Together They Rise
Stevie Robinson is Working to Build a Sober and Active Community in Billings
Eight years ago, Stevie Robinson was working at a local bar and restaurant and drinking with friends after every shift. Looking back, she realized that drinking was part of the workplace culture. She remembers that they always talked about fun activities and adventure, but when it came down to it, no one never left their barstool.
Stevie was unhappy, and she knew her drinking was making it worse. She decided she wanted to quit drinking and said a prayer for the strength to make it happen. That night she started a yoga routine, alone in her bedroom every night after work. Her faith in God and yoga became her path to sobriety.
“God calling me out of that life was so much better than I expected it would be without drinking,” Stevie says.
A friend who noticed the difference yoga made in her life suggested she become a yoga instructor, which led her down the path of not only becoming certified to teach yoga, but also certification to be a personal trainer. She left the restaurant and went to work at a local gym.
Stevie started living the adventures she once talked about with her friends at the bar, and she approached all her favorite activities sober.
“I thought my life would be boring and that I wouldn’t have any friends,” she says. “That was never true.”
With a few years of sobriety, Stevie volunteered to teach yoga at Rimrock Foundation. It was her first experience teaching yoga to people in recovery, and it turned out to be one of the most meaningful experiences of her career.
“I learned that helping others and being in community with others who are going through the same thing was important,” she says.
These days, Stevie still leads yoga classes for people in recovery, but now, she does it as an instructor for the Phoenix Sober Community. She’s also the Volunteer Success coordinator and oversees the Phoenix Billings chapter.
When she first heard of the opportunity to lead the Billings Phoenix, she knew she’d found her place. The way she sees it, the Phoenix community was where she was headed all along.
“Looking back, everything He put me through made sense,” Stevie says. “God just kind of led me all the way.”
Phoenix is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to provide people with the opportunity to connect with others who share their recovery experience. Activities include fitness classes like boot camp, Zumba and yoga, and occasional activities like rock climbing, bowling and camping. Last New Year’s Eve, Phoenix rented Skate World for a night of roller skating. Sober participants also get together for once-a-month craft events at local coffee shops and meet once a week for a group walk at a West End recreation site. The activities are all free. The only requirement for participation is 48 hours of sobriety.
“We want to eliminate all barriers and provide a safe environment and a healing culture that’s inclusive for everyone,” says Stevie.
Phoenix started in Colorado in 2006, after a man in recovery began a search for sober climbing buddies. With lots of networking he found them, and the connections he made helped him stay sober. Phoenix came to Billings in 2018 with help from the Yellowstone County Drug Court. The Billings chapter is one of three in Montana. There’s also a group in the Livingston/Bozeman area and one in Missoula.
Drug Court suggests Phoenix to their clients, but it’s not a sentencing requirement. Most Phoenix participants are active in other recovery programs, including outpatient treatment and AA or NA.
“I think meetings are great, but the act of doing something with another person can create a connection that is powerful too,” Stevie says. “We are just one more tool in the toolbox for recovery. We don’t want to replace anything that anyone is doing in their recovery. We are just another safe space.”
One of the messages that’s shared at almost every meeting is, “There’s no one right way to recovery.” Phoenix welcomes people who don’t identify as someone who is in active recovery. Supporters of those in recovery are also welcome, as are those Stevie calls “sober curious.” They are people who are unsure and are considering sobriety.
“Everybody has a different pathway to recovery and it’s really nice to be able to talk to a peer about your recovery,” Stevie says.
Volunteers are the backbone of Phoenix, and Stevie relies on about 10 core volunteers who lead various activities. Phoenix contracts with local gyms and fitness centers that provide space for classes, and classes are announced on social media. Last year, Phoenix hosted dozens of events in Billings, and people attended events 500 times. Some were repeat members while others came only once or twice. About 60 people are regulars, Stevie says.
Chelsea Koons leads the coffee and crafts get-togethers and says that interest in the events continues to grow. About 10 people regularly attend. Chelsea was involved in Phoenix as a participant before she stepped in as a volunteer. She is one year sober and says that Phoenix has made a difference in her life. She’s excited to be able to use her artistic talents to help others.
“It’s my way to pass on what’s made a difference in my recovery,” she says.
Megan Corbitt attends Chelsea’s meet-ups and also enjoys Stevie’s hot yoga classes and the occasional rock climbing and nature walks. She’s been sober for about eight months and is grateful to have Phoenix in her recovery. She believes in “recovering out loud” and is open about her journey.
“My circle was very small in my addiction, and Phoenix has expanded my circle and provided me with connection that I never would have had,” Megan says. “Recovery has made life so much more beautiful.”
FOR MORE ABOUT the Phoenix Sober Community, go to thephoenix.org