When Lindsay Thomson first stopped drinking and using drugs almost six years ago, she said she was terrified to leave her house.
Spending time with friends, going out to eat, even driving through her old neighborhood felt like she was being hit with trigger after trigger to relapse, she said. She and her boyfriend, John Zenewicz, who got sober a year later, even missed a dear friend’s wedding because they were worried about how being around alcohol and drinking would affect their recovery.
“Everything just felt so hard. It’s scary to be out in public,” Thomson said. “In that time, I made a pact to pay it forward.”
And she is – one squeeze of a lemon, juice of a watermelon and garnishing of a glass at a time.
Thomson and Zenewicz are just months into owning and operating a business to give back to those who helped in their sobriety journey with mocktail brand Riot Rcvry. Every week, they make a slate of fresh, flavorful drinks that are alcohol free to sell at the Rockland Farmers Market.
They always have the Watermelon Nojito – made with watermelon juice, sparkling water, lime, mint and more – and the Solstice Splash, a spicy pineapple concoction, and then sell a different special drink each week. For kids day at the market they made a “magical unicorn lemonade,” and they’re working on perfecting an alcohol-free version of a Blue Lagoon.
“It’s not just a virgin cocktail, it’s a real, fresh drink that stands on its own that anyone who is in recovery – or not – can enjoy,” Thomson said.
Zenewicz said their Rockland kitchen has been covered in juices, fruits, reject batches and new recipes since they started Riot Rcvry in June. They’ve learned along the way (pineapple is weirdly hard to juice, he said) and use the business as a leg to stand on as they try to give back to those who helped them find sobriety.
For now, the couple want to focus on supporting the Seekonk-based Herren Project, a nonprofit recovery organization that gave Thomson a grant to pay for rent in a sober community and helped Zenewicz find housing at the start of his recovery.
“I love the product and a lot of other people love the product, but for now we’re really focused on the cause,” Thomson said. “We want people to feel included and know they can have a life without hiding. There is life after recovery. You can still be happy and you can still be part of a community and you can still accomplish your dreams.”
The couple want Riot Rcvry to be a beverage provider at events such as weddings and parties, and maybe someday concerts and other large-scale gatherings that serve alcohol. Eventually, they’d like to be able to bottle and sell their drinks, but for now it’s about providing a good experience for people who are in recovery or simply don’t want alcohol.
“We loved going to shows and concerts, but we didn’t go to a concert for almost two years after we stopped drinking because it was so intimidating,” Thomson said. “If we could be a place at events that not only supports recovering addicts but provides beautiful, delicious drinks, that would be awesome. Whatever we can do – I feel like this is just the first step.”
Photos in this post were taken by the wonderfully talented Greg Derr. They were originally published in The Patriot Ledger.