DENVER - From the outside, it looks just like a CrossFit gym in downtown Denver. On the inside, it's anything but.
It brings a group of people together that are all alike. They have similar paths, all with similar goals, and it's one of only a handful gyms like it in the world.
The Phoenix is a sober gym, meaning every person here is a recovering addict and every person has a similar story.
“One thing that helps me stay sober is that connection with somebody else that's been through the same struggles that I've been through,” says Michael Mielke, a recovering addict and member of the Phoenix.
Struggles is that’s a word Miekle knows well.
“I ended up homeless, penniless…I became a pathological liar, a cheat, I just was not the person I felt like I should be in my life," he said.
Many in this gym walked the same path.
“In 2009, I was driving under the influence and I caused a very serious car accident… I caused a fatal accident,” Dana Smith said. "I ended up spending five years in prison."
Smith has been sober since the car accident eight years ago and found a passion for helping others just like her.
“So when I heard about Phoenix Multisport I knew it was the best way for me to give back to my community,” Smith said.
That’s why she moved to Denver to volunteer and over the years she moved her way up to a full-time employee.
She is now as the director of Programs and Partnerships at the gym.
“It's so powerful the way that people are able to connect here," Smith said. "People come in and they want to do a workout, they want to do a boxing class or strength training class but that's not what it's about it's about the human connection that they're making with other people."
Whitney Smith Hickman has also been sober for years, and now turned her life around to help others as an addictions counselor. She loves the Phoenix gym concept.
"You just kind of feel like you're at home…there's no explaining anything to anybody," Smith Hickman said. "They just get it."
“It's hard to explain to your family sometimes that you feel lucky to be an alcoholic," Smith said. "You feel lucky to have suffered because of the things that I have now and one of the main things is Phoenix Multisport."
Scribbled on the wall are the words “Everything is better through sober eyes and mind”.
“Now I have a life worth fighting for," Mielke said. "I am a person that can look myself in the mirror and say I like this guy."
Mielke is now training to be a coach at Phoenix.
The gym has helped more than 22,000 people nationally since it started in 2007. It is funded with grants and the public gym right next door whose memberships help back the Phoenix.
The only requirement to join is 48 hours sober.
To learn more: https://thephoenix.org/
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