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athletic woman in pink coat climbing ice in ouray, colorado

Clean Living Through Ice Climbing

Over the history of our blogs, we’ve explored many unconventional ways to overcome addictions. Whether it’s wolf therapy, archery or what have you; a physical outlet can be a very good thing when you need to erase a bad habit from your psyche. And over in Colorado, advocate Margo Talbot has channeled her sobriety into the sport of ice climbing, with extremely positive results.


Talbot was recently profiled on the CNN website and discussed her harrowing journey from cocaine freebaser to extreme athlete. It was not an easy path, but it was one she completed with flying colors. Now Margo’s using her life lessons to inspire others, even going so far as to train recovery patients with ice climbing techniques.


“People find ice climbing very empowering, especially women,” Talbot told CNN.  “I try to share the tools and techniques that helped me get through, and I can be the assurance that it is possible. I’m on the other side. If I can do it, you can do it.”


Delving into her life story; Talbot explained how she turned to marijuana in her early teens, then alcohol and ultimately cocaine by her 20’s. She spoke openly about “childhood traumas” and the outside peer pressures that fueled her addictions. Eventually she was arrested on drug charges, which gave her time to think about the sober moments that made her happy.


Reflecting on her youth, Talbot remembered occasions ice climbing with family and friends. When she was finally released from jail, Margo returned to those snowy mountains in the hopes of finding a new therapy to help her forget her cravings.


Talbot openly admits that ice climbing is not for the faint of heart and there is actually a lot of danger involved. But if you can focus and put the practice hours in, the results can be very rewarding.


“I don’t call ice climbing a sport,” she added. “I call it an endeavor, a practice. It’s got too much danger to call it a sport. But that’s one of the reasons I love it. The danger brings you completely into the present moment.”


Now she partners with local recovery clinics to teach patients about the joys of climbing. Talbot hosts beginner practice sessions and even overnight expeditions, where discussions of sobriety are brought up alongside the campfire.


“One of the things I do is take them out ice climbing and then tell them my life story that night,” she concluded. “It brings me joy to introduce others to the activity that literally changed my life.”


You can see Margo’s full story below, via her 2013 TED Talk.