"The New England Fixer" with Kirk Larkin

February 25, 2023 Joe Van Wie / Kirk Larkin Season 3 Episode 51
"The New England Fixer" with Kirk Larkin
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Meet Kirk Larkin,

   His mission is to help people suffering from substance use disorder. He is able to do this with a decade of experience working directly with families to help loved ones find the treatment centers that work best for them. 
We discuss the many topics that are very concerning in the field of Drug and alcohol treatment, especially "Body Brokering". We also chat about having a service that examines the quality of treatment centers that isn't a marketing ploy and how this can be achieved.  Check out the insightful conversation topics below, 

Intro to Kirk Larkin.

2:13     Kirk's background as an alcoholic.

8:00    The importance of clear and concise statements

16:41 Spirituality as a catch-all phrase.

22:19 The power of the personal experience of recovery.

29:27 Referral systems for treatment. (Google Game)

36:08 What is body brokering?

42:48 How do you comfort a family in the midst of addiction?

49:50 Catering to the demands.

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Joe Van Wie  0:02  
Hello, and thanks again for listening to another episode of all better. I'm your host, Joe van wie Hayes guest is a friend name is Kirk, Larkin. Burke resides up in Maine. And Kirk is a very interesting element in finding treatment. He acts as a liaison for educators and families to find young men treatment and a continuum of care that can last anywhere from 30 Days to a year. In evaluating the quality of that treatment after spending two decades in the field, for two comes on today to discuss his own personal recovery, more produce that what His mission is and his drive when serving families and helping other people find quality treatment and recovery for our New England area and beyond. We also discuss the rise of body brokering a few other ugly topics that happen to be scenarios in the drug and alcohol field. So Burke has great insight in that. He likes calling it out, and he hates bullies. It's great to catch up with her. And I'm excited for you to meet. Let's meet her Lark. We're here with Kirk Larkin. I haven't seen Kirk in two years, we had dinner up in Maine a couple years back. And I wanted to reach out because Kirk just responded to someone in need. For me, a friend whose son was in complete distress from addiction. And Kurt to me, before I introduce you, is like the New England recovery fixer for me if there's anything, you know, north of New York, I don't know who to call except Kirk, because you've been you've been in sobriety for decades now. And you've been in this field. But I think to start, who are you? How do you enter recovery?

Kirk Larkin  2:13  
So Hi, Joe. And yeah, we did have dinner two years ago, and it was very enjoyable. We've been in touch since and New England fixer. That's an honor. Thank you, in that you trust me with with people that need help. And so yeah, I I'm an alcoholic. That's what I call myself. And I have a disease. And it basically what it looks like is I have this physical allergy to alcohol and other mind altering substances, and I take my take one of any of them, I just can't tell you with any certainty what's going to happen to me. And that typically take more than I plan to and end up in place I don't want to be in. And then I you know, I have a lot of experience going to different treatment centers for that, because it caused a lot of problems in my life. And I struggled with with getting sober staying sober, I could get sober for short periods of time. And, you know, I've got another problem that once I get sober, and a rehab or detox or both, or whatever, I yeah, I seem to forget all of those things that happened to me that led me there, and I take another drink or whatever else. And it leads to the same thing. So I Yeah, at one point, I was facing a lot of consequences for my standards a ton. And I was very, very scared. And I knew it was a direct result of drinking and doing drugs. And that's a part of my story too. And so I went to a treatment center again, a detox first and then a treatment center again, and, and something for some reason I met a group of people, there were a good group of people, thank God they were there, which this will come into play later. But because I want everybody to get treatment for free, but that's not possible. These people were being paid to administer treatment, and thank God that they were and I went there and they talked in a way that I had never heard anybody speak before. I think it was just where I was at and there are a big group of people and I got a slight shred of hope they they told me we're going to do some things and I didn't quite believe that they were going to work for me but but the way that they were talking and the way they appeared to me I in my gut, I was like these people were like me or worse and they're and they're better now. So maybe I better listen, and I started slowly listening. Anyway, long story short, I finished that program. It was like 30 days and and then I was about to do what I always do, which is go right home at in my late 20s Which would mean home was my parents house. And I was told that I wasn't welcomed there and I got sent up to Portland, Maine. And I was told I should live in a sober house and the way that I accepted that was it was my only choice It was that or the street. So I took the sober house and, and that's where I went on this long, drawn out journey, where the entire time I was walking this journey, I really didn't understand what was happening to me, I couldn't see it at the moment. And I was, you know, scared and sad and sometimes happy and hopeful. And I took this long journey, I joined the fellowship. And it's one that I believe in. And, and I just started taking action. And I've learned to kind of articulate what that looked like, I didn't know this is what I was doing and and say it this way back then. But I take the right action, despite how I feel. And I realized that that is what counts that I have to take action this, this is about chopping wood and carrying water and, and sometimes I take action, and I don't really feel the direct result of it. I don't sometimes even see why I have to do it. It's uncomfortable. But I know from experience that, that that's what I have to do. And it works. And what I tell people a lot is the results that I've gotten is, so I've felt, so my sober date is January 1 2006. Okay, and during that time, during that time of sobriety, I have felt better than any high that I've ever experienced in my life, not higher, but better than any high I've ever experienced in my life. I've also felt in sobriety so low, that I started asking myself why I was bothering doing this. But what I can report is most of the time, I generally feel okay. And that's a that's a drastic change from the first, let's say, you know, 20 years of my life. And so now I'm up here in Portland, Maine, and I am my mission in life is to I've got work experience in different industries and things. I've got some treatment industry experience. I know a lot of people in the treatment industry, there's people that I was roommates with and rehab that own rehabs now, and, you know, the list goes on. And I've watched a lot of people go through this process. And my goal in life, my purpose is to be available to help addicts and alcoholics and or their loved ones when they are in need of finding a treatment center. And what I would like to do is give them a candid, honest and neutral, unbiased peek into what they can expect. And I'm clear with them, it's based on my experience and experience I've observed, and they can take it for what it is and, and then there's other parts of it as well, I'll do literally anything that I can to help someone that that wants help, because I understand that this this disease is is so powerful that when you get this moment where the person who is at risk of dying wants help you they they've got to get the help. And and so so that's my goal, I can't help everybody. And, you know, I can only do so much. But I that's my goal and my purpose.

Joe Van Wie  8:03  
Well, I just experienced that firsthand, a friend was in need. They're their friends up in New England. And the clearness in the conciseness concise statement you made to them wasn't to validate that they're going to be comfortable through this experience, you kind of just stated objective facts, you're not alone, I'm here to tell you this is this is common, and you give them a clear response of what they could do as family members, regardless of the other person getting sober at that point. And so just wanted to touch on that the support you showed that family was it sincere, it's real, it's not cliche. You weren't. It's not like a sales pitch. You're telling them the hard realities, this could go a couple of different ways. But here's what you have, you can do to protect yourself. So but some of the themes. And I think that's why we get along is because they're clear, you tell your story in such a clear way. But it's it has all the themes of what I define as recovery, what their fellowship that we're both kind of biased and a part of, but you see these themes across the board, even outside of our fellowship of what produces recovery. And the first thing you said was, we have memory problems and it's not like a cognition like you're not developed in memory. It's like an emotional switch that goes off that doesn't allow you to remember consequences. The like you can't, like the neurological story would be I can't measure risk and reward I don't get to my frontal lobe, I have a discomfort or I have too much happiness and it creates this safety that I can return to the addiction that's always worked. Like regardless of what like a week before that you were in a psych unit or something. You're like, yeah, okay, yeah, this is different because you know, I have an iron shirt on. I'm gonna drink So that's one theme and that theme. I think people who have recovery communities in their life, you can't have it without understanding that about your own addiction that this is a problem, I definitely can't solve by myself because of that distinct problem, that I'm I'm under threat at any time to return to addiction because of a lie, or I can't think properly. Like when thinking about euphoria. And you said something really interesting. You can you can withstand pain, depression, the ups and downs of lives, but underneath all that you knowing it's okay is because you've found a purpose that seems good and bad times together that, that the solution to them is now pleasure. It's belief. It's faith, its connection. Those themes, I don't know where recovery exists without those things.

Kirk Larkin  10:59  
Yeah, I agree with you. And, you know, I, I came to this conclusion just based on talking to other people in the fellowship that I'm in and other people that are in recovery. But I've been seeing it, I think it was maybe it was some article and potentially Forbes or something like that. But they're, they're asking the question, because people are always seeking it out what makes human beings happy? And clearly, or, to me anyway, clearly, there's a there's a shortage of happiness outside of addiction as well. There's a shortage of happiness. And this article, you know, and it drew my attention, because the first thing I said was, Do you think it's money? And they did say, yeah, there's some, there's some benefits that come with financial success that can help you to be a little bit more satisfied. But truly, what human beings need is connection and purpose, which I believe are two words you just use. And I found that to be true. If I do not have a purpose, it's hard for me to be happy. And I think human beings are innately born that way, we need some kind of purpose. And it's usually related to community and connection. So yeah, and that's what that's what this fellowship gives me and I wanted to talk about, I want to mention, because it's part of my disease, I'm going to use the word spiritual, which I used to recoil when I heard that word, spirituality. And I think I thought it was the same thing as religion, which it's not and, and I also thought that there was one very siloed definition that was something my parents or grandparents came up with, or something like that. But that's not true. It's a very open, you know, kind of pick your own flavor type of thing and a big part of my disease. And this, I always let I always tell people, I said, I white knuckled it until I was about 13. And then I took my first drink, right? And

Joe Van Wie  12:54  
people laugh. Yeah. Heard, I've been around since I'm 60, didn't know that I white knuckled it till I was 13.

Kirk Larkin  13:06  
That's when I took my first drink. And what that really is probably why you're chuckling is because that shows that there was something going on with me Well, before I took a drink. And I'm and I'm not saying that I'm, that I or we are unique or other people don't go through these things. But there is this experience that I hear other people talk about, it seems similar to mine if they when they get to a place where they can articulate because it took me a while to be able to explain what was happening with me. And it's so so I have the spiritual malady a lot of people call it and here's how I like to describe it. It's important and hopefully it helps somebody out there but or even for loved ones that might explain behaviors from their loved ones that they can't seem to understand because they're applying logic and reason to something that doesn't fit logic and reason. So my spiritual malady, the way that it looks for me is when when I wake up in the morning, everything inside me and I don't know why but but everything inside me just naturally kind of leads or points towards taking shortcuts, lying, cheating, doing anything, but having like an open, honest, upfront conversation with people I like to I like to grab things that are really easy to get and they burn out quickly. I can rarely maintain connections with other people for long periods of time. I I find the normal day to day things that I see a lot of other people seemingly do with relative ease to have a decent life absolutely excruciating, you know, and, and that's just the way I was born. And that's the way I lean and so what I found is I had to find some kind of spiritual path and help from others. To to to to to change that to change that that where I come from and the last thing and I'll stop this train of thought, but what what I do What happens for me is, you know, if I am in a place because this is about not drinking and not doing drugs for people, but for me, it's also about changing the way that I live. And a lot of normal people when they asked me about my you know, you don't drink and they Oh, you must be, you know, this must be tough for you, because they think that what I'm doing is I'm, I'm still very attracted to alcohol and drugs, and living a life that's full of dishonesty and cutting corners and not being connected with people. But I'm strong, and I've gained this willpower, where I don't indulge in any of those things. It's actually not the truth. I wish I was that strong of a person. What what what what's happened to me is something changed inside of me over the during this process, which kind of is related to what I believe treatment is, it's a longer term thing. Something changed in those things, for the most part no longer look attractive to me. Right, like, like, so when I wake up in the morning, I don't have a fistfight with myself, or whether I'm going to make my bed not that that's the most important thing. But I don't have a fistfight with myself of whether or not I'm going to make my bed which takes about 11 seconds, which I used to do. It's attractive to me to turn around and make my bed. So when I come home, it's made, you know, those kinds of little things. And it expands in other areas as well being dishonest. Like, there's times that it's very easy to be dishonest, and it's not even seemingly meaningful at the time side over a big thing. But what's happened is I'm no longer attracted to being dishonest. It's unattractive to me. So I typically tell the truth. Typically, there has been times I've been dishonest and I quickly run back and write and write that ship to

Joe Van Wie  16:41  
do it. It's weird. Spirituality. It's such a catch all phrase, and I used to cringe at it too. I've had different relationships with the word. And I thought it demanded unjustifiable beliefs or I have to join a group that is doing things I don't feel are accessible to me like, I'm going to have to fake this too. And then I'll get better. At the lie into recovery, yes, I believe. But you said something religious students about chopping wood earlier and carrying the water. So in that you can have this broader highway, it's not about a proof for God or the divine. Let's caveat that you're in big trouble. I'm not sure what your god or what you want to choose is. But I know you can do these four things. And it might produce this result. And all you're asking before that is something spiritual that seems not, you know, innate to someone who has fear you like, like me, being dishonest and wanting to take shortcuts is out of almost this driving engine of terror that I don't even articulate it. It just they're winding me in that fellowship in the 30s that we're talking about. That's the first description ALK that alcohol is relieving him of a problem that already existed. He had loneliness. He has dread, anxiety, this unbridled ambition to me I don't see ambition. I think anxiety I'll prove to the world I'm important. The founder of a said an alcoholic is going to help them do this. Why does the world need to know that? So I think the alcoholics in my type and we're kind of cut from the same cloth and report and we you meet each other. And you're like no alcohol. You know, it's not it's not the direct evil. It was the first solution. And letting go of that's really scary. Even though I'm paying consequences. Logically, I could see, yeah, this because I'm an alcoholic. And this because I'm addicted to drugs. But it's hard to pivot with someone that doesn't fully understand yet. No, that was the first solution. It's failed you it'll kill you. There's something else but like, you have to breadcrumb it into them. You don't want to terrify someone right

Kirk Larkin  19:02  
now. No. But Joe, that's exactly what I say all alcohol was was the first solution that I stumbled upon. That get got to a point where it no longer works for me because it was such havoc in my life. But it was a solution. Yes, walked into it blindly.

Joe Van Wie  19:20  
I always kind of missed that message I didn't hear because sometimes you hear conflicting messages or just the way people are trained to talk in 12 Step groups, you know, they're great people, but sometimes sometimes they have a persona in the meeting. And you're like, that's not the guy I just had coffee with. He's just yeah, you kind of go into this hypnosis and parakeet whatever you have. But it's all fun. So, out of curiosity, did you have siblings?

Kirk Larkin  19:49  
Do Yeah, so I have one older brother, who is he's with us? Yeah, he's with us. You Yeah, he is Yeah. And, and I, you know, later in life, we kind of, you know, ran together back in the day, let's say. And then at one point I kind of made this decision that I was going to apply myself to this work, and I, and I was successful at it, at least in the measure that I'm so over and absent, and he did it. And so he's struggled lately, and I was heavily involved in helping him get treatment. And so that was another thing that I can offer of value to people. Because you know, what happened, Joe, it took me like, six or seven years, I'm a big talker. And I have to be really careful. I like to say, I think Socrates said it, but I love it. I was Plato or Socrates, the only thing I'm sure of is that I'm not sure of anything at all. I mean, I need to, like, stay in that kind of place. Because I'm a big talker. I like, you know, I like people to think that, that, you know, I want people like me and all this stuff. But it took me five or six years in sobriety, but the only thing that I'm truly qualified to speak about is my own experience. And one of the things that I can offer to family members is I've been so I've been the person. And I've been around the people in treatment and in the fellowship that I'm in. But I've also been the family member at the center of a brutal set of circumstances regarding addiction and older parents who, who, like they've, we've already put them through the lumber mill. And so they're kind of like done. And, you know, all of a sudden, I looked around, and it's my older brother, and then two younger sisters. And I was like, It's me and my sisters, my parents, the way that they're talking, they want to help, but I don't think they can. It's not like I just just call dad that that's over. And it was very scary. And all of a sudden, I'm like, I've been through all of this. And I've got all this experience. And now this is a reality for me very close to me. And it was terrifying. And I did my best to apply everything that I've learned. But I didn't always do that. And I needed help from someone else to give me you know, so So anyway, to answer your question, I'm sorry, I've got an older brother. And then I have a sister, who is four years younger than me and another sister that's eight years younger than me. Yeah.

Joe Van Wie  22:19  
I'm a talker, too. We're on a, we're on a podcast. That's how much I talk. I, there's the power in personal experience. I'm the expert in my personal experience. And I think that means something a little more, it has a deeper quality, when you're in, say, the practice of 12 steps, or another recovery community that you're speaking of your own experience, almost as this new third person looking back at it, and you can articulate that, when I wake up, I look for shortcuts. Well, what is that other? What can that be other than spirituality, it's existential. It's this ability to observe the most uncomfortable parts of you. That takes a really enormous personality change, for someone to speak even of themselves that way, the way you just spoke about going through family crisis. Without hubris, or this confidence, I'm in charge, but I'm gonna be here as me. I'm not running, I could show you. I've had an experience I've recovered from addiction, and the way you describe it. That is spirituality to me. Well, I don't know what else it could be. Unless you go into the realm of fantasy. Yeah. But um,

Kirk Larkin  23:42  
yeah, you mentioned personality change, I think that's the term that you used. And that is a very common term that's used all the time. And that's what happened to me. Something changed. And the tough part for explaining it to someone who's new or going through it, is I can't I could not identify when that was happening at the time that it was happening. Which, which is difficult because because a lot of times especially when you're on very uncomfortable, and people are telling you to do these things that you don't necessarily they weren't your idea. So that's Strike one. You know, they're they're, they're, they're usually uncomfortable, like, you know, leave places better than you found it face up to your, your, your past transgressions. Be honest, like these kinds of things. And you're just like, oh, here we go. It's, it's, it's very difficult to do those things that are so uncomfortable and then not see a direct result almost immediately. That's what that's what I wanted. And that was that's not what happened. But, but yeah, it's Yes, something happened over time. And there was a change, personality.

Joe Van Wie  24:54  
It's a diminishment of self. And, you know, some of the philosophers I enjoy are have, you know, physicist or clinicians that are more of the modern age say the self doesn't exist, like, there's no way you could point to self, it's an illusion, we have to manufacture in our heads to feel that we're operating through a three dimensional world, all this kind of jazz. But in the simpler terms, our self is filled with pain, and it's on this loop feedback loop. And I, when that self kind of crumbles, and I commit to the group, like you just said, or that the I could have a new operating plan, like paying debts, apologizing, considering others, even if it feels phony, at first, you almost have to practice yourself into it. This will produce those results. Well, personality change. And what it does is you're part of something bigger that you know, like you're in New England, I'm from Pennsylvania, we met a couple years ago. But we're part of something together in this, like we share the same language and that we should live by the same principles. And we could end each other's ears at a moment's notice that I'm struggling with this. That's a spiritual organization. That's a that's a, that's a good group to be a part of. That being said, You How did you get drawn into? You know, how would you describe your position in the recovery field and how it's changed over the last couple of years.

Kirk Larkin  26:30  
So, so so forth for the recovery field and treatment. My my view, and this is my personal view, based on my experience is that, you know, my own personal experience, and then watching other a lot of other people go through this is that, you know, detox and treatment, or rehab was usually the the term a lot of people use. That's typically, you know, five to seven days for detox, depending on your situation, or if you need it at all. And then And then, you know, 2530 days, there's 60 days now, but but it's a length of time, that's typically no more than a month and a half, at best, maybe two months. And what I've come to realize is that very little, so a lot happened to me, as far as the direction I was pointed in, in that treatment time that I went to a detox and then I went to a 30 day treatment center. A lot happened to me, as far as the direction I was pointed in, pointed in. And I believe that it was a result of the people around me and I heard some things. But I don't really know, Joe, I don't know how much of it was I was in a different place, or these people said something different that I hadn't heard before, or they said the same thing. And I just wasn't listening, I don't know when somebody departs sometimes. But what I do know is, I didn't change much in those first 30 days. I didn't. And so where that brings me is why in the treatment world, there's so much put on that first 30 days, it doesn't really connect for me. And so what so the reason that I'm saying that is I believe that as long as a treatment center, a you know, with with there's there's medical stuff that that has to be taken care of. And that's up to the person that's going there, and the people that are receiving them that the proper medical and professional staff are there. You know, that's a whole different story. But as far as the treatment aspect, as long as you have a place where you know, the people there have integrity, the facility is sufficient, the food is decent, doesn't have to be a five course meal though those places, you know, five star meal those places exist. Yeah, they're nice to visit. You can pet horses, and play bocce if you want. And that might help. I'm not saying those things don't help. It's just a matter of costs for a lot of people. But, you know, as long as the places is decent, it's reputable. They do what they say they're going to do and have a decent program with professionals there that are required for the people that are there. I would say that's the way to choose a place to go. Because and the reason I'm saying that is what's changed a lot in the treatment industry is the internet. And what what's what's happening right now. So there's there's referral, you know, referral systems that I'm not an expert on. But there's referral systems where people work together and there's good and bad in that the good in it is Hey, and I was involved in that stuff when I worked in treatments like, I know this therapist at this treatment center. And I trust this person because every person they've sent me is a good fit for the program that I work at. And that's good for everybody. It's good for the kid. It's good for the parents pocketbook or whoever's footing the bill. Till it's honest, there's integrity behind it. And then from me passing that person on if they're going to go on to another, you know, sober house or something like that, that I know the person can because I know what's going on in their in their facility, it can also be bad, because not everybody's making referrals for those reasons that I just stated. Yeah. So so it's good and bad. But But what the the other way that people enter into treatment now is they simply go on Google and say, My husband is a heroin addict and needs rehab or whatever, term, that's a term and, unfortunately, to show up, and a Google search, when you type these terms that normal people use when they're trying to help their loved one. whoever pays the most shows up at the top, there's organic search stuff at the bottom, but at the top, it's whoever pays the most Yeah, they show up. And I can tell you that, that, in my opinion, the people that are paying the most are not necessarily the best. And they definitely can't say that they're the best for every individual that stumbling upon their advertisement, right?

Joe Van Wie  31:08  
That's the key importance. Not everyone either, because they're just dominating Intel. Yep, I can think of two monsters without naming them just as well. You can type in one word addiction, rehab treatment, they're coming up for every one of them. And that first page would be the same probably in 30 states.

Kirk Larkin  31:29  
So Well, the way that so here's another player to a job the way that they're doing that as well, because there's restrictions around bidding for those terms, right. And there's this third party that Google is hired to meet these government requirements, because of past, you know, body brokering and things like that. Yeah. And what would

Joe Van Wie  31:48  
real quick, how would you just come back to the point where would you describe body brokering as someone doesn't understand? So body

Kirk Larkin  31:54  
brokering is when in effect, it's it's always not good. But especially with like insurance or public insurance, it's really, you know, so water for me, body brokering would be, you make an arrangement with a treatment center. And the treatment center says, hey, send me people, and I will pay you X dollars for for each person that you send me. And that is not legal to do. But you can, you know, there's ways that you can do it and people try to do it not get caught, but

Joe Van Wie  32:27  
it's legally Saudi Arabia, though. It's legal. It's legal in Saudi Arabia.

Kirk Larkin  32:36  
Saudi Arabia, if you have enough money of drinking, yeah, yeah, exactly. Even that is if you Yeah, exactly. It compounds.

Joe Van Wie  32:44  
But so this is like a kind of a practice of, of an industry would essentially be called bribery, maybe in other industries, and paying for for heads to beds. I've heard that term before to what is so the unethical approaches this at no point really is clinical or that individuals treatment plan or, or mental health issues or consideration? You're just meeting quotas with this referral system? Yeah, so

Kirk Larkin  33:17  
So I had an experience, because I've done a lot of research. And I had an experience, which I guess, would have been the case, and I ended up being correct. So one of the tactics used by some of these monsters that are out bidding everybody and spending millions of dollars every quarter to show up first to a lot of unsuspecting people that think, Oh, this must be the best because that's what Google shows me. Sure. They so what they're in you said that you said they might show up first in 30 Different states while the way that they're doing that is they're they're they're developing these, they're cheap to make these platforms and what it looks like and forgive me but it's a it's a good comparison, it looks like the price line of treatment says so they're they're disguising themselves as this here, come on my website and look at all these different treatment centers, not just mine. But if you if you pay attention, you can't do much from there, like you can't communicate, you can take the phone number, call the treatment center, but that's it. And then this typically highlighted large 800 number like follows you around the page and gets in your way. And if you click on it, and read the fine print, it says this phone number will go to a call center for X company, and we will only talk to you about our five treatment centers. But but nobody reads that and then you call and this is experience I had and it answers the question that you said about people's individual like what do they need clinically and like what kind of support do they need and really just making sure that this person's going somewhere and it's expensive and it's for good reason a lot of the time but that it's a good fit for them and it's going to be I forgive the expression but the best bang for their dollar because dollar Is are finite. So what what what the experience I had is I call the phone number multiple times. And what I got was a person on the other end of the line. I felt like I reached boiler room. And he the only question that he asked me in the beginning was, what's my insurance? What's my insurance? What's my insurance and he was trying to gauge basically how much I was worth. And then I was told there's only treatment centers in these certain states. And then here's the thing that I disliked the most that shows, it illustrates what we're talking about. I said to him, at one point is very aggressive. And I was like, Whoa, and I said, I'm from New England, and I have children. I was saying, I want any treatment. And I'm from New England, I have children, and I don't want to leave the New England area, can you get me into a place in New England? Because again, I've looked at this website with 500 treatment centers, a lot of them in New England. And he said to me, he laughed, and he said, there are no beds available in New England, you're gonna have to come to one hours. Yeah, that was there's more to it, which I don't have to get into. But more aggressive things you're not that's the

Joe Van Wie  36:08  
beginning of the Grow SNESs. Yeah, just to summarize what you're saying. So we talked about body brokering, and this is this closed network of referrals. And it's kind of off the books, it could be an exchange of cash, or quick quid pro quo between two levels of care detoxes, inpatient treatments, PHPs, or Opie's or even recovery houses. So this is this is happening, but then coupled with technology, in the last 15 years, this explosion and control of how search engines will give you results for drug and alcohol treatment. And this is you're seeing conglomerates kind of rise up. Some of these companies are publicly traded, and own, you know, they have could have up to 70,000 employees, I was looking at one like Acadia and they're big. But I'm not saying they're part of this game. But when you search for drug and alcohol treatment, have a list of the top 30 words any common person would think of for alcoholism or treatment or help, I need help. You're getting the single players but they disguise themselves as multiple sites. They look like review pages almost or like, yeah, we'll tell you the value, we're going to compare five of these together, but it's really pushing. It's a it's a Trojan horse for their, their, their boiler room, essentially, is what you got in touch with. And even these boiler rooms, they might not be the company directly, they could be third party kind of call centers, right, just just getting people into rehab. Yes, that's what they are. And this is

Kirk Larkin  37:49  
one of the loopholes is, so you can't send somebody to a treatment center and receive a kickback is what they call it for that. But what you can do is take somebody who's not committed to a treatment center, and send that lead to use a cold sales term, because that's what it is you to send that lead to a call center. And that's another way that people are making a lot of money. They're they're pricing, their pricing out the bidding, they're doing a cost and price model and saying here's how much we got to spend to get this amount of clicks. And then that's this is how many calls it'll produce in that's what we're going to charge for calls and there's your business model, you know,

Joe Van Wie  38:27  
yeah, and this business model is down to is like almost this, these magic numbers of return, how much are you cost per bed cost per head. And that includes operations and marketing costs. The fellowship, I was introduced to in the virtues and principles of recovery in the way I live it in the community I'm connected with. It's really jarring. I liked this field. And but today, you know, I've just become literate to this side of it. And in the last year I was blown away. It's It's strange to see this language even being used or see you see people talk this way, especially if they're in this industry, and they're not in recovery. It kind of makes me angry. Looking at I'm like, Man, when was the last time you were on Medicaid or thrown out of school or humiliated, lost your job. And then you're being talked about as if you're a lead. Like it's just fucking gross, man.

Kirk Larkin  39:30  
My heart rate is gone up since we started this conversation, because I'm passionate about it and enjoy it. I want to repeat. You know, i my i believe that I'm alive today. And I have a beautiful five year old son and a wonderful life because people were being paid and charging money to administer treatment. I'm so thankful that that's the case. So that's not what this is about. That is a must and it needs to continue. I think more money He shouldn't be spent. what the issue is, is when you are going when someone needs to go to treatment, is the information they're being given? Is it accurate? And are they being properly handled? Are they being talked to and making sure that this is the right fit for them? Because in a lot of cases, you know, people treatments expensive. Yeah. Either people have insurance, and they can only make so many claims, or they have limited cash reserves. And as I, as I mentioned before, I believe it's a longer process, and there's more money that needs to be spent down the road. Yeah.

Joe Van Wie  40:37  
Yeah, I don't want to fall into the cynical Well, of of all the dreads, because even these places that are doing that people get sober there. Yes. And it's because people are helping people. It just, it just I guess it lingers the grossness when I hear the language like corporate talk, I don't know. It's just, it's just not my vibe. But I'm not saying okay, drain the whole thing. It's not a swamp. But you've this rise is something new, maybe in the last decade, 1112 years. And it's something you don't hear talked about directly or a lot, especially if you work for the treatment center. It's not something they openly talk about, you're talking about six or seven people in a room that work for a large company, are talking this way. They're the business apparatus of it. Yeah. It usually doesn't reach God forbid, I hope not the clinical floor. He's talking that way. So and when it does, you could see you'll see that the play starts to unravel. They have to be kind of in their own tracks. But so that's that's, that's a new phenomenon, especially the internet. How about how about the outreach of positive messaging and, and, and technology? Things have changed a lot since you've been in recovery. And I have language of individual care that term, meeting someone where they're at? I'm not this fundamental, like barrage right, upfront or punitive. And you said something to your own experience earlier, that maybe they were saying this the first time, maybe I was ready to hear it. The last time I have a friend that says something similar. He goes, I've been the nicest rehabs and the worst. Guess what? I think the message was us the solution might have been the same at both.

Kirk Larkin  42:31  
Yeah, yeah. It's so it's

Joe Van Wie  42:35  
those changes. Language, what the biggest changes is language gets broader. It can't be so puritanical. When approaching a different generation, you have a lot of experience working with younger guys and their families. What's the first thing you do to comfort a family? That's just okay, my son's been in treatment three or four times? What are we supposed to do? How do you create confidence and comfort in what you're telling them?

Kirk Larkin  42:59  
Yeah. So the first thing I do is I relay my own experience. And I tell them, because what, what, what changed for me. And also, my parents report, the same thing is a small shred of hope. When I first grabbed onto a tiny little speck of hope, and I didn't know I was at the time, that's when things changed. I was like, this could be different. I could get somewhere. And that's what motivated me to like, look further and then take action. So I tried to give them a shred of hope. And I explained like, I've been through the same thing. If they said three or four rehabs I say okay, I've been to more than that. And then I tell them that I've also been sober since January 1 of all six. And I don't really say my date, my sober date too much, but when it gives them a shred of hope. And then the other thing that I like to share with them is if they start to usually they'll start telling me I went in his room, and he's got this and that, or he did this crazy thing. And I mean, there's, you know, there's a lot of these crazy things, and I also let them know, yeah, I did things that were similar to that, you know, and usually that calms them down. Because I think that even today, there's a stigma out there. And people don't feel comfortable telling people what's really going on. And I think when when they hear that there's other people that's what happened to me. There's other people that seem like they're well and they're doing okay, that have been through the same thing that there's some hope and this isn't crazy. And then I explained to him as well that I say look, this is a disease I also want to let you know that anything that your loved one or child or son or daughter is doing. You cannot apply logic and reason to it to try to understand it. And this disease is so powerful that the million times that they've disappointed you has nothing to do with how much they love you. And and usually you know just like that I try to talk like that from from a human point of view and tell them like I'm with you. I'm not up here, reaching down, I'm down here in the trench with you. And I can show you the way out, right? I know where the ladder is, and we can walk over there, I can help you out with that, you know, and I'm not going to take off on

Joe Van Wie  45:18  
curfew. I want to talk about this because I do like talking about socio economics. And they're different for everyone in their variables, A of their choices from having health care, to not having health care, where they're gonna go for treatment, the luxuries and amenities that are there at the quality of the staff. You would think that combine a lot more, but sometimes it's a real level playing field, there's a lot of great candidates, this, this is a little different sometimes in treatment, because some of the best clinicians I've ever met are working with the most stressed populations. Yeah, it's more of a vocation. So I don't see it always being the case there with the product of of the clinical program. But do you see a difference? You work with wealthy, wealthy families, and you've worked with people that are in really distress, and you're kind of taken to pathways to get this person in treatment? What's similar? And what's different when you're working with two extremely different socio economic classes? And that they both have the same problem?

Kirk Larkin  46:26  
Yeah. So what's similar? If I've got two people who are both ready to get some help? What's similar is regardless of their, their material possessions and their surroundings, aka I've had people that were homeless, and literally in insane asylum in the middle of Boston, Massachusetts, that we're living in a shelter two days earlier. And I've had people that are living in condos in Cambridge, that, you know, if you saw the price tag would make your eyes pop. Yeah. And both of those individuals that people suffering from addiction, if they've come to me and they're ready for help. None of that matters. They're both in the same spot. They've got that incomprehensible demoralisation. Even though one's talking to me on their phone from a, you know, multimillion dollar condo overlooking something and all of this and the other ones in a mental institution, they both are saying things like, I don't think I can do this much longer. I'm not sure if I want to stick around on this planet. They're in the same spot. And that's this disease, it doesn't really care where you are.

Joe Van Wie  47:43  
Yeah, what you have. And when you were Oh, yes. Sorry, like so. Like, just for a caveat are just focused. Okay. Wealthy families? Yeah. You know, and are they experienced? Do they demand some other kind of catering to if the families involved? Does it feel like more effort and work? Like, maybe I'm talking from a Scranton blue collar? Experience? But do they want? Are they asking different questions of value? And and are they looking at this differently that might have their own stickman? Bob?

Kirk Larkin  48:19  
Yeah. So they will try to, and because of experience that I had in the past, and it depends on where you are at as a person when you're dealing with them. They will try to Yes, I've it's not everyone, but but I've experienced that at a higher level with the more wealthy. And I intend to give you an idea. I've dealt with someone who is probably in like the top 20 List all time of Hollywood producers. There's one person right, yeah, professional athletes, hedge fund managers whose fortune would would again make your eyes pop out of your head. And what's what I know now based on my experience is none of that matters to me and I don't entertain any of those things, because I am not looking to gain any more or less from them because they have more money available. And so

Joe Van Wie  49:14  
yeah, you will you created a reputation. I mean, the sincerity of crossing those levels, like you said, I mean to me, I always tell Larry, the new New England fixer, the recovery fixer. You trusted across those boards because of your candidness your clearness. I guess maybe I'm myself over generalizing what wells could look like to someone. Are they demanding more? Or do they have a different understanding?

Kirk Larkin  49:45  
Oh, you're right about that. Yeah. It's

Unknown Speaker  49:50  
you are it but it

Kirk Larkin  49:51  
depends. It depends on the person on the other end. Yeah. And you know, how about this, catering to those demands, if it means that you really think you can help their loved one, and it's going to get them to pull the trigger and get their loved one in your care, because their loved one is suffering and needs help, yeah, then I'll meet any demands, as long as they're not changing. The what I'm administering to this person would have agreed to administer this person, like, like, I'll give you an example. I was in a situation where I had somebody who was extremely wealthy, that I'll pay you for a year and, you know, blah, blah, blah, they tried to come down and like buy their child, a vehicle on a credit card, you know, this kind of thing. Like days, like day seven, I'm like, Look, what are you doing? You know, yeah, and, and making demands, and what happened was the demands, I was actually shielding this person from their parents, and couldn't take it anymore. The kid the kid could take, like, help me, I'm like, this is your safe zone. And that helped this kid respond to what we were trying to explain or show or teach. But anyway, you know, when when the demands got to a point that they were trying to change the experience we're trying to create for this kid that we know works, it was proven? I would tell I would say, Okay, we will pack up his things, and you send me a plane ticket, and we'll we'll we'll send them home. Yeah. And I'm telling you, Joe, I've never, ever I've done that many times. I've never had anyone take me up on that. They retreat immediately. Yeah, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. Okay, relax. I'm like, Okay, so let me do what I'm doing.

Joe Van Wie  51:34  
And at this point, you this is you establishing, I'm advocating for one person yourself? Yeah, I'm not, I'm not here to cater to you or your needs, that the transitions already happened, I helped you get through this, this stabilization, this intervention, and now it starts, but I only advocate for the patient. And that has to be jarring for them when they think okay, well, this is our son. This is our you know, and now someone's advocating for their son as his own voice. I think that's really interesting, and probably is helping produce the person he may need to become and recovery, someone showing him a way out to be be autonomous.

Kirk Larkin  52:23  
And don't forget, and I don't want to sound because because there's many people that many, many people that you know, people don't get, well, some a lot of people don't get well, you know, but don't forget that in that dynamic, the person who's making demands of you, that approach that they're taking, actually already hasn't worked. That's why they're

Joe Van Wie  52:46  
laughing because it's like, that's this, this is where you can use logic, like, logic, let's show you what has failed, you know?

Kirk Larkin  52:56  
Yeah, yeah.

Joe Van Wie  52:58  
I'm winding down any last ideas or things to tie up? What do you what are you up to recently? What will what will be or a party message to people that could be listening that are are in distress and not for themselves directly for someone they don't know how to speak to or begin this process?

Kirk Larkin  53:17  
Yeah. So yeah, if you are, if you have a loved one that's struggling, just know that you're definitely not alone, there's about 28 million people in this country alone over a period of a year that could use some kind of treatment. And what you what you have to do is reach out and get help from someone reach out to someone who, who either you trust or that knows somebody that they trust, that knows about addiction and treatment, and talk to someone, you're not alone. And in that person can then help you deal deal with your loved one and help them get to treatment. And then they can help you help yourself as well. Because that's another thing that people around that the sufferer also gets sick. There's no way around that and they need help as well. And there's people out there that are willing to help. I'm one of them. And I my purpose in life is to help someone who needs someone who needs help or help someone that has a loved one that needs help. That's my purpose in life, and I'm available for that or I can plug you in with somebody.

Joe Van Wie  54:27  
That's a beautiful purpose. And I'll leave some information in the show notes, Kurt. It's great senior man. And I'll be talking to you So

Kirk Larkin  54:35  
Joe, thank you so much. Talk to you. So

Joe Van Wie  54:43  
I'd like to thank you for listening to another episode of all better. Find us on all or listen to us on Apple podcasts. Spotify, Google podcasts, Stitcher, I Heart Radio, and a 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

Intro to Kirk Larkin.
Kirk's background as an alcoholic.
The importance of clear and concise statements
Spirituality as a catch-all phrase.
The power of the personal experience of recovery.
Referral systems for treatment.
What is body brokering and what is it?
How do you comfort a family in the midst of addiction?
Catering to the demands.