New fitness facility opens doors, offers hope to those battling addiction

BOSTON (WHDH) - It’s called Methadone Mile, a stretch of Massachusetts Avenue near Melnea Cass Boulevard that has become the epicenter of the opioid crisis in Boston.

Needles and open drug use run rampant along this stretch of road – a microcosm of the issues affecting the rest of New England. But in the very same area as this despair, a new place that’s literally opening its doors to those willing to walk through them.

“Do you actually have conversations with people right here [on the street] and ask them to come inside?” 7News’s Jadiann Thompson asks Scott Strode, standing just feet from the entrance to The Phoenix, a gym offering free classes to recovering addicts.

“Yeah,” says Strode, who founded The Phoenix in Denver 12 years ago. “All the time.”

The Phoenix offers cross-fit, rock climbing, yoga and more in a brand new facility on Newmarket Square. It’s all free for people fighting addiction. People like Dina Gonsalves, who’s now in recovery after more than 20 years addicted to heroin.

“I was willing to do anything that I could this time,” Gonsalves says. “Because it was just different this time. It’s crazy out there. I don’t want to die.”

Strode says the only requirement is that people coming into the gym have been sober for 48 hours. He knows firsthand what their struggle is like. Strode used to be an addict himself.

“I got sober young, at 24,” Strode says. “But I had been drinking and drugging since I was 11.”

Strode opened the Boston location of the Phoenix because he battled his addiction and got clean here. He started fighting his way to recovery when a small boxing gym in Kenmore Square took him in in the late 1990’s.

“They sort of took me under their wing,” he says. “And taught me about boxing and it just gave me a safe place to go instead of going to the bars and drinking.”

Today, Strode has run two Boston Marathons and still runs triathlons. His passion for exercise is the inspiration behind the new 11,000 sq. foot space set to have their grand opening later this month.

Chris Daggett is one of the gym’s instructors. He’s been sober for 27 years. In fact, every person who teaches a class at the Phoenix is in recovery too. Daggett says that’s key for people who come in the door seeking help.

“That’s where I can be able to help share my story and know where they’re coming from and get them involved,” he says.

With all the chaos right outside its doors, the Phoenix offers hope – a tangible hope for those willing to make a change in their lives and walk away from Methadone Mile.

“We always talk about how bad it is in Boston with opiates and New England, how hard hit it is,” Strode says. “I think we should change that narrative and start making it the most amazing place to be in recovery.”

For more information about The Phoenix, visit their website.

Click here for more information on Per Ignem Crossfit.

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