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I ___ Sober: How Recovery Unplugged's New Campaign is All About Living Life

by Jill Gleeson

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Sunday October 25, 2020

Mark Turnipseed
Mark Turnipseed  (Source:Instagram)

Now clean, sober and living life out and proud, out athlete and influencer Mark Turnipseed is the perfect representative for Recovery Unplugged's new outreach initiative, I ___ Sober. The substance abuse rehab, which uses the power of music to help clients find and maintain sobriety, recently kicked off the movement as a way to celebrate those who are living their best lives without the devastating influence of drugs and alcohol. To bring home and personalize the message, Recovery Unplugged is encouraging its clients and allies to fill in the blank with whatever gives them joy and fulfillment while sober.

Turnipseed, a triathlete with a burgeoning career as a model, found sobriety after years of alcoholism and addiction. He came out in November 2019, an act he credits to his recovery.

"I was finally able to fully embrace myself as a gay man after a lifetime of hiding it and holding it back and drinking because of it," Turnipseed says. "So when Recovery Unplugged contacted me, I was super-excited, because when I was thinking about coming out, I was like, how am I going to come out and be sober? It seemed like such a foreign concept to me because gay culture seemed very party-centric. But that's not necessarily what it's all about at all. So I told them I wanted to make a little video that goes, 'I Gay Sober!' "

(Source: Mark Turnipseed)

Turnipseed's struggles with drugs and alcohol are not unique. As much as 30 percent of the LGBTQ community abuses substances, compared with just nine percent of the general population. For those addicts and alcoholics, using often becomes their whole world. Sobriety can mean losing relationships and activities, the very things that build identity, no matter how unhealthy they are.

Recovery Unplugged's new initiative is intended to show there's life — a beautiful, wide-open life brimming with possibilities — beyond substances.

"For so long, I think the message is 'stay sober,'" says Karl Bremer, a therapist at Recovery Unplugged's new Nashville detox, rehab and treatment center. "And that can become overwhelming. So, I want to know that I can jump out of airplanes sober. Have relationships and find love sober. I want to go to concerts sober. I don't want to live in a bubble of recovery that detaches me from the world. This campaign is important because recovery is every part of life, not just the rooms with the meetings. I get to softball sober. I get to eat out with friends. I get to experience the human race with sobriety. I can do much more than sit in a 12-Step meeting all day."

If I___Sober exemplifies alcoholics and addicts what life looks like free of substances, it's Recovery Unplugged's cutting edge, music-based modality that empowers them to get sober in the first place. From the moment clients step into the shuttle taking them to treatment and hear their favorite song playing on the sound system, all the way to the day they are discharged with an MP3 player of tunes that are meaningful to them, music is part of the healing process.

"I see a change and recovery working even in the everyday group that we start with when we play a song and have all the clients and staff dance in the room," says Ashley Oldani, a therapist at Recovery Unlpugged's Nashville location. "People feel comfortable in their bodies and are willing to be vulnerable around other people that they might not otherwise have been. I think it greatly affects people's treatment here and their feelings of safety and security. It's a really beautiful thing to watch happen."

For anyone thinking of seeking help at Recovery Unplugged, who wants more than anything to join the I___Sober movement but is afraid to reach out, Bremer has some words of reassurance. "We are really good at what we do," he says. "Trust the process. Play the song. Dance. Never give up. And be a miracle."

Are you or someone you love struggling with drugs or alcohol? Recovery Unplugged offers LGBTQ-welcoming substance abuse treatment. Visit or call 855-909-8818.

Jill Gleeson is a travel and adventure journalist based in the Appalachians of Central Pennsylvania. Find her on Facebook and Twitter at @gopinkboots.