DENVER — He has a voice many Coloradans have come to know on the radio.
The cheerful voice giving you the latest news Saturday and Sunday mornings on Colorado Public Radio (CPR) belongs to Vic Vela.
He joined the CPR team in 2015 and he said it's the first job he has ever held while sober.
"We are talking about going back to when I worked at Baskin Robbins when I was a teenager in high school," Vela said. "And to be able to wake up every day sober, especially every weekend morning, I love coming here and talking to our listeners on Saturdays and Sunday mornings. Waking up and getting to the station by 5:30 in the morning, or whatever, instead of going to bed at 5:30 in the morning like I used to. That’s if I went to bed at all when I was getting high."
The radio host said he first started using cocaine when he was hired for his first job at KAMR-TV in Amarillo, Texas as a weekend sports anchor. From there, the problem spiraled.
A few physical and career moves later, his drug addiction grew so intense, he'd often leave the Colorado State Capitol, where he was stationed to cover politics for local newspapers, to sneak away to a nearby alley and smoke crack cocaine.
"Picture me in a suit and tie," he said as he crouched behind a dumpster. "Mr. Capitol Reporter. And I would just come in here, look around, bend down, grab my pipe out of my bag, fill it, put the rock in, smoke it, take a couple of hits, zip it up and put it back."
Then Vela would return to the capitol to interview politicians.
"It was exhausting," Vela said. "The amount of work we put into when we are addicted to drugs. The amount of work we put into getting high is exhausting."
Flash forward to present day, Vela is five years sober and the happiest he's ever been, he said. But don't think for one second he's forgotten his past. In fact, he's using it – and sharing it with total transparency – with hopes to help others struggling with addiction on their own roads to recovery.
"I have friends who aren’t alive today because they never thought a better life was possible," he said. "They never gave a better life a chance. And thank God, I gave a better life a chance."
Vela said his motto is "one day at a time."
"It is the honest-to-God truth of how I live my life," he said. "I am not concerned of where I'm going to be a year from now, five years from now, five days from now. If I don't focus on where I am now, I'm doomed."
Vela and CPR recently launched a new podcast called "Back from Broken," a show focused on recovery.
"Everyone knows someone who struggles with addiction or mental health issues or a physical ailment that has dramatically changed their life," the CPR website's description of the podcast says. "This show is a place to regularly showcase courage and what it takes to come back."
"I don’t’ believe in living a life of shame," Vela said. "I believe in laughing about the person who I used to be and hope that helps someone else."
"Back from Broken" has a new episode every other Friday. Episode one is on CPR's website.
If you or someone you know is experiencing addiction, know you aren't alone. Here are some Colorado resources for help:
For immediate help, call 1-844-493-TALK (8255), visit and find someone to chat online with at coloradocrisisservices.org or text "TALK" to 38255.
Mental Health Center of Denver
4141 E. Dickenson Pl.
Denver, CO 80222
Harm Reduction Action Center
231 E. Colfax Ave.
Denver, CO 80203
Colorado Consortium for Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention
Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences Buildings
12850 E. Montview Blvd.
Aurora, CO 80045
New Beginnings Recovery Center
191 E. Orchard Rd. B
Littleton, CO 80121
Stop The Clock Colorado
Naloxone is an opioid overdose reversal medication you can get without a prescription in Colorado.
Here's a list of places you can get it from: stoptheclockcolorado.org
Colorado Office of Behavioral Health created LinkingCare.org to encourage whole-person care by quickly connecting healthcare providers and individuals to behavioral health services. LinkingCare.org now includes evidence-based substance use screening tools, information on the effects of substance use on health and resources and links on substance use issues, news and research. linkingcare.org
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is the agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. On their website, find advice resources for treatment and even advice for family members: samhsa.gov/medication-assisted-treatment/treatment/opioid-overdose
The harm reduction program in Jefferson County offers training on overdose prevention and response.
Find out more on their website pointswestjeffco.com or call them at 303-239-7078
Take Meds Seriously
Info on safe use, storage, and disposal of prescription here: takemedsseriously.org
Take Meds Seriously (Disposal)
If you have prescription drugs you'd like to get rid of, you can dispose of them. takemedsseriously.org/safe-disposal/disposal-options
Douglas County Youth Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition
Their goal is to specifically help teenagers and people younger than 25 who are struggling with addiction. dougcoprevention.org
International Overdose Awareness Day
Here are ways you could participate in international overdose awareness day: overdoseday.com
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