Charlie McGarty has taken great strides to change his life. At age 31, he weighed 365 pounds, had a severe alcohol problem, drug dependency, and eating disorder. After a period in a state treatment facility, he left his native New York to further his recovery and to help others on their journey. He eventually made his way to Austin, citing the city’s easy access to nature and ample opportunities for exercise and outdoor activity as part of the appeal. Shortly after the move, McGarty found himself at the Y.
“As soon as I got to the Y everyone knew my name after the first week,” McGarty said. “Coming from New York, it was a breath of fresh air. Here at the Y I felt like I was really included… and as more of my people joined it felt like everybody has a place here.”
Exercise, wellness programming and the Y have become a huge part of McGarty’s life. Through this lifestyle change he’s been able to close the door on his addiction. He’s been able to focus on getting better as a whole. As a result he’s established, Active Recovery Coaching (ARC), which provides coaching and wellness programming to others in the recovery process.
His relationship with the Y and desire to impact others has partnered the Y with ARC, and a number of other organizations the area’s recovery community.
“In 2018, the Recovery Outreach Program has really connected with treatment centers, sober living programs and outpatient programs,” McGarty said. “We’ve definitely provided a lot of services for those individuals, and impacted the community. With the involvement of the Y staff and acceptance of it, it’s really rooted the program and set us up for expansion.”
Beyond making people aware that the program exists, McGarty identifies one of the biggest challenges with the program as getting individuals to take the first step and to have an initial conversation with Y staff. He encourages people to “Come in, talk to the front-desk, everyone here is nice. They’re all very welcoming. Everyone interested in the program gets two free sessions to just come in and talk to someone. There’s definitely no pressure. It’s an opportunity to ask questions.”
He’s found that most people who complete their first workout at the Y end up enjoying the way it makes them feel. In time, the daily activity and community gained through the experience are keys towards setting healthy patterns, routines and behaviors for participants. Ultimately, their lives change for the better.
“Challenging people here, the way that we do, we empower them to step out of their comfort zone and to dig deep,” McGarty said. “It starts with the workouts, but after a couple of weeks people feel better and other parts of their lives improve. They feel more confident to do more, to get a new job, get that job that they want, to fix relationships that were broken.”
Many communities across the U.S. are experiencing an addiction and mental health crisis, and McGarty hopes that the Y’s Recovery Outreach Program could grow exponentially and the impact could reach far beyond the walls of any Y.