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The Nameless Recovery Show
Episode #12 Brendan McDonough

Tragedy, Trauma and Life in Recovery After The Fire Service.

In this episode Brendan McDonough talks bout struggling to get sober while some of the biggest names in Hollywood were making a movie about his life and the unthinkable tragedy that claimed the lives of 19 firefighters in Arizona. Brendan is the lone survivor of the Granite Mountain Hotshots.

Brendan McDonough:

What are you?

Estil Wallace:

That’s what I should do. Slip the nurse a hundred.

Brendan McDonough:

Yeah. Hey, while you’re in there.

Estil Wallace:

So we’re rolling right into another episode of The Nameless Recovery Show. Today, my a very special guest, a close friend, and just an absolutely inspirational human being, brendan McDonough.

Brendan McDonough:

Thank you. I appreciate it, brother.

Estil Wallace:

AKA Donut.

Brendan McDonough:

Yep.

Estil Wallace:

Question about the nickname Donut. Was that given to you by your brothers in the fire service?

Brendan McDonough:

Yeah. Yeah.

Estil Wallace:

Because in the movie they were like McDonut.

Brendan McDonough:

Yep.

Estil Wallace:

Is that how it went down?

Brendan McDonough:

It started off a lot worse.

Estil Wallace:

How did it start?

Brendan McDonough:

It was like McDipshit. McDontKnow.

Estil Wallace:

McDontKnow is a good one.

Brendan McDonough:

And I didn’t quit and I stuck around and so they’re like, “hey, we can’t call them those things for long because it’ll pick up with HR and that’s not going to be good. And if we’re on the radio, we can’t use that. So we’ve got to come up with something.” So it was McDonut and then it was too many syllables. So they just were like Donut and I’m like, “I’ve been called worse in my life. I’m going to take it and I’m going to own it.” And that’s what I did, man.

Estil Wallace:

Yeah. You did.

Brendan McDonough:

[crosstalk 00:01:11] for years. I mean, almost over a decade I’ve been called donut by many people.

Estil Wallace:

Yeah. If I say Brendan to my wife, she’s like, “who’s that?” I’m like, “Donut.” She’s like, “Oh, firefighter.” I’m like, “yep, that’s him.”

Brendan McDonough:

Yup. That’s usually the way it works with people. I like him. It’s tattooed on me. So I’ve got that name for life.

Estil Wallace:

Where’s the donut?

Brendan McDonough:

It’s on my calf.

Estil Wallace:

I thought it was going to be somewhere sexy.

Brendan McDonough:

No.

Estil Wallace:

That’s pretty cool. Is it on the internet?

Brendan McDonough:

It is. Yeah.

Estil Wallace:

I’m going to grab that screenshot and put it on right there.

Brendan McDonough:

On the gam.

Estil Wallace:

Yeah.

Brendan McDonough:

Yep. People can see it. Hopefully. Maybe someone will get it tattooed on themselves. Just not my face. Like please.

Estil Wallace:

That’d be pretty Epic.

Brendan McDonough:

It’d be ugly.

Estil Wallace:

Sand keeps trying to get people to tattoo suite four.

Brendan McDonough:

Suite four?

Estil Wallace:

That’s like our original suite number.

Brendan McDonough:

Okay.

Estil Wallace:

Cornerstone.

Estil Wallace:

So I didn’t do an official intro. Brendan McDonough. You are founder and CEO. Are you CEO?

Brendan McDonough:

Yeah.

Estil Wallace:

Founder and CEO of Holdfast Recovery. Awesome treatment center up North. Lone survivor of the granite mountain hot shot crew. There’s been a book about your life. A fucking movie made about your life. You are asked to talk all over the place.

Brendan McDonough:

Yeah.

Estil Wallace:

Yeah. You’re an inspirational human being. A lot of people are interested to know what your life is about and today I really just want to have a normal conversation with you. I don’t want to necessarily drudge up all the past. I like some of the fun stories.

Brendan McDonough:

Yeah. That’s always what’s so weird is like that word. You’re an inspiration, right?

Estil Wallace:

Right.

Brendan McDonough:

That’s a hard pill to swallow.

Estil Wallace:

I guess it can be. What goes through your mind when people say that to you and that t-shirt doesn’t fit?

Brendan McDonough:

For so long it was like this weight on my shoe. Initially, that’s what forced me to drink so much was the trauma and just this weight and pressure after that tragedy, but today it’s pretty awesome. But it’s still, you got to fit that shirt. You got to work at it.

Estil Wallace:

Yeah. I think everyone’s seat in recovery has a high price and yours has got extra dollars on it, man.

Brendan McDonough:

Yeah.

Estil Wallace:

You paid a lot for your seat.

Brendan McDonough:

Yeah. A lot of people do. And it’s a crazy world we live and recovery is no different than many things, but in other ways it’s just completely unimaginable. But here we are, right? And it’s like so many inspiring stories. I can’t tell you how many meetings I’ve sat in on and just heard something and I’m like sitting there crying and I’m like, “wow.”

Estil Wallace:

Yeah.

Brendan McDonough:

Like, gosh, like I thought I had it bad. It’s powerful to see that inspiration come through to people.

Estil Wallace:

And I think that’s part of the beauty of us being open about recovery and being open about addiction because we all, not all, but many people struggle and we don’t have to struggle alone. And there doesn’t have to be any particular words, just to be with somebody when they’re going through it it’s enough.

Brendan McDonough:

Yeah. It was so often that I wouldn’t go see a counselor.

Estil Wallace:

No.

Brendan McDonough:

After that tragedy, I was 21 going on 22, young firefighter, like headstrong, just full of piss and vinegar. And the last thing I was going to do was go see a counselor, but I’d meet with somebody up here. Firefighter, pastor, whoever, someone in recovery, but God forbid a counselor. No way. Initially.

Estil Wallace:

Yeah. I totally get that. I didn’t think I would ever clean up my life because I didn’t think I’d ever get help. Yet, I’d sit around with another drug addict and be pretty honest about how my life was worthless and I was a piece of.

Brendan McDonough:

Yep. And it’s so important to have that conversation out in the open like this, because there’s people that they’ll sit in silence for so long. I mean, that’s us, that’s addicts, right. Until somebody, something happens, they hear something, they feel something, they go, wow. Like I am worth getting sober.

Estil Wallace:

Yeah. That’s a hard pill to swallow right there. That my life is worth saving, worth salvaging. And I don’t have the kind of survivor’s guilt that you went through. So I can only imagine what that was like for you.

Estil Wallace:

The movie is pretty epic.

Brendan McDonough:

Yeah.

Estil Wallace:

When did it come out? 17?

Brendan McDonough:

I think so. Yeah. 17. Yep.

Estil Wallace:

I watched it a couple of years ago. You cried obviously. I mean, you’re not a human being if you don’t cry watching that movie. If you haven’t seen Only The Brave, go to Amazon or wherever you watch movies and watch it tonight and put your crying pants on because it’s heartbreaking.

Brendan McDonough:

Yeah. Get ready for the emotional.

Estil Wallace:

But yeah, can we talk about that for a minute?

Brendan McDonough:

Yeah, yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

Estil Wallace:

The book came first?

Brendan McDonough:

Yeah. Book came first. So in the long story, movie first, actually. My bad. This producer reached out to me and said, “hey, I want to do a movie on your brother.” So I just ignore.

Estil Wallace:

Yeah.

Brendan McDonough:

Right? And so at the time I was working for a nonprofit, so he reaches out them and try to set up a meeting and say, “hey, this guy’s trying to get ahold of you.” I’m like, “ignore.” Calls the fire department, they sent me a message. They’re like, “hey, so-and-so wants to get ahold of you trying to make a movie.” I’m like, “ignore.” And in the meantime, I’m reaching out to people. I’m not sober at the time. I’m in the midst of my stuff. I’m like suicidal, drinking, just binge drinking, like crazy and trying to keep it together for this image of like heroism. Right?

Estil Wallace:

Well, just to interject, like I have a hard time showing up at the grocery store during business hours when I’m in that state, let alone talking to movie producers and shit.

Brendan McDonough:

Yeah.

Estil Wallace:

So I definitely get to some degree where you’re at there.

Brendan McDonough:

Yep. So I had a few people encourage me and say, “hey, just take the call.” Right? Like this is this isn’t about you. This is about honoring them. And that’s when I was like, okay, like this isn’t about me. What I’m going through. This is ensuring that my brothers get honored because someone told me either way, they’re going to make the movie with or without you. That’s going to happen.

Brendan McDonough:

So I ended up meeting this producer in Idaho for the non-profit I used to work for. And we took them out camping and we just had a pretty wild, outdoor adventure weekend. And I got to know them and I feel like I’ve always had a good judge of character. And he had two daughters and at the time I wasn’t married, but I had my daughter and my wife’s daughter who I’ve always considered my daughter and it’s “okay, we’ve got a commonality here.” And he puts his daughter on the phone and she says, “dad, you can’t mess this story up. You’ve got to do it right. And if anyone’s going to do it right, it’s going to be you.” And I heard that and I knew how important it is to be a father and you can’t fake that. And so I said, “all right, man, we can talk.”

Brendan McDonough:

So he came down to Prescott and he’s like, “hey, can you put me in touch with the families?” And I’m like, “you can find them just like you found me. If you want to talk to them, you can go reach out and you can get ahold of them. And if they’re willing to do it, and if you can get this person, this person, and this person on board, I’ll do this film.” And so he spends the next three months coming back and forth, meeting with families, tracking them down, tracking down some former guys on the crew, one of our chiefs and they all kind of came to the conclusion like, hey, if we do this together, we can make this something that’s going to really pay tribute, not just to my 19 brothers, but the whole wildfire community because before that, it was kind of like this often, no man’s land kind of job.

Estil Wallace:

The Wildland Fire Rescue?

Brendan McDonough:

Yeah, it was like, ah, no big fire trucks and water. And it’s like far from it. So it just trickled from there. We got a rider, met with him. Rider was from Black Hawk Down. And I was like, okay, that’s another piece of the story. This guy has done honoring films. He knows how important this is. Started getting some directors.

Estil Wallace:

God, I saw that before I got sober.

Brendan McDonough:

Yeah.

Estil Wallace:

I think it was probably two or three years before I got sober.

Brendan McDonough:

Yep.

Estil Wallace:

Watching Black Hawk Down smoking speed out of bongs.

Brendan McDonough:

Yeah. Yep. Way back then.

Estil Wallace:

Yep.

Brendan McDonough:

And it was just all these small little correlations of things that I was seeing as signs like, “hey, this is going to be something that’s going to make a huge impact on the world.” And all the while I’m just a mess, I’m a complete mess. And I remember specifically kind of fast forward, we get to the point where we’ve got the producers, we’ve got Black Label Media, we’ve got Sony on board, we’ve got directors. And they say, “hey, we’re going to fly Miles Teller out. He wants to come out and meet you and sit with you and talk to you about you, your story, and just ask some personal question.” And I said, “not a problem.”

Brendan McDonough:

So we sat down, we had dinner in Prescott and I remember telling him…

Estil Wallace:

Where’d you guys eat dinner?

Brendan McDonough:

We had dinner at the Barley Hound.

Estil Wallace:

I don’t know it.

Brendan McDonough:

It’s been there for like two, three years. Guy came in from out of town, opened a bunch of restaurants.

Estil Wallace:

[inaudible 00:10:01] worth it?

Brendan McDonough:

Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I was trying to support some local stuff.

Estil Wallace:

I’ll check it out [crosstalk 00:10:05] next.

Brendan McDonough:

I was like, “I’m not going to take them to a Chili’s, right?” Like try and get some local people coming out and we sit down and I tell them like, “the person you see today is not who I am, of the person you’re trying to portray. For you to understand who that person is. You’re not going to find it from me. I can’t tell you, I’m broken. I’m going through it, man. Like, I can’t give you that young kid before this happened.” I gave him some really close friends that I knew and trusted. And I said, “call these guys up and ask them and just shoot the shit with them and just really find out what kind of person I was.” Some crew members, some guys that I’ve known since high school.

Brendan McDonough:

So we spent the weekend together. We went out drinking the first night, like I’ve taken him out, whiskey row, right? And shooting pool, having a good time. And I had this misconception of how people perceived him from the media. They’re like, Oh, this young punk kid. And I’m like, “gosh, we’re going to get into it.” Awesome dude, man, just phenomenal character.

Brendan McDonough:

So then we start filming and it was insane, man. It was a wild experience. Like never been a part of anything like that. Was on set probably 50, 60% of the time, had some other guys that were on the crew that were there even a bigger majority. One of the former crew members that I’d worked with played one of my brothers, Garrett. So it was really personal for us and did a boot camp for them.

Brendan McDonough:

And I was drinking. Like it was just getting heavier and heavier and the pressure just kept mounting. And there was one time when I was pretty intoxicated and it was 4th of July weekend and some of the producers pulled me aside and said, “hey man, like, you’ve got to get your shit together. Like you need to tone it down and you need to get some help. And we’re here because we care about you.” And they truly meant it, and so there was just a series of events that went down that it was like, I’ve got to get sober. Like I cannot be doing this to my family anymore, myself. I’m so depressed. I’m just suicidal all the time.

Estil Wallace:

And at this point, your daughter’s how old? Your littlest?

Brendan McDonough:

15, she was…

Estil Wallace:

At the time.

Brendan McDonough:

Five, six.

Estil Wallace:

Wow.

Brendan McDonough:

So she’s starting to pick up on stuff.

Estil Wallace:

Yeah.

Brendan McDonough:

I was a binge drinker, so I could go two, three weeks, but when that weekend came that somehow she was with me and my wife and we had split custody. Like I was out. Like, if I didn’t drink that weekend, it didn’t matter. It was just such a trip of watching all these things unfold and I was just getting more and more nervous about what’s the wildfire community going to think about this film? What’s the world going to think about it? And it just drove me in a deep, dark place because I was reliving all of these things.

Estil Wallace:

I can only imagine.

Brendan McDonough:

Yeah. I found myself, because you’re on set. Right? And you’re not calling these actors by their name.

Estil Wallace:

They’re being called your name.

Brendan McDonough:

Yep. And so I’m listening and I’m hearing…

Estil Wallace:

And you’re watching Miles pretend to be you.

Brendan McDonough:

Yeah. Which I took a step back from a lot. Cause I was like, he’s a professional. He knows what he’s doing and he does it really well. And me being there is only going to make him nervous and make me pissed.

Estil Wallace:

He has a young look, but I don’t think he’s that young. He’s got to be 30.

Brendan McDonough:

He’s about my age. Yeah. He’s about 29, 30, I think.

Estil Wallace:

Yeah. That’s why they chose him, right? Besides the fact he’s a great actor, he’s about your age.

Brendan McDonough:

Yup. Yeah. Young looking and we have a lot of similarities, but he’s a solid dude. And just to see their intentionality with that film though was so inspiring and it was so important for me to say, “hey, I’ve got to do something different.” I can’t keep doing this.

Estil Wallace:

We’ve known each other a couple of years or something, two, three years, and I honestly didn’t realize that you getting sober coincided with the making of the film.

Brendan McDonough:

Yeah. I think it was about six months after we stopped filming that I had chosen to get sober and there was this one night we were leaving Josh Brolin’s house and it was Conor McGregor versus Nate Diaz, and it was my 22nd birthday. So he throws this party at his house and gets me a bunch of donuts. A lot of the cast, everyone’s there from the film. Right? Cause we’re all in Santa Fe and it’s like, got nothing else to do. And so I show up and it’s this big surprise party that my wife and him worked on.

Estil Wallace:

That’s cool.

Brendan McDonough:

He’s like, “come on, get up on the table, get on the table. We’re going to sing happy birthday.” And I go to get up on this table and I haven’t even started drinking yet. And it’s like super unstable and I almost fall back in the like 12 feet of glass. Everyone’s like, Oh my God, he’s going to end up dying. It just clicked. I’m like,” man, this is something I got to change. Like I’m not even drinking, and I’m putting myself at risk in life.”

Brendan McDonough:

And I left and I’d been drinking and I said, “Josh, we’re going to do something to help people in recovery.” And he just kind of looked at me and just kind of went back inside. And I went on and did my thing and he pulled me aside. He’s like, “hey man, you don’t know what recovery is.” And I was like, “oh shoot. Like, I don’t.” Like, I quit drugs when I was firefighting, but I didn’t quit drinking.

Estil Wallace:

Yeah.

Brendan McDonough:

I was working with a pastor back home.

Estil Wallace:

When recovery lies, as you and I both know, it goes so far beyond not drinking or drugging.

Brendan McDonough:

Yeah. Yep. And it was just a combination of people, just a few little things. And I was like, “man, disappointment, disappointment, disappointment.” I’m like, “well stop disappointing people. Get sober.” And so St. Patty’s day, almost four years ago, I was like, I’m done. I’m Irish. My whole family’s from South here. Like whole dad’s side of the family is from South. You don’t not drink on St Patty’s day, but I’m like, “I’m done. I can’t do this. I can’t do this to my family more. I have way too much going for me.”

Brendan McDonough:

It was a trip and I had so much support, but it had to be inside.

Estil Wallace:

Yeah.

Brendan McDonough:

Right? Everyone in the world wanted to help, but I couldn’t accept it and I didn’t want it at the time. And I wanted to make my own decisions because I thought I knew better. I didn’t. Gosh, I knew nothing. I still do.

Estil Wallace:

I think by the time I was about a year sober, I was pretty convinced that I knew absolutely nothing about life.

Brendan McDonough:

Yeah.

Estil Wallace:

I knew everything day one and by day 365, I was like, “I have nothing. I have no life experience everything. I think I know is wrong.”

Brendan McDonough:

Yep. I’m done. I’m done trying.

Estil Wallace:

I’m done making decisions. Yes. Somebdoy just tell me what to do for a while.

Brendan McDonough:

Yup.

Estil Wallace:

And that’s the same thing. It’s what it took for me.

Brendan McDonough:

And so the movie comes out and I’m sober and everyone that hasn’t seen me since we got done filming, they knew me drinking and so they see me for the first time. “Hey, let’s go out.” And I’m like, “hey. I’m good.” They’re like, “what?” I’m like, “dude, I quit drinking, man. I gave it up back in March and I’m six months sober.” And I had my small group kept checking every night and day, they’d sent me some verses, something in recovery. And Josh would check in on me and he’d be like, “hey man, is there any booze in your mini fridge?” Cause we’re traveling all over. And I’m like, “no, I told them beforehand.” I’m like, “take it out. I don’t even want to see it.” And it was just interesting.

Brendan McDonough:

You think these people, right? I guess I say these people, but these movie stars, they’re just often in their own life, but I saw such passion and purpose behind that film that they took it just very personal and invested in the families and honoring my brothers. And it turned out to be an amazing film.

Estil Wallace:

It really is. I’ve seen it a couple of times.

Brendan McDonough:

Yeah. It’s got some really good funny moments, some educational moments, some emotional moments. It’s got some recovery moments. My superintendent was in recovery, a big AA guy. He used to grab guys from the crew and take them to meetings and stuff and it was just interesting how all this came together. My superintendent’s in recovery, Josh Rhodes in recovery. The producer that I initially met, who I consider family now, we have vacations, I haven’t seen him in probably two years, just schedules and stuff, but his wife works in the recovery industry. She’s got her masters and it was just like, man, God just pulls everyone together.

Estil Wallace:

It sounds like God’s hands were all over it.

Brendan McDonough:

Yeah.

Estil Wallace:

And the universe was just pushing you like it does.

Brendan McDonough:

Yeah.

Estil Wallace:

Pushing you to do the right thing.

Brendan McDonough:

And sometimes we just don’t want to go in that direction.

Estil Wallace:

We can swim against the current, if we want.

Brendan McDonough:

[inaudible 00:19:06], so many good stuff.

Estil Wallace:

Oh my God, nobody wants to fucking help when we do that.

Brendan McDonough:

Yeah.

Estil Wallace:

It is. It’s tiring swimming against the current.

Brendan McDonough:

Yeah. And sometimes we just get a kick back like little kids and just throw our feet up and go, all right.

Estil Wallace:

Just float.

Brendan McDonough:

Yep.

Estil Wallace:

Just got to float.

Brendan McDonough:

I’m here.

Estil Wallace:

Let it take us for a while. That’s tough, though. And like you said, particularly like coming from firefighting culture, I mean, I work with firefighters a lot. Getting past the concept that I need to surrender. It’s huge.

Brendan McDonough:

Yeah.

Estil Wallace:

It’s huge.

Brendan McDonough:

Just run into nothing. That’s what we’re trained to do. No, you do not give in and you do not give up and it’s tough.

Estil Wallace:

All right. So then, so you’re living out this beautiful story where you’re becoming the guy that’s in the film.

Brendan McDonough:

Yeah.

Estil Wallace:

That Miles is portraying. Now this guy who’s learned how to move on as best he can from something that is almost… You basically been asked by God in the universe to do the fucking impossible, right? To go on with life, live, laugh again, have children and live your life with purpose and meaning. And you decide you want to help drug addicts and you open a treatment center.

Brendan McDonough:

Yeah.

Estil Wallace:

It’s beautiful. How long has it been open?

Brendan McDonough:

Two and a half years.

Estil Wallace:

I’ll put a link in the description of the video.

Brendan McDonough:

Awesome, dude. It didn’t start that way though.

Estil Wallace:

How did it start?

Brendan McDonough:

Anger. I was so angry at what happened in the community up there. No treatment centers.

Estil Wallace:

Oh, absolutely. If you want, we can talk about that. Absolutely. When I got into this space, I just got in space three years ago and I was learning about all this stuff as it was kind of going away.

Brendan McDonough:

Yeah. Yeah.

Estil Wallace:

Yeah. I’ve heard some of the stories, especially about Prescott.

Brendan McDonough:

Yeah. It was bad and I was just like, “we got to get rid of them.” I’m calling out the mayor. I’m like, “how do we do this? This is unacceptable. This is insane.” I was maybe a few months sober and I was praying and just going to meetings and I’m like, “why can’t they figure it out?” They’re just being super judgmental, just not being the right person and God was like “put up or shut up. Like, don’t complain about some you’re not willing to fix.” And I was like, “Oh wow.” I’m like, “what am I going to do?” I’m like, “what do you want me to do?” And he’s like, “open a treatment center.” I’m like, “no.”

Estil Wallace:

Then you can be the change you want to see in the world.

Brendan McDonough:

I’m like, “all right.” I’m like, “dude, I’m a knuckle dragon dumb, hot shot.” Right? Like there’s no way, I don’t know business, I don’t know therapy. All the therapy I know is the therapy I’ve been through, which was like nine months of it. It was pretty extensive, but it came to fruition because I just put my head down and was like, “all right, this is what I need to do. Like, I’ve got to be a part of the solution and not the problem.” And it completely transformed my mindset and meeting people where they’re at, because that’s what I needed because I wouldn’t give myself any grace, but it’s like, man, we just got to love on people and say, “hey, like we’re here, we’re here. You’re broken. You’re messed up. Like it’s all right. It’s okay. We’re we’re going to meet you right where you’re at and that doesn’t change how we view you.”

Estil Wallace:

It’s good stuff, man.

Brendan McDonough:

Yeah. And that’s what keeps me going in life today. It was being able to tell people like, “you’re worth it.”

Estil Wallace:

Yeah.

Brendan McDonough:

Like there’s people like us that have been in similar shoes and we do this because we believe you’re worth it because at some point in time we didn’t think we were and someone told us the same thing and we went, “huh? Maybe I am worth it.”

Estil Wallace:

And that’s why it’s important to say it where lots of people can hear it. We want to say it to as many people as we can.

Brendan McDonough:

Yeah.

Estil Wallace:

Because there are people out there that are struggling and suffering. One, they think that they’re just fucked up people. They’re not seeing it from the analytical standpoint. Like, “hey, you have disease.”

Brendan McDonough:

Yeah.

Estil Wallace:

15 to 20% of the human population has the same illness. You’re not terminally unique and different because that’s what a lot of alcoholics and drug addicts think. They think, “I’m fucked up. I’m a broken person. If your life was like mine, you would drink the way I do, too.” And there’s all these layers of separation and stigma and distance between me and the human race” Until I heard somebody share my fucking story out in their words, out of their life, and I was like, “what?”

Brendan McDonough:

Yeah.

Estil Wallace:

I was like, that happened to you, too? And they were like, “yeah and they call it alcoholism.” I was like, “I might be an alcoholic. I think. My name’s Estil.

Brendan McDonough:

Yeah. Right? That’s what happened with me. I thought no one could be like me.

Estil Wallace:

Right.

Brendan McDonough:

And I sent Marcus Luttrell an email, “Hey man, if anyone in this world can understand what it’s like, it’s you, can you help me out?” A few months later, he’s super busy. This is when his movie and book’s coming out. He’s all over the place. Get an email back. “So sorry it took so long. We’ve got millions of emails.” Calls me up. I talk to him and he just says, “man, you’re you’re not unique. I don’t want to hear the excuses. Get it done. Honor your brothers. Get it done. Call this guy up. He’ll take care of you.” And I’m like, “Oh wow. Okay. All right. Yes, sir.” And just similar thing. You did 19 guys that same ordeal, man. Helicopter went down and it’s just like, we think we’re so unique, but we’re so common. We’re so common.

Estil Wallace:

But uniqueness, it keeps us separate. It keeps us apart. And that’s not the truth. It’s a lie. Just like our lives not being worth salvaging is a lie.

Brendan McDonough:

Yep. But society somehow continues to tell us we’re not worth it.

Estil Wallace:

And as long as we, you, me, anybody that’s watching or listening, as long as we continue to allow the stigma of shame around addiction, it’s going to where we’re not moving the needle. That’s why I want to have these conversations.

Brendan McDonough:

Yep.

Estil Wallace:

Look, I believe in the anonymity of others within the 12 step programs. If somebody doesn’t want to be talked about, that’s fine. I don’t have to bring anybody else’s name up, but I’m willing to talk about my recovery. Because somebody opened up their open up their life to me, that’s how I got sober. That’s how I found recovery. Somebody was honest about their disgusting and dark and putrid past, and I was like, “sounds like me.” And they were like, “yeah, that’s alcoholism.” There’s a way out.

Brendan McDonough:

Yeah. It’s possible.

Estil Wallace:

Yeah. That’s exactly what it is. So for me, in 1935, when the original 12 step founders wrote the book and they decided 15 years later with the traditions, they were going to have anonymity, Tradition 11. It’s really based in shame. They were afraid. Listen, we have respectable people, professionals, that if they were found out could be ostracized, they could lose their jobs. They could lose their means of supporting their family.

Brendan McDonough:

Yeah. At what cost?

Estil Wallace:

I understand the love and sort of the brotherhood of like, Hey, I got your back, I’m going to hold your mud for you sort of mentality. It’s sort of like prison yard thinking to be honest. Sort of like jailhouse stuff. Like, hey, I’m going to keep your secret and that’s great. I don’t have any secrets to keep, though. I’m an open book. What? Somebody thinks less of me because I used to have a drug problem 16 years ago? How about you go fuck yourself. I’m going to live my life. I’m a taxpayer. I’m a parent. I’m a gun owner. [crosstalk 00:26:54]. I’m a grownup. I’m a grownup and I’m in recovery. It’s because of recovery that my life was salvaged.

Brendan McDonough:

Yup.

Estil Wallace:

Right? Just like you.

Brendan McDonough:

Yeah.

Estil Wallace:

So I love the fact that you’re open about your recovery. I love the fact that that recovery is showcased, in my view, very masterfully in that film. So many movies, they make recovery out to be just weird watery versions. And while they didn’t get into like a lot of specifics in the film, as I’m watching it as a person recovery, I’m like, Oh, this is when he gets sober. It’s just fucking awesome that he’s going through detox while he’s in training. Like to me, I had a very visceral connection to that part of the film.

Estil Wallace:

What’s next for you? In the film, you just had a baby and now you’ve got like 75 kids.

Brendan McDonough:

Yeah. Yep.

Estil Wallace:

You have a whole ranch, like a whole basketball team full of kids.

Brendan McDonough:

Yeah. I’m going for the soccer team. So married, been married two and a half years. We have between the two of us. We have three kids just had my son a little over a year and a half ago.

Estil Wallace:

Yeah. You were talking about catching with your foot.

Brendan McDonough:

Yeah.

Estil Wallace:

I think the last time we hung out.

Brendan McDonough:

Yeah.

Estil Wallace:

Babies everywhere.

Brendan McDonough:

Yeah. My wife. So, I’m a dancer. A lot of people don’t know that. I’m not a good one, but I love it.

Estil Wallace:

Awesome.

Brendan McDonough:

And so I put in my headphones and I grabbed my son, I just dance and I’ll listen to worship, podcasts, whatever. And we’re just dancing around and I just looked down and I’m holding them. He’s got a blanket, binky, Right? And he’s like, I don’t want to go to bed. And we’re just spinning around this room. And I’m just like, “thank you God for this moment of sobriety.” Because four years ago on a Monday night, I would’ve been at the bar full of hate anger, depression. And so now it’s like, man, that little moment, dude. That little moment I just hold my son made everything. Like it just put me center for everything that’s going on in life. Right? Getting sober doesn’t solve the world’s problems, but it makes everything a lot easier to handle. And so my kids are so important.

Estil Wallace:

[crosstalk 00:29:11] loved ones a lot easier.

Brendan McDonough:

Yep. When I can love myself. So just being a father is so important, whole fast recovery. Gosh man, I’ve come to you for so much advice and we’ve opened our women’s program out about at the same time we both did. We’re on this track and that’s where I’m at. Like whatever he’s got next. Like what do you have next? So I just continue to speak, continue to show up, be present and just share what I have because hopefully somebody picks something up. Just one thing, doesn’t have to be everything. I’m not the world’s smartest dude. I don’t have all the tools.

Estil Wallace:

[crosstalk 00:29:48].

Brendan McDonough:

Just grab one thing and take it and know like, hey, you’re loved and you’re worth it.

Estil Wallace:

Yeah. Yeah, yeah. That’s what we are, man. We’re the next link in the human chain.

Brendan McDonough:

Yeah. Just a piece.

Estil Wallace:

Wow. I’m honored to have you on here today, man.

Brendan McDonough:

Thank you, brother.

Estil Wallace:

Absolute honor.

Brendan McDonough:

Honor’s mine.

Estil Wallace:

Thank you for being here. Right on brother.