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The Nameless Recovery Show
Episode #5 Brian Whitmer

Transcription

Estil Wallace:

Welcome back to another episode of The Nameless Recovery Show. I’m your host, Estil Wallace. Today we’ve got Brian Whitmer who is currently chief operating officer over at Calvary Healing Center, a beautiful institution, been around over 50 years. Brian, welcome.

Brian Whitmer:

Thanks Estil. It’s great to be here.

Estil Wallace:

Really glad to have you today.

Brian Whitmer:

Yeah.

Estil Wallace:

As we talked about a little bit, there’s no real format. I just want to ask you a whole bunch of stuff.

Brian Whitmer:

Sure.

Estil Wallace:

Feel free to answer or decline anything that I ask.

Brian Whitmer:

You got it.

Estil Wallace:

Hopefully, we can get out there and talk about addiction and recovery.

Brian Whitmer:

Right.

Estil Wallace:

Well first of all, let’s start with some of the basics.

Brian Whitmer:

Sure.

Estil Wallace:

You’re an executive at a big treatment center.

Brian Whitmer:

Yup.

Estil Wallace:

Part of a big conglomerate healthcare, conglomerate. Tell me a little bit about why you’re in this space, why do you work in recovery.

Brian Whitmer:

Ultimately, it’s because I am in recovery myself, so that was how I got started and wanted to give back. I had a friend who I ended up getting sober with from when we were in high school, and he recruited me over to Calvary. It was taken off since, and it was really exciting when I got to Calvary in 2009 to just be a part of it. They were coming out of being a family-owned business, and it was exciting when we first got there because we were all creating this new entity. We didn’t have our detox. We didn’t have any of our levels of care. In 2008, we had 17 employees, and we’re averaging like five patients a day. I think our parent company is trying to figure out what they’re going to do with us, and we had a different CEO at the time and who had a big vision and put Calvary on the map.

Estil Wallace:

It’s pretty awesome. It’s been a fun, fun ride even as a fly on the wall.

Brian Whitmer:

Sure.

Estil Wallace:

I’ve been sober quite a while and referred a lot of people over there-

Brian Whitmer:

Yup.

Estil Wallace:

… and sponsored guys out of there, and come over there and been asked to speak over there quite a few times over the years, and Calvary is a great place.

Brian Whitmer:

Yeah, absolutely.

Estil Wallace:

What was your first position there?

Brian Whitmer:

I started out as behavioral health tech.

Estil Wallace:

Awesome.

Brian Whitmer:

Yeah.

Estil Wallace:

Gopher.

Brian Whitmer:

It is, yeah.

Estil Wallace:

Pee collector.

Brian Whitmer:

Yes, pee collector, fight breaker upper, rule enforcer. Yeah, yeah.

Estil Wallace:

You’re now in the C-suite, so you’ve worked a lot of positions.

Brian Whitmer:

Yup.

Estil Wallace:

As an operations guy, you really understand treatment?

Brian Whitmer:

Yeah.

Estil Wallace:

Soup to nuts.

Brian Whitmer:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Estil Wallace:

Balls to bones.

Brian Whitmer:

Yes.

Estil Wallace:

What’s one of your favorite things about working in treatment?

Brian Whitmer:

My favorite thing is watching the patient get better because in a lot of different medical settings, especially in behavioral health, people don’t get better, and that’s probably the best part is somebody comes into detox. I often remind people that people are calling Calvary on the worst days of their lives. They’re not calling us because they’re having a good moment or in a good spot. At the end of the day, what we’re shooting for is recovery and people getting the message and giving them some tools, so that they can jump into that toolbox and when life meets them with all head-on with the challenges once they discharge from Calvary. When I used to run orientation from an HR perspective, I’d say this is a lot different than a psych facility because people generally get better.

Brian Whitmer:

They’ll come in detox and then 30 days, later they’re a completely different person, full of hope and excitement and on fire for life, and that part is the miracle best part about working at Calvary. I’d probably say the second best part is the patients who come back who want to come work for us. That’s probably the coolest part because I feel like they have a lot more buy-in and leverage with the patients that are sitting there. The person who wants to leave early is missing their friends or sad and lonely. I think that our techs and therapists who are there can really say, “I was in room 19. I know what it was like.” It’s like, “I’ve been there, and you can get through it, and we’re only talking about 30 days.”

Estil Wallace:

How important do you think that is the I’ve been exactly where you are and been through exactly what you’re going through? How important do you think that is to recovery?

Brian Whitmer:

I think it’s everything. However, we obviously hire people who aren’t in recovery, but I think what we instruct people is to be honest because the one thing that I would say is that 12-step community does not have the market cornered on pain and suffering-

Estil Wallace:

Sure.

Brian Whitmer:

… and we’re all living this human experience. Just because I’m not an addict or an alcoholic, does not mean that I can’t understand where somebody’s coming from, so that’s what I really try to get our non-recovery folks to key in on.

Estil Wallace:

Sure, sure. It is powerful though having hiring alumni.

Brian Whitmer:

Totally.

Estil Wallace:

That’s really cool. When you’re talking about, I know what it’s like to be in room 19.

Brian Whitmer:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah.

Estil Wallace:

Yeah, that’s powerful.

Brian Whitmer:

Yeah, it is and it’s so helpful for I think the patients because they get it. They understand where this person’s been and also too, sometimes we have to remind our staff as well that this person may be a challenge right now, but you might have been a challenge too. We gave you a chance. It’s reframed our focused…

Estil Wallace:

I’ll tell them that. We’re a team of 16 and we have four alumni that work here, and I’ll tell them in a second. I mean you were a shit stick when you were here.

Brian Whitmer:

Yeah, yeah, yeah, pain in the ass. Yeah, exactly and at the end of the day, what we try to remind people is like we have taken away a coping mechanism of drugs and alcohol that may have been a big part of their life for a lot of years, and now all their feelings are coming to meet them and life is meeting them head-on, and that a person acting out is doing exactly what they’re doing is exactly where they’re supposed to be. It’s our job to help redirect and reframe or refocus and stuff because the one thing that I will say is our goal is to try to get people sober, but if somebody relapses, I hope that they see the BHT or their therapist when they were drinking, and that they feel guilty like they’ve let somebody down and we’ve ruined their drug and alcohol high.

Estil Wallace:

Yeah, absolutely.

Brian Whitmer:

They may not get it always, but if we can ruin their high and they can’t get high normally like they used to, then we’ve done our job too.

Estil Wallace:

You’ve been in Calvary. How many years is that?

Brian Whitmer:

Oh, 10 years now.

Estil Wallace:

Ten years you’ve been working at Calvary. You’ve probably seen a lot come and go. Have you ever seen anything like this coronavirus? Have you guys ever been under pressure like you are now?

Brian Whitmer:

No, not at all. One thing that I’ve talked a lot about with a lot of friends is that there isn’t a person alive currently that’s ever experienced anything like this right now. Generally with people who are in recovery, we have an opportunity to try to lean on somebody for their past experiences of like how did you get through this, and there is not a playbook drawn up for any of this stuff.

Brian Whitmer:

It is certainly an emotional roller coaster, and the coronavirus is I think changes our messaging because we tell people once you leave us to go to as many meetings as you can, hang out have groups of friends because our population is mostly young people in recovery, and that is I think the most important part is having the friendships and the relationships and governments telling everybody to do the opposite, isolate hunker down.

Estil Wallace:

You’re touching on what would I see as a really, really sore subject, and I think it’s important that we talk about it. The 12-step fellowships, we can unpack their role in rehabilitation and recovery.

Brian Whitmer:

Right.

Estil Wallace:

Somebody’s on the rocks, they’re in bad, bad shape. They need to go to a detox. Even if they go to a hospital because they don’t know where else to go, they’ll usually end up in a detox facility, something like what Calvary has and other places in town. From there, they’ll go through hopefully through residential. Maybe they’ll do some outpatient. Hopefully, they’ll do sober living and join 12-step groups. That’s what everybody in treatment hopes, is that they will join a 12-step fellowship-

Brian Whitmer:

Exactly.

Estil Wallace:

… whichever one best suits them. Insurance companies when authorization runs out, almost 10 out of 10 times says patients should join a 12-step group.

Brian Whitmer:

Agreed.

Estil Wallace:

Trying to think how to say this without being sounding too offensive, not to you, just to anybody listening, but for the first time maybe ever since the birth of 12-step groups, I think we are actually in some reasonable amount of danger of it dying. Twelve step groups are underground. I mean there’s Zoom.

Brian Whitmer:

Right.

Estil Wallace:

For some people, especially people that have a little bit of recovery or people who prefer to isolate, and there’s nothing wrong with that, I think for those folks, it’s good enough, but when I look at the population as a whole, I’m talking 15% to 20% of-

Brian Whitmer:

Sure.

Estil Wallace:

… human populations suffering from addiction, Zoom just doesn’t fucking cut it.

Brian Whitmer:

No, not at all.

Estil Wallace:

We’re being suffocated of human connection, and human connection is what this whole thing is about.

Brian Whitmer:

Right, it is.

Estil Wallace:

It’s how people recover.

Brian Whitmer:

Yeah, I would agree.

Estil Wallace:

Yeah. We’ve had the same challenge at Cornerstone. I’ve had the same challenge my own personal life.

Brian Whitmer:

Sure.

Estil Wallace:

Where do we go? What do we do?

Brian Whitmer:

Right.

Estil Wallace:

First of all, let me ask you that, how are you navigating personally? Since you’re in recovery, what do you what do you do for 12-step meetings? Are you doing the Zoom thing? Are you meeting some people in backyards or anything like that out in the park?

Brian Whitmer:

Yeah, it’s been all those, the social distancing coffee, coffee hookups in the park or whatever and in Zoom meetings. My home group is a men’s fellowship. That’s been moved over to Zoom and that’s primarily where we’re going. I mean it’s Zoom meetings and reaching out, calling people all the time. That’s really leaning on my support group more than anything else.

Estil Wallace:

That’s good. That’s good and what type of advice, what type of guidance you guys offering patients that are exiting treatment?

Brian Whitmer:

It’s tough. I mean well for one, while they’re impatient, generally what I tell them is you’re probably safer and you’re going to get more recovery by staying in treatment than you are when you leave since this was back in March and April when-

Estil Wallace:

One hundred percent agreed.

Brian Whitmer:

… when most of the meeting halls were closed. It’s like if you think that you’re going to leave here and it’s going to be great, everything is shut down. You’re not doing anything and the reality is that you’re going to get more recovery here, you can get more things to do and keep yourself occupied than you will when you discharge. Leaving early is not a good plan.

Estil Wallace:

No.

Brian Whitmer:

I think we’re still are trying to get people to sit down to sober living. I think somebody stepping down to sober living versus going home to a private apartment would be a problem. I think that would be a bigger issue more than anything else because that isolation is such a killer with this disease.

Estil Wallace:

It really is and people are isolated like never before.

Brian Whitmer:

Correct, that’s right.

Estil Wallace:

It’s such a strange dynamic. If you think about all the uncomfortable and horrific things the human race has been through in various times throughout history, this one’s super awkward. It’s not necessarily any worse or better than anything else. I don’t want to compare it to other things.

Brian Whitmer:

Sure.

Estil Wallace:

It’s just totally different than anything else we’ve been through.

Brian Whitmer:

Right.

Estil Wallace:

It’s an airborne virus, which we have all the technology in the world to connect us in all the other ways, but the one thing that matters, especially to somebody who’s suffering from addiction, the one thing that matters more than anything is the one thing we’re not supposed to be doing, and that’s sitting within six feet of each other having a real conversation.

Brian Whitmer:

Exactly. Right. I mean you talk about the fellowship hugs or whatever, those are all part of it is how do we have that human connection. I completely agree.

Estil Wallace:

I agree with what you said. I think for someone who’s struggling to get sober, I think treatment is probably the safest bet you could go with. You’ll be more recovery focused. You’re going to be more recovery centered. You’ll be working with people that are in recovery.

Brian Whitmer:

Exactly.

Estil Wallace:

It’s going to be all dedicated to learning how to live sober without those substances-

Brian Whitmer:

Exactly, and drug addiction and alcoholism has killed more people than coronavirus has ever. I mean at the end of the day, that’s an important reality that we need to hammer home to our patients.

Estil Wallace:

It’s astounding and on this particular show, I don’t get into politics because this issue that we’re talking about will likely consume all of the energy that I have, and it’s what I care about most. Just for those that are listening to give some numbers what Brian’s talking about. In the month of May, the mall back up. Current numbers 2017 and 18, we were losing about 400 American citizens to drugs and alcohol every 24 hours. That’s a 747 full of people crashing and burning every day. In April, that increased by like 15% and in May, it increased over 42%. That means we’re losing north of 550 American lives every single 24 hours to something that’s completely treatable, completely preventable.

Estil Wallace:

You watch people contract it, people that have the propensity for it. You watch them go down this road. If it’s your kid, it’s your lover, if it’s your spouse, if it’s your parent, if it’s your co-worker, if it’s your employee, you watch them go through this. If it’s your client, you can watch them go through this. What kind of interventions? How do we stop it? These are the questions we try to answer and recover. These are the things we try to do to try and stop more lives from being lost in our most powerful weapon is this. It’s human connection.

Brian Whitmer:

Exactly. Well, it felt very validating to see the New york Times post that article a couple months ago talking about that 12-step recovery is the most effective treatment, most proven treatment. It just felt vindicated because so many people have gone other routes and other directions than saying this way will work or harm reduction, and harm reduction is important. I don’t want to minimize that, but at the end of the day, number one thing…

Estil Wallace:

Let’s talk about it.

Brian Whitmer:

Yeah.

Estil Wallace:

Let’s talk about harm reduction.

Brian Whitmer:

Okay.

Estil Wallace:

I have my own opinions as I know you do-

Brian Whitmer:

Sure.

Estil Wallace:

… and I think it’s a subject worth talking about.

Brian Whitmer:

Right.

Estil Wallace:

First of all, can you define harm reduction for us?

Brian Whitmer:

I guess harm reduction would be that the person is not going to end up dying. We’re going to try to minimize, mitigate any chances of somebody overdosing. For instance, primarily with opiates, we would try to get somebody on Suboxone and do that. In the ’70s, it was methadone treatment and…

Estil Wallace:

It’s methadone again today, 2020.

Brian Whitmer:

Methadone, that’s right. 2020 methadone hasn’t gone anywhere. Methadone is such a dirty drug. It’s so hard to detox. I’ve had patients who say it’s worse to detox from methadone than any of the heroin or opiates that they’ve done and stuff too. Harm reduction means is it better to tell the mom of the heroin addict who’s going to discharge that they should have suboxone, or that they could potentially leave, and they’ll go relapse and die from a fentanyl overdose. Generally, the thought process is that it would be better that somebody should be on suboxone maintenance versus the potential of going to go relapse, right? Am I missing anything on that?

Estil Wallace:

No. I think that’s a pretty good definition. We’re trying to reduce the risk of overdose and death.

Brian Whitmer:

Correct, right.

Estil Wallace:

Shortening of human life via-

Brian Whitmer:

Exactly.

Estil Wallace:

… overdose.

Brian Whitmer:

I think the thing that gets muddied in there is saying that I think the messaging is the issue more than anything else because I can get behind the harm reduction, but I think the messaging says what’s your end date, what’s your goal date of stopping Suboxone or Vivitrol or any of the other modalities that are out there and still hammering home, it’s a spiritual program and this is how…

Estil Wallace:

Let’s talk about each one then. Can you explain the difference between Vivitrol and Suboxone?

Brian Whitmer:

Vivitrol is a shot in naloxone and it blocks the neuroreceptors in the brain from getting high.

Estil Wallace:

I can shoot heroin and not get high?

Brian Whitmer:

That is correct.

Estil Wallace:

I have known a kid that was dope sick because he was trying to get high-

Brian Whitmer:

Got it.

Estil Wallace:

… trying to break the seal or whatever-

Brian Whitmer:

Sure, sure.

Estil Wallace:

… shut dope for like two weeks on a Vivitrol shot-

Brian Whitmer:

Got it.

Estil Wallace:

… and by the time he ran out of money, he was just dope sick.

Brian Whitmer:

Got it.

Estil Wallace:

Still couldn’t get high.

Brian Whitmer:

Got it. That sounds horrible. Sounds like my worst nightmare.

Estil Wallace:

Yeah.

Brian Whitmer:

Suboxone is going to be more of a pill form. With Suboxone I guess in theory, you can only take so much. It still can be abused, but my understanding, I’ve never taken Suboxone, is that you hit a plateau with Suboxone. Again, it’s going to block some of those neuroreceptors, and it gives the brain and the body the feeling, not necessarily the feeling, but it stops the withdrawal period.

Estil Wallace:

Because Suboxone is a combination that’s half opiate blocker, half synthetic opiate.

Brian Whitmer:

Yup.

Estil Wallace:

You get a little bit of what you want, and you get a little bit of blocker.

Brian Whitmer:

Yeah, right.

Estil Wallace:

It’s used to detox, get somebody off of an opiate-

Brian Whitmer:

Yup, exactly.

Estil Wallace:

… over a longer period of time with less of an impact.

Brian Whitmer:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). Correct. Yup, and that’s my understanding of it as well too. That would be the harm reduction model and it’s pretty controversial in 12-step meetings. You’ll get your crusty old guys who are like, “You’re not sober,” and then you have the new generation who are saying, “How else am I supposed to get sober?” I think it’s taken me a minute to evolve on this too because at the end of the day, what I would say is I’m not here to define anybody’s recovery. If somebody says that they’re sober, but they’re not shooting heroin and they’re employable, and they have a long-term goal.

Estil Wallace:

It’s interesting, and I’m happy to just share my opinion on that.

Brian Whitmer:

Sure.

Estil Wallace:

I think the introduction of Suboxone and Subutex, which Subutex is just the synthetic opiate, doesn’t have the blocker in it. Obviously, there’s use cases for it. It’s same concept though. The idea is to get off of the illicit substance onto something that’s managed and controlled by a physician and then taper down over some period of time. This is my view on it. It’s a mind-altering substance.

Estil Wallace:

You’re technically not sober, but look if you check into detox on January 1st and you get on and you’re an opiate addict, and you’re taking fentanyl and you get onto suboxone, and you’re taking suboxone for three months, I don’t care, three days, three months, doesn’t matter to me, and you at some point taper off like you’re prescribed, you learn how to live a life and with in inside of absence-based recovery, then you’re sobriety, it’s January 1.

Brian Whitmer:

Right. Yeah, exactly.

Estil Wallace:

The flip side of it I think is where people want to get onto the harm reduction model. They want to get into a suboxone maintenance and just say, “You know what, I’m just going to take this.”

Brian Whitmer:

Right.

Estil Wallace:

“I’m going to do this not in addition to not as an aid to recovery, not as a tool for absence. I want to take this in place of doing anything else.”

Brian Whitmer:

Correct.

Estil Wallace:

“I don’t want to take these pills anymore, I’m going to take suboxone, and I’m going to get clean up my life.” That’s fine if that’s someone’s choice. I’m not here to tell anybody what they can or can’t do, but when that guy walks into a 12-step meeting and says, “Yeah, I’ve been sober for a year, that’s when I started taking suboxone.” Yeah, you don’t even have to be crusty. Somebody sitting next to him who’s doing a bunch of work is going to be like, “You’re not totally fucking sober bro.”

Brian Whitmer:

Right. Yeah, exactly.

Estil Wallace:

You know that, right?

Brian Whitmer:

I would agree with that too. I think harm reduction is a setup for people feeling like they’re doing something without ever changing their behaviors or their mind thought or their mind I guess changing their process.

Estil Wallace:

You nailed it when you first started talking about this. I think the communication is where the gap is. There’s too many people in the medical community that are prescribing this like, “Hey, this is the answer. Look at the statistics. They’re off the charts. The recovery rates with this is huge.” The trouble is they’re calling a medication recovery.

Brian Whitmer:

Correct.

Estil Wallace:

The other side of the coin is then you’ve got people in the rooms of recovery that are like, “You’re not sober.”

Brian Whitmer:

Correct.

Estil Wallace:

Who are we harming?

Brian Whitmer:

Right, exactly and I think how many people have ended up dying from bad advice from 12 steps. People in 12-step recovery were saying that you’re not sober, instead of being more welcoming and bringing people in because at the end of the day, I think, what is it, the only desire for membership? I’ve got it backwards. Yeah, the only requirement for membership is the desire to stay clean, right?

Estil Wallace:

Right.

Brian Whitmer:

I mean if that’s the only requirement, then why…

Estil Wallace:

Or so I’ve heard.

Brian Whitmer:

Yes, exactly, so I’ve heard. Right, yeah. No opinions, principles versus personalities, so that part is the goal right there, is to focus on trying to be more inclusive and open, and keep coming back is the message, right?

Estil Wallace:

Right, and in a time where we’re losing five and a half hundred lives a day.

Brian Whitmer:

Right, exactly.

Estil Wallace:

A day.

Brian Whitmer:

A day, right. Yeah, it’s unbelievable.

Estil Wallace:

In 2017, this was making headlines. People were like, “Holy crap,” and not to get off too far from a tangent, but that’s frustrating in and of itself that it took middle-class 20-year-olds dying of fentanyl and other opiates to really get national attention because people have been dying from drugs and alcohol for as long as we’ve had them.

Brian Whitmer:

Exactly.

Estil Wallace:

2017, I think in general, the country came to a place where it’s like holy crap, this is actually happening to our families, this is happening to our employees, our employers, our colleagues, our friends, our kids, our spouses, and we started to make some changes. I got to tell you, we were trying to get it down from the 400 a day number and it’s jumping.

Brian Whitmer:

Mm-hmm (affirmative), right.

Estil Wallace:

Everybody’s staying home, people are out of work, people are of stay-at-home orders. There are businesses shut down. There have been protests in some cities, riots, there’s civil unrest, there’s people feeling disenfranchised, there’s people feeling angry.

Brian Whitmer:

Right.

Estil Wallace:

I mean you add all these things together, we’ve got like a perfect storm for mental health problem.

Brian Whitmer:

Exactly.

Estil Wallace:

Suicides are through the roof, addictions through the roof.

Brian Whitmer:

Mm-hmm (affirmative), right.

Estil Wallace:

Yeah, this is a crazy, crazy time we’re living in.

Brian Whitmer:

It is and that’s something that my wife and I have talked a lot about, is that a lot of what we’re seeing right now is mental health that is untreated, and it just it keeps building upon itself and compounding. We keep creating more technology that’s supposed to bring us together, but it keeps us further apart. Again, going back to your topic of it’s that human connection, and so that’s the biggest piece. At the end of the day, harm reduction is what insurance wants because that helps pay their bills and also people stop going to treatment, and they can just get stuck on Suboxone forever.

Estil Wallace:

Yeah, sure. Well, it’s inexpensive and effective.

Brian Whitmer:

Yes, exactly. That’s correct, yeah.

Estil Wallace:

The question becomes when we talk about effectiveness of anti-craving medications, I think the question really needs to be like well, what are the metrics we’re using to judge effectiveness?

Brian Whitmer:

Right, right.

Estil Wallace:

I think better data collection across the board within treatment, it’s hard to do within 12-step fellowships because they’re completely non-profit. They’re completely volunteer, but within the treatment space, I think better data collection, better outcomes data collection is critical, so that over time… because it’s not one thing. I have a hard time getting behind anyone who’s like, “Oh, I have the answer, it’s this.” We’re talking about behavioral health and it’s fucking complicated.

Brian Whitmer:

Right, right, it is.

Estil Wallace:

There is often a combination of substances psychotherapy, family therapy, EMDR. We’re talking about childhood trauma, we’re talking about learning healthy habits, like what time do you go to bed?

Brian Whitmer:

Right, exactly.

Estil Wallace:

Just at face value, you may see someone like we were talking about earlier, the client who’s a shit stick, right? Well, I got to tell you, if you do a little assessment, you might find out that that kid consumes 800 milligrams of caffeine a day, consumes almost no calories other than energy drinks and twizzlers and sleeps like four hours.

Brian Whitmer:

Right, right, exactly. Has no discipline, has no routine, nothing in place and…

Estil Wallace:

Not to mention all the other stuff.

Brian Whitmer:

Yeah, exactly, right. Exactly, that’s great.

Estil Wallace:

Not to mention fixing everything else. We have to teach this young man just like someone taught you and just like someone taught me-

Brian Whitmer:

The foundations, yeah.

Estil Wallace:

Even if I don’t believe it, even if I’m so sick, I don’t believe I’m worth salvaging, at least how to physically go through the motions of some self-care.

Brian Whitmer:

Correct, yup.

Estil Wallace:

Eating decent food, going to bed at a decent hour, getting up at a normal time, getting some exercise.

Brian Whitmer:

Right, and I think the most important thing is defining what recovery is because everybody has a definition, but I think that even if you break it down as simple as possible of saying that recovery is attending 12-step meetings, having a sponsor, the exercise, the spiritual component, going to meetings and having a home group and being of service, having service commitments are all those foundations that I think people want to gloss over. Those are almost like critical pieces for you just do this simple stuff. When I was first getting sober, the first thing was I don’t care, all you need to do is get their early and empty asteroids. I was like, “I don’t understand how this is going to help anything. I don’t get this.”

Estil Wallace:

That’s the Mr. Miyagi.

Brian Whitmer:

It is, it totally is. It’s the look over here, don’t focus on yourself. It’s getting outside of yourself, and I think that’s the foundation for this recovery.

Estil Wallace:

That’s an interesting principle, getting out of myself, but that’s very difficult to do when I’m suffering and I’m the cause of all my problems-

Brian Whitmer:

Absolutely.

Estil Wallace:

… and no one wants to be around me and…

Brian Whitmer:

Correct.

Estil Wallace:

… I’m starving for their love and I’m suffering. That’s interesting. Then one of the first tricks we do is get me to focus on someone else’s writing.

Brian Whitmer:

Right, exactly. That’s exactly right. Focus on somebody else, and it’s such a true statement is talking when you sponsor somebody or if you are of service. That’s one thing that we can say to the newcomer is if you got 48 hours sober, you got more than that person who came in who has five minutes, and you can share your experience, strength, and hope of how you stayed sober for those first 48 hours. That has been foundational for my recovery is when I think that I’m having a bad day is part of that is of reaching out, and whether it’s talking to sponsee and taking people through the steps and reminding myself for where I came from, but the flip side of that is I could be having a bad day, and then I talked to a sponsee and I’m like, “Oh yeah, I got it good.”

Brian Whitmer:

They’re going through something that’s way worse than I am and that’s part of the sponsorship, is like maybe a little bit further down the path and I can remind them of like I got to hear and I made it through, but I needed to be reminded of how terrible I felt at one point to get me outside of myself and just get a little dose of that gratitude. I think that is that getting outside of yourself and even if you don’t have a long time, you still have some experience, strength, and hope that you can share to somebody.

Estil Wallace:

Absolutely, and it does. It creates that perspective change-

Brian Whitmer:

Mm-hmm (affirmative), that’s right.

Estil Wallace:

… because then it’s not about me. It’s about how can I help you, you’re having a hard time. How can I help you?

Brian Whitmer:

Right. Especially when we’re getting sober, we’re thinking we’re still looking for that magic bullet, and what I’ve figured out over time is it’s not the big shifts. It’s stuff that happens in the margins. It’s very small incremental stuff. If I let go of a lot of my little like daily habits, then all of a sudden, I’m wondering why I’m having a bad day and it’s like I go back and look at all those small things that I do on a daily basis for daily maintenance, but that takes some time. It’s how do we convey that message to that newcomer like how do they really… I wouldn’t have understood that until I’ve had to experience it and stuff too.

Estil Wallace:

This is a good topic. When you’re young and you’re drinking yourself cross-eyed daily or smoking fentanyl pills in a bathroom, and you’re you’re 20 years old or whatever, life looks long. Even if it doesn’t look that bright, you got time to figure things out, land on your feet and you can procrastinate. Getting a little older, I think somewhere around the age of 30 when I was just a few years into recovery, I had this overwhelming aha moment. It was like holy fuck, I’m not going to just… The first aha moment was like, “Oh, I’m not going to be dead by the time I’m 30-

Brian Whitmer:

Sure.

Estil Wallace:

… because here I am. Looks like recovery’s working,” and then it turned into well what am I going to do? While I well I am going to make it, it is limited? Every day the things I do and equally the things I don’t do are what make up the fabric of my experience here.

Brian Whitmer:

Right, right.

Estil Wallace:

If I’m awake 18 hours, what am I doing?

Brian Whitmer:

Right. Where are my thoughts for those…

Estil Wallace:

Sixteen, 18 hours, what am I doing?

Brian Whitmer:

Yeah, exactly.

Estil Wallace:

Yeah. What are my habits? When I get up, do I get up and my friend, Andy calls it the wolf brain. Do I wake up and let the wolf brain just start fucking attacking me and I don’t have enough and I need to get more, or do I wake up, take a minute, don’t look at my phone, get into a meditation, spend 10 minutes in quiet meditation before I make breakfast and talk to my kids? Those are big shifts and throughout the whole day, if you can create or architect a day, that’s perfect within the realm of reasonableness, right?

Brian Whitmer:

Right.

Estil Wallace:

There’s work in there and there’s priorities, but create the perfect day. That’s all there is.

Brian Whitmer:

To me, it’s the daily habits too.

Estil Wallace:

It is.

Brian Whitmer:

You were talking about, it’s like I had to learn how to go to bed at a reasonable time, not staying up all night long and wondering why I was suffering the next day, and all these things are a lot of it is, it feels like you’re growing up and there’s stuff in there that you rebel against, and some stuff maybe you could have been parented on when you’re growing up-

Estil Wallace:

Sure.

Brian Whitmer:

… and that you’re just learning as you’re going through the recovery process.

Estil Wallace:

These are big parts of it. You’re hitting on the head, you’re 100% right. It’s not rocket science, but it’s still fucking hard.

Brian Whitmer:

It is. Right, absolutely and it’s like, how do I have the internal discipline and not have somebody else telling me this is what I should be doing? It’s like how do I become a stakeholder in this belief, in this process and stuff too?

Estil Wallace:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah, I’ve had that same conversation with I couldn’t tell you how many 30-year-old man…

Brian Whitmer:

Right, exactly, right.

Estil Wallace:

You would need to get up earlier and go to bed early.

Brian Whitmer:

Exactly, that’s right. You need to start the day. It’s like you’re not a victim of your day.

Estil Wallace:

No.

Brian Whitmer:

You have a choice and…

Estil Wallace:

We have been for so long-

Brian Whitmer:

Yeah, totally. Yeah.

Estil Wallace:

… flying by the seat of our pants, going wherever the wind blows us, hoping that it all doesn’t come crashing down, which is-

Brian Whitmer:

Exactly.

Estil Wallace:

… probably going to anytime soon.

Brian Whitmer:

That’s right.

Estil Wallace:

It’s a horrible feeling.

Brian Whitmer:

It is. It’s a terrible feeling. It feels like life is controlling you and you’re not in control of your own destiny.

Estil Wallace:

Yeah.

Brian Whitmer:

Now, the longer I’ve stayed clean, I don’t know how much control I really have-

Estil Wallace:

Sure, sure.

Brian Whitmer:

… but at the end of the day, I know what I can control and also, I’m a big believer in not… It’s like leaking energy I guess for a lack of better-

Estil Wallace:

That’s a good one, I like that.

Brian Whitmer:

… letting people suck the energy out of me, and I have limited amount of time. I’m not going to get into debates where I know that I can’t change somebody’s mind. If somebody wants to help, then let’s chase after it. Otherwise, when you’re ready, I’ll be here sort of mentality.

Estil Wallace:

I agree. There’s very little I have control over. I have control over the words that come out of my mouth-

Brian Whitmer:

Correct.

Estil Wallace:

… and the actions I take-

Brian Whitmer:

Yup, yup, absolutely.

Estil Wallace:

… and they fucking matter. What I do and what I say matters.

Brian Whitmer:

It does.

Estil Wallace:

I thought they didn’t for a long time.

Brian Whitmer:

It does, and I’m a big believer and my wife is a big believer in words. Words mattered, so what does my self-talk look like right now?

Estil Wallace:

Oh, self-talk, you’re going to go there? I love it. Let’s hear about it.

Brian Whitmer:

Yeah. I mean ultimately, at the end of the day, it’s what am I saying, am I using negative words, am I using the positive? Instead of, I said it, earlier the victim mentality. Actually, I just heard it on a podcast the other day, where he was saying, “What if we went from a victim mentality of feeling like light things were happening to us, instead things were happening for us?” I was like, “Oh, that’s a good way to reframe it in the sense of that I missed this job opportunity, but because I didn’t get it, I’m here now because I missed that and if I would have gotten that job, who knows where I would have been, but I’m much happier in this spot?” It was something that wasn’t done to me. It was life doing something for me, where is that saying God doing for me what I can do for myself scenario.

Estil Wallace:

Those perspective changes, it’s one thing when I have little moments, but like you’re describing, when I work those little moments into intentional routine, that’s when I really start to shift. There’s actually a really great book. Gosh, her name is escaping me. I’ve read it. Gabrielle Bernstein.

Brian Whitmer:

Okay.

Estil Wallace:

She wrote a book called The Universe Has Your Back.

Brian Whitmer:

Oh, I’ve heard of that. Yeah.

Estil Wallace:

Yeah, what a great title for a book, and obviously, it’s a good title for the subject-

Brian Whitmer:

Sure.

Estil Wallace:

… she’s covering, but she’s covering that subject. What if we could change our perspective from I’m the victim, this is all happening to me to you know what, maybe things might work out, what if I lived with a little bit of intention, a little bit of positivity and optimism? I think with negative self-talk combating that isn’t… When I first started addressing negative self-talk personally, what I was imagining, my misconception was that I was going, “What am I supposed to say some fake shit that’s not true, lie to myself?”

Brian Whitmer:

Right, right, mm-hmm (affirmative).

Estil Wallace:

… but that’s not really what it’s about. Healing negative self-talk is first about awareness, like just see if you can notice it. I challenge guys to do this and it’s just like someone challenged me to do it. See if you can notice and write down, just keep a ledger, how many times you say something fucked up to yourself right in the next 24 hours-

Brian Whitmer:

Sure.

Estil Wallace:

… and people including myself said I lose count. Okay, if once you can get your head around awareness, why don’t you try and modifying it to neutral self-talk, instead of saying I’m such a fucking idiot? Say, “You know what, I’m new at this and I’m not good at it yet.” Try that. You don’t have to be fake. You have to create some artificial la la land that’s not real.

Brian Whitmer:

Sure. Right.

Estil Wallace:

Why don’t you just try being a little kinder?

Brian Whitmer:

Yes. Exactly, yeah.

Estil Wallace:

Just a little kinder.

Brian Whitmer:

This is not the Saturday Night Live, the Jack Handey or whatever. Who was this…

Estil Wallace:

Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. You’re Good Enough?

Brian Whitmer:

Yeah.

Estil Wallace:

It’s Stuart Smalley.

Brian Whitmer:

Stuart Smalley, You’re Good Enough, You’re Smart Enough and gosh down to people like you.

Estil Wallace:

That was epic.

Brian Whitmer:

Yeah, and they’ve ruined it for every therapist who wanted to help somebody to do affirmations because I think I agree, but if I don’t believe it, I’m not probably going to say it, but I agree. It’s like again, it goes back to what I’m saying, so working in those margins. It’s an incremental change. It’s not going to be this big, giant change. It’s these small little things, daily habits to incorporate that lead up to one big thing.

Estil Wallace:

Yeah, yeah. It’s just like a savings account.

Brian Whitmer:

Mm-hmm (affirmative), it is. That’s right. You build up that bank account and then…

Estil Wallace:

Millionaires don’t start off with a million bucks.

Brian Whitmer:

No. That’s right. That’s exactly right and then they can draw on it when they need to.

Estil Wallace:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). NBA players don’t get signed.

Brian Whitmer:

No.

Estil Wallace:

They don’t just step into somebody’s office one day and get signed. They played basketball their whole lives.

Brian Whitmer:

Exactly.

Estil Wallace:

Millionaire save their money-

Brian Whitmer:

Exactly.

Estil Wallace:

… people who have strong healthy habits, they develop them over time with next to nothing.

Brian Whitmer:

Yup, exactly.

Estil Wallace:

I think that’s a that’s a very mature perspective when you’re looking at personal growth. A lot of people won’t join the gym because they’re like, “Oh, I’ll never look like that, or I’ll never get the weight off, or I’ll never fill in the blank.”

Brian Whitmer:

Exactly.

Estil Wallace:

The truth is everyone starts at some level of deficiency-

Brian Whitmer:

That’s right.

Estil Wallace:

… where they felt compelled like, “Hey, I would like to change this.” Once you start taking the action, that’s when you start to understand oh, I can change this, I change this and over time, it becomes routine, it becomes part of your life, it becomes-

Brian Whitmer:

Exactly.

Estil Wallace:

… normal.

Brian Whitmer:

Yeah, and I’ve had that even in my recovery. I had to have the experience of go to the gym, even when I don’t want to and give myself permission of like it’s only going to be 20 minutes, and just getting my foot in the door-

Estil Wallace:

Absolutely.

Brian Whitmer:

… was way harder and that was the bigger metaphor for life is like how much my brain controls this narrative of that it’s going to be this awful experience, or I don’t want to do it. The reality is, is like you just got to go do it. The hardest thing is actually just doing, taking that first step.

Estil Wallace:

My wife and my oldest daughter and I spent three months in London about five years ago, and we stayed in Hackney Borough which is this little area in East London. We worked out at this gym, the Clissold Recreation Center, but they had a gym. It was the closest to where we were staying, and we worked out there every day. I used to train with this guy from Brazil. He spoke Portuguese and his english was very broken and with a heavy East London British accent. He was really hard to understand. Heart of gold, guy’s amazing, but we used to train together. Right in the middle of a tough repetition, he would say that, “You listen to your body, you don’t listen to your mind.” It’s rung in my head a lot over the years, last five years. Listen to your body, don’t listen to your mind when I’m in the gym-

Brian Whitmer:

Sure.

Estil Wallace:

… and I think it’s that way in recovery too because there are so many times, especially like say my first six months, where I just wanted to run. I didn’t even know where I wanted to go.

Brian Whitmer:

Yeah, right.

Estil Wallace:

I didn’t have a plan. I just was uncomfortable-

Brian Whitmer:

Correct.

Estil Wallace:

… being me in my own skin, and all I did was stay put even though my head was telling me to go. I didn’t listen to my head.

Brian Whitmer:

Exactly.

Estil Wallace:

I just stayed put, and my head was just crazy.

Brian Whitmer:

Yup, exactly and that’s right, I remember not sleeping my first year. I ever felt like it was like an every night like-

Estil Wallace:

Struggle.

Brian Whitmer:

… Yeah, why am I not falling asleep?

Estil Wallace:

A struggle to get to sleep.

Brian Whitmer:

Yeah, exactly, and just my mind is just racing. It’s like I just can’t even shut my mind off. That’s just seems like that’s an early part of recovery.

Estil Wallace:

What do you do for sleep now? Do you fall asleep easy?

Brian Whitmer:

Yeah, for the most part, I do, yeah. Sleep I try to get to bed at the same time every night, regardless even if it’s the day off the next day. Mostly children hadn’t made that a priority because I don’t want to wake up at 5:00 a.m after going to bed at midnight. Yeah, but for the most part, you’re right. The reality is, is like I try to read and reading puts me to sleep, and that’s my go-to, is I’ll read before bed and then just it puts me to sleep. I don’t have a problem falling asleep anymore, but it was a struggle.

Estil Wallace:

Oh gosh.

Brian Whitmer:

Early in the beginning, I mean it just felt like all I was doing was either replaying conversations that I’d had with people, or what I was going to say to somebody the next day, or whatever and just yeah, that is not an issue.

Estil Wallace:

Yeah, no. For me, this is the same. Early recovery, as soon as I would lay down and my head would torment me.

Brian Whitmer:

Right, I’d feel tired-

Estil Wallace:

Oh, yeah.

Brian Whitmer:

… and I couldn’t go to sleep.

Estil Wallace:

I was like Ed Norton in Fight Club.

Brian Whitmer:

Yes, that’s exactly what it was. That’s right, yeah.

Estil Wallace:

Borderline insomnia.

Brian Whitmer:

Yeah, absolutely and I can understand the insanity behind it and then all of a sudden, the sun would come up and I’d feel different.

Estil Wallace:

Yeah.

Brian Whitmer:

I think that’s a big deal for sure, and part of that is the self-care piece of what you’re talking about, is going back to having that routine of like what do I do on a daily basis and trying to stay connected in that regard, but it’s easy now. I mean I’ve got my routine. We’re talking about earlier with the coronavirus, is that what do people do now, how do they build a routine if they’ve never had to have a routine, if people can’t be there to help mentor them and stuff, that’s really the big goal.

Estil Wallace:

We haven’t had any slow down here as far as people asking for help.

Brian Whitmer:

Sure.

Estil Wallace:

Any trends you’ve noticed since the COVID and shutdowns? Most of this year so far, anything, any big shifts in treatment that you’ve seen?

Brian Whitmer:

Well, I mean for us, I mean we had to make some adaptations really where we were having a lot of outside meetings. We were pretty open campus, where we had visitation and we would have our H and I meeting, so that’s the hospitals and institutions coming in. That’s the 12-step meetings coming in to present-

Estil Wallace:

Sure, sure.

Brian Whitmer:

… and sponsors coming in. Most of that, we stopped. Those were some of the changes that we’ve had to change and ultimately, we thought visitation would be a bigger problem, but we gave people their cellphones so that they could do face time with them. That alleviated that missing of family and stuff too. Then overall, the slowing down, yeah, absolutely, either people are more afraid of going out or whatever-

Estil Wallace:

Sure.

Brian Whitmer:

… but really for the most part, we really haven’t seen the huge slowdown.

Estil Wallace:

You mentioned before we started that you guys are testing everyone that comes into detox.

Brian Whitmer:

Correct, that is correct. All of our residential care, we started out with the nasal swab testing. That’s before they can get on the detox, they are going to get tested, and we’ve got a company that turns around our results pretty quickly.

Estil Wallace:

That’s good.

Brian Whitmer:

Everybody’s wearing a mask and stuff so that’s…

Estil Wallace:

Yeah, I’ve been over a couple times. Everybody was matched up.

Brian Whitmer:

Yeah, yeah. Yeah, no. Yeah, everybody takes it pretty seriously. Yeah.

Estil Wallace:

No real slow down on admissions?

Brian Whitmer:

No, not at all. Like we were saying before, I mean it’s been our topic and when we’ve talked to our patients and stuff is just as a reminder that alcohol and drugs have killed more people than coronavirus has to this day. They think that’s the reality behind it, is that people still die from this disease.

Estil Wallace:

Here’s what’s scary because coronavirus is scary. I mean no doubt, it came out of left field, it started killing people who weren’t prepared for it. I think everyone’s on the same page there, but you’re right. At some point, whether it’s in six months from now or in six years from now, at some point, we’re going to develop a vaccine, and coronavirus will give or take be a thing in the past.

Brian Whitmer:

Correct, that’s right.

Estil Wallace:

Will deaths from drugs and alcohol? I don’t think so.

Brian Whitmer:

No.

Estil Wallace:

Because unlike viruses, we had scare with Ebola years ago. Unlike these viruses, drugs and alcohol, there’s an allure to them when you’re young, which is strange that where it’s so accepted socially to drink or to say smoke weed, or something like that, and even like maybe depending on the circle you’re in, maybe even harder substances, but yet then there’s so much shame around it getting out of control. Well, this shit gets out of control pretty easy for a lot of folks. This is the big question. Why is there so much shame around someone who can’t handle their alcohol or drugs?

Brian Whitmer:

I don’t know. I have no idea on how to even answer that question. I just think that some of it, it’s the stigma. I think that it goes back to mental health, is that we do not make it a priority from that standpoint. The movies don’t necessarily glorify it and the news doesn’t talk about the getting help side. The news wants to focus on the fact that it’s more people fail in 12-step recovery than anything else, and I think it’s a bigger issue. I think until you get bigger names talking about their own recovery struggles, the only issue that I would see there is if they relapse and then-

Estil Wallace:

Sure.

Brian Whitmer:

… people can point to that as a failure or whatever too.

Estil Wallace:

Brad Pitt’s been pretty openly lately.

Brian Whitmer:

Yeah, he has been. Yes. It’s been helpful.

Estil Wallace:

I’m pretty sure he said he joined 12-step recovery.

Brian Whitmer:

Yeah. I heard that too. Yeah, and he’s talking about him smoking pot and drinking and could have caused his divorce.

Estil Wallace:

Sure, and I agree. I think more people doing what we’re doing today and that’s just talking about it, because it’s killing people-

Brian Whitmer:

It is, it absolutely is.

Estil Wallace:

… and isolating and not talking about it and being ashamed of it is killing people, and here’s a statistic. If you can stay in a structured recovery environment for 12 to 18 months, we’re talking treatment, 12-step programming, sober living, et cetera, seeing a therapist. As much of that as you can stack together inside of 12 to 18 months, if you can do that, your chances of staying sober permanently the rest of your life span are over 65%.

Brian Whitmer:

Yeah, it’s incredible.

Estil Wallace:

Treatment for alcoholism/addiction is actually really, really effective and yet, you got heart disease. Heart disease treatment isn’t 65% effective.

Brian Whitmer:

Right. No, not at all.

Estil Wallace:

No, and liver disease, we treat people that are on liver transplant waiting list here.

Brian Whitmer:

Yeah, so do we. Yeah.

Estil Wallace:

It’s like if you could tell that guy 65% chance this is going to work out, if you just do this shit for the next 12 to 18 months-

Brian Whitmer:

Exactly.

Estil Wallace:

… I mean we do tell them, and they’re like, “Cool-

Brian Whitmer:

Yeah, of course.

Estil Wallace:

… what do I do next?”

Brian Whitmer:

Mm-hmm (affirmative), yeah. Yeah.

Estil Wallace:

People don’t always have that information.

Brian Whitmer:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). No, and some people do get that information, and it’s figuring out how do we get them to believe it. The reality is, is sometimes people are too smart for their own good.

Estil Wallace:

That’s true.

Brian Whitmer:

They need to like…

Estil Wallace:

I have met some that were too smart.

Brian Whitmer:

Yeah, and they think that their way is going to be the right way, they’re going to research it to death, and it’s that paralysis by analysis, and they’re not going to get it. I think we’re changing, evolving in this society right now, where we need to focus on the shame behind getting sober and asking for help. The reality, you’re right, on one hand, it’s promoted as being really cool to go party and that’s the expected thing to do in college and high school-

Estil Wallace:

Absolutely.

Brian Whitmer:

… but that’s what I expected. That’s what I thought was everybody else was having fun and I was at home missing out on all the fun and…

Estil Wallace:

If you drink beer out of a funnel and you’re 19 or 20-

Brian Whitmer:

Yeah, right. Exactly right. It’s a normal.

Estil Wallace:

… that’s fairly acceptable.

Brian Whitmer:

That’s good college fun, yeah, and it’s fairly acceptable.

Estil Wallace:

No one’s going to be too mad at you for that.

Brian Whitmer:

No, not at all, not at all. When you’re 40, people are going to probably have an issue with it, but at the end of the day, it does get out of hand, it gets sideways really quickly and how do we make it okay, I think we have some stereotypes out there that we need to break down because I remember when I was first getting sober and I was like, “I’m not an alcoholic. What are you talking about? This is like…”

Estil Wallace:

I don’t even look like one.

Brian Whitmer:

No, exactly. Right, exactly.

Estil Wallace:

I don’t even look like an alcoholic.

Brian Whitmer:

No, I don’t look like I’m homeless or whatever and whatever the picture I had in my mind, yeah, that was not me. Yeah, it’s bringing down that stereotype that it can be anybody.

Estil Wallace:

That I think is still hard for people, and I think you’re nailing on the head. I think having an open conversation about what drug addicts and alcoholics look like, and what they act like is one of the best ways we could help reduce the stigma and save more lives. Here’s a numbers from 2018. More than a million people did not get help that needed, and this is documented. There could be more. That’s an approximate number.

Brian Whitmer:

Sure.

Estil Wallace:

… and roughly 40%, about 400,000 Americans didn’t get help in 2018 because specifically because they were afraid.

Brian Whitmer:

Right, right, exactly.

Estil Wallace:

They were afraid of stigma. They were afraid of shame-

Brian Whitmer:

Right, and I think…

Estil Wallace:

… with their boss, their spouse or whatever.

Brian Whitmer:

Yeah. Well, I mean I think we also have set it up it structurally and economically that people’s jobs are dependent for healthcare and-

Estil Wallace:

Absolutely.

Brian Whitmer:

… this industry is dependent on insurance. If I don’t have a job, I don’t have insurance, and then I can’t go get treatment and so…

Estil Wallace:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). Or you get Medicaid, but Medicaid treatment facilities-

Brian Whitmer:

Medicaid.

Estil Wallace:

… aren’t usually very awesome because they’re trying to treat one of our oldest, most deadliest illnesses-

Brian Whitmer:

Right, with bare bones.

Estil Wallace:

… with bare bones, with very minimal and it’s shoestring budgets.

Brian Whitmer:

It is, and there’s a huge waiting list too.

Estil Wallace:

Huge waiting list because every Medicaid place in town has a wait list.

Brian Whitmer:

That’s right. They’re all full and…

Estil Wallace:

COVID running rampant.

Brian Whitmer:

Yeah, COVID running rampant.

Estil Wallace:

I won’t name any names, but I heard about one of the big ones, and they’ve had dozens of cases.

Brian Whitmer:

Yeah, exactly and that’s…

Estil Wallace:

Because they’re helping everyone they can. They’re trying not to shut their doors.

Brian Whitmer:

Exactly.

Estil Wallace:

They’re trying to help these people that have nowhere else to go.

Brian Whitmer:

Exactly, that’s right and with that, I mean it’s scary. I think that’s a bigger systemic issue too is trying to figure out how we can get help, how do we help people with low socioeconomic, and then I think it’s a bigger issue than just drugs and alcohol. I think at the end of the day is, and that’s what we talk about in 12-step meetings too, is that drinking alcohol are just a symptom of what it is just masking what’s really going on. Again, going back to our behavioral health conversation and talking about that, is it’s okay to ask for help and then building that in. I think some companies are figuring that stuff out of how we get there.

Estil Wallace:

You just said something that I think is worth unpacking a little bit. Drugs and alcohol aren’t necessarily the problem, they’re the symptom. Why don’t we talk about that a little bit for anybody-

Brian Whitmer:

Sure.

Estil Wallace:

… because the idea of this podcast is to do what we’re doing and that’s talk about this.

Brian Whitmer:

Sure.

Estil Wallace:

I think that’s very specific to someone who may be new to recovery, that might be an interesting like what do you mean drugs and alcohol aren’t the problem?

Brian Whitmer:

Oftentimes, we’ll see people who give up drinking and drugs and still have the same behaviors. They’re still lying, or they’re still cheating, or they’re still doing things that we would not consider as part of a normal part of society, or I’ll speak for even for myself is that I give up drugs and alcohol and then sugars becomes a bigger thing, and then people blow up their first year because they’re eating a bunch of candy. It’s really trying to fix a feeling within myself that I’m so uncomfortable. You said it earlier that’s so uncomfortable in your own skin, and you’re just trying to find anything. You’ll often see there’s a reason that in recovery talk about don’t get into a relationship your first year because all of a sudden…

Estil Wallace:

Sex and love don’t feel that hole?

Brian Whitmer:

No, that’s right. Sex and love don’t fill that hole.

Estil Wallace:

Oh, it’s a lot of fun to try.

Brian Whitmer:

Yeah, it is and try and try…

Estil Wallace:

The food, credit cards.

Brian Whitmer:

Yup, exactly, gambling. It’s very similar to the whack-a-mole game. It’s like you give up drugs and alcohol and then all of a sudden, you find out that you’re a love addict or a sex addict, and it’s all about getting yourself outside that moment and getting outside I’m so uncomfortable with myself, I will do anything addictively and compulsively to make myself feel better. We give up the drugs and alcohol and then spending addiction kicks in, and I can’t stop shopping on Amazon and I’ve got packages that I haven’t even opened up yet.

Brian Whitmer:

It’s crazy. It’s the high, it’s the chase, and one thing that I do share about in my recovery is I remember driving to the dope dealer’s house and feeling I was already high mentally with the dopamine from my brain, which is probably more powerful than any drug out there, just thinking about getting high, and then getting the drugs in my hand was not as fulfilling as the thought of driving over the dope man’s house to get the package. Then it was probably not nearly as satisfying as the fantasy that I made up in my brain and stuff.

Estil Wallace:

I’ve had the same exact experience.

Brian Whitmer:

Yeah.

Estil Wallace:

I was attending a court-ordered IOP. This is in the ’90s. I got sober in ’04, so this is like seven or eight years prior to making sober.

Brian Whitmer:

Sure.

Estil Wallace:

I’m trying to get sober. In my mind, I’m sober. I’m drinking 40-ounce bottles of malt liquor at night only and smoking weed. To me, that’s sober. I’m in IOP with this other dude who we’ll remain nameless, and we’re staying sober together. We’re going to IOP. We’re going to work. we’re going to IOP. We’re kicking it at the apartment drink a 40 ounce, a couple of cigarettes, call it a night.

Brian Whitmer:

Sure.

Estil Wallace:

We’re behaving and the world I come from, that’s behaving-

Brian Whitmer:

Of course, yeah.

Estil Wallace:

… pretty well and neighbor came over. Of course, I live in a ship box apartment complex, just a hell hole, so all my neighbors give or take are pretty shady. I have a neighbor comes over says, “Hey, I don’t have any use for this,” literally gives us a half gram of methamphetamine. We didn’t even have a pipe to smoke it. We like cracked a light bulb and we’re like struggling to get it in there, and both of us look at each other and he was like, “I’m already fucking high.” I’m like, “Me too.”

Brian Whitmer:

Yeah, just the thought of that first hit. Yeah, exactly.

Estil Wallace:

Then we did it anyway.

Brian Whitmer:

Yeah, of course. Yeah, yeah.

Estil Wallace:

Yeah, we were right there, heart was pounding.

Brian Whitmer:

Yup, yup, exactly. It’s just the thought and the heart is racing, and then you get it and you’re like, but that was the catalyst for me for getting clean was I could go there and I was higher than going to go see the dope man, but the after effect, it’s like I couldn’t get out of my pain and my discomfort. It’s like it couldn’t get high enough to make all those feelings go away, couldn’t stop my brain enough to shut it off, and that was the cue for me was like, “Man, this is not working right now. I can’t get high enough.”

Estil Wallace:

Yeah, same exact experience.

Brian Whitmer:

That is a bottom, but unfortunately, a lot of people don’t get there. Then obviously, through recovery, you started finding out the other isms that are kicking out, kicking in.

Estil Wallace:

You’re definitely talking about it, this is the heart of it. I don’t do drugs and alcohol to party or to feel good. I do drugs and alcohol to not jump off a bridge.

Brian Whitmer:

Correct.

Estil Wallace:

I do drugs and alcohol so that I can face the day-

Brian Whitmer:

Correct.

Estil Wallace:

… whatever that looks like in anyone’s current circumstances.

Brian Whitmer:

Yup. I didn’t mean to cut you off-

Estil Wallace:

No, it’s…

Brian Whitmer:

… that was my baseline. My baseline high or my baseline was like to smoke pot during the day and maybe drink, and then I was open for business after that. That was like my baseline of an all day like and every day, it was like guaranteed those were the two things that were going to happen, and then anything else that came along, I was game for. Part of it too it was getting a little bit older. I went to back to school when I was 21, and I started hanging out and granted people were only three years younger than me, and I was listening to 18 year olds talk about partying.

Brian Whitmer:

It’s like, “Wow, you guys don’t party like me and I don’t really get what you’re talking about, and I feel older than you, and this is a strange phenomenon that’s going on right now, and I don’t feel like I fit in, and I can’t get high anymore. This is all fucked up and I am not happy about any of this.”

Estil Wallace:

Yeah, I was trying to get sober when I was 19. I tried again at 21, and then I tried many times until I was 26, almost 27 when I got sober.

Brian Whitmer:

Yeah, and the most important thing is you didn’t quit quitting.

Estil Wallace:

That’s right.

Brian Whitmer:

Right? You just kept coming back and kept trying, and yeah, takes what it takes. It’s a weird shift.

Estil Wallace:

It really is. Yeah, that’s the old joke is that it’s a what do you get when you sober up a drunken horse thief?

Brian Whitmer:

What do you get?

Estil Wallace:

A horse thief.

Brian Whitmer:

Exactly.

Estil Wallace:

Yeah, we’ve got a lot of dysfunction that needs to be sorted out, a lot of knots to untie that have very little to do with drugs or alcohol.

Brian Whitmer:

Those knots to untie are those limiting beliefs or thoughts or…

Estil Wallace:

The negative self-talking, dysfunctional family systems.

Brian Whitmer:

That’s right, exactly.

Estil Wallace:

The childhood trauma, let’s not even talk about fucking trauma.

Brian Whitmer:

Yeah, exactly, and that’s the big deal. I mean to me, that was a big shift for Calvary is when we shifted too because I’m a huge believer only because I don’t think that I would say it’s over had I not done family of origin work, and that was the game changer for me was like I needed the 12 steps, but I also needed to look at my history and heal my own inner trauma and then so on.

Estil Wallace:

Agreed. I listened to a podcast of this gal in recovery, and she had been raped as a child and she says… I forgot how she put it, but she had talked about getting sober and people parroting this oh, our parents do the best they can with what they have-

Brian Whitmer:

Right, sure.

Estil Wallace:

… and she said that only got her by for a couple of years and at some point, she had a breakdown. She had to go to therapy. When she got into therapy and guess what they told her? It’s okay for you to be fucking angry-

Brian Whitmer:

Totally, right.

Estil Wallace:

… about what happened, and they were able to coach her through allowing herself to experience the resentment, the anger, the pain, and then healing through that process genuinely and authentically came to a place where she could say, “You know what, they did the best they could with what they had and she was truly able to move on, not only to stay sober, but just have it thrive, have a good life.” I can identify with that. There were a lot of things that I wouldn’t allow myself to really feel, until I started going a little deeper.

Brian Whitmer:

Right, and I would agree with that too, and that’s such a powerful thing because we as a society basically say it’s not okay to be angry, and not to feel your feelings and you’re supposed to look perfect, and you’re supposed to be this certain way. It’s very difficult to live up to all the rules that our parents teach us and society teaches us, and it’s a recipe for insanity. That’s the most important piece and really at the end of the day, it’s like we’re being codependent, and that codependency is I’m dependent on you to make me happy and you are dependent on me to make you happy. If that’s how I’m living, that sounds like all of my relationships, whether that was friends or girlfriends or whatever.

Brian Whitmer:

It’s like I’m going to hold somebody hostage because you make me feel a certain way in this whole idea.

Estil Wallace:

It’s just like the drugs and alcohol.

Brian Whitmer:

It is.

Estil Wallace:

It’s just like the sex, it’s just like the gambling.

Brian Whitmer:

It is.

Estil Wallace:

It’s just like the food and that’s why it happens when often, not always, but a lot of times when people get sober, guys and gals, they get sober, they put… How does it go? You put down the bottle, you pick up a fork.

Brian Whitmer:

Yes, exactly.

Estil Wallace:

You put down the fork, you pick up a credit card. You put down the credit cards, you pick up tinder, whatever it goes

Brian Whitmer:

Exactly.

Estil Wallace:

… but that’s what we do. It is, it’s a whack-a-mole.

Brian Whitmer:

Yup, it is.

Estil Wallace:

Because we’re not really talking about drugs and alcohol specifically as we’re talking about a misalignment between values and actions. I do not live up to the type of person I believe deep down I could, should or be.

Brian Whitmer:

Right, and I believe that, and part of that too is like I think that’s good for you, but I could never do that. That’s part of that negative self-talk is like it’s amazing that you can do that, but I could never be that.

Estil Wallace:

You’re so inspirational.

Brian Whitmer:

Yeah, exactly, right. All these things and the reality is like anybody can do it. I believe everybody can change. It’s a matter of a little bit of that want to and asking for the help. Actually I heard Hugh Jackman on the Tim Ferriss podcast we were talking about before, and he was talking about how in Australia because he’s from Australia that they make fun of Americans for always having a life coach or a therapist and all these things. He looked at it a little differently when he came to America, was that he looked at it and he said, “Well, Pavarotti had a voice coach till the day he died,” and he actually thinks views it as a strength that Americans ask for help and have therapy.

Estil Wallace:

Yeah, he gets coached like personally by Tony Robbins.

Brian Whitmer:

Yes, exactly. Yeah. He’s like, “I have my own life coach…”

Estil Wallace:

He said the life coach.

Brian Whitmer:

Yeah, the life coach, the inventor of life coaching is Tony Robbins. That’s his life coach, but yeah, that’s his whole thing, is like we need our coaching we need somebody to help get the best out of us, and that would be how I would define a coach.

Estil Wallace:

Yeah, I couldn’t agree more. We need help, all of us need help, even successful people need help. We need guidance. We need someone to vent to. We need somebody to bounce ideas of off.

Brian Whitmer:

Exactly, right.

Estil Wallace:

We need each other. We need this human connection. We need to have this experience together. That’s how we improve.

Brian Whitmer:

I agree, and I also think we need somebody in our life who can tell us no and tell us when our shit really stinks because it’s just a big echo chamber of people telling us how amazing we are. We’re not going to ever grow, we’re not going to get better, and then when the facade comes out, it’s like, “Well, why didn’t anybody tell you?” “Well, tell her to tell me.” It’s like, “Well, maybe I didn’t have the right people around me.” I think that’s important too. I think that for me, I have that kind of support group where it’s like they know me. I mean that’s another piece that I talk about when I share in meetings or whatever, is that you need to have a support group that’s as strong as your sponsor where they’re going to call you out on your shit, not just co-sign it and just go along with it.

Brian Whitmer:

Because I got friends who are like, I’ll go want to go complain about my wife or my kids and they’re like, “Yeah, well, let’s look at your behavior and what you said to start this whole thing,” and I’m like, “Oh, okay. I guess because you have a point there.” I mean really what I wanted somebody to bro up with me and say, “No, this is totally fucked up and you’re in the right and stuff,” and that does not happen. I think that’s like a good support group.

Estil Wallace:

It’s fantastic. I go to the same type of groups. Men’s accountability groups where we talk about gut level, like what’s going on in our lives, and then give each other feedback, honest feedback.

Brian Whitmer:

Yup, exactly. No.

Estil Wallace:

Yeah, and it’s not always, “Oh dude, you’re so great.” Sometimes it’s like, “Have you considered looking at it from this perspective?” It’s like, “Oh shit, here we go.”

Brian Whitmer:

Exactly, that’s right. Exactly. I know I’m in trouble when I get that. Yeah, exactly. No, that’s an important part of the recovery for me, and I think that part goes back to our isolation pieces. How do you build that connection…

Estil Wallace:

Over Zoom?

Brian Whitmer:

Yes, over Zoom. Exactly.

Estil Wallace:

Band-aid on the head wound?

Brian Whitmer:

Yes, exactly.

Estil Wallace:

You can, but it’s difficult to build-

Brian Whitmer:

It is.

Estil Wallace:

… but I think it can fill in the gap for people that are well-established.

Brian Whitmer:

Sure.

Estil Wallace:

I don’t know how to encourage new people to do Zoom meetings. We do obviously. I encourage people to get on Zoom meetings. I also encourage people and I’ll encourage anybody that’s listening to this or watching this, try calling central office for a 12-step meeting in your town.

Brian Whitmer:

Right. Sure.

Estil Wallace:

I would say get on Google and just Google search 12-step meetings near me, and if there’s a phone number, call the number. What you’ll find out there is you’ll find directories of Zoom meetings. It’s not well-established, but it’s starting to happen. You can get on Zoom meetings. I know it’ll probably be uncomfortable and weird, but I hope you do it. Also, the more you get into the 12-step groups and fellowships, you’ll find that some of them do meet in person, some of them do meet in parks. There are some meeting halls that are open. Some of them wear masks, some of them don’t. I mean you got to figure all that out in your city, in the place that you live, and I feel very fortunate like the lunch bunch over at crossroads, they don’t meet in the crossroads.

Estil Wallace:

It’s still shut down, but they meet at the park. I don’t even know that they meet every day at noon.

Brian Whitmer:

That’s amazing. Yeah, no, that’s fantastic.

Estil Wallace:

I don’t think you get lunch anymore.

Brian Whitmer:

No, no, that’s not the perk.

Estil Wallace:

No, but I think that’s what I would encourage anybody that’s listening or watching.

Brian Whitmer:

Well and I think that’s really goes back to the key, is that even when there’s meetings out there and I think that we’re very fortunate where we are in this part of the country, southwest has some of the best young people’s recovery, let alone recovery that there’s a meeting seven days a week 24/7, is that even though we have meetings 24/7 with that newcomer, there will be a million excuses as to why they can’t attend a meeting. The social isolation just because of a convenient excuse because regardless, even if it’s a Zoom meeting. you should still try to put yourself out there-

Estil Wallace:

Absolutely.

Brian Whitmer:

… and still throw yourself out there because it’s like there’s somebody out there who’s dying. There’s always that one person in a meeting who wants to help the newcomer. It may not be me or may not be you, but at the end of the day, if there’s somebody in there that’s their jam and that’s what they were put on life to do is to get to that AAA meeting and help that newcomer. If you throw it out there, you’ll find that person so always.

Estil Wallace:

Before we wrap up-

Brian Whitmer:

Sure.

Estil Wallace:

… give me a minute. Anything at all you want to say right here?

Brian Whitmer:

Recovery is possible for anybody. I fully believe that if you go to a meeting and you ask for help, you will find it, and powerless does not mean that you were powerless and it’s not a negative statement. It’s a part of humility, and humility is the key to staying clean and sober and just remember, we can’t change how the beginning happened, but we are in control of how the ending happens. Every day can be a new day, and we can absolutely make our lives better every day by taking a change, making that change every day. That’s what I got.

Estil Wallace:

Right on. That’s good stuff.

Brian Whitmer:

Cool.

Estil Wallace:

Well, Brian, thank you so much for being on today-

Brian Whitmer:

Yeah, thanks for having me.

Estil Wallace:

… and look forward to seeing you around soon.

Brian Whitmer:

All right, awesome. Thanks Estil.

Estil Wallace:

All right brother.

Brian Whitmer:

All right, thanks.