B.H.T. "Observe & Report"

April 25, 2022 Joe Van Wie / John Johnson Season 1 Episode 22
B.H.T. "Observe & Report"
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Meet John Johnson ( BHT),

     John Johnson "JJ" is a Behavioral Health Technician at Avenues Recovery Communities in their Lake Ariel Residential Inpatient facility. We met about a 2 years ago in the middle of the pandemic there and immediately became friends. Today JJ stops by to tell us who he is, then how he fell into this roll, and what working in the Recovery Field has done for him & loved ones. What is a BHT?

A behavioral health technician is a psychiatric technician who assists a Licensed Therapist / Counselors specializing in treating patients with behavioral disorders. These include Substance Use Disorder , Opioid Use Disorder, eating disorders, gambling addiction and obsessive-compulsive disorder, among others. Technicians support the work of psychiatrists/Therapists by monitoring patients and recording their physical and emotional symptoms. When working in residential living facilities, they may also assist with daily activities and safety.

The Mantra of this position is " OBSERVE AND REPORT", but in the drug and alcohol treatment field it seems a bit more dynamic than that. This position requires sincerity, personal recovery, and deep listening ( Empathy). JJ showed me how this is done last year and we get to discuss how this happened.

#addiction #addictionrecovery #addictiontreatment #substanceusedisorder #alcoholism #alcoholismrecovery #stigma #trauma #treatment #mentalhealth #recoveryispossible #justbelieve #avenuesrecovery #salvationarmy #kratom #adderall #bht #observeandreport #behavioralhealth #behavioralhealthtechnician #behavioralhealthtech

If you or your loved ones are looking for treatment at Avenues Recovery Centers please see the link below:

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Joe Van Wie  0:09  
Hello and thanks for listening to all I'm your host, Joe van wie today's episode we meet John Johnson VHT John Johnson, JJ is a behavioral health technician at avenues, recovery communities and their lake aerial residential inpatient facility. We met about two years ago, in the middle of the pandemic, and immediately became friends. Today, JJ stops by to tell us who he is, and how he fell into this role, and what working in the recovery field has done for him and his loved ones. What is a BHT? A behavioral health technician is a psychiatric technician who assist licensed therapists, counselors specializing in treating patients with behavioral disorders. This includes substance use disorder, opioid use disorder, eating disorders, gambling, addiction, and obsessive compulsive disorders among others. Technicians support the work of the psychiatrists, therapists counselors by monitoring patients and recording their physical and emotional symptoms. When working in residential living facilities, they may also assist with daily activities and safety. The mantra of this position is observe and report. But in the drug and alcohol treatment field, it seems a bit more dynamic than that. This position requires sincerity, personal recovery, and deep listening, empathy. JJ showed me how this is done last year. And we got to discuss how this happened. I hope you enjoyed

it. Well, here we are. We're with my friend JJ James Johnson. And we worked at avenues together avenues Lake Ariel location in Pennsylvania. And we were DHTs behavioral technicians. And this is a position that is common in all residential treatment centers. That works every shift. Depending on the population, you could see anywhere from one, three to four, depending on what the population of that residence is. And what a beach tea is, is essentially someone you know, preferably in recovery, that is there to observe and report that's kind of your mantra that they're supporting operations. Just a quick search under any job, website, has 4000 positions labeled Rehab Tax. Some of them don't meet the criteria, but it's an overwhelming amount of people that are needed. And on average to tax could cover 20 inpatient residents. And this position, as we're talking about its mantra is observe and report some of the duties of tech and would have as a responsibility is census checks. Population, counting the residents on the hour, every 15 minutes in a detox facility to make sure people are well and accounted for. But it's really comes down to deep listening and text cover every shift first, second, and third. And each of them has a different quality to meet the demands of the shift JJ and I work second shift, which you really get to know people profoundly and create meaningful relationships and listening to the resonance you would meet and, and being in recovery, knowing the language, how to talk to them and where they might want to go that may recognize your Rico recovery, you might have the same definition of recovery. And JJ and I got to do that during the pandemic these. So it felt like a sense of duty and purpose to know there's an anxious background noise of a pandemic, no matter what your position was in it or how you're approaching it to go to work every day knowing the people I was meeting and talking to if they left treatment. They may not die a COVID but it was pretty probable they would die from a fentanyl overdose fairly quickly. If they did not face off with the treatment. And having that background and anxiousness behind COVID as a possible reason to get on to the rehab. It was challenging. But to work with JJ and my other friend RJ to approach that with duty and respect the position of being attacked, transformed my idea of recovery and who I was to become over the next year. And I feel JJ had the same experience, and RJ, so when I suggest to people who are a year in recovery, and kind of floundering, what position to take or where I want to go, this is always a great place to find out what you want out of your recovery. And maybe a new direction of your life, is to check with any treatment center and see if they're looking for tax, some of the requirements or high school diploma, maybe a CRS certification from the state of Pennsylvania, that's certified recovery specialist, the position could pay anywhere from 15 to $25 an hour, depending on the region or the population, or the treatment center itself. I thought that would be informative. Well, what we're talking about today, so we're gonna get to that topic, but I want you to meet JJ, and JJ, who are you? Where are you from?

JJ  6:22  
So hey, everybody, how we doing? Man? My name is JJ. I'm a recovering alcoholic. My sober date is June 7 of 2019. I got sober in a facility at Northeastern PA. I actually worked at that facility after I got sober down the road, which is actually an amazing part of my story, man, I got to give back to the place that gave to me. And that meant so much to me at the time, I can't even tell you how much that meant to me at the time. But, you know, I, I, I used to, like, look back at my at my early upbringing and blame a lot of my alcoholism on that, you know, but there were so many good memories. You know, my mom is white, I'm black. And believe it or not, that was the biggest thing to me. Growing up. When I went to middle school, right? Hall, the black guys kind of just like hung out together. And I remember not feeling like I was, like, third type of person that they would accept. Yeah, you know, and I just remember like this feeling in my heart, that I was kind of stuck in the middle. Yeah. And it's not like that for everybody. You know, I have a lot of my friends were half black and half white. And they were completely cool with that.

Joe Van Wie  7:41  
Does that become because it's a common story from biracial people, and I have cousins and friends. And as we got older, and we'd have heart to hearts, that you're never part of one tribe, there was this like, subconscious thing going on. But did you feel that with other biracial people that you connect it? Do you kind of have the same burden that you're on? Is there a whisper that this is happening?

JJ  8:07  
Absolutely. Absolutely. So both of my best friends growing up, were both biracial. And I feel like the the reason that we kind of connected was because we realized that like, Hey, man, we're not really like those guys, but we're not really those guys, either. So we're kind of just gonna hang out together, we need to get organized. Yeah. And it's almost like we gravitated towards each other. Yeah, you know, and it wasn't like a gigantic school. But, you know, I remember looking at my brother and my brother was like, he was darker than I was. Right. So they kind of accepted him way more than than they accepted me. And I don't know if that was just like me and my brain thinking that could totally be possible. But I just remember like, oh, man, look at him. He's getting accepted by like, all like, you know, all the black kids. And then there's like me, and I remember, like, I had like two white friends. And I was like, Oh, why? Why is that not happening for me? Yeah, that's real. And it just seems so like, I was just like, man, that's, that's never gonna be me, man. I'm never gonna be that cool. Yeah, that's

Joe Van Wie  9:06  
somewhere in between. Real really happening and the sensitivity of like, how real Yeah,

JJ  9:15  
exactly. Yeah, exactly. And I, you know, the other thing is, like, like, my dad is just, you know, he's, he's not like, what will you consider like, like, in this day and age, like, like, the black is black guy. No. He's very professional. He's always been like that, you know, he wears glasses. He's very, you know, doesn't really like rap music is more like a jazz guy. And I think, you know, in today's day and age, like you wouldn't consider that to be black, black, you know, you would consider it to be kind of a television,

Joe Van Wie  9:41  
television black. Yeah, that was, you know, I'm a product of the 80s. You know, my idea of that was coming from television, but I grew up in the Jackson terrorists projects, but then I knew black people and it wasn't like that and there it there was a disconnect that know the reality of television sometimes what I didn't understand, versus what was happening in the real world?

JJ  10:08  
What, you know, I think internally, I took that way too deeper than it actually was, you know, I never focused on like, who actually was as a person. Instead, I focused on, you know, the regular stereotypes. And the only way for me to, like, live up to that stereotype was to, to be more focused on sports, you know, like, like, let's, yeah, let's just let's just forget about school and like, focus more on that basketball game, because then maybe they'll like me a little more. Yeah, you know, and that's what I did, man and I focused more on basketball. Track became a, you know, a big part of my life and football as well later down the road. But I also remember there was also this, this internal anxiety that I just could not get rid of. And it was an every social situation. I mean, the first time that my mom dropped me off at school, I was huddled around her leg crying because I did not want her attached. Just leave me there. I was attached to her. Yeah, you know, and she'll, she'll tell you that straight up. But that I was just stuck in that feeling of like, I don't want to be alone, you know, it's powerful.

Joe Van Wie  11:08  
You know, the more I come to understand childhood, universally, my childhood, I got a 17 month old and my, my house is these the first eight years or so phenomenal, the patterns of attachment, the relationship to your parent, it just carves that first neural network out. And these patterns repeat, or even if the relationships different, I'll find the groove that makes sense, keep completing this narrative vase first eight years. And when you're talking, I connect on that level. I think addicts and alcoholics that I understand that's what we're recovering from this pattern that hasn't broken, right?

JJ  11:50  
It's been great. I just didn't want to be alone, you know. And when I was I was horrified, especially around other people that I didn't know or didn't feel accepted around. It was absolutely terrifying. And that internal fear, and anxiety just could not be just could not be taken away from me. You know, there was no get over it. Is there some

Joe Van Wie  12:11  
things relieve it? Like the sports? Because you're very athletic? Yeah. Was there a connection to the

JJ  12:17  
that was the thing, it kind of made it worse. And I didn't realize it until later on. Like, I wasn't good at football, football was not not a sport that I was good at, because the anxiety of having to get the knowledge of like the plays and the act, because I didn't start playing football till later on in high school. It just realized, like, Hey, man, this gets really fast. Let's give him a chance on the football team. So the track coach asked me personally, if I would want to play football, and it was in the middle of the season, this never happens, right? So you know, I was just terrified. I'm like, There's no way if I go out there that I'm going to know everything. And the over it, like analyzing in the meantime. And, man, I just I couldn't get it, you know, and I would literally I was just like, kind of like the like the team clown. Like that guy that they they just put on the team because they thought he was going to be good. And then he turned out to be terrible. And then they gave up on him. So that was me for like the rest of the season. Yeah, absolutely.

Joe Van Wie  13:11  
I was kind of that kind of athlete. Kind of wrestler.

JJ  13:16  
It is. Yeah, it was it was it was terrible. It's terrible spot to be in because the athleticism was there. Yeah. But the willingness to, to, you know, be vulnerable and possibly not be good. was worse, you know, and that's where it gets to.

Joe Van Wie  13:30  
I can't act on that because I I loved sports and I was athletic, but I was uncoachable just wild Yeah. Well, when you're describing for me like say, you know, I was diagnosed I don't know when formally when I was a kid with attention deficit disorder and ADHD a DD but my mother You know, she she had a position that I wasn't going to be medicated. ADHD is one of the most common neurodevelopmental disorders childhood. It is usually first diagnosed in childhood, and often last into adulthood. Children with AD HD may have trouble paying attention. Controlling impulsive behaviors may act without thinking about what the result will be or be overly active. That's a brief description from the CDC. What this disorder is a nice quote here. Neuroscience has established that the human brain is not programmed by biological hereditary alone. And its circuits are shaped by what happens after the infant enters the world and even malt in the uterus. The emotional states of the parents and how they live their lives have a major impact on the formation of their children's brains. Though parents can often not know or control such subtle, unconscious influences. The good news is that major changes in the circuits of the brain can occur in the child, even in the adult if the conditions necessary for positive development are created. That's a quote from the book scattered minds by Gabor Ma Tei. MD, which is a great resource for families that are dealing with ADD, ad HD. And that quote is also taken from the ad HD minimalist, and it's a website for support and shared stories and resources for families and parents looking to discuss and look for means to support children with AD HD.

But as I come to understand that as I get older, and its relationship to what addiction and the emotional underpinnings of attention deficit, it's this this hyperactive amygdala of like I emotionally I feel unsafe. And I don't know how to center attention, because of the thoughts and like my cognitive processes I'm looking for. I'm paying attention everything is everything's like a threat and anxiety. It's it's one narrative that's descriptive of add that I relate to, I don't think it's limited. It's a little more complex to that. But looking back in hindsight, like when we get this chance, like you and I have had to reflect on on these things, where did these problems start? What what what needed alcohol meat for me? That's one of them.

JJ  16:42  
Absolutely. Yeah. And, you know, I also look back on my childhood, right, so my dad was abusive, but not to the point that most people think he discipline me, you know, and when he did, it was vicious, right. But like, some of the time I deserved a lot of that, right? I was not the best kid. I was actually like, I was a liar, I was always a big liar. You know, I tell when I work all the time, I tell them that I was a liar since I was born. And that's only because I remember clearly getting my Gameboy taken away from me almost every single day, and my brother always had it. Right. And I always wondered why I didn't have my Gameboy and my dad told me because used to lie about like the littlest smallest things that no normal kid would just lie about, you would lie about those things. And he was like, I just wanted to teach you that line was wrong. Sure, I take your Gameboy away. And he just said, I took it away, you know. And when it comes to the like, the you know, the abuse, the only thing that kind of scared me was like, the noise, the noise of it, right? So my dad was a big screamer. And when when he would get angry, he would he would scream and yell. And I think that kind of set off a you know, it's just a little taken me that, you know, life is not always okay. You know, there's a lot of times where like, you can be in danger. And the noise was what kind of set it off. So even still, to this day, it's it's not something like my father intended to happen. No. And he didn't mean for that to happen at all. And a lot of time, like I'm saying I did absolutely deserve it. You know, I was not being a well behaved kid. But the noise thing became a very vivid thing in my life. And you continued

Joe Van Wie  18:19  
like overstimulation like a blowout sound. I feel like just

JJ  18:23  
being like, if you think about like, the jumpy part of a horror movie, ya know, when it gets to like the jumpscare those those scenes still to this day, I'm like, Whoa, you know, I get more scared than the normal person. And it's only the noise. It's not the actual scene or me feeling actually feeling in danger. It's the it's like the tick that the noise sets off. That's interesting. Absolutely. It's

Joe Van Wie  18:45  
very interesting when I have, you know, anxiety rising up, especially in the last two years now that I feel like I'm more aware of it rising up before it's in. I'm in this mania, like, two days went by I'm just doing tasks, trying to stay busy. One of the early signs is is noise. And what I mean like I feel it in my stomach ever get that? Like it's a vibration? Absolutely. It's like your auditory visual in visual court. It's stuck to my stomach stuck. And it's like, Oh, I feel it there first, like I'm or I'm doing something wrong. And like a noise woke me up from my being lost in thought, right? Someone needs something for me. Am I not doing so? Exactly,

JJ  19:31  
exactly. And it's just something I've learned to just cope with. It's yeah, that I actually am in danger. It's not that like I need to go get high to relieve this feeling. It's simply that like, sometimes noises to set me off. Yeah. And come to terms with that. If it's gotten so much better. That's a

Joe Van Wie  19:47  
hyper observant thing. Most people some people don't get to experience that. Now that you know, we were bonded in recovery. I want to know these things. When Where does it start and you could pick it as early before like even say a resentment. Like feeling noise upset me more than usual means I've been maybe I'm spending too much time on my mind. I'm not living the life that's actually happening. For me that's a relationship to other people. Like I feel like I'm always wrong about like,

JJ  20:20  
yeah, so you know what I think it causes a cause like me to be hyper focused on my, my, myself, you know, it caused that selfishness to arise because now I'm worried about like, what's what's going on? Is there any mind danger? Is there anything like what's happening? Do I need to be like more aware? Do I need to like to, you know, train and do push ups, I don't get jumped in the middle of the street fighter flight by my dad out of nowhere.

Joe Van Wie  20:44  
I know we had a conversation about this before. How many times in my life new apartment New York, Jersey City here, downtown Scranton. I would fall asleep going through the numbers of tactically how I would defend versus the apartment, right. And to a point where it was completely successful if there was even three intruders, or hostels coming in. And as I fell asleep, I was like, I got it down. So I'm woken up out of a deep sleep, I know how to respond. This is my mind prepping myself to sleep

JJ  21:21  
prepping myself for my apparent like intruder attack. That's never happened to me my entire life. That's exactly what I do. And the crazy part, I think we talked about this. This happened to me when I bought my first house, you would think that would be the best sleep of your life. You know, you're in this big comfy house that you finally would have worked hard to achieve. And by it's like, the very golden night that every man dreams about. I couldn't sleep for a week. Yeah, we that's what we were talking about it I was getting better sleep in my one bedroom apartment that I was at that house for the first week

Joe Van Wie  21:52  
when I got a lot of windows here. So it took me a while to fall asleep here. I relapsed after I moved in here. I was like, there's so many windows, the windows made me relapse, there's too much to fortify. Exactly.

JJ  22:05  
It's crazy. It's absolutely crazy. You know, it should be the opposite. It should always be the opposite. But, you know, when where the drugs came into my life was when I was 16. Right? I was 16. You know, I was a very actually well, like well behaved, you know, middle aged adult at that time. And I was totally against drugs. Yeah, a lot of people don't know that. Like, I didn't know, I was against weed. I thought it was bad. And you know, and it only took one time. So I actually got high for the first time at a track meet. Right? Yeah, right after the race. You know, this guy just said, Hey, man, you know, you've been working hard, why don't want to just hit this hit this. I think you had like a little ball. Right? I hit it one time. And I swear to God, all of that anxiety and those those fearful feelings that I had, they just kind of went away. And life went from reality cup to kind of like a cartoon where it wasn't real. And I could have comfort in this moment that I wasn't so focused on my inner feelings on my anxiety and it just in my brain it connected that this is the perfect solution to what I've had going on in my head and in my body my entire life. Absolutely all that pain that I was holding in and not telling anybody about because I don't want to have anything I'm soft, you know, all that that I was holding it it just went away. And I clearly remember feeling so happy that like oh, man finally.

Joe Van Wie  23:25  
That is the clear condition. I mean, I think that's what's lost in translation of loved ones and family members that don't have addiction issues. That you relieving a condition that is excruciating while you're sober. But it's that was your first time using first time very first time. Wow. And it acted almost as a medication. It acted almost

JJ  23:46  
as a savior like almost like a Jesus moment where Jesus pops into your house in like the white vest and everything and it's glowing and you're like Wow, man, he is real exactly like that. And he's just telling you to take it easy telling you hey, man, I'm real everything's good track this. Yeah. Exact same feeling. So almost immediately after that, man. I mean, how quickly did I go from Oh, man weeds bad to this? Is this awesome? You know, like, this is everything I've ever dreamed up. It's not bad. I'm gonna and I continue smoking weed almost every single day after that.

Joe Van Wie  24:19  
And that was you. That was the first time you had a mood altering experience very

JJ  24:24  
first time and didn't drink very first thing I ever did was smoke weed. And you were in high school. I was in high school. Yep. It was actually my junior year. So I started another whole year of just smoking and my grades started falling. I started caring less and less about sports. I kind of gave up on my athletic career. I mean, I I had just so many injuries in my body. You know, at that point, I had a dislocated shoulder that I really never even got looked at by a doctor. I was too scared to go to their doctor and say hey, man, I'm hurt. You know? And I you know I luckily My Grades enough to get me into a nice, very nice college. I went to George Mason. Yeah, in Northern Virginia, studying criminology just because I thought it was cool. Is that something that like I really thought like, Hey, man, so I wanted to this the rest of my life digitally. I just watched CSI. Yeah, it was awesome. Like, oh, man, this stuff's cool. So yeah, that was a terrible decision. You know, you get to class and you're like, Hey, man, this is all about cops. I didn't really think I wanted to be on this side of it. You know, it's all about like, you know, following the law. And of course, like, I at that point, I'd already learned some stuff about the streets, you know? Yeah. And about drug dealing and stuff like that, that I knew that like, Man, I don't really like cops that much, you know. So I was already I was already going towards the dark side. And you know, what was happening in my brain in my in my body when I got to college was now I'm only okay when I'm using drugs, right? I'm only Okay, when I'm smoking weed. By this point, I'm starting to drink heavily. As a matter of fact, the last time that I drank in college, I destroyed my dorm room in a total blackout blackout, you know, and that was actually the first time I went to rehab. The last time I drank in college, I was in a talk complete blackout, I destroyed my dorm room holes in every single wall, just a total rage of acting. Yeah, because I lost my wallet. That was why I was so angry that I had to just destroy an entire dorm room. Right. And I remember feeling so sad and lost, that my life hadn't panned out the way I pictured it in my mind that I went to a mental health counselor on campus. And I sat down, it's a scene, this older lady, and I'm telling her how much I'm drinking, which at this point, it's every single day, I mean, every single day, for over three months. You know, it's a lot point. And I'm not telling my parents anything, I'm not not even telling my friends anything. You know, they just think he'll be alright. Yeah. And at that point, I was kind of a loner in college, you know, I was I was pretty much a loner, dude, I had like, maybe like two solid friends. A couple of people that I just talked with on the side. I didn't really talk to any class. It's

Joe Van Wie  27:00  
weird to imagine that the No, no one knew the last two years, you connect with everybody with him.

JJ  27:06  
Because if you think about the progression of the disease, I mean, the the progression of depression is almost exactly the same, right? So you think it's just going to go away, but if you don't do any work on it, it kind of gets worse. And I think by that point, like, I was very silent in college, I didn't really want to talk to anybody it was, it was too scary and too overwhelming. I just wanted to be high and drunk, you know, because I was more comfortable being like that. And I didn't even get like more talkative when I drank. I just kind of got like, the the pain went away. And I could at least stand myself for a little bit. Yeah. And it wasn't popular. Nothing like that. Man. I was just kind of a loner, you know. And that final moment where I finally destroyed my dorm room, you know, I've been in college three years now. I just can't take it anymore. I go there. And she goes, You know, I think you have a drinking problem. You know, and at first I'm like, Nah, No way, man. No way. It took her an hour of solid convincing of like, how much I'm drinking that I'm gonna go through a lot of pain, if I stop, you know, and she convinced me very well, because they put me in a wheelchair. And Lilly took me right to the hospital. You know, because in a wheelchair, right? So she she's asking me, do you want to kill yourself? And I'm like, yes, absolutely. Like I really do. And I'm thinking like, now she's not gonna like put me in a padded house. Well, not you can just tell people this. You can't if you say that you're going to first

Joe Van Wie  28:25  
experience first experience of mental health worker, social worker, very first experience, you're essentially screaming for help not knowing what consequence of talking.

JJ  28:35  
Yeah. And you would think that it would be so much easier to just talk to a friend about this stuff. Yeah, it's scarier to talk to someone you don't know. It's like a mental health professional. That seems

Joe Van Wie  28:45  
some sense of power. You don't know the extent of their power after

JJ  28:48  
I was so broken. It didn't even matter. I just I went straight to the I don't even know where it was never been there on campus. Nothing. I went right there. And I was I was broken man. I was, I was lost, you know, lost at that point. And so I you know, I stay out. They just put me through detox. They're like, Alright, man, you're just smoking weed. And everyone thinks it's a joke. Yeah, sure. And I'm starting to get this feeling that like, I don't have a problem because everyone's saying I'm just drinking and smoking weed while I'm in college. So it's not can't be that big of a problem. You know, kids do this. Yeah. And that was kind of the vibe. I got it at that detox and it's only a week you know, you're only in there for a week. You know, you hang I hang around the older crowd, there was only one guy there an older guy who was coming off painkillers, who was really telling me Listen, man, you don't want to go down this road. And I can tell that you're there. You know, he saw Yes, he was my roommate who was my roommate. I really praised him well now. But he's the only guy that like kind of pulled me aside to listen man like what you have going on? It's exactly what I had going on. Well, yeah.

Joe Van Wie  29:50  
And look at the the idea you smoke pot every day. And tolerance with pot it just it skyrockets is so much money and effort is trying to manage how much we'd have to smoke all day. Not Be sober. But then when that tolerance peaks, and I'm still uncomfortable, stoned, you have to step up your game.

JJ  30:16  
Either smoke as much weed as you possibly started drinking, if you have the money to which I didn't, yeah, or, you know, add something else to it, which turned out to be alcohol. Yeah, I thought it was the safest,

Joe Van Wie  30:28  
and most dangerous and so brutalizing. It's brutal.

JJ  30:31  
So, you know, after that, I reached out to mom and dad, I tell him what's up. I say, Listen, I'm in detox. You know, this is what's up. And you know, honestly, I don't think it scared them too much. I think they were just like, Oh, it's just good. Like, he's finally they're doing something good about his we think because my dad was so angry about me smoking weed. I mean, he kicked me out several times. From when I was 16. Until I was 21. He kicked me out multiple times screamed at me. We even got into a fight once, you know, over weed and I'm thinking like, this ain't no problem. But I think he's very much saw something that I didn't see. And I didn't find this out till later. But my dad actually his his brother was a heavy crackhead. You know, and just still to this day, smokes crack. So he knew the game. And yes, he saw the same exact traits happening in me that were happening in his brother. And looking back. It's like he knew exactly what was going on. You know, I just couldn't admit it, but he could see it. You know, nobody needs to smoke this much weed to just feel okay. Not even like high high but just okay. Yeah, you know, and that was like a you know, a moment in my life when me and my dad finally had that conversation that like yeah, this is this is me, you know, this is me I'm definitely an alcoholic you know,

Joe Van Wie  31:52  
and there was a connection was made a little relief was made it

JJ  31:55  
very much. That wasn't even I didn't even stay sober after that. I started to understand like, this is way more serious than I thought it was.

Joe Van Wie  32:03  
It's more complex than the the actual ingesting and the smoking

JJ  32:06  
and this is before the opiates even started do it. I mean, I didn't start opiates until you know after that, that period. I actually did stay sober for about a year after that. Yeah, until I started smoking weed again. But that year

Joe Van Wie  32:18  
was a feat was a fear to driving like was the fear showing back up like consequence, I can't smoke. I don't even

JJ  32:25  
think it was consequence. I think it was just pride and just like a false sense of motivation of how I'm going to prove to everybody that like I'm not this person from George Mason, you stopped me from from GMU from from rehab from high school, everybody that kind of gave up on me. I'm gonna prove them wrong.

Joe Van Wie  32:44  
Don't do do any of that. And that year with support, like 00 Wow, that's tough.

JJ  32:50  
You know what I did? I worked Yeah, I worked as many hours as I've ever worked in my entire life. I just worked and believe it or not, that's the That in itself is a release. Yeah, it is. What do you think about it work working? You know, you don't get to think about how you work. And

Joe Van Wie  33:05  
if you lose your family

JJ  33:08  
is brutal. You don't realize it until your first day off. And you're like, Wow, man, I feel terrible. Yeah. Like, why do I feel so

Unknown Speaker  33:14  
bad? We have what's left of my life?

JJ  33:17  
Yeah. Is this it? Is this. The rest of my life is going to be like life of tasks? Yeah. So I was Alex. I was I was a security guard. Security guard at a at a hospital. Alright. And then I transferred from my hospital. They actually gave me a promotion to Alberta University. Yeah. Right. Which is, it's a nice place. But at this point, you're what's called a public safety officer. Right? And you can't smoke weed. You can't do any drugs. At that point. I wasn't, you know, I was very, I was motivated and make something on my way to edge you know, and what happened was my girlfriend at the time I found out she was cheating on me, right? So life will always throw just a boomerang at you, right? And when I found out that this girl was cheating on me, I've never like, curled up into a ball like I did then. And literally went right to the weed and right to the alcohol. Yeah. And I remember there was one day, I was so stuck in my feelings that I was on my front porch, and my dad comes home from work. And I have a bottle of Jack whiskey, and I'm just crying my eyes out, man. And he's looking at me like, What the hell is wrong with you, dude, like, you're like 21 years old. And I couldn't even hide it. I was so sure he just couldn't even hide it. And if anybody's dressed man, everybody knows the feeling of that first breakup. Like that was like we've been together since like, we were about 16 You know? Yeah. So I found out the hard way. I went to the doctor and got like an STD test and like tested positive for chlamydia. And that was, Oh, my there's no worse way to find out. You're being cheated on than that. You know, so it wasn't just like, oh, it's one guy. You know, it was multiple men. It was just straight up the worst way you could find out just crushing

Joe Van Wie  34:56  
cheating. It's crushing. Yeah. And now you find it out. From silver, no support, no one to call nobody. No meeting to go. You don't even it's not even in your wheelhouse. So to work. Yeah, that's paid. That's going to kindergarten again. Now as an adult with gasa social media, you're getting ripped off that leg again to go to school. Yep.

JJ  35:20  
i She was on my resentment list for a long, long time. But we eventually reconnected, I was able to make a nice slight amends, you know, yeah. But definitely can't repair all the damage that I caused. And that's the that's the part that I look

Joe Van Wie  35:32  
at. Well, it's a living amends that we've Yeah,

JJ  35:35  
you know, it's it's not just saying you're different, but being different. Yeah, you know, on a day to day basis, not just, you know, not just doing something different for one day, but consistently.

Joe Van Wie  35:45  
So, you're, you're back drinking at this point. Doesn't progress,

JJ  35:51  
like it progress so quickly. It was, it was amazing. So I went from Weed, to alcohol to Adderall, right? I literally just went to my psychiatrist, and I said, Listen, man, I think there's something wrong with me, right. And I knew exactly what I wanted. But I didn't tell him what I wanted. And I literally just lied to him about everything that was going on in my head to because I researched on Google everything that an ADHD positive person would have. And I just played the game, I picked up a little pillow, threw it around, moved it around, like I, you know, had like a problem focusing. And eventually you got to the ADHD part. And he said, you know, do you have any problems focusing in a GE deal? funny you asked one of you asked that question, because I 100% Do I can't even focus it. I don't even know what you're saying. And he's like, Have you always had this problem? And I'm like, Yes, ever since I can remember. And he's like, did you get good grades in school? And I did. And I got no, no, no, I got about CS, you know, and so I walked out of there with a prescription Adderall. Yeah. And literally go home. I'm not even swallowing them. I just go right to the snorting phase. Yeah, no swallowing, right?

Joe Van Wie  37:03  
You got tissues ready? Dude, I

JJ  37:05  
never even snorted a pill in my entire life. That was the new snort didn't even look it up how to do it. I just didn't care. I know so much pain. The quickest I didn't get this in my body. This seems like the most logical because I've seen it on TV show. I'm doing this. So I went right to that. And

Joe Van Wie  37:21  
orange and blue nostrils.

JJ  37:23  
Bernie I'm at work I've been up three days straight on Adderall. You know I'm drinking every single day while I'm smoking weed knowing that I can get drug tested at any moment. Yeah, you know, I lost hope in humanity

Joe Van Wie  37:37  
with with the anxiety drinking. Did you Did you experience any of this like your mind almost flirting with psychosis? It's like a feels like a mania and engine that can't stop. Yeah. To not take away the sleep now. What Adderall might have felt organizing at first but not sleeping. It gets scary.

JJ  37:56  
It's It's terrifying. Yeah. If anyone that's ever been up multiple days, yeah, it's even a week. At some point. You just you don't even feel like a human being anymore. Like I'm being haunted. I can't describe to you what it looks like or wanting to sleeping. You can't I want to I want to be up. Yeah, I want to be out dread. I want to be up at high. You know, and that's that's the terrifying part one, you know, after that, as as luck will have it. I got surgery on my shoulder that I that I messed up playing, you know, a little football in high school. And what did they give you after that? It gave me a painkiller. Right? And I clearly remember, I'm not even as soon as I got the script, I look at it. I go, I'm taking all of these. I'm not taking one already. No, I've heard about these. I'm not taking one pill. I took five that very night, you know, in your shoulder was better shoulder was great, but my mind even better. You know? And that's that's the messed up part. Now. I've found the exact thing that like, I feel like I should be like this all the time. You know, I thought I thought really was the epitome of it. And I thought alcohol was the epitome of Adderall. Was it any opiates trumped it all of Yeah, you know, it's I last right onto it.

Joe Van Wie  39:07  
I might be not describing it well, but Terence McKenna has like that drug triangle, the 60s 60s in an endless hierarchy of drugs, you got marijuana and alcohol is like an adolescent kind of feel the liberation your mind it's healing an adolescent mind. And psychedelics are this higher one of a drug idea, but opioids bring you back emotionally to infancy. Exactly. To the ones I want, you're protected and you're safe. At is a powerful euphoria, we're

JJ  39:46  
it's so powerful, even came and put it into words. The the feeling that you get from something like that is human beings should not ever feel that amount of happiness in that short amount of time without putting any work to feel that Am I no penis? No, because

Joe Van Wie  40:01  
there's gonna be a down if you get that on a curve. There's that's a scale. Yeah, it to get that high, you're gonna have that much of a low. It's so

JJ  40:08  
unnatural. Yeah. And it's a false sense of hope. You know, it's really a man. It's what it is, you know, you feel happy, and you think you're going to be fine after the after your high, but then when you start coming down, you're like, Oh, I know, I need to feel that way. Again. You can't leave. There's no leaving. He's nowhere in there. You know? And I look at why, like we have this this opioid problem. Yeah. And it makes total sense to me.

Joe Van Wie  40:31  
Yeah, it's, it's fulfilling a need. It's a cultural problem. We have a pretty bankrupt socially, society in the sense that it's worth risking my life to feel different than the water I'm experiencing from reality.

JJ  40:47  
Yeah, I don't have the balls to kill myself, right? I never had enough courage to do that. I hate myself at the same time, right? So I don't I can't kill myself. You know, I don't want to be alive. But at the same time, now I have this thing that allows me to tolerate

Joe Van Wie  41:01  
right being in between feel good until you get dispatch. So

JJ  41:05  
when people say they don't understand why someone would do an opioid, if you can picture that, that

Joe Van Wie  41:11  
failed, picture all your pain and now going away, it goes away from doing something. Yeah. Well, that's what's happening. That's exactly

JJ  41:18  
what's happening. So if you don't have you don't have enough courage to you know, do the deal then like that's

Joe Van Wie  41:24  
and people don't understand an addict and an alcoholic brain can't resolve pain, emotional pain, trauma. And, like myself, I didn't even know that, like, I was creating new problems, but it was because I couldn't I never got over my old problems. Emotionally. Exactly. I'm repeating this shit all the time. Yeah. JJ, that's it's a terrifying well to be into, you're sitting in the darkest well, and you're feeling good about it until you start to sober up. Sure. You're in a ditch.

JJ  41:55  
It's it's horrible, you know, and so quickly, I mean, I've probably lasted a year just doing painkillers until I go right to heroin, you know? Yeah. And I always, always tell anybody that doesn't can't can't really picture why someone will want to do heroin. It's like, if you're smart, that's what you're doing. Because it's way cheaper. You know, and that's what's happening. Like, you think you have like, like, this kid's never gonna do anything like that. I never pictured myself doing anything close to that, you know. And I'm the youngest of four. You know, my mom always thought I was the good kid, you know, he's the good one. Like, he's, he's studious. And he's doing what he's supposed to do and all that, but, you know, it can be any of us. It can be anybody. Yeah,

Joe Van Wie  42:39  
why everyone? Anyone who has pain? Exactly. Yeah.

JJ  42:41  
Anyone that has pain is just not able to deal with it. You know, you do some heroin, and all of a sudden, you feel like everything's okay. But it's really not. It's really not okay, it's so far from okay. You can't even picture the amount of pain that you're gonna feel. After that wears off. You know,

Joe Van Wie  42:59  
when you started using heroin, when was it stressful to maintain a high that that much and to have resources to keep doing it? What what are those windows of withdrawal? Like, why aren't they enough for a person like yourself, or my withdrawals from narcotics, the memory of that pain disappears, the pain that the drug is actually causing not a pass that's gone, like I have to get through today, you really are living in the moment I've always experienced that with with drugs.

JJ  43:34  
So it's almost like if you've ever had like a near death experience, right, where you're about to die, picture feeling like that when you're when you're going through withdrawal. So you don't want to you don't want to see anything, right? You don't want to disappoint the people that love you. You don't want to lose your job, but at the same time someone has a gun to your head, and they're gonna pull the trigger. So are you going to think about all those messed up things that you've done? Are you going to think about that guy with that gun at your head? Yeah, just takes exactly what opiates are doing to you. They're holding the gun right to your head. And as much as you want to be a good person. It just It flies right out the window and you convince yourself every time that this is going to be the last time I'm just going to do this, I'm going to do any kind of dirty stuff that I need to do to get this done. That I'm going to get cleaned up and I'm going to repair all the stuff that I did. So you kind of put it on the backburner

Joe Van Wie  44:25  
and it could justify going a little further. I gotta I'm gonna have to take this or do this to get this done. Yeah, tomorrow I'll have to settle up with the world. I'm going

JJ  44:35  
tomorrow I'll own up but tonight man I got to do you know and so I used heroin first when I was 22. And I use that until I was 27 on and off on and off and on and off. You know and it's the the pool the pool of it once you got clean and sober. The pool of that feeling again, was what kept bringing me back. You know that that escape that complete escape As from my feelings in how my life has turned out and now I got more dirt known because I, you know, I was stealing I was I was stealing from my parents was pointing any possible thing that was within reach. And then I started stealing from stores, right? And the guilt and the shame of just doing that combined with the feelings that are already hate myself. Just multiply it and there's absolutely it feels like there's no way out, you know, and it's hard. It's hard to picture that. You know, when everything's alright, in your life, it's hard to picture that going through somebody else's brain like why would why would they ever feel that way?

Joe Van Wie  45:36  
I know that nightmare in the five years of just flying by in and out problem not getting solved. I have to feel good today. Even if I'm gonna get sober. I used to have a whoopee kind of a day before I go to treatment I'm getting I'm gonna get really jacked up. I'm gonna get rich. And then this is it. Yeah. Like, like, like there's an unpicking to the event how the events going to happen. What was your first introduction where you saw recovery, either via treatment? Or someone in recovery where you thought that can't like, it was appealing, but like, a curiosity was set off? Is that person really this comfortable? Then they're telling me they were an addict?

JJ  46:21  
Yeah. So I think, you know, I got sober for a year, once. I think this was in about 2017. I got sober for a year. And I did that by just staying in treatment. You know, I was I was in ILP type setting in a sober house for about a year. And I experienced like some some real progress, man, I got a sponsor. He was much older than me, was nowhere even close to like my type of dude. Yeah, but the things that he was saying just started to make so much sense to me. And I grasp on to some of them, not all of them. Yeah, but some of them. And it gave me some hope that like, you know, I could be I could feel okay, in my own skin. And I remember doing some some step work. But looking back now, I wasn't honest, I wasn't honest enough. While doing my four step, yeah, I didn't take it as seriously as I was supposed to, I was still lying. And I had one foot in recovery, but one foot out. And, you know, recovery is a very much all in thing manually. They're all in wellness, or you're out, absolutely, there's no in between, you can't like do some dirt on the side and, and you know, ruin people's life on the side, but still be able to stay sober. It's just not possible to fall back asleep, you know, and the higher power thing I didn't grasp onto that. I just said it, and then continue to step three, you know, so looking back, I didn't do that. And and of course, if you don't do that, and you get to step three, you're not going to be able to do step three, yeah, you know, I haven't even accepted that there's a higher power out there. How am I going to now allow that to control my life?

Joe Van Wie  47:49  
Yeah, you know, be it a God, an ideal right group of

JJ  47:54  
so so looking back, like I, I stayed sober for a year, but within a year, I made so many mistakes, you know, and I think it was just a matter of me, not being all all in on the matter, like I wanted to my life to be better, but I didn't want to do all of the work in order for it to be better. Yeah, you know, I just thought I could still, you know, have some of my old behaviors and do some of my old actions, you know, mess around with some women here or there, and, you know, still steal a little bit. And, you know, there's not a higher power out there that I believe in. That's like watching me and I'm not living by that. I'm going to meetings, and I'm saying that I'm doing the right thing, but I'm not actually doing the right thing. When I leave. I really got caught up in that. You know,

Joe Van Wie  48:39  
would there be times you were aware of it? Or was we around other people that were doing as well, because it's easier for it to happen if you have a group like we could shake this off? It's meaning time and then, you know,

JJ  48:50  
honestly, it was just me. It was it was honestly, just your back to me. Yeah, it was honestly, just me, I was very kind of independent in that sober house. But there was a lot of good guys in there that were doing the right things, and I would go with them. But there were times where I would just I was when I was by myself. I was doing things that I was not supposed to do. Yeah. You know, and Pennsylvania. Yeah, yeah, this was this was in Philadelphia, you know, I was in Philadelphia for an entire year. My mom was so happy that like, fine. I'm doing things differently. But she doesn't know to that extent. Like I'm doing things differently, but not all the way differently. You know, like, I'm doing a lot of things differently, but not all of them. You know, I'm still the same guy deep down inside, but like I'm gonna I'm pitching it like I'm different. Yeah, you know, and I used to share meetings, you know, cheer on Sure. And I'd say all this good stuff. But half of it was lies, you know, you could share Yeah, spin the truth, you know, and it's then you get your you leave after the meeting, you know, it's not true. Yeah. And you go back to just living in yourself. It's the worst feeling of not only just lying, but like living in the skin of a liar. Now again, you know, now I'm back to this Then and somebody's eventually going to find out. I kept I knew in my head that this game was eventually going to be up, right? But I didn't want to admit it to anybody. You know, so my sponsor dropped me. Eventually I stopped, I got a I got a good job down in downtown Jersey, and I stopped showing up, you know, to meet with him. And everyone was every sponsor that you that anyone's ever had will tell him that this will happen, you know, but you don't believe them? You know, you don't believe that they'll actually you know, push the button. This guy didn't play push the button and as he should, and as he should.

Joe Van Wie  50:33  
In the long term, I guess it it's to some benefit. How do you wrap it in a full story? You're sober and you're clear minded and your guy I call our we call or tell at work? I got a problem. Yeah. So yeah, it's it's, it's weird how though 12 Step people they leave a stain on you. They do when they care, or they're just not going to share your fantasy wait.

JJ  50:57  
Yeah, it's, I think he could he eventually started to see it. He saw you can see it, you can hear it. And most of all, when you when someone stops showing up, there's a reason for that. Yeah, there's there's very much a reason for that. And when I started canceling us meeting one on one, I wasn't supposed to be the most important thing.

Joe Van Wie  51:18  
I've done it because I was drunk on my I can't go back up there and I can meet this guy.

JJ  51:23  
You know, and I really tried to I like buy kratom and I know people think this is

Joe Van Wie  51:31  
crazy. Kratom what is greater? Well, one of the top hits on a Google search was the Drug Enforcement Administration. They had a drug factsheet on kratom, which I found curious because Kratom is legal in most states to my understanding and is not a controlled substance. But some states might have some prohibitions so let's see what the DEA is. factsheet says about kratom what is kratom Kratom is a tropical tree native to Southeast Asia. Consumption of its leaves produces both stimulant effects and low doses, and sedative effects in high doses, and can lead to psychotic symptoms, and psychological and physiological dependence. Kratom leaves contain two major psychoactive ingredients, which I'm not going to try to pronounce. These leaves are crushed and then smoked, brewed with tea or placed into gel capsules. Kratom has a long history of use in South East Asia, where it is commonly known as thing to calm Tom Tatum and by UK. In the US the abuse of kratom has increased markedly and recent years. How is it abused most abused by oral ingestion in the form of a tablet, capsule, or extract kratom leaves may also be dried or powdered and ingested as a tea or the kratom leaf may be chewed. What are the effects at low doses kratom produces stimulant effects with users reporting increased alertness physical energy talkativeness. At high doses, users experience sedative effects kratom consumption can lead to addiction. This says several cases of psychosis resulting from the use of kratom have been reported. Were individuals addicted to kratom exhibited psychotic symptoms including hallucinations, delusions, and confusion. What does it do to the body craniums effects on the body include nausea, itching, sweating, dry mouth, constipation, increased urination, vomiting, drowsiness and loss of appetite. Users of kratom have also experienced anorexia, weight loss, insomnia, seizure and hallucinations. What is the legal status Kratom is not controlled under the Controlled Substances Act. However, there may be some state regulations and or prohibitions against the possession and use of kratom. The FDA has not approved kratom for any medical use. In addition, DEA has listed kratom as a drug and chemical of concern. was interested now because Kratom is offered at give fueling stations besides any other obscene thing you could buy on the counter. But that being said, I've I'm interested in where the future of this countertop drug is going. And some of the arguments that it's been used for harm reduction, and this fentanyl opioid crisis that we're having where people are risking their lives. By buying the drug of their choice from the street, when now a gas station could cut into that market and sell you a bag of kratom. There's a lot to unpack there. But I wanted to know what kratom was

JJ  55:19  
crazy, but I just get loaded off kratom because

Joe Van Wie  55:22  
yeah, it's almost a harm reduction.

JJ  55:24  
I don't want to go all the way in. But

Joe Van Wie  55:27  
there's a weird truth in between that it's not sobriety, but it could be saving people's lives until they know how to give absolutely an idea

JJ  55:34  
of sober I don't I never disagree, like the weed thing. I never disagree that if that's what you need to do, then you can do that. I just know me personally. Does not work for me. Yeah. Which is fine. It just took a while for me to accept that, you know, yeah,

Joe Van Wie  55:48  
it's Russian roulette.

JJ  55:50  
Yeah, it was it sets something off in me, you know, where I go back to the heavy stuff. Yeah, you know, and once you once you've gone through that, and you can accept that, like, hey, that didn't

Joe Van Wie  55:59  
bring changes once your attorney abbreviate it all. It's like, I started smoking weed after 14 years of sobriety. And it helped tremendously. The same exact thing he said, but the tolerance ran up. And I'm like, what is so different about the feeling weed produces versus Jameson? And then how well I have to do cocaine because I like drinking for hours and hours. How am I gonna stay on my feet?

JJ  56:26  
Yeah, it's just it's, I would use anything. So madness. At the end of at the end of my, I'll say my addiction. You know, I was homeless. I was homeless, completely homeless. I got kicked out of the Salvation Army for getting high on fentanyl, just pure fentanyl. And that was really my last hope. Like I did really well in a 30 day treatment center. And what I really thought I needed, which was just not a smart idea was that I needed specifically Jesus. Yeah. Because I had been brought up and, you know, we went to church, not often, but we went, Yeah. And, you know, I had a couple of friends growing up that were like, you know, went to church also. And they used to tell me, Hey, man, you know, teach you about the Bible and everything. And I just convinced myself that that would be my savior. Yeah. So I went there. And it turns out that wasn't, you know, I was totally miserable. You know, the programming itself is just a lot of work. You know, it is

Joe Van Wie  57:18  
distinct. And it's, it can be the last exit for a lot of it

JJ  57:23  
can help. They help a bunch of people. Yeah, you know, but with a guy that's struggling so heavily with with the guy thing, like I was, it was not the most I do have

Joe Van Wie  57:32  
a keen intellect. And there's no room for intellectuality cynicism or playfulness.

JJ  57:39  
Looking back, it was just a horrible, horrible,

Joe Van Wie  57:42  
but getting kicked out. It had to be kind of devastating. Like, where do you go?

JJ  57:46  
So I actually there was a couple of people that got kicked out with me and when your team not even that, I mean, one of the guys was newer, there was there's another guy didn't really hang out too much with all three of us. We're just we had nowhere to go. You know, the other one was fresh out of jail, and other ones parents weren't gonna let him back. So that was just us, man, I ended up into Makwa you know, horrible setup. You know, and there's, there's wasn't too much heroin out there. But there was meth, you know, so I always told myself, I never do that. Or I wouldn't even like that. Well, it turns out, I will do that. And I liked it, you know. So, by the end, man, you know, I was I was out on the streets, it's cold, I'm miserable. I'm still lying to my parents at this point. And, you know, the thing that really saved me and it shouldn't be like this at all, but, you know, I did one one hot bag. And for anyone who doesn't know, understand what a hot bag is, it's when we when drug dealers make this stuff. They a lot of times, they don't care how they measure it, or they do it on purpose. And they'll put just a huge dose of fentanyl on one single bag. Right? And it's either by accident, or it's on purpose. Because you know, people like that, believe it or not, it's like advertisement, man, when they know that you have some really good shit. They will come back. Yeah, really messed up. But that's exactly what happens. You know. So I just so happened to get that one overdosed. I was I was almost legally dead. You know, they knock me five times. They shocked me, you know, and literally, when I woke up, the doctor was I feel like the eye his eyes almost popped out of his head. He was just amazed that I was breathing somehow. Yeah, you know, and I think, you know, I say this a lot when I when I go out and I shared meanings. You know, the, for the first time this this doctor asked me, you know, what do you want to call and I really don't have anybody to call and I usually just go to my mom, right? But I didn't want her to know that this happened. I really didn't know before. I didn't care. I just wanted a place to go and, you know, to be able to still get high but for the first time I realized that if I told my mom exactly what happened and where I am and really what's going on. I mean she would just be devastated.

Joe Van Wie  1:00:01  
So what you did was basically a consideration, it's a change, it's not an impulse. Yeah, this

JJ  1:00:06  
this was this was a defining moment, it's like, you're either going to keep doing what you're doing, or this is the next time you do this, you're dead. You know, there's no, there's no games being played here. This is not just you haven't fun anymore, you've been homeless, you've gotten kicked out of multiple streaming centers at this point, that was what that was my ninth treatment center to the Salvation Army night, you know, and it's just me playing this game of, I'm gonna go get some help, but I'm not gonna go all the way in, you know, I'm gonna say that I'm doing good, even when they even though I'm not actually acting like I'm doing good. And I'm not my actions aren't lining up that way. And for the first time, I'm realizing that like, my actions are gonna really, really, really hurt my parents, you know, and specifically, my mother, you know, we talked about, you know, early on, when I'm attached to her leg, like, it's still like that, you know, my mom still has a lot of faith in me. And she used to be the only the us it was really the only one that would defend me to my family, you know, and probably out of just love and ignorance. But she wasn't letting me go, man, she just was not, you know, and it came to a realization that like, I was going to break her heart, he was either going to be at a funeral, or eventually she was going to hear the truth. And hopefully, by that time, I'd be doing some different things that were actually good. You know, so it was a choice, man. I just picked up the phone, I made a call to that treatment center out here. And this is where I ended up, you know, and I had a very magical conversation with the guy that picked me up, he's telling me, you know, he's asking me questions about what I know about a year now and what I know about the big book, and what do I know, and a in the spirituality thing, and I'm thinking I'm schooling him, you know, I'm thinking I'm telling him all the right answers, you know, because I've been in treatment before I've gone to meetings, I know this deal. And man, he absolutely schooled me. He's like, you're overcomplicating? Everything. That's not what it says, you haven't been doing it, right. And if you look back on, like, why you haven't been sober? It's because you're not doing any of this correctly. You know, like, not even close, you know? And I'm thinking like, now, man, like, I really haven't tried, I haven't given us a fair shot at all. You know, I never even like, like putting, like a serious effort looking back.

Joe Van Wie  1:02:15  
And that's, that's a year you spent in a 12 step community. And you realize that there's a disconnect here. I don't know what I'm doing. Wow,

JJ  1:02:23  
it's good

Joe Van Wie  1:02:23  
to hear, because some people believe they already did tried it. Yeah, they might have totally missed the board. You think you

JJ  1:02:30  
tried it? But you know, what I learned? No, what I know now is that the program has never failed anybody you know, it's never, it's never failed a single human being, I think human beings just tend to fail the program. You know, if you do it the way it's written. And you you find that spiritual awakening, you know, change will happen, whether you want it to or not, it'll happen, you know, it's just a matter of making sure that like, your side of the street is clean. The way that you treat human beings is like the right way. And that you're not just like saying that you're doing good, like you're actually doing those things, and not not showing it off. You know, that was another thing I did, I would do good. And then I'd have to tell you that I'm doing good. I'm a master and I only do it one time, you know, I would just do one good thing and then blast off all these good things I did at a meeting and only one on one was real.

Joe Van Wie  1:03:19  
Let's celebrate my good things. Yeah.

JJ  1:03:21  
And it goes back to like, what's really going on here, man, what's what's really wrong with me? And it's, it's the end of the day. I'm a very selfish human being, you know, and I tried to tell people, it doesn't mean that you're a bad person. Oh, it does. It doesn't mean that Oh, I think when you're Yeah, when people hear that you're like, does that mean I'm just a terrible human being? It's no, no, no, you're not, you're not you're just, you're very so focused, hyper focused on yourself, right, that you forget that like, the way you treat human beings and other people and the way that you live your life has to be more of a caring, you know, understanding, you know, heart to heart kind of way, instead of like this, you know, I'm only going to focus on me my money in the way I feel, right? Because if I don't feel good, I'm not I never helped anybody. Never, not a single time. I can't even think of one. If I wasn't high or feeling good. I would never offer my help to a single person. You know, and I didn't realize that until this time, which is amazing at you know, 27 years old.

Joe Van Wie  1:04:22  
JJ, do you know the prayer of St. Francis? I'm asking because of what you just said. No, I don't I don't I have a matt Talbot retreat book here. Now you know, I came back we've gotten to know each other cynic atheist. Yep. I mean, just brittle like I relate to bill I would bristle with antagonism what I'd hear people talking about I was brutal. They're invisible friend

Unknown Speaker  1:04:50  
that got them a job like well, he killed half of another continent the afternoon to he got you a job all right. Yeah.

JJ  1:04:56  
I was brutal. I would argue with you till the

Joe Van Wie  1:04:58  
end of the world but I I grew up Catholic. And, you know, I took another look at this, this prayer, and I didn't have a prayer to say I felt uncomfortable praying, it feels like I'm whistling in the dark meditation I'm attracted to but part of my third step of what you just said, I wasn't deeply considering others I thought I was and I was dying because of the lack of connection I I deserve to give people I loved and I wasn't Yeah. And I said this prayer every morning I didn't believe it not to Jesus or God, I just saying it on ritual because I'm broken. I'm trying anything and I don't want to be uniquely different than the people in Scranton I know that are sober. How am I gonna do something different? So when I read this, I'm like, It's everything I want to happen in my personality was where there's hatred, let me sow love, where there is injury, pardon doubt, I want to bring faith, I wasn't doing that. I find the worst piece of news of the day, and then text it to people's focus on that you should be scared, I hope you're not having a good day, you should be scared. It used to

JJ  1:06:03  
be just as bad as mine.

Joe Van Wie  1:06:05  
Where there's despair, hope, but there was another line to be to understand instead of being understood, and I felt so alone, because do people understand me? And I'm alone, because I'm not telling other people, I understand you. And such a simple thing took me 40 years to realize I kept missing that mark. That's amazing.

JJ  1:06:28  
It's it's absolutely amazing, man. That's exactly my experience, ya know, these things that I that I thought I was doing and understanding I had no concept of non lean on, you know, and when it comes to the higher power thing, you know, I had so much so much problem and, you know, argument with this religion thing. The easiest way for me to describe it now is like, I can't pretend like I'm so intelligent, or smart that I know what's out there. Sure. No, I it does. It's not a matter of that. It's just a matter of knowing that there is something out there, you know, are also I wouldn't be alive, you know, others. It's other guy. He's telling me the proofs in the pudding man, you're alive. And I'm like, You're right. You know, even the doctor was completely shocked and just appalled that I was alive. You know? So, for me to sit back and think that like, oh, that's just a coincidence is crazy. You know, it's absolutely nuts. We never pretend like that's even possible, you know, doesn't happen every day.

Joe Van Wie  1:07:25  
So you get sober this time around, you go to back to that treatment center.

JJ  1:07:29  
I can sober I'm working at a Verizon store, you know, selling cell phones, which is not the most rewarding job or highest paying job. But, you know, I was actually genuinely happy for once in my life. And that was because I actually had people that knew who I really was. Yeah, you know, I didn't have to put on a show. It was an INTJ. JS. No, no, no, they knew I was a scared kid. You know, they just knew I was I was terrified man. And I had no problem this time saying that, you know, there was no show, there was no show going on. You made some real friends made some real friends actually helped people when I was tired, exhausted, you know, pop up at their crib with a bunch of other people from AAA and say, Hey, man, we're here to help. You know, we know you're going through a lot. You know, please don't drink. And that happened multiple times. You know, and started giving back even though you know, I felt like it wasn't necessary in my brain. I like to, you know, say, oh, he'll be fine, you know, but it really will. He will take care of it. You know? Yeah. Well, what about that guy that helped you when you were dying? Yeah, that's

Joe Van Wie  1:08:29  
why I came to tell me how I'm supposed to be helping myself. Yeah, exactly.

JJ  1:08:33  
You know, and in doing some some real heavy, heavy step work. Yeah. I mean, I had multiple sponsors, you know, because, believe it or not, like, sometimes stuff happens in people's lives. They don't have time to sponsor, you know, they don't it happened to me multiple times, where something serious what happened in their life? And what do I do? I quit, I stopped doing this, you know, is there something wrong with me? Now, man, I just I kept going, I got a new sponsor, you know, I reached out to a new guy, heard him speak, got a new sponsor, and then that didn't work out, you know, and eventually, I had the sponsor that I have now, you know, and what do you do you restart the step, what's gonna do here started again, you know, and if you want this, you have to put in all of your all your focus has to be on that, you know, so, whether or not I was selling a lot of cell phones didn't matter to me, you know, it just mattered that like after work, I was going to that meeting or meeting up with my sponsor and putting in the work towards that because I knew I just knew this time that that was the most important thing.

Joe Van Wie  1:09:30  
And at this time, your your this becoming routine, living a life of service, it's not like I'm seeking that out to feel good. It's a duty. Yeah, it's a sense of duty,

JJ  1:09:41  
and it becomes who you are. Yeah, there's no escaping it. I mean, when everyone does the same thing, you become that guy and you always like, Oh, I'll never be that corny guy. You wake up and you were saved. Yeah, I'm never gonna be that corny guys sitting up there drinking, you know, shitty coffee. I'm not gonna be that guy until you're that guy.

Joe Van Wie  1:09:57  
I said, Yeah, I've been saying it my whole life and I still sitting in a fucking basement coffee

JJ  1:10:03  
and you're like, and you're like, Hey, man, this ain't too bad. You know, do

Joe Van Wie  1:10:06  
I want to be with the squares? Yeah, they're lobbing missiles at each other. I'm sitting in a basement wrapping weirdos. My crowd,

JJ  1:10:12  
I always tell people, man, it's the only place on Earth where it doesn't matter where you came from, what you look like, you know, how much money you have. Nobody cares about nobody even asked you know, I was sure meetings and people don't ask me what I do away. And he that's usually what people ask you, what do you what do you do for a living? They don't care about that. They just want to know, like, what's going on in your life? And you know, are you struggling with this? Is someone gonna help you with what's get this off your chest, man, you know, so I never I've never experienced that in my life. And finally, you know, we talked about that, you know, I talked about all that stuff early on, where I just didn't feel like I could fit in anywhere. And just so happens that like, A is the perfect place for a guy like me, you know, I got it feels like he's kind of stuck in the middle and you know, doesn't love himself and is hurt and struggling in in constant pain that he causes himself. You know, guys like me, and you. It's a perfect spot for us, man. Well,

Joe Van Wie  1:11:01  
how did you leave the Verizon store? Where did you come to? treatment from there? Was that the next job you took?

JJ  1:11:09  
So yeah, yeah. So COVID hit, right. Yeah, we hit and, you know, my, my job completely shut down. The store shuts down. And, you know, I

Joe Van Wie  1:11:18  
work COVID TechSmith. Yeah.

JJ  1:11:22  
The crazy part was, I didn't even apply for this job, dude. Mike, my counselor, gave my name to someone that worked there. And then that person called me and said, Hey, man, this dude's doing good. Like, you know, he's he's really trying and I can confirm that he is sober. Yeah. And that's the only requirement to work in a treatment center. Yeah. Are you sober? And and when we say sober, we're like, we mean, not just like bringing numbers we mean that, like you're doing a consistent action and work on yourself. Are you sober? And this guy totally just went to bat for me, you know? And now I'm attack at a rehab, you know? Yeah. And it's the same rehab. I got sober. So I know the ins and outs, you know, I know exactly how it works. I don't need to like there's no heavy training session. It's just wrong. I'm right in there, man. I'm talking to these guys. I'm telling them that I went through here. And literally nobody there can bullshit you. They try but you can't when you've been through it. And you get out of there and you go back and and you know, you see the same behaviors and actions that you displayed early on when you were in treatment. Right then and there. You can say, Hey, man, I did that exact thing didn't work for mation act. It didn't work. You know, I tried that. Did

Joe Van Wie  1:12:26  
it fit right away?

JJ  1:12:27  
It was it was like a glove. You know, it was really like a glove. I mean, you really hate working in a treatment center. You have to care because I'll tell you what, man that you

Joe Van Wie  1:12:36  
know, if you don't you checked out but listen to someone you

JJ  1:12:39  
you really, you can't fake it. If you're faking your sobriety, your recovery, they're gonna spot it in a set. Yeah,

Joe Van Wie  1:12:46  
they do. You know, they won't even know it. It's, it's intuitive.

JJ  1:12:50  
Exactly. And guys like us are just masterminds of lying.

Joe Van Wie  1:12:53  
If I had a rough day during the pandemic, and I just started up there. There'd be times I'm someone's talking to me. Yeah. And I could tell them thinking about after work, and they see

Unknown Speaker  1:13:03  
it. They come up with the pandemic. I

Joe Van Wie  1:13:06  
gotta be here. When I'm here. I'm here.

JJ  1:13:08  
I mean, I still look back and I go, I can't believe I didn't drink during that. You know, because it was hard for me to even get out of my bed and take a shower. You know, I was struggling with that. Yeah, man. Maybe I'll just wait till tomorrow. Yeah, it's crazy to me now. But literally, the motivation to do anything was just gone. The fear of like, maybe this is so serious that I'll die from this. Yeah, was was ingrained in me. So what did we live in alone, I was living by myself. I just got a one bedroom apartment living by this intense man. And it's intense. But you know, it's awesome, man. I had my dog, you know, I just got him back. And, you know, my mom finally had, like, enough faith in me to take care of this animal, you know, is unbelievable. But, you know, I What did I do every day, I took him for a walk every single day. And I focused on making him happy instead of like me, you know, so awesome. So when you don't have anybody with you, what do you do, you know, you find something else you find someone else to focus on instead of instead of yourself. And that's exactly what I did. And, you know, the treatment center just it allowed me to take almost all the focus off of me, and COVID and COVID focus off COVID And as I started working there, I'm like, I'm curious if I get it, you know, you're like, Yeah, you're

Joe Van Wie  1:14:21  
in the frontline. These

JJ  1:14:22  
people need me, well, they'll

Joe Van Wie  1:14:23  
die of fat and all tomorrow, we kept saying, we don't know about COVID. But if he leaves, he's odd. You know what I mean? It was like

JJ  1:14:30  
when I felt purpose again. Yeah, exactly. And when you're reminded of the seriousness of disease, man, because believe it or not, like no matter how much you want somebody to get this somehow just don't make it. You know, and when you see that happen, you're like, oh my god, remember this crush, remember, like how serious this was at the time, you know, and it has to be still that serious to me like it was crushing

Joe Van Wie  1:14:51  
to hear the relapses month or two months after that year of people dying from Kensington salon were so many it was it would weigh on me for two or three days because like I'm spending eight hours five days a week with with this guy. And I'm like, fuck yeah, he ran out of time. Yeah, he ran out of time. And he even relapse because he's looking for a high. He's terrible. He's got overwhelming anxiety, he can't control and I'm like, Damn it, man. That's,

JJ  1:15:28  
you know, I'm so thankful, man, my, my sponsor just started ingraining in me, for COVID dropped up depending on God instead of human beings, you know, what are you gonna do when I'm not around? Are

Joe Van Wie  1:15:39  
you you're gonna call a resource, the external is for you.

JJ  1:15:44  
If you can't get to a meeting every single day, what are you going to do? You know, and I just learned that like, it can't just this has to be a practice of me always, depending on on God instead of other human beings because it says in the book, no human power can save me from this. You know, so I really started praying and meditating heavily. Yeah, I'm not talking about small meditation session. Oh, returing COVID. It was heavy. I mean, I'm talking three hours at a time, I would just put on a meditation and, and literally, that's all I had man.

Joe Van Wie  1:16:14  
All the world, it was apparent when I met you. And we started spending a lot of time to get how you carried yourself. I remember the first night we were down in the room, and we did a 10 step up. Probably like 40 people there. And it was me and RJ and you and you and you connect it with me or RJ right right away because we had the same definition of recovery sanitize sobriety. It's it's there's there's a power in that. That I can't point some people could call it God. Or I don't know what but it's not. It's sounds feel superhuman. Yeah, I got two guys with me that I'm with every day, when we have the same exact problem. And we found the same exact way. It's almost

JJ  1:17:01  
like some people say it's a vibe. It's an energy. It's, you know, it's a sixth sense of like, this guy really went through the same thing that I did. Yeah. And you can you can hear it, you can smell it. It's amazing. You know, you can see it right in their eyes. This dude went through a lot of pain. And like he's he's doing everything he can to be better now. And there's no faking that. See it? It's totally apparent.

Joe Van Wie  1:17:24  
JGI would hope you would come back and we could discuss more about operations and more even about BHT we're at the hour now. Oh, absolutely. Man. I will be with you tomorrow night. This This will. Podcast won't be out till next week. But tomorrow night, we're doing the step workshop. So I'm so excited. Yeah, it's fun. And it's really engaging. The internet is in the pandemic of created new way to carry the ideas and concepts of recovery to each other. It works. Zoom was jarring for me at first, but I needed it. My family needed to be on it. Me too. And I did it. That's when I found refuge recovery and dharma recover here at dharma. I'm on Dharma recovery meeting for an hour. The cameras just sitting here facing me. I'm meditating. If I pick my eye open, there's five old hippies from San Francisco.

Unknown Speaker  1:18:24  
What has happened was my lifestyle meditating with some weird dudes from San Francisco.

JJ  1:18:29  
Meditation is has absolutely changed my life. And I'm not even good at it. Neither great. You just my soul. And my sponsors lightyears ahead of me. Yeah, he instilled it in me. And that's the most important part. He gave me the hope that like this works, and it does.

Joe Van Wie  1:18:43  
It's my golf. Yeah, I love I love playing golf. I was never good at it. I love what meditation brings to my life. But it's cheap to just say like, okay, reduces anxiety, depression. It does. Yeah. But it's hard to fully articulate why because I'm finding stuff out that it is just it slows time down for me the rest of the day. If I just arrived back into where I started in the morning, where I'm like, Oh, you don't have one reaction to this stop. You have a lot of choices. Say this, do that. And it's just, it makes me less impulsive. And flowy

JJ  1:19:27  
Yeah. It gives me a type of energy that's very hard to describe. But, you know, I would say, you know, throughout my days, I mean, I never used to even stop to take time to think about God or anything. It was work, school. You know, girls safety's in everything. If you're getting stimulated by so many different things throughout the day. It's like, why we're at what point did I forget? Yeah, like the only reason I'm alive is because something out there cares about me. Right? So let me take this 20 minute session right in them. wanting to just sit there and say, you know, hey God, I now understand that you're out there. I just want to let you know that I know that you're out there and that I am so grateful that you kept me alive that last time. You know, I never did that my entire life.

Joe Van Wie  1:20:14  
Gratitude, regardless of what position is from your acknowledging whatever is happening of our conscious life, we got a second chance not to die in torment. Exactly. I'm grateful to have met you. And I'm glad you came here tonight. love you to death. Talk to you tomorrow.

JJ  1:20:32  
All right, man. Sounds good. Thanks.

Joe Van Wie  1:20:39  
I'd like to thank you for listening to another episode of all better. You can find us on all or listen to us on Apple podcasts. Spotify, Google, podcasts, Stitcher, I Heart Radio, and Alexa. Special thanks to our producer John Edwards, an engineering company 570. Drone. Please like or subscribe to us on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. And if you're not on social media, you're awesome. Looking forward to seeing you again. And remember, just because you're sober doesn't mean you're right.

Transcribed by

Meet JJ
Drug Triangle
Step 3
Your Personal Recovery
The Work