Root to Rise: The Mission of our Sober Active Community

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Amy and I are truly humbled by the outpouring of support we’ve received from the Asbury Park community and beyond. We are so grateful for everyone whose path has crossed ours and who has offered their space, time, effort and expertise in order to help us in our goal of opening a facility in 2016.

We talk a lot about our Mission for the very simple reason that it guides everything we do. Our Mission is to break the mental barriers and stigma associated with addiction by pushing the limits of what is physically and mentally possible. The metaphor that learning to physically overcome obstacles teaches you to mentally overcome them is too obvious to argue with. Our own story is one of overcoming mental roadblocks and jumping hurdles to realize our dreams and live an authentic life.

Root to Rise, like many good ideas, was initially conceived on the beach in the summer of 2014. Amy told me that she wanted to open a community center in Asbury Park for people suffering from addiction and their families. I thought it was a great idea and encouraged her to do it, though at the time I had no intention of becoming personally involved.

Several months later, I quit my job with the idea that I would take a few months off. I found myself with nothing but time and no idea what to do with it, so I did nothing. It didn’t take long for me to become depressed, and as a result of that, I gained about 30 pounds in the process. I hated myself. In December of that year, I decided that I had had enough. I started working out every day and eating cleanly. What transpired was incredible. Yes, I lost weight, but the changes that occurred internally were nothing short of amazing. As I become physically stronger and fitter, my mental state followed suit. I developed a confidence that I had never known before.

And so, almost a year ago, as I was driving down to Asbury Park to see Amy, I was thinking to myself what an absolute wonder it was that I felt so good, especially mentally. I thought if proper diet and exercise could work this well for me, it could also be useful in treating a variety of different conditions including mental illness. As Amy and I discussed that, something just clicked and the collective lightbulb went on. If physical activity and learning new skills could help mental illness, why not addiction? Why not turn that great but directionless idea of a community center for recovering addicts into a facility with a very real purpose: to help people suffering from addiction remain sober through consistent physical activity and strong community support.

Those lucky enough to make it to rehab often leave and return to a harsh reality. They are expected to return to the same life they just left but to eliminate the dominating behavior of their prior existence. This proves to be too much for many, who collapse under the weight of a world that tells them they aren’t good enough, or strong enough. In their isolation they become desperate, contact old acquaintances, and start using again.

For far too long, our society has used shame tactics that prevent addicts from seeking help. While it is true that the decision to first use drugs is a conscious one, the decision to continue to do so is certainly not. I can guarantee you that not one person who is an addict first started using or drinking with the intention of becoming addicted. But for those with an uncertain existence or fragile mental state, the escape from their reality that a substance provides is too appealing, and the urge far too strong, to deny.

Our approach at Root to Rise cannot just be about the treatment of addiction, however. We understand that if we are serious about breaking the stigma and helping to end addiction, there are two other components that most be addressed.

The first is research. This is far too new of a concept to do the disservice of not recording our findings. We are confident what the results will be, and strong research will help pave the way for other innovative treatment options.

The second is prevention, something we plan to achieve through education and community youth outreach. We are currently in the process of developing a meditation program for area schools that will help to give children the coping mechanisms they need to get through their lives in a healthy, productive way. If we can acquire a location large enough, it is our goal to have a space dedicated to community youth, where we will continue to teach other coping mechanisms and physical skills that will appeal to youth such as martial arts, breakdancing and parkour.

There are many serious issues facing our society today, but the time to address the epidemic of addiction is now. We cannot keep losing our children, our spouses, our brothers, sisters, parents and veterans to this heinous disease. Please stand with us and join us in our Mission.

Much love to you always,