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From Teen Addict To Founder Of Treatment Center 45

From Teen Addict To Founder Of Treatment Center

Speaker 1:

This podcast is sponsored by Cornerstone Healing Center, where they guide people through a transformative experience and into lasting recovery. They focus on addiction, trauma, family systems and co-occurring disorders. If you want more information on how to get sober, call them at 1-888-320-7992. Or check out their website, scottsdalecornerstone.com.

Brandon Lee:

Hey, everyone. It’s Brandon Lee, host of the podcast, Escaping Rock Bottom. I have a bad-ass guest on the show with me today. Estil is the founder of Cornerstone Healing Center in Scottsdale. I had a chance to tour the facility last month, and it’s really cool, the different modalities that they are using to help people recover from drug addiction and alcoholism. He’s on the show today to talk about what they’re doing over at Cornerstone Healing Center, but he’s also got a story himself, experience, strength and hope. That’s what this podcast is all about, especially in the midst of a pandemic when a lot of people are losing their shit. And it’s okay to not be okay. So, Estil on the show today. Hey, man, thanks for coming on.

Estil:

Thanks for having me. I appreciate it.

Brandon Lee:

I appreciate it. Estil, I start this off with everybody, where were you born and raised?

Estil:

Born in Clinton, Missouri, left in foster care as an infant, adopted at the age of two, raised here in Arizona.

Brandon Lee:

Okay. Raised in Arizona. That’s what? The age of two?

Estil:

Yeah. So I grew up-

Brandon Lee:

So I could call you a native?

Estil:

Pretty close. Yeah, all my memories are from here.

Brandon Lee:

When did you-

Estil:

You know the wedges in South Scottsdale?

Brandon Lee:

Oh, I thought you meant the wedge in Newport Beach, the surf spot.

Estil:

No. This is a skate spot herE underneath a bridge, McDowell and Miller. I grew up hanging around Phoenix locals, a lot of Phoenix locals in that place.

Brandon Lee:

Okay.

Estil:

There’s a skate park there now, but I grew up hanging around there.

Brandon Lee:

I want to know if that was named after the wedge in Newport Beach. That could be a guest surf spot in Southern California.

Estil:

It could be, there’s this big concrete thing and people just skateboard and ride bicycles. It’s been a landmark.

Brandon Lee:

All right, cool.

Estil:

An underground landmark for a long, long time.

Brandon Lee:

The next question is, when did you always start going off the rails a little bit? When did the little rebellious Estil start to appear?

Estil:

Shit. I don’t know, pretty early. Early, I suppose is a fair answer. Seven, eight, seven, eight, I was skinned to sneak in beers and puffing on cigarettes and not being totally honest about what I was doing with my time and grades slipping and all that. So, pretty young.

Brandon Lee:

Junior high school is when I first had a cigarette. Some kids at school, we went straight for the Marlboro Reds. I guess that was the early addict in me. I was like, no Marlboro lights, let’s just go to the local donut shop. They would sell cigarettes back in the day to kids at junior high school, which is like nuts. Could you imagine a circle case selling a junior high school cigarettes these days?

Estil:

No.

Brandon Lee:

No. All right. What happened next? Did it just get worse? Was it a lot of drinking, hanging out in social circles?

Estil:

I got into sneaking beers, drinking, smoking weed, that sort of thing. I guess by the time… It was more all very experimental until I was around 16 or so. By the time I was 16, I was drinking daily and I was experimenting with things like methamphetamine. 17, I’m blackout. I’m a daily blackout drinker. I did not graduate high school. I went to Arcadia High School and I couldn’t make it through. In my senior year, I was drinking to blackout in the morning. So by second or third period, I couldn’t make it through class anymore. I just didn’t make it through high school. Left home. 18, mutual fuck you between mom and dad. When I say mom and dad, they’re my grandparents. They adopted me. So I left home shortly after not completing high school. It was, where it was already getting pretty bad, it just went down hill.

Brandon Lee:

What was the situation, if you want to share with your parents, why did your grandparents have to adopt you?

Estil:

Oh, my biological parents were alcoholics. They never straightened out. Not that I’m aware of. My biological father did get sober after suffering an alcoholic stroke about 12 years ago. Then I buried him of natural causes in multiple system failure at like 64. That was just a year ago.

Brandon Lee:

How do you think that that impacted you? I’m a believer, Estil, that trauma really for most people nine out of 10, I’m going to say, I think trauma, traumatic experiences, whether it be a childhood or even trauma that you experienced as an adult is really the gateway that sets people off, is the gateway that gets people to turn to another substance in order to not feel. Whether it’s drugs or alcohol. Growing up in a family where mom and dad are alcoholics and unable to pay attention to you and care for you and nurture you can be considered a traumatic event. How do you think that that impacted you in your upbringing, that mom and dad weren’t there in the mom and dad structure?

Estil:

It’s a great question. It’s something that I ignored as a young person and even into my early recovery, I didn’t pay it much reverence. Came up in inventory, obviously. I fucking hate them, they weren’t there. They abandoned me, et cetera.

Brandon Lee:

It’s huge resentments, I would assume.

Estil:

Yeah, all my early relationship problems with women were tied easily by my sponsor, back to my relationship with my biological mother, my non-existent relationship. It really wasn’t until staying sober for a while and working with a therapist that I was really able to go backwards and really look. ACE testing, I’m sure you’re familiar with, adverse childhood experience testing. It’s very simple assessment tool. There’s a lot of predictors nested within what your answers are. It’s a one to 10, 10 being the worst, zero being the least. Anything over a four, generally is going to have a high propensity for drug abuse, for substance use.

Estil:

That’s what we look for in treatment. We’re looking for, look, we just look at those scores and without even knowing somebody’s name, gender, race, et cetera. By that number, I could tell you if you’re a zero, your chances of having substance problems are much lower statistical. It’s not an impossibility. Trauma doesn’t necessarily make you a drug addict. There are people that have experienced and survived traumatic experiences that never got into substances.

Brandon Lee:

True.

Estil:

But those are outliers. We’re talking, if you’re a four and up, you probably got a substance problem. You probably sleep around. Statistically speaking, I’m an eight.

Brandon Lee:

You’re an eight?

Estil:

Yeah. Figured that out pretty quick. I was like, Oh, that explains a lot. But the path I ended up on.

Brandon Lee:

Yeah. A lot of that stuff, when you said that you really forgot about it, that childhood experience, it’s no different. It’s also one of why the modality EMDR exist in the treatment and recovery world, is because that modality actually allows us to get past the frontal lobe, get back to where we compartmentalize a lot of those traumatic experiences. When we suffer child, whether it be a trauma as a child or trauma as an adult, experiencing trauma is unpleasant. So naturally our bodies are not going to want to remember it or feel it. So we compartmentalize it and we bury it. We try to move forward. The problem is, is that when that traumatic event happens, it throws off our wiring just a little bit and then we begin to misfire. It’s why like that common phrase of, I’m making poor life choices. Those wires are crossed and we’re misfiring and we’re making a lot of poor life choices. EMDR is modality that allows us to get past this back to here and work through that trauma. It’s not a lobotomy. We don’t forget. Those traumatic events don’t get erased.

Estil:

I just saw that ratchet show, and they were like…

Brandon Lee:

You’re just like…

Estil:

They were doing the bottoms [inaudible 00:08:05].

Brandon Lee:

But it allows us to process that trauma in a different way so that we don’t react the same way when another traumatic event happens.

Estil:

Yeah, you’re exactly right. It allows us to archive that experience in the past, in our history where it belongs, not beneath the surface of every fucking moment.

Brandon Lee:

Okay. Because I want to eventually get to what you guys are offering at Cornerstone in general. What brought you into that world of creating a treatment program and a healing center to help people?

Estil:

Sure.

Brandon Lee:

But what was your rock bottom then? What was that moment, Estil, in your life that said, because is that not truly a hugely common question, whether it be for parents or family members or friends of an addict being like, what’s their rock bottom. People ask me all the time, “How do you know when you hit your rock bottom?” I’m like, “Oh, you know.” Other people may have said, “Brandon, man, you hit your rock bottom over here.” And I’m like, “No, I wasn’t done yet.” What was your rock bottom like?

Estil:

Gosh, there were multiple. I would say five or six different experiences where I thought it was the bottom. I made from resolutions to stop this behavior, stop this self destructive behavior and thought it was the end. And then it wasn’t, that’s a lot of fun. For me, the one that actually was the bottom, I got to tell you, “I’d been in worse positions than this time,” but I found myself, I got picked up on ASU campus by the Tempe campus police. I was writing a children’s mountain bike, I’m a grownup. I’m a grown man, riding a children’s mountain bike, looking for a better bicycle to steal. And when they stopped me and started asking me questions, I couldn’t answer. Like, where are you coming from? Where are you going? In that moment, I surrendered. I was just like, well, I’m going to go to jail and I’m just going to do whatever they need me to do. Because I can’t lie my way out of this. I got nothing.

Estil:

I got re-exposed to the 12 step world while I was in Durango jail. A lot of it didn’t make sense, but there was this thing at the core of it that did make sense and I was intrigued. I was intrigued that people from different religious backgrounds. Because I was super skeptical to hear this dude that was like agnostic, almost atheist, and this other guy that was pretty devout Jewish guy, give me the recovery talks and how they had found peace within themselves because they can’t stay sober because they hated their lives. They couldn’t manage sobriety because sobriety sucks, because I fucking hate myself and drugs now call took that away. And the drugs now call were so destructive that I had to stop drinking. And then in sobriety, things got so miserable and self destructive I wanted to kill myself.

Estil:

When they described that over and over and over again in their own language, I sunk in my chair because I thought that’s what’s wrong with me. I can’t stay sober because I fucking hate sobriety and I hate myself. Getting loaded numbs that, doles that. It doesn’t make it disappear entirely. And the older I get, the less effective it is. I think that’s how most people find themselves at the crossroads, so to speak, at the jumping off place, whatever you want to call it. Where it’s like, I don’t want to change, but what do they say about the fear of change outweighing the fear of staying the same or the pain of staying the same? That’s where I was. They explained it. They explained what alcoholism is in super plain language, and to me it was a revelation.

Estil:

I didn’t know anyone had ever experienced what I was experiencing. I wasn’t able to articulate it and I’d certainly never heard anybody talk about it. I’d never heard anybody describe staying sober the way they did. I thought the shiny, happy fuckers just got sober and they were clearly different than me. Because I can’t get sober. I can get sober, I can’t stay sober. And these guys described it in plain language. They couldn’t stay sober because they hated themselves. I asked those guys after the meeting what I should do and they outlined a real simple plan the way you would or anybody would. And having no idea the level of commitment I was making, I said okay.

Brandon Lee:

I think that it’s very similar and I love that you brought up that word hate because when I had overdosed twice and I was in the hospital and the second time they were like, Hey, we can’t just discharge you. We have to send you to the mental health unit on the fourth floor. I did. So I was sitting there just shooting the shit with a guy. I didn’t even know. I thought he was a doctor or a therapist or some psychologist doing a mental eval. Within 15 minutes, I didn’t know, I had never experienced an AA meeting. I didn’t even know anything. So I’m here, I’ve just overdosed on the mental health unit. This guy starts telling me his story. He looked at me and goes, “Man,” he goes, “why are you so angry?”

Brandon Lee:

I’m like, “I’m not angry.” He goes, “Why are you so angry?” I started to get angry. I’m like, “You ask me that again, I’m going to get angry. But ask anybody in my life, I’ll be there for them. I’ll do this for them.” He goes, “Why are you so angry?” He goes, “Don’t answer.” He goes, “Because let me tell you this. Anybody who’s trying to get HIV on purpose, anybody who is doing math and doing the hardcore partying and having a hardcore sex that you are having does not love themselves. Because if you loved yourself, you wouldn’t be trying to hurt and harm yourself. That is what you’re doing.” This was not a psychologist, he wasn’t a therapist. He wasn’t even a counselor. He’s a recovered meth addict who was able to see and cut through me like nobody was able to cut through me before.

Brandon Lee:

I think that is the power of 12 step programs. That could be the power of a 12 step program because these are people who’ve walked in your shoes, these are people who can truly look at you and say, I know. I get it. I know because I know how shitty it was. Doctors can’t do that. Because a lot of doctors aren’t recovered drug addicts. Unless they are psychologists.

Estil:

Unless they are, but you’re 100% [crosstalk 00:14:27].

Brandon Lee:

A lot of psychologists aren’t that. And sometimes another addict needs to know, I get you. You are truly not alone and no, asshole, you’re not unique. Get that out of your head.

Estil:

Are you sure? Because I really feel like I’m the only one.

Brandon Lee:

I think that’s the uniqueness. So you hit your rock bottom, what took you to your life? You know I’m not big on how much time somebody has in recovery. I’m not big on asking how much time you got, but at what point in your recovery did you decide, did you find this purpose, did you find your path into creating a healing center?

Estil:

I got to tell you, first off, when I was newly sober, in my first couple of years, a lot of my friends, people I got sober with were going to work in recovery and I scoffed. I was like, have fun. Sounds fucking terrible. I’ve always been heavily involved in service work. So I already spent a lot of my spare time working with guys and carrying the message, et cetera. So in my mind to go be a peer support or go be a therapist sounds fucking awful. But over time, I’m entrepreneurial. I got into digital marketing and software. I met a guy to show me the book, show me the steps, who was living in a treatment center. And it was a pretty nice place.

Estil:

I won’t name it, but I was at this, I walked into this facility. [inaudible 00:16:08] yeah, it’s pretty nice in here. Sit down, they’re cooking lunch and guy’s like, yeah, I’ve been here for like a week. I don’t really know what’s what. I remember thinking to myself, how cool would it be to run a place like this, and I could be the crotchety old 12-step guy waving my finger at people? When I was new and we used to go walk uphill both ways to meetings in the snow or whatever. But I romanticized the idea of working in treatment or at least running a treatment center to where maybe I wasn’t necessarily a therapist, but I grew into the notion. So many years sober. I was over 10 when I had the idea. And then we’ve been open three years now. So we got into really fleshing the idea out on paper, I suppose, summer of 2017.

Brandon Lee:

Wow. That’s awesome. Because I started really getting the itch to want to work in and be part of and create a healing center. Because my therapist, I go back, she brought out her notes, this was recent. She goes, “You actually brought up wanting to create a healing center about three years ago in one of our sessions.” She asked me, “What does that look like?” And I’m like, and this is my experience with 12 step rooms, and I believe you’re the AA plus what? The AA plus model, 12 steps plus what model. Because, I’m sorry, 12 steps is just not enough. And if anybody wants to fight back with me, we can look at the efficacy rate of just 12 steps. I’m sorry, 12 steps is not enough. When you think 30% or 40% efficacy is good, I’ve got a few professors who would tell you that that would be a failing grade.

Estil:

Sure. Well, and we got into that a little bit on the last talk we had.

Brandon Lee:

On your podcast, yeah.

Estil:

Last talk we had, we got into it a little bit, I’m of the opinion like you, I share the same opinion that everything we can possibly use at our disposal to help someone recover is, I’m in favor of. I’m abstinence-based, so I could use that as a caveat. So anything you can use that still promotes long-term abstinence-based durable recovery, I’m totally in supportive.

Brandon Lee:

Yeah. It’s healing, and that’s the unique thing. A healing center is different to me than different than just a treatment center. A healing center really uses different modalities and even on a spiritual basis as well, to heal the mind, body and soul. And to me, the amount of damage that we do to our bodies, but it goes beyond that. That is why I’m a huge believer that trauma is really the root of so much. And until we go back and heal from that traumatic event or heal from that trauma, we will continue to either relapse or we will continue to make poor life choices. Even if we are in the rooms of recovery, even if you strung together 30 plus years in a 12 step room, you could be white knuckling it because you haven’t gone back to actually heal from that trauma, which is why I’m a huge believer in the modality of EMDR, brain mapping, neuro-plasticity, I’m a believer of science that we can and have the ability to rewire our brains.

Brandon Lee:

Also the spiritual aspect. I would love to have a showman on the property if I ever did create a healing center, because I believe spirituality should become a part of our growth. Not asking you to become religious, not asking you, spirituality is so different in my mind than what that is because yours is a healing center. So what are some of the modalities that you guys offer at Cornerstone Healing that you believe is really making an impact on an addict’s life?

Estil:

Well, you’re naming them. Trauma, we believe is often such a large factor of what we’re dealing with. EMDR and brain mapping are both the staple components. Also, stable components are physical fitness.

Brandon Lee:

Huge.

Estil:

Yeah. We’ve had a gym component and use trainers ever since we opened, but just in the last month or so, we’ve really started to build out our own gym. So it’s getting better obviously as time goes on. We’re building out our own internal gym.

Brandon Lee:

That’s the wellness aspect, that’s the physical wellness. We do know that exercising increases, it releases the dopamine, increases the serotonin, gets us those happy cells working again. And we need that in our daily lives.

Estil:

Oh my gosh. The list of biological, physiological, emotional benefits from physical exercise, particularly resistance training, it’s long, it’s long, long.

Brandon Lee:

Again, it’s science-based so let’s look at science, let’s look at scientists based in fact and how we can use that science to better us.

Estil:

Yeah. At Cornerstone, we weight train daily.

Brandon Lee:

I love that. And by the way, [crosstalk 00:20:51]. Yeah, when I went over there to check out Cornerstone in Scottsdale, we were walking the facility and all of a sudden you walk into this massive gym garage and you’re like, damn, they’re working out. They were working out that day.

Estil:

Right. So yeah, they work out, they train with a trainer five days a week. Now, some of our guys would like to train also on Saturday or Sunday. That’s up to them if they want to. But it’s part of what we do Monday through Friday.

Brandon Lee:

I love that. Okay. Then talk to me about some of the other things that you guys are doing there. Because you do in-patient. You guys have houses where you do offer in-patient or out-patient.

Estil:

I hate to get semantical. Currently we do out-patient and it’s a long step-down care. So most of our partial hospitalization clients will stay in our supportive housing, which does offer a completely immersive experience. It’s like I’m going to rehab. They show up with a bag and they check in with us with the intention of staying a couple of months to live with us 24 hours a day. Prepare all their meals with us, meditate with us, pray with us, lift weights with us and get into the heavy lifting of going into the past and sorting it out. That being said, we then do an intensive outpatient typically in the evenings for another couple of months after that. And then we work with clients on a coaching basis. We call them navigators, they’ll work with a sophisticated case manager, all the weapons out. They’ve got a year of sobriety.

Brandon Lee:

Since you are the founder of the healing center right now, let’s talk about a current event that’s going on. Because I’m curious as to see what you are seeing right now with a lot of your residents and the people that you’re caring for and the impact that the pandemic in 2020 is having on people’s mental health.

Estil:

Before I tell you what I’ve seen, I do want to mention just a caveat like, listen, I don’t have the answers for what the world should have done differently. So I don’t want to place blame anywhere. This is a big, scary thing. They were calling it the novel Coronavirus. Because none of us had ever seen anything like this before. But I got to tell you as a behavioral health professional, isolating people is one of the worst things we could have done. I understand the reasons we did it. I understand, again, I’m not here to place blame anywhere, but we have increased the number of lives. We’ve increased the number of lives taken by this pandemic exponentially by some of the measures we’ve taken. Some of the stay at home orders have doubled suicide rates. We’ve increased death by over overdose, 40% to 50%, depending on where you’re at.

Brandon Lee:

Depending on where you’re at because [crosstalk 00:23:41] 160% of overdose deaths over just the months of the past summer compared to 2019.

Estil:

Yeah. I’ve been following the overdose mapping application program and it’s the ODI map. If you Google it, you can follow along What’s going on. If you look just at the Arizona numbers, just the Arizona numbers, it’ll make you throw up in your mouth. It’s disgusting-

Brandon Lee:

I know.

Estil:

… how many people are dying. And listen, there were a lot of people dying before shutdowns and stay at home orders. Again, not necessarily having the answers for what everyone should do, I’m of the strong opinion that if you can take whatever resources you have as a human being living in America in 2021, if you’re struggling with addiction, if you’ve got mental health issues go and you’re just allowing the fact that everybody’s keeping to themselves be an excuse to not engage, I would encourage you, pick up the courage, pick up your phone and call someone. You can FaceTime, you can get on Zoom, there’s Zoom meetings that are happening all over the world, 24 hours a day.

Brandon Lee:

Yeah. I’ve hopped on quite a few in different States. It’s actually more accessible than trying to find a meeting, driving to it, getting it that right time.

Estil:

Look, and if you don’t have any underlying health conditions, like I don’t, you can throw on a mask and you can hit in-person meetings. There’s not as many as there used to be obviously. A lot of them have disbanded and regrouped other places, but they exist and they’re out there. A lot of major cities, you can still go to in-person 12-step, other types of support groups.

Brandon Lee:

I’m really with you on that too. There is no right answer. There is no one magic bullet-

Estil:

It’s complicated.

Brandon Lee:

It’s very, very complicated because I understand that we do have high risk populations in this country that we really do need to protect.

Estil:

Nobody wants to kill grandma.

Brandon Lee:

No, nobody does. From somebody on the mental health aspect side of it. In February and in March, we’re going a year into this. You cannot deny the fact that people are killing themselves, overdosing and committing suicides because of isolation. What people who aren’t familiar with mental health need to understand is that the opposite of addiction is connection. You take away the connection, we are going to have serious death in this country. Again, we’re not sitting here saying that we have the right answer to it, but damn it, we need to acknowledge as a country that people who are just saying, Hey, close everything down, stay at home for months and months and months. You’re also saying that we’re going to have a lot of deaths from people committing suicide and suffering mental health. And no, it is not because they are weak.

Estil:

All politics completely aside, I am pro mask, I’m pro safety and I’m anti shutdowns. I just am.

Brandon Lee:

Yeah. Because I think that if we can get to that place of where, Hey, listen, if you’re going to go out, just put a mask on. You can go and do these things. You just have to be a little more cautious. Is that too much to ask?

Estil:

It’s really not. If vaccines are coming, there are people starting to get vaccinated and-

Brandon Lee:

Which is a good thing and it’s-

Estil:

It really is.

Brandon Lee:

We need to get to that herd immunity aspect and we do that by getting the vaccine out into the arms of people.

Estil:

Putting aside how we’re going to get there as a country, because the truth is we’re going to get there. Whether it’s six months from now, whether it’s six years from now, if I had to guess, look, I have no medical degree. So [crosstalk 00:27:20].

Brandon Lee:

I’m going to have hopeful faith that we’ll be there by the end of the summer.

Estil:

I like that. We’ll go with your answer. All right. Sometime soon, within the next year, we’re going to be mostly past this. What about the people that didn’t survive this? I don’t mean from catching Coronavirus. I mean, the people that didn’t survive isolation. We’re losing north of 500 people a day to accidental death by overdose in America. It’s already the third leading cause of death for decades. We’re talking for a long time.

Brandon Lee:

Because we as a country have failed to provide mental health services to people in our country.

Estil:

In addition to that, what you’re doing here, reducing the stigma, we’ve allowed as a culture too long for shame and guilt be associated with the disease of addiction or with mental health. We’ve allowed people to be, you said something on my show about drug addicts and alcoholics being viewed as fuck-ups and mess ups and people with no passion for life. As long as we see an alcoholic as the person flying the sign at the freeway entrance and it’s contained to that, we’re going to continue to shame people. Here’s the thing, when we shame people, it’s usually a small remark here or there. Oh really? It’s a scoff. It’s something that costs us nothing and cost the person suffering who hears that remark and is scared to take time off to go to treatment. Yet they’re contemplating suicide actively. It could cost that person everything.

Brandon Lee:

100%. You’re absolutely right. I love that conversation about the stigma, because that stigma is also, as you just said, the stigma is killing people. The stigma is killing people because they don’t want to ask for help because there is so much shame that if you go to your boss and say, I’m struggling right now, that your boss is going to look at you like you’re weak out. “They can’t handle the job. They’re not good enough. They’re not smart enough.” It’s one of the reasons why I’m trying to get people to be like, I get the anonymity aspect of it. But the anonymity aspect of it to me is created because of shame. Because this stigma existed, that we had to create a program based in anonymity, because we didn’t want to out that person to be known to society as a weak person who couldn’t handle their shit.

Brandon Lee:

That’s the anonymity part. The anonymity part is built in shame. Well, guess what? If we got rid of the anonymity part, we will see that doctors, professors, pharmacists therapists, news anchors are all addicts. And guess what that tells? That tells the other people out there, wow, wow, I’m not stupid. These really smart people have addiction in their past.

Estil:

There is this notion, I think it’s been amplified maybe in the last, 20 or 30 years, even within the recovery rooms in 12-step culture, where if you haven’t been to prison or if you haven’t, you can start creating this list of things. It’s almost like this blood lost when we hear stories like how bad was it? If it wasn’t bad enough, maybe you’re not the real thing. The truth is, if we’re talking about 12-step world, the big book of Alcoholics Anonymous was written by a surgeon and is a very successful stockbroker. These weren’t bottom of the barrel type of dudes, they were actually fairly sophisticated professionals that created the original 12-step idea or concept. Then you flash forward 80 plus years and we’ve got all kinds of people from all kinds of professions, because alcoholism/addiction, it doesn’t matter what race you are. You could slice up demographics any which way you want. Alcoholism or drug addicts are represented in every major demographic cohort you can imagine.

Brandon Lee:

Everyone.

Estil:

Everyone, every single one.

Brandon Lee:

Everyone, as a matter of fact it’s just people with money have an easier time to cover it up. That’s really what the difference. There’s no difference between an alcoholic mom up in Paradise Valley or up in a what’s that, Ladera Ranch. No, Ladera Ranch is in Orange County. What’s that ranch?

Estil:

DC Ranch.

Brandon Lee:

DC Ranch. No, they just got money to cover it up a little bit better than the person over in Maryvale.

Estil:

I think that’s something that each of us has to take on when we’re working with new people, people that are new to recovery. I started getting fucked up when I was a kid. So I got sober pretty young. I got sober at 26.

Brandon Lee:

I was 28.

Estil:

Right. For me, doing adult shit and finding a career path and finding financial success went in parallel with recovery for me. For me, you get sober and you can buy a BMW. You can do that because you’re sober, but that’s not a really story. Plenty of people get sober and they’ve got BMWs or whatever. They’ve got a home and that’s not everyone’s story. That was actually a hard moment for me when I was new-ish. I was like, Oh, some people don’t drink to blackout when they’re teenagers. Some people don’t do that until they’re 40 and decide that they need to get sober. They’ve already got a business and a marriage and children and et cetera, fill in the blank.

Estil:

When you really start to peel off the layers, you start to realize that what we’re dealing with as an illness, has nothing to do with your social status, has not to do with your economic status, has nothing to do with your race, your religion, your sexual orientation, or any other label you can put on a human being. If you’re a human, there’s a 15% to 20% chance, you might be an alcoholic. It’s 15% to 20% of the population. That’s two out of 10.

Brandon Lee:

Join the club.

Estil:

Yap.

Brandon Lee:

What do you say to people out there right now? I am dealing with a couple [inaudible 00:33:06], I’m dealing with a situation right now about trying to convince somebody that their life is destructive. Friend comes to me, says, wife or husband is boozing all the time and they’re doing this and they’re doing that. How do I get them to see their rock bottom? That’s moves under that whole interventionist thing, is that we try to get an interventionist is really trying to get somebody to recognize their rock bottom sooner than when they’ll see it. What’s your aspect on that? I would love just to get your take, because I know you deal with intake all the time. You deal with these phone calls all the time. How do you get somebody to recognize their rock bottom when they’re not necessarily seeing it yet?

Estil:

It’s an interesting question and it’s very relevant, because I know what a nightmare it is to be the loved one who is trying to help someone who doesn’t necessarily want help. To answer the question, it’s very tricky. When we think about a person who’s qualified to come into treatment, they have to need the services we offer and they have to have the resources to be able to pay for the insurance or whatever the cost is. The question comes up, what if they don’t want it? Are they qualified for treatment? Well, that’s a great area because I got to tell you, I wanted my life to get better, but I didn’t really want to get sober when I got sober. Most of us who find permanent or lasting recovery, durable recovery, most of us come in kicking and screaming to some degree or other. It’s really tricky. How do you present it in a way that the message can be heard? I think genuine concern. I know some interventionists and they’re pretty savage with this stuff.

Brandon Lee:

Yeah, I know a few too. They’re amazing. They’re Really good at having compassion and empathy, but they’re really good at reading the subject. What does this subject need in order for me to get through to them? What I tell people all the time too, I was like, well, you have to show them what they will lose if they continue down this path. [crosstalk 00:35:24].

Estil:

That’s one tactic to try and paint a picture because those consequences, when they pile up, aren’t necessarily enough to keep someone sober. At least not in many cases, but it can often be enough to be the catalyst for change. Sometimes sitting somebody down and saying, listen, what’s going on with you? You may not want to admit this, but it’s starting to tear us apart. Whoever that is, whether it’s to the child, to the parents, in some cases, I deal with those, the spouse. I love you, but I’m reaching a point where I can no longer do this.

Estil:

I can’t watch you kill yourself anymore. Whatever the case is, being able to have an honest and forthright conversation, I think is the starting point of that. Then being ready to draw boundaries. Some people can look at that and go, Oh, well, you’re just shaming sick people now. It’s like, well, I think there’s a balance. It’s more of an art than a science. I think if you can draw boundaries, healthy boundaries for yourself and say, listen, I love you. But at some point, I can’t support this behavior. That’s your right to do as a human being. I have little kids and I hope that I never have to make these decisions where they’re concerned.

Brandon Lee:

As we begin to close this episode, what do you tell people right now? As somebody who created a healing center in the Valley, knowing that people right now are suffering from mental health, there are a lot of people out there right now whether it’s depression and anxiety, whether they’re going and using food or they’re gambling, they’re porn addiction. We can all numb ourselves in so many different ways. It doesn’t just have to be-

Estil:

It’s a whack-a-mole.

Brandon Lee:

Right, it is. Truly, it’s like whack-a-mole, it’s like not everybody turns to drugs and alcohol to cope. It doesn’t mean that they’re not an addict. What’s your closing message to people living in this time right now, there’s a lot of mental health issues, you have a recovery center. What would be that message?

Estil:

Connect with other people as often as you can. When we connect with other human beings, there is an opportunity for accountability, there’s opportunity for humor and laughter and just being with each other. Even if things are fucked up, I got to tell you, if you’ve ever lost someone close to you, one of the best things somebody can do is just to be with you. People struggle to find the right things to say, you don’t have to have the right thing to say. You don’t have to be Yoda. You could just be with someone. That’s the one thing that’s in the way right now, is there’s a lot of isolation. I would encourage anyone to just connect, even if that’s only over a phone, but pick up the phone. Connect with other people, share your life, share your day-to-day with other people.

Brandon Lee:

I’m a huge fan of that because like I said, the opposite of addiction is connection and that’s the reason it’s playing out. It’s the reason why we’ve been talking about how there’s so many overdose deaths. You take away that connection, addicts will die. I’ve been very honest in multiple podcasts recently through this pandemic. I’ve hit my own rough times in this and I’ve got, you look at my life, I got every resource available. I work in recovery, I’ve connected to people on recovery. I’ve got every resource, but let me tell you this.

Brandon Lee:

When my brain got hijacked not too long ago, I didn’t pick up the phone to call those resources. I live here alone. I work in news. It’s just like a therapist who is hearing stories from people all day. Well, a therapist needs a therapist. I’m in news, so am on talking about the pandemic every day and day, I’m talking about the election every day and day, got threats coming in from different ways. It pushed me to my breaking point. I was having violent shakes at night, PTSD tremors at night in my bedroom and this is in the last couple of months.

Brandon Lee:

I tell that to people to hopefully let them know that you’re not alone if you’re experiencing that and it’s okay to not be okay. But I should not have let it get to that point. I should have just increased my therapy sessions. Whatever we can do as people right now to increase our wellness, don’t have shame in doing that. I needed two hours of trauma therapy a week right now. That’s what my body needs. It’s what I need to keep me on track so I don’t fall back into that level because it really is one day at a time. I know it’s a saying, it’s a slogan in 12-step rooms, but it is. That’s the reason why I don’t even count my days anymore because I’m like, okay, if I were to tell you I had 12 years, but then I tell you I was having night tremors of PTSD attacks and I almost hit my crack pipe.

Estil:

That’s what 12 years looks like?

Brandon Lee:

Great. But that’s what I have to look forward to. Because what I’m telling you is all I got is today. Am I well today, is my mental health good today? Damn it, awesome. Then I’m not going to drink or use. It doesn’t matter how much time I have in recovery. How am I doing today? That is the message I give out to people. Don’t look at me like, oh man, put him on a pedestal. Fuck that. I was literally buying weighted blankets so I didn’t tremor at night. Trauma can come up at any point in our lives. I just encourage people to go out there and seek the help that they need without shame.

Estil:

Yeah, whether it’s reaching out to a therapist or just picking up the phone and calling somebody that you know.

Brandon Lee:

One thing I do wish, which I’m a really big believer of this too, is that I wish I didn’t just do AA when I got sober. I’m telling you, I never went to treatment ever. I never went to rehab. I didn’t. But let me tell you, did I stay sober? Yes. But let me tell you, my life would’ve been so much better and easier had I gone to treatment for 30 or 60 days and then, and then went and did 12-step meetings.

Estil:

I have a very similar opinion. I believe that any good therapist would suggest if you’re an addict, I would think any good therapist would suggest that you check out 12-step world and work steps with a sponsor. I think any good 12-step sponsor would recommend a good therapist.

Brandon Lee:

100%, 100%.

Estil:

They’re not in opposition with each other at all. They [crosstalk 00:41:56] together.

Brandon Lee:

If you had the ability to go to a place like Cornerstone Healing Center and you’re an addict, they’re going to give you EMDR. They’re going to brain map you. They’re going to figure out, okay, what’s the best way to triage this. Let’s get to the trauma. Let’s begin to work through and process that trauma. Then we’ll get you on the road to 12 steps and group counseling, really what it is and be able to do those things. Man, I white knuckled it so much in those first couple of years. Oh, it was terrible. It took me until year eight, year eight to unpack my childhood trauma. Are you kidding me?

Estil:

I had one of those, I had what they described as the psychic change at about six months and I’ve always wondered if I had been in treatment and had been working with a therapist, could I have come to that conclusion earlier? Because those are ten years. I cried myself to sleep with suicidal thoughts for a lot of those months.

Brandon Lee:

Yeah. I don’t know, that’s my preaching of the message. I’m just a huge believer now in telling people when they come to me, what do I do? Go to at least a 35-day treatment program, get that foundation under your belt and then go work the 12 steps. Then do your daily meetings and do those things.

Estil:

I’m in agreement. At the very least, it’s good stabilization.

Brandon Lee:

Yes.

Estil:

Take you out of your environment. Take a pause from the chaos. Step away from your typical environment.

Brandon Lee:

Yeah, I just want to see efficacy. I want to see those numbers increase. I think the only way we do that is by going to places that have a healing center that is offering these different modalities because damn it, we need to update that big book.

Estil:

If you can keep someone in a structured recovery environment for over 12 months, your efficacy rates are over 65%. Sorry, our program is a year long. That’s exactly why it’s a year long, because we want to see at least six, seven out of 10 people that walk through our doors stay sober, not just for a year, to stay sober permanently.

Brandon Lee:

Correct. It’s not just 30 days and then you’re done. These treatment [inaudible 00:44:02], it’s 30, 35 days. Maybe it’s 60 days, fine. But then it’s continuous care after. You’re going to feel real great after 30 days of being around treatment and chomp meds and healing centers and [inaudible 00:44:12].

Estil:

Yeah, thanks for all the help, guys. I’ll see you later. I got it from here.

Brandon Lee:

But it’s a lifelong thing, which you need to find a program like Cornerstone that will actually create a program for you aftercare so that you can continue to stay sober. If you are listening or watching the podcast right now and you’re suffering right now with the pandemic, or maybe your husband, your spouse, your boyfriend, your girlfriend, or somebody in your life is numbing themselves with booze or drugs or food or gambling right now because of the pandemic or just because life is getting too hard, reach out to a treatment center. So Cornerstone Healing Center, if you want more information about what they offer and what they serve and how they’re bettering the community, we’re going to give you all that information right now.

Speaker 1:

This podcast is sponsored by Cornerstone Healing Center, where they guide people through a transformative experience and into lasting recovery. They focus on addiction, trauma, family systems and co-occurring disorders. If you want more information on how to get sober, call them at 1-888-320-7992 or check out their website, scottsdalecornerstone.com.

 

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