Podcast: Mile High Sober Living

Gina:   Hi, everyone. Welcome to the Harmony Foundation Podcast Series, and it’s my pleasure today to be joined with Brice Hancock and Allison Hardon with Mile High Sober Living. Welcome.

Brice:  Thank you, Gina.

Gina:   It’s good to have you both here. I’m really excited to talk with you about Mile High. But before we do that, let’s talk about you first. So Brice, you are the founder/owner of Mile High. Is that correct?

Brice:   Correct.

Gina:   And you’re also a guitarist, former real estate agent, and now Executive Director for Mile High Sober Living. So how did all of those other variations of your career prepare you for the work that you’re doing today?

Brice:   Well, being a guitarist led into a career as a booking agent, which led into a career as a nightclub bar owner. And in the main way that that plays in now is promotion, even online promotion, or just meeting people or connecting with people, because being a promoter, that’s your job. A bar owner, that’s your job.
And I’m actually still a realtor, and that helped as far as sober housing, with housing laws and knowing which neighborhoods would work, and all that kind of stuff.

Gina:   And so what prompted you to say, “Yeah, I think I want to open up Sober Living now?”

Brice:   So two years sober. I’ll try to keep it brief, but at two years sober, I was depressed and I had zero purpose in my life. I was sober. I wasn’t drinking. And so I started to become obsessed with emotional sobriety and finding my purpose, now that I’m sober. And just through a series of events, I organically fell into sober housing and a friend of mine, one of my best friends I’ve known for 30 years, his sponsee is Chris of St. Paul Sober Living, and he said, “You gotta come up here and go to Sober House school.”
So I went up to St. Paul. He showed me the rules, the vibe, the houses, the way the whole thing works and the way it should feel when you’re living in a sober house as a client. And I came back down to Denver. I somehow convinced my father to help me buy a house. We bought a house and opened up Mile High Sober Living. I got one of my best friends, Michael [Hornbuckle 00:02:11], who’s been a sober house manager in California for a couple years. He became the house manager and I recreated what I had learned in St. Paul in Denver, four blocks from York Street, with the intention that it’s the hot part of town. We got parks. We got public transportation, coffee shops, restaurants, art culture.
12 Step meetings, they can walk to them and they can just find their own magic. And God forbid I relapse, I want to go to a house like this, where I can cool my jets and rework the steps.

Gina:   Well, all of that sounds really great, but I have to tell you, I’m fixated on one thing you said.

Brice:   Yes.

Gina:   Chris said, “Come out to Sober Living school.”

Brice:   He was kidding me.

Gina:   Okay. I was like, “There’s really a school?”

Brice:   No, it’s just he had access to this guy who runs just an amazing sober living and St. Paul has a great recovery community. And the AA thing, he’s got help, right? And so they helped me.

Gina:   So it was like a crash course and working with all the people that manage it.

Brice:   It was a crash course. It was like, “You’re gonna hang out with me for a few days and I’m gonna show you what I’ve created.” And he’s got 12, 13 sober houses, from Colorado to St. Paul to Minneapolis. Everything from gender-specific men’s houses to gender-specific women’s houses, LGBT house.

Gina: It’s so great to be able to work with people that understand the nature of what sober living is really supposed to be about and to introduce that into Colorado the right way is always so important. And you mentioned something about 12 Step. So it’s important that you created a safe community of sobriety with strong 12 Step. Why was that important for you to embed into the design of the program?

Brice:   Because I’m in recovery. I was a late-stage alcoholic. I was dying from the disease, and I tried everything to get sober. Everything. And a 12 Step program, it literally saved my life. And the whole community around 12 Step, getting plugged in, finding your tribe, finding friends. And besides just the actual 12 Step work, just being part of a large community like that, it’s super important and in early sobriety, especially, I believe that it really helps people get through. Because you know, it sucks being in early sobriety. It’s hard. And if you have all that support, it will get you right through it.

Gina:   Yeah, that fellowship is vital for long-term sobriety.

Brice:   Yeah, the fellowship is vital.

Gina:  So, Allison, you have been with Mile High for a little while, in working with them. And I understand, now that they’re moving towards a continuing care IOP program, can you tell us a little bit more about that and when it looks to open up?

Allison:   Yeah. First off, our location is right by our sober living home, so over time, I think Brice has seen some of his clients get to sober living, start out doing really well, and then there’s a point where they really could benefit from some more treatment services. So he’s been watching the need in the community, and with 52 beds now, six houses, three women’s and three men’s, there’s a few people that could benefit from some outpatient services.  So we have contracted Matthew Jarvis as the clinical director. He’s a licensed addiction counselor. And also works with EMDR, so we can start also addressing some of the trauma, when appropriate. We’re using a 12 Step facilitation model, so they’ll get skills and education around different components of the 12 Steps to again, support that part of the journey. And we’ll have a family component, so again, there’s been times when we’ve wanted to be able to support family members of people that are at the sober living home, and we haven’t had that within our program. So I see it as just a evolution of what Brice has created at Mile High Sober Living. There’s a community now, and the community needs more support services, so there will be mid management available there. We’re MAT-friendly, Medication-Assisted Therapy friendly. We do allow people to be on different types of medications that support them on their recovery at our houses, so we’ll have that extra care provided at the outpatient clinic. So we’re gonna start with IOP the middle of September, and then, I think, plans to open PHP and other outpatient services as we flesh out the model.

Gina:   That’s great. It’s nice to have that full continuum of care. Really important. So let’s shift gears for a minute and talk about the people behind the program. And so we learned a little bit about you, Brice, in regards to some of your previous careers that got you to where you are today, but let’s talk first about, what’s a failure or an apparent failure that set you up for later success? And then do you have a favorite failure of yours?

Brice:   Well, so I used to own a bar, which is a really bad job for an alcoholic, right? And it failed. The bar failed miserably. But what I learned is that my job, it’s not initially to take care of the clients. My job is to take care of the people who take care of the clients. I have 10 staff. The house managers are the ones who are really doing the work. You know, they’re really doing the work, and they’re all at least a year clean and sober. They’ve all done all 12 steps. Most of them are recovery coach-trained and QMAP-certified. And they’re literally bad asses and they’re just awesome, cool people, and they make recovery look fun, and I think that they instill a vibe and a culture in the house. And I’ve learned that, believe it or not, owning a bar, nobody ever left me because of money. They always left because they felt disrespected. So what I learned is take care of the people that take care of the people. You know what I mean?

Gina:   Yeah. Definitely a theme. It’s that concept of servant leadership. If you take care of the people that are doing the work, they’ll take care of the people just fine.

Brice:   Right.

Gina:   I think that’s smart. Great. And so Alison, if we were to play off the word “harmony”, what do you think it means to live a life in harmony?

Allison: Oh, that’s such a good question. As you guys know, I’ve been here many times over the years, up here at Harmony. And today, I’m gonna tell you that living a life of harmony, to me, feels to be true to yourself, to be honest. The 12 Step program that I have grown to love over the years has taught me that when I get that intuitive nudge about a decision and I know what I want to do but I kind of second guess it, time and time again, I always learn that I should just go with that gut response, my intuition. If I can just pause to be in harmony with that and I find a lot of my daily life now gets anchored with a morning meditation practice. Helps me slow the mind down and get in touch with who I am today and also just this morning, thinking about, “You know, this is a precious day that’s never gonna come again. And how do I want to live it?” And I wanted to be in harmony, knowing I was coming up to Harmony this place that has such a special place in my heart. I mean, just outside your door, that photo of Howie Madigan that exuded everything about recovery for this state. And a lot of people nationally knew him, and now I’m sitting in a building that’s named after him, and he’s shining his light down on us today. I really wanted to cherish the day, the drive, the beauty, the nature. The people up here are so special. And so living a life of harmony is really being true to myself, but also not missing the gifts along the way.

Gina:   I like that. Thank you for sharing that. That’s great. Thank you. And if someone were wanting to access services at Mile High Sober Living, how could they get in touch with you, Brice?

Brice:   I’m gonna give you my cell phone number. How about that?

Gina:   Okay.

Brice:  (303) 669-2809. They can find us on the web at milehighsoberliving.com. And our IOP website is up at milehighcontinuingcare.com.

Gina:   Great. Well, thank you both for taking the time to come up, It was really nice to visit with you and we’re strong proponents of Mile High Sober Living and we look forward to continued partnerships with you all.

Brice:   Thank you.

Allison: Thank you guys so much.