I grew up in a middle-class family about 10 minutes from CleanSlate’s Wilkes-Barre center. Growing up, my neighborhood seemed like the perfect suburban community. My parents didn’t lock their doors and loved their country and neighbors. The only reference to drug education we had was Nancy Reagan’s, “Just Say No” campaign and most people in my community thought that if people did just that, the drug problem would cease.
My parents and my friend’s parents only knew about heroin from the news reports they’d seen in the sixties, saying that their rock idols had died from overdoses. Little did they think there could be a heroin problem in their own community. My home of Northeast Pennsylvania, once known as “a valley with a heart,“ had in just a few years become nicknamed “a valley with a habit“ by local media. I don’t think anyone at the time could imagine how true that statement would become.
By the time the local government and medical community admitted that heroin was a problem, years had passed and resources were scarce. I was in college when I started using. It was the nineties, so I listened to bands like Nirvana, Jane’s Addiction and Alice in Chains, watched movies like “Trainspotting” and “The Basketball Diaries,” and in an attempt to be well-read, frequented books by Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs and Jack Kerouac. I thought of myself as a free thinker who did not conform to societal norms. Heroin to me was fascinating and taboo and, at the time, I incorrectly equated it with being artistic and creative.
I was around 18 years old when I started using heroin. At the time, I had no idea how drug use would affect my future. After more than 30 treatment episodes, including stays in halfway and recovery houses, countless 12-step meetings, multiple recovery books, trying medications and detox – you name it, I tried it – I ended up homeless in Philadelphia with track marks up both sides of my neck. My living quarters consisted of an abandoned building with no plumbing where rats and roaches were my roommates.
Along the way I had episodes of endocarditis, countless blood infections, frostbite, abscesses and even got stabbed, shot at and robbed. I would not say I was suicidal, but I had thought to myself that if I happened to die, that was fine with me. I figured it came with the territory and the lifestyle I had chosen. After reading countless obituaries of friends and acquaintances who had overdosed, how could I think that I was immune? At my lowest point, I remember taking a Sharpie and writing my mom’s name and phone number inside my winter coat in the hopes that if I died, the coroner would call her to claim my body.
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Joe Van Wie 0:03
Hello and thanks again for listening to another episode of all better. I'm your host, Joe family. Today's guest is Kate Avada and read her bio Clean Slate recovery centers.com. There are your spotlight. I grew up in a middle class family about 10 minutes from clean slates Wilkes Barre center. Growing up my neighborhood seemed like the perfect suburban community appearance in walk there doors, love their country and neighbors. The only reference to junk drug education we had was Nancy Reagan's. Just say no campaign, and most people in my community thought if people did just that, the drug problem would say my parents, and my friend's parents only knew about heroin. The news reports they'd seen them in their 60s, saying that their rock idols died from overdoses. Little did they think there could be a heroin problem in their own community. My home, Northeast Pennsylvania, once known as the valley with the heart and in just a few years become nicknamed a valley with a heaven local media. I don't think anyone at the time could imagine that statement would become by the time the local government medical community admitted that there was heroin problem. years it passed and resources are scarce. I was in college and I started using it was the 90s listen to bands like Nirvana Jane's Addiction. Allison chains. Watch movies like Trainspotting? The Basketball Diaries. And in an attempt to be well read frequently, books like Allen Ginsberg the mess Burroughs, Jack Kerouac. I thought of myself as a free thinker did not conform to societal norms. Heroin to me, was fascinating and taboo. And at the time, anchor correctly equated it with being artistic and creative. Without a team, I started using heroin. At that time, I had no idea of drug use will affect my future. After more than 30 treatment episodes, including stays in halfway and recovery houses, countless while step meetings, multiple recovery books, trying medications and detox, you name it. I tried it. And I ended up homeless in Philadelphia. The track marks on both sides of my neck. My living quarters consisted of an abandoned building. No plumbing, rats, roaches were my roommates. Along the way, I had an episode of In carditis countless blood effect infections, frostbite, abscesses, they even got stabbed, shot and robbed. I would not say I was suicidal. But I had thought of myself that if I happen to die, that was fine with me. I figured it came with the territory and lifestyle. It chose it after reading countless obituaries of friends, acquaintances when overdosed. How could I think that I was immune? at my lowest point, taking a Sharpie writing my mother's name, phone number inside my winter coat helps that if I died, the coroner would call her play my body. I can't say exactly what led me to recovery was not a near death experience or I saw the light moment. Throughout my 13 years of using a utilize local harm reduction services. This was the only contact with anyone who could be considered healthy Anyway, did not judge me. And the people who worked and volunteered these services are a big reason. I kept going back today and my work at clean slate. I'm a firm believer in the positive results of harm reduction services. Harm Reduction refers to services that helped people who use drugs in their communities by recognizing that some people are not willing or able to abstain completely from us. Instead of punishing these people or withholding assistance. Our reduction works to improve health save lives and strengthen communities by ensuring access to services such as needle exchange programs, overdose prevention sites, medication assisted treatment, housing assistance and more. From my own personal experience, I no harm reduction services, reduce disease, keep people engaged and change lives. Today I feel grateful for the opportunity to help others who face the barriers. And I once faced. I am a person long term recovery. Let's meet Kate and hear about clean slate services levels of care and their community outreach here at Sylvania. Well, here we are, we're in studio and I am on a website called Clean Slate centers.com. And clean slate, drug rehab, alcohol recovery and addiction treatment is has 75 locations across the country and country gate you correct me if I'm wrong, but I wanted to lead in with this because you start right on the website addiction is a disease that can be treated. Clean Slate Pennsylvania offers individualized outpatient treatment plans to give you the freedom to walk your own path. And I think we're going to discuss what that means. So it's not a general statement walk your own path it means something very specific. They also write proven medicines such as Bupa nor Fein. And now Now tracks one can help reduce your cravings while you help you build a long term recovery plan. Our care coordination services can help you with support services, such as counseling, child care, housing, and transportation. That's huge. We know this isn't easy. We'll be with you every step of the way. Well, in studio today is my friend Kate, Kate, thanks for coming in.
Kate Favata 6:52
Thanks for having me.
Joe Van Wie 6:54
I see Kate at every outreach event from here to about 42 counties. And I'm very happy to finally get you in here to discuss the programs that you guys have rolled out. And you're doing it in multiple states, but specifically Pennsylvania. And we could talk a lot about these programs. But first, I want to get some insight who are you?
Kate Favata 7:17
So my name is Kate filata. I'm the Senior Community Relations liaison for Clean Slate centers in Pennsylvania. My job is to kind of get our name out there and if people need to be connected with our treatment or any kind of other treatment, I am happy to help out. Like you said, I go to events. One day I'll be in a tent city and Kensington trying to help people just get into some kind of treatment or handing out sleeping bags. I'm just telling them about my story what we do and another day I might be at the capitol in Harrisburg. Yeah, advocating for people that can't advocate for themselves. Well, let's
Joe Van Wie 8:05
start there. Let's go back Memory Lane and say what your own story because a lot of your help, especially when it's at face to face, intervention level, interceding and crisis right on the street. A really strong tool. We know this from peer to peer is your own personal story. And when you establish that you're really establishing trust, there's no judgment happening. Well, why? Let's start how you became a person and long term recovery. Where are you from?
Kate Favata 8:38
So I was born and raised in Kingston, Pennsylvania. I grew up with like the nuclear family to parents. middle class family, I went to private school. And actually funny enough, I was adopted, I think at two weeks old, from St. Joseph center. Right, right around the corner.
Joe Van Wie 9:00
Wow. Yeah, my sister. I have a lot of family members that are from St. Joseph's. Yep. When did you find that out?
Kate Favata 9:09
I don't ever remember finding it out. It was kind of something my parents just always told me that they couldn't have children. And I came from the angels. Like when I was little, that's what they told me. And then when I was older, you know,
Joe Van Wie 9:21
the stork angels. Yes. The angels
Kate Favata 9:25
wanted to give my parents a baby. And I was, you know, the one they picked. So yeah. Funny enough, though. Over the years, I've been in so many rehabs and I've met a lot of kids that were adopted. So I don't know if there's a correlation between that
Joe Van Wie 9:40
you personally wouldn't. What insight Do you think it gives to your own narrative of maybe an emotional life proceeding addiction is Do you think that had an effect from early on?
Kate Favata 9:53
So I never people are always like, Oh, how do you feel about being adopted? And to me, it's like I never knew Any other I was, you know, anything to compare it to. So, I'm not sure but one interesting thing when I was about 16, I met one of my friends, her mother confided in me that she was at St. Joseph's. And I mean, back then they wanted the babies to bond with the adoptive parents. So a lot of the birth mothers weren't allowed to hold the babies. I was born in 77. So it was a different way of thinking back then, you know?
Joe Van Wie 10:27
Yeah, and I don't think it was universal. Someone was just on here we're talking about there was an experiment, I think it was in the 60s with children. Having nurturing effects, especially through physical touch. First, the study was done with monkeys, monkeys that didn't receive any warms, cuddling, nurturing nursing, that would be some way to physically have contact with the baby show love translate that, and then the group was just what a robot monkey that was dressed up. And it was just so such a frightening pitcher snare.
Kate Favata 11:07
But I mean, for me, like, I, I had two loving parents. So I mean, adoption to me, it didn't really make a difference. But I have met people that is been like, a big, had made a big impact in their life. Because my parents were like, so loving they, they waited five years to get me. And it was almost like they spoiled me because they were just happy to have me. I would say that probably led more to like where I ended up.
Joe Van Wie 11:36
Sitting here today. I, it seems obvious. Do you ever consider the idea of maybe the pregnancy of your natural mother being at a point where it was stressful? And information of that the thing that ever has effect on children?
Kate Favata 11:56
I'm sure absolutely. Yeah. You know, there's so many like variables. And the one thing I do know is they told me like my ethnic background, so I'm half Italian and half Hungarian because they my parents tried to match as close to them as they could. But on the paperwork, it said they were both in college. And who knows if that's true. When I started finding out about neonatal abstinence withdrawal syndrome, my mother, like, I was in college, and she was like you had every one of these things when we brought you home? Like the screaming, the diarrhea, the sneezing, so, yes, I'm guessing back then, there was like, a lot more stigma than there is today. And if you're adopting a baby, they probably didn't tell you if there was substance use.
Joe Van Wie 12:43
Yeah. You know, that's, that's interesting.
Kate Favata 12:47
So anyway, how it's been a very long road. I love the company I work for because we do utilize harm reduction principles. And that was kind of my pathway to recovery. Um, I've been in 30 rehabs jail, I think 18 times you name it. I've tried it, you. Which is funny, because when I meet people now they're like, What was your drug of choice? Alcohol? Like, did you go to the bar? Like a couple nights a week? Yeah. But
Joe Van Wie 13:20
why it's funny is because I have a social knowing and a professional knowing of you. And the reason I could chuckle is because I don't see a criminal sitting in front of me. I see another person as same condition I have. And we laugh because of, you know, the structures around us that respond to someone having an addiction can be really punitive. And so I think that's the case for a lot of people. Keep what what did they can you describe to me the first time you you did get a buzz just to stay on your story for a little bit? Sure.
Unknown Speaker 14:00
What happened? Like if it was alcohol or pot what what was happening? That was so powerful, versus the normal state of your consciousness while you're sober? What what did getting hired drunk provide that you just could not provide for yourself? How would you describe
Joe Van Wie 14:19
Kate Favata 14:20
So interestingly enough, when I was in high school, like a lot of my friends are like experimenting, smoking marijuana, drinking alcohol, and I really didn't like it. I would like fill a cup of beer and hold on to the same cup. Because they wanted to be cool. You know what I mean? But I didn't, I couldn't stand the feeling of being out of control with alcohol. And marijuana. I didn't really like that. It made me really tired and groggy. So I remember lying and telling people, my parents were drug testing me so I wouldn't have to smoke pot, you know? And it's not to say, I mean, sometimes I would do it, but heroin When is like really where like my addiction took off.
Joe Van Wie 15:03
So there's a distinct difference, a need being met, not only emotionally neurologically, it's not dopamine. It's not alcohol, it's not narcotics. You, you had a marriage with opioids. And that's really specific to a need you want. It's more of that. If you ever read I don't know if you have Terence McKenna is kind of hierarchy of drugs when he LSD movement in the 60s, describes like, you know, lower drugs, dopamine driven drugs, alcohol, nicotine, narcotics, as an adolescent have returned to adolescence or to permanently stay there emotionally. He talks about psychedelics and Ethiopians as these elevated higher ritual religious experience drugs like enlightened drugs, but then he talks about opioids, specifically. And he says it's a drug that brings someone emotionally and spiritually back to infancy to the warms of the womb. That's how do you relate to that?
Kate Favata 16:07
Absolutely. It was like a warm, like, blanket like, and I've read that before, that it was like being in the room. It was like, nothing bothered me. Someone could tell me like my whole family was killed. And it's not that I wouldn't be sad, but that their painkillers like opioids, and they work really well. That's what I always say about drugs. Drugs work. It's the consequences, you know? Yeah, they do. But I can remember so I'll try to like set the scene. It was like, the late 90s. I mean, we had Nirvana and the grunge movement. And there was they called it heroin chic. And in the Kate Moss, and I loved all the people that were doing heroin. They were like, kind of like, the people I looked up to, like artists and musicians and reading books from, like William S. Burroughs. It almost had like a certain like lore like a Genesee quoi to it? Yeah, like you belong to this, like, elite club. It's not like it is today. We're doing it.
Joe Van Wie 17:17
That's real. I, I'm a product of the 90s. No, I didn't do opioids. But I saw that culture wasn't a culture I entered, but the fact that you would sit at a keg party, say with a solo cup, and just nurse it. For a sense of belonging, the drive was to belong in the group, but you couldn't fully belong, because you're not a drinker. Now you find heroin chic. You could belong, it almost feels like a national movement with the music in the photography that was just in multiple magazines and tabloids? Did it have a sense that you had a belonging to something much larger?
Kate Favata 17:58
Absolutely. Like, I'll talk to people that I'm still friends with that are now in recovery. And it was like the secret club that we all belong to. Yeah. And I, I mean, I was very, like, attracted to it all, you know, because like, in my head, I thought of myself as like being creative. And well read and intelligent. And, I mean, now we know that's not true. But it kind of did have that kind of like luster to it, how it was presented in the media, like The Basketball Diaries. There was like this whole culture around like heroin.
Joe Van Wie 18:36
I feel you took me down memory lane. Yeah, that was real. That was an unsaid culture that you could view you knew it was for you those films music. You did say one thing and we all know opioids treat pain, and very effectively to the point where you there's no exit, simply without intervention or your house help. You described your childhood a little bit and you had a loving environment. But there was a pain being treated? And would you would you be fair to frame that maybe you had a pain you didn't understand which is throbbing in the background that you didn't realize was there until it was treated the first time you used heroin.
Kate Favata 19:23
Um, I guess that would be accurate. So to back up a little bit, I had add as a kid, and a boy having ADHD and a female at the time was like, very different. Like, it was like boys will be boys. They're hyper but like when a girl did it, especially I went to Catholic school. It was like a new deck like lady like I I'm not even like exaggerating, like sitting still in my chair was like, a challenge, you know? Um, so the opiates honestly, they like kinda like I think slowed my thinking down to where it should be.
Joe Van Wie 19:59
So there was Is that like a hyperactivity component at least in your thinking? And would that be Would you be kind of called out in class to?
Kate Favata 20:09
Yeah, I was always like, it was always like, you have so much potential. You're so smart. You're just your behavior. You know, I was kinda like the class clown. You know? Um,
Joe Van Wie 20:21
um, what age were you when heroin became something you knew was a resource and, like, how old were you?
Kate Favata 20:28
Well, I was out of school. I was, like, 18, I believe. So for me, like, there are things I wanted to do that I couldn't do it. Like, I got okay grades in school. I planned on going to college and doing all of that. But just struggling with like, trying to focus on things. And I can remember, one of the times that I went back to college, and I was on heroin. I actually did very well, because I was in for the first time in my life, I was able to concentrate and take notes.
Joe Van Wie 21:02
Wow. Yeah, most people treat ADHD an amphetamine helps, right? I find yours really, like just in conversation, we're talking so distinct to the pain you were experienced that could be sue that you find refuge and an opioid that calmed your mind or point of focus. I can't help but think of it's a pharmaceutical version of equanimity. Like what Buddhism would say that you're confident like your first scription just 10 minutes ago was like, if my parents were, you know, now deceased, or tragedy rose up in my life. Yeah, I'd be you know, it's not that you don't care, but you would be at peace with it. That is powerful. I think you just really described how powerful addiction is for someone where you don't, you can now come from a pit position, if you understand that you won't judge how irrational an addiction looks. Because of how how much pain needs to be treated.
Kate Favata 22:09
Absolutely. And I could remember, like getting out of treatment, and like, I really want like, wanted to do the right thing. But it was like this primal like urge from inside of me like, I couldn't control it, like walking to go cop. Like with tears running down my face. I mean, I know people say that all the time. But it was like something was controlling me from the inside. Um, yeah. I mean, it worked. Like it worked really well. And I had been on amphetamines like Ritalin like when I was young, but it just made me really tired. And I tried to stop trying to figure out a long time ago, what like, when I ended up turning into like, someone who had opiate use disorder or substance use, because I would make myself crazy, like in my head, trying to think like, when did everything change? You know?
Joe Van Wie 23:00
Yeah, I'm not a doctor. And I wouldn't pretend to be an we've discussed this before. There's the medical effects of transitioning this into, okay, the entry into recovery or the sustainability of someone's recovery with medically assisted treatments which Clean Slate does. I mean, we're talking about an eighth of a second, that a human being now has to respond with what someone would call their agency or their will. I want to be sober this drug, okay? It's killing me. It's made life so horrifying that I'm living on the streets of Kensington, I have a family somewhere. But my will is not enough. And these these life saving medicines could give people a chance for quality of life. I guess we're hedging the same. I'm not a doctor, you're you're competing with a primal part of your brain, you don't have consciousness over once that addiction is in a full, full activity in your in withdrawal, or there's an emotional response or physical withdrawal. You have an eighth of a second where is the choice and will in that what you were describing at the end of your addiction like you want it to be sober, but you what was it just an impossibility,
Kate Favata 24:25
it seems that way. Like I always talk like when I go and talk to different groups of people. Like at the end for me, I used to, I had a coat like a blue northeast coat and I took a Sharpie and wrote my mom's name and phone number among the inside of my coat because like at that time, my biggest hope was that if I died, somebody would claim my body because I've known so many people that their body just went unclaimed and they ended up in an unmarked grave. And I don't say that for like shock value that's just like where I was at, at that point. And like through the years I had tried like medication assisted treatment. And it always worked for me, but from being indoctrinated into different, like programs like in rehabs. I always had a voice in my head saying like, you're not really sober, you're not really clean. You know, you're just trading one drug for another. I mean, intellectually, I knew that wasn't true. But like,
Joe Van Wie 25:24
it's, I understand I have friends I grew up, and I'm not disparaging twelve-step. I'm a member. And I I'm in forever debt to them and the people I've met, because because what are they, they're people. But in that culture, you have different populations and age groups, right. So when I first was introduced to say, peer to peer 12 STEP program, you know, the upper echelon were World War Two vets that opioids were not in their vocab or lexicon. And they came from a his a history in a way that if drug addicts were going to these church basement meetings, they were jeopardizing the actual existence of that meeting, because will the FBI be taking pictures of people selling or coming off in narcotics. So there is a real primal like fear that can make people into you know, this tribalism rose up, you know, even within a human realm. So when all for like a forgiving and understanding lens, I understand where the biases and the discrimination of the attic population began, very strongly, I would say in the 50s got really distinct. That lasted until the 80s, and a new way. And it just the stigma is still being debated today. But we you and I both know, just to put context to it, that history was thick, and it was palatable, and you could hear it at meetings to the point you couldn't address yourself at certain meetings as an addict.
Kate Favata 27:07
That's so true. So the first time I got out of rehab, I was like, gung ho, I'm like, this is what they're telling me to do. They educated me on the disease concept. And I went to an AAA meeting. And it was a lot of people probably over 50. And I introduced myself and said, I was having cravings for heroin. And you could have heard like a pin drop. And they just, like, skipped over me, you know, because they told me to raise my hand when I got out of treatment. And they skipped over me. And just that feeling like that's crushing, you know? And I don't know, like, I really I did the 12 steps I tried. For me, it just wasn't enough, like sitting in a church for an hour, because I told you I have a hard time sitting still, to begin with. It just I mean, I know it works for a lot of people. It didn't work for me. And then I have friends in AAA that are like, Well, you didn't work it.
Joe Van Wie 28:05
Yeah. So how do you how did you come to terms with what that could mean? Did that? I mean, a that sounds like it hurts? Because I know you and I we've had conversations. And this is a sincere desire to get sober. What did you think was wrong? When you hear that from the only thriving community that was that you're not working at the right way? This? What does it do?
Kate Favata 28:29
Well, I mean, probably the first couple of times, like I went back and got a new sponsor and tried to do the steps again and read the book. And I remember, you guys probably know what page it's on, but constitutionally incapable. Like, I'm like, Oh, my goodness, this is me. And then I probably spent the next few years being like a self fulfilling prophecy that I am gonna end up dead because I can't work this simple program for complicated people.
Joe Van Wie 29:00
Here's the description, I guess. 80 years now removed from the time they wrote it 1935 1939. That's in the beginning of chapter five, and Alcoholics Anonymous. And it's really that most meetings call how it works, where they finally dive into what are the mechanics of the rest of these steps. They give this kind of riddle it's almost like they're A's in the book marketing program of their success rates. And it's a riddle of fractions. And we don't even know what the draw is from maybe 100 men and women is it still 100 men and women from the beginning of the book, you know, and they say, you know, some there are such unfortunate some people get sober half these people did these people returned, but then there's these kind of people who are constitutionally incapable of, you know, living and maintaining a life that demands rigorous honesty. There are such unfortunates, but they too, you know, have a chance to get so Well, I guess if you look at it now and 2023, what are they describing, I guess, you know, severe mental illness that they probably couldn't put a label on. Maybe we didn't have full descriptions or at least detailed ones of maybe they're encountering helping those people. They might also be describing pathologies of psychopathy, severe narcissism, Psychopaths, sociopaths that are just not connecting with people. I'm sitting across from you, that's not but this is my guest if I had to throw a Hail Mary, what they're describing, but they also did not have a lot of people. You know, if I could shoot from the hip, I could be wrong that had severe opioid crisis is coming in. And what that does neurologically to cravings, long term effects of serotonin and dopamine coming back in the brain within the first year sobriety, the sense of pleasure, joy. So you needed something else, and science may be provided. So there's, here's a room of people telling you, they're smoking, you know, compulsively nicotine, a great drug for anxiety and ADHD, or at least elusive illusionary drug crashing out coffees, saying you don't you're not so what does that feel like?
Kate Favata 31:27
And that's the thing I, I always thought of myself as kind of an out of the box thinker. So I remember like, looking into different things, and I, so suboxone wasn't approved till 2002. So we're talking, I think, 99 I got on a methadone program. And it was like this big dirty secret. But the crazy thing is, my life got so much better. Like I was able to hold a job I didn't use and you have opiate receptors. There's in your brain, opioid receptors, and you know, methadone fills the opioid receptors. And it takes the craving away it for the first time in my life, like, it was like quiet, like, I wasn't fighting this inner battle where I wanted to use, but I was just like, sliding by the skin of my teeth. And that's the thing, like, I know how a lot of people felt about methadone to this day, they still do. But it worked for me. And I know that like everybody uses the analogy about diabetic some people can do it with exercise and nutrition, and some people need insulin. But that was kind of like what I worked. Like, in my head, I was able to equate it with that, you know, I had like a medical problem.
Joe Van Wie 32:44
Yeah, it goes to the core, do we really think people that we're all have different needs or, or have to get different results. People could say they believe that until they want you to do exactly what they did. And, you know, there's 3 million people at any given time and Alcoholics Anonymous, there's 22 million people in recovery in the United States. So it puts a really new perspective on people that maybe in a small town thought this was the only avenue only off ramp from addiction. The math doesn't even favor it as the, you know, the majority of people who are experiencing recovery now Now, that being said, the word recovery, I think, you know, has different definitions. So those populations in AAA, you know, according to the literature and the way I experienced a there's specific that recovery is sanity, the baseline sobriety and that you have a personality change so profound from working steps like this the least secular language of describing the overcome addiction, your personality changes. You have a severe opioid use disorder. You know, crisis and you can't get dead people sober. So the baseline, you have some life saving medication, you start 99 There's stigma attached to it still, and even up to today. You said your quality of life went up. Now we know that happened maybe from the medication. But where did you couple that? Now? How hard was it for you to find a community that knew that was loving and an acceptable way to enter or maintain what you're calling recovery? How hard was it to find that back then?
Kate Favata 34:40
Well, I would say that it really didn't exist. So I started surrounding myself with like my friends that weren't that didn't have like a background in substance use. And people in AAA like I still remain friends with them, but they were always like, you're doing great, but you have to get off of this man. vacation, you know, and probably for about seven or eight years, that was my life, I would get on methadone, everything would get better. People would tell me to get off. And then I started to like, believe, you know, the I remember I was at this clinic in Philadelphia. And God bless this guy. He was super nice. But he said to me, I was actually in nursing school at Temple at the time. He's like, you're not like these people, Kate. He's like, look at them. They're missing limbs. They're homeless, like, you need to get off this, you can do it. You're strong. You know, I mean, now I know, he obviously had no idea about substance use. And I listened to him and I thought, You know what, he's right. I'm not like these people. I'm in college, I have a car, I have a house. So I started tapering. And then when I started feeling like terrible withdrawal symptoms, I didn't say anything, which led me to relapsing. And three months later, I was in the same place those people were no homeless in Kensington, no car, like kicked out of school. So yeah, and that's the thing like, for me, practicing like harm reduction principles, believing in MBT it's evidence based treatment, and whatever gets somebody there, it's not how they get there. It's just having a quality of life. And, you know, I think a hard thing for me with doing what I used to do, like, directly worked with patients, I went in thinking like that everybody wanted to be drug free at some point, that, like, their end goal is to stop using all drugs. And I had to realize that there were some people, their goal is to just get off opioids, or some people they wanted to drink, but not use opioids. So I mean, that's kind of like harm reduction, trying to keep people safe, and not judge them until they're ready or not ready to stop doing what they're doing? No,
Joe Van Wie 37:05
I was just had a podcast before you came in, when a federal judge retired in San Francisco. And she said she she's angry that they call ma tes harm reduction. She said, it should just be called Life Saving medicine. Now the strategies for you call harm reduction, we call seatbelt harm reduction. But I found that interesting, when she when she said that, and she got it. Like it's, it's about quality and saving lives. It's about dignity. It's about humanity, giving humanity to someone. So what you just said, what I hear is that your mandate, your goal, and I've seen you do this in your work, you're not defining recovery for other people, you're letting the individual define their goals and recovery. Absolutely. Okay. And and we're producing that you let them that, would you call that an empowered based approach?
Kate Favata 38:04
I would definitely. And it's funny, because of my girlfriend, she's also in recovery. We were talking the other day, and I feel like when somebody makes a decision on their own, it's so much more empowering, you know, and harm reduction is just keeping people safe. I've had so many parents, like at different events come up to me, and say that they were told to not put their son or daughter on Suboxone. And they'd rather have a child on Suboxone than a child in the grave, which is what they have. Yeah. And to me, that kind of says everything.
Joe Van Wie 38:37
And now you also encounter people are their goals to eventually be ma T free, like, and do you meet those goals with someone? What, what does that look like?
Kate Favata 38:48
So that would be between the patient and their provider? And I mean, some individuals probably will be on medication forever. Yeah, they so choose. And you know, that's okay. Sure. Sure. It's not a like, it's not a destination, you know,
Joe Van Wie 39:06
or, or this bass line, puritanical idea. It's quality of life, like how would you describe what you're achieving? Combating that stigma, the stigma that this isn't a pathway to recovery? How would you describe that? Well,
Kate Favata 39:25
here's the interesting thing that like, and believe me, I think AAA is great. Like, I think it helps a lot of people. But the interesting thing is, I've never heard anybody on MIT tell somebody, you should stop going to 12 step meetings.
Joe Van Wie 39:40
Wow, that's that's interesting, that unique I really, that's a beautiful way to say it. It's just It's basic reasoning, to be him he humanistic to someone.
Kate Favata 39:51
Absolutely. And I think it's just like what you said quality of life and, you know, the patient kind of works. With the provider, and some people, honestly, their goal is to get off it in six months or a year. Yeah. And that's okay, too.
Joe Van Wie 40:08
I think, you know, watching your work seeing the stats and the numbers seeing, okay, these programs rolled out what even economic incentives, say in Portugal, other European countries up in the Netherlands, seeing this couple even with which is illegal here, needle exchanges. I wanted to talk to you about that, too. But and then these economic incentives to subsidize people getting back into the workforce and recovery is extraordinary. It's exponential results within 12 to 24 months, it actually now some of the programs that have been in, in practice for 10 years are, are showing, socially, culturally and in the population of reduce number of younger people entering in addiction or having a need, from their social or emotional life needing addiction to be a coping mechanism, a disorder that would rise up. That being said, Would you like I just look at the raw data? If if if you think your way to sobriety which involves mine is I don't use any mood altering drugs. i But I'm a nicotine addict. I have struggled with nicotine, does that make me not sober? If that result is so powerful since 1935, why did 100,000 People die? Are you just not talking to them the right way, or they're just not getting a? So you can't even look at it that way. It's such a awful limited cult like perspective that you're, you know, a 12 step group doesn't. It just rises up to have that lens? If that's working your ways working? Why are we losing? Why are we losing because you, you have to take a hard look at every tool possible to help save lives, people might not have to have a spiritual awakening. But my God, they could stay alive, eat a hot meal, and they don't have to be homeless because of mental health crisis, when they could be taking a life saving medicine. I just I just see the math there that you're just it's irrational not to see it this way.
Kate Favata 42:21
Right. And when I first got involved in AAA, that was actually like a big discussion, mental health medication. Some of the old timers didn't even believe in that. You know, and like, I remember going to AAA and thinking, How come whenever, like something good happens. It's God or the program. And whenever I make a bad decision, it's my fault or my addiction.
Joe Van Wie 42:47
Yeah, we'll go visit those men in hospice. I have, they're not saying the same fundamental things they're taking, that they're offering themselves morphine.
Kate Favata 42:58
And I really think it's like evolution. Like if we were still practicing medicine, how we did in 1935, or 39, we would be doing all kinds of crazy, like frontal lobotomies. No, no. And I think it's just um, I was reading as I was trying to, like, kind of find a bridge between AAA and medication assisted treatment. And I'm paraphrasing, but something to the effect that we have not found any kind of doctors or medication that are able to cure this problem yet.
Joe Van Wie 43:31
Yeah. And I think that it's a real limited perspective on their behalf. Right, and it will produce Bill Wilson spiritual experience was nightshade, Bella Donna, you know, he has a white light tunnel effect. This is a common hallucination from that powerful agent that can mute the sense of self or where persona rises up, you know, say it's the cerebral cortex, high doses of that, like, LSD, different category of drug does the same thing and it can feel like spiritual experience, and very well is if you're gonna use those depending on your definition. But also, here's a man, the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous in the 50s, just suffering just horrifying waves of depression. He probably did not produce enough dopamine. He has an unbridled ego that just needs it's just who knows what his fantasy life was, where he thought achievement, or even starting a wasn't enough by the 50s. This is upsetting that he meets Aldous Huxley and another doctor and they treat him with LSD. And guess what he got profound results to the point he thought it should be part of a treatment plan. So this is non shit, send some bullshit. Like when you look back at history, I think the truth is far more forgiving. It's a broader road. And I think Gay was pretty broad, but I think when you put it under a microscope historically, it's broader than even right about,
Kate Favata 45:08
right. And that's like my thing I kind of like, try to compare it to gay marriage. If you don't like gay marriage, don't get gay married. If you don't like Suboxone, like don't get on it, you know, if you didn't really believe that strongly, but don't stop somebody else's pathway or their recovery by telling them how terrible it is. Yeah,
Joe Van Wie 45:26
and these are non violent things. These are not, you know, the public could always intercede on an ideology or an idea. That's fine when we're talking about saving people. Yeah, that's, that's interesting. I always kind of put my own disclaimer in there, I, I found a spiritual practice, I'm secular. I have no religion. No God, by name I can point to or any relevance that I need to. But I do meditate every day. And I think there is a mystery to consciousness that is just mind bending, to me, that makes my life more fulfilling, takes away my arrogance, still puts me in a humble position. But I meet people every week, that they're not, that's not what they're interested in my type of recovery. But I'll talk about my type of week. But what I do is help them find anything that makes their quality of life better.
Kate Favata 46:26
Absolutely. And that's the one of the things for me, um, we have peer specialists, CRS? Is it clean slate, and if someone tells us they want to do Dharma recovery, or AAA, we help them like, go down that pathway and walk the pathway next to them, you know, we don't dictate how they have to go. We just are there to assist them in their recovery.
Joe Van Wie 46:51
Did you ever go to a data recovery meeting?
Kate Favata 46:53
I have not.
Joe Van Wie 46:54
Oh, you gotta go. There's one on Friday nights around here. Yeah. They have it over at Lakeside, eight o'clock, or 730. It's a great meeting. Guy named Jordan, he, I've been going every other week when I can. It's a I've really liked the format I've gone online. Just a little caveat there it was. It's really refreshing, it's 20 minutes meditation, 20 minutes of their readings of the full path principles. And how this the practice of this could give you a sense of recovery from anything they don't it's not addicts, it's whatever, you know, substance or behavior that you could describe as addiction. And then it's 20 minutes discussion.
Kate Favata 47:41
And like, I don't know, if you'd call it I had a spiritual awakening by like 812 Step standards. But I mean, the truth of the matter is, like, I prayed for death, like at the end, that was like, I just wanted it to end I actually have on my chest a DNR. Because that's like, where I was at that. That's like, the only way I felt that this would stop, because it was crazy. I kept getting older and older. And like 13 years later, I was still standing in the exact same place. You know, like nothing had moved. I mean, other than I had more track marks on my neck and arms then that I started out with. So for me, I mean, my life's amazing. I can't believe I'm done. I get to do what I do, and get paid for it, and get to help other people stay healthy.
Joe Van Wie 48:33
Or when did this advocacy arise in you, when you you felt like you had your definition of recovery. And you want it to be of help to other people professionally. When were you all in?
Kate Favata 48:48
So I learned about harm reduction back in 90 or 99. I was running around Kensington and I stumbled they used to talk about you could go get free needles. And I stumbled onto this place called prevention point. And at that time, it was like honestly, like a two room basement like setup. And one thing to back up a little bit so living in like Luzerne County, all my friends that used IV drugs had hepatitis C, it was like the common cold. We all had it. When I got there, the people my age in Philly and Kensington didn't have it. And I realized because they had access to clean syringes, that they did not catch it because they didn't share needles and pass the disease back and forth. So when I stumbled on the prevention point and started learning about harm reduction, and they loved you and didn't judge you and if you wanted to keep using drugs, they just wanted you to stay healthy and they taught like social responsibility that if you are going to use drugs, like get rid of your syringes responsibly, you Put them in the right receptacles. They handed out condoms. So the more I started learning about that, I thought it was an amazing thing. I loved their approach, because here's the thing. When I was like an adolescent and probably a child, I was one of those kids, if you told me not to do something that made it all, the more appealing. I forget what the term is,
Joe Van Wie 50:24
the owner will I for defiance disorder, and then the behavior of if I told you not to do something, and now it's the only choice I have is to do it. It's countered, well, and it's the the ability for someone with ADHD to feel like they have agency choice. But it's a paradox. You don't have a choice. Someone just told you what your choice is, because it's the opposite of what they're saying. But I think the feeling for the person to be that defiant, makes them feel autonomous. It's crazy, right? Well, I have it, I bet
Kate Favata 50:59
I definitely have it. So that they were telling me like it was okay to do what I was doing. But just stay safe. It was like a light like went on in my head. Um, and I really feel like if they need to harm reduction programs, more accessible to people, and let them figure it out on their own. I guarantee Well, I guess I can't care, I think that I would have stopped using earlier you know, yeah. oppositional defiance disorder. That's yeah, that's it opposite. And that was that pretty much wrapped me up in like a package. So
Joe Van Wie 51:32
okay, that's, that's, that is the router. That's the 90s. I like.
Kate Favata 51:38
Yeah, that generation X thing is definitely me. But like, I started going, I'm with a lot of the advocacy groups in Philly, we would do like Philly fight for HIV. Um, we go to Washington, and I just loved like advocating for people that couldn't advocate for
Joe Van Wie 51:55
what about the sense of belonging now to absolutely, yeah, tribe,
Kate Favata 51:59
right. I had a tribe. I mean, it was a small tribe, and harm reduction wasn't a buzzword I most people didn't. To them, if they knew what it was, it was just handing out needles,
Joe Van Wie 52:10
using condoms. Like when I was in the 90s. That was the push, but I don't remember the term being in it in use, or or seeing it anywhere. Harm Reduction.
Kate Favata 52:21
No, I don't either. But for me, just like having that. Having that sense of belonging and having a purpose. And I think that's like for me, like, what substance use, it took away my purpose. And now I kind of had a purpose, like a goal, like something to try to get people on board with and helping people and all that.
Joe Van Wie 52:50
That's the powerful part. I mean, some people think you need to feel good, right? In the entry of recovery. It's not that you were you were quelling withdrawal, but you just said it. It's a purpose or a purpose, you can mold find something that is larger than ideal, that the ideal shared in a community that lasts longer than happiness. Happiness for me, you know, I always thought it could be a cheesesteak. I'm Mike, I'm satisfied for the afternoon. But purpose lasts through anxiety, depression, a rotten day. Purpose could wake back up in the morning, and purpose doesn't need to be attached to an emotion. If that's, that's different. I think most people in what you're describing can build a real sense of their own definition of recovery around a purpose.
Kate Favata 53:44
Absolutely. So I started working in the drug and alcohol field. I started out like as a tech, then I got my CRS, and I was a counselor assistant. And as loved as much as I loved, like direct patient care. It was burning me out, honestly. So then the Clean Slate was like, you'd like to talk a lot and you like to go out to events, and do advocacy, we have the perfect position for you. And I was it was the first position in the company. They're like, we're going to call it a community relations liaison. And I thought, I would love to do that. It almost seemed too good to be true. So here I am, three years later, in this position on a podcast on a podcast. Hey,
Joe Van Wie 54:30
you're good at it. Because I've every event I've been at, I've only been in this field for three years now. You're one of the first people I met and we didn't know each other. And I saw what you're doing. I saw the sincerity I'm like, Oh man, she's a rebel. You're a 90s kid like me and I was like she got like you You are driven you your your sincerity of who you're reaching, and the political field providers levels of care. err, you're doing a great job clean, I hope Clean Slate knows that they have to. You're everywhere. And I see you at least in our backyard, regionally, as a person that is pushing back, the stigma and stigma of being really almost the way you make people have another consideration about what they're really saying. They think what they're saying is right. And maybe there was a time where you could say it was or something I don't know, culture has changed, the problem has changed. Fentanyl has changed the approach to these things. People are dying, in the sense that it's always been a crisis. Now it's a crisis for white people. So now, like there's a tension, you're doing a great job saying no, people are losing. And because they're not doing it your way. They're dying.
Kate Favata 55:53
I mean, we lost the war on drugs. I think that's evident, yes, going
Joe Van Wie 55:58
to declare war on objects. And like,
Kate Favata 56:01
people are dying, like, I think in the past month, like six or seven people that I know, are like, new in some way, passed away. And I feel like there just needs to be like a different way. And like, that's kind of what harm reduction does, you know, it doesn't judge people, and it tries to keep people healthy.
Joe Van Wie 56:22
Alright, so let's do a little roleplay here. Okay, clean slate. I come up to you. Well, that's not the way I got sober. There's only one way to recovery wink wink, you know what it is? Where does that conversation go? Well, how do you? How do you you dig in? Because you're not a volatile person? How do you fish around on someone who's already taken that position in front of you?
Kate Favata 56:43
So I mean, 10 years ago, I would have argued with them and threw in that the percentage rates of people that get clean in AAA are much less than those that but I've found, I try to slowly try to like, even if I don't change their mind, at least open up the conversation. And I thought like that wants to, I actually did get clean on a medication assisted treatment program. And like what worked for you didn't work for me. And obviously, what worked for me would not work for you. So I talk about like, people burying their children and that, you know, the drugs are different now. I mean, street fentanyl when I got clean wasn't even a big thing. And now there's xylazine that Trank that they're putting in most of the fentanyl supply. I'm
Joe Van Wie 57:35
seeing that way that looks horrifying zombie kind of drug list.
Kate Favata 57:39
Yeah. And it's not a narcotic. So Narcan doesn't even work. I mean, still give Narcan no matter what,
Joe Van Wie 57:45
yeah. And then if you do, if you have an art can just one know, you're going to need two or three, because you're not using it on heroin. 95% of the time is going to be a fentanyl overdose anywhere in the state. And you may need one to two of the nasal sprays.
Kate Favata 58:03
I mean, I have those conversations all the time I was at what is it National Night Out? Dunmore. Yeah. And this grandmother came up to me, and I was sad, you know, like, she said, suboxone didn't work for her daughter, and she died, you know? So I mean, I just tried to have the conversation, you know,
Joe Van Wie 58:24
will you do it? Well, I watched to do it, and you're disarming, you're kind, you're very patient and tolerant of other people's really bad ideas,
Kate Favata 58:33
right? I mean, that's the thing, if you try to make somebody feel like they're unintelligent, or force anything down their throat, I mean, that was done to me in the 90s. And that didn't work for me. But I am starting to see people that I never thought would open their mind to actually like say, well, maybe there's a possibility. There's a place for this somewhere.
Joe Van Wie 58:52
And when you you say that, are you distinct? Distinctly thinking about politicians from DBAs? Mayors, like from here to Philly? See? Yeah,
Kate Favata 59:02
I mean, law enforcement. I'll tell you what, like, the younger generation of law enforcement has been pleasantly surprising for me. Because like, I mean, I didn't have the best relationship with the math department. Yeah. Actually, when I, when I went to the one police department, they're like, Hey, we thought you were dead.
Joe Van Wie 59:24
Don't really go. Thanks for thinking about me.
Kate Favata 59:28
It was funny, but um, so I think like people are slowly starting to open their mind. I just went to a thing the other day. It's called the law enforcement treatment Initiative, where the, like law enforcement like be it probation. Police officers, they're going to start like helping to refer people to treatment. Yeah, so that's like a big difference from where things were like 20 years ago.
Joe Van Wie 59:55
And let's let's just note some of the big differences. decriminalization last six seven years of Natl Um, you know, scheduling marijuana is something like weapons of mass destruction, we've seen that Levy, you know, become a profitable industry. We see the decriminalization of you know, in the last 20 years, condom distribution, depending on what age groups, decriminalization by mayors not federally or state, but in the city confines of fentanyl testing strips, we see different decriminalization of needle exchange programs and cities and regions popping up through Pennsylvania because we know it saves lives. Even though it's still legal in the state. That being said, to see all these changes, there are strides, they could seem slow for at least a person in their own lifetime. That's pretty fast when you talk about four or five generations, and you're trying to make a metric from just history. I mean, be it that 150 years ago, we were sitting outside, things are moving. To to two questions as we wind down, I want you to can you note some of the programs you're working on now, regionally that you're feeling you're making great strides and that you're leading with? And what other changes would you like to see over the next five years from your position? And what services clean slates off and what would they be?
Kate Favata 1:01:25
Well, some of the things that I'm trying to be a part of is definitely legalizing syringe service programs. I mean, I'm not going to call anybody out. But we have some amazing people that are doing this stuff underground in Lackawanna, Luzerne County and a lot of the other counties throughout Pennsylvania, where they go because they don't get any kind of money. And they collect dirty syringes, put them in the right receptacle, handout, clean ones, go into these like tent cities and into the population that is using IV drugs that is without homes, and they do this all like from the heart. So I'm definitely a big supporter of those kinds of programs. I will support anything that helps somebody get better, like, honestly, or keeps them alive or keeps them alive. Yeah, absolutely. I mean, because I was there once like, I've been like given afforded the chance to advocate for people for a disenfranchised population. And I'm very, I tried to be very involved in like prison reform, because that's one of the things I'm actually trying to work on right now is to get people that are on programs or need to be on programs in the county jails their medication, because that's something while they're in
Joe Van Wie 1:02:47
prison. Oh, wow. How interesting. I've, you know, I don't know enough about that I might have to have you come back and talk about that, as is that developed.
Kate Favata 1:02:55
So like in Philadelphia, if you're on an MIT program, and you go to jail, you stay on the program, where really a lot of other counties unless you're pregnant, it's cold turkey. It's cold turkey. And this is leading to suicides, mental health crisis as people get out. I'm trying to work with one of the newborns right now to just at least give Narcan when people are leaving make it available
Joe Van Wie 1:03:20
for you, while you are in Pennsylvania, clean slate is multistate was right 75 locations across the country. Yes. And in Pennsylvania alone, you're in Scranton, you're in Wilkes Barre, Williams, port, Philadelphia, North Scranton, Maine, man means field. I'll tune in Bethlehem Lock Haven. And you cover all these grounds with with promoting these programs getting in front of providers, county government officials to let them know not only of your services to get them entrenched into county services now.
Kate Favata 1:03:57
Absolutely. And like one thing I love doing is working with different like community organizations or community partners. Like one thing I love is we don't consider like people to competition, we all have the same goal to grow Mr. Gross word. And that's like when I was a patient, I thought like everybody worked together. And it was just like this nice, warm, fuzzy feeling that if everyone had the same mission they were. But then I realized that people when I got into working in the field, people held on to resources, like it was capital, like he didn't want to share resources together now and for me, like, I mean, of course, I think Clean Slate has a great, great program. I'd rather people come there, but if they want to go to geissinger I'm happy to help them get there too.
Joe Van Wie 1:04:44
I've never encountered it and I just did a week ago. You know, I was told someone was gonna come on my, my podcast and that. Oh, he's competition. He has a PHP This has nothing to do. And I was like how bro Oh, man, you shouldn't even be in this field.
Kate Favata 1:05:02
I feel like that happens a lot. Yeah, it is. And like for me, if I end up without a job because we
Joe Van Wie 1:05:09
usually businessmen who don't have recovery in their life,
Kate Favata 1:05:13
absolutely. It's like capitalism. But if, you know, if everybody got help, and I was put out of a job, I could live with that. Yeah. And unfortunately, where we are right now, I was like watching this like documentary. And it said, like, only 40% of people that need it, get treatment, and there's like another 60% That never even get, they end up in jail. If they're like,
Joe Van Wie 1:05:36
partying, partying it ideas somewhere, it's Kate, anything, I didn't ask you something you feel, you want it to make sure you state it. I'm going to list the website. It's clean slate centers.com. Below there, anyone who's looking to get involved, help, needs help, could use the services, please check out their website. And there's phone numbers, people ready to answer.
Kate Favata 1:06:00
And can I give my I have a cell phone that I give out to people? Absolutely. What's the number? It's 570-266-3601?
Joe Van Wie 1:06:08
I'll list that. Okay. I'll make a reach out. That's direct. That's all I got?
Kate Favata 1:06:14
Well, you know, I always try to be what I wish I would have had when I was struggling. So you know, a two minute phone call on the weekend. I'm happy. I'm just happy to be here because I figured I would die, you know? Well, I'm
Joe Van Wie 1:06:27
glad you're here. I'm glad I met you. And I'll be talking to you soon.
Kate Favata 1:06:30
I do have one more thing. Yeah. I just want to say like to people that don't believe in harm reduction, or I read Facebook, and it's like these junkies are, are spending our taxpaying money. So much money gets saved when you're not treating HIV or hepatitis C with harm reduction. Yeah, like the money and the back end
Joe Van Wie 1:06:52
cost of the fatalities, or or, you know, the maintenance of the, you know, the cycle of death. That's just the weight and financial burden on the health care system. If you're just a fucking moral economist. Well, you're wrong there too. If you don't listen to Jake,
Kate Favata 1:07:09
right. I mean, even if you don't think people should live, believe in harm reduction, because it is seeing saving taxpayer money. It's $40,000. Yeah, treat hepatitis C.
Joe Van Wie 1:07:19
So you heard it you free market capitalist. You're on the wrong side of history. If you're looking to pinch a penny. And you're, you're not thinking clearly. All right. I'd like to thank you for listening to another episode of all better to 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