AllBetter

"from Junkie to Judge" with Federal Judge Mary Beth O'Connor

March 18, 2023 Joe Van Wie / Federal Judge Mary Beth O'Connor Season 3 Episode 54
"from Junkie to Judge" with Federal Judge Mary Beth O'Connor
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"from Junkie to Judge" with Federal Judge Mary Beth O'Connor
Mar 18, 2023 Season 3 Episode 54
Joe Van Wie / Federal Judge Mary Beth O'Connor

For Mary Beth, childhood abuse and other traumas led to substance use disorder (addiction). 

Beginning with alcohol at age 12, she spent several years abusing various drugs. She found methamphetamine at 16 and started shooting up at 17. Mary Beth struggled with meth until she was 32 years old.

By incorporating ideas from multiple sources to build a secular (not 12-step or faith-based) recovery plan that works for her, Mary Beth has been sober since 1994. She used similar techniques to address the trauma and related anxiety as well.

Mary Beth is a board member for LifeRing Secular Recovery and She Recovers Foundation.  She speaks on behalf of these organizations, about multiple paths to recovery, and about all topics related to substance use disorder and recovery. She also speaks about sexual abuse and rape, child abuse, domestic violence, ptsd, anxiety, and recovering from these as well.

Mary Beth's book-length memoir, From Junkie to Judge: One Woman's Triumph Over Trauma and Addiction, is available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Bamm, Indie Bound, and other sites, and at your local bookstore.  She also has placed essays in publications such as The Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, and Recovery Today

Professionally, 6 years into recovery, Mary Beth attended Berkeley Law. She worked at a large firm in Silicon Valley, then litigated class actions for the federal government. In 2014, Mary Beth was appointed a federal Administrative Law Judge, a position from which she retired in 2020.

WEBSITE: https://junkietojudge.com/

For more Info on LIFE RING:https://lifering.org/

For more info on She Recovers: https://sherecovers.org/

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Leaders Of Long Term Recovery in Pennsylvania 

We combine proven recovery principles with new, innovative techniques to provide one of the most effective programs for young men in the country.

 Discussions on addiction and recovery. We interview clinicians/researchers, legislators, and individuals that include a variety of means to recovery. Joe Van Wie is a father, husband, filmmaker, and reformed media consultant in recovery. 

Fellowship House
As a treatment center, Fellowship House offers both residential and outpatient treatment services to

allbetter.fm
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Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase, I may receive a commission at no extra cost to you.

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Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

For Mary Beth, childhood abuse and other traumas led to substance use disorder (addiction). 

Beginning with alcohol at age 12, she spent several years abusing various drugs. She found methamphetamine at 16 and started shooting up at 17. Mary Beth struggled with meth until she was 32 years old.

By incorporating ideas from multiple sources to build a secular (not 12-step or faith-based) recovery plan that works for her, Mary Beth has been sober since 1994. She used similar techniques to address the trauma and related anxiety as well.

Mary Beth is a board member for LifeRing Secular Recovery and She Recovers Foundation.  She speaks on behalf of these organizations, about multiple paths to recovery, and about all topics related to substance use disorder and recovery. She also speaks about sexual abuse and rape, child abuse, domestic violence, ptsd, anxiety, and recovering from these as well.

Mary Beth's book-length memoir, From Junkie to Judge: One Woman's Triumph Over Trauma and Addiction, is available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Bamm, Indie Bound, and other sites, and at your local bookstore.  She also has placed essays in publications such as The Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, and Recovery Today

Professionally, 6 years into recovery, Mary Beth attended Berkeley Law. She worked at a large firm in Silicon Valley, then litigated class actions for the federal government. In 2014, Mary Beth was appointed a federal Administrative Law Judge, a position from which she retired in 2020.

WEBSITE: https://junkietojudge.com/

For more Info on LIFE RING:https://lifering.org/

For more info on She Recovers: https://sherecovers.org/

Please stop by ApplePodcast and give us a Rating and Review!

Leaders Of Long Term Recovery in Pennsylvania 

We combine proven recovery principles with new, innovative techniques to provide one of the most effective programs for young men in the country.

 Discussions on addiction and recovery. We interview clinicians/researchers, legislators, and individuals that include a variety of means to recovery. Joe Van Wie is a father, husband, filmmaker, and reformed media consultant in recovery. 

Fellowship House
As a treatment center, Fellowship House offers both residential and outpatient treatment services to

allbetter.fm
Discussions on addiction and recovery. We interview clinicians/researchers, legislators, and individ

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase, I may receive a commission at no extra cost to you.

Support the Show.


Stop by our Apple Podcast and drop a Review!

https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/allbetter/id1592297425?see-all=reviews


Support The Show
https://www.patreon.com/allbetter

Joe Van Wie  0:02  
Hello, and thanks again for listening to another episode of all better.

I'm your host, Joe van wie leaf. Today's guest is federal judge Mary Beth O'Connor, San Francisco reader, Pio here is attached to her first book. From junkie, the judge with a mother was chose herself over her children's well being Mary Beth O'Connor. Early childhood was an unsettling mass left at a convent, and then later with her family. O'Connor eventually moves in with her mother and her new husband, a man O'Connor once watch puncher mother, long before her stepfather turned on her, taking her for spilling milk and beating her and her choice went on to prefecture as O'Connor matured in violence, escalated sexual molestation. With her first sip of Boone's Farm wine at the age of 12. She discovered she was able to numb herself to these abuses. With this new coping strategy. She got drunk as often as possible, adding pot and pills and then acid to the mix. At 16 She found her drug of choice. Methamphetamine, shot meth 17 It is not these details are the resulting gut wrenching traumas she suffered it into adulthood. But the perseverance, which O'Connor climbed out of addiction, it sets this story apart. Prescriptive recovery strategies did not work and as an atheist, she refused to turn her will in her life over a higher power. She was able to combine ideas or multiple programs on her path. What is now nearly 30 years sobriety. O'Connor's unflappable honesty, its readers permission to follow their own instincts and their paths to recovery, or an understanding the paths of others is this and her ability to rise to professional success as a federal judge, and serve as a supportive member of the recovery community makes this book an important and powerful blueprint. Personal change. I really enjoyed this conversation. And we touch on a lot of topics outside of her personal life of the criminal justice, physician stance and ideologies and addiction and how they're in conflict with punishments and crimes. I also enjoy talking to atheists that find recovery by any means she is also a member of Liferay. And as my first guest to really explain and unpack what LifeRing is, and it's fascinating, it's inviting. And sounds like an amazing organization. Soon we'll be attending. So let's meet judge Mary Beth O'Connor. I'm here with Mary Beth O'Connor. Mary Beth, welcome. Hello. Thanks for having me. Thanks for coming. I, I've been interested, I found you on Twitter. And I saw the book and it's just the catchy title from junkie to judge. I mean, it's hard to ignore. Does this mean what it says? Like? That's what was the first I grabbed me. I made me just start right there. You this your first book.

Mary Beth O'Connor  3:50  
It's my first book and it is memoir. And it's the full title is from junkie to judge one woman's triumph over trauma and addiction. And for your question, is it real? You know, that's why I do the first chapter that is the first time I shot net. Because I really want to make it clear upfront that when I say junkie, I mean it. You know, I was an IV meth addict for quite a number of years. And I did eventually become a federal judge 20 years into my sobriety. So that's a sort of a nice phrase to show the whole arc.

Joe Van Wie  4:22  
Yeah. Yeah. And that's a classic phrase from your generation junkie, really applying to in Fetta means and IV use of vitamins which at first chapter, I read it after I ordered the book, and I felt like I was in the room with you. It's a beautifully written book. In saying that, did you expect to write and remember so much of the details of these events from your your youth to starting with that chapter? What was that like? How did you conjure So all your senses to those memories.

Mary Beth O'Connor  5:03  
So, you know, I was a really good legal writer, I sort of taken notes for the book when I became a judge, because that was sort of a natural time of reflection, you know, how the heck did I go from IBT age. I mean, I was shooting that at 17 years old to judge. So I started taking notes. And I was a really good legal writer, I was really good business writer, but I didn't actually know what a memoir included. And so I started reading memoir to get a better sense of what what is a memoir. And then I found out well, it's written like a novel, it's written immersively, in scene with details and feelings, and I'd say sensory perceptions. And so I really had to take some classes to learn how to do that well, so that I could tell my story in the best way possible. So I did work hard on the writing. And I will say one of my proudest moments so far, is when the Library Journal, which recommends books for the librarians of America, said that it was not only a great story, but it was page turning prose. And that made me very happy because I worked hard at trying to write a good book on top of telling my story in a way that would be valuable and useful. Well, it shows I have a child one on the way, a business, I'm in school, presently,

Joe Van Wie  6:21  
I pick up your book, and within a day, I had 90 pages done, because I'm a junkie for your book. But to, you know, maybe delay summarizing the book, I want to stay on that idea. I'm just always interested and moved in inspired by writing processes from different people. I had someone on here that did their first memoir a couple weeks back and reading yours. From prep preparation to the point like you committed, I'm going to write this is how I'm going to express myself. This is just an it's a story. That I'm glad you express because it was meaningful to me reading this. What does that look like? Is that a year process? Now you have experience writing legal briefs, you've been a federal appointed judge. But now you're writing a novel, but it's not a novel format. It's your life, like and this is this is heavy stuff. How did you get comfortable from making maybe sharing these details of your life in a room in a setting with other people that have had trauma, addiction to now express and even into pages where anonymous people are going to read this? Like, what does that feel like?

Mary Beth O'Connor  7:43  
I important it was, you know, of course, revisiting my own history, which at times was painful, including because I did really sort of have to immerse myself in the events in a way I hadn't done and in quite a long time, because I now have 29 years of sobriety. So I was in the 20 plus years when I was working on the book. And so that was challenging. But there were also positives from that, because first of all, it made me realize, remember how lucky I am to be alive, that it didn't have to turn out that way. But also, I really sort of got reconnected to my younger self in the sense that, you know, although there were a lot of terrible things that happened to me, I did my best to try to manage my situation. You know, I mean, I developed techniques to try to reduce the violence. But I had a terrible kidnapping by three people, I really thought about how can I approach this to increase my survival odds. And so even though bad things happened, that I couldn't control, I wasn't just passive about it. And that was a nice reminder that I really tried hard. Yeah, the problem is that once I found drugs, you know, I sort of started getting more disconnected from myself. And so the drug history really separated me from, from who I had been before, before the trauma before the drugs. And so part of recovery was reconnecting to that. But the other side of writing the book as far as letting people know, what it was like, I really felt like a lot of memoirs sort of leap right into the drug use, and they skipped the why. Yeah, so I really wanted to show the why why did it seem to make sense to me at 12 years old to to pursue alcohol as soon as I got my first taste? Why did I progress so fast up to meth at 16? Shooting that that 70 I wanted context? Because the truth is that people with trauma histories are have a much higher likelihood of developing a substance use disorder. And many people with addictions have trauma histories. And so I wanted there to be context like it wasn't out of the blue, it's not inexplicable, why I made those choices. And then at the end, I really thought a lot of memoirs sort of went like I went to a couple meetings and everything was great. And that's not how recovery works. So 30% of the book is recovery, because I wanted to show what my process looked like, in part because I didn't do it the 12 step way, I did it an individual way, a secular way. And it's not that I want people to copy me, but it's more that here's how I was thinking about it. Here's some of the techniques I use that you might find useful. And so I wanted it to be all of those things in one.

Joe Van Wie  10:24  
Well, I'm glad you did, because it's a much needed in growing voice. I think especially with the demo coming up, and what I'm referring to as a secular approach to recovery. And the growing communities outside of traditional traditional being last 80 years, 12 Step programs, never disparage them. I'm an active member in them. But I felt limited and to hear your voice and relate to you in a secular way was, it's profound. And I'm getting it from the book. What also, you know, what it is, how substantial it is to talk about why addiction is needed. It's a defense to the first third of this book that you wrote. And I think that that's been expressed not only more clearly, concisely, and articulate in recovery communities, your books are part of that. That addiction is something that rises to defend us from a world that's kind of sucks. So there was one thing you said that I think I experienced reading the book, and I, you know, I don't want to dive into the details of the book, I think if anyone is interested, they need to read it. And is the, the experience I had reading that I'd like to talk about is similar to what you said, I'm reading about your childhood, I'm reading and thinking and it's it's it's invoking my own memories, and things that made me uncomfortable, and whatever distressing situations that arose my childhood. But it wasn't like, what a clinician would say trauma, like i Oh, my God, I'm gonna have to process this. It was stoic. In the way you just said it. In all probability, I should not have the life I have currently today. And to remember these things, and fairly accurately from reading your book, remembering my own memories, it's a source of strength and gratitude, painful events. Now, I did go through therapy and other means to deal with them. But to remember them in the context of reading your book was not alarming. It was very comforting to the sense that it's gratitude or or stoic position to life. I see that through the book. It's just interesting to read you writing about you, who's a completely different version of Mary Beth 16 year old Mary Beth 12 year old Mary Beth. What is that? Like? Is that existential is it feel, I don't know trippy to now just talk about yourself, you're the narrator of your old story. But does a 12 year old still feel a little bit like a stranger that life existed for you?

Mary Beth O'Connor  13:18  
You know, it's interesting because I address this, you know, the different versions of Mary Beth at various points in my recovery. But when I first got sober and started making positive choices, I still felt like the the drug addled intense, you know, hyper emotional, chaotic life was my real life. It took me a long time to really start feeling that my new calmer world where I was making better decisions that were it was improving that that was that that was as real as the, the life I'd had in drugs for 20 years, it took a long time to get that it also took a long time to appreciate my new world, to not feel like you know, if my husband wasn't responding emotionally to me, then he didn't love me that if we were in like, some intense emotional moment that there wasn't love there. I it took me a while to appreciate the beauty of a calmer life, the beauty of a more peaceful life, the joy of a calmer life. So there was that phase, but and by when I wrote the book, it was going back and looking at her but I will also say when I was in recovery, I did make a conscious effort to reconnect to my youngest self to the self. I was before addiction and before trauma I thought about who have I been initially like, what were my natural attributes? What was my natural personality because I have lost my connection to those things. And I thought if I could sort of reconnect to the parts of me that were originally there, and sort of use my inherent abilities that That would be to my advantage. So I thought about how I had always been verbal and I had always done well in school and I was, you know, outgoing, and I thought about trying to sort of reinvigorate those sides of myself in my recovery. And then the book was another side of it, it was really thinking back in a more distant way because it was further along, but really, because within Siena, I mean, I literally would close my eyes and put myself back in the moment and remember what it looked like and you know, the the sounds who was there, the physicality of it. And so that was a really challenging process at times, but it did really remind me of how I really did the best I could under extremely trying circumstances.

Joe Van Wie  15:49  
I just got to know, a technical note. All my my apologies. I'm just trying to make sure it's recorded properly.

Okay.

My apologies, Marybeth, I've just fixing this technical problem.

Mary Beth O'Connor  16:20  
So okay, you do still occasionally echo it's occasional? Yeah.

Joe Van Wie  16:27  
How's that? That better?

Mary Beth O'Connor  16:28  
Sounds fine.

Joe Van Wie  16:31  
Yeah. Jumping back in there, it just an existential idea that, I don't know, just to step out of the idea of time, these are memories, especially memories that have trauma that could close me off, make me less likely to ever want to be vulnerable, or have intimacy, the idea of intimacy close enough to someone that you would allow them to change you. Or, or, or that especially after those experiences of say abuse or neglect to ever get close enough to someone where you would change for them out of love. I'm looking at that. And it's like, I look at it invokes me looking at myself, like all recovery does when you relate to someone. It's sometimes feels like how many lives does one live? Like? Did that really happen? Like was I really born, I feel like I'm just always stuck in a day. And it's just so refreshing to read a recovery book. From the footpath you took to recovery and hear that story, the same idea of addiction, but now for my region would seem a novel approach to sobriety. And maybe you could explain what I mean by that. How was it that AAA wasn't the first landing pad that you will use for entering recovery?

Mary Beth O'Connor  18:04  
Yeah, so I went to rehab in 93. And although it's still problem today, it was worse than and when I went to rehab in my mind, I was going in for medical treatment. And when I got there, I found out that they were really a 12 step house. And so they were adamant that the only option that existed. They told me this repeatedly. And vehemently it was false stuff. So they insisted I had to accept a higher power, which I didn't believe in, they told me I had to agree I was powerless, which I didn't. They told me I had to turn over my will in my life, which I wasn't going to do. I didn't really like to focus on defects. So there were a lot of problems with it for me. But they support this is it. So when I decided to do was to just I read everything. And I do want to emphasize I support 12 steps when it's the right fit. If the problem comes when we tell people it's the only option or it's better, because neither one of those things is true. But I read all the big book, I read all that any text, I actively participated in the rehab classes, and I kept I just started pulling the ideas I thought would be helpful and ignoring the rest. And I found some helpful ideas and 12 steps I liked one day at a time I found that useful. I looked at the perilous step again, and I thought well, I don't agree I'm powerless. But you know, I am powerless to moderate like I can I can agree with that. But it was so uncomfortable. Because they swore that if I didn't find a higher power, among other things I was they literally I was going to fail. They told me I would fail. I said when I got home from rehab, and I was in a long term program, I actually was in for five months. And I emphasize it's now 1994 There was no Google. Okay, so I I thought, first of all, Could it really be true that no atheist ever got sober? That seemed not not possible, right? But I went to the library to see if there were other alternatives and even in 94 there were I found what for sobriety, which still exists, I found rational recovery, which exists a little bit has basically evolved into smart, I found psycho organization for sobriety which exists a little but LifeRing secular recovery broke off in 95 and is much bigger and I'm on the board for LifeRing. So I was really relieved to find that there were other approaches. But because I had started just sort of building my own plan, that's what I kept doing. I read all of their materials to I went to all of their meetings and I pulled the ideas out that I thought would help me and I sort of built an individual plan and today, we might call that a hybrid or a patchwork plan, but at the time, I didn't know anyone else who had done it, so I did what I thought would work and 29 years later, I think I did a pretty good job.

Joe Van Wie  20:48  
I want to talk about that more. Marybeth I'm gonna have to apologize I have to see I don't know what's happening if it's recorded it keeps lagging on my recording issue here that's insane. It's already recording Do you have a red light on yours?

Mary Beth O'Connor  21:06  
Do I have a red light yeah it says Record and I can see it says like 99% uploaded on a topic and see the thing move

is it not catching everything or I'm not

Joe Van Wie  21:30  
I think it is about it's like I there's no record button on my end it's like muted

I'm going to

I just I can cut this part out this is

Mary Beth O'Connor  21:53  
yeah

Joe Van Wie  22:35  
oh man I'm so sorry this so

Mary Beth O'Connor  22:39  
I had one guy was gonna pocket and his one of his pieces of equipment literally went poof and blew up things happen tech happens you know

Joe Van Wie  23:02  
okay

i

We're back, okay. Well, I want to pick up where we last left off. And that's when I went to Alcoholics Anonymous 16. I come from a lineage my father was sober. When I started to understand there was other programs outside of just na say like Rational recovery become smart recovery. These were just like really strange outliers that may be only offered in metropolitan areas and from some of the 12 step culture they're always put in a framework like they're just total weirdos outliers, the like when I was young and that was kind of the impression later on, you know, when you're what you seemingly think part of your life's rational and other parts just suffering from addiction. Now I have to suspend other rational parts of my life to overcome addiction and for an atheist An atheist set isn't like I think a lot of people put atheism, if they're from, you know, the faithful side of the aisle, that it's this resentment, it's an it's belligerence. It's the Denine of the of a God who exists, I don't think a lot of people know how to put it into a framework, that it's not this position, it's just a position to nonbelief. And to think that someone's gonna get sober because of that is just, it's the inaccuracy of that is riddled in Alcoholics Anonymous is history. Like Hank P, you got the book published for a, he was an atheist. And he brought aid. It's, you know, San Francisco, I think if he didn't appeal to Bill Wilson, and restrain his more authoritarian nature, the book would have been far more deranged in 1935 and Hanks influence on it like, hey, take it easy with the righteous rhetoric in this in the fundamental talk. So being tolerant of that and put it on a side, it's hard, what what is it about life ring? Smart Recovery, and I want to talk about what LifeRing learning is, but maybe this question first, what is it that maybe this didn't grow as fast as AAA is the same reason that religion would grow faster than, say, enlightened secular thoughts.

Mary Beth O'Connor  26:32  
So, for well, AAA was first, right, and so they were first they got large, they got embedded with the medical community, they got embedded with recovery community, they got embedded with the court system. And I don't mean that necessarily in a negative way. I mean, AAA worked hard, for example, to get a substance use disorder addiction at the time to get it to be reframed as a disease. Now, now, it's arguable if it's a disease or some other type of brain disorder, but regardless, that was to try to de stigmatize it so that people would be able to get help. It was also to help if it's a disease, you can get some medical coverage. So there were positives to that. But they got they were embedded and so everything else came later, it's so they had a sort of a, an advantage upfront, but also, a lot of people find the faith based side to be helpful. On the other hand, I will say this, it LifeRing for example, a significant percentage of our members have religious or spiritual beliefs, they just don't find 12 steps, a good fit for other reasons. So it's not only atheists that look for an option, it's not only agnostics, but America is increasingly secular. 30% of Americans identify as religious nuns and o n e. 's. Some of them have general God beliefs or spiritual beliefs, but they're not their philosophy. Their worldview isn't really focused on any religious principles. And so for them to, you know, the 12 steps can be not the right fit. But yeah, they had 12 Steps had a head start. And 12 steps does work. Well, for a lot of people. I mean, the only study that compared the different groups is the power study, the pure alternative study done by Sara Z more, she looked at the effectiveness rate of AAA, LifeRing. Smart, and women for sobriety, and found they're all basically equally effective. And so what's important from my point of view, and what LifeRing emphasizes is we want people to know they have options, so they can find the right fit and increase their odds of success. That's all we really care about. I don't care if someone does what I did. Or if someone does LifeRing, just because I'm on the board, I just want them to know, here's a list of options that you might research and see which one's going to work best for you. And that includes 12 steps as one of those options that works well for many people.

Joe Van Wie  28:50  
Well, Mary about that sounds. You know, I don't know land, you don't want opposition enemies. You don't want to attack other people and make them do it your way. Oh, man. Life will get boring. They'll be equanimity. Can I pause you right there? Are there may be a lot of people that listen to my podcast, the six that do. What is life? Rick? What would you say?

Mary Beth O'Connor  29:22  
Yeah, so my name is LifeRing secular recovery. And we've been around since 95. And we broke off of SLS, which was existing since the 80s. And I went to sos in the early 90s. And so basically, we have three pillars. We call it the three S's its second sobriety, although we include medication assisted treatment of for substance use disorder as sober if you're taking medication for a medically indicated reason as prescribed. We count that as sober. And then our second S is secularity out of respect for all faiths and none we don't do religion in meetings, but many members do have religious or spiritual beliefs. But the third one, which is really the sort of the crux is the self empowerment side. That's the third highest self empowerment. So we don't believe in powerlessness. We believe that you actually your success and recovery is based on your motivation and your efforts, we believe that different people will have a different recovery plan. Because we're not all the same. We don't all walk into rooms in the same place. We also may have different priorities about what we're going to work on first, versus what we might work on six months later, or a year later. And also, we emphasize the need for the plan to adjust over time. But the other thing is that we are meeting format is different. So in a LifeRing meeting, it's called How was your week, we do not do a travelogue. So there is no speaker taking 20 or 30 minutes of the meeting telling their individual story. We focus on current events, How was last week, and what's coming up in the next week related to your recovery. We also have crosstalk so the group talks among itself. So you might you know, ask the group for some suggestions about how to handle a situation and the group will talk about it, you know, as a group, but it's always suggestions, because what worked for me might not work for you. But it helps to hear ideas and to get support from the group. So it's different in those ways. But the self empowerment personal recovery plan side is really some of the key fundamental difference in thinking and the philosophical basis as compared to 12 steps.

Joe Van Wie  31:34  
I'm very interested in attending a meeting soon. Some basic questions, do they have attacks, and a lot of the general ideas are offered on life rings website. But if they have a text, do they? Does that text describe what they think the condition of substance use disorder is? Do they take kind of a stance? Is it neurological? Is it social? And then if you know, if you're being secular? Are they looking at addiction? The solution to it the baseline sobriety? Or do they think recovery needs to be a little more profound, like you accept them a tease? And that's that's just logical that people can't get sober. But is there an ideal? I guess what I'm trying to scratch app is that historically See, as fundamental changes what they were were deeming a spiritual awakening. And then when you look at it closer in the appendix, it's seen a personality change. I guess that's the offering, if we wanted to have entrance, secularly I want my personality to change my personality being maybe one that looks ugly, because it's defending itself from drama, and all this horror, that addiction just can't take away anymore. And maybe the addiction itself is warped my personality. Do they have? Are they pointing to an idea there? This is the disorder. And this is the profound change that produces recovery. How do they describe that.

Mary Beth O'Connor  33:09  
So we have a basic text is called empower your sober self, and that lays out the program, but also it does talk about the science of substance use disorder, the chemical, you know, reasons that our brain gets trapped in a spiral of substance use. But we, we also have a workbook and actually we a lot of recovery coaches use our workbook, even if they're not LifeRing people, because our workbook is around building a plan. And the plan does address all areas of your life, things like your family relationships, your work environment, your exposure to drugs and alcohol, a relapse prevention plan. So it's not it's about your substance use recovery. But it's also realistic that these are your culture, these other areas of life impact your sobriety. So let's develop a specific plan and the workbooks detailed it. It's like rain, it doesn't give you an answer. It's an analytical tool to help you think it through. So it's checklists and worksheets and fill in the blanks, so that you can think through these areas of life and build a plan. So the workbooks not mandatory, it's really a way to build a plan in a more structured way. And we even have workbook meetings for people who want additional structure on top of that, not everyone uses it, it's not at all required, but some people find it helpful, and even non LifeRing people use it because they find it helpful to really think things through on the disease is that a disease discussion? In life we we don't require our members first of all to identify as an addict. You know, I'm Mary Beth, and I'm an addict that's not required. We don't require members to agree that it's a disease or disorder or habit run amok, and we don't require members to track time. These are all individual decisions that there isn't a disease question is debated in the science to the community, as I'm sure you know, there isn't one consensus around that at this point. And the tracking time and identifying as an addict, some people find that useful. And some people find it to be a hindrance. And some people find it useful in the beginning and a hindrance later. So it's really about what's going to help you in your recovery, you get to decide what to do about these types of things.

Joe Van Wie  35:22  
Yeah, I was gonna say, that's hard when a peer to peer movement, be a rational recovery LifeRing, you're really you're kind of stepping into a bear trap, if you're going to have, you know, a definition of disorder from disease, we saw it evolve from not being, you know, essentially what was deemed always a disease that was great for stigma. And you mentioned that earlier with a, the great strides he made, but the conversation is getting more intelligent words, better words are being used, like just the idea of calling it substance use disorder, knowing maybe this is a way to cope, addiction, it's powerful, it's abnormal, it's beyond the pale, and it's distinct, but it's a disorder of coping, maybe an attachment style, whatever and trauma based important. So if one of these groups picks, like, this is our definition, and this is why our program works, it's building it off the definition that you're gonna get yourself into a very strange scenario, if you're not updating that book annually.

Mary Beth O'Connor  36:35  
Well, yeah, I mean, so. So you mean for the disease versus disorder side of that? Yeah. I mean, we will eventually update the book, but that science is going to be evolving, I think, indefinitely in the future, there's not going to be an answer a year from now.

Joe Van Wie  36:49  
Pass for they could say whatever maniac stuff you want in our media.

Mary Beth O'Connor  36:56  
The other the other side of that, is that right now, there is no indication that, for example, LifeRing, as a peer support group should be doing anything different depending on how it's categorized. I mean, one of the things that life really talks about, for example, on the brain disorder side, or the habit formation side, is that, why that we talk about the addict self versus the sober self, and that by making positive choices, we are rewiring our brain by developing new positive habit. So the part of you know, the the process that reinforced our substance use disorder, that same process can reinforce our recovery. And LifeRing talks about that, about how, when you're faced with choices in life, if you make the positive sort of sober self, the one that's building up your silver self choice, and you make it over and over again, that becomes a positive habit that you don't have to think about anymore. Yeah. And now you have the brain sand, the brain, the bandwidth to start attacking other areas and making other positive choices. So we did talk about the brain and the science part of it, not just as far as our addiction, but as far as our recovery.

Joe Van Wie  38:03  
That sounds awesome. And I'm thinking of two distinct things when you just said that is Shadow Work, or the idea of the shadow self with Carl Jung, the attic, self and the brain. The other is, you know, the fundamentals of cognitive behavioral therapy. And it's just it's sometimes it's just hard, I guess, to parse what what precedes bad behavior thought or or do you need thought to change them? And you're seeing the results the same way? Many people haven't therapy for addiction? In that I find that interesting. Does this also unpack like you get a mentor? Like what like, like, you pick a mentor? How does that work in a meeting?

Mary Beth O'Connor  38:52  
So we don't have sponsors? And there's a number of reasons. One is we believe every plan is individual. So we don't want someone else telling a new member what to do. On the other hand, when I when I'm asked, do we have sponsors? I answered a couple ways. One is what is the role of a sponsor supposed to be right? One of the main role is supposed to be to help people work there steps. Well, we have the workbook for working the step up, you know, our version of the steps or the process, and there's even a workbook meeting. But there's and then the other is to give sort of suggestions and guidance and unlife. And that's really the role of the entire group, because we have cross talk, and so people can get that direction and guidance from everyone in the room, you can ask, you know, I'm going to a work event with alcohol for the first time on Friday. Who else has faced this? Do you have any suggestions for me to consider? So there's that side, but people do develop friendships and relationships and sometimes people take you know, a person under their wing you know, as sort of having access to them or being available to them. I know when I had a face to face meeting in my area I had coffee with almost every newcomer that came in the door at some point, you know, to sit down and have an individual conversation. And if they we used to have a list of members who would be willing to give their phone number or their email out to newcomers so that people had someone to call if they were feeling that they were having a crisis or on the verge of picking up. So there's a lot of those other parts of what a sponsor does, there's a different way to achieve that same goal with within LifeRing.

Joe Van Wie  40:30  
Is their online offerings to LifeRing. Meetings?

Mary Beth O'Connor  40:33  
Yes, so pre COVID, we had, we had around 200, face to face meetings in the US. And we also have meetings in other countries. But we all even before COVID, we had six online meetings. And part of that reason was, as you said, we weren't like we didn't have a meeting on time, right. And so we wanted everyone who was interested to have a chance to participate. We now have around 85 online meetings, including specialty meetings, like women's meetings, veterans meetings, dual diagnosis, people,

Joe Van Wie  41:06  
from two to 85. And two, three years,

Mary Beth O'Connor  41:10  
we were up to that we were up to 70, within like three months of COVID, or maybe six months of COVID. And but so so we are starting to get more face to face meetings again every week. But even if we had more face to face meetings than before, we are going to continue to have a robust number of online meetings, because people have gotten used to it. And a lot of people like it. Yeah. And it does give us an opportunity to have things like the workbook meeting, which in my town, I wouldn't have enough people to do it. But in America, do it online who have enough people as a group to do it. So yeah, we will have a lot of online meetings. So even if we're not your area, the other thing I will say is that in life room, it is okay to also go the 12 steps or to also go to women for sobriety or she recovers, we don't require a commitment of exclusivity. So some of our members go to 12 steps to because there's a face to face meeting in their area. But they base their program around LifeRing and attend online. So and that's okay, like think doesn't care if that's what's going to build a strong program for you. We support

Joe Van Wie  42:18  
you. So you also don't endorse free labor or kill apostates.

Mary Beth O'Connor  42:26  
Right? That's right. All we care about is what's going to work for you look, I mixed and matched programs, right. And it worked for me. And so people don't have to hide in the LifeRing meeting that they they went to AAA last week, they can mention it. And there was something that's weird, you know, if that's what helps you we support it,

Joe Van Wie  42:43  
if I could poke at that idea. Real quick is the idea that, you know, you don't have to have? I'm not asking for total accuracy, just shooting from the hip. And if you looked at the common demo, say online and in your backyard, how many are in life ring that are also in 12 Step groups? How many in life ring? What are the demos that are you're looking at? Are you looking at a higher educated populace that seem to be more secular? I mean, I'm not. I'm not trying to make a statement by saying this. I'm just Is this true? Can that be who you're appealing to or feel more comfortable there?

Mary Beth O'Connor  43:26  
Well, I will say that, I think it when we started it was on average in the more populated areas and with higher education levels, but the reality is the studies show that today, the secularism is increasing, it's across all demographics, and all parts of the country. And so the the religious nuns are no NES emphasized not and they are a much broader swath of America than they were before. And again, a lot of members, library members have religious beliefs. But we still have a large cohort that come to us for the secularity side, and that group is growing all across America.

Joe Van Wie  44:06  
Let's step out of there for a second into the personal idea of secular life just so it could be more understood I'm secular, and but being involved in a I did broaden my idea of spirituality, not into the supernatural, into the idea of what is just still completely unknown to me. And it really comes down to the hard problem of consciousness, which I explore in my 11 Step. That's what I guess I would use the catch all phrase, this large word spirituality for me, and I found it helpful. There was a book maybe six years ago, Sam Harris wrote, it was called waking up spirituality for non believers. And it just let me have a little stake and a claim on this world so I didn't feel what my addiction does to my nonbelief is less It evolves into a nihilism. And I'm not saying atheism is nihilism, I don't believe that. It's I grew up Catholic and to become atheist after the lens of Catholicism. Sometimes it's hard to fight that off when when I'm depressed, that, you know, things are without meaning. Because what there's not a creator? Do you relate? Because you grew up Catholic? Where do you? Where do you? How would you describe that battle? If you ever had it in you, where you finally were comfortable? And what would you call a practice of either meditation or a spiritual ritual? How do you practice one today that maybe feels fulfilling, but not, you know, reckless in belief of something?

Mary Beth O'Connor  45:50  
I mean, I personally didn't stroke. So I was, I'm Mary Beth O'Connor. I was raised Catholic. I read, like two days. But I was never heavily, you know, we went to church when I was little. But I never, I mean, I would have said that I believed in God, but I didn't have a strong religious belief. Even when I was younger, it was just what I was raised to believe I didn't question it until I was older. And when I evolved out of it, you know, first it was agnosticism was talked a lot about when I was in high school in the 70s. And so for a while, I identified that way. But when I got to college, I realized, first of all, I don't believe in hell, so I can't be Catholic. And then I just, I just realized, you know, I don't really believe in God, but it wasn't a wrenching, you know, debate within me wasn't something that I felt that I lost, or that I turned against, because I had been treated badly, or any of those kinds of things, it was really just, I just don't believe this. And so I just started identifying as atheist, although I know in America, that's actually a hard word for people to to accept. But for me, the spiritual side, and I'll say this, I know a lot of people in 12 steps, they do define their higher power, if they're agnostic or atheist, they find some way to define it in a way that works for them. And that's great if that works for them. But it's also not necessary, you could just go to a secular option, and maybe that would work equally well or better, right. But some people define spirituality in their own individual way that works. For me, if I were to think about what spirituality to me, for me, it would be more about connecting to my sort of my inner self, my true self, right to try to get back to who I originally was, and also to try to have that connection to becoming the best version of who I can. So if I were to ever think of myself as spiritual be more about building up my inner spirit, that's how I would, that's how I would look at it. Like things like meditation, or, you know, I mean, some people do meditation as part of a Buddhist practice, which is, you know, religious, and some people do it as a mindfulness practice. So I think it depends on what people's personal belief set is.

Joe Van Wie  48:03  
Yeah, I practice it with both types of people that are doing it for mindfulness, almost a cognitive exercise to restraint. But, you know, any avenue of practice seems to always start to you could just boil it down, it's leading to one destination, this idea, not to a creator, something you said that you're trying to get back to your original self. And, you know, I think that's, if you examine that, what does that mean? A self prior to addiction? And does that person have the same intelligence? Is it a memory of self? Is it this person that just has lost the ability to fall in tuition credibility with yourself, which makes a nightmarish conflict for all addicts? But I'm curious, just out of the sake of a strange discussion, do you think something please proceed self consciously, like in your mind, in any practice, maybe that you had to explore this or exercises in life ring? Maybe what Buddhist approach is that there's awareness prior to personality and self, that maybe sometimes some people find calmness and non duality to self, their life? Did you ever explore those ideas?

Mary Beth O'Connor  49:27  
Yeah, I don't know. I mean, you know, I think back to sort of what my earliest memories are, you know, and how I was in my earliest memories. And I will say, first of all, for me, a lot of my recovery was the trauma recovery. It actually took me a lot longer to recover from the trauma than than my son. And in fact, I still struggle with the trauma, the PTSD and severe anxiety that I didn't know I had when I got sober, but I did and it took a lot of effort. And I still have it a little it's just a depending on the day, I'll say 92 to 95 for To better, but I even as, as far back as I can remember, I had I had trauma and neglect behaviors. I had OCD like tendencies, I had anxiety as a little girl, I remember trying to calm myself because I, my mother was not connected to me, I didn't really have anyone interested in me anyone you know, other than a school when I got there, when I was a little older, I felt alone, I didn't have a parent who was engaging with me, or who was really supporting me, or even asking me what I was doing or interacting with me in any way. And they created a sense of vulnerability and sort of an underlying fear. When I met my husband, he told me that I reminded him of the baby monkeys who never got touched when they were little. And so that's, that is sort of as far back as I can remember. That's a core part of me, it probably wasn't there the day I was born, but it was probably there pretty soon after that. So I've been asked to answer the question I was, I was having emotional and behavioral reactions to my environment. And you know, that was negative from before I can remember,

Joe Van Wie  51:09  
the first, you know, 10 chapters of your book did that that line, I don't know if it was in the review. Or if it was in the actual book, you referenced your husband, thinking, you're the monkeys. And I, I don't know why that image of the monkey they dressed up like it was a metal stick monkey. And they put the baby monkey at least in this, where there was a robot lucky monkey, just that presence of the monkey was half is better than no touch at all. There's a picture in every textbook of the way they outfitted this broom stick to be the fake mother monkey. It's the most haunting image I have from psychology, forget all torture scenes. It's this fake monkey taking care of a baby monkey was so that when you mentioned that, that jumped off the page to me, because I believe it starts from you know, the first trimester, the probability of having addiction, OCD, depression, ADHD, all these ideas. I mean, I don't I don't point to no one could point extremely to genetics for a lot of these scenarios that I suffer for. And I see the environment and the good research and the clinicians I hear speaking, and I resound with me that they make sense, is environment of activates all that. I spent 10. You know, a couple hours reading the first 10 chapters of that book. Your story walks people through their own story. And it did it in a way that I see I'm not an addiction, the addiction is a response to something that I haven't healed from it's a scar and to give vulnerable again, like you're describing in that therapy. Have you had a regret up to today of challenging yourself after some sobriety of going back and seeing what that pain was about?

Mary Beth O'Connor  53:09  
I mean, I did a lot of work on my mental health. When I when I got sober. I did individual therapy for several years. And I did medication for a while. And I did I will say one of the biggest turning points for me was when about three years into my therapy, I was put into a group with women, other women who had trauma histories, and that was a free eye opener. I mean, I I learned things there based on they were connecting current behaviors with the trauma in a way that I hadn't done, you know, they were connecting, that they reacted this way. And that's, that's from before, it was things that I just felt were Marybeth were enough for my high strong, you know, personality. And then when I saw that it was like, Oh, my god there, right? It is trauma connected. I just hadn't put two and two together. Or I remember really specifically, I think I have had this in the book where the therapist asked us to say what we needed from our partner. And they had answers. And I was shocked. Because in my mind you not allowed to need anything you can maybe want but even that's risky, right? And so it was just a lot of enlightening insights that I got from the group. But I did therapy on many aspects of my life for a long time. My husband, I did couples counseling because our relationship was broken when I got sober. And that partly was related to communication skills, which I was horrible at when I got sober. I was horrible, horrible. I couldn't listen. I was aggressive. It took me a long time to get that under control. So I had I had a lot of work to do besides just figuring out how to stay sober. You know, it's a long time a lot of work.

Joe Van Wie  54:53  
Yeah, I mean, I relate profoundly and there's no therapy. There's no approach I'm not open to. And knowing that sobriety is just the beginning of me seeing what problems I can fix was, I don't know, it was exciting this time that I live could not only be worth living is that maybe I don't know what the full answer is. And, you know, sobriety gave me the chance to find out what what, why addiction just so comforting. And even when it was destructive, I couldn't get out of it. So and a couple a couple more ideas. I guess I'm just really curious about practicing law. What drew you to be an attorney? And after knowing or feeling like I know you now from that book, the book? How do you get a sense of practicing law wanting justice, but finding a way to have forgiveness and others, the darker things you see in people in the harms that were committed to you? How does that all unfold itself from being a lawyer of allowing forgiveness as an aspect or a practice in your life?

Mary Beth O'Connor  56:21  
Well as to why I mean, I was always told I would be a good lawyer because I was argumentative. I was very verbal, I could be mixed. And many adults in any direct argument, I was a good writer. So I grew up in a blue collar family. I mean, no one in my family had gone to college, my stepfather worked at the steel mill, and my mother was a secretary. But for me, school was the always the one place where I got positive attention. And so I was on one hand, brought up to believe I was going to college. And on the other hand, nobody saved a nickel for me to do that. And so that became a problem. But I did graduate, and I went to law school right out of college. But I had gotten my Matthews under some level of control for the first couple years of college, but I had a really bad maltose, Yellin rape, and I moved in with a violent boyfriend, and I lost control in January of my senior year of college and started using meth again every day. And so I couldn't do law school the first time I had to drop out. So when I got sober, it was sort of this horrible pain that I had had, you know, something that I wanted something many people tried to get and couldn't, and I lost it because of my addiction. But I had a lot of work to do professionally, I hadn't, you know, I hadn't held a job in ever really, I kept I lost jobs, because I was using all the time. And so when I got sober, I had to sort of work my way back up into full time employment and work my way up into, you know, getting promotions and moving forward. And then it's six and a half years sober, I went to law school, and that 20 I was appointed a federal judge. So it was a process to get back. And it was a career that I had initially wanted. But I had lost so there was that side of it. As far as the justice side goes, I will say the kind of jobs that I was, I was a federal administrative law judge. So you work for a specific agency. So I didn't do criminal cases, or for any of that substance use came up when I was evaluating cases, for medical reasons, for disability reasons. And there was really specific law that I was required to apply. So I did. But But I will say on the bigger picture about the justice side with substance use, I really have strong feelings that we're in the wrong place. I mean, on one hand, the federal government literally categorizes substance use disorder as a disease, and then criminalizes it at the same time, which is problematic and contradictory. The other thing is that we want people to get well, and yet we don't have easily accessible, affordable treatment for substance use disorder. We don't get people medication assisted treatment that could use it, it's only 10 to 15% get it when many more could benefit from it. And there's also the problem of the racial disparity in the enforcement of our drug laws, which is, you know, that I wrote about that in an LA Times opinion piece. And so for all those reasons, it's problematic. And the other thing is, I think in even in like the drug courts, they first of all, are often 12 Step only, which there is no data to support and the data actually says it's not better, so why would you require it? But I still think there's sort of even in the like the probation system and the parole system and all of that. There's this false belief that if someone isn't perfectly abstinent from day one, that they're not trying and so we should penalize them and you could still get kicked out a rehab because they had a relapse that's outrageous, or they can have, you know, their probation revoked or or their parole revoked or shipped. I like a little bit go to jail, they get a job as a parole got revoked because of drug slip, right. And that's a problem. I think we got to be realistic about what recovery looks like, and support people as they go through their initial steps I used three times in my first five months, I did not have perfect absence from day, 129 years now. But three times I used to my first five months, if I was under somebody's thumb, that would have been a problem, right. And so I think there's a lot of issues with the way that we treat people when they have what is really however you categorize and it's a medical condition. It's a mental health condition that needs treatment and support that we don't even get people get access to.

Joe Van Wie  1:00:39  
Yeah, I agree. It's to see the progress and what progress looks like. It's imperfect, all things, you know, proceeding forward are imperfect. But now to take a breath, you know, drug courts have been around, what 20 years, you know, and these other initiatives that have at least a diminished more stigma. But in the long game, if you're just looking at the metrics between lives, saved ODS, recidivism of probation, archaic measures, in some drug courts to now give original sentencing. After you've put four years into a program, you have a relapse, from your emotional and psychiatric life, to now face criminal charges after you. It's like Sisyphus, it's a. So now I think it's time after COVID to have a discussion and have advocates like yourself, not only out there arguing from the sense that you have personal experience in addiction, this isn't something there's always credibility in that, but to look at these programs and say, Okay, there's a fundamental problem. These are combating stigma, what's stigma that addiction is a crime. So we're placing solutions on top of a fundamental position that's wrong. It's just completely wrong. And so we're gonna fix the top the apex of a pyramid, that's rotten from the bottom. I am refreshed when I see your Twitter account, which I fall and your presence online. And now reading your book and speaking to you there's there's a wave coming of just thoughtful, compassionate, people that are setting cities on fire let net like this is a sane discussion. Where do you see you being a part of this discussion moving forward from like, the effort you're already committed to and say, the next 10 years?

Mary Beth O'Connor  1:02:39  
I mean, on one hand, I do think a library for example, is an abstinence based program, but we accept you know, medication assisted treatment, or even if people are on let's say, cannabis for anxiety because their doctor gave the okay that's between them and their doctor, we get don't get in the middle. But and Lavery supports harm reduction, I think there's, I think there's a place for having people in the room who are pursuing abstinence, because some people are more comfortable that way. But harm reduction is a critical component of all of it. I mean, I always emphasize, I use the needle exchange in the last few years that I was shooting, that there wasn't legal, but San Francisco because of HIV, they tolerated it. So there would be a van that pulled up twice a week at a certain address, and the cops would just drive on by you know, and so that was a positive and now your life. If that's right, when I got sober, I did not have HIV, I didn't have hep C, I never got endocarditis, I mean, I you know, none of those things. And that's partly due to the needle exchange and partly due to pure luck. But now that you know the with the overdose epidemic that focused on nor can the focus on medication assisted treatment, which I'll be honest, I'm not sure why we call ma T harm reduction in the first place is just medication for disease.

Joe Van Wie  1:04:00  
That's it's funny, it touches ring clicked in my head when you said that because I my friend, a lot of my friends are social workers. And I have one on and I'm trying to have him unpack one of my early episodes, you know, let's what's harm reduction? He said seatbelt. That's where I started the conversation. And it was profound to me, I'm like, oh, yeah, well, okay, that's a good place to start. And then he built it up to now, why are we calling that for life saving medicine? Does that harm reduction don't die, you have the option of dying without this medicine,

Mary Beth O'Connor  1:04:37  
which is when it will happen many medicines, you know, so I don't understand why it's categorized that way. But it did. So there there is an increasing emphasis I think on getting many people where they are I mean, I'm a government reduction is twofold. One is first of all people that are given harm reduction support services, like syringe support services. There are lines are going into treatment for substance use disorder are significantly higher than this the same group that isn't part of the harm reduction support process. So it gets and helps people eventually get ready for treatment. But even if it doesn't, even for the people that don't eventually go into treatment, we're not only keeping them alive. But even if we only care about your tax dollars, it's reducing emergency room visits and reducing costs in a large number of ways. So it's healthy for the individual who should care about but it's also cheaper for society to do these things. And so there's many positives from harm reduction on both the individual and societal level.

Joe Van Wie  1:05:40  
Yeah, it's interesting. Have you ever kept an eye on or understand any of the programs, Johann Hari always references them in Portugal. And they were really they got them done fast. They, they did it all off of evidence based research. Let's make a whole paradigm shift here and how we're approaching addiction. Outside of what you just named harm reduction tactics, needle exchanges, ma Ts, there was one interesting program that was almost like economic development, and recovery and addiction supporting people in recovery. Because I find any male who's been sober a year and can't go out to dinner, it's crushing. And employment opportunities, and I'm even talking beyond criminal records, or business or subsidized loans. I just wonder, I've never seen a roll out here yet. Have you been keeping an eye or understand any of those programs of how they may or could work here eventually.

Mary Beth O'Connor  1:06:48  
Me You're right, the portable want to decriminalize personal use and have a very integrated system that it rolled out in support. And it has had a massive success as far as the reduction in drugs and not just overdose death, but literal actual drug use rates have gone down significantly. And Oregon, as I'm sure you know, is the first American state that decriminalized personal use. And that's still being rolled out. I know, I've seen some recent criticisms that it's not going fast enough. But I think it took a while for the money to sort of, for them to get access to the funds to be able to do some of the things they want freedom if they get to do everything they want. The money's not there at the same level that it is in Portugal to do all the supports that are necessary. I mean, I live near San Francisco, and San Francisco, you know, we have a homeless problem. But it's because we don't have enough housing, we just don't have enough low cost housing or even affordable housing of any kind. And it becomes a cycle, there aren't enough treatment beds. So even if people want to go into treatment, they don't, they can't, there aren't even enough beds for people to sleep at night, who want to sleep at night. And so the system is broken in a lot of ways. And it does take a targeted sort of multi pronged effort. It's why I don't believe that one. Recovery approach works for everyone. I mean, when I went into my my treatment facility for women, some of the women were didn't have anywhere to go when they got out, they were really unhealthy. But they were temporarily at the recovery house. Some people had, you know, problems with their their children have been taken away, and they wanted to try to get visitation back or eventually get custody back. Some people couldn't get a job. They had, you know, horrible inclement weather, sometimes the criminal record will interfere with your ability to get a job. Some people have medical conditions, so many people have dual diagnosis with mental health conditions that need to be addressed. At the same time. People have physical problems, sometimes from drug use, or just general neglect of their health needs, because they don't have access or they're just not focused on it. So it is complicated. And the best solutions target as many of those areas at the same time to get the person stabilized. I mean, the reality is that getting someone else, for example, is a huge positive in their ability to reduce their substance use and eventually get sober if that's what they want.

Joe Van Wie  1:09:10  
San Francisco that's your that's your backyard and that's the great statement of housing is Madison. Yes. Banging that gong. As we kind of wind down Marybeth. I guess one thing, a theme I was seeing when you were talking is this the shift we need have this idea that addiction like when you talk about the the criminal justice system or measures of social programs being so social or or reckless giving addicts things and or these are criminals. What's not being challenged and I think needs to be challenged before you know you have more support for all these rollouts. Was that Addiction is like some kind of choice, or some kind of indulgence in your book is now on the record, to saying, that is not the case, addictions cause, you know, there might be genetic components. But let me tell you what, really, here's what we could point to that we know today, it's culture. It's the stress of a traumatizing culture, that doesn't value a birth, the time it needs to give kids affection in the first three or four years. Just a punitive system that can change, we could slowly change that you want to reduce the rise of addiction, forget where we're at now, what we're talking about as a culture change of take it, hey, do we have to be this primal mammal for the next century? Two centuries? Are we going to make it if we are? I mean, it's a really, it's a much deeper question. When you get past disorder and disease, here's what's causing it existence. I don't think we were engineered to be this fierce with each other. I think that's a lie. And that's a misunderstanding from, you know, a more complex evolution. I think we were, you know, we're we're evolved to nature and nurture, nurture each other and have community and homeostasis. The, you know, the mass numbers of us aren't psychic don't have psychopathy. But we're running in a system that seems to be designed by psychopathy would, is that too broad or esoteric for someone to state?

Mary Beth O'Connor  1:11:37  
I mean, I think you're right, that there are, you know, there are multiple problems with the way we're structured, that sort of primed people to develop various forms of addictions, whether it's substances, or shopping, or gambling, or eating or the many other areas. But part of what I also think about when you say that is that, fundamentally, we have a mental health treatment problem beyond substance use, right? I mean, if children who are traumatized, were getting the treatment they need at that time in their life, their odds of ever developing, the substance use disorder would be reduced. And yet, a lot of people in America don't have access to good mental health treatment for their children, even if they know that they need it, or people are working two jobs, and how can you know, to survive? And how can they take their kid to appointments, even if they couldn't get access to them, which they probably can't. And so there are a lot of structural problems that need to be addressed. That would reduce it. And, you know, it's kind of funny, because while I'm not funny, it's not the right word. But we it's almost like, we are just all, you know, sort of rats on that trend, though, right? And it just keeps going and going. And that's partly how our society is designed. And people are becoming less satisfied with it on multiple fronts in multiple ways. And to be honest, the social media and the computer access is another one of the problems, right, people aren't interacting as much on a face to face level on an impersonal level. And that can be problematic, we're seeing some of that effect with kids not feeling as emotionally connected to their system, you know, social circles. So it is there are a lot of layers, and there are a lot of levels to it. I mean, our substance use right in America is higher than most of the rest of the world. And there's a reason for that

Joe Van Wie  1:13:24  
culture. I mean, you have the access the entire bandwidth of known knowledge in history of our species, and instead of digging through the troves of curiosity can find online it says something to how much I need validation or what I would perceive are my brain, the the unconscious or the bottom. The bottom parts of my brain need this validation a click of dopamine, I'd rather go watch a cat video. And I get it I love cat videos. It says something it says two things. It's not that we're stupid. It's we need that nurturing, okay, now I'm getting a cheap facsimile of it from, you know, binges of everything binges of movies, drugs, clicks, likes, reactions, and it's not enough and it needs to be more profound. You we got to force that into our culture. And I think people are doing that. I think people are doing that the bottom has fallen out on this cheap facsimile of life, when we want something more profound and meaningful. Well, Marybeth, would you I hope you would come back. I really enjoyed talking to you, and I'm going to have to hit a life ring meeting. Would you pop back on sometime in the near future?

Mary Beth O'Connor  1:14:50  
Of course, of course. And I would like to give out my context for your viewers are posted so that they can reach me, because I definitely answer any emails that come to my website. which is jumping into SATCOM. And as you say, my Twitter at Mary that though underscore, I really try hard on my twitter to post useful information. My goal is to be of use, you know,

Joe Van Wie  1:15:10  
yeah, it's not, it's not candy. I've dived into a lot of those articles in there. They've helped. They've articulated what I didn't understand, for me about addiction, which I'm constantly learning. But below you'll find a book, from junkie to judge by Mary Beth. And you'll also find information for life ring, and the women's women's

Mary Beth O'Connor  1:15:34  
women for sobriety and recovery foundation. I'm on the board for she recovers to Yes.

Joe Van Wie  1:15:39  
So I'll have those links here. Marybeth, is there anything I didn't ask you that I should have?

Mary Beth O'Connor  1:15:46  
Well, yeah, you say we could have a whole other conversation and I'm happy to come back. But I really enjoyed this one. I think we covered a lot of good topics, a lot of

Joe Van Wie  1:15:53  
territory. Well, thanks. So let's help it record it.

I'd like to thank you for listening to another episode of all better. Find us on all better.fm 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 https://otter.ai

INTRO
From junkie to judge one woman's triumph over trauma and addiction.
The process of writing the book.
The importance of a secular approach to recovery.
Marybeth’s introduction to recovery.
Rational recovery vs. Smart recovery
Basic questions to ask.
The importance of having a sponsor.
The secularism of secular life.
Self-awareness prior to addiction.
Regret of going back to school.
The long-term impact of harm reduction on addiction
Why addiction is not a choice.