Sober & Stoked
As ski season moves into full swing, some will be out on the mountain enjoying the company of friends, getting a sweat on and enjoying the rush down the run.
For Scott French, it means all of those things, but it also means continuing his journey into recovery and using sports to help others do the same through Sober and Stoked, which creates programming and champions the idea of overcoming addiction through sports and community. He sees that even in the small community of the Vail Valley.
“There are people that slip through the cracks. When they feel like they have an addiction problem, they feel like there’s no outlet, like they don’t have anybody that they can talk to,” he said. “I think part of being a small community is knowing, ‘hey, there are people, we don’t judge,’ and if they reach out, there is a small community of people that could help them out.”
In previous years, Sober and Stoked has had an open ski group for former and recovering addicts at Vail and Beaver Creek mountains. French is hoping to continue that this year. This year, he’s working on setting up times to ski at 9:30 at Beaver Creek on Tuesdays and 9:30 at Vail on Thursdays, but those times aren’t completely set yet. For updated information, like the Sober and Stoked Facebook page or join the Sober and Stoked Facebook group.
On Dec. 9, Sober and Stoked will show its documentary “6 Gifts” at the Riverwalk Theater. The narrative follows the stories of six individuals including French as they’ve used different sports — snowboarding for French, yoga and surfing for others — to overcome drug and alcohol addiction. The other athletes are surfboarder, musician and YouTube sensation Ben Gravy; CrossFit athlete Melody Schofield, who has appeared on shows like “America Ninja Warrior” and “The Titan Games”; social media star Monica Lebansky; local Rebecca Selig; and outdoorsman Chris Vargo.
The documentary is being shown as part of Mountain Youth’s Safe Driving and Sober Activities initiative, which hopes to educate young people about drunk driving and how to enjoy Vail’s vibrant mountain festival culture — what with Bonfire Block Party, the GoPro Mountain Games, Birds of Prey, Snow Days and more — without endangering themselves or others.
Before sobriety, many of the athletes went through harrowing times. Rebecca Selig started drinking when she was 12 years old, and racked up five DUIs and domestic violence charges. Finally, she was court-ordered to attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.
“That was my saving grace,” she said in a press release.
The thought of never drinking again was impossible for her to imagine until she started attending regularly. The meetings proved to be so powerful that she kept attending even after the court mandate was up.
“I had a lot of healing to do. A lot of acceptance. I had to start learning about the destruction and all the people I hurt,” she said.
She’s grateful for that time spent in AA meetings every time she rides a chairlift or gets to hike to a peak in the Gore Range.
The Riverwalk Theater, especially since Grant Smith and his wife took over the business approximately a year and a half ago, has been working to providing an outlet for the community to gather around things that matter, like Sober and Stoked.
“That was a goal coming in, and I think we’ve been able to do that over the past year and a half,” he said.
To that end, this is just one of the community-oriented events coming up at the theater. On Dec. 1, the theater will show the Mr. Rogers documentary “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” to help raise money for Family Learning Center teacher Betty Nobles, who lost her home in last year’s Beaver Bench Condo fire and is still unable to live in her home. The theater is also serving as the new venue for the Sustainable Film Series which started earlier this month and has five remaining screenings once a month through April.
Ultimately, French’s goal is similar to Smith’s. He and his Sober & Stoked partner and longtime friend Eugene Stiltner, who also used sports to recover from addiction, hope to rally a community around sobriety and moving forward.
“So many times people get their 30 days and their 60 days of sobriety and they’re like, ‘alright, I’m not going to drink any more, this is my life now.’ And the thing is, they’re so focused on not drinking that they don’t take that next step,” French said. “We want to bridge the gap. You didn’t get sober so you could sit on the couch. You got sober so you could change your life and do what you always wanted to do. It’s trying to capture their dreams and go for it.”
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