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Marcus Clark Escaping Rock Bottom 45

Marcus Clark, Escaping Rock Bottom Podcast

From Homeless Drug User to Saving Lives As COO Of A Valley Recovery 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 am really excited to have this guest on the show today. His name is Marcus. He works over at Cornerstone Healing Center in Scottsdale. It’s a great treatment facility here in the valley. They offer different modalities to create long-term efficacy, whether it be with alcoholism or any kind of addiction. I want to bring Marcus into the conversation. Marcus, thanks for the time today.

Marcus Clark:

Thanks for having me on today.

Brandon Lee:

I’m really excited-

Marcus Clark:

I appreciate that.

Brandon Lee:

… to hear a little bit about your story. Before we get into what you’re doing right now at Cornerstone Healing Center, take me back to Marcus’s childhood. What did that look like for you?

Marcus Clark:

Man, that is a hard question to answer, and you’re so good at that. It was like you just cut it on as soon as the camera … I was like, yo, that’s so good. Man, for me growing up, it wasn’t normal, but it was normal for what I thought life was like. My mom had me when she was 15 years old. I grew up mainly … I was born in Gary, Indiana. I grew up in Texas, Mississippi, Indiana, and then I moved to South Carolina when I was in the fourth grade. So It was a bunch of moving around. In our culture, as a kid, who raised me was every woman in my household, everyone. That’s how we’re raised. We’re raised by the family. My mom had me when she was 15. When you think about that, my mom was in sophomore in high school when I was born. I want to put that in context. My mom’s great. I was born and I lived many years in Gary, Indiana. I was about the third grade, I moved from Gary, Indiana to South Carolina.

Marcus Clark:

I remember it because I went from a school, and I’m just going to say this, I went from a school that there was one kid that wasn’t Black in our school, one. I went from Gary, Indiana to South Carolina. I remember the first time I got called the N word. I remember it to this day, literally. This kid in school, I don’t know why he called me. He called me and I chased him down the hallway and the principal grabbed me. Lived in South Carolina for a while. Did some college in South Carolina, ran track, played football, played basketball, always an athlete, anything to make myself fit in. I would say probably when I was … I can’t remember what age it started, but that feeling of different really started to kick in. I don’t know if it’s because I lived with my aunt and my mom wasn’t around. Then I went to move with my mom and I lived in a different culture and it looked different and they talked different.

Marcus Clark:

I didn’t have that country accent, so they picked on me. I was the one with the weird accent and I was kind of nerdy growing … Nerdy, like, no dude like … Have you ever watched Fresh Prince?

Brandon Lee:

Yes.

Marcus Clark:

You know Carlton?

Brandon Lee:

Yes. That was you?

Marcus Clark:

It was terrible. My mom would send me … Because my mom always wanted me to grow up better than the way that she grew up and-

Brandon Lee:

I think every parent really wants that.

Marcus Clark:

Right.

Brandon Lee:

Naturally.

Marcus Clark:

Right. Yeah, of course. She wanted me to have a better life than she had. Because my grandma grew up in Mississippi in the ’50s and ’40s, and so imagine how she grew up. There was a huge migration of a lot of African-Americans from the South to the North at that time. My mom never really had much. My grandma was a school teacher. Not even a school teacher, she was a lunch lady. She served lunch her entire career. You think about how much money my mom grew up on. When my mom … My mom had me when she was 15. She got her associate’s degree in her 20s. As I got older, our lifestyle started to get better. I remember I’m fifth grade, sixth grade, and my mom sends me to school looking like Carlton and all the kids are wearing Jordans. I got on Payless shoes and they were just making, I’m talking, making, Brandon, making fun of me, dude. It’s so funny, you’re hurt, but you want to laugh at the joke at the same time. I get chased down and I’ll just learn to fight.

Marcus Clark:

I’m getting chased down the hallway by kids and I’m like, “You know what, I’m going to stand up for myself.” From fourth grade through ninth grade, I got suspended from school every year, three times a year, always. I had amazing grades. I was a really smart student. I was always in accelerated reading, high algebra classes. I was an intelligent person, but where I was at, intelligence wasn’t cool. So you had to hide the fact that you were smart. I was … We used to get points for how many books you read, and I would always have the third most points in the school when I was in elementary school because I read so much. I had to isolate, I didn’t have a lot of friends growing up. I had a chipped tooth. This half, this tooth is fake. I’m a nerdy kid who reads a bunch of books, who lives in the hood, who has a chipped tooth. Now just, I can’t win for winning and it was terrible. At some point, I learned to blend in with everybody around me.

Brandon Lee:

You became a chameleon-

Marcus Clark:

I hid myself.

Brandon Lee:

… to survive.

Marcus Clark:

I hid myself, yeah, to survive.

Brandon Lee:

To survive.

Marcus Clark:

To survive. Now at the time, I don’t think of it like that. But at that time, I just wanted to fit in.

Brandon Lee:

Just really quick, because I can-

Marcus Clark:

Go ahead, please.

Brandon Lee:

… understand. When I was around that same age, junior high school was hell. But junior high school is when I started to realize that I was gay. I think that from an outside observer, I kind of had some more maybe feminine tendencies that I wasn’t even aware of as a child. But people started to pick up on. What I realized was, Oh my God, Oh my God, I can’t be my true, authentic self because I’ll get hurt. I’ll get beat up. I’m going to continue to get bullied. That’s why I created the book Mascara Boy. They used to call me makeup boy and mascara boy as a kid, because my eyelashes were super long and dark and yeah, it does kind of look like I’m wearing mascara. What I start to do, I started to change who I authentically was so that-

Marcus Clark:

To fit in.

Brandon Lee:

… I could fit into a circle of people so they wouldn’t target me anymore. When I say survive, that’s kind of what I mean. I wanted to survive not being bullied. I wanted to survive not being picked on and beat up. To me, I was like, “Lose your authentic self and become part of into that group. Be a chameleon so you don’t become a target anymore.”

Marcus Clark:

Right. I say that, and I agree with that. That’s 100% the truth. But as you know, as you get older, you learn to parent the inner kid-

Brandon Lee:

True, the inner child-

Marcus Clark:

… through a bunch of work. I learned to parent and I wish that I had the strength at that time to be my authentic self regardless of what these people were thinking about me.

Brandon Lee:

Of course.

Marcus Clark:

But at the time, I didn’t, and that’s okay. It’s all-

Brandon Lee:

[inaudible 00:07:30] at the time we don’t have even the tools nor the education to even know what the hell an inner child is. I just started learning about the inner child with me in deep seated trauma therapy work. Because what did I have to go do? I have to go back and constantly parent that little boy inside of me who is still that little boy being targeted by the outside world, being beat up because you’re gay, being beat up because maybe you have some feminine traits or qualities. We have to go back and treat that inner child. But when we’re at that age, we don’t even know-

Marcus Clark:

We don’t know.

Brandon Lee:

… what inner child is.

Marcus Clark:

We don’t know.

Brandon Lee:

We don’t know.

Marcus Clark:

I didn’t know. No one told me. No one knew. My parents did the best they could to get me through the world with the skillsets that they had.

Brandon Lee:

Correct.

Marcus Clark:

And that’s it.

Brandon Lee:

And that’s it.

Marcus Clark:

I’m living in South Carolina and I don’t fit in and I’m doing everything I can to make the kids like me for some reason. I smoked weed for the first time.

Brandon Lee:

How’d that feel?

Marcus Clark:

It was fun. We used to … Man, this is a bad story. Man, please don’t hurt me, but it’s the truth. We were … Part of my family is Jehovah’s Witness, and part of my family is Baptist, Black Baptist, Southern Baptist, Christian.

Brandon Lee:

Hardcore. Southern Baptist-

Marcus Clark:

You go to church on-

Brandon Lee:

… hardcore.

Marcus Clark:

You go to church on Sunday and you get out on Wednesday.

Brandon Lee:

Yes.

Marcus Clark:

The preacher is sweating and it’s cold. You don’t even know what’s going on. How was you sweating? The prayers take 43 minutes. For everybody it looks good. You was in the club the night before and now you’re in church today and I’m changing my life. Repent my sins away. I was an usher boy, so I passed the collection plate. Me and my uncle, which I called my cousin because we were so close in age, but he was really my uncle, we were usher boys. In South Carolina, churches are like how Circle K’s are in Arizona. There’s a Circle K on every corner. There’s literally a church on every corner. It didn’t even make sense. They didn’t even have any people. How do you have enough congregation to make this church work? But they do it. We would pass the collection plate and then we would go up the stairs to go to the … Because every church has the second row. We would take money out of the collection plate and put it in our pockets.

Marcus Clark:

Then pass the collection plate upstairs, walk down the stairs, put more money in our pocket. Then like I told you, church starts on Wednesday, gets out on Sunday. I mean, that’s an overstatement. It’s really four hours. We would just leave and we would go buy weed. That’s the first time I smoked weed, was during church. We went to the dude and I was so young, we knocked on the screen door. It’s like in a scene in a movie. You knock on the screen door and the dude was like, “What you want?” Then my cousin’s like, “We want some weed.” He’s like, “How old is he?” He’s like, “12.” He’s like, “He’s too young.” He’s like, “Don’t worry about it. He ain’t smoking.” We get it and then we smoke weed and drink King Cobra 40s and I felt like I fit in for the first time. Instantly I felt like a fit in and I was a part of. I smoked weed until I was 13. I got caught. I told my mom I wouldn’t do it again. Didn’t do it again until I was 17 years old.

Brandon Lee:

15 years old was the first time that I was with my friends at a beach house in Laguna Beach, California. 15 years old, there was a line of cocaine on the coffee table at this home. At 15, knowing I was gay, just so much … I didn’t love myself as who I authentically was. That’s just the simplest way to put it. I didn’t like who I naturally was. I didn’t like who God created me to be and I wanted to be different, I wanted to fit in as well. So I did that line of cocaine. As you said, I mean, in that moment we don’t have the brain capacity to understand what is happening. I just knew that, holy shit, this is the best thing that’s ever happened to me. This feeling right now is warm, it’s fuzzy, everybody likes me, everybody else is engaging with me. I truly finally felt that I felt in. What I tell people, I’m like, “Yeah. So I just kept chasing it.” I just knew that I just kept chasing that feel-good.

Brandon Lee:

Growing up in a house where there was a lot of just even physical abuse and mental abuse, and then add on to the sex abuse that was happening as well, I just tell people, I’m like, “I don’t know, man.” I did something that made me feel better than the situation I was in when I wasn’t doing it. As a 15 year old with not much cognitive thinking, I just kept chasing that, and that ended up just spiraling out of control. Take me to the end. What did the end look like for you? Because is that not one of the biggest questions that we get as sober people? Is-

Marcus Clark:

Yes.

Brandon Lee:

… when did you realize enough was enough?

Marcus Clark:

Man, this is-

Brandon Lee:

When did you realize you needed to get help?

Marcus Clark:

I’m going to try to make this … Because my life is … Man, I will … We can get as honest as we want here, right? You’re cool with that?

Brandon Lee:

I’m always as honest as we should be.

Marcus Clark:

I just want to make sure. Growing up, my mom was married three times, I’ve had three different stepdad’s. I didn’t meet my dad until last year. No, three years ago I met my dad. I talked to him one time. I didn’t really feel like I owed him anything, so I was like, “Hey, we’re good. I’ve let this go. You got kids that are six. Be a dad to them. I’m okay. My life is fine.”

Brandon Lee:

Make amends to me by being a good dad to them.

Marcus Clark:

Right. That’s it, man. Like I told you, from fourth grade until ninth grade, literally, I was suspended from school always. I was always running from the cops. I had all these behavioral issues. I mean, I’m talking like, my parents were in the house fist fighting, my stepdad, my mom and my aunt. I poured boiling hot water on my stepdad. I used to throw desks at my teachers. I remember I got suspended once from school one time and my mom … I was leaving the school. I got suspended from school and my mom doesn’t know what to do. Her kid has these huge behavioral issues. I don’t know why I’m acting out that way. I’m running home from school and my mom just looks at me and punches me and I hit the window and I pass out and wake up at home. I was just angry, man. I was so angry at everything and I didn’t understand why I felt the way I felt and I didn’t understand why you looked like you were comfortable. I tried all the things that you tried.

Marcus Clark:

I’ve tried it. I was a nerd. I was a jock. I was smart. I was funny. Why do I still have this feeling of emptiness inside of me that I don’t believe that you have because the way that you look like you live life is so different the way that I live life? I’m measuring my insides on your outsides and I’m wondering why I don’t feel the way I think you feel. Because I thought it was fake. I thought happiness was made up. It was movies. No one really felt that way. Everybody’s a little miserable. I’m 17 and I started smoking weed a little bit. I go to college and that’s where it started, in college. Never in my life felt like I fit in until I went to college. Because like I said, I grew up pretty segregated until I got to South Carolina. South Carolina, even when I grew up in the 2000s, it was pretty segregated. Let’s just be real.

Marcus Clark:

You didn’t hang out with certain people. If a cop pulled you over, you kept driving until you got to a light pole. You never let them because the camera could see. You always … Because they got their camera on, you wait until you get to a light so that … Because there’s not like Arizona where there’s lights everywhere. There’s dark country … You’ve been at Atlanta.

Brandon Lee:

Yeah.

Marcus Clark:

It’s dark country roads.

Brandon Lee:

Well, I think people also need to understand that there are many parts of the South that are still to this very day-

Marcus Clark:

To this day.

Brandon Lee:

… very segregated.

Marcus Clark:

I won’t go.

Brandon Lee:

Yeah. I mean there’s areas where Black people or gay people should never-

Marcus Clark:

No.

Brandon Lee:

… go-

Marcus Clark:

100%.

Brandon Lee:

… in the South.

Marcus Clark:

And you know. People tell you-

Brandon Lee:

You know.

Marcus Clark:

… “Don’t go there.” It’s just funny to think back on that. I’m living my life and I get to college and I finally found that feeling of fitting in. Because I had been segregated most of my life and when I’m a really young teenager before I drop, I don’t have the freedom to go be and hang out with who I want to. As I gain the freedom to be able to hang out with who I want to, I hung out with everybody. I have friends of every race, every religion, every sexual orientation. I didn’t care. Guess what the common denominator was for all of us, we liked drugs. We liked to party. We liked to have a good time. We lived in South Carolina and we watched New York and LA and we saw what they did and we wanted to live the same lifestyle. We wanted that big city atmosphere. We used to go to Atlanta all the time. It’s a three-our drive from where I lived at in Spartanburg, Greenville, and we wanted that big city lifestyle.

Marcus Clark:

So all my friends came from different places. But there was always this difference, man. It felt like I was trying to seek something that they weren’t. I remember I would hang out with these frat boys and this is back in the Guitar Hero days. Don’t tell anybody that I ever played Guitar Hero. It kills my street cred. They would … I remember this dude, they would play Guitar Hero and then they would pack their RooR bong. They would pack the bong with weed and then they would hit it and then they would pass it to me and then I would hit it, and then they would put it up. I could not stop looking at the sack of weed. I’m like, “Why are we not smoking all the weed?” Or they would take a few shots of Jäger, this is back when Jägerbombs were cool. They would take a couple shots of Jäger and they’d put it away, and I’m just staring at the bottle of Jäger like, “There’s more Jäger, thus you drink the Jäger.” We were trying to play Guitar … I’m angry.

Marcus Clark:

I can’t even play Guitar Hero because I’m like, “I need more of the thing that you have there.” I start to notice that I’m trying to seek something different from the substance, and I’m popular. I am one of the most popular people on this college campus. I never graduated college. I don’t think I passed a grade. I passed one class. I pulled my transcript the other day, terrible. F, F, F, F, F, F, F, F, F, B. B in math. Everything was F. I smoked at 4:20 in the morning. I smoked at 4:20 at night. We drove down to Clemson to pick up the best weed ever because Clemson is an agriculture school, so it’s a bunch of college kids with botany degrees. So you know what they grow down there, the dankest weed ever. At this point, I’m just drinking and smoking weed. We started getting into pain pills. We started doing Xanax. It starts to progress. I’m stealing from every person I know, every person I know. Anybody. If you got money, I’m stealing it. I’m charismatic and I’m nice and I’m funny and I make good friends.

Marcus Clark:

I’m just manipulating my way into people’s lives so that I can get from them what I need. I don’t even know it at the time, it’s just this thing that I do habitually. I think I’m being this honest dude, but I’m really not. I’m measuring you on a sliding scale, always, always. You’re better than me or you’re worse than me, and I got to find a reason to be better than you because if I’m worse than you, I’m not good enough. I create this stage character for the world to see. What I’m doing is, I’m going behind everybody’s back and I’m stealing money. It gets crazy from here. I’m living in South Carolina, I’m absolutely miserable. I have nothing. I’ve dropped out of college. I’m couch-surfing, homeless some days. I have absolutely nothing to my name. I remember sitting in South Carolina and I’m like, “The reason that my life is like this is because of my family.” They raised me. They didn’t know how to just … They don’t know how to raise me.

Marcus Clark:

They didn’t know how to show me it’s South Carolina, it’s a small city. I need to go somewhere else so I can create a new identity. Because once again, remember, it’s all about my identity. It’s all about what you think about me. Now, I’ve burned every bridge. So now how does everybody feel about me? I have no more identity. No one thinks I’m a good dude anymore. No one thinks I’m funny. No one wants to hang out with me. Now, the only person I have to sit with is myself. When I have to sit with myself, I know deep down inside when the show’s off and there’s no one else to impress, I’m absolutely miserable. I have $126, no lie, I buy a bus ticket to Jacksonville, Florida. Don’t ask me why I went to Jacksonville. Jacksonville, Florida. $126, moved to Jacksonville, Florida. Lived in Jacksonville, it was the craziest experience. Moved there with nothing, made it. I would always have this thing.

Marcus Clark:

I could wake up with $0 and I will hustle myself some food, somewhere to go and a place to sleep. But that was my biggest thing. I was like, “Let’s see if I can make it in Jacksonville, Florida.” I went to Jacksonville, Florida, did a series of things that I shouldn’t do that were illegal to make more money. I went to Orlando, Florida. Lived in … People ask me how long from when I left South Carolina until I got sober in Arizona, and I don’t know. I don’t know if it was two years or four years. It’s such … There are no Christmases. There’s no school. I don’t have anything to mark time by. I don’t go to work on Monday and get off on Friday. It’s hustle, hustle, hustle, get loaded, do what you have to do. I’m living in Jacksonville in a hotel. I come up on $5,000. You can guess how I came up on $5,000. I used to look up top 20 cities to live in all the time, top 20 cities, top 20 cities, top 20 cities to live in. Phoenix, Arizona always popped up on the map.

Marcus Clark:

I buy a bus ticket to Phoenix, Arizona because I got to run away from the people I got $5,000 from. I had some weed and I smoked weed on the bus, on the Greyhound, in the bathroom. You just push the little window and hit the joint and blow it out. I’m with these kids from California that were going to California and I ended up in Phoenix, Arizona by myself, third time in a row. I could move to a city completely by myself because I need to recreate who I am. I just need to change. If I can get away from these people, I can be this new guy. If people respect me and know who I am, then I’ll love myself. I know it. I just need to seek out here to find the thing in here.

Brandon Lee:

It’s so funny, so many addicts, when you listen to their stories, everybody kind of goes to the geographical. We all do.

Marcus Clark:

100%.

Brandon Lee:

I mean, we talk about it in the big book of how we all try our best to get sober on our own before we hit that desperate plea to go to treatment [crosstalk 00:22:00]-

Marcus Clark:

I wasn’t even looking to get sober. I didn’t … Sobriety wasn’t … Sober, I’m going to be the dude from Blow. I’m going to be the biggest drug dealer ever. It’s going to be amazing. It’s going to be a party. I love the first half of movies. Scarface, the first half, phenomenal. I forget about the second half, he died. I forget. I want the first half of every movie, man. I want all of the fun.

Brandon Lee:

Before all the bad comes. Before all the bad comes with it.

Marcus Clark:

My life is burning. I’m lighting it, and I’m like, “I’m good. Yeah. It’s all right. What do you mean?” “Marcus, your life is trash.” “No, it’s not. Just give me the chance.”

Brandon Lee:

When did you get … When was that day, when is that life moment? I mean, my life moment when I finally got sober was coming off of a two week life support coma. I mean, that was that moment that I can always reflect back onto and say, “That was the last time I drank or drug.”

Marcus Clark:

The precipitating factor that caused me to want to get sober, I’m sitting in jail in Arizona and Phoenix. This is back in the stripes and pink socks and Pico underwear. It’s segregated here. In South Carolina, surprisingly, it’s not segregated in jail. But jail is kinfolk, the woods, you got the Chicanos and you got the Paisas, and I’m a kinfolk surprisingly. I’m in jail and I’m talking to the leader of the fake leader of our little jail team and I’m like, “Man, you got two …” He got caught … Because everybody knows what everybody did when you’re in there. You have your little sheet. He’s like, “I got caught with $200,000 in so many pounds.” He’s 27. I’m 24 at the time and I’m like, “Dude, how do I … When I get out of here …” Because I knew was going to do 30 days. “When I get out of here, put me on so I can sell drugs. I want to hook …” He looks at me and he’s like, “Dude …” He’s like, “I got $1 million dollars out when I get out.”

Marcus Clark:

He’s like, “I’d give up everything I have to go work at McDonald’s.” I’m like, “Why?” He shows me a picture of his seven year old daughter and he’s like, “I’m about to watch my daughter grow up in pictures.” That was … Of course, I get out and I’m smoking and doing drugs and I’m on probation and I’m not going to pass. I’m living with this dude on 35th Avenue and Van Buren in the classy part of town and I don’t know. I got a list from my probation officer of halfway houses and treatment centers. Now, I didn’t know what a halfway house. I was like, “Halfway between what and what? I don’t want to half a house. I’m good.” The only thing I knew about treatment centers was Dr. Drew Celebrity Rehab. I was like, “There’s a pool. It’s going to be cool. It’s going to be …” I walk. I wake up. I don’t know what time the place opens. I’m definitely dirty. I was doing cocaine the night before with a Paisa, ecstasy. The day before that, I was smoking weed.

Marcus Clark:

I remember I was just miserable. I remember laying in this floor. Not even a bed, on the floor of this dude’s house on 35th Avenue and Van Buren and I’m just 25 years old and this is what my life looks like. I remember I just woke up at 6:00 and I walked from 35th Avenue and Van Buren to Central and Pima. I walked to Salvation Army and there’s a line outside this because it’s indigent free state rehab, the bottom of the barrel, man. I’m talking, I’m a bottom of the … I’ve been homeless for years living on the streets. I remember riding the light rail in Phoenix when it first got built, riding the light row at 5:00 AM from the end to the beginning, from the beginning to the end, just to warm up. I remember sleeping behind trash cans.

Marcus Clark:

I remember walking around and looking in the windows of restaurants and wishing I had enough money to eat. Waking up to the fire department, sleeping on the ground, that was my life. I walked to Salvation Army and I wait in this line and I walk in. I know nothing about sobriety. I didn’t want to be sober. I just didn’t want to keep doing what I was doing. I didn’t think drugs were my problem because I’ve switched drugs my whole career. I’ve done meth, I’ve smoked weed, I’ve drank, I’ve done pills, Lean, ecstasy, opiates. I just switched it up. I didn’t think I was a drug addict, but I thought I was the problem. It’s me, man. I’m not good enough. I don’t work hard enough. I don’t have enough character. I don’t have enough strength. I don’t have enough gumption. I can’t just do it. Because that’s what I thought it was about. Just get it done, Marcus. I walked there and they were checking me in and the dude is like, “Why are you here?” I’m like, “I don’t know. I’ve no idea why I’m here.”

Marcus Clark:

He UAs me. I know I felt that UA. He’s like, “Man, I’m going to let you in.” That was the first time in my life, and I’ve been sober since that day. Since the first treatment center, the first meeting I ever went to, anything. I sat in that seat at The Salvation Army rehab and that was the day that changed my life.

Brandon Lee:

That’s amazing that, a, you’ve been sober ever since and you’ve been able to maintain it and to do those things. I think we all just kind of hit that point in our life where we just had enough. I just … Because I remember when I first went to that church, it was a church in Melrose and Mansfield in Hollywood after I got released from the hospital. Walking into that room, not even knowing really what an AA meeting was. I had never heard of it and I didn’t even really even know. That was the beginning of this journey. For me, I wish I would have gone to a treatment center. I really, now with so much recovery time under my belt and so much life experience in the recovery world, I look back and I’m like, “That’s one thing I never did.” It’s not part of my story and I wish that it was. Because I think that I would have been a lot more further advanced in my recovery. I wouldn’t have had so much time of white knuckling through some really rough times in those first few years.

Brandon Lee:

I was somebody that didn’t experience that pink cloud. It wasn’t in my story. It’s just, I didn’t experience that pink cloud. I had moments of spiritual revelations along the way that started to open up my heart and my mind to a spiritual being. But I think that had I gone to treatment, it would have really helped me lay the foundation to then add meetings, to then add the other parts of the 12 step program to it. That brings me to where you are now at Cornerstone Healing Center. The beautiful thing I think about recovery is that a majority of the people who work in treatment centers are recovered addicts themselves. Because when I was released from … Well, first off, when I came to, when finally the doctors were able to keep me alive, before they discharged me, I had to stop in the mental health unit. I’m speaking to this guy who I assumed was a therapist. By the way, he was speaking to me and he goes, “Why are you so angry?” I said, “I’m not angry.”

Brandon Lee:

He goes, “Why are you so angry?” I’m like, “Dude, man, ask any of my friends, I’ll be there for them. I’ll do anything for them.” He goes, “Why are you so angry?” I said, “If you ask me that question one more time, I’m about to get angry.” He goes, “Why are you so angry?” He goes, “Do not answer.” He goes, “Brandon, somebody who is trying to get HIV, somebody who is putting meth into system, somebody who’s having so much sex the way you are having sex and doing the things you are to your life and your body is not happy. That is a very angry person.” I come to find out that is not a man who was a therapist, not a psychologist, had no effing degrees. This was another man who had 15 years of recovery and sobriety under his belt and was able to cut through me the way nobody else was able to cut through me.

Brandon Lee:

It takes me back to the beautiful thing about people who work in treatment and recovery, and majority of them are recovered addicts because they can see you. I’ve walked in your shoes. I get you. I understand you. You now, what’s your role over at Cornerstone?

Marcus Clark:

COO.

Brandon Lee:

You are the COO of a treatment center here in the valley. Somebody who as we just heard, your experience, your strength and your hope, the story of, I get you, I’ve walked in your shoes. I think that’s an amazing aspect in your world to be able to offer that to somebody. What are you guys doing at Cornerstone that is helping people who are struggling with whether it be alcoholism or drug addiction?

Marcus Clark:

That’s such a broad question. There’s so many ways to tackle that question. I think it’s the same thing that you got that I got. That’s the key when we came in, people who care. More than anything. More than anything, the thing that gets you in the door way … We have so many modality of treatment, EMDR, brainspotting, group therapy, CBT, DBT. The list continues, but none of that’s effective if the person that’s there doesn’t truly trust you. That’s it. If no one trusts you and believes that you really care, then none of the treatment is going to stick. Think about it. How many therapists have you’ve been to? Think about how many therapists you’ve tried. How far did you get with those therapists that you didn’t like? It doesn’t matter how good of a therapist they are, if you don’t feel a connection with them, it doesn’t matter. The thing that we do the best, I think the thing that separates us from everybody else … Maybe not everybody else. I think there’s a lot of treatment centers that actually care. I don’t want to say that, man.

Marcus Clark:

The thing that’s the most special to me is that we really care about the people that walk in those doors. I didn’t want to work in treatment. I wasn’t planning on working in treatment. I didn’t want to be COO. I don’t really care that I’m COO. My title doesn’t mean anything to me, man. I have serenity and peace in my life. I’m okay. You heard my story. I never was okay, ever. I was okay when I had this thing in my hand and in my body. I lived my whole life for a substance. When I didn’t have that substance, I was miserable. That’s my life. That’s it. It doesn’t matter how much money I got, it doesn’t matter where I’m from. That’s why our stories are so different. Some people get sober with a lot of money, some people get sober with no money. It doesn’t matter. The underlying condition is the filling that’s going on in the inside.

Marcus Clark:

That’s what we’re there to address, point blank. End of discussion. Let’s get down to it. I will try and we will try anything we can to get there. That guy got to you by asking you that question and it … That visceral, just that thing in here that you’re like, “I’m angry?” You hadn’t even thought about it.

Brandon Lee:

No.

Marcus Clark:

He knows though and you’re like, “You know.”

Brandon Lee:

Because I truly believe this, somebody who loves themselves will never relapse.

Marcus Clark:

No. I agree.

Brandon Lee:

Because if you love yourself, you will not harm yourself.

Marcus Clark:

God, I wish I could give you knucles right now.

Brandon Lee:

You know what I’m saying?

Marcus Clark:

No, I agree.

Brandon Lee:

Because people who … I would love to get into this to talk even about relapse, because there’s a ton of relapse that’s been going on over this past year. The isolation, I believe the opposite of addiction is connection. You remove that connection, you put people back in isolation because of the pandemic, there’s just a ton of relapse this year. I definitely want to talk to you about relapse and how we get some of those people who have relapsed a welcome sign to come back. But it’s just one of those things that I’m a true believer that the opposite of addiction is connection. We have to always be able to find ways to connect with that person, to connect with those people and to connect with those beans. Let’s just go right there. What do you tell that person who perhaps has relapsed over this past year?

Marcus Clark:

So what? We love you. If you can’t love yourself yet, know that it’s possible. Brandon is a testament to that. It doesn’t matter where you’ve gone, you can love yourself.

Brandon Lee:

Right. God, and it’s just the truth. I try to tell people all the time, somebody who relapses is not weak. Stop stigmatizing and telling people-

Marcus Clark:

They’re not weak.

Brandon Lee:

… they’re just weak. But the public perception of [crosstalk 00:34:50]-

Marcus Clark:

That doesn’t make sense.

Brandon Lee:

It does, yeah. Why did he relapse? But I tell people, I’m like, “Listen, you need to understand that when somebody relapses, they don’t wake up that morning with a great life and they’re happy and they love themselves.” They don’t wake up that morning and say, “Hey, you know what? I’m going to pick up that meth pipe today. I’m going to throw it all away.”

Marcus Clark:

I’m going to ruin my life.

Brandon Lee:

I’m going to ruin my life today.

Marcus Clark:

I can’t wait.

Brandon Lee:

People, people, people, it does not work that way. The reason why somebody relapses is, a, because their brain has been hijacked by some sort of event that is going on in their life that they don’t see a way out of. That they don’t see that there is another way to solve that problem. When you feel that way, like you are helpless and hopeless of a situation, we always go back to the one thing-

Marcus Clark:

That we know will help.

Brandon Lee:

That we know will just help us feel better that moment. My love language is touch. The pandemic has thrown me this year because my love language is touch. Having sex is a lot harder these days. Going on a date is a lot harder these days. At times, Marcus, that has made me feel helpless and hopeless. What’s the one thing that I know that if I do it immediately I can have instant touch and gratification? Meth. Because for me, meth was tied to sex. When isolation is happening and I’m being told I have to stay home, I cannot be out, I cannot go on a date, I cannot have healthy sex, there are times where I have really fantasized and romanticized about meth sex. Well, guess what? When I really analyze that, it’s fake. It’s artificial. It’s not real.

Marcus Clark:

There’s really no real connection in that.

Brandon Lee:

There’s no real connection.

Marcus Clark:

You’re not even getting the thing you want from it.

Brandon Lee:

No. Because when those eight hours or the 72 hours, however long that meth binge is going to last, it’s all gone and you’re still back helpless and hopeless in need of that real-

Marcus Clark:

But that the core problem, is that what you’re seeking-

Brandon Lee:

… connection. Right.

Marcus Clark:

… you know it though. You know the core issue of what you’re seeking, what you’re truly seeking.

Brandon Lee:

Correct. It’s getting people to understand that. I just-

Marcus Clark:

It’s not real.

Brandon Lee:

It’s not real. So we have-

Marcus Clark:

Can I say something to that?

Brandon Lee:

Yeah, absolutely.

Marcus Clark:

Sorry.

Brandon Lee:

By all means.

Marcus Clark:

I don’t know whether … I want to look in the camera, but I don’t know if it’s going to look right in the shot. If anyone thinks that people relapse because they’re weak, there are UFC fighters who are drug addicts. There are owners of football teams who are alcoholics. What’s the … Brad Pitt, if you just read the article, Brad Pitt, the best looking man in the world. I’m not saying that. Magazines have-

Brandon Lee:

Magazines-

Marcus Clark:

… said that.

Brandon Lee:

… said that.

Marcus Clark:

Married to Angelina Jolie, movie star. He broke anonymity in an article and was like, the thing he is the most happiest about is his sobriety. If it’s weakness, then how did he make all that money, do these blockbuster movies, have this beautiful family? The thing I always explain to people, man, being an alcoholic, being an addict is like being trapped at the bottom of a pool. You’re trapped at the bottom of his pool and you’re fighting and you’re fighting and you’re fighting to get out and you’re being held down and you can’t breathe. You’re fighting for air. What will you do to breathe? Anything. Sorry, mom. Sorry, dad. Sorry, kids. Sorry, family. Sorry, job. Sorry, law. Sorry, dignity. Sorry, self-respect. Sorry, dreams. Sorry, everything I wanted to be, who I know I am.

Marcus Clark:

Because when I wake up in the morning, it feels like I can’t breathe until I put something in my body. I’ve done everything. I went to college. I made money. I did everything everybody asks me to do, and why do I still feel empty? You told me if I did this, I would be okay and I’m not. That’s what’s going on. I felt empty. I didn’t feel like there was anything there. Those people walk in our treatment center and they feel empty and they’re angry, and it comes out in a bunch of … Anger, sorrow, loss of respect. They can’t even look you in the eyes anymore for the things they’ve done. They don’t understand what’s happened in their life to make them that way. They don’t know. They just know that this thing that everybody’s telling me is wrong feels like it’s saving my life. Because if I didn’t have it, I don’t know what I would do. I know and we know what that feels like for people. I don’t want anybody to live their life like that.

Marcus Clark:

How is it that I get to wake up in the morning now, nine plus years later, and sit in complete peace? Even at a year, sit in complete peace. Now, my life looks way different. I make way more money, a way nicer house. I had nothing. But I found peace that wasn’t contingent on external things. It was built in who my … The first time in my entire life that I’ve been able to be my authentic self. I always say this, because I got sober when I was 25, I lived 25 years of life before I ever lived one day. Because I look at the world different. I experience it different. I feel different. That’s the thing that I want, that we want everybody to have, that freedom, man. Everybody deserves it. You can’t tell me they don’t because if I deserve it, if you deserve it, they deserve it too. It is not fair that some people don’t get that freedom, man. That’s it.

Brandon Lee:

There is one thing that I do in my life that really it’s a warning sign to me and it lets me know where I’m at mentally, is being able to look at myself in the mirror.

Marcus Clark:

You do affirmations?

Brandon Lee:

Truly. I am enough.

Marcus Clark:

Do you do affirmations?

Brandon Lee:

I am enough.

Marcus Clark:

They’re so good.

Brandon Lee:

I can look at myself in that mirror and I challenge anybody who’s listening to this podcast right now-

Marcus Clark:

Don’t do it to them.

Brandon Lee:

Yes.

Marcus Clark:

You’re going to do it to them? Oh no.

Brandon Lee:

As soon as you are done or you hit pause on this podcast and just go stand in that bathroom mirror and turn the lights and just stare. Are you able to maintain eye contact with yourself and do you begin to smile or does the weight of the face begin to sag down? How do you feel? Check in with yourself. Check in with yourself and find out can I even stomach to look at my own self-reflection today? Because let me tell you this, Marcus, if I have treated somebody poorly and I have not immediately apologized for my part in it, I cannot look myself in the mirror. I can’t do it. It does not work.

Marcus Clark:

You know who you are now.

Brandon Lee:

I know. Right, I know who I am. I can truly say, all the years that I used to pump steroids into my body back in the day because I hated the reflection in the mirror [inaudible 00:42:21]. Guess what, I’m the skinniest I have ever been in my entire life-

Marcus Clark:

You look great. Don’t worry about it.

Brandon Lee:

I appreciate you. The skinniest I’ve ever been. I look at myself now and I look at myself and I’m like, “This is the best I’ve ever felt and the best I’ve ever looked.” It’s a great way for me just to check in. Am I able to stare at my reflection long enough for one fucking minute? Because if I can’t, something is off, something is off. It’s okay, fuck, it is okay to not be okay.

Marcus Clark:

It is 100% okay.

Brandon Lee:

Goddam, I mean, it actually expounds so much energy to fake it. Just to fake being happy is the worst feeling and I hate it. I hate-

Marcus Clark:

That’s the balance.

Brandon Lee:

God. Right?

Marcus Clark:

You need them both.

Brandon Lee:

You need them both. But it’s okay to not be okay, but then I ask myself, “But what are you doing to make yourself be okay?” It’s okay to not be okay?

Marcus Clark:

Don’t sit in it though.

Brandon Lee:

But don’t sit in it. What am I doing? The first thing I look at, is like, “Well, when’s my weekly therapy session? Sweet, it’s tomorrow. I can get by until tomorrow to really kind of talk about it or center with meditation or do something.”

Marcus Clark:

I always feel bad because I’ll ride on a … If you know me, people are like, “Dude, what is [inaudible 00:43:33]? It’s beautiful.” I’m like, “This is … You can …” Man, I’m not lying, man. It is … I went from being … I was at the-

Brandon Lee:

For sure.

Marcus Clark:

I’m measure myself from the bottom of the bottom to the top. I don’t know if that’s in camera. Anything that’s up here is way better than where I came from.

Brandon Lee:

For sure.

Marcus Clark:

This is … Man, I’m sitting in you living room having an amazing conversation on a Wednesday night. What is wrong? For me, nothing. I’m just trying to give it away.

Brandon Lee:

100%.

Marcus Clark:

I’m just trying to give you a little some of this.

Brandon Lee:

What I tell people too, is finding your purpose. Our purpose through this journey that we do, a purpose is what gives me the power to get up and motivates me and energizes me on a daily basis. Because let me tell you this, full stop, I can guarantee you this, my higher power did not keep me alive from umpteen overdose so that I can go to a new studio, read a teleprompter and make a lot of money. My sponsor did not keep me alive for that sole purpose. Because if I allowed myself to just sit there in myself and my own self-interest, all of that would be ripped away from me. Because what would do, I would take that money and I would be out using drugs again to fulfill me. But finding that purpose, and I truly believe the reason why I wrote the book, the reason why I have lost out on job opportunities by being so public and open about my own mental health struggles is because I truly believe that my higher power kept me alive so that I can give hope to those other people who are suffering.

Brandon Lee:

The reason why the higher power gave me the skills as an orator to communicate is to have a platform that reaches a larger audience of people with my story, for no other reason. My higher power didn’t give me the skills that I have to pertain this platform so that I can be selfish with my own life. My higher power did that. We’re going to give you these things, use them for the good. You’re going to suffer some pain, you’re going to suffer some trials and tribulations along the way. The things that you thought you wanted, being at the network, being at the Today show, judging everything in my career about being at the network, there’s going to be things that you will not achieve in this life because that is not your purpose. So I tell everybody, find your purpose, you will find your efficacy. You will find your life. [inaudible 00:46:11] but you have to find that purpose.

Marcus Clark:

You just hit them with the heat. It’s the truth. That’s the truth. That’s what recovery does for us, what you just talked about. You’re a living example of what this thing does. It’s what it’s about. You asked what Cornerstone does, that’s what Cornerstone does. What you just talked about, what we just talked about. You find that truth, man. I think that more important than anything in this world is that you found your truth. I talked to you before this, and you don’t get it. You think you’re just talking, and I’m just soaking it up. I’m just like, “Oh man, that’s …” I’m just listening to somebody who’s found their solution. That’s the connectedness you’re talking about that so many people are like, “You gave me energy.” Sitting in here talking to you, I’m going to walk out 10 pounds lighter. You know it. You know it. you’re going to walk out this room like-

Brandon Lee:

Likewise.

Marcus Clark:

… “This leather. What is … I got a reverse karma? When did I get a reverse? Hey, it’s good to see you, Steve. Hey, have a great … What?” It just, because it’s built in truth, you connect person to person. That dude that said you’re angry connected. You’re like, “What is this thing I’ve … What is …” He looked through your veil like that. He saw right down to your soul and was like, “I know who you are and I’m here. Yell at me.” “Well, what do you … I’m going to get angry if you keep …” “Hey man, I love you. Don’t answer the question. Sit with it.” You’re like, “Why aren’t you mad at me? You’re supposed to run away when I do that.” That’s that connectedness, man. That love makes me … That’s what I really truly live for, and not only with people, but the world around me.

Brandon Lee:

What’s that closing message that you say to the listener or the person who’s watching this right now. What’s that closing message?

Marcus Clark:

Are you ready? Are you ready for this journey?

Brandon Lee:

I’m ready for this.

Marcus Clark:

I’m so sorry. I’m so excited. I’m sorry, crowd, but this is me. So I’m not sorry. All right. We’re going to close it with a story. Can I do that?

Brandon Lee:

Absolutely.

Marcus Clark:

The closing message, yes. I have a closing message on my podcast as well. But there was this priest and he had the solution to all of man’s problems right in his hand. This priest has the solution to all of man’s problems and he’s like, “This is too powerful for any one man have. I must hide this.” This priests with the solution to all the man’s problems, he goes and sees three shamans. He takes the solution to all of man’s problems and he’s like, “Hey.” He goes to the first shaman and he’s like, “Where can I hide this? It is too powerful for any one man to have.” The first shaman says and looks at him and he says, “Hey, you should take the solution to all of man’s problems and you should put it on top of the highest mountain. Because if you put it on top of the highest mountain, no man will ever find it.” The priest looks at the shaman and he says, “If I put it on top of the tallest mountain, some man will find it.”

Marcus Clark:

He looks at the second shaman and he says, “What should I do with the solution to all of man’s problems?” The second shaman says, “You should put it inside the deepest cave. Because if you put it inside the deepest cave, no man will ever find it.” The priest looks at the second shaman and he’s like, “If I put it inside the deepest cave, some man will crawl in there and find the solution to all of man’s problems.” He looks at the third shaman and he says, “What should I do with the solution to all of man’s problems?” The third shaman says, “You should put it inside of the deepest ocean, because if you put it inside the deepest ocean, no man will ever find the solution to all of man’s problems.” The priest looks at him and he says, “If I put it inside the deepest ocean, somebody will swim down there and they will find it.” All three shamans look at him and they’re like, “What are you going to do then?”

Marcus Clark:

He says, “I know what I’ll do with the solution to all of man’s problems. I’ll put it inside of himself because no man will ever think to look inside of himself to find the solution.” That’s the message. The solution is inside of us. Because inside of us is who we truly are, and when we are who we truly are, we build connection with people who are who they truly are and we find what self-love and real love is. That’s the solution.

Brandon Lee:

Damn, I love that. I love that. That’s amazing because it’s so damn true.

Marcus Clark:

It’s inside.

Brandon Lee:

It’s inside of us.

Marcus Clark:

I look outside-

Brandon Lee:

Sometimes we just need somebody else or a little extra help in order for us to see it. Because one of my therapists said to me one time, she’s so amazing, she just looked at me in the middle of a session one time and she just goes, “You don’t see yourself the way everybody else sees you, do you?” I was like, “Huh?” She goes, “You don’t see yourself the way I see you.” I asked her, I said, “Okay. What do you see?” She says, “I see somebody who is empathetic. I see someone who is caring. Someone who is successful. Someone who is beautiful inside and out.” I was like, “Yeah, I know.” Sometimes, as you said, it’s here, it’s in us. It’s in that reflection that we have to be able to see it. Sometimes when we can’t, we need Cornerstone to see that in us, in-

Marcus Clark:

It’s what all the work-

Brandon Lee:

… order for us to believe in-

Marcus Clark:

What’s all the work about? What all the work you do with your therapist is to go back in here.

Brandon Lee:

Exactly.

Marcus Clark:

All the work you do in AA is to go back in here. All the work you do everywhere is to find that in here, because the answer is not out here. This outside is a by-product of the internal-

Brandon Lee:

I love that.

Marcus Clark:

… for me.

Brandon Lee:

I believe that for me as well. Marcus, man, thank you.

Marcus Clark:

Thank you, man.

Brandon Lee:

Amazing conversation. This is what it’s all about. I love it. For those of you who are at home or you’re running on the treadmill, or you’re out for your morning walk, listening to this podcast, if you want to learn more right now about Scottsdale Cornerstone Healing Center, we’re going to supply all that information right now at the end of this podcast.

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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How Can You Help Someone With an Addiction? 23

How Can You Help

How can you help someone with an Addiction? By Estil Wallace CEO/Founder of Cornerstone Healing Center Watching your loved struggle

What Are the First Steps in Addiction Treatment? 25

What Are the First

What Are the First Steps in Addiction Treatment? By Estil Wallace CEO/Founder of Cornerstone Healing Center At first, drinking or

How to Help an Alcoholic 26

How to Help an

How to Help an Alcoholic? By Estil Wallace CEO/Founder of Cornerstone Healing Center Do you have a family member or

How Long Is Addiction Treatment? 30

How Long Is Addiction

How Long Is Addiction Treatment? By Sead Hasic Admission Coordinator at Cornerstone Healing Center https://youtu.be/9NJWJJ_zeek Share on facebook Share on

How to Overcome Addiction 31

How to Overcome Addiction

How to Overcome Addiction? By Anna Luna Community Liason at Cornerstone Healing Center https://youtu.be/GELEuKatah8 Share on facebook Share on google

What Is a Rehab Center? 32

What Is a Rehab

What is a Rehab Center? By Estil Wallace CEO/Founder of Cornerstone Healing Center What crosses your mind when you hear

What makes a good drug rehab? 33

What makes a good

What makes a good drug rehab? By Marcus Clark Executive Director at Cornerstone Healing Center https://youtu.be/qA9lwEnEK8U Share on facebook Share

6 Ways to Treat Addiction 34

6 Ways to Treat

6 Ways to Treat Addiction By Estil Wallace CEO/Founder of Cornerstone Healing Center Addiction is a chronic disease that robs

'Don't Give Up': Chronic Relapsers Who (Finally) Achieved Long-Term Sobriety Give Words of Encouragement 36

'Don't Give Up': Chronic

Words of Wisdom From Chronic Relapsers Who Achieved Long-Term Sobriety By Megan Krause Content Strategist, Developmental Editor, Editor, Writer, Managing

The 5 Stages of Addiction: A Guide For Parents 37

The 5 Stages of

The 5 Stages of Addiction: A Guide For Parents By Megan Krause Content Strategist, Developmental Editor, Editor, Writer, Managing Editor

Why Should I Go To Sober Living After Treatment? 39

Why Should I Go

Why Should I Go To Sober Living After Treatment? By Estil Wallace CEO/Founder of Cornerstone Healing Center When making the

Yoga & Recovery 40

Yoga & Recovery

Yoga & Addiction Recovery By Estil Wallace CEO/Founder of Cornerstone Healing Center YogaThis quite literally saving my life. In addition