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For people in addiction recovery, this unique program offers hope and a healthy community.
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Stand Together

A decade ago, Todd and Kaley Jones couldn't imagine a life without drugs and alcohol.

When Kaley left a 9-month inpatient drug treatment program at age 19, she was terrified. She went digging through her makeup bags at home, hoping maybe she had stashed away some drugs so she could numb her fear. No luck.

Later, she walked into a 12-step meeting and saw a man wearing a t-shirt that said, "SOBER." Kaley was mortified. Why wasn't he embarrassed? Wasn't it a shameful thing to have had a drug or alcohol problem? But the man, Todd, wasn't ashamed. “He was happy and he was laughing," says Kaley, "and he told me about Phoenix."


Kaley and Todd Jones. All photos courtesy of The Phoenix.

The Phoenix is a sober community built around an active lifestyle. It was founded by Scott Strode back in 2006. Mountaineering and boxing played a huge role in Strode maintaining long-term sobriety, so he created a program that combines physical activity with a sober community.

Todd, who now manages the Colorado Springs chapter, was first sent to The Phoenix from a drug court judge's referral. "I had no idea what to do with myself when I first got sober," he says. "When I showed up at Phoenix, I had this tremendous sense of belonging. There were other people who were trying to do the next right thing for themselves like I was. I felt this tremendous sense of safety. And one of the strongest things was they were really excited that I was there, and welcomed me back."

But the program's strength is about more than a community of people who love sports. It shows its members they're capable of overcoming their obstacles. "When you tie into a climbing rope for the first time and make it to the top of the wall, it starts to make you feel like you can beat your addiction," Strode said in a YouTube video.

Kaley, who now serves as the National Engagement Officer for The Phoenix, says that many treatment programs focus on getting sober, but not on what comes next. The Phoenix answers the "what's next" question by providing empowering activities for people in recovery as well as understanding, supportive peers to do them with.

All Phoenix instructors are people in recovery themselves, and that community makes all the difference.

A Phoenix event might be anything from a rock climbing excursion to a weight lifting session to a cooking class. The only requirement for joining a Phoenix event is that you've been clean and sober for 48 hours. All events are free for individuals, including instruction and all necessary equipment. Participants are asked to sign a team member agreement, which says they will be inclusive and supportive of fellow team members, and that they are dedicated to a sober lifestyle.

Todd Jones

Kaley says they leave that last part vague on purpose. "We understand that sometimes people will relapse and they need to have a home to come back to. Things happen, and we're always going to be here no matter what their journey into recovery looks like."

Todd says that all Phoenix instructors are in recovery themselves, so they know what it's like to walk the journey to sobriety and can offer support through sharing their own lived experiences.

If an instructor in recovery can't be found, Kaley says they will always have a peer facilitator, "so that if someone does walk in with 48 hours sober, and they're terrified, and they don't know how to stay sober, there's someone right there who can say, 'I have walked that path. It takes courage to open the door and come in here. I'm glad you're here. This is what I did to stay sober,' and they can share that on an individual basis."

Phoenix programs are always free for individuals, thanks to donations, grants, and partnerships with organizations like Stand Together.

Thanks to support from Stand Together, a social change organization that supports the country's most innovative social entrepreneurs working to directly address the problems that cause poverty and homelessness, The Phoenix has been able to expand exponentially. Stand Together has worked with The Phoenix to secure funding, solidify and fine tune its business processes and scale the organization.

Kaley says scaling has been hugely important since The Phoenix has seen "explosive" growth in the past two years. In 2016, they were located in five cities. By the end of 2018, they'd expanded to 33 cities. "The reality that drug addiction and alcoholism is ravaging this country has become very apparent," says Kaley, "and we have a solution."

Kaley points out that 86% of Phoenix team members remain sober if they are consistently active in their programs, which is an impressive number. (According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the average relapse rate for substance abuse disorder is 40-60%.)

The Phoenix changed the course of Kaley and Todd's life—and thousands of others as well.

It's helped more than 26,000 people on their journey to and through sobriety. And each person brings their own unique story with them — recognizing and embracing that is also how the program fights the stigma of addiction. It's helping people realize that their unique experiences can be used to help other people find their identity in their new sober lifestyle.

Kaley says that joining The Phoenix drastically changed her perception of her own journey. "I met all of these other people who were enjoying their life and proudly owning their recovery," she says. "And it was the first time I felt any hope that maybe I could have a life beyond hiding in basements talking about my problem. And that I could just truly be who I am and help others to find the hope that I was given."

“It's a lifeline for me," she adds. "Even on the good days, I need to check in. And on the bad days, I need to check in even more. And there is always space for me. I used a lot because I didn't ever think I was enough. I just wasn't good enough. And at Phoenix I always feel like I'm enough."

"Recovery had never been appealing to me," Todd says. "And Phoenix made recovery very appealing. And it helped me change my identity from addict, alcoholic, felon, to a Cross-fitter, rock climber, husband, person in long-term recovery as I grew within the program and the community." Todd and Kaley have each been sober for nine years and have been married for four.

Here's to The Phoenix for fighting the stigma that often accompanies addiction, and for providing empowerment and support along the road to recovery.

Stand Together invests in solving the biggest problems facing our nation today in order to unleash the potential in every individual, regardless of their zip code. By supporting social entrepreneurs like Strode who're close to social issues like addiction and have developed innovative solutions, the company is helping combat these issues in ways that are working. You can get involved and find a transformative org near you at Standtogetheragainstpoverty.org.

To find out which of these organizations supports your values, take this quiz here and let Stand Together do the searching for you.

Pop Culture

Artist uses AI to create ultra realistic portraits of celebrities who left us too soon

What would certain icons look like if nothing had happened to them?

Mercury would be 76 today.

Some icons have truly left this world too early. It’s a tragedy when anyone doesn’t make it to see old age, but when it happens to a well-known public figure, it’s like a bit of their art and legacy dies with them. What might Freddie Mercury have created if he were granted the gift of long life? Bruce Lee? Princess Diana?

Their futures might be mere musings of our imagination, but thanks to a lot of creativity (and a little tech) we can now get a glimpse into what these celebrities might have looked like when they were older.

Alper Yesiltas, an Istanbul-based lawyer and photographer, created a photography series titled “As If Nothing Happened,” which features eerily realistic portraits of long gone celebrities in their golden years. To make the images as real looking as possible, Yesiltas incorporated various photo editing programs such as Adobe Lightroom and VSCO, as well as the AI photo-enhancing software Remini.

“The hardest part of the creative process for me is making the image feel ‘real’ to me,” Yesiltas wrote about his passion project. “The moment I like the most is when I think the image in front of me looks as if it was taken by a photographer.”

Yesiltas’ meticulousness paid off, because the results are uncanny.

Along with each photo, Yesiltas writes a bittersweet message “wishing” how things might have gone differently … as if nothing happened.
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All images provided by Adewole Adamson

It begins with more inclusive conversations at a patient level

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Adewole Adamson, MD, of the University of Texas, Austin, aims to create more equity in health care by gathering data from more diverse populations by using artificial intelligence (AI), a type of machine learning. Dr. Adamson’s work is funded by the American Cancer Society (ACS), an organization committed to advancing health equity through research priorities, programs and services for groups who have been marginalized.

Melanoma became a particular focus for Dr. Adamson after meeting Avery Smith, who lost his wife—a Black woman—to the deadly disease.

melanoma,  melanoma for dark skin Avery Smith (left) and Adamson (sidenote)

This personal encounter, coupled with multiple conversations with Black dermatology patients, drove Dr. Adamson to a concerning discovery: as advanced as AI is at detecting possible skin cancers, it is heavily biased.

To understand this bias, it helps to first know how AI works in the early detection of skin cancer, which Dr. Adamson explains in his paper for the New England Journal of Medicine (paywall). The process uses computers that rely on sets of accumulated data to learn what healthy or unhealthy skin looks like and then create an algorithm to predict diagnoses based on those data sets.

This process, known as supervised learning, could lead to huge benefits in preventive care.

After all, early detection is key to better outcomes. The problem is that the data sets don’t include enough information about darker skin tones. As Adamson put it, “everything is viewed through a ‘white lens.’”

“If you don’t teach the algorithm with a diverse set of images, then that algorithm won’t work out in the public that is diverse,” writes Adamson in a study he co-wrote with Smith (according to a story in The Atlantic). “So there’s risk, then, for people with skin of color to fall through the cracks.”

Tragically, Smith’s wife was diagnosed with melanoma too late and paid the ultimate price for it. And she was not an anomaly—though the disease is more common for White patients, Black cancer patients are far more likely to be diagnosed at later stages, causing a notable disparity in survival rates between non-Hispanics whites (90%) and non-Hispanic blacks (66%).

As a computer scientist, Smith suspected this racial bias and reached out to Adamson, hoping a Black dermatologist would have more diverse data sets. Though Adamson didn’t have what Smith was initially looking for, this realization ignited a personal mission to investigate and reduce disparities.

Now, Adamson uses the knowledge gained through his years of research to help advance the fight for health equity. To him, that means not only gaining a wider array of data sets, but also having more conversations with patients to understand how socioeconomic status impacts the level and efficiency of care.

“At the end of the day, what matters most is how we help patients at the patient level,” Adamson told Upworthy. “And how can you do that without knowing exactly what barriers they face?”

american cancer society, skin cacner treatment"What matters most is how we help patients at the patient level."https://www.kellydavidsonstudio.com/

The American Cancer Society believes everyone deserves a fair and just opportunity to prevent, find, treat, and survive cancer—regardless of how much money they make, the color of their skin, their sexual orientation, gender identity, their disability status, or where they live. Inclusive tools and resources on the Health Equity section of their website can be found here. For more information about skin cancer, visit cancer.org/skincancer.

via Dion Merrick / Facebook

This article originally appeared on 02.09.21


At 1:30 am on Monday morning an AMBER Alert went out in southern Louisiana about a missing 10-year-old girl from New Iberia. It was believed she had been kidnapped and driven away in a 2012 silver Nissan Altima.

A few hours later at 7 am, Dion Merrick and Brandon Antoine, sanitation workers for Pelican Waste, were on their daily route when they noticed a vehicle that fit the description in the alert.

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Joy

Nurse turns inappropriate things men say in the delivery room into ‘inspirational’ art

"Can you move to the birthing ball so I can sleep in the bed?"

Holly the delivery nurse.

After working six years as a labor and delivery nurse Holly, 30, has heard a lot of inappropriate remarks made by men while their partners are in labor. “Sometimes the moms think it’s funny—and if they think it’s funny, then I’ll laugh with them,” Holly told TODAY Parents. “But if they get upset, I’ll try to be the buffer. I’ll change the subject.”

Some of the comments are so wrong that she did something creative with them by turning them into “inspirational” quotes and setting them to “A Thousand Miles” by Vanessa Carlton on TikTok.

“Some partners are hard to live up to!” she jokingly captioned the video.

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