New Naperville ride promotes drug recovery through cycling

  • Ira David Levy, the founder of a nonprofit organization called Pedal4Life, tells the Naperville Sunrise Rotary about his plans to start biking-focused events to help veterans and civilians recover from opioid addiction and other substance abuse issues. He's raising money for the effort with the Hero In Me bike ride Sunday, May 21, in Naperville.

      Ira David Levy, the founder of a nonprofit organization called Pedal4Life, tells the Naperville Sunrise Rotary about his plans to start biking-focused events to help veterans and civilians recover from opioid addiction and other substance abuse issues. He's raising money for the effort with the Hero In Me bike ride Sunday, May 21, in Naperville. Marie Wilson | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 3/3/2017 8:29 PM

Money. A car. A driver's license. A job. A support network. A schedule.

When a recovering heroin addict first gets out of rehab, these are the things he often doesn't have.

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Time. Energy. Unemployment. Temptation. Transportation problems. Isolation.

These are the things he does have -- the challenges of a new phase in the route to stability without illicit drugs.

A bike. A cycling group. A mentor. Endorphins. Newfound trust. Self-esteem.

These are the things a new nonprofit organization called Pedal4Life wants to give to recovering addicts in DuPage County to help them along their way, founder Ira David Levy says.

Pedal4Life aims to start a program called Pathway to Home, which will help both veterans and civilians with their recovery from substance abuse.

Veterans with whom Pedal4Life will connect through the Road Home program at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago will serve as mentors for recovery clients the charity will find through Banyan Treatment Center and A Man In Recovery Foundation, both in Naperville.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"Veterans and civilians get to live their lives as productive and responsible members of their communities, which is what everyone wants," Levy said.

To launch the Pathway to Home program, Pedal4Life is sponsoring a bike ride May 21 in Naperville called the Hero In Me ride.

"I find it ironic that the word 'hero' serves as the root of 'heroin,' which kills so many people," Levy said. "Our goal is to replace heroin with the hero within."

Riders can sign up for 15-, 32- or 48-mile courses that will travel through parts of Naperville, Aurora, Bolingbrook and Woodridge, with two-thirds of the routes in forest preserves.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The event will highlight the positive connections between biking and drug recovery, says Levy, who hosts the PBS bicycle tourism show "Pedal America."

Biking can be a mode of transportation for recovering addicts who often have no way to get to treatment appointments, support group meetings and job interviews, Levy says.

Cycling also is a positive form of exercise that generates endorphins, which Levy calls "a natural high." It can be a hobby to fill the time previously spent searching for and using drugs.

The biking recovery program Levy aims to start will include events at treatment centers with empowering talks by people in recovery, wounded veterans, addiction physicians and local bike club leaders. After the talks, recovery clients will eat a "power lunch" and take a "victory ride" of five to 10 miles.

Levy plans to follow up these events with weekly or bimonthly rides for recovering veterans and civilians in various communities led by cyclists who are certified by the League of American Bicyclists.

The camaraderie of the Hero In Me ride, open to the public, will mimic the supportive atmosphere Levy envisions for the future community rides for people in recovery. Both exist "to celebrate the hard, brave work of recovery," he said.

Ride participants can do good in a couple of other ways during the Hero In Me event.

Rotary Club of Naperville Sunrise members and Interact club members from Neuqua Valley High School will be on hand to collect donations of bicycles to be shipped to people in need in Lesotho, Africa, joining about 50 bikes the club typically sends to the south African nation each year, member Michael Albrow said.

Naperville police also will have a presence and a prescription drug drop-off table for participants to dispose of unneeded medications.

The need for awareness-raising events such as the Hero In Me ride remains as heroin and opioid overdose deaths in the suburbs continue to rise. In suburban Cook as well as all of DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry and Will counties, authorities reported a total of 355 heroin overdose deaths in 2016, up from 307 in 2015 and 241 in 2014.

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