"Recovery Lobbyist" with Patrick Flynn

October 25, 2021 Joe Van Wie / Patrick Flynn Season 1 Episode 1
"Recovery Lobbyist" with Patrick Flynn
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Patrick Flynn is a Government Affairs Specialist for Independence Blue Cross. In this role, he is part of a team that communicates the company’s public policy positions to elected officials and regulators at the federal, state and local levels. This includes Independence’s key priorities to address the ongoing opioid epidemic.

Since 2014, Patrick has been in recovery from opioid addiction. He strives to help others looking to live a new way of life and do his part to break the stigma of addiction, especially in the workplace.

A native of Scranton, Patrick is the son of Catherine and the late Matthew Flynn. He has a sister Maura and a brother Matthew. Patrick has two nieces, Cate and Annie, who he completely adores.

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Joe Van Wie  0:08  
Hello and thank you for listening to all My name is Joe van wie Lee and I will be your host. Today's guest is Patrick Flynn. Patrick is a government affairs specialist with Independence Blue Cross. And this role is part of a team that communicates the company's public policy positions to elected officials and regulators at the federal, state and local levels. This includes independences key priorities to address the ongoing opioid epidemic. Since 2014, Patrick has been in recovery from opioid addiction, strives to help others live a new way of life and do his part to break the stigma of addiction. Especially in the workplace. A native of Scranton, Patrick is the son of Catherine and the late Matthew Flint is a sister more and a brother Matthew. Patrick has two nieces, Kate and Annie. He completely adores. Welcome, introduce yourself and try to give me a little background about who it is you are.

Patrick Flynn  1:32  
Sure and Joe, thanks for having me here today. Really excited to do this. We've been talking about it for a long time. So happy to be here and be part of this, this podcast. Thank you for that. So you know I grew up here in Scranton, Greenridge neighborhood to older siblings. No, my mom was a secretary at the local at the courthouse that was very involved in the community. I had a really good good upbringing. I went to like the local public school here in green ridge. And but even from a young age, I always found myself you know, acting out in one way or the other, I was always the class clown. Always getting myself into into issues and one way or another. And that was happening for a while. But you know, when you're young kid and you're like the funny guy in the class clown. It's cute. Right? And, and I thrived on that. As a kid. That's that was you know, I think my first addiction was trying to make people laugh. And yeah, life life was was really good. It was easy, right? It was always easy. For me, it wasn't. I didn't have really many trials and tribulations at all. And just sort of sailed through early life. Then, you know, as time went on, I got older, my interest started to shift got to the local public, intermediate schools started, you know, doing different things to act out was acting out a lot more in school, my class clown routine became like more aggressive adversarial towards teachers. And, in really, in middle schools, when I first found found a drink, right, and I think that's where everything really, really started happening for me when I found that first rank, and like, the comedic value I was looking for, and was exacerbated. And I was able to do things that I didn't even want to do. And I was willing to do a lot but things changed for me then. And the first time I ever took a sip of alcohol. I felt alive in a big way. And and also I think even like maybe subconsciously at that point, I I realized then that like when I was drinking and doing these things, at least like the next day, I could say like that was why right for many years, I didn't have a reason as to why I was freaking out at teachers in the classroom or doing that other stuff. And I think that's just in the way of background like, like how things started for me. I'm sure we'll get more into to what ended up happening but I think that was that's a good level set as to as to how things began for me.

Joe Van Wie  4:26  
That's interesting. Out of curiosity, were you Did you ever have a DD or ADHD ever diagnosed with that?

Unknown Speaker  4:34  
No, never diagnosed with that, but you know, I think I would say it's probably a safe bet. Dead but that just even like when I was a kid, that wasn't a thing that people were doing. We could talk about all the reasons why whether that be stigma or whatever else it is, but I was not at least that young of an age. That stuff came later because my my family was desperately trying to find out But how I was aware I was but that point early on that was that was never explored. Yeah,

Joe Van Wie  5:07  
I only asked because my curiosity over the last year exploded, trying to understand it. I thought I did. And I mean, it's not that we have to talk about but it was just my curiosity explodes. How many people have this that have addiction, the relationship to it is phenomenal to addiction. Especially someone who doesn't produce, like their own balanced dopamine, for whatever reasons. I think they they've come to see the condition prior to addiction, there's always been detachment, or this subtle thing that should happen in your first two years of life. It's called attunement, emotional relationship. Maybe your parents are stressed doesn't even have to be trauma. Right? But somehow that didn't happen to me. And when I met alcohol, the same exact feeling was, this is right. This this I was alive, I felt something my brain should have probably already been doing to at least make me feel like a sovereign person,

Unknown Speaker  6:07  
then I think, I think that whole like, deeper dive into, you know, dual diagnosis and CO occurring disorders and stuff like that. I think it's very real. And but yeah, I think for just for me, back then. There was just you know, you're a crazy kid. Yeah. You are you here. Yeah. Right. You were just doing like, you were doing what kids did, and so to speak, and all those different things. But like the actual underlying reasons why those were happening, we're never really looked into.

Joe Van Wie  6:38  
Well, we know because it was Satan. It was the demonic presence. Right. Right. Right, right. Yeah, well, I think a lot of people can relate to that story that we're friends with that have ended in recovery ended up in recovery, or may have not, but that story is very relatable, this pivotal moment in my life was when I first got drunk, that I felt felt an edge leave that just was there and visibly less background noise throughout my early childhood. And that's, that's the profound reason why I have addiction and other people who don't, I don't be late to them, that alcohol didn't do that for them or a drug of their choice. So take it from there. You know, recovery happens. You know, it's usually not pretty, it's pretty desperate time. How did that transition happen that you knew you can stay sober or feel that your addiction could be? There could be space between you and actively using drugs?

Unknown Speaker  7:53  
Yeah, I think it's important to talk about just a little bit how I got there, because my life was riddled with warning signs from that time I took that first drink. You know, I, I remember vividly in eighth grade, I transferred to the like local neighborhood Catholic school. My parents thought like maybe a change of scenery would do something for me right. And I was already a nightmare in so many ways. At this point, the funny little like, a funny kid stuff turned into like, it's not funny anymore, what is going on here. And, and I read the first real warning sign I should have had that I completely ignore it at that point in time was in Scranton, like eighth grade basketball was a really big thing for the for the Catholic schools. And I was pretty good. And we were playing in the diocesan semifinals. And this was a big thing around here in the game happened to fall on parade Day St. Patrick's Day parade in Scranton. And I showed up to that game. Drunk In eighth grade, you know, went out for a party before said I was only gonna have a beer to show up, you know, shit hammered drunk to this game. And I remember even like then seeing my teammates be like, What? What is going on here? You know, and I think that should have been the first warning sign. You know, you're an eighth grader, you have a obligation to your team and like you love it as well. What are you doing? But you know that at that point, I was like, that was really cool. I thought that was the coolest thing I could have possibly done. You know, and those warning signs continued to happen for years and years throughout high school, getting arrested right? Early in high school, going on to juvenile probation, as you know, almost a warning shot. So what they tried to do with me was put me on juvenile probation for six weeks and say, if you just straighten out, you'll be good But if you don't, this is going to be what your life is. So that six weeks I turned into four and a half years on juvenile probation. Was

Joe Van Wie  10:06  
there a crime associated juvenile like crime? Or was this just a measure pushed out

Unknown Speaker  10:11  
was an argument with me and my father, that they ended up like calling people they knew, as I said, like my mom was a secretary for a judge. So like, they it was a scare tactic at that point, right? One probation? Yeah, right. Right. So the six weeks turned into four and a half years, I went like a stent us, you know, 90 day stent and a juvenile rehab, ended up with me at a juvenile reform school out by Pittsburgh for you know, a year, right and, and all because I wouldn't stop doing the things they told me to do. Now, it was like, like a contrarian child, or, you know, tween or whatever. I was, like, Oh, you're telling me I can't do A, B and C? Well, I am going to do it. And let's see what you're going to do to me. And, and they kept on doing things to me. And I just kept on saying you won't do the next one until they did. You know, after that, after I got out of that juvenile reform school, I think there was a few year period where I was, which probably really hurt me in the long run, where I was just doing things normally, I was drinking with my friends, I was smoking weed, but like nothing else was really happening until really like when my father got diagnosed with lung cancer. And that's when I really went off the rails, right, and opioids and copious amounts of cocaine, just doing doing everything at that point in time. But how old were I was probably 20 at this point. So I had a good like, two year period of like, wait, maybe I am a normal person. And but that that went, that went downhill really, really quickly. A few stays in rehab again. And and to your question, I think, at that point in time, you know, I'd go to a go to treatment. I'd get out. I go to these meetings. And I would just be like, I'm not like any of you. Right? And for you for the people that were there that like, like, Oh, I just celebrated five years. I was like, I would think to myself, yeah, you celebrate a five years because you are a fucking liar. And there is no way that you went five years without doing anything. That's an impossible feat. You're a fraud and a liar. And that's how you got that, that cool little coin, right? And I would go to these meetings, and I would, I would just hate everyone and judge everyone and but but every time I would go back out, right? We're coming back, there'd be like a little something I'd pick up on be like, Yeah, me maybe at some point, but you know, I'm 21 years old, and like, I have, I have a lot to still do. And I think when I really started believing that the program was real, and that people do recover was when I started seeing a few friends that I actively use with and I actively got drunk and high with seeing them in meetings, like actually staying clean, right? And living the life of recovery was when I was like, wait a minute, like, maybe there is something there but even even then for a while it was like it was a pipe dream, right? I remember I would like drive. I'd be driving somewhere to pick up. I'd be thinking to myself, how cool would it be if like one day I could like be clean and and like, have some time under my belt and help other people and then like, I'd be like, thinking to myself like what are you talking about? That is never going to happen? And I don't know when the exact moment hit but you know, I got myself in some more trouble when on a treatment court. And Lackawanna County, still taking it as a joke some some things happened to me and finally, I ended up somewhere I never thought I'd be and that's when I finally said to myself, you know, like, why not just like stop overthinking things. Stop pretending you're smarter than everyone and better than everyone and just give this an honest chance. Right so i i went away for a while. And when I when I came home i i

Unknown Speaker  14:42  
I knew at that point there wasn't much for me here in Scranton at that point. And I always knew I could come back here and I was on the phone with a friend of mine. When I was in this treatment center and you know in Kensington and Philadelphia I was in treatment there. And he told me about a friend I knew who went to the University of Scranton from like the Philly suburbs who was doing really well and out there. He's like, Oh, he wanted me to give you his number. So like, if you could ever link up with him or anything, and that's when I was like, You know what, I'm going to try to go to a halfway house in Philly. And just see what happens for a little while. And if it doesn't work out, and the same old stuff is happening, I could always come back to Scranton, but like, let me try something different. And that's really where where my journey began.

Joe Van Wie  15:38  
Never heard all the details kind of filled in a timeline. So I've just kind of taken aback right now, how similar. The two of us are in that course. And what popped out to me what you were saying was, you know, we don't speak about it a lot. But it's an it's noted by many addicts and alcoholics, I speak to this, this time, in this period where the storm comes, and you have a rhythm, you can go out and drink and you get home at 212, whatever it whatever normal is for you. And you're like, there's relief, I could if I could do this, I was just messed up when I was younger. And what it doesn't it discounts how powerful a pack is, like, like, rap Park, if you ever read, and that happens, but I do believe addiction. For guys like yourself, me, it's progressive. But that calmness of the storm, you can hang on to that idea for years wondering when can I get back there, in the eye of the storm, just get away from these winds. It just never comes back. And the other part you were speaking is, is you know, we're not rats, you know, that's a powerful aspect again, so we're just the community say, of a 12 step community. But if you feel disenfranchised, or cut loose from that community, and that's all you had to stay sober. Or until you saw your your peers getting sober. It just doesn't make sense to a lot of people because we're not rats, we have a conscious life. And it's hard for me to relate addiction to thinking when I all I wanted to do was stop using it didn't know if I wanted to change who I was. I'd see you in those times. And how brilliant you were politically. Just understanding the landscape of not only Pennsylvania, just understanding how politics works as a moving beast. And I could see frustration in your eyes because of you know, you're in between periods of trying to stop this yourself feeling compromised, because that's frustrating for a guy that's that brilliant. To think is what is someone thinking about me doesn't think I'm an alcoholic or a drug addict. Cuz you're, that's not what you just are. You You had such brilliance and talents that's frustrating to watch someone see that not have stability. Yep.

Unknown Speaker  17:55  
Yeah. And that was that was the exact time I was referring to when I was thinking about like, could I ever get out of this, I was working on campaigns and, and helping people out and like, like feeling like the biggest fraud ever, right? Like I wouldn't show up unless I got some perks and like got them in my system. Like I couldn't be there. But like when I was there, I could do. I knew what I was talking about. Right. But I didn't think that there was any point in time where like the House of Cards wasn't going to fall, where I could like actually be part of something like that something that I've loved for my entire life, right and, like borderline been obsessed with is like politics and the political process and all that. But like I was living this lie during it, and it was so frustrating and anxiety inducing. But at that point in time, there was nothing I could do about it was it was a pipe dream. But the cool part is I'm sure we'll talk about is it has become a reality for me. And that's so powerful that like that pipe dream I have. And I remember a specific time having a driving on Interstate 80 Going out to Stroudsburg to pick up from someone I knew out there. That was like an thinking about that over and over. And the fact that that like essentially is my life now like that pipe dream I had all those years ago, is wild to even to even wrap my head around.

Joe Van Wie  19:17  
It's exciting to watch. One thing I wanted to point out is just the addiction that I relate to. The process of anxiety overwhelms me and I can relate to it. So it's, it's one thing to say if I was sober, everything would be okay. You've always sober prior to going to like what I was just, if I'm understanding correctly an event and what the prior condition before you drink and use drugs is anxiety. This thought about I'm going to need this and you still go and you're using drugs at that point to contain what like this condition that are thinking so you can Go and function, right and we just can't make the mark as you keep using, you're missing that mark. You're medicating yourself. I can relate to that tremendously. When I got older, there was no gauge, it was all unmeasured. I didn't know if I was going to be absolutely drunk. Just and I needed more and more to get relief,

Unknown Speaker  20:19  
and always searching for what you talked about that like period of time where it was, quote, unquote, normal, right. And I think, for a lot of people, and I could say, especially for me, that that portion of my life with like a semblance of normalcy was one of the worst things that ever happened to me, right. In hindsight, it's like a terrible thing for me, because it kept me searching for that, right? Like you are, you're searching for that for so long, and kept me out so much longer than I needed to be thinking that at some point, if I just, you know, was in the laboratory and got the perfect potion together, it was going to work and I was creating Frankenstein the entire time thinking I was going to, you know, get that perfect routine down, where I could be like the other people that I've resented my friends that could go out and have fun and go to work the next day and do X, Y and Z, that I couldn't do that I hated for it. But I wanted to get there so desperately. And in hindsight, like it was one of the worst things that ever happened to me.

Joe Van Wie  21:31  
Yeah, hearing it and knowing you. It's, it's hard to not empathize, because I can feel it. I know that anxiety. I know that history in my family, of having issues that my friends and peers want. And I'm just carrying this bag of bricks with me when when am I going to go nuts? It can enter. So

Unknown Speaker  21:56  
yeah, thanks. My family, my uncle and my father always said Flynn's can't drink. Just Just Just so you know, Flynn's cannot drink. And, you know, my father is never part of a program or anything like that. But at one day, he just said, you know, I'm done with this and didn't drink for, you know, 20 plus years before he passed away and say with my uncle like in, you know, 80s he was a, you know, West Side, barroom brawler, you know, and we'd get would get drunk and just run through people with his fists and finally said, I'm done with this, and hasn't drank since but tried to instill that and I even like my one cousin who is a mutual mutual friend. He never did because of it. Right? And which I thank God for, but, but me I never adhere to that advice, but But it's true, you know, Flint, same with Van Wiese. But winds can drink

Joe Van Wie  22:51  
Yeah, man, we can't drink. Then Weezer crazy to begin with, we're, you know, drinking sedates some families keeps. But how did this all come to an end? Because the end of addiction, you know, we always look back at it. And we call it a celebration. If you're in an absence based community or you're celebrating the worst day of your life. There's this paradox happening, that only addicts can know. I don't want to use drugs or drink. But I don't know if I could be sober because it's excruciating. My brain is in this tormented state of consciousness that I don't have enough dopamine, or opioids, good going into my brain. So seeing sobriety, as a solution is is really terrifying. And so this desperation to make the leap of almost a position, I'll do anything to be sober. There's kind of a relief to that some people have described where they don't know it's like this leap of faith, or trust. I don't know what sobriety is gonna look like, but I'm gonna I'm gonna go all the way that can you describe when that transition happened?

Unknown Speaker  24:00  
Yeah, I mean, it happened. Like I said, like, I ended up in a place I never thought I would be and even in there was using daily and finally, one, one day really, I just the last substance I ever used was was pot I smoked a joint and I went back to my bed and I was laying there and just really like, how did I get here? What what happened? You know, and not even remembering like, how did like the decisions that I make? Made? Find me here. This was never my path. This was never my plan. How am I here? And just like utter disgust of myself but also like, like, Come on, man. Like just just try it right? Just like try to not end up in places like this. And I think from that day forward, and like I said, though, like where I was at, like, you could get high every day all day long. If you wanted to, and it was a lot easier, because everyone was packed in together, and no one was going anywhere, and, and it was tough at first even even there to say no, because, you know, I was, I was I was a big customer, and it was tough. But just finally, just like if I just do this one day, and then and see what happens, and like you said, that leap of faith to think that, you know, maybe there is a day that I could not do this, and the days started piling up. And I just, you know, totally transitioned into a different group of people there. And, you know, there were a lot of literature there and dove into that, and, and just hanging out with different people. And it's weird, because you know, it's a subset of like the population, but all the same things that are happening on the inside outside are happening, right, and like, it's still the people places and things and it's still all that the people teach you in a 12 step program or whatever, whatever it may be, but just started doing things a little bit differently. And then, you know, when I got out, that was a really fearful time because I had found my my community, I'd found my people. And now I'm getting out and going to a very large city that I've never lived in before. I've only lived in Scranton, and Phil and Phil Philadelphia. And, and I didn't know what was going to happen. And that was probably the biggest blind leap I've I've ever taken in my life.

Joe Van Wie  26:40  
How long were you sober when you move? So your ambitions waking back up? Right? You're sober, you feel stable, you take a huge risk. And that is a huge risk in sobriety. Because everything is that's the baseline, everything I decide to do something that big can't jeopardize my sobriety. You decide to move to Philly. Why,

Unknown Speaker  26:58  
as I said earlier, you know, it was just like, essentially out of whim that I knew one guy there that was in recovery and like doing well. And maybe if I get away from like, the same stuff I had been doing over and over something will be different for me. And it was literally I just remember walking into my counselor's office, I was slated to go back to a halfway house in downtown Scranton. So I'm like, Hey, can we try to switch this up and send me to keep me at a halfway house down here? And they said they look into it and came back and said, like, yeah, you'll go to one and I was, you know, ended up at a halfway house like, right at 19th and Oxford and Philadelphia, North Philly. And and that's really where the change really started.

Joe Van Wie  27:46  
I want to unpack this a bit because I know you and to know you want to go to Philly in sobriety. That means your dreams have woken back up maybe more to making them audible to people. But when you made the decision to go to Philly, on the grounds, did you do it? Did you gather support? Or did you know was it like intuition? Because you're brilliant. You belong in the field of advocating for people? What was going on? If you look back in hindsight that made this decision because this is this the decision that changed everything to the degree of what you're doing today.

Unknown Speaker  28:23  
Right? Yeah.

Joe Van Wie  28:24  
And did you have an idea that your life was going to wake up and Philadelphia like you couldn't explain this to anyone?

Unknown Speaker  28:31  
I had that feeling to an extent, but I think it was intuition I never had I never in a million years thought it was going to wake up the way it did. Right. So just by way of a little bit of background. This friend I talked about, who I just knew was the guy who was running around the apartments we had done at the University of Scranton was like a Philly suburb Delco kid, who was just the guy who would like walk like a zombie on Xanax around the apartment. So I used to like hang out with right. I didn't know anything else about him. But it turns out after like I got there and like, became close with him and was introduced to his two best friends in the program who will become two of my best friends in this world. I was I didn't know them before I got there. And you know, two years ago, they both got married. I was in both their weddings. They're like family to me now. But But what I didn't know about this friend Dan, was that his father was the CEO of the company that I now work for, and I had no idea and the what what first put me on to it was I was at their apartment. We were just hanging out. This I was probably there for six months at this point, but still living in the halfway house. I lived in the halfway house for 13 months. Nine O'Clock curfew every night. No cell phone allowed. I was hiding my cell phone and a bush in North Philly every night. It was a very weird time but um I went over his house to hang on, I see this guy pull up. And in the, you know, the big black Mercedes sedan that's like the foreign diplomat car, right. And he pulls up and he gets out of the game and flags. Right, right, right. Right, right. Yeah. King Joffrey was coming for his son. And as he pulls it in, I just saw, like, there's just like an aura about this guy's like, Who is this guy? This is this is Dan's dad. And then a couple of weeks later, he says, hey, my dad wants to sit down and talk to you. So finally, I'm like, Alright, who is this guy? So I googled him. And that's when I find out. A man that has ended up becoming such a large part of my life, my career mentor took a chance on me. But like, that's how it all played out. And at this time, I am living in North Philly. I'm working for as coal sudo, office manager for a truly despicable man who's who's a roofer in the western domain section of Philly. I'm taking a bus there every morning at 630. And right straight through Kensington, every right down Kensington Avenue every morning, to get to this roofer job where I think over the probably a year I worked there, I think I quit four times, I think he fired me a half a dozen, um, there were attempts that he, I don't even want to get into what this guy was like. But it was a terrible, terrible situation. But I was going there every single day I was doing it. I needed to, like I was, at this point, very committed to changing my life. And it was a classic case of meet the guy through somewhere a mutual friend in the room in a room and he was looking for someone and, and I went there, and it was a year of hell. But it was very much needed for me in my journey. I truly believe that. But that's where where I ended up meeting Dan's father during that time.

Joe Van Wie  32:08  
That's, that's exciting to hear. Because, you know, I want to highlight something because if someone's not paying attention clearly, oh, connections get. It's who you know. And yeah, it is and who, you know, works if you're you, if you start being your authentic self, though. I mean, I just want to highlight what actually happened is you said these guys are like family, and something in sobriety, when you meet people forged in getting sobriety, the entire relationships based on honesty. And it's such a relief for a guy like me, when I made such serious friends in a way that I never had to be anyone else except me. Right? Once they became we became real friends. And there's that bond is real. And someone to get to meet Pat Flynn for the first time that didn't know you. Your ability A is going to shine right through in your honesty and your fortitude to work for some sleazeball. Right that you kept that it's that is recovery. That's, that's that's his birth? Yeah, new principles running your life.

Unknown Speaker  33:13  
Yeah. And I think, in through, I'll talk a little bit about my journey with, with my friend's dad, but one of the main things that he was like, so convinced to help me, because of was that time working for that man, and like, how terrible was but like how I knew, like, at that point in time, I had no other options. Right, I had a criminal record, I had no, and no employment history. At that point, I never kept a job more than three months, ever. So it was, you know, like campaign work where, you know, it just goes on for longer, but I'm not really doing much because, but I had nothing at that point in time. But what I did have was, was a set of skills, a passion for something, as we talked about earlier that, you know, the political process and government and public policy, and the electoral process and all that I had a wide breadth of knowledge into that I had passion for it, I had the skills to do things in that field, right. And, and so what my friend's dad did to me is he took me through a personal a personal mentoring program, which he had done with a few other of Dan's friends, as well as Dan Jr. himself, to really unpack that, right because as an individual in recovery, who hadn't really seen many of the fruits of their of their their recovery labor at that point, it's tough to get that sense of self worth back, right. It's tough to see how the things you know, internally could translate into a life sustaining career, right? And how and how does that happen?

Joe Van Wie  35:06  
Well tell me how it happens. Because this guy, he sounds amazing. So Dan's dad takes you through mentorship, which he seems to have already done. What a few other people correct. And does this somehow in itself, become its own beast, this mentorship idea, this program being mentored by a man that's so articulate in business, he has some success, he has influence sees your abilities, did this program take a life of its own? Was it a program, then?

Unknown Speaker  35:37  
Yeah, no. So so at that point, it was not it was just, you know, sort of a passion project for him. And the ability, like you said, you know, like a pillar of the business community in Philadelphia, and the connections that come with that, and all of that, but also just like, seeing his son come into a life of recovery. And just like the passion surrounding the people, and the things that we do as people in recovery, which is, you know, much different than what any normal, normal people do, the camaraderie that we have in the, and the the belief in each other and lifting each other up, and all those things that we preach and practices as people in recovery. And him from the perch, he was in having, like an ability to help in any way. And so I went through this mentorship program with him, we would meet, and it went over like a six month period, I'm still going to this job. And finally, like, we got to the end of it, where I like really wrote down, like, what are my passions? What are my skills to achieve? Those passions? What are, you know, what is my total package, and really getting back that sense of self worth in any way. And finally, he offered me an internship at that company, in the government affairs department, which was, you know, that pipe dream that I talked about, driving down Interstate 80, thinking about was was happening at this point. And so that program, where it stands now is, you know, Dan's dad has since retired as the CEO, and, and now we're really trying to try to make this into a real, legitimate, solidified entity that can help individuals in recovery, get back into, get back into or into in the first place, you know, some sort of life sustaining careers to you know, first and foremost, mentor individuals to get back all the things that we lost through active addiction and get back that sense of self worth and, and believe in your and belief in yourself and employ your skills, your skill set into action. And it's not just and there's nothing wrong with you know, it's wonderful that there's companies out there that will offer people a job, but that's not what we're looking to, to help you build, build a life sustaining career, right? Like, we talked about how the continuum of care and addiction goes from, you know, go to inpatient, go to outpatient, hit a meeting, maybe you'll find someone there like I did, who knows someone who's looking for a worker, go there and figure it out. Right? But But what about those, those people who have these unbelievable skill sets and have this unbelievable things to offer, that they that they can't, and we want to be a conduit to allow people to get to that place. And so like, as, as we speak, we're having we're having meetings with multiple entities, whether that be for funding or for, you know, to be part of a pilot program as employers, or whatever that may be it a really legitimize What was you know, at that point, just just him and his passion project?

Joe Van Wie  38:55  
Some for me it, just repeat back that. So I'm understanding this, this mentorship with Dan's father evolved into this idea that you can create a program based on people that have skills and abilities in recovery. But may I have a broken work history, maybe a criminal record? And this is you're building momentum in a consortium of some fortune 500 companies? Oh, absolutely. Yeah. And there'll be a fast track, not only to get employed, but to develop the skills that there's no other entry level to this, and you're recognizing this is an issue. And we're hiring you because of it because we believe in your talent and ability. You've been sobered and from there, you can get into a company and let's see if you can flourish and polish these skills.

Unknown Speaker  39:50  
Yeah, absolutely. I think the very important part is the process before that, right. That mentorship pro process. Yeah, of that that first half of have this program or you know, I would say like 85% of it is that to get you to a point where, where you believe in yourself first and foremost where, where you're at a position where you can move to that next

Joe Van Wie  40:12  
level? What's the working title of this project? It's

Unknown Speaker  40:15  
called Project manifesto. manifesto. Yeah. And that's what, that's what he called it. That's our working title. But I think the other part that we're very cognizant of is, you know, for me, and a few of my other friends, and now, you know, co founders of this program, it was white collar work that we ended up in, right, but that's not for everyone. And we're very cognizant of that, you know, and looking to have some conversations with, with different unions and different blue collar workforce companies to say, you know,

Joe Van Wie  40:51  
for can you speak to them, and it's not too early.

Unknown Speaker  40:54  
So it's too early to speak to names. But I would say that, we're looking forward to knowing that this is going to be like anything else recovery oriented, very individualized, right. And we don't want to just be an entity that that just puts people into white collar jobs, if that's not where they want to be, right, we want to help the individual. And however, we're helping that individual, like I said, map out that, that, that future path for themselves, figure out how to do it, and then and then place them at that starting line, wherever that starting line may be. That's what we're looking to do.

Joe Van Wie  41:35  
Well, this is exciting stuff. And I keep checking anyway, because it's, it's so tangible. It's so needed. It's so recognizable to combat stigma, and we understand addiction. But we also understand you have these abilities. Come on in, here's the screening process and whatever milestones this program would have, but you know, being your friend and just peeking at your Facebook, your Governmental Affairs position, how are these married to each other? Do? Are they on the same track? Or do you have other obligations and duties outside of creating this program? Because I see you at a lot of political functions. Facebook, like can you speak to that? What what's going on?

Unknown Speaker  42:21  
Yeah, so I would say that there's probably going to come the point in time where they end up overlapping and marrying, but I would say that right now, Project manifesto is a complete side passion project, right? But but my my actual career, doing a lot of cool things, right and have, have come a long way with that. And I think it's all through, you talked about stigma, and trying to shed that stigma and break the stigma of addiction. So it all really started at a conference that we were having at the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia, where about the opioid crisis I was facing America that is still is and you know, just substance use in general. But this was specifically for opioids, and there, you know, 1000 people in the room and I had been doing a lot of work because our department was handling this conference. And I had been doing a lot of work on helping them but I had not told anyone I worked with that I was in recovery, right? But at some point something just like in my head was like, You know what, I shouldn't I should tell them and, and, and maybe even like, publicly announced this at this conference and see what happens from there. And so I did it. And I I remember it was the day of the Philadelphia Eagles Super Bowl parade, that and I'm a Cowboys fan. So I I despise the eagles on living in Philadelphia, the parades happening, but somehow, someway, that day, I had to drive with my with my boss, like the, the senior vice president at the time of my department, up to Scranton, for a fundraiser. And like, that's what I had to do that day for work, which was crazy, because I got to get out of the city of Philadelphia as this parade was happening and go to my safe space of Scranton. I probably brought a coloring book to because I was very triggered by the by the wind, but we're on the drive up. And we were just talking. And finally I just like said to him like Steve, you know, I'm in recovery. I was you know, a long battle with addiction. And we just like openly talked by remember him like crying during the conversation. And like talking about how happy was he I told him and I'm just talking about it and and Then, as this conference was approaching, we made the decision that it wasn't going to be part of the program, no one was going to know about it. So right before the panel with our CEO, Dan stad. And at the time, Dr. Jerome Adams, who was the Surgeon General of the United States, at the time, before they took the stage to open the entire conference, I was going to just walk out on stage and openly disclose a little bit of my story. And then I'm a person in recovery. And I did it. And that's how all my colleagues found out was me on this stage, telling a room of 1000 people, that I'm a person in recovery, and it just so much has happened from that point. Because of that, we start out a lot of like, corporations, these days, they apply what are called associate resource groups, or affinity groups. And they're different groups that like for specific populations or specific groups like, and but we had a lot of them at my my company. And I started thinking like, we should have a group for people impacted by addiction, right. And I met another girl at the company, who saw me speak at the conference and reached out to me, and it was crazy, because she was thinking the same thing. And so we sat down and talked about it, and really started pushing for this for this group. And, and when I say like, anyone impacted by addiction, I was very adamant that it be people in recovery. People maybe who are working, they're still in active addiction, family members of people in recovery, family members who have lost a loved one to addiction, or just a you know, an ally of, of recovery, whatever, whatever it is, like, this is the place for you. And I'll tell you what, like to start, it wasn't easy to get them to start this program. And, and finally, they did and we started what was called the someone you know, group

Joe Van Wie  47:12  
just to speak to the power of stigma. In the American Academy of addiction psychiatry, a study from 2016, October, led by Patrick Corrigan, Psy D, it was developing a research agenda for understanding the stigma of addictions, lessons from mental health stigma. The objective of the study was to allow advocates and providers to identify stigma is a major factor in confounding, the recovery of people with substance use disorders. Research on addiction stigma is lacking, especially when compared to the substantive literature examining the stigma of mental illness. And the methods they use, they were empirical results was an integration of this information led in two parts, but its conclusion was to address stigma through strategies of education, contact protest and engagement into social life. The program Pat is headed up with independence is to do the such things of people, you know.

Unknown Speaker  48:36  
And through that, I've been able to, you know, really shed light on addiction, like, you know, we would have people come in from different treatment centers, different doctors and talk about how do you cope with the holiday season? Right? How do you like just all different types of things like we do like recovery, seed it yo yoga meditation, for our members, just like a plethora of different things we do. And, and this group is, you know, like, I think the second group like this at a corporation in the country,

Joe Van Wie  49:09  
Pap, how did they how does the corporation itself, they do this? And they do this on account of it being asked for? How do they measure the value of it that this isn't just something? How do they feel benefited by it? Why would you, how would you say that?

Unknown Speaker  49:26  
Right, and that's actually a great question. I don't have the answer to I really don't know the answer to that. But I would say just like any outlet that you give your, your employees like one of my driving forces behind it was when I think about my mother, right and and what I say and what I pitched to them all along the way of the added value is you have a mother right now somewhere inside of these walls, that is looking at their computer screen that is trying to fulfill their job duties. that is looking at that screen but doesn't see anything. Because their mind is completely elsewhere. Because they're wondering, is their child dead in the streets of Kensington? Right? Where are they? I don't know. And those those employees have have no outlet for this right? How do you go to your superior and say, Hey, listen, I gotta go, I gotta bring my son to treatment, because of the stigma, right? They don't want to go and tell their supervisor that because it's like, oh, all your son's addicted to drugs? Like, what did you do as a parent along the way, and all those different things that come with it. And that's where I said, Truly, for me, the added value is like, we give individuals a safe space to open up about these things to get their mind off it to get it off their chest. And that will in turn, you know, make them make them better employees of the company, right where that, like they know they have somewhere to go and talk about this. They know that like they have someone to reach out to they know people are there. And we're in this together. And there's, of course, it's not going to be 100% of people aren't going to disclose it. I understand that. All that but like, and also like there's going to come times where no matter where they could turn, they're still going to be hyper focused on that. But at least at least we have that there.

Joe Van Wie  51:25  
Was this program operational prior to COVID.

Unknown Speaker  51:30  
That was Yeah, so we started it. I always I always forget, when we announced it. I remember the day we announced it, because the day before we announced the group, and we had a press conference for and some news stations were there. But the day before we announced it was the day I went to my barber and shaved my head. So I walked into work that next day, and we had a 9am press conference in the lobby. And I showed up as a bald man for the for the first time. So I remember that we all have to do it rather than have to pick the day. Right. But I believe it was around March or April of 2019 is when the is when the group started.

Joe Van Wie  52:14  
And was this very helpful during COVID? Did you see a growth in this program during the pandemic?

Unknown Speaker  52:25  
Yeah, I think we had, we had different doctors come on to talk about, you know, coping with the pandemic, I think one of the big things that people loved was like we were doing the virtual seated chair yoga, just giving people an hour to just get their minds off things and go through this meditation and yoga process, but keeping in touch with our members, doing different events for them to try to figure out ways to cope with this right and even for, once again, when I get back to the family members, they're they're dealing with, you know, maybe a son that's living across the country who, who, you know, they know from their family weekend getaway at whatever treatment center, their kid went to that child, their son is not supposed to isolate, they're not supposed to do A, B, and C all things that we had to do during COVID. So giving them some, some coping mechanisms, and it helped for me to you know, I we're living in a completely different world at that point. To figure out different different tools and strategies to, to get through the daily life of something that was, you know, so foreign to everyone was really great. And we would see, because at least on the virtual stuff, you can see how many people that are attending how many people are there? And and yeah, I think there was definitely an uptake of people that just wanted one or more information, you know, I think substance use disorder was really, really ramped up during during COVID. And you can tell why, you know, all those things, we're not supposed to do the isolation, all of that, you know, the financial worries, everything that was coming with COVID. But we were able to give individuals an outlet and some and some coping mechanisms and some tools to try to figure out how to get through it.

Joe Van Wie  54:19  
Yeah, it was so frightening two years to think my paranoia is now being echoed from the news of stuff that just always went out of my head when things were peaceful. Right. But I, Pat, I just want to say when you did open up about your recovery is it was inspiring to me. I was struggling, coming back from relapse, and to see how you operate it professionally, within your own life. Got me to imagine what that could be like for me. And it's something I desperately want. If I was going to be sober this time. It was hard to do I put the alcoholic me in a naughty room and don't come back out like I it felt too contrived. I don't know how to not bring it up anymore or not that I have to, but it's not something I want to ever avoid. Right if it's a scenario and I want to thank you for that. I also want to see see if I get a rookie and to come back again and maybe just speak to stigma. Yeah. Yeah. And I think it deserves a full hour. Now that, you know, you've come and help my podcast launch. This is your fourth interview. Since we had four. I tried to shoot this on video, it looked really bizarre. My idea, but I'm gonna put some links if you can offer them any about some of these ideas and yeah, and programs for people to check out themselves. And, you know, they're there. Here's a guy right here. And this interview you listen to that was was just about to die from addiction, and was only months and months away from learning that he can live the life he wants as a Government Affairs, lobbyist, and then advocate for people in recovery to have the same exact path. I mean, I can't think of any more beautiful way than to spend time on Earth and what you've done in your recovery. Pat, I want to thank you for coming on today. And I hope to see you soon.

Unknown Speaker  56:26  
Bye. Thanks for having me. This has been a lot of fun.

Joe Van Wie  56:30  
Roger. I'd like to thank you for listening to another episode of all better. Find us on all or listen to us on Apple podcasts. Spotify, Google podcasts, Stitcher, I Heart Radio, and 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

The Green Ridge
New School
Taking Juvenile Heat
sobriety may not be enough...
Flynn's cant drink
Philadelphia Freedom
New Career New Life
Someone you Know Group
Safe Place