Finding sobriety on a mountaintop | Scott Strode | TEDxMileHigh


Translator: Rhonda Jacobs
Reviewer: Ellen Maloney I am a person in long-term recovery
from a substance-use disorder. (Applause) And what that means
is I haven’t smoked crack, snorted a line of cocaine, or touched
a sip of alcohol in over 19 years. (Applause) I had my first beer at 11. One of my cousins gave it to me. I had my first line of coke at 15. I had just gotten out of a psych ward for being suicidal. From 15 to 24, I drank
and used my way through life, and eventually ended up in Boston. At that point, my addiction
had gotten so bad that I was paranoid,
and afraid of everything. I found myself locked in my apartment, and there in the dark,
huddled on the bathroom floor, I had been using cocaine
for almost 24 hours straight. My heart was pounding, and it felt like it was going
to explode in my chest. I knew that’s how I was going to die. And when the sun rose
on Boston that morning, do you know what I thought of? I thought of my mom. I thought, “Somebody
is going to have to tell her that her son died on a bathroom floor
from a cocaine overdose.” And that’s the last night I used. No one ever dreams they’re going
to grow up to be an addict. I found my way into a boxing gym, and something about
getting in the ring for the first time helped chip away at my addiction. Eventually, I saw a brochure
for ice climbing. And on the cover was this guy
on a steep ice climb, and I thought, “I want to try that.” I signed up for a class,
and I didn’t know it at the time, but I had begun my path of recovery. See, there’s something
special that happens when you tie into a climbing rope
for the first time in the winter. You look up at the glacier
or the climb ahead of you, and everything else seems to melt away. All the problems, all your worries, all the shame and self-loathing
from your addiction that so many addicts feel – it all drifts away and you’re left
just in that moment. All you hear is the crunch of the snow
under your crampons; the sound your ice ax makes
when it cracks into the deep blue ice; the sound of your breathing
as it drifts away and is muted by the soft falling snow. In that moment, in that place, I caught a glimpse of the possibility of who I could be: courageous and confident. Climbing would evolve into racing
mountain bikes, doing triathlons, eventually racing Ironman. And every time I stood
on top of a mountain or crossed a finish line, I was a little bit more a climber
and a little bit less an addict. I was fortunate; I found hope
on a mountaintop. And from that hope,
I began to heal from my addiction. But for so many people
that are still in their addiction, it can feel pretty hopeless. An estimated 23 million Americans
struggle with a substance-use disorder, and the average American
is more likely to die from an overdose than a motor vehicle accident, a mass shooting, and a terrorist attack, combined. So many of us get a loved one
plugged into formal treatment and we think, “Now
they’re going to be fixed,” only to find out that 40 to 60 percent of people coming out of formal treatment will relapse within the first year. Why is that? I think we can’t talk about
healing from addiction unless we also talk about
healing from trauma. I’m not just talking about
the big traumas – growing up in a war-torn country,
physical and sexual abuse. But I’m talking about
those little traumas – what it felt like
when your parents got divorced; what it felt like
when you were bullied in school; what it felt like when you
were abandoned by that loved one. Even though these traumas
don’t leave a wound that we can see, they affect how we see the world. I believe that trauma is the number one
public health crisis in our country. (Applause) Why was I compelled
to drink at 11 years old? Why was I using cocaine at 15,
and also suicidal? I think in part, it comes
from generational trauma that was passed from my father. See, his father left him
when he was young, so he carried a pain that he passed to me. My dad also struggled with mental illness, so he would yell at my siblings
and I if we lost, and he’d also yell at us
if we won the soccer game. He would publicly shame us, and I remember that always
made me feel so… …small. There’s also a unique kind
of inadequacy that you feel when you see a sibling that you love being abused, and you can do nothing to stop it. I think about how that must have
imprinted on me when I was little. Yes, I was once little. (Laughter) And when we’re little,
we’re emotional sponges. We absorb the energy around us
from our caregivers, and if that energy
is negative or traumatic, we often internalize it
as we did something wrong; we were failures. All of those little traumas
are tiny emotional cuts, and with enough of these cuts
it can add up to a big wound. I know what you’re thinking: some
of those things happened to you, and you’re not an addict. Well, there’s other ways
we cope with this. Many of us seek our emotional well-being
from something external. Maybe it’s what we look like,
maybe it’s how much money we make, maybe it’s whether or not
our sports team won the Superbowl. Go Broncos! (Laughter) (Cheers) We have love addiction, we have love avoidance, we have workaholism, eating disorders, and the list goes on and on. So how do we heal from this? I know standing on top of a mountain
can be part of it; that goes directly
to the self-esteem piece. But what about the opposite of trauma? We have to learn how to build
nurturing communities for our children to grow up in. I want you to think
about that for a moment. What kind of environment would you want
your children to grow up in? I want you to make a list. Here’s mine: encouraging, full of joy,
accepting, loving, a place where we are physically
and emotionally safe. With the understanding
of these two things coming together – the power of standing
on top of a mountain, and the power of a nurturing community – I thought, “How do we give this
to others that are struggling?” I thought, “How do we take
thousands of recovering addicts up a mountain in a nurturing environment?” It seems impossible. But it’s not. And that’s exactly what we did. With a core group of people,
I started a nonprofit, and we created a sober, active community. We’ve since served
18,000 people in 10 years, in five cities, in three states. (Cheers) (Applause) All of those programs are free
to anyone who’s 48 hours clean and sober. They come to yoga,
hiking, biking and climbing. They find a positive coping mechanism, and they find a peer group
that supports them in their recovery. And there’s a code of conduct
that frames the community. It says that anything
that isn’t nurturing isn’t welcome, and with those simple boundaries in place, it’s had a profound effect
on people’s lives. Seventy-three percent of people
had improved self-esteem. Eighty-two percent felt emotionally safe. I think the other 18
were probably on that wall. (Laughter) Sixty-five percent had improved
attitudes towards sobriety. And three-quarters of the people
that attend stayed sober. (Applause) Now I want you to imagine for a moment that I’m someone
who’s 48 hours clean and sober, and I show up at this gym. I walk up to the door. I grab the door handle. It feels so heavy. It feels so heavy because
this is my first time as an adult walking into a roomful of people
without a drink or a drug in my system. On top of that, I’m about to do
my first CrossFit workout. (Laughter) So, am I even going to make it
through the warm-up? You know what? Maybe I’ll just go get a drink. The guy at the front desk gives me
the waiver and the code of conduct, and I’m filling it out, thinking, “I’m just going to hand it
back to this guy, and I’m going back to that old apartment
where my friends are still using.” You know, that kind of apartment
where addicts go to die. Or, “I’ll just grab a handle
of vodka, and I’ll numb out. I’ll make the pain
and the anxiety go away.” This guy at the front desk, though,
he can tell I’m a little anxious, and he starts to share his own story. This guy was a heroin addict?
How’s that even possible? He’s so fit. Well, he walks with me into the gym,
and in that moment, I feel accepted here. This guy and this other girl
come over to me and they help me set up my weights. They give me a white PVC pipe
and they start to warm me up. They’re teaching me the clean and jerk. I learned this lift when I was in prison, but never with technique or form. “Strong back,” they say, “stand it up,
triple extension, high pull.” Now we go back over to the weights. The room is full of people. We line up at our barbells, and the clock starts to count down
to start the workout. Five, four, three, two… I look around the gym. Everyone in here is in recovery. I can feel that they believe in me – me: a junky, a drunk. As a matter of fact,
they believe in me so much that in that moment,
I start to believe in myself. The clock clicks over
to start the workout. I reach down to grab my barbell, a seemingly unmovable weight. But I grab it, and I pull, I pull with all the technique,
strength, and courage that I draw from the people around me. And for a moment, it becomes weightless and it lands on my shoulders. The bar oscillates from the weight and I jerk it overheard, stand it up proudly,
and let it crash to the floor. I get an acknowledging smile
from my new friends, and a fist bump
from my new workout partner. And in that moment,
I find supportive community. And in that community, I find hope. (Applause) (Cheers) Thanks. (Applause) (Cheers)

95 thoughts on “Finding sobriety on a mountaintop | Scott Strode | TEDxMileHigh

  1. I can't thank you enough for sharing your thoughts and experiences with us. It gives me hope that I can beat this once and for all.

  2. Two-step program for deliverance from cravings… https://sites.google.com/site/hesedken/addiction_negative/two_step_program.html

  3. Wonderful message by a professor of recovery, Scott Strode. His organization, Phoenix Multisport, has worked with over 19,000 students in recovery, and holds over 3,000 yearly events for addicts.

  4. I'm floored by this clear, moving, and sobering (no pun intended) talk!! I have 18 1/2 years clean. My "mountain" was similar to Scott's — when I realized my parents would have to be told of my death.

  5. Come to 🇬🇧, UK 🇬🇧 we need this
    I'm into year two ✌️ sober,,,
    Running and weights,,, nearly cig free,,,
    This is amazing,, as I find going Aa and using training keeps me going

  6. Any addict that has achieved (or not) sobriety understands perfectly why he's wearing that shirt. He's a brave man and one with incredible will power. I applaud his pride in his sobriety.

  7. The ukulele intro music is unbearable. I don't know what started this heinous ukulele strumming trend, but I am hearing this everywhere, youtube videos, commercials, in airports, and I honestly can't understand the appeal. I think it is supposed to sound, light, whimsical, and upbeat. It is the most superficial and painful sound in the galaxy.

  8. Oh god he reminds me my husband so much. Same story, divorce, bullying, bi polar disorder. He was an alcoholic and drug addict for almost 25 years. Started at 11 too. He is now been clean for 6 years, he works his 12 steps daily, in addition to daily meditation. It’s a lot of work but is possible, you need to find the root cause to be able to heal.

  9. The One, who has all power… May you find Him now." (If He has all power, how much does that leave you?)

  10. I quit Monday, I wanted a drink tonight, so I went for a ride on my mountain bike with my dog running along side. My cravings were gone. exercise is going to be my new tool. 25 years destroying myself, I think its time to start being a lot more kinder. My problem has always been worrying what other people think  so I would stay in, over eat, drink, or do drugs. Not Anymore

  11. Good for you. I don't drink for health reasons but find it can be a lonely business. Sober people need more role models like you

  12. This made me cry, I want to participate in something like this. I think it would help more than treatment

  13. Same here from blow to suicide to drinking to just wanting the way out, i am a new yorker so in this big city like any, every day can be a challenge since my Moms death from when i was a broker on wall st so if anyone wants to text before you pick up those drinks or drugs please do, we are all here for the same reason…Get better and shy away from this thing we call addiction…God Bless 646-841-5896

  14. I’m almost 3 years sober. With out rehab. I moved to northern Arizona 4 years ago and decided to get off all meds. Dr’s love to get you hooked on psyc drugs. I hike and have lots of connections in my community. We Really Really Really need one of these places here. My hubby has 26 years. He bicycles 150 miles every week.
    May God continue to bless Phoenix multi sport.

  15. Oct 12, 2018 marked 7 months sober for me. My sobriety has improved my life in every way imaginable. I refuse to move in reverse, only gr8tness from here on out
    ✌😎💯👑

  16. I am 65 days sober. I feel there is nothing scarier than being sober for the rest of my life and becoming a person who does not drink alcohol. I feel people who are not drinking are not having as much as fun. They say this is a misconception. But is it really worth wasting the next day in almost its entire form? It feels relieving to not have had a single hangover in such a long time. My goal is 90 days. I am already preparing for what I will do once those 90 days are over.

  17. Awesome video I’m super excited to have this in my town it’s just getting started but I know it’s going to help so many

  18. Very inspirational and so many similiarities!! I too became an addict/alcoholic at a very young age. Although I was also an athlete at a young age (tennis) I still used drugs and alcohol. When I finally hit rock bottom at 46, I decided to delve into my sobriety with hiking/trail running and gym workouts. I started a 3H club called hiking for health and happiness with my fellow friends in recovery. Phoenix is doing exactly what I had hoped to accomplish. I have 14yrs of sobriety thanks to my healthy way of living. I'm 60 and still climbing mountains! SO very excited to have Phoenix in my hometown and to play such an important role (again) in helping my fellow friends in recovery. THANK YOU Scott!!!

  19. Congratulations to you I been Sober since July 21st, 2014, and both my parents have mental health illness, and parents always hurt my feelings, A.A. Help me to forgive my parents

  20. Can related to this on so many different levels. Just started a channel would love the support to see what helps keep me sober. Thanks

  21. January 1st 2019 was my last sip of alcohol, the following days were filled with sickness, despair, self loathing & everything in between. I'm 35 and vow to never have another sip again. Do me a favor and ask me how I'm doing every now and again, please.

    I'm 5 days sober

  22. Does anyone believe you have to hit rock bottom first? I haven’t hit rock bottom but my life def. sucks…… I hear from a lot of people you have to hit rock bottom and that is discouraging to hear bc I haven’t yet but want to get sober

  23. my moms mom died when she was 14. growing up she would be screaming at my older brother and hit him with a belt as i would silently sob in the other room. i think what he says about passing a trauma on makes a lot of sense

  24. I just woke up sober day number five,I loved this talk,I am so ready to start the next chapter in my life! This talk brought tears to my eyes and I am grateful .

  25. I love it when these people tell the intros to their stories and on cue after they are done with the first part of the story their head bows and people clap…LMAO

  26. Too bad he's not strong enough to just quit.
    He has to climb a glacier and give seminars. His example does not pertain to 99% of the people listening.

  27. Nunca he visto a nadie con buena salud emocional beber hasta caer incosciente
    I have never seen any single person with emotional health drinking until falling unconcies

  28. Since 4/18/1988 here… not sure replacing one addiction for another is recovery. But you wind up looking damn good.

  29. Very inspirational. I'm 60 days off opiates and life couldnt be better. Creating a wellness channel

  30. My son just passed away yesterday. Yeah I found him in a bathroom. I wish he asked for help but he wants me to believe that he was perfect. I was so involved with my other son's addiction that I forgot him. My heart is broke, I am lost I know that I will need to be strong for my others sons. We all should take trauma serious.

  31. Aa I read the comments,…hopeful, determined comments, from people with 24-48 hours, 7 days,28 days clean, I'm hopeful, yet frightened for them.
    I'm actually afraid to ask if now,a year later..they're still clean.

  32. I couldn’t figure out what sounded familiar at first. Then while listening with out the video turned on. I figured it out!!!

    His voice sounds exactly like the actor Kevin Kostner’s.

  33. Thank you for this. Hiking has made me stay sober. I’ve only been sober for 3 months but every time I feel like using, I go out and hike. You have encouraged me to share my journey on my channel. Next year I am hiking the entire Pacific Crest Trail in hopes to finding who I am.

  34. I finally got sober after my son was removed from my custody. I am so grateful I have him back now and I am 4yrs sober.

  35. INSPIRATIONAL ❤️🌍 MY GOAL IS TO DO A TED TALK ABOUT MY ADDICTION & MENTAL HEALTH I HAVE 2 VLOGS ON MY CHANNEL!

  36. Am sober 4 months 🙏🏻 never been so happy ❤️ (if I can do it PROMISE YOU CAN ALSO DO IT) you gotta to what it you have to give it your 💯 all and I promise you you will come out on top!!!

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