phoenix to five states, and helped over 20,000 people with free recovery support programs. People like Dan Vandenberg.
"I come to the gym because this place saved my life."
For more information on Phoenix: https://phoenixmultisport.org
The gym is funded through grants and fundraising, but also through a crossfit gym that the general public can join. Membership fees go to support Phoenix Multisport. For more on Per Ignem Crossfit: http://perignemcrossfit.org