AllBetter

The Cat's Pajamas with Stephanie Fox

August 27, 2023 Joe Van Wie / Stephanie Fox Season 3 Episode 62
AllBetter
The Cat's Pajamas with Stephanie Fox
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Ever wondered how one navigates the tumultuous sea of addiction recovery? Join us in an enlightening conversation with Stephanie Fox, the Marketing Director at Mountains Edge Recovery. Get the inside scoop on the partial hospitalization program, the significance of self-care in this field, and how insurance can aid in prolonged recovery periods. 

Many of us know someone touched by addiction or are grappling with it ourselves. She shares her personal journey from dependency to sobriety, the highs and lows, the healing and the hurt. Stephanie can recount her transition from a treatment program to working in alumni support and community events. Listen as Stephanie and I dissect her move from Jersey City to Scranton at age 12, the tumult of growing up in an alcohol-addicted family, and how she used drugs and alcohol as a crutch.

You'll gain valuable insights on the importance of self-care in recovery. We stress setting boundaries, connecting with healthy, like-minded individuals, and engaging in self-nurturing activities to facilitate personal growth and prevent burnout. Hear her experiences and insights on overcoming addiction, embodying self-care, and rebuilding a life through recovery. This episode is a beacon of hope for anyone impacted by addiction; join us as we share our journey from darkness to light.

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Speaker 1:

a drink or something. Is that okay? During? Do I have to push?

Speaker 2:

it. I don't want you relaxing on this show. Yeah, you could drink water. We're live. I'm going to test this real quick. Hello, and thanks again for listening to another episode of All Better. I'm your host, joe Panwe. Today's guest is Stephanie Box. Stephanie is the Director of Marketing and Business Development for Mountains Edge Recovery. They're located in Uniondale, pennsylvania. They are a partial hospitalization program and we talk about that program today in depth and how she ended up in this role, which the story starts in 2016, where she took her first position at a treatment center as the alumni coordinator, then quickly becoming a business development associate, northeast Director of Marketing and the Director of Marketing and Admissions for Just Believe Recovery Center, which ended in 2022. We talk about working in the field self-care when working in the field, the turning point that 12-step communities or recovery communities take once you make a solid and firm connection with one person to trust. We talk about grief and the draw to social work, which Stephanie has and has been working diligently and prolifically in this area in outreach. So let's meet Stephanie Fox. We're good. Okay, we're here with Stephanie Fox. Stephanie, what's your title up at Mountains Edge? What is Mountains Edge?

Speaker 1:

Sure, so my title there is Director of Marketing, so I do community outreach essentially. And Mountain's Edge is a male PHP. It's a smaller facility 21 beds PHP with sober living.

Speaker 2:

Okay, so what's a PHP?

Speaker 1:

So PHP stands for a partial hospitalization program. How I describe it is you do the 28-day detox, the 28-day program. That's usually the first step. Php comes after that and it's where you would kind of start putting into practice what you've learned those first 28 days.

Speaker 2:

And so you've already been to detox, you've been to a treatment center. We've talked about this on the show in the past, but I like to talk about it every time because it is the trend for treatment and I think some people will start to see detox than PHP. It'll start to almost see a 28-day program disappear for a lot of individuals. So where is Mountains Edge again?

Speaker 1:

So Mountains Edge is in Uniondale, so it's up on Elk Mountain in Northeast PA and it's a large property. Yeah, so we're set on 100 acres. It's a smaller property but it's set on a lot of land. So it's on Elk Mountain. You kind of have the ski slopes in the backdrop and we have three buildings on site. We're renovating a fourth. So out of the three buildings we have a sober living, we have a clinical building and then we have our recreational slash group slash cafeteria building.

Speaker 2:

That sounds nice. I've been there. It's very nice. It's cool because it's like an old Pocono's resort that you give it. It's been converted.

Speaker 1:

It is Prior to us occupying it. It was a bed and breakfast kind of ski, so it has that ski lodge type of feel.

Speaker 2:

Oh, you feel like you're in Germany Exactly, Really wild yeah there's fireplaces in each room.

Speaker 1:

We don't use them for the clients, but they look nice, you know.

Speaker 2:

So all male. I'm opening and I have an all male place. How do you feel about gender separation, because some places don't have it? Does it depend on the population? How do you feel about separating the genders in a PHP scenario?

Speaker 1:

I mean, I think it's a great idea because it takes away all distractions. So, you know, in an all male setting the guys can be there, they can focus on themselves, their recovery. Same thing, you know, if you have a female facility, they can feel safe and just kind of be able to share with their own gender what they're going through, without distractions of maybe the opposite sex.

Speaker 2:

Evolution taking over some game theory kind of rises up for competition. It would be a distraction. I think it's a distraction in groups, especially for young, younger populations in their 20s. You know, you got a robust hormone explosions in your head. It's hard to not be competing even if nothing's happening, even if there's no sexual contact, your mind just from the fantasy of dopamine, or connection or courtship. I think a person could be lost through eight hours of the clinical day with, just you know, rainstorming.

Speaker 1:

Sure, and it just makes. It makes our job a lot easier.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, to not have the possibility of this Because it's a longer. It's a longer stay. You're kind of you're getting your feet in the ground and starting to practice some kind of sober life there. That's not something you could practice in a 28 day place.

Speaker 1:

That's right. So you know we ask for a 30 day commitment for people coming in, but you know we really love when someone could do 90 days with us, so we go anywhere from 30 days. I mean, we've had clients stay 120 days or more. I think our average length to stay last time I checked was around 72 days, something like that. So you know, obviously the longer somebody's there and in treatment with us and beginning to like, apply and practice their own individual recovery, the longer they have, the better chances they have of doing it when they, when they get out.

Speaker 2:

Do you meet much resistance from insurance companies? You know the back end of that, Like. It seems like they're more open to this longer level of care from 30 to 90 days. But do you see insurances working with you if a person's at 30 days, so you initially, and and they're like maybe I should stay another two months? How does that work?

Speaker 1:

So I know way more on the front end of things than the back end. Nobody likes the back end.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, the front end is pretty easy for me.

Speaker 1:

The back end gets tricky and you are, and you don't kind of handle that. But from what I understand, most insurances are pretty good, pretty supportive with longer length to stay. That's obviously individualized, because there's some insurances it's like look, you're getting three weeks, four weeks and that's it and it's a hard cut off regardless of what's going on with the client. But the cool thing about Mountain's Edge and our clinical director, joe Kane, as you know, is he never bases somebody's clinical treatment upon insurance. So if insurance cuts somebody off at four weeks and they want to stay and need longer, they will always, we will always keep them longer. So so we don't discharge. If someone's insurance cuts off, we don't then just say, okay, insurance is cut, you have to discharge tomorrow, we finish out their treatment plan and do ultimately what's best for the client.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, joe's, joe's strict like that. There's not many people left because I'm not saying it's bad or it's corrupt, but if you see a treatment center's natural evolution, if it has its own closed network of care say, from detox you get a 28 day stay or you go to a PHP this could all be home by the same company. And I just see what is the clinical director, what are the selections he's making for the next level of care. It's kind of been removed or it's been removed just because of relationships. So that's tough. Sometimes they're great relationships, other times it's like what clinical decision was being made here? And I know Joe doesn't look at any of that and never has. He only looks at the clinical needs of that person and this is where they should go. You don't see that anymore. No, not as often no it's relationship based, and I'm not saying it's bad, but sometimes it is. So I think it's interesting you guys accept Medicaid and Medicaid through county right? Is that true?

Speaker 1:

We are able to take Medicaid. We do so on a limited basis, yes, but we are able to accept some local.

Speaker 2:

How about New York state?

Speaker 1:

We are working with them recently as well, same thing. We are doing that on a limited basis. We want to be able to offer treatment to people like really good, high quality treatment to people that may otherwise not have the option to. We don't want treatment centers like ours to only be available for people with really great insurance. With that being said, the reality of insurance and reimbursement it is a reality. So we're Medicaid. We love and appreciate everything that they do. Sometimes the reimbursement is not enough to be able to provide the high quality treatment that we need to provide. That's our standard. So that's where the limitations come in, because if you take typical Medicaid facilities, because reimbursement can be so low, typically you're seeing those facilities have high volume of clients and they have to in order to be able to kind of survive and keep their door open, they have to take a lot of clients and then that's where things happen, where people slip through the cracks, you know, because there's just so many. So we're able to take that, but do so on a limited basis to be able to help that population but also not break our quality of treatment, yeah.

Speaker 2:

So it's kind of a balancing act of how much private. But I know you guys Joe and Cindy I mean are true blue. And it's hard to ignore the Medicaid population because it's the one and the most need and it's hard to design a business that would succeed on it. And that's just the facts Right, without any kind of incentives, subsidies from federal, state, county government. But hopefully, you know, this year you'll see a lot of the opioid reward money kind of spread itself around for treatments all across the Eastern Seaboard, here to start. So hopefully that goes to the Medicaid population. But I think it's interesting. I want to hear you your kind of summary on this. Medicaid is not the population someone would assume if you had an idea of Medicaid from even 20 years ago. If you don't have a job for two weeks, you're on Medicaid.

Speaker 1:

Essentially yeah.

Speaker 2:

So middle class people are Medicaid when it comes to the treatment world. Is that what you like? Can you summarize if that's a true statement of what you were seeing?

Speaker 1:

I don't know if that's like an absolute Sure. I mean, you know, typically I'd say adults under the age of 26, they're on their parents' insurance, right, ideally that's, that's how it goes. And then you know, after that they're either getting into the workforce and getting their own job with their own benefits or, you know, maybe if they're, you know, not doing well or mixed up like in addiction, maybe they're getting Medicaid at that point. So it really just depends because we see I mean we see mainly private insurance at our facility. Like I said, we'll deal with Medicaid, but it's very limited. So I don't work a whole lot with that population, but I, on a professional level, but on a personal level and just out in the community doing outreach, I work with it all the time. Yeah. You know Well another pause there.

Speaker 2:

outreach it's a word that's used commonly with treatment centers. What does it specifically mean?

Speaker 1:

I mean. For me it means a whole. I don't. I don't know if there is an exact definition, but for me it just it means helping whoever needs help in my community, whoever I have reach in my corner of the world, to be able to offer them whatever resources they need, regardless of where they're at, where they're from, what they have, what they don't have. So you know, essentially anybody that knows me or people that know of me can come to me with any kind of assistance that they may need. And if I can't help them, I can at least get them pointed in the right direction and get them connected with the right people that can help them.

Speaker 2:

You fall pretty much, bring it every day yeah. Well, let's, let's, let's, personalize this. So you've been in outreach how long like in these positions and working in treatments?

Speaker 1:

How did this start, gosh? It's been in in May. It was seven years, so you know over seven years.

Speaker 2:

Seven years, how long you've been sober.

Speaker 1:

I've been sober eight years Wow.

Speaker 2:

Yeah.

Speaker 1:

So I I started working into treatment. I was probably about nine months sober. I started kind of small part time.

Speaker 2:

BHT.

Speaker 1:

No, I didn't do BHT I I um, I got in doing alumni work so like, say, connecting with our clients and then staying in touch with them after they discharged from treatment, keeping them supported, connected, doing alumni events. And that kind of branched me pretty quickly into the community outreach world. Because you know alumni events, community events, things like that, and I became a resource for our alumni population which, like it, quickly grew I mean, it started it was like hundreds and then it grew to, you know, a thousand and it was thousands. So I was essentially helping a lot of people and I became like a resource. So that's what kind of connected me into outreach.

Speaker 2:

That's right. And was this for just believe in carbon? Yes, yeah, because I I still post my podcast um just believes alumni page and it's so active.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, yeah.

Speaker 2:

There's hundreds and hundreds of people that still comment. And are you managing this page? Who's like cause?

Speaker 1:

it's supposed to be.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, it's lively, it's managing itself. It seems like people are constantly having a dialogue there because of how impactful um just believe was for them.

Speaker 1:

Absolutely, and it was, and I actually got sober at just believe I went to a treatment there. So it was, it was a really it was a really great program and it was life changing for me.

Speaker 2:

How old were you?

Speaker 1:

Oh gosh, I was 30. Yeah, it's wild. You gotta hang up your guns at 30.

Speaker 2:

Yeah Well, steph, let's let me now ask where did you grow up?

Speaker 1:

So I grew up in Jersey city, New Jersey. Get out of here. Yeah, yeah, I didn't know that I thought you were a Scranton, you know I? I mean, I spent most of my life in Scranton, but yeah. Yeah, yeah, exactly so I went to. Um, yeah, I'm from Jersey city and um, my family moved up to Scranton, pa. Never heard of it. Um, it was quite the culture shock moving here. And um, yeah, I've been here ever since. It took me a while to adjust, but now I love it.

Speaker 2:

It's my hometown you know, I didn't know that. I heard you speak a year ago Did you wait. Yeah, cause I want to. I forget where I was. You were the speaker and I'm trying to place it and I can't remember. Um, it'll come to me, but I I may have talked to you after and said uh, what part of Jersey city I've lived in Jersey city. I lived in a Hamilton park, uh, eighth and Cole street, jersey city heights.

Speaker 1:

Heights yeah.

Speaker 2:

The heights um Newport, pivonia. That's all the paths, train stops. That's awesome. So do you remember how old were you when you moved?

Speaker 1:

Um, right around gosh, I was probably, maybe 12. It's like that kind of all a blur. Really. Yeah, maybe 10, 12, something, something in there.

Speaker 2:

Did it suck.

Speaker 1:

Oh my God, it was awful, it was terrible. I hated it. I cried every day, I didn't want to go to school. I hated it here. I was like I was just in such a shock, you know and um, especially when I moved up here, because it was a long time ago now. It's a lot different today than it was then, so, even more so. Then I just really, I just really wasn't feeling it.

Speaker 2:

Oh, man, and how many siblings.

Speaker 1:

Oh, so I grew up, me and three older sisters.

Speaker 2:

And you were the youngest.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, I'm the baby Wow.

Speaker 2:

Okay, I moved at 12, just having established going into adolescence, and that's all that. All collapses, everyone, you know.

Speaker 1:

Right yeah.

Speaker 2:

Was there any venturing back to Jersey City for visits with family? How did did you stay in touch with friends? Cause that's a that's a really distinct time to move at 12 years old.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, yeah, so I actually did. I was up here for a while, um, with my mom and my sisters, and then my dad was still back in New Jersey at some point. Um, he was kind of like back and forth, right Cause my mom were kind of going through a separation or whatever. So at one point I I moved in back in with my dad in New Jersey and I stayed with him for a while and my dad wound up getting sick at some point. He was diagnosed with cancer and then, um, you know, as he went through that process, I moved back with my mom and my sisters and and Scranton.

Speaker 2:

Wow, that's. That's a lot of heavy stuff. Real quick yeah. When did you find relief from that?

Speaker 1:

Well, I think honestly, that was when, for me because my parents you know, my dad was an alcoholic, very functioning, very loving guy, great guy, but definitely heavy drinker it was just part of Irish Catholic, it was just part of his upbringing, very normal. And then my mom's same thing, my mom kind of grew up the same way and alcohol and, you know, partying was just a very regular thing. I think for me, honestly, I didn't have any healthy coping skills at that age. I think when my father passed away I was around 14-ish and that's kind of when I started to segue into self-medication. You know, I started smoking pot, started drinking, and I think that's where I really started to find my relief, you know, and that's kind of where my I guess you could say my addiction kind of started.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, and saying it started right from the start, what was the effect that you couldn't produce? Maybe in your own sober mind you got a lot going on the move. Grief, you know you're the out group. You just got here from Scranton into. Scranton from Jersey City. Did you connect with anyone through pot? That was. How did you make your first friends in Scranton? Was it through the use of smoking and drinking?

Speaker 1:

You know what I always made friends easily. Like, internally I didn't feel quite right. I always felt like anxious, I think different, you know. Just off right I think it was just that dis-ease, you know. But on the outside I made friends. My mom was very kind of dysfunctional. We grew up in this very chaotic, very loving, very fun, but also very chaotic, you know, addiction and whatnot in the household. So we moved around a lot. Even when we got to Scranton we moved, I moved all over. So essentially I had to be the new kid in school many, many times over and over again. So it was either like I have to go through this, like you know horror every time of you know being the new kid, or just kind of adjust and adapt. So I was able to, like, make friends and I kind of had friends essentially in every single different school in Scranton at the end. But it was internally, I think, with the lack of connection, and I think for me it was just a lot of anxiety, a lot of fear, just feeling different, feeling, you know, just maybe less than in a way, you know, coming from the background that I came from, just never quite felt the same as everybody else. That was my perception all right, you know. Sure.

Speaker 2:

So Alcohol, provide any confidence in the time that you would be inebriated to. You know, fuck the rich kids. You kind of the same. Like I don't know, give me bravado Like I didn't feel that less than as much, like I had some moxie after I would drink.

Speaker 1:

I think for me it was just like everything kind of melted away, you know, like any, any fear, any anxiety. You know the pain, the grief at that. At that time specifically, it just kind of took that away and it was, like, you know, just a really good buffer between me and, you know, the rest of the world. I thought you know.

Speaker 2:

So it's a positive thing at first.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, at first it was very positive. That's why my relationship with drugs and alcohol were very, very different than that of my friends at the time, you know, because for me it was more and I didn't know this at the time either right, this is like after many, many years of, you know, treatment, recovery, kind of looking back, dissecting all that, but at the time I didn't know it. But essentially it was a solution for me. It kind of fixed all my problems, you know, and it enabled me to just, you know, be at ease with myself, my family, be okay with the world around me and, honestly, fun. You know, I had a lot of fun when I was a teenager. You know there were no consequences at that time, even though my drinking was always a little bit, I think, different than those around me. You know, it was all fun and games, it was all. It was all fun.

Speaker 2:

So did what? How was it that you entered your 20s, did you go to a treatment center? Yet When's the first time you had to? You got confronted by addiction, addiction itself being the problem where you had to go to treatment.

Speaker 1:

Well, I would say, probably, things progress. I think when I was about 19, I went into the hospital for some. It wasn't major, but I had something going on with me. I went into the hospital, I was there for a couple of days and then I wound up getting put on pain medication. So what, what kind of was a party thing, you know it was like ecstasy pot, you know, like it was more of a party fun thing, yeah.

Speaker 2:

Social. So it was like ecstasy, which is always stained my brain forever. But yeah, there's a social aspect to that.

Speaker 1:

Yep, so when I got introduced to painkillers, you know, and I was sent home with the prescription and like tons of refills I didn't, I didn't need any of it, but you know they were very heavy on you know that at the time. So without even knowing it, I started getting hooked on opiates at that time and then things kind of really progressed from there and got serious from there.

Speaker 2:

What would you say? How would you describe the connection with the opiates in the first two months of using it? What was it doing? That could be described differently from alcohol, mdma, marijuana, all these social kind of drugs, but opiates treat pain. What was happening that was different with the use of those.

Speaker 1:

Well, I think I think it was just, um, I could do it. I could do it each day. Like you know where, where it was partying. It was like I have to wait till Friday, saturday I have to have friends around. Like you know where, where opiates. It was like I had a prescription. I was to take them, you know however many times a day, each day. So I could just do that throughout my day and so I felt better and I and I felt like I was able to kind of do more and I don't know, I just felt more clearheaded. I just felt better, right. So, like physically and mentally, and so like that was great. It went from, you know, maybe, partying on the weekends or whatever, to now, like I'm able to take this um pill that doesn't doesn't necessarily make me out of it, like, say, alcohol and some of these other party drugs, but it's just something that I can use to maintenance myself through each day.

Speaker 2:

Wow. You know, and I was like how long would it be before you had a habit, and a habit that it had withdrawal symptoms if you didn't use?

Speaker 1:

pretty, I mean pretty quickly. That was probably like 18, 19 years old and I think I think by the by the time I was like at the end of 19 or 20, I was in my first treatment center and I went kind of against my will, like my family who who, by the way, was also very dysfunctional and and also partying, and you know, they had like this kind of intervention with me and saying like you're out of control, you need to go to treatment, um, which is like great, you know, like did you think you were just in a weird dream, like if people, just your family, confronted you about go to treatment, I mean? I mean, I had family members that went to treatment, so it just kind of seemed like okay, this is I guess what we do. Um, so I just went with it. My mom said look, this is what you're doing, this is where you're going, and I just, you know, I just went with it. So I wound up in treatment. I had no idea kind of what I was doing there. I had no concept of like steps or recovery. I did not want to be sober. I, you know I didn't really think I had a problem, um, but shortly after you know, I w I wound up going again, um, not too much longer, and then I started to to feel like this is something that I can't stop on my own.

Speaker 2:

Yeah.

Speaker 1:

It happened very quickly. It progressed very quickly for me because I started to. You know, with opiates there is withdrawal, so it's it's like if you're doing, if you're doing that regularly, you, you need to continue to keep doing that. And I kind of didn't. I didn't know that, I didn't really know any better. You know, no one used opiates in my family, so you know, and that's also why I was like sent to treatment, because it's like, oh my God, this is like, this is a big deal, this is against the norms of addiction in your family, I.

Speaker 2:

that's understandable. Well, were you surprised when you felt withdrawal, that you remember the first time you experienced withdrawal.

Speaker 1:

I remember, just like I remember taking my first drink and just like I remember taking my first opiate. I remember that exact moment where I thought I've crossed the line. I've crossed the line here into addiction that I'm not going to be able to get back from or I'm going to have a really hard time coming back from I, I. In that moment I felt my own powerlessness and thinking, wow, this thing really has a grip on me and a hold on me and I and I'm in trouble.

Speaker 2:

Wow, I kind of want to describe that. So at first your addiction is almost supportive of a coping mechanism that you described wasn't there, and then there's a point where it's where you cross a line you just describe where you don't have will cannot operate. Not only are you physically going through withdrawal, you have emotional withdrawal, but even if you want it to stop and I mean, probability is just stacking against you that you could do this, so you knew it was addiction- yeah, I knew, because you know it was, it was in my family, right, and I remember thinking with, like, say, my mom, for example.

Speaker 1:

I remember thinking like you know, why can't you just knock that off, why can't you just stop? I mean, you know all of those things when you, when you kind of watch someone you love, go through the struggle of addiction and the kind of Jekyll and Hyde stuff and the ups and downs, so I had seen that my whole life and then I literally experienced it and I was like, and all that stuff came flooding back to me like, wow, this is what they went through. This is exactly why they couldn't stop. And now, like I'm at this point and it was really scary because I had never made a choice, that was not my choice, and now I was kind of it felt like I had no choice, like my will was gone, and this is something that I continue, like I needed to continue to do, or I was going to be sick. I was going to be ill.

Speaker 2:

There's a strange beauty in that, especially if you survive it and could look back to lose agency or watch it crumble. Like where was agency to begin with? Did I, was I able to make choices prior to this? But this, this is right in your face. I can't stop. A lot of people don't get that circumstance to challenge not only their personality, their idea of self, where it begins, where it ends, to not have control over something you're doing every day and will being opposed to it. It could wake you up to a fundamental thing about life that just I was missing and I could hear it in you. So you got eight years from there until 30. What the hell? How did you do the next eight years with?

Speaker 1:

Well, I mean the next. You know, the next few years were probably the toughest and things got pretty bad. Life just felt really low, very dark, because the next few years were about me now trying to stop using, but really struggling to stop. So it's like going to treatment. It's it's really now wanting to but not knowing how to, and then having to learn that process, which for me was a process. It wasn't like I went to treatment, I learned it and that was it. It was. It was a process for me to learn how to get sober, how to live sober. You know, at one point I think I was 21. I it was like one of my bouts getting sober and I had like 60 days sober and then my, my mom passed away. She actually passed away from an overdose and I was completely devastated and at 60 days sober, I still didn't have the coping skills. And so, like I went back to what I always did and what always worked for me. Only now, or only then, it didn't work anymore. It didn't take away the pain. There was nothing, there was no amount of anything that I could do that was going to take that pain and that loss away from me. And then, on top of it, I'm feeling the guilt of shame of like living a lifestyle that I don't want to live. That is kind of going against my morals, is going against my values and really my will. So it was kind of like hell. You know that. It was just like torture and it was just a very dark and bad time in my life and I finally went back into treatment. I went to Clearbrook at the time and you know they they suggested, you know, and I was kind of like at the end and I'm like I don't know what to do. I keep trying, I can't succeed, like please help me, kind of thing. I was very desperate and I was in a lot of pain and they said, basically what you need to do is do something after this. You can't just do these 28 days and then go back out to wherever you're from and are going to like live a different life. You need to learn how to live a different life and really like have support to help you through all of this. So that's what I did. They suggested I go to at the time. It was a. It was a sober house, but it was really like a sober, like really supportive, sober living environment, and it's. It's a weird turnaround because the woman that actually owned this sober house owns the treatment center that I work for today. Cindy yeah. So. So they sent me and at first I was like you know, I don't know, this sounds scary, like going to live with like strange people in a place of all of all places. It was called Carpendale. Now, I had never been to Carpendale, didn't know what Carpendale was from Scranton. I was like I was like out of my mind. So you know, they're telling me about this place and like where it is, and I'm like what other choice do I really have? I really didn't want to, but I was so desperate that I was willing to do whatever it took. So, you know, she agreed to kind of allow me to come there and, you know, and and stay there in the sober living, and that's kind of really where my recovery journey started, you know. So from there, a lot, a lot had happened there, but that's when I really had my first like group of time sober. You know, I wound up getting a good chunk of a few years sober from there and I kind of had, you know, some struggles and some ups and downs, but for for the most part, I put together some time and I really learned how to live sober and I turned my life around and I wound up having my son, elijah, who's 14 today, and and that honestly changed everything for me. You know it became now this isn't something that I want to do anymore, this is something that I absolutely have to do. I have to do this, I have to do this for him, and so it was a game changer. Everything changed. So it was like you know, I went back to school, you know, and just started living my life, sober, I started from the ground up and I dealt with a lot of the grief. I learned how to, how to live and do basic things, sober, that I really didn't know how to, how to do last time, you know. So, yeah, I really kind of started my life from there, you know.

Speaker 2:

You say you dealt with the grief. Do you feel you had to have a second kind of morning? Oh yeah, absolutely.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, absolutely, because I've been running. You know like you feel things when you're using and drinking. You know, even if there's bouts of sobriety there's for me there's some kind of disconnect to my feelings. You know there's there's some kind of blockage there, and so when I got sober it was like and this is, I think, why it's so hard for people to get and stay sober is because everything flooded back. It's like everything that I had been running from for like the last you know, five, 10 years, everything just came up, and so it was a very emotional, it was a very painful and it was like I needed a lot of patience, a lot of love and a lot of care. And luckily, god put someone in my life that that could be that for me, and there was multiple women in my life that really held my hand through all of that and walked me through, step by step, all of it. So it was, it was a real blessing and it was. It was a process. It took a while, but, yeah, it was like everything had happened all over again.

Speaker 2:

You know. So this time in this, this bout, it sounds like the most pronounced thing that was different was connection with a not only one woman, multiple women. How would you describe those friendships being this? You know, this is the most substantive thing about recovery connecting with another person. What was it that let you? You let yourself trust them. Was it the desperation? Was a mixture of who the person was? How would you describe connecting with other women in recovery?

Speaker 1:

I think the main thing was desperation. I, I'm stubborn, I'm hardheaded. I almost never do anything unless I have used up every option that I can think of to fix it myself Right. So for me it was pain, it was desperation, and then also, I think, god putting the right people in my life, because had that person been somebody else, the outcome this wouldn't be the outcome, you know. So, I think it was a mixture, but I absolutely had to be desperate and in a place where I was in enough pain to be willing to do what I needed to do. Otherwise I wouldn't have picked up the phone and called these women from AA and started making connections with them. I wouldn't have done that if I felt OK, you know so.

Speaker 2:

So, from that period of sobriety, you've weathered a couple storms. What is it about the low lows or the high highs now being substantially different? That you don't find any reason to to use drugs in the midst of you know the hardships of life that may have came before and after recovery. What's different? Why not duck and run during certain tragedies?

Speaker 1:

Well, the main reason for me was my son. You know I couldn't do that. It wasn't an option for me at that time and I understand for people that sometimes that's not enough, and he certainly didn't keep me sober, but he was the biggest motivation for me where there were absolutely days that I would have given up. There were days that I definitely would have duck and ran but I just I couldn't, because what about him? You know I couldn't. I couldn't do that. Now, if my maybe my parents were alive and were supportive parents and can take care of him, maybe it would have been different. But it was just me, like he only had me. So I had to do the right thing for him and I had to give him the life that I never had.

Speaker 2:

I had to do that wasn't an option not to what you describe is pretty common to the idea of recovery, but you really articulated it right to your son. There's the reason to give up self. This, this self is the one that's experiencing pain, the less than the anxiety that to have your focus of the point of view of your son, I mean self just crumbles in your hand. There is no need for yourself or anything. I think that's real when people can really tap into that.

Speaker 1:

Yeah for sure. And then I state and I do believe you can get sober for yourself right, some people have to get sober just for themselves, but I really do believe you can get sober for your kids or your loved ones, or the judge or who you know. Fill in the blank, you can absolutely get sober for blank. It's just that can't keep you sober forever. Eventually that's gonna run out. So I got sober for my son essentially, but then as I started to build a life and really do a lot of work on myself, you know, essentially I stayed sober for me, you know.

Speaker 2:

I relate to exactly what you're saying. When I hear two things that make me just feel totally gross, I'm like ah, what are you even mean? You don't even know what you're saying. You're just repeating things Like you could be in a 12-step community. Someone says the first demands I have to make is to myself. I'm like barf, I think you're the problem. I don't think you need to make a mensch just yet. And then the second is you can only get sober for yourself. Well, what does that fucking mean? That doesn't mean anything, you know. And especially when you're in this lexicon and the 12-step world, self is the problem You're confronting. That. Is there a self that even is substantial? That's just not a persona that I just either. The world manufactured for me from pain, trauma. Why can't I pick a new self? And this is what the steps are inviting? I did the same thing. I could not limp back into recovery and say, oh, I'm doing this for myself. That part of Joe I just love, that's gonna have a great life. If you left things up to what I consider self, I mean, I'm just thinking of comfort and shit. I don't. I had to think of other people. I was motivated by the dead. I lost my sister in the midst of that year getting sober. I thought of her often and in the context of this, she's out of time. She ran out of time. I didn't. What am I fucking doing? This is not the life. You said it earlier and I connected really with it. I am not living up to the morals. I just want I can't even. I'm such a hypocrite. That connected with me stuff. I think I have to pick other people. At first, I don't know what people are talking about when they say that word. Now, later on, I have a new sense of self and I care about it because I found myself and other people. I can't just have a party with myself and say I'm gonna get sober and make amends to myself. Get back, man. You gotta make amends to other people. That's how you forgive yourself. I really relate it to that. So what do you do for self care? Because you work a lot, you've been in the industry for a while and you're really good at what you do. I see you everywhere and I've gotten to know you more over the last year and I'm inspired and would call you for advice. But what do you do to take care of yourself outside of work?

Speaker 1:

It's a great question and it's really important too. And I think and I'll just preface it by saying this I think I had to learn how to do this Because, really, when I first got going in my career, you could say, in this field you can burn yourself out, you can give so much of yourself. So it was something that I had to learn how to do. The biggest thing is boundaries. I had to learn how to set boundaries for myself, with anybody. But especially there had to be a line with work where I have, ok, I do everything I can for work, but then I also have to make sure I'm taking care of myself, because if I don't take care of myself, I'm not going to be my best self there. So for me, I think the biggest thing is being active in recovery. I have to go to 12-step meetings. I find a lot of relief there. Fellowship, friends, connection, fun. I think those are the biggest things that I need. I need to be able to have fun, I need to be able to put away all of the, because it could be. Working in the field is so rewarding and fulfilling, but it could also be very dark, because a lot of people don't make it. A lot of people are not willing to get help. I've talked to a lot of people who are wanting to get sober on their way to treatment and then something happens they use they passed away. It can be very draining because it's heartbreaking at the same time. So taking care of myself and my recovery, I think, is the biggest thing. Staying connected with the women, healthy women who have something in their life that I want People that are, you can tell they have a connection, they have a connection with some kind of higher power and they just have a really good spirit about them. Staying connected with women like that really do a lot for me. And then there's all the other little things that I do for self-care. My house has a. I was inherited a huge flower garden. The woman that owned the house prior was a master gardener. So I've been finding myself even though it's work and it becomes very overwhelming going out and doing work in the garden. This sounds so corny I can't believe I'm saying this, but going out and doing work, it gets me present in the moment and it brings me right to where I am, right where my feet stand, and just brings me right there, and that I found is a form of self-care and sometimes just sitting on the porch. I have this beautiful view of the sunset sitting on my front porch and just going out there and just eating an ice cream, watching the sunset for 10, 15 minutes, just like it's just like a breath of fresh air and it just kind of calms me.

Speaker 2:

The phone's not involved in this.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, not at all, and it's just all of the. I think self-care is a lot of little things for me and of course I love to shop and get my nails done and all that stuff which I love but really taking care of my spirit, meditation, mindfulness I'm a big supporter of outside help, therapy things like that have been huge in my life, so just all things like that. It's just a mixture of all of that.

Speaker 2:

That's great, because people who aren't recovery that's what the question was for and that your obligations professionally is fulfilling and enjoying as they could be are separate from your obligations to 12-step community and your self-care, and if that line isn't balanced, like you said, burnout is high. It's a really high rate. Now you're in outreach and I think burnout's there too, for sure, but definitely in counselors. You just see, oh gosh, yeah, I've seen people in recovery be wonderful counselors but not take care of their own sobriety and then it just eventually will bleed into work. Or the people not in recovery who are empaths. That unregulated empathy will hurt you, it will kill you.

Speaker 1:

For sure.

Speaker 2:

So it's good to hear that I knew you had self-care because you're not insane, but it's hard. That's hard to manage. So you have a good group of people that keep that front of mind for you.

Speaker 1:

Absolutely. Absolutely.

Speaker 2:

Mindfulness. You said something. I just wanted to kind of poke around at the garden. So you have this master's end garden you inherited, and what is it about a garden that you feel present, like you said? Ok, I'm there, because that means even what work. I think most people have this. I have it the whole day could go by. I might feel like I've arrived only in one moment. It could be at six. I'll be, staring at something I'm like where have I been Right? So there's these moments that I think Buddhists would call it non-duality. Like a modern Buddhist, we have these moments where you're aware of existence, not from a sense of self, and what that means is I'm in this body. I know life is just experience. It's just this flat screen of imagery hitting me, and this is me. This is what I'm calling me. I've been here 45 years. Those moments, what is it about your garden? Did you make that a safe place, a sanctuary, to have those moments there? How does that happen? Because most people have it in nature. I'm just wondering what your thoughts are of why that would happen there.

Speaker 1:

Honestly for me. No, I didn't make it a safe place. I've never had anything to do with any kind of gardening, but I was forced to. I was forced to because now, ok, own this property, have to take care of it. So I was forced to go out there and do it. And I'll tell you a lot of times, it's just hard work and I'm out there and I'm frustrated and I'm like, oh my gosh, this is so much work. This is overwhelming. So it's not even that I went into it enjoying it. It's still a lot of times feels like work. But Sí Is equal. Rights of therios disease human beings. I'm present in the moment, I'm forced to be, so I have to pay attention to exactly what's in front of me and what I'm doing, and it Forces me to to just be right there and that I enjoy. Does that make sense?

Speaker 2:

It does. I like that. It's a new flow state. You get to learn something new. Mm-hmm. It's a responsibility to take care of beauty. You recognize it as beauty. Okay, this is my charge. Now I I think that's the the trade-off of great garden. You you're maintaining Beauty, or or that you know the ugliest will come out.

Speaker 1:

And I have that too, but it usually usually looks better than when I start, so that's a good.

Speaker 2:

Sometimes I screw up and I'm like well, have you had any gardening mentors or like any resources? You know YouTube some gardening moves.

Speaker 1:

I have the, the woman that previously owned the house. She actually has been nice enough to come by and kind of help. You know, show things and you know, but it's just she's your miyagi, mr Miyagi if you want to call it that I, it's not. It's not my thing, I don't think it'll ever be my thing, but it does. It does cause me to be Mindful and present and in the moment, and I appreciate it for that, and I appreciate all the beauty that's there and I and I feel really blessed Um, honestly, any anything with the house, I just feel blessed and I feel grateful to be able to have this take care of it. You know, and and there are other things too, like I, I love going to the beach, being at the ocean, anything by water, nature, going for walks, stuff like that, I think is also like, because it it forces you to just be right where you're at.

Speaker 2:

It's weird, the proximity of the beach I know it sounds cliche, for me that has an effect. Being by water, just proximity of the water is just calming for me. Yeah that's what my name means of water. But enough about me. I don't. I don't have any questions about you guys. I know you guys have been this idea of mindfulness. I it's not like Generic and I think, 80 years ago, the founders of alcoholics an anonymous knew that and they were suggesting new members do it twice a day and they were giving some broad descriptions of it. Morning and night. What are the rituals that you keep daily, be it if they're in your head? Are they scripts, are they meditations or prayers? That acknowledge, do you acknowledge every day of substance use disorder?

Speaker 1:

I certainly try to. Yeah, it's hard not to. It's hard not to when you work in the field and then you're part of recovery program. But what more importantly I like to acknowledge is a connection with the higher power, just kind of like even and on most days I try to make a little bit of time, even if it's five or 10 minutes, but even on those days where it's just crazy and rushed and chaotic, even just taking a moment just to acknowledge that today is a gift. Me waking up today is a gift. Just everything around me is a blessing. Just to take that moment and just kind of say thank you and help me to do the best I can today, cause, like on my own I'll screw everything up. I have to kind of keep myself focused on this kind of like moving forward, this positive plane, cause if not, by default I'll get negative, I'll get whatever. So I have to kind of keep myself pointed forward if that makes sense. So I think, like having a relationship, having a relationship with the higher power, is super important to me, it's probably the most important thing in my life, because without that everything else isn't possible, cause that's where I get my spirit, that's where I get my power, my strength, whether it's patience, guidance, wisdom, whatever that's where I get that from Now. Do I always choose to do the right thing with the absolutely?

Speaker 2:

not many times a day I don't, but ideally that's what I keep having a strive for you know Well, I'm glad you came on today because I always like what you have to say and anytime I see you I try to talk to you because I admire your recovery Cause I know a bit about your personal life and how you overcome it and what resource you would be, not only to people in Scranton that are in recovery saying I can't be sober because this happened or I can't recover. I don't know who would say that around you. That would be great, and that's great because that's how vibrant our community is in recovery. But I just had to think about it. You told your story in your recovery. In this kind of phase, it was like you needed help. Your help came from connecting with women and it came to a higher sense of power source, divinity, and this made you almost have a social calling to your work. So the need was well past you immediately. It was almost like a social definition of now I'm going to provide the morals that you've lost at the end of addiction. You've made a life living up to them and committing to other people and service to other people. I'm always motivated by that. That's what I want, and I get it from looking at people like you and Joe, and so I wanted to thank you for inspiring me every time I see you in the last three years. Is there anything I should have asked that I didn't ask?

Speaker 1:

I don't think so. I think we covered a lot right.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I think some women will connect to this. So I mean you'll have to come back and then we could talk about Joe more.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, for sure, yeah, yeah.

Speaker 2:

Someone really has to find some dirt on this guy. I don't know We'll get him.

Speaker 1:

I don't think it's there, I don't know. It's a great guy, he's a saint.

Speaker 2:

Well, thanks for coming.

Speaker 1:

Thank you.

Speaker 2:

I'd like to thank you for listening to another episode of All Better To find us on allbetterfm or listen to us on Apple Podcasts, spotify, google Podcast Stitcher, iheartradio and Alexa. Special thanks to our producer, john Edwards, and 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.

Marketing Director at Mountains Edge Recovery
Medicaid and Outreach in Treatment Centers
Moving, Adjusting, and Coping With Addiction
Overcoming Addiction
Motivation, Recovery, and Self-Care in Sobriety
Self-Care and Mindfulness in Recovery