August 14, patti singer, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle

Depression and alcohol abuse cost Kim King her job and nearly her life. 

Now, she said she’s reclaiming the person she used to be. As part of her recovery, she’ll get on a bicycle Wednesday in Buffalo and spend five days pedaling nearly 400 miles to Albany.

“It’s going to be so hard,” said the 53-year-old Gates woman. “But I’m not afraid to do it. Before, with all the problems I was having, I was afraid of them. I was ignoring them. Now I’m back where I want to face things head on, not run away from them.”

King is part of a 10-person team organized by Exercise Express and ROCovery Fitness to bike to the 2018 New York State Recovery Conference.  The event runs Sunday through Tuesday and is hosted by Friends of Recovery-NY, a statewide non-profit dedicated to advancing addiction recovery. The cyclists are scheduled to arrive Sunday, attend sessions on Monday and then return to Rochester by vehicle.

Since May, King and her teammates have been taking training rides of up to 70 miles to get ready for the journey called the 2018 Albany Recovery Ride.

“It’s to show people you can go through things and you can overcome them,” she said. “You’re not alone. That’s the biggest thing with our group. We have so much support. Someone is having a bad day, you can help them through it. … That’s kind of how we’ll do it on this trip. We all have to help each other make it that far.”

Losses led to depression

Kim King hopes her ride to Albany brings awareness to the needs of people in recovery. 

King said she served as an Army mechanic in Panama in from 1989 to 1991 and later was in the National Guard. She said she was told she had post-traumatic stress disorder but didn’t believe the diagnosis.

She said years of losses — deaths of people closest to her and financial and health troubles — led to depression that she treated with alcohol.

“I was not getting any help,” she said. “I let things build up. … Finally, everything hit a head. I was suicidal.”

After a hospital stay last year, she started community-based programs with Samaritan Center for Excellence, which works with woman and families affected by substance abuse or incarceration. Samaritan Center is part of ROC Hub, a consortium of and wellness businesses and nonprofits on South Plymouth Avenue. So is Exercise Express, where she took some classes.

“She worked out all the time,” said owner Karen Rogers. “I saw how strong she was getting.”

Rogers, who has family members with histories of substance abuse, told King that she was helping set up a bike ride to Albany to boost awareness about recovery.

“She said, ‘Do you think I can do it?' I said, ‘I know you can do it.’”

'People are determined'

The recovery conference holds workshops on how recovery affects communities and individuals, and topics include health, housing, employment, and family and peer support. Addiction topics aren’t limited to alcohol or opiates. One workshop is geared to gambling, food and sex addictions.

Rochester-area experts are scheduled to be presenters or have information tables. 

To Rogers’ knowledge, her Rochester contingent is the only one arriving on two wheels.

“We want to show our community and all the communities we’re going through that people are in recovery, people are determined,” Rogers said. “We will let people know that we won’t let (addiction) stop us. We’ll keep fighting, we’ll keep pushing, we’ll keep encouraging each other and that’s what this is all about.”

This is the second time a Rochester contingent has biked to the conference. Rogers represented Exercise Express on last year's ride with four people from ROCovery Fitness. This year, the core group is doubled, with seven from Exercise Express and three from ROCovery Fitness, scheduled to participate. The organizations accepted donations to support the riders.

She said the entourage will pick up riders along the route, which starts at Tow Path Park in Buffalo.

“We added Buffalo because they have a large recovery community and we have a great relationship with them,” Rogers said.

After biking Wednesday from Buffalo to Rochester, the group will start Thursday morning with a 7 a.m. community breakfast at ROCovery Fitness, 1035 Dewey Ave., according to  a news release from ROCovery Fitness co-founder and Chief Executive Officer Yana Khashper. At 8 a.m., the riders will be escorted by Rochester Police Department officers to Exercise Express to begin the next leg.

The bicyclists can expect a hero's welcome when they reach the conference.

Stephanie Campbell, executive director of Friends of Recovery — New York ,said a contingent would greet the riders with signs, cheers and confetti.

She said the ride represents what is happening in the recovery movement. "We're able to connect with a community, we're able to do something that is meaningful, that has purpose, and that really is about beind of service and supporting others."

Positive thinker 

Kim King said that biking to Albany will be hard, but she and the other riders will support each other. In biking, like in recovery, "you can't give up," she said. (Photo: Olivia Lopez, Olivia Lopez/Rochester Democrat and Chronicle)

The itinerary has the bicyclists riding at a clip of 12 to 15 mph and covering more than 90 miles each of the first two days, followed by days of slightly more 70, 67 and 49 miles each. The route mostly is on the Erie Canal path. Support vehicles will meet the riders at checkpoints.

"When you're at the bottom, sometimes you don't see a way back up," King said. "Showing we can do this, we have the endurance to do this, gives them hope that they can pick up their lives and start something, whether it's exercise, or the arts or different things to get them out of their depression."

King said she was getting nervous waiting for the ride to start.

“It’s going to be challenge,” she said, then gave herself a pep talk.

 “You’ve got to think positive. You can’t give up.”

PSINGER@Gannett.com