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The Nameless Recovery Show
Episode #8 Dan Nichols

Transcription

Estil Wallace:

You know what we’ll do, we’ll just leave the level three reflection cards in the middle while we record our podcast. Who knows what will happen?

Dan Nichols:

What does Estil not need to know about himself that he might not be aware of?

Estil Wallace:

We are rolling right into another episode of the Nameless Recovery Show. Today with me is my friend, colleague and competitor. His name is Dan Nichols. Owner, founding partner and clinical director at Scottsdale Providence Recovery Center.

Dan Nichols:

Yes.

Estil Wallace:

Beautiful. Thank you for coming on here.

Dan Nichols:

Glad to be here.

Estil Wallace:

Appreciate you.

Dan Nichols:

My first podcast.

Estil Wallace:

Your first one?

Dan Nichols:

Yeah.

Estil Wallace:

Sweet. We’re going to bring out the big guns. I’m just kidding. I really just want to talk about recovery. How long have you been sober?

Dan Nichols:

23 years.

Estil Wallace:

23 years. Well you don’t look all that old. So how old were you when you got sober?

Dan Nichols:

I was 19, a few days shy of 20.

Estil Wallace:

Dude, and you got sober here in Arizona.

Dan Nichols:

I got sober at ASU State University, living in Tempe. The last thing I ever wanted to do was get sober.

Estil Wallace:

Sure, me too.

Dan Nichols:

And I knew about AA and it was the last place I ever wanted to end up. You want to know why? Because that’s where people don’t get to drink anymore. Fuck that. Why would I want that? Why would anybody want that? My daughter told me the other day, she goes, “Dad, I hope I never,” she’s 17, “I hope I never use drugs or drink so much so I have to be sober forever.” I said, “Of course you do. Who would want that?” Being told you can never eat chocolate or have sex or-

Estil Wallace:

Yeah, it’s terrible.

Dan Nichols:

Why would you want that? Obviously we find out it’s the best thing that ever happened to us but… So it was the first thing that I was ever truly didn’t get what I wanted and found out it was the best thing for me. The first.

Estil Wallace:

There’s been many since then?

Dan Nichols:

A few horrible things that turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to me.

Estil Wallace:

What’s another one?

Dan Nichols:

A divorce. That was what I perceived as pretty horrible, and it turned out to be great. Couple separations too that I didn’t want. Worked out good.

Estil Wallace:

It’s funny how life operates sometimes.

Dan Nichols:

A career choice. I wanted to be an attorney.

Estil Wallace:

You make a great attorney.

Dan Nichols:

Yeah. I’m told that. I still don’t think I would have been a bad attorney, but I found my calling doing this.

Estil Wallace:

And that’s what I want to get into and that’s what I want to talk about. What was the career change where you got into this? What were you doing before this? You were talking about being an attorney, were you in law school?

Dan Nichols:

I wanted to go to law school. So I got a Criminal Justice bachelor’s degree and I ended up working on a restaurant. But then I got a job in treatment and I had some friends who worked at this kids’ treatment center called Park Place. I’m 22 years old-

Estil Wallace:

The one on Thomas?

Dan Nichols:

Yeah, but it was-

Estil Wallace:

A different one.

Dan Nichols:

Same one, but they actually moved to Chandler where the old charter hospital was.

Estil Wallace:

I have a crazy drug story about Park Place on Thomas.

Dan Nichols:

So my first sponsor used to work at that one on Thomas.

Estil Wallace:

Which is now crossroads Arcadia?

Dan Nichols:

Correct. So it moved and right about the time it moved, I applied. So I got in, some of my sober buddies work there. Sean McKesson, my co-founder at Providence worked there and my old sponsor and Reuben and bunch of people that were in young people’s AA, worked at this young people treatment center. And I found out I’m really good at it. And I was a tech in a place that was more money motivated than just about anything. It really wasn’t that 12-step based, it had a little bit… The old Thomas place, I think had roots in 12-step. This new place was more corporate treatment. And I had a couple of great things happen in that experience. Other than the fact that I just liked working with kids and criminals and drug addicts was, I had a supervisor pull me aside and tell me that there’s two types of people that work in this kind of field, people that come for just a check and people that actually give a shit.

Dan Nichols:

And he pointed me as one of the ones that gives a shit. And then he seconded it with, you’re never going to have any sway, pull or power unless you go get higher education. And he told me about this MSW that I didn’t know anything about. And he kind of pushed me in that direction, I didn’t take his advice in the moment. This guy was a cool story too. He was a jewel thief for the mob.

Estil Wallace:

Of course he was, why wouldn’t he be?

Dan Nichols:

And he wasn’t a made guy, he was a wise guy, connected guy, with the mobsters and he pulled this $2.5 million jewelry heist and got away with it and his girlfriend ratted on him a couple of years later. He did 10 years in prison and he got out of prison. He got out of prison a changed man, wanted to stay… He got sober in recovery in prison and he came out a changed man and wanted to help and give back. And he was so shady. This was 2000, he had this brand new yellow Corvette. And we were like, he’s a tech in a rehab, he’s all slick, always got nice suits on. Obviously he had a shoe box buried in the desert or something for the last 10 years. But he came out and he wanted to help people, and he was an early mentor in this profession for me. And he saw a lot of good in me.

Estil Wallace:

So then you went to school, got an MSW.

Dan Nichols:

Went to school, got an MSW. Did my time in public service, I did Child Protective Services back when it was CPS.

Estil Wallace:

How gnarly is that?

Dan Nichols:

It was brutal.

Estil Wallace:

Now it’s called DCS, DCFS. Department of Child and Family Services.

Dan Nichols:

Or Department of Child Safety. I had one of the worst zip codes in one of the worst populations. It was brutal. And I’m not cut out, I’m not a case manager. I found-

Estil Wallace:

That’s for social workers.

Dan Nichols:

Yes, but I’m a therapist, social worker. I’m not a great case manager. I’m a great therapist or a director or a leader, I’m not a good case manager. I hate making referrals so it wasn’t my strength. And then the job was tough and it was in a real rough area where we went, “Van Buren, which if you’re from Arizona you know that’s where the… ” And back in 2000 there was still a track and my recovery sort of helped me spot certain things in the field. But I wasn’t good at it, I didn’t love it. I ended up working with criminals for about eight years. People coming out of the BOP, which I know you know what that is. Bureau of Prison. Bureau of Prison, federal criminals.

Estil Wallace:

I’ve never been to prison.

Dan Nichols:

I know, but we just know some of the same people that been around. I figured you’d know the acronym. I worked at the Federal Halfway House for a couple years, and then I worked at TASC for a long time and I-

Estil Wallace:

Federal Halfway House at McDowell area. Central South Phoenix?

Dan Nichols:

It’s on Roosevelt, 28th Street.

Estil Wallace:

That was a crack neighborhood. I know exactly… I’ve been down there. I’ve spoken.

Dan Nichols:

You’ve spoke there. I know, I’m sure you have.

Estil Wallace:

I used to buy crack down there in the 90s.

Dan Nichols:

Yeah. So I ran into treatment there and then I… The TASC isn’t public treatment out here. I worked there for about eight years. I promoted all the way up from counselor to director.

Estil Wallace:

For anybody that doesn’t know what TASC is, what does TASC stand for?

Dan Nichols:

Treatment Assessment Screening Center. In the seventies, it was Treatment Alternatives to Street Crime. That was when it came out. It’s mainly known for pee.

Estil Wallace:

If you get in trouble in Maricopa County…I’m just looking at this. If you get in trouble in Maricopa County and you have to drop piss test, you’re going to TASC. Colors baby. I was on colors in fucking 2004. That was before cell phones, so I had to call every day. Now I’m sure it’s an app or something.

Dan Nichols:

They did come up with an app. Actually TASC is starting to lose. The way they treat people, the way they treat drug addicts like criminals. They treat people like they’re less than, and enough people have complained and the county attorney, and it’s a big moneymaking deal. TASC has gotten themselves… They’re smaller and smaller. There’s some good people that work at TASC. The CEO is a good guy, but they seem to be on a downtrend, unfortunately. It’s public treatment. The problem with that is you do a little bit for a lot of people, but it’s really just hoops people got to jump through. And there’s not a lot of people that are really willing to change.

Estil Wallace:

People come in there with fake dicks-

Dan Nichols:

All the time.

Estil Wallace:

All day, you get desensitized.

Dan Nichols:

And then they go, “Yeah, that wasn’t a pee check, that was a counselor.”

Estil Wallace:

Thank God. Can you imagine what’s a pee checker even make? Can we talk about this for a minute. What’s a pee checker make?

Dan Nichols:

Back then, 12 bucks an hour.

Estil Wallace:

Is it minimum wage?

Dan Nichols:

Yeah.

Estil Wallace:

Holy crap.

Dan Nichols:

Yeah and they deal with people talking crap to them all day. They’ve heard all the shit.

Estil Wallace:

Whipping out their fake, what do they call it? The whizzinator or whatever. The fake dicks. That’s crazy. I don’t mean to be insulting. If any of you check pee for a living, I feel for you. I hope you’re able to work your way up the ladder eventually.

Dan Nichols:

They’ve heard all the jokes. You like this, you’re this, you’re that. They’ve heard it all.

Estil Wallace:

So what were you doing?

Dan Nichols:

I was a counselor therapist. I ran groups. And it was almost more criminal treatment than substance abuse treatment [inaudible 00:09:23] both. It’s a different animal. When you’re dealing with criminal and drug addict popular, drug addicts they lie, they lie, they lie. Criminals are different. They’ll lie and then you owe them. There’s just a whole lot of that other aspect. I remember one time it was a three hour group and we took a 20 minute break in the middle, and it was from 5:30 to 8:30. And during the break I noticed I locked my keys in my car and I’m like, “I got a room full of criminals, any one of them can open the door.” Sure shit, I ask a couple of them to help. They’re taking off things off other people’s cars, they’re jemmying. They get it open and I’m super grateful. Thanks a lot guys. We go back in the room and they said, “So you’re showing us a movie now.” I said, “What the fuck you talking about?” They were like, “We just fixed your car. You’re showing us a movie now.”

Dan Nichols:

I said, “So I owe you now. So you had an opportunity to do something for free and for fun and expect nothing in return. But instead you showed your true colors, that you really need to be in this group. You really need to be learning about your criminal thinking. Because that’s a bunch of bullshit. Actually, I’m not showing another movie for another month.” And they were like, “Shit, we fucked up.” Yeah. But that’s the criminal population. A warm, genuine thank you was what they got from me, and that wasn’t enough. I owed them.

Estil Wallace:

So, how long were you at TASC?

Dan Nichols:

Eight years ish.

Estil Wallace:

That’s a long time.

Dan Nichols:

Maybe six. Six, seven.

Estil Wallace:

And then what gave you the idea to start Providence?

Dan Nichols:

So that was the dream back when I was a tech and I’d kind of forgotten that dream. This is 2000, 2001.

Estil Wallace:

You’re like one day, we will help drug addicts and I will be the clinical director and we will jam these motherfuckers up and we’ll tell them the truth.

Dan Nichols:

And I won’t have a therapist telling me I’m doing it wrong, because I don’t have letters behind my name.

Estil Wallace:

Now you’ve got a bunch of letters behind your name.

Dan Nichols:

Now I got letters behind my name. Yeah my friend, Sean moved from California and this was 2016 and he approached me and he said Hey, I want to start a rehab with you. I don’t think you get it. There’s a bunch of people that have no idea what they’re doing and they’re starting treatment centers and they’re actually somewhat being successful at least financially, and I think we can do it a lot better. It’s an American fucking dream.

Dan Nichols:

And he knew me, he knows my character, he knows my passion and he knows I also have letters behind my name. He had worked as a case manager in a big treatment center that had just went through all this ugly politics that he wasn’t happy with and that place ended up being community recovery all over the news, the guys in prison that did it. And he said, “I think we can do this better.” And his girlfriend at the time, also my other partner. She said, “I’ve worked in admissions for a bunch of different treatment centers. I can fill them up if you guys can treat them.” And we started from there. I didn’t know anything about some of the things about this business. I’d never heard patient [inaudible 00:12:32]. I worked in public treatment.

Estil Wallace:

And I never knew about…

Dan Nichols:

This is funny. I didn’t know about $3 piss tests. I worked at TASC, they’re 20 bucks. So I didn’t know any of the answers. I didn’t know insurance, I didn’t know anything. I knew how to treat alcoholics and drug addicts. And I knew how to treat some mental health too. So that was the deal man.

Estil Wallace:

And that’s one of the cool things about Providence. Is you guys do dual diagnosis, truly dual diagnosis.

Dan Nichols:

Yeah, we do straight mental health.

Estil Wallace:

You can do straight mental health.

Dan Nichols:

Yeah. And that wasn’t my passion going into it. It was a niche that we noticed in the community and-

Estil Wallace:

Definitely a service gap.

Dan Nichols:

A service gap in the community, and I hired people that that was their passion. And I still run the substance abuse-

Estil Wallace:

Because we don’t do it here. We’ll take something co-occurring [inaudible 00:13:20] but it’s got to be mild.

Dan Nichols:

So I’ll still stay active with the substance abuse track and I’ve hired therapists that are more passionate and better at mental health. Not that I don’t get it, it’s all the same shit, which I think you get. But a lot of the same shit.

Estil Wallace:

It’s interesting. Just because we don’t get into it very far here. And we just engineered it that way.

Dan Nichols:

When I talk about-

Estil Wallace:

So I’m fascinated that you guys do it.

Dan Nichols:

When I talk about mental health, a lot of the key mental health are depression, anxiety, anger which I believe are our three ways to cope with a lot of the same shit. And to simplify it, depression is I suck or fuck me. Anger is, that’s easy, fuck you, you suck. And anxiety is, I don’t know what sucks, everything sucks, it’s hopeless.

Estil Wallace:

This is overwhelming.

Dan Nichols:

This is overwhelming, everything sucks. And a lot of those are the core, and a lot of the core beliefs and the core ways we think are intertwined in those three simple concepts. How do I deal when things don’t go my fucking way? Is it everything sucks? Is it I suck? Or is it you suck? And I don’t know about you, but I know even in my own recovery, I got sober and I had a big depression, self-pity problem. I also had somewhat of an anxiety problem. The anxiety went away with the trust in the God and the working through. The self-pity I got so sick and tired of that I had to find a way to turn that over. But I started to develop an anger problem, which I don’t remember having before. I didn’t like myself enough to be angry.

Dan Nichols:

And I realized later that this anger problem became a way that I started dealing with life and it started to hurt me just as much as the depression and anxiety ever did, if not more. It’s a different set of pain that comes with it. The shame, I push people away, I end up alone. My pride raises through the roof. I start losing. And whether I’m shame-based or prideful, it’s two opposite ends of the same piece of shit that suck. And in the middle we have what we strive for, which is this humility. Which I know I want it, I’m not afraid of it, I want it for the right reasons, yet it’s so hard to hold onto because I don’t think it’s going to serve me.

Estil Wallace:

It does until it feels like it might not. Then you’re like, you got to take the reins again.

Dan Nichols:

I got to take the reins. And I pick up…

Estil Wallace:

When you describe it that way, it doesn’t sound so intimidating. It’s how we treat addiction.

Dan Nichols:

Yeah. I don’t pick up… All we’re dealing with is mental health…

Estil Wallace:

We sober up the horse thief, and then we treat the horse thievery.

Dan Nichols:

Exactly. You’ve been sober 14, 15 years?

Estil Wallace:

16 years.

Dan Nichols:

16 years. I’ve been sober 23. You don’t reach for a drink when you’re struggling anymore, you reach for a character defect that used to work for you. You know drinking and using isn’t going to work for you, so you’ll reach for a character defect. And like my pride, my anger is going to help me this time because it used to. Or this is actually worthy of my self-pity. Or-

Estil Wallace:

I know justified anger is supposed to be bad, but I’m really fucking justified in this one.

Dan Nichols:

Yeah. But you survey 200 random people and 198 of them are going to tell you they’d be pissed too. And the deal is I realized that I can actually have justified anger in a way, if I know how to treat and I know how to cope with anger. It’s okay for me to go up to you and say, “Estil, I’m upset by what you did.” or “I’m angry with you.” It’s not okay for me to go, fuck you Estil. Get the fuck out of my way and get the fuck out of my life. And I didn’t know how to do that. “Hey, I’m upset.”

Estil Wallace:

How to go 45 and not 90.

Dan Nichols:

I didn’t know how to be assertive. We all know how to be passive, passive-aggressive, and aggressive.

Estil Wallace:

And aggressive-aggressive.

Dan Nichols:

And assertive-aggressive. I’ll be assertive until I need to be aggressive. So just learning, so that’s mental health. But that’s also addiction. I’m not reaching for a drink when I have a problem anymore. I haven’t had the thought of drinking since I was nine months sober.

Estil Wallace:

I’ve been sober a long time, 16 years, and I see a therapist regularly. And she asked me why I showed up there. She’s like “Is there something specific we need to look at?” And I was like, “I’ll leave that to you to decide, but I really just want to optimize. I don’t want to live in an echo chamber. I want somebody who’s trained professional to call me on my shit.”

Dan Nichols:

There you go. How’s that working out for you?

Estil Wallace:

Great. I’ve been seeing her a year. She’s fantastic. Should have been doing it the whole time.

Dan Nichols:

Don’t should yourself. I’m glad I started doing this a year ago.

Estil Wallace:

I’m glad I started doing this a year ago. It’s a better way to say it.

Dan Nichols:

Bad words are things like should and deserve. What the fuck do I know what I deserve? I can tell you I deserve more, I can tell you I got way more than I’ve ever deserved. Deserves’ a term that I’m not allowed to fucking say. I’m not even allowed to say I deserve love. I can say I’m worth love and I can certainly say I’ve earned something, but I don’t know what I deserve. Because like you and me, if we got what we deserved, we might be dead or in prison or-

Estil Wallace:

Sure.

Dan Nichols:

Lock away the key.

Estil Wallace:

And you can’t serve up one deserve without the whole menu. If I’m getting what I deserve then let’s go all the way down the line. It’s not good.

Dan Nichols:

And there’s some people out there that might think I deserve a whole lot of good, but there might be some other people that don’t think I deserve that good. And I don’t think they’re right or they’re right. Should’s a bad word, ought’s a bad word, always and never.

Estil Wallace:

Should, always and never.

Dan Nichols:

I never say always unless I always… Just kidding. You get it.

Estil Wallace:

Try to be conscious not to use always and never. And on that train-

Dan Nichols:

I rarely like to use always and never. So it’s almost like saying I don’t want to make promises I can’t keep. It’s hard to keep the promise to always. You can tell your child, I’ll always love you. But you can’t say I’ll always be there.

Estil Wallace:

And that’s an interesting observation of just human life. It’s all a moving target.

Dan Nichols:

I’m not always right. I’m just not often wrong.

Estil Wallace:

Sead likes to say, “I’d say I’m wrong, but then we’d both be wrong.” Or “I’d say you’re right but then we’d both be wrong. Something like that.

Dan Nichols:

I got a thing on my desk that my girlfriend gave me and it says, “Let’s compromise, we’ll do it my way.”

Estil Wallace:

So here’s a question I like to ask, people that come on the show. Always, every time. I often like to ask this question. What do drug addicts look like?

Dan Nichols:

What do drug addicts look like? Alcoholics and drug addicts? Drug addicts?

Estil Wallace:

Anything.

Dan Nichols:

They look like everyday people.

Estil Wallace:

There you go.

Dan Nichols:

Everyone knows that.

Estil Wallace:

Do they?

Dan Nichols:

I had someone asked me once-

Estil Wallace:

What about your son and his fucking druggie friends?

Dan Nichols:

Someone asked me once. And she worked at the Arizona State Hospital on the sex offender ward. And not to go too far political on this, but like she goes, “What do sex offenders look like?” And I said, I assume they look like everyday people. She goes, “No, they look like sex offenders.”

Estil Wallace:

I don’t even know what that means.

Dan Nichols:

Alcoholics-

Estil Wallace:

It’s funny that she said that.

Dan Nichols:

… are big, small, black, white, man, woman, rich, poor, they’re very diverse. And alcoholism or drug addiction doesn’t give a shit. And whether it’s learned through trauma, whether it’s passed on through genetics, whether it’s observed and learned, whether it’s through peer pressure, whether it’s earned through bitter experience of pouring enough drugs and alcohol in my body until I become an addict. Which answer do you think it is out of those five I just listed roughly off the top of my head. What’s the answer. Which one?

Estil Wallace:

Combination.

Dan Nichols:

Yes. The answer is yes. It’s through trauma, genetic, earned, all of it, or most of it.

Estil Wallace:

Give or take some of that for a lot of people.

Dan Nichols:

And I assume we’re talking about this to somehow talk about how to treat drug addiction.

Estil Wallace:

Yeah the whole point of this, of us having this conversation on a camera with microphones is to expose to the outside world what addiction really is, who it affects and how, and what recovery really is. I think that we’ve done a good job as a society, as reducing stigma around addiction, but not around recovery.

Dan Nichols:

Then that’s good because you know this, and I know this, one of the frustrations with working in recovery is you’ll have somebody tell you point blank, whether they’re in your treatment center or whether you’re working with them in the recovery community. You’ll say, “Are you a drug addict?” And they say, “Yes, I am.” And then the next thing out of their mouth is something that’s in direct opposition of what a drug addict is. Then they’ll say something like, “And I bet if I just get 90 days sober, I’ll have this thing licked.” And I’m like, “Stop right there. You just told me you’re a drug addict. So if that’s the case, then 90 days sober isn’t going to change that. The only thing that’s going to change that is change.

Dan Nichols:

You need to change. The guy you are now will get loaded. And if you don’t do any work between now and 90 days, you’re going to get loaded. The guy you are now gets loaded again and needs to change. Whatever it is you’re doing and whatever the cause of drug addiction is, and the reality is it doesn’t freaking matter. It’s how to treat it and maintain it and recover from it. That’s what matters.”

Dan Nichols:

If we could say, “I go to the cause, I fix the cause, and now the drug addiction is gone. It’s not that simple. So I interviewed a therapist once, maybe you’ve heard me tell this story. She said, “I think there’s a huge trauma aspect to addiction.” And I said, “Absolutely.” And I said, “So, what do you think then? I heal their trauma, they can go drink and use successfully now?”

Estil Wallace:

What’d she say?

Dan Nichols:

She said, “No.” And I’m like, “So healing their trauma is important. And maybe they need to heal their trauma if they’re ever going to be comfortable sober, but we ain’t. That ship has sailed. If they’re a drug addict or an alcoholic, I don’t know how to reverse that process and teach them how to drink and use like gentlemen.

Estil Wallace:

Once pickles become… Cucumbers become pickles.

Dan Nichols:

You know what’s ironic is I was just in New York and I had this pickle, but it was a half pickle, half cucumber. It was not fully pickled. And I was like, “This thing doesn’t know if it’s a pickle or a cucumber.” And of course I’ve thought about, and maybe there’s some sort of scale of how alcoholic or drug addict you are. And if you’re a 10, you’re all the way pickled. And if you’re only a five, maybe there’s some way to… But just to the extent. Just to the extent that I’ve lost control, that’s how much recovery I need.

Estil Wallace:

And that’s the difficulty of it. At what point do I throw in the towel? At what point do I go, “You’re probably right. This is a little fucked up.”

Dan Nichols:

90 days sober ain’t going to do me any good.

Estil Wallace:

Usually when the identified patient, whether that’s myself or somebody I know, or somebody checking in, by the time they are usually saying, “Yeah, I probably should get this in check,” everyone in their family is not even answering the phone anymore. It’s already like, go get sober, don’t get sober, just fuck off.

Dan Nichols:

Well, hopefully. For all the families out there, you’ll either make or break treatment.

Estil Wallace:

That’s 100% true.

Dan Nichols:

And making it is a slow, long, patient process. And it only takes one bad decision to break it. And a lot of families don’t understand how they’re somewhat even tied to the alcoholic being sick. They’re like, “I’m not tied to it. I hate it.”

Estil Wallace:

We don’t introduce family systems theory to families until we start getting them ready for our version of family day here. And then our clinical director sends out an email and kind of, you start to get some basics, just some real loose language so they understand. And yet you get a lot of aha moments calm and grounded. They’re like-

Dan Nichols:

Yeah, I’ve made some mistakes. And it’s the whole difference between helping versus enabling and doing something for them that they can’t do for themselves. And so, but this whole concept, what does an addict look like? I’ll tell you what an addict is. This is my understanding of that. I got four, not just three.

Estil Wallace:

This is good.

Dan Nichols:

Number one is when they start start using, they don’t know how to stop. Not every time, not consistently and not when they need to. Not every time.

Estil Wallace:

Don’t know when the credits are going to roll.

Dan Nichols:

Number two, when they decide it’s probably a good idea for me to slow down or stop, they’re unable to hold to their own personal commitments they make to themselves. It’s called they change their mind. Because they changed their mind. In spite of evidence that they shouldn’t change their mind, strong evidence. There’s this mental health or spiritual component that’s damaged, wounded, weak that the alcohol actually provides relief from.

Estil Wallace:

Damaged, wounded, weak.

Dan Nichols:

Yeah. So there’s some people that believe this and some people don’t. I’m one of the people that does. I believe alcohol treats alcoholism, in a way. It treats the condition, this third piece that I’m talking about. People drink because initially it provided relief, fun, enjoyment super powers, whatever you want to call it. People drink and use for the benefits. And it’s usually positive initially. Just like that we were talking about earlier when my pride served me at some point. Now it’s crushing me, but at some point it I stood up to the bully, or I went and did something on my own, or I didn’t take shit from nobody. And then the girl thought that was cute and came over and liked me.

Dan Nichols:

At some point, but later in life, that same girl hates my guts. Because I won’t listen to anything, because I’m prideful. Alcohol became the same thing. It became this thing that treated my spiritual condition. And then later turned on me and became, doubled down, meshed up and worse. Made my spiritual condition worse than it ever was. And then I didn’t even get the relief anymore and it still demanded I come back to it.

Dan Nichols:

So that’s the third piece. Is this broken piece of me. And then the fourth piece is some part of this whole process of the first three makes my life unmanageable. Because if it didn’t, what’s the point. It’s much easier for me to admit powerlessness than unmanageability, because if I can be addicted to something, but who cares, then why do anything about it? The unmanageable creates the buy-in. But the unmanageable isn’t really even the nature, it’s just the result of the first three.

Estil Wallace:

And everybody’s unmanageable, it can be a little different.

Dan Nichols:

Yeah. My unmanageable can be like, I got a dirty look from my wife and I’d never told myself I’d never resort to that. And that really made me take a look inside and realize things spun out of control. Unmanageable can be a 15 year prison sentence for somebody else. At some point, I came to my own realization that the unmanageability was only going to increase, not decrease over time, no matter what. There was no chance I drink and use safely. Because I have this thing, and that thing is these first three. There might be a temporary relief in victory again, but at some point it’s going to turn on me. And who that affects is… Studies vary, they used to say 10% of the population, I personally educatedly believe it’s more than the 20% that have some sort of addiction. [inaudible 00:29:38] some sort of substance.

Estil Wallace:

The numbers I’ve seen are 15% to 20% so I’m with you. And I don’t think that’s a hundred. That’s not, that’s an average.

Dan Nichols:

When we’re using we think everybody’s an addict. The reality is 80%.

Estil Wallace:

That’s really funny. Because I was reading The Big Book for the first time ever in a jail cell. Having one of those have you guys seen this kind of moments. And I’m reading it and I’m asking somebody and they’re like, “The fuck you reading that 12-step book for?” And I was like, “Have you seen this? It’s just like me.” And they’re like, “That’s fucking weird, bro.”

Dan Nichols:

It’s a book.

Estil Wallace:

And I remember thinking this isn’t for everyone? And then when I started going to meetings and then getting into recovery and then reentering the world, then I started to see. Because it was like I was only around people like me. And then I got into recovery, it was also only around people like me, but who were also newly sober. And then as I started to work and get my credit score and meet people and just rejoin society, then I started to realize. I was like, “People are all very similar, but not everybody has this crazy fucked up problem I have.”

Dan Nichols:

We all have a human condition. Or some sort of spiritual malady.

Estil Wallace:

The spiritual. You want to talk about that for a second? I have a strong opinion.

Dan Nichols:

It’s probably similar to mine.

Estil Wallace:

I’ll just give you mine and then I want to let you just go. I believe that spirituality… I described spirituality or spiritual growth as the struggle to find alignment between my inward value structure and my actions. Trying to make those one thing, to me that’s spirituality.

Dan Nichols:

That’s pretty good. Principle centered. Can I live up to my own principles? My own values.

Estil Wallace:

Purpose driven. Think Maslow’s hierarchy of needs pyramid, working towards the top.

Dan Nichols:

To self efficacy? No, self actualization.

Estil Wallace:

Which isn’t me being the best thing ever, it’s me being what I could be. Me becoming. Me iteratively becoming more effective at whatever it is my purpose is. And for me, my purpose is to do this. Is to be [inaudible 00:31:50].

Dan Nichols:

I thought of spirituality like many people ignorantly think of, and I use the word ignorantly with love. Ignorantly think of as a type of religion and when I found out spirituality is a very broad topic and concept, where it can be directly in alignment with religion, or it can be something that doesn’t go with religion at all and it can still be spirituality if indeed like it says. Synonyms for what you said are my inner self, or my conscience, or… And it’s a lot of synonyms with some of the Western religious philosophy. But this concept that inside me there’s this good and this evil. And when I was in my addiction, evil was winning.

Estil Wallace:

At night in the garden of good and evil. I think that’s one of the things that I think adds to the stigma around recovery. What am I going to be made? Is it a cult? And yes, it kind of is, It’s a little culty. And I can remember being… So I’ve told this story before. A guy that brought meetings into Durango jail when I was there, it’s little Jewish guy. Wonderful human being, literally saved my life, carried the message to me so that I heard it for the first time, heard it, heard it. And our bottoms are different. He is what I would consider more of a high bottom, and he’s therapist too. He’s wonderful guy, he’s fucking amazing. I get into a halfway house. I get on the van, I have no idea where we’re going. We end up going to Solutions. We go up to crossroads.

Dan Nichols:

I already knew which one it was.

Estil Wallace:

I go into big Tuesday night meeting, and across the way I see him, “It’s that same dude.” To him, it’s just a Tuesday, to me, this is a fucking sign. After the meeting, we break to pray. I run over, put my arm around him, and I’m like, “Hey dude, you remember me?” He’s like, “Not really.” He’s like, “You look familiar.” He’s like, “Have we met?” I’m like, “Yeah.” I’m like, “You changed my life a couple of months ago, in jail.” He’s like, “Oh, Durango. Okay, I remember you now.”

Dan Nichols:

On the inside?

Estil Wallace:

Yeah. So we’re sitting there. I’m trying to remind him who I am, and then we do the Lord’s Prayer. I’m raised Lutheran, and it hits me like a ton of cold bricks. I’m like, “This prayer doesn’t bother you?” This is exactly his response to me, because I’m on his left, he looks up and he goes, “Nah.” And I was like, “Dude, this place is crazy.” This dude doesn’t care. He doesn’t care it’s a Christian prayer. He’s like Yamaka, super Jewish.

Dan Nichols:

He’s like, “Mm-hmm Yeah.”

Estil Wallace:

Didn’t bother him at all. I was like, “Dude, this is weird. This recovery thing is strange. It’s bizarre.” And I got beyond curious. I was absolutely obsessed with what you guys did in recovery. I had no idea what this was about.

Dan Nichols:

Piqued your curiosity.

Estil Wallace:

Dude, it’s like I started eating mushrooms and I’ve been micro-dosing ever since. It’s literally what it feels like. I was getting tattooed, I told the guy that and he was like, “It’s like a micro-dosing right now.” I’m like, “That’s so cool.” I’m like, “I’ve been micro-dosing for 16 years, except there’s nothing in my system. Just unraveling, I was just picking up the breadcrumb trail. I’m unraveling this mystery. It’s bonkers, blows me away.” He’s like, “Tell me more about the trail.” I’m like, “Yeah, let’s get into it.”

Dan Nichols:

Spirituality.

Estil Wallace:

Spirituality, spirituality.

Dan Nichols:

Spirituality.

Estil Wallace:

So Providence is doing great.

Dan Nichols:

We just had one of the biggest miracles come through.

Estil Wallace:

Tell me.

Dan Nichols:

She might’ve been in the bottom 5%. I told her this in her graduation, so I’m not talking behind her back. Nothing. I wouldn’t say your face. Bottom 5% sickest people. She was referred by her sister who had gone through our program and was successful for a mental health primary. But this client was for substance abuse, and mental health, and bottom 5%, not much hope for her. She probably came in as a -5 and left at a six. And that’s 11 point swing in 90 days. What a transformation.

Estil Wallace:

That’s huge.

Dan Nichols:

And that’s exactly what it takes to stay sober, is change. She changed from the person she came in as. And the third day I told her, “This ain’t fucking Burger King. If you want it your way, you can get the fuck out of here.” Because I was so tired of her shit. And just in the gutter telling me how to run my program and-

Estil Wallace:

That’s the best.

Dan Nichols:

She didn’t and we battled for another couple of weeks until she kind of finally surrendered. She also was probably in a bit of a psychosis, vacillating between, “I want to stay. Get me out of here.” It reminded me of Gollum, from Lord of the rings, “I love the precious. The master is going to kill us.” She would just vacillate right in front of your eyes, not the day to day, second to second. And she was in total denial that she was coming off meth. She was sober, because she hadn’t drank in a couple of years. She came to us high on meth, that’s sober.

Estil Wallace:

Meth looks like Schizoaffective to the untrained eye.

Dan Nichols:

So it was metham-

Estil Wallace:

Pretty rough.

Dan Nichols:

Amphetamine induced psychosis on some level to the who she was. And I told her, I’m like, “You are beautiful inside and out.” 50 year old woman, she’s leaving her toxic relationship. Not on her choice, but it was probably the right choice. She’s moving out to be near her sister, start her life over through the steps in her recovery program. Has a sponsor and just passionate about life again. And I told her, I said, “You went from a -5 to a six, and this is why we do what we do.”

Estil Wallace:

It’s amazing.

Dan Nichols:

And I said, “You still got a long way to go.”

Estil Wallace:

But you saw it in her, you can see the change.

Dan Nichols:

It’s undeniably different.

Estil Wallace:

This is what I really like getting into. And this is one of the more difficult things to articulate, but what happens to a person when they shift? When the paradigm shifts and they go from being-

Dan Nichols:

What they were.

Estil Wallace:

Being what they were, the person they were, to the person they’re becoming. What is that? How do you describe it? People call it psychic change, spiritual awakening-

Dan Nichols:

Spiritual experience.

Estil Wallace:

Turning the corner, spiritual experience, but what is it? Can we just not name it something? Can you tell me what it is?

Dan Nichols:

Well, I think on a core level, Estil, they start wanting to live more than they want to die, if you want me to get hardcore about it. On some level, they wanted to die more than they wanted to live. And now they want to live more than they want to die, even if it’s just a little bit.

Estil Wallace:

51%?

Dan Nichols:

Even if it’s 51% or 62%, I remember the idea of self love, when I was in early recovery, seemed near impossible and very far away. I would have settled with just being okay with who I am. I would have settled for just being okay with myself. I just didn’t want to hate myself anymore.

Estil Wallace:

Me too.

Dan Nichols:

So she had gotten to that place where she was most of the time okay with herself. Sometimes happy with herself, maybe a fraction of herself loved herself and hated herself less often. And that’s it. And how she got there, is she did the work. She did the work and individualized to her what that work was, was brought about with the therapeutic team, and it’s not a one size fit all kind of deal, but there’s some common elements. And she did a lot of those common elements that were particular to her. And it wasn’t as total straight line like we talked about, but then it hit the rocket button into the fourth dimension. And a lot of times it correlates with how they’re doing in therapy, how they’re doing with their trauma work, where they’re at with a sponsor, are they doing steps and what step are they on?

Dan Nichols:

These intangible things that don’t make sense on how they make such a big impact, but you see a change from somebody on step four to step eight. And you just see a difference like, “Whoa!” And this shift is their attitude, really. All of a sudden, it’s just a little bit easier to be grateful. All of a sudden I’m accepting things a little bit more. All of a sudden, I’m taking responsibility a little bit deeper, maybe I used to be able to admit fault, but I never knew how to take responsibility. Or maybe I’m following through on commitments now or just the change starts to happen.

Estil Wallace:

It’s a miracle.

Dan Nichols:

It’s an e-fing miracle.

Estil Wallace:

And we’re literally in the business, our personal lives and in our professional lives, of helping to create an environment where that happens regularly to people. It’s bonkers.

Dan Nichols:

So someone said, it was a sports radio guy that I listened to, but I guess he worked in a rehab for three years, and he said, “My experience working at a rehab, it was two things that got people to change, culture and grit. The culture of the program and the grit of the individual. I like that. And this person was not 12 step at all, he just worked in a rehab as a bouncer tech and a-

Estil Wallace:

Bouncer tech, fight breaker upper-

Dan Nichols:

Or maybe he just wanted to help people that were suffering, but he had no personal experience with addiction, I don’t believe. But he saw culture and grit. So I know your program has a huge culture component as ours does, which is why I respect your program, because you care about culture and you know how to create a culture. I know some of the individuals that work with you that helped create that. Same with us, so the culture is important and then it comes down to that person. We say around recovery, the only thing I can’t give you is willingness. Sometimes there’s that grit too, because sometimes it takes grit to surrender that difficult thing. Or to be willing to do that uncomfortable action, to walk through that pain, to let go of control, all these things that are essential for me to get some change. Because as we all know my fricking way didn’t work out so well, now did it? And their way didn’t work out so well, it usually wasn’t on their plan.

Estil Wallace:

I think of all the ingredients that go into the miracle recipe, I think a large percentage, is that ability, that willingness to let go. Because I think as a well-balanced healthy individual, there’s a constant tension between, what I’m pushing for, what I’m driving at, and what I’m willing to accept, and what I’m willing to just let go of without giving it too much thought. And that’s just kind of a push-pull all the time, but it’s somebody who’s highly dysregulated, somebody who can’t stay sober, somebody’s drinking away their feelings on a daily basis, somebody’s smoking crack in the bathroom, that person, that guy. Yet they’re typically like, “It has to be fucking this way.” And you’re like, “Not going to be that way. It’s not that way now. You got to make friends with what is, at some point.”

Estil Wallace:

And it seems like one of the big elements, you said it like three times in your description, it really stood out to me, when people start to make friends with what is, they do, they shift a little bit. They’re like, “Uh-huh.” I like it when people are like, “How long do I have to stay?” It’s like, “I don’t know. Three months, six months. It might be nine months then you’ll work here. It’s really hard to say.” And when people are okay with that-

Dan Nichols:

They have a great chance.

Estil Wallace:

Those guys have seemed to have a better chance, yes.

Dan Nichols:

The people that don’t dictate their own treatment experience. Sometimes I have to say, “Listen, you, your family and me, together make the treatment decision. Not you, not me, not your family, but if we can do this together, we have a decent shot. But if you’re calling the shots, it’s not going to work. If I’m calling the shots, eventually you need to learn to think for yourself and you need to take ownership of your own recovery. And if your family is calling the shots, you’re just going to resent them for it, or whatever. And your family helped create what brought you here too. So but if we can all work together and you can take ownership of it and surrender that if it isn’t your way, but the therapist and the family feel otherwise, and you can agree to that, “Okay. Well, if you guys know what’s best for me, then I’ll do what you think is best. Because I obviously don’t know what’s best for me because I’m a fucking drug addict who makes bad decisions. Like you said, I don’t know how to line up my intentions to my actions.

Estil Wallace:

I got great intentions.

Dan Nichols:

Of course. And then there’s a whole nother thing, maybe some people don’t have great intentions now, do they? Pretty ignorant to think that I’d let my five year old daughter walk down the street by herself, if I thought everyone’s intentions were good, but I don’t. And my daughter is seven now and I still don’t know if I want her walking down the street by herself, because I can sit there and full of philosophize about how other people’s intentions could or should be, but I ain’t going to fucking bet on them, no. I like this question, can I answer?

Estil Wallace:

Yeah. You want me to ask it?

Dan Nichols:

No, I want to ask it. Or I want to answer it. You can ask it, yes.

Estil Wallace:

Okay, I’ll ask you, “What parts of yourself do you see in me?”

Dan Nichols:

One of the first things I liked about you and I saw in myself, that I see in you, and you have it more than I ever did, and I had a lot of it, is the hunger to help new people. That-

Estil Wallace:

It’s huge man. I want to hug you.

Dan Nichols:

That hunger to help other people that you had in your Solution days, that’s translated into your professional work. I’ve always known that about you. And you weren’t around because when I had the hunger quite as heavy as you had it, because I kind of got busy and I don’t know, I still have it, but I didn’t run my own halfway house out of my own home, like I did for my first four years sober. And how many people got sober on my couch? A lot. But they ain’t getting sober on my couch now, because I have a 17 year old daughter who I’m just not going to expose to that. There are a select few people that I know are safe, might be able to get sober on my couch. If you’ve got loaded, I might let you get sober on my couch.

Estil Wallace:

We are neighbors.

Dan Nichols:

I know.

Estil Wallace:

If Nicole locked me out.

Dan Nichols:

So that’s one huge part. Obviously you’re a good leader and I can see some of that in me. You’re a straightforward, straight shooter, I can see that in me. So yeah I see a lot of good parts. Any bad parts? I don’t know, we could be called egotistical probably by some.

Estil Wallace:

Absolutely.

Dan Nichols:

Probably heard the N-word before in your life, narcissist. I don’t agree with it, but you probably heard it. If you’re smart and capable, someone’s going to call you that. You don’t like that one, pass.

Estil Wallace:

Marcus and I just played this game. We just sat down to place. I go-

Dan Nichols:

He’d be fun to play with.

Estil Wallace:

I said, “Hey Marcus, I got this really strange game. It’s called, we’re not really strangers. It’s where you ask each other a bunch of really personal shit. You feel like mic-ing up and do it on camera first time ever.” He’s like, “Fuck it. Sure.”

Dan Nichols:

That’s Marcus.

Estil Wallace:

We get hour of us crying and asking each other really fucking deep questions.

Dan Nichols:

What is the lesson you will take away from our conversation?

Estil Wallace:

To never say always, no.

Dan Nichols:

It’s fine.

Estil Wallace:

What’s the lesson I’ll take away from today’s conversation. That mental health, just like the ism of alcoholism has roots that are not so difficult to understand. That was a big shift for me. That’s an aha moment for me today.

Dan Nichols:

How would you describe me to a stranger?

Estil Wallace:

I’ve done this a few times. “Super sober guy in recovery, over the top enthusiastic. I fell in love with him the minute I met him. And they’re like, “why? Sounds interesting.” I’m like, “He’s fascinating…” I would describe you as, incredibly intelligent, articulate, very authentic, no bullshit and your energy vibration, I don’t know if it’s too high for other people, but I love it.

Dan Nichols:

It’s a little intense.

Estil Wallace:

It’s your little high frequency. You idle it like 45. And I like that because I kind of do too. And I think you’re more turned up than I am, but I like it. I like your energy. The energy you bring to a room, to a situations relationships is high and it’s positive, you’re very optimistic. You got a real up and over kind of attitude about obstacles in your way. And in talking to you, I feel like I’ve known you my whole life. Literally our first conversation in a coffee shop in a grocery store, never met before, we sat down and we talked for 20 minutes and then I felt like we’re roommates or something. I feel known each other for years. You’re an A+ human being.

Dan Nichols:

Thank you. I appreciate that and take it all as a compliment. Some people have a potency factor and you basically told me I’m potent, and I want to be potent.

Estil Wallace:

You are.

Dan Nichols:

I don’t want to be a bad potent, but I’d rather be bad potent than nothing potent. You know, Eric Owen?

Estil Wallace:

Yeah. Of course.

Dan Nichols:

He’s a friend of ours. First time I met that dude-

Estil Wallace:

Love Eric.

Dan Nichols:

He was new, and I was like,” I don’t know if this guy is good or bad, but he’s potent.” I was not wrong. He was nine months sober. I was like, “I don’t know if I like him. I don’t know if I don’t. I don’t know if he’s good. I don’t know if he’s bad. I think he’s a whole lot of both.”

Estil Wallace:

He’s a lot.

Dan Nichols:

But he’s potent, I was not wrong. And he ended up doing a whole lot of good things for recovery and himself.

Estil Wallace:

He’s amazing. There are some epic stories… He’ll forever be an icon and a legend in this valley.

Dan Nichols:

So you kind of reminded me somewhat of him, sober up people on my couch, drag him to the halfway house, drag him out of the halfway house. And you kept it up for awhile. It’s hard to keep that up, life gets busy.

Estil Wallace:

Life gets busy.

Dan Nichols:

Some of us would love to do more work as it says in recovery literature. But we’re not situated to do so, which is sort of a cop out. But it’s hard to keep that work in day in, day out, caring for others, knowing that I don’t have this recovery in the bag and I better give it away to somebody else real quick.

Estil Wallace:

My struggle has been-

Dan Nichols:

My struggle. Be careful when you say, “My struggle.” You know what I hear when I heard “My struggle?” “Mein Kamph.” You know what that means, right? Mein Kamph which is the book Hitler wrote literally translates to “My Struggle.”

Estil Wallace:

Then I won’t say that.

Dan Nichols:

When someone says my struggle, I hear, “Man Kamph”, your struggle.

Estil Wallace:

So what I have struggled with repeatedly in recovery has been to take the foot off the gas pedal. I’m-

Dan Nichols:

All or nothing.

Estil Wallace:

When I was in active usage I was probably pretty tenacious.

Dan Nichols:

I’ve heard some stories about the bicycles and A mountain.

Estil Wallace:

But then getting into recovery, I was kind of indoctrinated into a pretty militaristic 12 step group of dudes that were like, “Service, service, service.”

Dan Nichols:

I know those people personally.

Estil Wallace:

Which is… Right.

Dan Nichols:

I got sober with those people.

Estil Wallace:

And it’s great, and I think the message comes off so strong and so regimented, because you just lose people by the thousands a year. About 500 drug addicts and alcoholics, we lose a day in the United States right now, directly related to drugs and alcohol.

Dan Nichols:

I think that’s higher than COVID, keep going.

Estil Wallace:

Here’s some stats, in the last four years, New LCSWs, new LISAC’s, people that just got four year degrees, new master’s degrees, in the time that they joined school and got their diploma this year, since the last four, we’ve lost more American lives to drugs than in all the World Wars in the last hundred years. More than that, I’m talking World War I, World War II…

Dan Nichols:

American deaths?

Estil Wallace:

American deaths.

Dan Nichols:

Not Russian deaths? There was a whole lot of those. Chinese deaths too, but keep going.

Estil Wallace:

No, I’m talking about all the World Wars, we lost more American lives.

Dan Nichols:

It’s crazy.

Estil Wallace:

It’s staggering how many people we lose to drugs and alcohol.

Dan Nichols:

Well, you know what’s crazy to me? We had a kid, so humble brag, but it’s not as serious. Five people out of that went through Providence are confirmed dead from addiction. Five out of more than 500. I’m okay with those numbers. I know what I’m up against. Those are actually good numbers.

Estil Wallace:

Those are good numbers.

Dan Nichols:

And there’s going to be more.

Estil Wallace:

What we’re up against is, damn near fucking impossible.

Dan Nichols:

There’s going to be more coming, but there’s this one kid in one of the five. He was born with a major heart defect and had a very little chance of survival, but he pulled through it. Only to when he was six years old, he was diagnosed with cancer and he fought cancer from six to 13. And he survived. He had some survivor’s guilt, because all his little cancer friends, a lot of them passed away and it was pretty rough. But he survived cancer. So he survived a heart defect, he survives cancer, and it’s addiction that killed him. And that’s what people don’t a lot of times understand when I tell them that substance addiction is primary. Not only is its own disease, but it is a primary disease.

Dan Nichols:

It comes before the others. It comes before your depression. If you’re co-occurring, it comes before your anxiety. And people think if I’m not depressed, I won’t drink. Well, if you can’t stop drinking, you’re never going to get over your depression. The drinking contributes to the depression. It’s a depressant for one. But besides that, you’re not going to overcome your anxiety disorder if you’re hiding your feelings in a bottle every day. You’re not going to learn how to walk through that anxiety, if you’re still treating it with alcohol, you’re self medicating. So this idea that it’s a primary disease is something that a lot of people… If someone has cancer and they have alcoholism, I need to treat the alcoholism, because if they can’t get sober, they can’t follow through with their chemotherapy and they can’t do what they need to do to treat their cancer. They alcoholism is going to kill him. So there’s not much that I treat, maybe a bullet wound to the head is more primary than… But that’s not a disease.There’s not much more deadly than addiction.

Estil Wallace:

So addiction is the number three leading cause of death in Americans. If you go to Americans under 50 years old, it’s numero uno. Number one killer.

Dan Nichols:

Does that count smokers? That does not count cigarette smokers? So cigarette smokers is number one or two and car accidents is one? Two is smoking.

Estil Wallace:

So one is heart disease, so smoking could contribute to that?

Dan Nichols:

It is the number one contributing to heart disease.

Estil Wallace:

Number two is cancer, number three is accidental injury causing death. And like the blind share that-

Dan Nichols:

Addicts.

Estil Wallace:

… is overdose. Right now, in 2020 fentanyl overdose. We’ve more than 50,000 fentanyl overdoses in this city since mid June, it’s like 60 days.

Dan Nichols:

That’s insane.

Estil Wallace:

It’s bonkers.

Dan Nichols:

And how many of them do you know personally? Couple?

Estil Wallace:

At least eight.

Dan Nichols:

At least eight.

Estil Wallace:

Couple of them are dead.

Dan Nichols:

Oh, we weren’t talking about deaths?

Estil Wallace:

No, that’s 50,000 and-

Dan Nichols:

Overdoses. Oh, we know a lot of those. Couple of them are dead.

Estil Wallace:

Couple of them are dead. There’ve been a couple of people that have died this year that I knew that died, that wasn’t drug related. I know a guy that I know a guy that was stabbed to death in a park late at night, a few months ago. It was this year.

Dan Nichols:

For all the people that don’t believe in drug addiction, or think it’s just a willpower issue, I always tell people when someone’s pretty green in recovery, I say, “We got to start with this. There’s a thing called alcoholism and it’s real. There’s a thing called addiction and it’s real. Or it isn’t first. That’s the first thing you need to believe. Addiction is a real thing or it’s not a real thing. It’s these weak willpower. It’s a real thing that some people have and some people don’t, or it’s not a thing at all. And most people will agree, “Well, I know someone who was an alcoholic. It’s a real thing.” Then the second part is well, are you one or not? It’s a thing or it isn’t?

Estil Wallace:

Marcus and I just recently gave a talk entitled The Addict With 1,000 Faces, to Midwestern university student body, about 200 physicians and training them on just this, on the stigma, around addiction, around synthetic opioids, around all everything we’ve been talking about today.

Dan Nichols:

And then the third thing is, what are you going to do about it? If you are one, then do you believe that without help you don’t really have a chance? If it was as simple as drying people out, detoxes would pump out winners and we wouldn’t have a substance abuse problem. You’d go clean up, withdrawal, get set on your way and no one would ever to do that again.

Estil Wallace:

Do a rapid withdrawal where they put you out?

Dan Nichols:

Yeah and I like to tell this to people all the time, I have a banana allergy. I found out when I was a little kid, I was five years old. And bananas were my favorite piece of fruit and I had one every day. And every day I went to the nurse when I started kindergarten. Had a little stomach ache and I would cry until they sent me home. And I got to the point where I remember even at five years old, I was questioning myself, “Is this psychosomatic because I don’t want to be in school? Am I making this up?” But the stomach certainly felt real. Well, somebody was smart, thought about the physical possibilities, found out my diet, realized I ate the bananas, high potassium, I got some sort of intolerance and took away the banana, didn’t have the stomach anymore.

Estil Wallace:

You loved school?

Dan Nichols:

What’s that?

Estil Wallace:

And then you loved school?

Dan Nichols:

And then I didn’t have to go home, because I wasn’t making it up. Well, being the good drug addict I am, I liked bananas and occasionally, I would try to see if this is still a real thing, and it is. And I’m like, “Well, what if I just buy a piece of banana?”

Estil Wallace:

A little bit in the milkshake.

Dan Nichols:

A little tiny banana in the milkshake, sometimes I can get away without a stomachache. If I take one bite of banana, I’m pretty good. If I eat half a banana, I’m done, a whole banana it’s awful. TMI, poop blood and all that stuff.

Estil Wallace:

Wow. From one banana?

Dan Nichols:

Brutal, it’s not worth it. I read up on this and it’s akin to what females experience with menstrual cramps, is how I feel when I eat the banana.

Estil Wallace:

You have serious potassium issue.

Dan Nichols:

Serious potassium issue.

Estil Wallace:

So if helping wounded weak people is your superpower, potassium is your kryptonite?

Dan Nichols:

Kryptonite. So the simple answer is don’t eat the banana, and even though I like bananas. And I honestly think it is the most practical piece of fruit. It’s like a Snickers bar, but it’s not unhealthy. You just peel it up, take a bite. There’s some food value there. It’s a super convenient snack that is off my radar and the juice isn’t worth the squeeze. And once I fucking figured out that I can’t eat this banana, I don’t have an overwhelming obsession to eat the banana, even though I like the banana.

Estil Wallace:

You just go on living your life, banana free.

Dan Nichols:

I just fucking don’t eat bananas because it’s not worth it. And that’s how a normal person, reacts to an allergy, to an abnormal reaction in the body. And with a substance abuser, that feeling we get from the substances is way more powerful than anything a fucking bananas ever done for me. And it impacts me way more than a fucking bananas ever impacted me. And it treats me differently than a banana ever fucking treated me. And I started weighing the pros and the cons and I say, “Fuck it, I’ll take the stomachache.” And then when the stomach becomes an ulcer-

Estil Wallace:

I’ll just take Tums.

Dan Nichols:

I’ll just take Tums and you just-

Estil Wallace:

Spirals all the way down.

Dan Nichols:

And that’s the difference between, a normal person allergy and someone who suffers from addiction?

Estil Wallace:

Well, that’s like one of the old recovery jokes. I can’t lower my standards fast enough to keep up with my consequences.

Dan Nichols:

And that’s what people don’t understand, “Why don’t they just eat the banana? If they had more willpower, they wouldn’t need more.” I have plenty of fucking willpower. I don’t eat bananas. There’s a lot of things that I can exert a ton of willpower. And I find when I align my willpower with some sort of spiritual, sort of principle, or goal, or sense, I’m really able to follow through with say what I mean, and mean and do what I say, I’m able to do a lot of that stuff. When it came to controlling how much alcohol I drink, and stopping when I want to, that was something that’s just different for me. So that I fall in that, “There is, and there isn’t,” and I’m one of them category.

Estil Wallace:

Agreed. And I’m the same, if I were to pick up a drink. And that’s the thing, it’s not every time, but you never know.

Dan Nichols:

Finally, I tell people this all the time, I’ve been sober 23 years. I’ve healed the fucking trauma. I’ve worked on the mental health, the anxiety problem’s gone. I don’t suffer from depression. So those underlying conditions that I’ve worked through to create a more comfortable sobriety, do not make me immune to alcohol. If I drink alcohol again, within a period of time, it’s going to spin out of control and wreck my life every fucking time. I have 0% odds of it turning out okay, there’s no fucking chance. And even though I know I can never drink and use safely ever again, I also know that, that means I need to work real hard on my recovery, so I don’t ever have to.

Estil Wallace:

So you don’t have to.

Dan Nichols:

Because I’m not ever done.

Estil Wallace:

And that’s what I think people struggle with. It’s like, “Well I don’t have to, I’m choosing to, until you finally can resolve that.” When you can finally reconcile that within yourself and you’re like, “Fuck man.”

Dan Nichols:

Why would I choose that? Why would a sane person choose this?

Estil Wallace:

No sane person would choose the type of degradation of life.

Dan Nichols:

I go hardcore with it sometimes. I tell people, “There’s a loaded gun in my car right now. Can I put it to my head and pull the trigger?” And people are, “Well, you can.” I’m like, “My fucking finger moves like this, I understand. Okay, let me ask you, Could I kill Estil right now? My finger moves like this.” I’m like, “Okay, fine. Could I kill my seven year old daughter?” They’re like, “Probably not.” No, fuck no, I couldn’t. I don’t care what my finger does. I can’t kill my daughter, I can’t. I could not do it, fuck you if you tell me I can. I’ll fucking fight you if you think I can, I absolutely can’t. And that’s what it’s like with us, with addiction. It would be insane for me to drink today so I don’t even believe, I think I could drink today.

Estil Wallace:

It would be almost like pointing a gun at my family.

Dan Nichols:

I couldn’t do it. It would be almost like the only thing that’s different is you have a chance to maybe get in recovery again, that’s it. And if you put a gun at your finger and pull the trigger, it’s over, that’s it. It’s more instant and permanent, but it’s the same result. It’s suicide and I could not commit suicide right now, I don’t think I could. You couldn’t pay me enough money to commit suicide. Even if you promise the money to my kids, I wouldn’t do it. I don’t care how much money it is. When I didn’t think my life was worth shit, I might’ve took that deal. Let me die, give the money to my parents, so I can go out a martyr and I don’t ever have to learn how to grow up and live fucking life, because I’m afraid. And today I’m not afraid, I want to live more than I want to die.

Estil Wallace:

A lot more.

Dan Nichols:

It just needs to be more. Life’s worth living more than it’s worth dying. And I’m Way blessed beyond my deserve.

Estil Wallace:

You’re truly a blessed man and you help a ton of people. I just want to thank you from the bottom of my heart, all the work you do, both in and out of your treatment center. You do a lot of good for people, lot of good for this community. So thank you.

Dan Nichols:

Thanks for having me dude.

Estil Wallace:

Right on, bro.

Dan Nichols:

Was it fun?

Estil Wallace:

Awesome.

Dan Nichols:

Cool.