“OSTRI(CHI)ZED means to FREE yourself from polarization, isolation, and ostracization.”

MARCO is a peer-run organization, led and governed by individuals affected by Substance Use Disorders. Over the next few months, we’ll be featuring some of our Board Members and staff and their personal connection to MARCO’s mission to educate, advocate and mobilize the grassroots recovery movement across Minnesota.


MARCO’s Community Relations Manager, Whitney Nelson, has been involved in multiple projects for the LGBTQ+ and Recovery community. Recognizing that Pride is often inextricably linked with alcohol and that gay bars have long been a staple of queer gathering, she set out to provide alternatives to uplift the community.  As a part of the solution, she created and organized a Sober Experiences Awesome event at Pride in 2023, and is launching an alcohol-free brew called, “Ostri(chi)zed,” for Pride in 2024. 


In honor of Pride, we asked Whitney to tell us more about herself, what brought her to MARCO, and the beverage that she is launching this summer for TC Pride.


Meet Whitney Nelson, MARCO Community Relations Manager

MARCO: How did you first step into your role in recovery? Can you share your story?


Whitney: For a long time, Minneapolis was a very lonely place for me. I was almost always the only queer and sober person in my workplace and community.  While I still found connection with people with similar interests, the prevalent attitude of “never really belonging” lingered in the background everywhere I went and in almost everything I did. I’ve spent most of my life here, but it wasn’t until I was out and sober that I really found a sense of community.    


MARCO: What brought you to MARCO?

Whitney: When I first heard about MARCO, and how it was a collaborative effort led by leaders in the Minnesota recovery community, I knew I wanted to be a part of this organization.  This grassroots mentality, along with both my enduring belief in the RCO national standards and the ability to implement them through MARCO’s certification process, really energized me.  I can’t tell you how excited I am to make the human connections that will spread the RCO model.  I really believe this model will create a system-wide change to make recovery more accessible and inclusive.


MARCO: Do you have any advice or tips for someone just starting their grassroots efforts in the recovery community?


Whitney: I believe grassroots efforts are best started and sustained with personal awareness and self-love.

A book that really resonated with me is At the Root of This Longing, by feminist author and scholar Carol Lee Flinders. She digs deep into some of the contradictions between spiritual traditions, most of which were built by men, and feminism. Traditions such as silencing yourself, resisting desire, or turning inward and sealing off from the world, according to her, are the opposite of finding your voice and telling your own story or identifying your needs and learning how to meet them. 


I bring up Flinder’s work because oftentimes, to be a woman or any other oppressed group, being told to renounce your power, voice, and authority is the same approach that made us sick in the first place.  This knowledge was freeing to me. It liberated me to forge my own authentic path of recovery, and allow others to do the same.  If you can bring this kind of awareness to your grassroots work and the different communities you serve, your efforts will go way beyond good intentions. I think it’s so important to know and love yourself – your authentic self, not who others expect you to be – to be able to do grassroots work, which is all about finding the connections between people and working together towards a shared vision.


MARCO: What is the most rewarding part of working in recovery for you?


Whitney: Community, connection, and to be able to live your truth without fear.  This community is the most loving and accepting group of people I have ever met. 


MARCO: What have been some of your greatest tools in sustaining your recovery?


Whitney: When I first discovered nonalcoholic beverages, I had a breakthrough in my recovery. I had a new tool to help me overcome my social anxiety and was better able to deal with the discomfort.  It offered me another shield of protection in public spaces, as someone who deeply feared social rejection for being gay.  While this is one tool of many, the simple truth was that it helped me, and you need a tool chest full of items to lean on when you’re doing this kind of soul work.  I no longer fear this kind of rejection like I used to.  Another tool that has helped me sustain my recovery was becoming an entrepreneur.


Most entrepreneurs get an idea for a product or service and then go looking for a market and who they can sell it to. I approach entrepreneurship differently. I find a community I want to be in service of and then have really deep and meaningful conversations with them.  Then I build services and messages around that in a way that can make me be of further service to them, and in doing so create a business that builds around that. The beauty in this approach is that you’re not trying to sell something to anyone, you’re simply caring about them so deeply that you take the time to understand what they need and then just give it to them. This approach has allowed me to serve a purpose that is much bigger than myself and it’s why I decided to launch an alcohol-free beverage, Ostri(chi)zed.  Community has been at the heart of  Ostri(chi)zed since day one.


My original brewer, Brittney Mikell, is opening Bubble Line Brewing Company, Minnesota’s first Black woman-owned craft brewery in St. Paul in 2025.  Brittney and I met in the Community Entrepreneurship Program at St. Thomas. Brittney, like me, wants to brew drinks for everyone and use beverages as a vehicle for good.  I met my ostrich artist (yes, this is a job title!) John (Yahya@waheedproductions) in my Peer Recovery Support Specialist training.  


These connections have been invaluable to me, and I have found that some of the most rewarding relationships have been with people who are so different from me.  Regardless of our differences, we have treated each other with dignity and respect, and in doing so, have been able to embody the inclusive community I am trying to make more accessible to everyone.


MARCO: What does “building a recovery-oriented future” mean to you?


Whitney: On the label of my alcohol-free beverage it says: “OSTRI(CHI)ZED is the alcohol-free brew that lets YOU DO YOU. Free to Be. No Judgment. No Shade.” This is the philosophy of what a recovery-oriented future means to me. To allow each individual to persist down a path that feels sane to them. 


Have an event you think MARCO should be at or want to include your recovery event on MARCO’s community calendar? Contact Whitney at whitney.nelson@marcomn.org.


You can also meet Whitney at booth 204 in the green section at TCPride on June 29-30 or learn more about Ostri(chi)zed Brewing and be the first to get up-to-date information on pre-orders for full-scale production here: https://ostrichized.com/

To learn more about Whitney Nelson, read her full bio at:



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