Candice Seay started drinking when she was 10. In 2016, at age 26, she quit and found that a support network was key to recovering from her addiction.
“I didn’t feel alone anymore,” she said.
Since then, she has founded a local chapter of Young People in Recovery, a nonprofit that supports those struggling with addictions who seek to maintain sobriety. It is also an advocacy group that promotes sharing stories of recovery to encourage others with addictions to seek help, she said.
But before she was inspired to start the recovery group, addictions caused substantial loss in her life.
Three of her good friends and a former boyfriend died as a result of their addictions. She laid out their photos on an altar at the Festival de los Muertos (Day of the Dead Festival) earlier this month at the Durango Arts Center.
In one case, she recalled coming home to find her roommate had died of an overdose and members of the Southwest Drug Task Force and Durango Police Department at her home investigating.
“It was an overwhelming amount of law enforcement at the house,” she said.
A few months after she stopped drinking, her friend, Jake, died by an overdose in 2017.
That same year, 1,000 Coloradans died by a drug overdose, a new record, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
A 2015 survey found 23 million Americans have struggled with drug use at some point in their lives, and a majority of people who have a problem never seek treatment, according to the National Institutes of Health. Nearly a third of Americans will struggle with alcohol abuse, but only 20 percent of those people will seek treatment, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism found.
After the death of her friend, Seay was inspired to do something to help addicts, but she didn’t know what.
While researching support groups for addicts online, she found Young People in Recovery.
Seay decided to found a local chapter to give those struggling with addiction another option for support in addition to the 12-step groups in town, such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous.
“I just felt that there should be more avenues,” she said.
The Durango Young People in Recovery chapter holds a weekly support group meeting that is open to anyone, no matter what type of addiction they are struggling with, she said. Family and friends of those struggling with addiction, and others interested in supporting those in recovery, are also welcome. It has been drawing close to 30 people, she said.
The group is not intended to replace anyone’s existing support group, therapy or medication; rather, it is meant to enhance other forms of care, she said.
“There is no ‘one size fits all’ model of recovery, and we believe each individual’s path should be respected and celebrated,” she said.
While “young people” is specified in the name, the chapter welcomes people of all ages, she said.
Young People in Recovery plans social events, such as movie nights and group hikes. This summer, the group put together a kickball team to compete in the city of Durango’s league to help people with their recovery.
“I know speaking from experience, you really have to get involved in other hobbies and create a new lifestyle, basically,” she said.
The group also started a free weekly yoga class, which is an activity that helped Seay in her recovery.
“Yoga really teaches people how to be comfortable in uncomfortable situations,” she said.
The group also plans to offer more educational workshops around employment, such as how to explain gaps in a résumé. Other workshops are likely to cover how to talk about recovering from addiction and financial literacy skills, such as how to build a budget, she said.
One of the most important messages for Seay, she said, is encouraging those with addictions to keep working on recovery.
“If one pathway doesn’t work for them, they can try something else,” she said.