Former Addict Opens Gym to Help Others Struggling With Sobriety

Black Iron Gym in Sparks, Nev., was opened with the hopes of building a community that can support each other in addiction recovery.

After spending 10 years battling addiction, Krissy Mae Cagney, now 29, is celebrating the success of her Nevada gym that helps other recovering addicts stay sober through fitness.

Black Iron Gym, in Sparks, was opened three years ago in the hope of supporting a community of people struggling with sobriety through CrossFit, weight lifting and other forms of group fitness.

Thanks to a successful GoFundMe campaign called "Reps 4 Recovery," the gym is able to offer nearly 100 members between 24 hours and five years sober with free memberships with the intention that they will be encouraged to stay sober in a supportive environment.

“The coolest thing is that I get to watch their sobriety being completely threatened, to them being so excited to be sober and not wanting to drink or use ever again,” Cagney told "It’s the most rewarding and fulfilling feeling in the world."

Cagney said she has always been involved with athletics growing up, and fitness and powerlifting were important in her road to recovery.

"When I got sober, the only thing that had the power over my addiction was lifting weights," she said. "It was the only thing I would ever choose before drinking and using."

She explained drugs and alcohol came into her life at a young age, as she tried cocaine for the first time at just 14 years old.

“I had behavioral problems growing up," Cagney explained. "I was diagnosed with anxiety and it definitely showed throughout high school. I would start acting out for attention and I started using drugs for attention. My drug use and alcohol use continued all through high school."

Her habit continued through college, where she convinced her friends and family she moved away to stay clean. In reality, it got worse.

"My drug use got so bad and nobody would get off of me about it, so I lied and said I got sober," Cagney said. "I moved into an apartment as far away from everyone as possible so I could drink and use. I hid out for like a year, telling everyone I was doing fine, but I was living at home in an apartment, doing 10 grams of cocaine to myself every single day."

As a result of her addiction, she was in and out of jail, in and out of rehab, and had a bout with homelessness when buying drugs and alcohol took priority over paying the rent.

It was a seven-day bender over Memorial Day Weekend in 2013 that finally knocked her to her senses.

"I ended up in the hospital twice because of it," Cagney recalled. "I ended up getting assaulted. I ended up losing everything I owned. I ended up losing money. I woke up in the hospital and I was having alcohol-induced seizures. I was 24 years old. The doctors told me that if I kept doing that, I was going to die."

From then on, Cagney stopped drinking and using drugs, but didn’t consider herself on the path to recovery until a year later, when she actively began looking for help.

“Addicts and alcoholics have this way of saying, 'I'm not drinking or using,' and they kind of brush their illness under the rug, but it’s an illness — we're sick,” she explained. "I remember hitting a year of sobriety and that’s when things really changed for me. I started working on myself and making changes, working on my illness, collaborating with people who also have my illness. It took me about a year to actually want to be sober."

Cagney said she now hopes that by building an entire community focused on getting sober, Black Iron Gym can help other recovering addicts find encouragement to stay clean, despite once believing that the fear of failure was a threat against her own sobriety.

"Joey hit his year of sobriety like three weeks ago," she said. "When he came to the gym, he was three days sober, and terrified. Here he is a year later, still on the program, still sober. That’s healing for me to know that my gym and my program has facilitated that for him."

With the money fundraised by GoFundMe, Cagney said she hopes to be able to hire an in-house counselor for members to turn to.

About half the members of Black Iron Gym do pay membership fees, which she explained is considered a donation toward other membership resources to keep the gym running.

To support Black Iron Gym, visit their GoFundMe page.