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The Phoenix

Where Recovery Rises

by Jacqueline Brown

Imagine a health club where the only cost of attendance was a commitment to sobriety. That’s the model followed by The Phoenix, an innovative non-profit that combines the power of peers and community with group fitness and other meaningful activities for anyone who is at least 48-hours sober.

“We’re a safe uplifting community for people in recovery, as well as friends and family, to form healthy relationships and get support in their healing journeys,” says Sydney Durand, Regional Director for Northeast Phoenix programs. “At The Phoenix, we don’t just help people live in recovery. We help them to thrive.”

With Maine locations in Bangor, Portland, Scarborough, Windham and Biddeford, The Phoenix is not your typical fitness club. Classes range from CrossFit and weightlifting to yoga and rock climbing, but there is also room for art classes, drumming circles, and other wellness-based community activities.

“The Phoenix is all volunteer-driven. Volunteers teach classes based on their interests and what they think will be of interest to the recovery community. In this way, The Phoenix can be anything,” Sydney says.

Fitness classes, however, make up the core of The Phoenix’s current offerings. “We tend to offer a lot of CrossFit classes because CrossFit gyms have been wonderful and welcoming spaces for us. Whatever class someone attends, moving the body releases endorphins… it’s transformative for people in recovery.”

The foundation for The Phoenix model is that physical activity and social connections combined with a safe, supportive environment enriches personal recovery. A 2020 member survey reported that after 3 months of active engagement, 87 percent of active members stayed sober.

Other findings showed nearly 9 out of 10 members (ranging from 85 to 94 percent) reported improvements in five common characteristics of a successful recovery journey (connection, hope, identity, meaningful life, and empowerment).

Among other findings, 70 percent of members new to recovery reported they were more motivated to stay sober after taking part in The Phoenix programming, and out of those that experienced relapse, nearly three-quarters (74 percent) had returned to sobriety and reported that The Phoenix helped them get back on track.

Getting started with The Phoenix programming simply requires typing your zip code into The Phoenix’s app to find nearby classes. It’s okay to be an absolute beginner. Sydney acknowledges that for people in recovery, signing up for a fitness class can feel intimidating.

“We’re here to build skills and help people find personal fulfillment, she says. “You don’t have to have a fitness background to fit in with our community. There is no shame here…we are a safe place to take a risk.” To drive this point home, Sydney recounted the story of a woman in recovery who drove by a Phoenix gym at least five times before finally taking the chance to go inside.

“She didn’t have a fitness background, but she felt that tug that something was in there that she needed. She signed up for a class, and kept coming back. Today her recovery is going strong and she’s become an amazing crossfit athlete!” said Sydney.

It’s these types of success stories that Phoenix loves to celebrate. However, Sydney also recognizes that the biggest success stories happen within minutes of someone first showing up for a Phoenix activity.

“As soon as someone walks through the door, that is the win for us. Our goal is to lower barriers and make joining a sober community as easy as possible to access,” noted Sydney.

To find a class or support, visit their website: https://thephoenix.org/ find-a-class/

Jacqueline Brown
Jacqueline Brown is a freelance writer from Southern Maine who regularly contributes to national and regional publications. A former public school teacher in the Boston area, Jacqueline is the published author of several books for children, one of which won the Maine Literary Award for Children's Literature in 2018. When she's not at her computer, Jacqueline can be found looking for sea glass at her favorite beach.

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