Local group battles addiction by building positive relationships

Recover Out Loud, a Greensburg based addiction recovery group, strives for sobriety in its members by developing positive relationships and self-confidence.

Addiction destroys lives and relationships. Recover Out Loud co-founders John Cunningham and Jason Fry, who are best friends, know from experience.

“Our relationship was toxic. Today, our relationship is as healthy as it has ever been,” Cunningham said. “We are about making connections and relationships. You can’t do this on your own.”

Cunningham has been sober for seven years and Fry has been sober for four. The two believe their group, which they formed about 10 months ago, is a valuable means to help others live a sober life.

They are not alone. The City of Greensburg has embraced the group as an exceptional way to combat addiction in the community.

“Greensburg has been welcoming,” Cunningham said. “They refer people to us. It’s really taken off there.”

The group holds its meetings in Greensburg City Hall at 6:30 p.m. every Monday. The meetings are live streamed on the group’s Facebook page, but those who don’t want to appear on camera don’t have to.

Recover Out Loud members unite knowing the fight for sobriety is a we thing.

“I see a need for a group like mine wherever you can plug it in. Addiction is an epidemic,” Cunningham said. “One recovering addict is great, but to have your best friend recover with you is almost unheard of. Only two out of 10 (drug or alcohol abusers) stay sober.”

A tale of two friends

Cunningham and Fry became friends while working at Chili’s in Columbus in 2001. One day Cunningham asked Fry to try some pain pills and soon they were addicted.

Addiction took its toll and altered their friendship.

“I was 19 years old, just a young kid,” Fry said. “We developed a toxic relationship and fed each other’s addiction. It evolved into an out of control spiral.”

Cunningham lived as an addict for nearly 12 years. He got caught committing burglaries in Bartholomew County, was charged and faced 30 years in prison.

But he was lucky. A judge chose to suspend 14 years of Cunningham’s sentence, requiring him to serve seven.

“It was like coming back from the dead,” Cunningham said. “I got my life back.”

Fry never went to prison, but continued to battle his addiction.

Recovering out loud

Cunningham’s time in prison made him reflect on his situation and the choices he’d made. He vowed not to use drugs or alcohol.

“When I was in jail, I came to face many of the things I’d done in life,” Cunningham said. “I started trying to do things differently. The main reason I was there was because I was selfish.”

Cunningham observed that approximately 15 out of every 1,000 prisoners wanted to change their lives. He chose to gather with others who were focused on bettering themselves through sobriety.

“Many of them just wanted to be sober,” Cunningham said. “It was common ground.”

Cunningham further observed his thoughts and feelings along with those of others he spoke with. He met people that believed in all kinds of things and thought in different ways.

However, a couple of things didn’t change among those he met. The consequences people faced through addiction and their need to rebuild relationships and self-esteem were reoccurring themes.

“The bi-products of addiction are isolation, shame and guilt,” Cunningham said. “Sobriety has a way of alleviating a lot of self- doubt. It gives you a new way of thinking.”

Cunningham was released from prison with a new outlook on life.

His family was scared that when he was released, Fry would call him and he would relapse into his old ways. Fry called, but Cunningham had changed for good.

He sought to help his best friend, but Cunningham knew he would have to end his friendship with Fry if he couldn’t get him to stay sober.

Fry understood Cunningham was serious about cutting him out of his life. So, he chose to embark on his own journey toward recovery.

Fry said it was easy to put down drugs, but he struggled with alcohol addiction.

“I realized alcohol was consuming me. It wasn’t a party thing anymore,” Fry said. “When I called John he said ‘Jason, what if the U.S. banned you from buying alcohol.’ I barred myself from drinking. The mind is a powerful thing.”

Cunningham taught Fry what he had learned about maintaining sobriety from his time in prison. Fry knew others could benefit from Cunningham’s message like he did.

“I told John, we gotta get this out there,” Fry said. “When you get into certain programs like Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous people don’t want to talk about their addiction. We provide a space where people don’t have to feel ashamed.”

The two began ironing out their message that addiction was combated by developing positive relationships, letting go of shame and guilt and learning self-love. Recover Out Loud was formed from this ideology.

“When you accomplish something no matter how little, that success could be huge,” Cunningham said. “Eventually you will see you built a lifestyle better suited for recovery than addiction.”

It’s a we thing

Recover Out Loud members hold each other accountable for achieving and maintaining their sobriety by sticking together.

“The accountability is indescribable,” Fry said. “Everyone in our group can flourish. We want to stay connected as much as possible.”

Members gather at the end of each meeting to go out into the community and do something. It’s a way to further develop relationships and let others know about Recover Out Loud.

Multiple members have achieved sobriety and self-love since joining.

Recover Out Loud clerk Billie Austin was the first person to join in on Cunningham and Fry’s community recovery efforts. Austin has thrived in recovery.

“I’m two years clean,” Austin said. “When I got out of prison, I got on Facebook and saw John and Jason speaking about recovery. It’s vital to get connected as soon as you get out.”

Austin now manages KFC in Greensburg. He said he would never have thought he would help run a business.

“Addiction is about people, places and things. To me, it’s about getting around the right people,” Austin said. “I never really had good friends. We have group shirts. Mine says, show me your friends and I’ll show you your future.”

According to Fry, one person declared Recover Out Loud had saved their life in a video on the group’s Facebook page. The individual told Fry they had grown to love the person they woke up and saw in the mirror every morning.

“Win the day,” Fry said. “I call this saying one of my golden nuggets. If you stack each day as a win it’s a lot harder to fail.”

Recover Out Loud is self-funded through $10 weekly donations from its members, which help pay for group activities. If a person can’t pay, but would still like to become a member, the cost can be covered.

Those interested in becoming members must buy into the group’s recovery methods and strive for sobriety. Core members must be 3 months clean, provide $10 a week and show up at each meeting.

“You can focus on the problem or the solution,” Fry said. “You can’t do both. What you focus on increases. You have to make your solution non-negotiable on your way to recovery.”

On Thanksgiving, Recover Out Loud went on a group camping trip to Fall Creek, Tennessee. They also attended a prayer walk in Scottsburg, Indiana.

The group hosted a Soberbash to ring in the New Year. Overall, 175 people attended the event, including four public speakers.

Recover Out Loud would like to extend its reach outside of the Greensburg area.

Cunningham and Fry will give An Alternative to Traditions presentation at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 12, at the Batesville Memorial Public Library. The presentation will be an opportunity to discover more about the group’s mission and goals.

“We have done very well in Decatur County as many doors have been opened up for us,” Recover Out Loud Secretary Amy Mauer said. “We are all aware how bad the addiction epidemic is in Indiana. We want to help other local counties in Indiana with this epidemic, like we have helped our own.”

Cunningham hopes the group has its own building within five years. He said he sees the building being a place the community can come together and celebrate sobriety.

Cunningham and Fry believe the comradery Recover Out Loud members share is something many don’t find in other recovery groups.

“You are a bi-product of the people you are around. I recovered with the support of many people,” Cunningham said. “The main things I recovered were my relationships. It was about relationships because thanks to them I got my life together. You stand as one, but come as many.”

For more information about Recover Out Loud contact Cunningham by phone at (812) 318-0122 or by E-Mail at jcunningham.recoveroutloud@gmail.com. Contact Fry by phone at (812) 560-5595.

Contact: kraig.younts@rushvillerepublican.com

Recommended for you