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Workout program in Jamestown helping those battling addiction - Spectrum News

JAMESTOWN, N.Y. — Carriee Clarke, of Jamestown learned to knit as part of a group when she was an inpatient at UPMC Chautauqua working to overcome her 10-year addiction to drugs while living in Dunkirk.

"I started dabbling with cocaine, crack cocaine, heroin,” she said.

Drugs, she says she started using recreationally, before leading her down a path that left her homeless twice.

After several failed attempts at recovery, she found success at UPMC, and has been clean for two years.

"They not only teach you coping skills for recovery, but they address the mental health aspect of it, which I think is something that was missing in previous attempts in getting clean,” Clarke said. “Was just addressing the underlying trauma that led to the addiction."

Carriee was referred to the Mental Health Association, or MHA, in Jamestown, where she took part in a number of support groups that not only helped her shape up, but stay in shape as well.

Carriee takes part in MHA's Movement is Medicine, a fitness training group that meets twice a week to help improve mental health and relieve stress.

She says her longtime interest in fitness has become a key component in her on-going recovery. 

"When you feel good, you're more likely to adapt other healthy habits,” she said. “I actually did my counseling appointments in the gym. I would use the elliptical machine and my counselor would get on the treadmill and it was more like I was talking to a friend in the gym, instead of sitting across a desk from a counselor. It just felt less clinical."

MHA volunteer and certified personal trainer Brian Mayo, from the Bronx, leads the class, and is also recovering from his own battles with addiction, serving jail time and being shot six times.

"I'm recovering from marijuana, alcohol and cocaine,” said Mayo. “It was a rough journey. A very rough journey."

That journey lead him to a now former sober house in Jamestown and then to MHA, where he brought along his passion for fitness. 

"I wanted a fresh start,” he said. “I was ready to change. I was ready to get my life on the path that I needed to have it on."

He says offering the intense cardio fitness bootcamp helps those in recovery feel better about themselves, and allows them to focus on setting and accomplishing their goals.

"You need self-care when you're recovering,” he said. “And fitness gives you that. It helps those chemicals in our brain that we lost while we were out there using drugs."

Carriee says the workouts help build her stamina and endurance, both physically and mentally.

"It's boosted my confidence,” she said. “A lot of things that I've been through in life have really beaten me down and practically destroyed my self-esteem."

Not only does she take the class, but also volunteers as an intake receptionist at MHA.

She also runs the Knitting For Well-Being group there, and is making hats and scarves for those in need this winter.

"There's a lot of people that aren't fortunate enough to have warm hats and scarves and I feel like it's something that benefits everyone,” she said.

Carriee says she'd also like to be a peer recovery coach, and has completed a series of trainings to help give others the support she received.

"I'm very proud of what I do,” she said. “I like to be an inspiration to the other people in the group. I admire all the people that helped me along the way and I would like to help others out of that deep, dark place of active addiction."