GREAT FALLS — For almost three years, a program called The Sober Life has been helping people in recovery overcome their addiction. By promoting fun, family-friendly activities, it goes beyond a traditional 12-step program, and a new grant is giving the organization the opportunity expand its services.
Thomas Risberg, development director for the Alliance For Youth, explained, "The whole purpose of The Sober Life is to provide people in recovery from drug addiction and alcoholism with connection, purpose, and a sense of individual agency. Their actions can better their own lives and the lives of people in their own community.”
The Sober Life has an independent leadership council made up of people in recovery and providers from the Great Falls area. They do strategic planning and work to implement The Sober Life program but fall under the Alliance For Youth umbrella.
Risberg says the importance of The Sober Life is evident in the number of child removals from homes and the number of kids in foster care; he attributes that to drug problems among parents in the area.
Since 2018, The Sober Life has offered free, family-friendly events along with fitness activities, volunteer opportunities, and most recently, Native American cultural programs including drumming and beading.
Kierra Haggerty knows first-hand the benefits of The Sober Life. She explained, “It gave me connection and a sense of purpose and I really needed that in early recovery. Being able to play volleyball and basketball and go to events like rafting and have fun and be sober while doing it was new to me.”
Haggerty struggled with drugs and alcohol since high school, and is a Treatment Court graduate. She is also The Sober Life’s Peer Recovery Coach and Care Coordinator. It is part of a three-year, $540,000 federal grant from the federal Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA) to provide even more support.
“Peer recovery coaching, that’s just being there for them,” said Risberg. “That’s walking them through these challenges we know they’re going to confront. Then there’s that care coordination. Whether its housing, food, clothing, help with employment, education whatever their needs are that can be a real barrier to staying sober.”
“When I first got into recovery, some of the hardest things for me to do was to take that initiative try and call the places to see if they would rent me a place or call and see if in can get the SNAP benefits,” said Haggerty. “All those things were just really overwhelming to me.”
Risberg says with all the money society spends on medical treatment, rehabilitation, and in the criminal justice system, programs like The Sober Life play a vital role.
Extended interview with Risberg:
“We ensure that folks who have gotten that great start, they’ve gotten detoxed, they’ve been through treatment, they have tools, that they have this supportive recovery community,” said Risberg.
Haggerty said, “The Sober Life has taught me how to love people again and how to trust people. Those connections I’ve made through the Sober Life have really made me who I am today."
Risberg estimates that since it began, more than 500 people have participated in The Sober Life activities; roughly 300 have taken part in more than one event.
The grant will also provide support in Hill County and Toole County.
For more information, click here to visit The Sober Life site.