Jaywalker recovery house marks 10 years
Carbondale’s Jaywalker Lodge celebrated its 10th anniversary over the weekend, drawing former clients, friends of the program and family members from around the region and the country.
Although Jaywalker, an addiction recovery residential program, actually welcomed its first client in April 2005, the lodge opted for fairer weather for the festivities, which included a golf outing, barbecue, softball tournament and workshops.
The centerpiece of the weekend was the unveiling of a collaborative mural on the front of the Jaywalker building on Main Street. Since all the work was done behind a tarp, it was the first chance for those involved to see the piece in its entirety.
Jaywalker founder Bob Ferguson seized the moment for metaphor.
“This weekend is a chance for all of us to take a step back after 10 years and reflect on what our time together truly meant to one another,” he said.
Ferguson considers himself “the original Jaywalker” — someone who kept ending up back in addiction treatment. He finally got clean at the Hazelden treatment center in Minnesota, and ended up working there until he moved to the Roaring Fork Valley in 2000.
He viewed the move with some apprehension due to the area’s party reputation.
“I thought I was putting at risk the most sacred thing to me — my sobriety — and I found quite the opposite,” he said.
He continued to be involved in addiction treatment, spending some time doing marketing for Crossroads Recovery Center and later working with Promises Addiction Treatment.
“By the time I opened Jaywalker, I’d seen and visited over 100 different rehabs around the country, and I really had a strong list of preferences and pet peeves, which became the business plan,” he recalled.
In particular, Ferguson wanted to treat the same sort of tough case prone to relapse that he had been, and he wanted the program to take advantage of what the area had to offer.
The difference began with a 120-day term.
“In a 30-day world, we were really an extended care program,” he recalled. “We were going to take what has traditionally been punishment for screwing up and turn it into a forward looking promise for the future.”
It hasn’t always gone perfectly. Some endeavors — like the Solutions program — have flourished. Others, like the Boomerang coffee shop, hit a financial dead end.
What appeared to be a major challenge in the legalization of recreational marijuana turned out to be a nonissue, and the party vibe of Carbondale goes hand in hand with the open-minded town that welcomed the program.
“It takes a special community to let you be part of it,” he said. “I think Jaywalker would be very hard to replicate anywhere else.
“It’s remarkable that we were given a shot,” he added. “Carbondale has looked our men in the eye.”
Ferguson has done his best to reward that faith.
“What we never want to do is get where people think of us as more of a liability than an asset,” he said. “My sense is that we contribute more to the solution than to the problem. What you have is a conversation about substance abuse, which can happen with less stigma and more resources and more information.”
In addition to taking advantage of the area with outdoor excursions, the Jaywalker program emphasizes giving back to the community. The guys help out with numerous organizations around the area, and improve their own sense of self-worth in the process.
All that local integration has had an unexpected outcome.
“We didn’t expect the ZIP code to be so sticky and the community to be so open-hearted,” Ferguson said. “A lot of guys stuck around.”
Former Jaywalkers provide an unforeseen support system from the program and the community, as many remain involved or help out with 12-step programs.
In fact, facilities manager Rocky Willcuts is one of the original group of clients.
“It was definitely a life-changing experience,” he recalled. “Working for them is very rewarding in so many different ways.”
Willcuts came up with the design for the mural, which featured the twin peaks of Sopris, a soaring bird of prey, a pair of climbers and a spectacular sunset.
“Everything in this mural has some relevance, but like all art, it’s subjective,” he said. “I think everybody who participated did an incredible job.”
It’s a unique addition to Main Street — once again lending itself to comparison with the program itself.
“There’s nothing like Jaywalker,” Willcuts said.
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Several Carbondale businesses are scrambling to relocate and others are just plain calling it quits following plans for one of the town’s oldest strip malls to be redeveloped.