Addiction, Recovery and CrossFit

By Andréa Maria Cecil

In Medical/Injuries, Special Populations

December 13, 2012

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Ron Gellis, a recovering alcoholic and psychologist, started a program that combines elements of a traditional 12-step model with CrossFit. Community, he says, is key. Andréa Maria Cecil reports.

About a year ago, Zach’s 7-year-old brother found him lying on the floor of their parents’ Washington home, passed out from a heroin overdose. Two weeks later, his sister saw him in the bathroom with a needle in his arm.

The 21-year-old, who asked that his last name be withheld, became addicted to pain killers at 16 after multiple surgeries to remove malignant tumors from his ears. For the next year, Zach took prescription pain pills. Zach referred to this time as “more of a meddling phase” of drug abuse.

“Sometime after high school was when I really transitioned (from) recreational to full-time, everyday use,” he said.

When Zach’s sister told their parents what she saw in the bathroom, the couple was quick to send their son to a Pacific Hills Treatment Center in California.

The treatment center was one that worked in partnership with Integrated Recovery—a program founded by recovering alcoholic, psychologist and CrossFit Games masters athlete Ron Gellis. Integrated Recovery combines traditional aspects of 12-step rehab with CrossFit.

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6 Comments on “Addiction, Recovery and CrossFit”


wrote …

The first box I joined, that was 35 minutes from my home,was CrossFit Laguna Beach, owned and operated by Madeline and Jimi Letchford.


wrote …

This is one of the coolest articles I've read in a long time. Of course CrossFit should be part of Integrated Recovery! My background is in psych nursing and I'm also a crossfitter; I can easily imagine the benefit your program brings to addicts and others struggling with mental illness. Congratulations for creating this program!! So exciting!


wrote …

Great article! I'm a recovering addict and just celebrated 6 years clean on 12/13. The disease of addiction is physical, spiritual, and mental in nature. To be an active participant in my recovery I must take care of every aspect of my disease. CrossFit has been a part of my life for a couple of years now and I got my L1 cert earlier this year. I'm extremely grateful for finding a new way live, just for today! No addict need ever die from the horrors of addiction, recovery is possible. I think it's really cool what you are doing, Ron! However, the 6th tradition concerns me. Your thoughts?


wrote …

Hi Troy, congrats on your 6 years. It's not a 6th tradition issue because there isn't a specific 12 step program that's being mentioned in connection with either CrossFit or the treatment center. All we know know via the article is that they have found a beneficial way to combine the elements of 12 step based recovery with that of CrossFit. Many treatment centers employ a generalized 12 step recovery model to help a broader base of patients, rather than be addiction specific and therefore more likely to be attached to a specific 12 step program and its traditions.I know Al-Anon is mentioned but its purely from Coach Burgener's anecdotal references and not connected with either the treatment center's recovery program or CrossFit. I know the distinctions can be confusing but I hope this clarifies things.


replied to comment from Troy Jones

I just saw your comment and I appreciate your concern for the traditions. Peter Chavez, thank you for your clarification. You said what I would have. In the article I was trying to be mindful of the traditions and not make it an infomercial for a specific treatment program as opposed to generically representing an integrated-recovery model. As Peter stated, recovery is four dimensional, physical, mental, emotional and spiritual and CrossFit and the community contribute in each of the four dimensions. Hope all is well.


replied to comment from Peter Chavez

Thank you for your clarification on the traditions to Troy. I just discovered the comments. "sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly". Please visit integrated-recovery on facebook

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