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Spreading sobriety, hands down

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Nate Provost wants to “spread the light of sobriety” in Grants Pass and Medford, where he sees “so much darkness.”

Opioids and alcohol are snuffing out too many young lives, he says.

In the past month, Provost says, he has had three friends die of accidental overdoses, and another was killed in a car crash while allegedly under the influence of heroin.

Heroin cut with fentanyl, a synthetic opioid 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine, was blamed for the recent deaths of two lifelong friends, he says.

Provost figures he has lost 100 friends in the nearly 15 years since his high school graduation to drug and alcohol addiction or in car crashes where drugs and alcohol were involved.

Once thought to be primarily a problem among high-schoolers and young adults, middle-schoolers are “smoking weed and getting introduced to harder drugs,” Provost says.

Those who struggle with addiction “are now way younger,” he says. “It’s sad.”

Provost, 33, was three years, four months and 26 days sober at the time of this writing. He shares his own story of addiction and recovery as a beacon of hope for others who are struggling with addiction through “Sober Krew,” an online support group he created in April 2016 with his sponsor, David Genesis.

Members should desire to be sober from alcohol and clean from drugs. They should also support and encourage those in recovery. All who are actively participating in recovery or who know someone struggling with addiction are welcome to join, the page says.

Requests to join the page come from all over the country and the world.

The group’s Facebook page has more than 9,000 followers. At its peak, the page listed 12,000 followers. Facebook, Provost says, deleted 3,000 inactive members as part of a new policy. The page, though, continues to gather steam, with 943 new posts in the last 30 days and 225 new members in the last month. On a recent day, 41 new posts were logged.

“We’re really getting out there. It’s spread pretty fast,” says Provost.

Members can post their stories, videos and before-and-after photos.

They are allowed to vent, talk, encourage and seek advice, but all posts “must be positive.”

“There is no negativity allowed,” says Provost, who adds that he monitors the page closely, sometimes checking it as often as 10 times a day.

Those who post “come with struggles with addiction or are going through stuff in their relationships,” he says. “We’ve also been able to reach out to people considering suicide.”

It must be noted that Provost and Genesis are not licensed addiction counselors or trained psychologists. They are just two guys “who have been there, done that.”

“Nate and I are both blessed,” Genesis writes in an email. “We grew up in middle-class homes and really had no reason to get into trouble with drinking and drugs. Unfortunately, we found ourselves surrounded by others who influenced us, and we both began using substances at an early age. We proceeded through life and encountered many problems. We both faced death as a result of accidents.

“As we found recovery and turned our lives around, we knew we wanted to give back. We want to provide a bright, supportive environment when people are in need of support in recovery.”

Both Provost and Genesis advise members to have a support system — “without it they are not going to succeed,” says Provost.

Also, “stay close to family, get plugged into Narcotics Anonymous and Alcohol Anonymous, and go to church. Go to more than one.

“Surround yourself with the positive,” says Provost, who adds that he attends both Edgewater and Applegate Christian fellowships.

A 2004 graduate of Grants Pass High School, Provost stumbled into the drug scene at 16.

“I would go to parties and immediately head to the bathroom or the kitchen. That’s where it all goes down. I wasn’t there for the party. I was there for the drugs.”

His addiction ran the gamut from cocaine to methamphetamine to pills and alcohol.

“I came from a great family,” he says. “I just chose a dark path. (Because of it) I had a rough life and eventually pushed my family away.”

In addition to his parents, Mike and Lisa Provost, and brother Sean, his family includes a son, now 13, and two daughters, now 10 and 9.

Now that he’s sober, he says he has his kids back in his life, and he’s in daily contact with his mother either via email or text messages.

“My mom’s awesome. Both my parents get on the Sober Krew page and make comments” to help families whose loved ones are struggling, he says.

Heavily tattooed from head to toe, Provost says the body art was acquired in his addiction. He also has a few scars from his days as a mixed martial arts cage fighter — “something I also did in my addiction.”

After hitting rock bottom and surviving a near-fatal car wreck, he started his journey to sobriety. It was a rocky road, with stints in jail for driving under the influence of intoxicants and for violating the conditions of his probation and parole after graduating from drug court.

It was tough, he admits, “but it molded me into the person I am today.”

When he’s asked whether he will cover up his tats now that he’s sober, Provost says, “No, they are part of my story.”

He even plans to add a few more.

“My son’s name is on my leg, and I have room on my back for my daughters’ names. And I plan to have a cross with my sobriety date.”

Upbeat and gregarious, Provost is quick to smile, showing off a new set of teeth.

“I lost all my teeth, all 32 were abscessed” because of drugs, he says.

A professional long-boarder, Provost’s claim to fame is riding his skateboard nearly a half-mile while standing on his hands. He has parlayed his talent for riding upside down into a tool to reach young people.

“The man above has blessed me with this talent to skate on my hands, so I use it to share my story in the skate parks.”

In 2017, Provost created the Sober Krew clothing line. T-shirts, hoodies, tanks and beanies carry the “SK” logo and a silhouette of him doing a handstand on his long board. The nonprofit venture was created in collaboration with Mike Lindsay, who founded Addicts in Recovery, the makers of AIR Wear Recovery Gear.

Lindsay, like Provost and Genesis, is a recovering addict and survivor. AIR uses proceeds from clothing sales to assist individuals and families in the recovery journey as well as shelters, programs and organizations helping former addicts get back on their feet.

“My life’s good right now,” says Provost. “I am not numb anymore. I hear birds chirp ... which I never did before. I am grateful.”

For more information about Sober Krew, check out “Nate Provost Sober Krew” on Facebook, or addictsinrecovery.net/collections/nate-provost-collection.

Reach Grants Pass freelance writer Tammy Asnicar at tammyasnicar@q.com.

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Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune{ } Nate Provost talks about the exposure teenagers have to drugs throughout the valley.