Walking strong | PostIndependent.com

Walking strong

April E. ClarkPost Independent Staff

A former New York City journalist is using his struggles with alcohol addiction to “pay it forward” in the Roaring Fork Valley.Bob Ferguson, owner and founder of the Jaywalker Lodge, in Carbondale, opened the 18-resident drug and alcohol treatment facility April 18. In the transitional extended-stay program, he and a staff of 10 others assist men 18 and older who are motivated to remain sober after previous failed attempts in the 12-Step Program, or the like.”It’s been a dream for me for a long time,” said Ferguson, who consulted with other drug and alcohol recovery programs such as Hazelden, Crossroads Antigua and Promises Malibu before opening the Jaywalker Lodge this spring. “The majority of the staff, including myself, are recovering from addiction. It is not uncommon for a facility like ours to be staffed by people who have been through the ringer.”Ferguson said when he was a writer in New York during his 20s, his life was unmanageable because of addiction. He went through rehabilitation programs three times before achieving recovery success at Hazelden, the world’s largest private alcohol and drug rehabilitation center. He later went to work for the company.”I had a series of jobs in public relations and freelance journalism, and then I went to work for the largest drug and alcohol treatment facility. I was able to marry personal experience with my professional field,” Ferguson said. “It’s that ‘pay it forward’ idea that people talk about. You’ve got to pass it on. Like they say in the 12-Step Program, ‘you have to give it away to keep it.'”During the 120-day program, Jaywalker clients attend six 12-Step meetings per week from Aspen to downvalley to help build relationships throughout the area. They also participate in weekly mountain wilderness activities such as hiking and biking and monthly two-night excursions including river rafting and camping hut trips.”We have an energetic and robust outdoor program,” Ferguson said. “At least once a week our clients go on a full-day expedition. We give them a coffee mug and a mountain bike for the day.”Jaywalker clinical director Don Gargaro said the program’s outdoor focus adds a twist to helping clients face addiction.”There’s a very strong connection when they get in the mountains and woods. There is a vulnerability that sets in, and that’s what they need to recover – to be able to count on others.”Gargaro, also a Hazelden alumnus, said Ferguson had always envisioned opening the Carbondale facility named for the “Jaywalker Parable” from the “Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous.” The name, and AA story, compares the dangers of jaywalking to the destruction alcohol can cause to an addict’s life.”It’s a dream come true for Bob and I,” said Gargaro, a recovering heroin addict. “We’re both very passionate about it because it’s loosely based on a program that we both received recovery from.”Jaywalker now has a waiting list for its next 120-day client list. Gargaro and Ferguson are surprised by the reception from not only clients, but also the valley.”We are delightfully surprised that we have a waiting list,” he said. “The town of Carbondale has just been wonderful to us. We are very community-oriented, and we’re all passionate about what we do.”For more information about the Jaywalker Lodge, call 704-9292 or visit the facility’s Web site at http://www.jaywalkerlodge.com.Contact April E. Clark: 945-8515, ext. 518aclark@postindependent.com

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