Colorado Public Radio journalist tackles addiction, other recovery in new podcast

In this Jan. 3, 2020, photo from Colorado Public Radio, “Back From Broken” Podcast Host Vic Vela sits at a cafe in Denver. The former New Mexico journalist tackles his road to recovery from drug addiction in the new podcast out of Colorado. The podcast premiered Feb. 21, and has risen up the podcast charts. (Hart Van Denburg/Colorado Public Radio via AP)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. | At times, listening to the path that Vic Vela has taken can be numbing.

Yet, when he speaks about his journey, brutal honesty has to be there.

“My path to recovery consists of me telling the truth,” he says. “That’s what connects with people.”

Vela is the host of the podcast “Back From Broken,” produced by Colorado Public Radio. The podcast premiered Feb. 21, and has risen up the podcast charts.

The podcast is about recovery, and Vela says everyone knows someone who struggles with addiction or mental health issues or a physical ailment that has dramatically changed their life.

This show is a place to regularly showcase courage and what it takes to come back, he says.

The journey for Vela to get to “Back From Broken” has been full of the highest of highs and some rock-bottom lows.

“Six years ago, I was hiding behind dumpsters smoking crack,” Vela says. “Now, I’m sober and I’m helping people. It’s very strange hearing from people that I helped. I’m not too far removed from remembering the places I’ve been.”

“Back From Broken’s” first three episodes have featured Vela hosting with guests such as musician Anders Osborne, MLB’s David Mellor and WNBA alum Chamique Holdsclaw. The first season will consist of 10 episodes.

Former New Mexico resident Vic Vela hosts the podcast, Back From Broken, which is produced by Colorado Public Radio.

The podcast released its latest episode on April 3. This episode is Vela telling his own story.

“I knew that we could get something interesting out of these interviews,” Vela says. “It helps to have empathy in having these conversations. I think once they realize that I’ve been through the same thing, they open up. That makes for a better conversation and the journey in finding out how to recover. It’s a process.”

Vela has long been a storyteller.

During his tenure at Albuquerque Journal North in Santa Fe from 2007 to 2012, Vela covered crime in northern New Mexico.

“It’s a heavy subject, and I wasn’t doing well,” he says. “That was at a time, I was still drinking and using drugs and not dealing with the behavioral issues. I was the poster boy for a functioning addict.”

After moving back to Colorado, Vela hit rock bottom. As he began recovery, the seed was planted for what has become “Back From Broken” about a year ago.

“I had been thinking about the podcast for a while,” he says. “I was looking to see how could I utilize my experiences as a journalist and someone in recovery. We’re so caught up in COVID right now, that I wanted to get back to talking about mental health and addiction.”

Vela said that while he was planning the podcast, the biggest obstacle was getting people to tell their stories when there really wasn’t a definite format.

“From the production standpoint, the biggest challenge was asking people to be part of a show that didn’t exist yet,” Vela says. “I couldn’t point them to a website. It was the first season.”

Aside from the podcast, Vela spends a lot of his time speaking at health conferences, as well as remaining active on social media – where he often tells his story.

“My recovery has been to be as honest as I possibly can,” he says. “It’s not only to help others, but to keep myself accountable.”


Listen to Vic Vela’s “Back From Broken” at