Home Georgia & USA A fly fishing nonprofit is taking a new look at staying sober

A fly fishing nonprofit is taking a new look at staying sober


Sylvia Gourand and Becca Klein while fly fishing. (Photos by Josh England)

This fall in Atlanta Staggering in recovery (RiR) held their first co-op fly fishing retreat on the Sokweh River in north Georgia. In 2023, the all-volunteer, nonprofit organization plans to offer more free retreats in Georgia, Colorado and Pennsylvania to give people in recovery a healing fly fishing experience.

“We strive to celebrate a life free from drug and alcohol abuse, embracing nature and bringing people together to help find that spiritual connection that is so important to living day after day,” said RiR founder Becca Klein, who also serves as -temporary employee of Chattahoochee Riverkeeper. “This is what we have to do during the recovery – we have 24 hours. We’ve made it through these 24 hours and then we’ve got the next 24 hours.”

It’s also important for recovering addicts to understand that they can do meaningful and interesting things while sober, Klein explained.

“I feel this burden that has been lifted from me and this strength that I didn’t have before I came to the river,” a Sokwe River participant told Klein after the fall retreat.

Klein’s epiphany about how fly fishing could help her live her personal truth happened on the Chattahoochee River in August 2016. Earlier that year, she underwent a double mastectomy to fight breast cancer.

As she physically recovered from the operation, she mourned “the loss of myself—the pieces of me that made me a woman.”

She dulled the pain with alcohol.

“I started diving into old bad habits,” Klein recalled. “I was going through an emotional time and had too much to drink.”

To help the Chattahoochee Riverkeeper partner with Orvis, a sporting goods company, Klein agreed to attend a fly fishing photo shoot. Dressed in full gear, including waders, she was ready to give it a try.

“I stripped down to my river shorts and Chacos and picked up my fly rod,” Klein said. “And three days after that, I went to my first AA [Alcoholics Anonymous] meeting”.

RiR Board President Andy Weiner touts his line.

“On that hot summer morning, I found my personal connection to the river I was protecting,” Klein continued. “I found a reason to quit drinking. Cancer is the only place where I’m not thinking about stage IV cancer, bills, work, traffic… Everything slows down and I’m calm.”

Klein felt compelled to share her discovery, at first anonymously.

Under the byline, Grateful Recovering Alcoholic Klein wrote the article in 2019 DUN magazine.

“There was a story about a group of women fly fishing to work on their sobriety,” RiR board president, avid angler and author Andy Weiner said of the DUN article. “One of the images showed a woman with a book in front of her face. The book was written by my father who has written many daily health books. He himself was an alcoholic. He had been sober for 47 years when he died.”

Weiner was thrilled to see his father’s legacy live on. Unbeknownst to Weiner, who had previously connected with Klein through his children’s book, Down by the River, this photo shows Klein holding his father’s book.

“I revealed myself to Andy,” Klein said. “That’s when I decided to be just as active about my recovery from alcohol abuse as I was about my cancer journey.”

“RiR supports 12-step programs, but we’re recovering loudly so others don’t have to suffer in silence,” Klein continued. “We talk about our strength and hope. We want to share the hard times and the downs – so that the person who knows fly fishing or is just learning, knows that he is not alone.”

Building community among those at different stages of their sobriety journey is also at the core of RiR. The nonprofit also aims to create a safe space for sober anglers at events that often involve beer and whiskey.

“We want to be a safe place,” Klein said. “Where a person who has completed six months of sobriety can come to a film festival and find a table or a booth to share their stories, their milestones and their love of fly fishing.”

The all-volunteer, non-profit organization borrows gear from local fly fishing clubs or shares its own gear with retreat participants. As word of their mission spreads, RiR hopes to raise enough donations to purchase fishing gear for their retreats.

In 2020, Klein received another challenge. Her cancer metastasized, spreading to her bones and liver. Last April, she began a targeted chemotherapy clinical trial, her fifth line of treatment. To be considered clinically significant, participants had to achieve a 30% threshold of measurable tumor shrinkage, Klein explained.

“My last scan showed a 36.19% reduction in measurable tumors,” Klein said. “That’s hopeful in my book.”

“People ask me how I stay so positive?” said Klein. “I ask myself a lot of questions. What is the matter? Why am I here?”

RiR gave his answers.

“Starting RiR, I feel like I’m here to make a difference, be an inspiration and share my story,” Klein continued. “To show people that sometimes life gives you terrible things, but that doesn’t mean it’s the end of life. It means you have a different purpose, take a different path, and try to see the beauty in walking that path every day.”

Or in her case, to see beauty is to put your feet in the river with a fly in your hand.

Learn more at https://reelinginrecovery.org/.

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