BILLINGS — As soon as you click play on an Unspoken Words podcast, you feel like you’ve been transported into a Native American talking circle - voices chanting, hollering, combining to form a familiar sound.
"In layman's terms, it's like AA or NA, but with our Native heritage and traditions," said JC Beaumont.
On Thursday nights in a back hallway of the First Congregational church in downtown Billings, you can find Beaumont, Josiah Hugs Randy Bear Don't Walk - three Apsáalooke Nation members - sharing their stories of addiction, as they try to help pull others out of the darkness.
It’s a topic they each know plenty about.
"I was a practicing alcoholic for 26 years, from the time I was 13," Beaumont said.
"I was drinking half a gallon of vodka most days," Hugs added.
"I was an alcoholic and a meth addict," said Bear Don't Walk.
Beaumont and Hugs met at an actual talking circle inside the church a few years ago and became fast friends. When the duo turned into a trio, it didn’t take long to figure out how they were going to make a difference in the often dark and dangerous world of recovery.
"We started meeting together, getting coffee, talking about certain topics," Hugs said, "and I would think, 'Man, that’s a podcast right there. Boom.' Each time we met."
100 episodes in, they’ve perfected their podcast format, which is always one take - no editing.
"What the listener gets is just our true selves in real time," Bear Don't Walk said.
"We bring them in with laughter, and then we hit with something serious," Beaumont added.
Like this passage from Episode 96 titled: Step 9 - Making Amends.
"Knowing I was the cause of so much pain, anguish and hurt is something I have to live with every day," Beaumont said of his past.
That honesty and openness is the reason they continue to reach tribal members all across the country. As of Sept. 30, they had 17,612 downloads, including at least one in every state.
"The best way to try to make positive change is to show others it’s ok to be vulnerable," Beaumont said. "That’s what we’re doing: giving people that hope and that strength."
"When we need that extra bit of encouragement, something will come through, like, 'Hey, I'm over here on the other side of the world and your story inspires us,'" Bear Don't Walks said. "Those are the moments where we say, 'Let's keep going.'"
All they're offering is another chance at life. Who couldn’t get on board with that?