Written by: Sam McManis – Sun Staff Reporter
A moment or two before Roy DuPrez began to recount a seminal incident in his life before sobriety — the harrowing episode before the blessed epiphany — he paused to sip from a beaded glass of water, ran a hand across his close-cropped black hair and down to his beard, giving it a tug of resolve.
Then he uttered a single word:
His tone was rueful, but also a touch revelatory, perhaps a glint of recognition of his past self passing before his eyes.
“A couple of buddies and I were traveling to southern Mexico, and I swore I wasn’t going to drink,” DuPrez said, easing back into a lawn chair on his front porch in Flagstaff. “We stumbled upon a mescal manufacturing plant, part of a tour outside Mexico City. Mescal! I’d never tasted that flavor of mescal before. Three days later, I woke up blacked out and with a lot of destruction in my wake.”
Arrest. Jail. One doozy of a hangover. Another scorched landscape for an alcoholic on a bender. He vowed to change. For real, this time.
“I did that foxhole prayer,” DuPrez, 44, added. “If I can get out of this one, I’ll pursue the sobriety thing.”
This happened nearly 20 years ago, another lifetime ago, before DuPrez got clean and sober, earned a graduate degree from Northern Arizona University, began social work outreach with youth, opened an innovative alcohol and drug treatment center, Back 2 Basics, which combines outdoor adventures with more conventional addiction treatment protocols.
He doesn’t recount that unfortunate judgment lapse to glamorize substance use and abuse; it’s not some old war story recounted by a recovered drunk behind a 12-step lectern. Rather, he will occasionally relate his mescal debauch to let his clients — males ages 18 to 30, the same age DuPrez was at the height of his addiction — at the four residential houses he and a staff of 20 run that he can relate to their plight, that he’s been there himself and emerged on the other side a stronger, more productive person, and that they can do the same.
DuPrez’s circuitous route toward founding Back 2 Basics, entering its 10th year as a residential treatment center that uses the great outdoors as a healer, seems incongruous looking at his life now. There he sat in front of his handsome home on a quiet cul-de-sac, alternatively sipping coffee and water, his black Labrador, Eva, stretched out at his feet and his young son down the block setting up a neighborhood lemonade stand with buddies.
Things are so calm, so domestic now. Those years of roiling anxiety and self-medication — beginning at age 7 in his hometown of Venice Beach, Calif., and continuing on through a rehab stint in eighth grade and relapses in high school and as an NAU undergrad — seem behind him now. This type of life, gloriously normal and exceedingly productive, is what he wishes for the young clients who spend six months in the Back 2 Basics program, kicking addiction and learning life skills that have heretofore eluded them.
That’s where the outdoors aspect of Back 2 Basics serves as an object lesson to young men in trouble. Sure, the program DuPrez developed in 2010 employs the accepted aspects of treatment — a range of individual and group therapies and job internships as part of a culinary program — but being out in nature has a way of focusing the mind and nourishing the body.