Dr. Ramani Durvasula: Understanding Narcissism Through Relationships And Addiction

ILBS 18 | Understanding Narcissism


Without proper rehabilitation for narcissistic people, helping them deal with their psychological difficulties is challenging. On top of the tedious task of understanding narcissism, there’s also their higher potential to resort to substance abuse just to address their needs. Going deep into this mental health issue with Tim Westbrook is Dr. Ramani Durvasula, a clinical psychologist and certified narcissist expert. Together, they discuss how a narcissistic personality is typically fueled by insecurity, manipulation, frustration, and disappointment, leading to drug addiction and alcoholism if pushed to the limits. They also talk about how to properly approach and mingle with such people, especially when getting into a close relationship with them that may involve gaslighting, unbalanced emotions, and numerous relapses.

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Dr. Ramani Durvasula: Understanding Narcissism Through Relationships And Addiction

My team and I over the course of many years have helped thousands of people on their path to recovery. We started the show because there’s so much misinformation about addiction treatment, mental illness and recovery in general. There’s so much more to recovery than just going to inpatient treatment or going to Twelve-Step programs or seeing a therapist. I’m a huge advocate for the Twelve-Step program, AA saved my life but there’s more to it. To find long-term recovery, my experience and what I’ve seen is for a person to live happy, joyous and free, there’s a lot more to it. That comes down to lifestyle habits and living a different and honest life. It’s much more than just stopping drinking, drugs and addictive behavior. Those are the types of things that we talk about on this show.

I’m happy and excited to have Dr. Ramani. She is a licensed clinical psychologist in Los Angeles, California, and professor of Psychology at California State University, Los Angeles. She is also a visiting professor at the University of Johannesburg. Additionally, she is the Founder of LUNA Education Training and Consulting, LLC, a company focused on providing content and education about high conflict and antagonistic personality styles such as narcissism and their impact on mental health, relationships, families and the workplace.

Dr. Ramani is also the Co-founder of the Narcissistic Abuse Awareness Alliance, a collaborative professional group of therapists and coaches working with clients, experiencing these relationships. She takes on entitlement and incivility in “Don’t You Know Who I Am?”: How to Stay Sane in an Era of Narcissism, Entitlement, and Incivility. She’s the author of the modern relationships survival manual, Should I Stay or Should I Go: Surviving A Relationship with a Narcissist and You Are Why You Eat: Change Your Food Attitude, Change Your Life.

She also has a popular YouTube channel that focuses on narcissism and difficult relationships. Her work has been featured at TEDx on a wide range of media platforms, including the Today Show, Discovery and Bravo. Her research on personality disorders has been funded by the National Institutes of Health, and she is a consulting editor of the Scientific Journal of Behavioral Medicine. Dr. Ramani is an honest, authentic and brutally honest voice on the struggles raised by narcissism in the US and globally. Dr. Ramani, I’m grateful to have you here. Thank you.

It’s my pleasure.

We’re going to talk about narcissism and how it relates to addiction. Can you treat narcissism? Is there a Twelve-Step group for narcissism? There’s a lot. This is a week’s subject, especially over the past few years in the news. Welcome to the show.

Thank you for having me, Tim. It’s so nice to see you again.

ILBS 18 | Understanding Narcissism

Understanding Narcissism: The 2016 elections pushed the world into the public consciousness and started a quiet buildup of people talking about different issues.


Tell me about your journey and how you got to where you are now?

In my journey, I was trained as a traditional clinical psychologist headed for my research and academic career, which I’ve done. As I was doing my research, I was a professor at Cal State LA, I started noticing a pattern that had been brought to me by students that were working out in the field in a clinical setting. They’d come back to our main setting and they’d be exhausted. They’d say, “These people are difficult.” I was listening to them, and the pattern they were describing was of this high conflict, antagonistic style, and it never changes. These patients were wreaking havoc on clinic staff and on the front-line staff. I thought, “These people are almost sucking up more resources as one person in these places than fifteen other healthy people would.” That led to an area of research, looking specifically at personality disorders, specifically in the area of HIV and how it was associated with a whole bunch of a whole host of outcomes.

I also have a clinical practice. I’m a licensed psychologist. In my practice, I was seeing people coming up over and over with describing marriages, sometimes families of origin characterized by similar patterns, people who were rigid, difficult, manipulative, unempathetic and entitled. I would talk them through it and say, “This is a pattern that’s not likely to change.” Over time, I’ve read more of the literature. It was clear that these people do not change if you have this narcissistic pattern that culminated in my book, Should I Stay Or Should I Go?

I was still doing this work very quietly. The 2016 election took this word and pushed it into the public consciousness. What was happening was there was this slow, quiet, buildup of people talking about these issues. The word came much more into the public lexicon. I started working with more clients and I’m like, “This is a problem. The mental health world doesn’t want to identify it. This is troubling because a lot of mental health practitioners aren’t trained in it, didn’t think it was a thing, we can work on anything, don’t to be mean to the narcissist. They’ve gone through a lot too.” What we found is we’d almost become a culture made up of three sets of people: the narcissists, their enablers and the people who were being victimized by both the narcissist and their enablers. I said, “This is not going to work well. If the mental health world won’t talk about this, then I will.” That’s how I solely got up into launching this YouTube channel. When the magnitude of the issue hit me, I thought, “This is going to require me almost going off book a little bit and creating public awareness of this issue,” because a lot of people either can’t afford the help and a lot of therapists out there aren’t trained to give the help. That’s how I got here. That’s the journey.

I’ve done a little bit of searching on the internet prior to meeting with you, and there are not a lot of people that are talking about narcissism on the internet.

There are a lot of people talking about it, but a lot of it is not being done by traditional mental health practitioners. That makes sense because there are over nine million YouTube videos on narcissism. The thing is that many times they’re coming at it from the perspective of, “This happened to me,” and it’s very first person, versus things that are grounded in what little science there is out there and saying to people, “Here’s what we know. Here’s what we don’t know. Here’s what you want to keep in mind and here’s how you can move forward.” That’s the piece that if people are still struggling with is, “How do we help people who are being affected by these relationships?” It turns out that I do work with clients who are narcissistic. I feel like Sisyphus. I push the rock up and pull the rocks back down at the bottom of the hill over and over again. There’s very little change here.

Is narcissism on a spectrum?

Narcissism is usually seen from the perspective of the people who experience them rather than the narcissists themselves. Click To Tweet

It is on a spectrum. At the milder ends of the spectrum, you have someone who’s a bit more almost psychologically immature and emotionally stunted. They’re the people who are forever stuck in adolescence, poorly regulated, they concern themselves with somewhat more immature pursuits and concerns. They’re 60 years old and still got to make sure they have a hot girlfriend. There’s not a lot of substance, but they’re not harmful. They’re superficial. They tend to be validation seeking. At 65, they’re still doctoring up their images online so they look good on Instagram. There’s a stuntedness to it, but the malevolent cruelty. At the other end of the spectrum, that’s where we see people who are exploitative, manipulative, sadistic, dangerously paranoid, harmful, can be dangerous in close relationships, can be dangerous if they’re in your family, and not just dangerous from a criminal perspective, but psychologically.

What is narcissism?

Narcissism is a personality style that is characterized by a lack of empathy, entitlement, grandiosity, arrogance, a chronic need for admiration and validation, arrogance, superficiality, difficulty frustrating, difficulty in regulating emotional states related to things like frustration and disappointment, and poor stress tolerance. They have a need to control other people or at least control the narrative. They have tremendous hypersensitivity to criticism, hypocrisy. They can dish it out, they can’t take it. At the core of it all, they’re deeply insecure. That insecurity can come out as victimhood, sullenness, resentfulness, particularly if they don’t get their own way. When you first meet the narcissist because of the grandiose exterior, they can come off as very charming, charismatic and confident, which is why a lot of people get sucked.

Why is it important to understand narcissism?

It’s critical in the day and age in which we find ourselves to understand narcissism for myriad reasons. The foremost is so you don’t end up with somebody like this. To have an intimate relationship like this is not good for you. To marry someone like this is potentially physically dangerous for you. To try to raise kids with someone like this is going to mess up the kids and you, especially, if you get a divorce, and you face a very contentious custody fight. It also has implications for things like the workplace. A lot of people say, “This guy is toxic but it’s the best place in town to work.” Before you know it, your therapy bills outweigh any extra money you made working at such a hotshot place because that kind of toxic boss was unsettling.

This could be a family of origin issue. By understanding what these patterns are, people are less likely to personalize what happened in their family of origin and an invalidating manipulative parent, instead of it being the narrative one may carry of, “I’m not enough.” It’s rather that person was not fit to raise kids, “That wasn’t my fault. It was just my bad luck.” By understanding this, you can be a better gatekeeper for yourself. We do live in a world that enables these patterns, “Give them the benefit of the doubt. Give him a second chance. That’s just how he talks. That’s what she says. She doesn’t mean it. They don’t mean it.” We hear that all the time and people are like, “Every cell in my body is telling me this isn’t cool, but I don’t want to be the person who seems judgmental and dismissive.”

That’s how it happens. There are many enabling voices out there. We’re obsessed with forgiveness. You don’t need to forgive. You can let it go, but you don’t need to forgive somebody who had no problem dehumanizing you and invalidating you. I tell people, “Abuse is abuse regardless of the backstory.” People will often say, “This person had a rough start. Their dad was rough on them. Another parent was an alcoholic, so it’s hard for them to connect intimately with other people.” I say, “I feel for them, and I work with clients like that all the time. However, you were not put on this Earth to be their punching bag. Abuse is abuse regardless of the backstory. That’s why this is important to understand.”

ILBS 18 | Understanding Narcissism

Understanding Narcissism: People always get into relationships with narcissists because they don’t fully understand this condition.


It’s one thing to be compassionate and understanding of their situation, however, having boundaries. It’s like, “I can be sympathetic or empathetic this person. However, these are my boundaries. I don’t need to get into a relationship with this person.”

I call it compassion from a distance. I don’t want people who’ve gone through these relationships to find themselves in this position where they feel as though they’ve become the monster. They’ve gone into Nietzsche’s abyss and they’ve become the monster. That’s not a good feeling either. I said, “It’s not about becoming the monster and cutting off all compassion, but it’s also not about throwing yourself in headlong and continually getting hurt by this person. At some point you can say, ‘That person’s got a rough backstory. I hope they find their path. That path is not going to include me.’”

A lot of times, people attract the same type of person into their life. If a person attracts a narcissist, are they likely to continue attracting a narcissist the next time?

The reason that endless cycle happens of people getting into relationships with people who have these narcissistic styles is that they don’t understand it. This is why information and knowledge are everything because what will sometimes happen is a person will get into a narcissistic intimate relationship in adulthood, and it’ll go south. Perhaps even the narcissist will leave them or they’ll leave the narcissist, maybe the narcissist has cheated or something. They won’t understand what they left. They’ll say, “That was toxic. That didn’t feel good,” but they won’t understand some of the key elements like radical acceptance, “This is not going to change, and that there was nothing you could have done to make it different.”

If there’s a real exam and look at like, “This is what this is. This is the architecture. This is what was happening and this is not going to change.” When I see these particular patterns, these are red flags that it can’t be blindly going through the relationship and then going into another because you will pick the same person. I’ll often say when a person leaves a toxic relationship, I recommend one-year emotional dialysis, a type that’s recommended in sobriety to this concept is not being in a relationship. The same thing with narcissism. I say, “Give yourself a year because by giving yourself a year, you will become well acquainted with your rhythms, your values, what’s important to you and a new person will be less likely to come in and attempt to coop that because you had a chance to build that muscle.”

When I first got clean and sober, I followed the suggestion. I didn’t take it for a year and it was the best thing that I did because I got to dig, learn more about myself, learn to be with myself, I wasn’t relying on another person to make me happy, I wasn’t relying on external validation. Next thing you know, I was a healthier person. Therefore, I attracted a healthier person in my life.

You learned your no and saying, “This doesn’t feel good.” You learn to value yourself enough to lay down the boundary. Boundaries are something that people often don’t feel that they deserve to set. A person almost needs to get themselves elevated to learn their no.

You were not put on this earth to be a punching bag. Abuse is abuse regardless of the backstory. Click To Tweet

What is gaslighting?

Gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse and manipulation where a person’s reality is doubted or denied. In its most simple form, it would be me saying to you something like, “You have no right to feel that way. It didn’t happen the way you said.” If some of that is not enough, you’ll say, “Maybe that didn’t happen.” People start doing things like surreptitiously recording conversations saying, “It did happen.” Sometimes it can even be literally physical manipulation of an environment where for example, to mess with you, a person might move the keys or move the television remote and you’ll say, “Where’s the key?” You might’ve usually put them in a bowl and the other person is like, “I didn’t move them,” but they did.

While any of those episodes are gaslighting episodes, as far as I see it, the way I see it is gaslighting is a grooming process, “Over time, you have no right to feel that way. That’s not a valid emotion. It never happened that way. I never said that. You seem to be losing your grip on reality. You’re forgetting things a lot lately.” You hear that enough 3 or 5 or 10 times a day. You have some level of trust in the gaslighter. They’re your spouse, family member, someone you know, and for some reason, you give some respect to them, they have even more power. By diminishing you through all this doubt, over time the gaslighter owns the person they’ve gaslighted. Before you know it, the gaslighted person is almost consenting in the sense that they’re capitulating. It’s almost like you’ve seen a cult that they’re going along with this new reality that’s been handed to them and they’re so confused that they want to fight back sometimes, but they almost feel as though they don’t know which way is up anymore. That’s gaslighting and it is honestly one of the prime pieces of artillery that a narcissist uses in a relationship.

Once the person is down, how do they get out of it?

It’s not easy at all. What ends up happening is that this term gaslighting is something that comes up in other literature like domestic violence and coercive control, people who are so beaten down in these relationships that they’ve lost their voice. Often, some of the ways we pull people out of this is returning their reality to them. As you know, doing the work you do, all trauma-informed therapy is based on validating the client’s reality. The best work that’s done with clients who’ve been gaslighted is therapists who are trauma-informed, that you let the client tell their story without judgment. You give them exercises to almost start getting acquainted with themselves. They can say, “I’m warm,” and say, “You’re warm, I can switch this thermostat.” Instead of saying, “I’m not warm.” The other person’s been gaslighted saying, “You’re right. It’s not warm.” We let the client own and be in their reality, then give them ways to practice that. You also help them build out new support networks where they are heard, seen and multiple opinions can be heard at the same time. You and I could have a conversation where I can share with you a feeling and you might say, “That’s an interesting feeling. Can you tell me more about that? That’s a hard feeling to have. It sounds like that was hard for you,” instead of you saying, “You have no right to feel that way.”

If a person has mental health issues, let’s say anxiety, bipolar depression, how does being in a relationship with a narcissist impact their mental health?

If a person has an existing mental health condition like anxiety or depression or any number of mental health issues, and they go into a relationship with a narcissist, we will see a significant exacerbation of their symptomatology. A depressed person will become significantly more depressed and may not even feel like they have the resources to fight the confused fight. An anxious person will get paralytic anxiety. A person who is living with bipolar disorder emits confusion. There could sadly even be issues with medication adherence, which could then place that client at greater risk for a manic episode.

ILBS 18 | Understanding Narcissism

Understanding Narcissism: Give yourself a year, and you will become acquainted with your rhythms and values.


There are people who go through these relationships and go on to develop significant anxiety, symptoms of depression, hopelessness, powerlessness, confusion, helplessness, rumination to the level that when they presented therapy, they do look like they have a Generalized Anxiety Disorder or PTSD or a Major Depressive Disorder. The core of it is being in one of these confusing relationships. Many times, simply educating the person about the relationship can help with that symptomatology. If a person has an existing mental health issue, one of these relationships could set them back years.

How does narcissism affect relationships and codependency?

It’s an interesting dynamic. I always tell people I’m very reluctant to initially use that term codependency when I look at a narcissistic relationship, and I’ll tell you why. Some of the issues around codependency in terms of the derivation of self-esteem by catering to the more difficult person in the relationship and often in an addiction framework doing the dance of two around the addiction, this is more in the narcissistic relationship. What we see is that one partner, the non-narcissistic or less narcissistic partner as it were, will keep making justifications for the narcissistic partner, which is a theme we see in codependency. Here’s the rub in a significant proportion of people who are living under these narcissistic relationship conditions, merely educating them on the narcissistic pattern.

Telling them, “Did you know that this is a thing and it’s never going to change?” They’re like, “What? This is never going to change?” I’m like, “No, never.” They’re like, “You’re telling me if I don’t do this or after he retires?” I’m like, “Never.” They’re like, “Thank you for telling me.” They call the attorney that night. That’s not codependency, that’s lack of information. I do think there’s a subset of clients, even armed with the information, even armed with knowing it’s not going to change, and will continue down the rabbit hole of justification, “Maybe I can try this differently, thanks. Let me go find a new therapist,” then you might see something that looks more like a codependent type of pattern where there’s such a strong trauma bond, but they cannot pull out of this problematic relationship. A pretty decent chunk of cases, once they understand what the writing on the wall is because no one told them, they’re like, “I’m getting out. I did not know this. Thanks.”

Let’s talk about the relation between narcissism and substance use disorder.

It’s high, and no pun intended, but let me tell you why that is. People who are narcissistic have a lot of trouble with regulating their emotional states, particularly when they’re stressed, frustrated, disappointed or if they feel abandoned. Under those conditions, people with narcissistic personality styles have a hard time regulating their emotions. What’s the best thing to turn to? Substances, and so they do. What we see with many narcissistic individuals is they have a natural draw to stimulants because it amps up the grandiosity. They’re already grandiose and this almost seems to make those grandiose defenses rock hard.

However, you will also see that people will use a numbing depressant type of substance or even substances like marijuana that feel like they cut through the anxiety because there’s more anxiety and narcissism than a lot of people realize. There’s a lot of social anxiety for narcissists who feel like they’re being judged socially. Because of that propensity, the likelihood for the co-occurrence of addiction and narcissism is quite high. In addiction, we see the reliance on defenses like denial and rationalization. Those defensive patterns are also very prominent in narcissistic patterns.

Narcissists may come off as charming, charismatic, and confident because of their grandiose exterior. Click To Tweet

We also see egocentricity in addiction that is also observed in narcissism. Here’s where things get dicey, especially for many families out there, they’re like, “He is such a jerk, so selfish and mean. I’m going to be glad when he goes through rehab and comes out because we’re going to get our guy back. We’re going to get our son back. We’re going to get our daughter back. We’re going to get them back.” The person goes to those 28 days, maybe they do six weeks of great rehab treatment. They come out, clean, sober, going to meetings, but they’re as much of a jerk as they always were. The narcissism tends not to go away in rehab.

One of the issues is there are a lot of rehab centers that don’t recognize narcissism that it’s all addiction all the time. By not recognizing that pattern, narcissism is going to increase the likelihood of relapse because when they’re out and even if they’re in a sober living situation, have a sober living companion, and going to meetings every day, frustration and disappointment and all that stuff is going to come into life. Life happens. Under those conditions, a person with a narcissistic personality is not going to be able to cope and they’re going to go to the quickest thing they’ve got, which are substances. If somebody is working with a narcissist who is in sobriety, what you want to do is play a little bit of a game with them and put so much pride and ego into their sobriety that they fight for it, because if you don’t make it about that, sometimes it’s hard for them to give over to a higher power because they’re grandiose enough to think that they’re that.

You are fighting a battle within Twelve-Step and that you almost need to invite their ego along for the ride, and get the ego invested in sobriety as though that’s the noble stance, and you might get some buy-in there. The families, spouses, adult children, when a person leaves rehab and they’re narcissistic, they might even be more irritable, more entitled and nastier than before because before, the substances might’ve even been masking some of the key antagonistic dynamics. It can get messy. A lot of people feel very frustrated when they see a narcissistic person who comes out of rehab and is back in their lives.

When a person gets clean and sober and they don’t do the “work” and dig deep, change their lifestyle habits, and change their behavior, they call that person a dry drunk. If a person goes to rehab, which is one of the purposes of this show, there’s more to getting clean and sober than just going to treatment and Twelve-Step meetings. How do you go about addressing the narcissism?

There has to be honesty about any mental health or addiction services practitioner working with these clients. Because addiction is often such an acute concern with the client like we want to get them safe, especially if they’re using something that’s putting their health in jeopardy, the acute need to focus centrally on the addiction and the substance or alcohol use, which totally makes sense. The challenge is that if that becomes the singular focus, that when the personality dynamics get missed, the work does need to be done in rehab around things like mindful awareness of how a person speaks to other people, the building up of self-reflective capacity on how the narcissist impacts other people, “Are you aware of how you spoke to that person? Are you aware of how other people are experiencing you? Can you please wait before you speak?”

Humility, like getting their hands dirty, inviting them into other people’s stories, and for them to be present with other people’s stories without contempt, means a well-trained staff that’s able to see through that and watch some of that narcissistic stuff play out even in their non-verbals: eye contact, engagement with the process, ability to engage in entitlement, “Let me have my phone. I could buy and sell you in one more minute.” The answer is, “No.” You might have people leaving against medical advice. You’re used to that. You’re an old pro at this. You’ve seen that entitlement. It’s about how you set that boundary and still keep people engaged.

It’s also to understand that sometimes you can’t break through the narcissistic defenses and you’re going to create whether it’s this dry drunk rubric once they leave. It’s those interpersonal dynamics. Some of them will say, “I want to stay sober because I don’t want to lose my business.” Sobriety is entirely linked to the business. It’s not the work but it’s like, “I still want to be a pillar of my community. I still want to make $1 million or $1 trillion.” It’s not about this engaging in the true deep work of Twelve-Step of getting your life back from addiction.

ILBS 18 | Understanding Narcissism

Understanding Narcissism: Even after getting sober, a narcissist can still relapse if their frustrations and disappointments continue every day.


They take the ongoing antagonistic patterns to continue and the investment in sobriety isn’t investment sobriety, it’s an investment in their business, which is all guaranteeing they’re going to not be sober at some point because the business is going to let them down. It’s not easy. However many times the average relapses post-rehab, multiply that by at least two with a narcissist, you’re going to have that many more relapses.

Is there a Twelve-Step program for narcissists?

There’s none. It’s an interesting way to think of it from the outset that they have to accept it, that this is what they’re always going to be to commit to change and making amends. A lot of the steps could be quite interesting in narcissism. The challenge is not by all means, but a substantial proportion of people who are narcissistic have no awareness that this is their pattern. When it’s pointed out to them, they may cop to it for a minute, but then immediately return to it and become barbed and difficult with anyone who tries to point it out. A lot of people say, “This isn’t even worth the fight.” Narcissistic individuals are 61% more likely to drop out of psychotherapy.

The odds of keeping them in for the long-term, especially when you start trying to drill down and do the deeper work, the first time a therapist says to them something, they don’t want to hear and pack it in and leave, and they’ll therapist jump. They’ll be dismissive of the whole enterprise, “This therapist will just take your money. They talk to you. Forget it, I can figure it out. I’d rather get a massage.” They will be very contemptuous and dismissive. It’s a defensive maneuver designed to protect them. The challenge would be though that the motivation for change is not nearly at the level you might see addiction because for a lot of these people, their narcissism is working for them. They don’t think it’s a problem. You’d see that as a majority level, rather than addiction but I think it’s an interesting thought.

They’re not happy, joyous and free, but on the outside, they look good. Maybe they’re making money, have a big house, own a business and seems to be going well for them, so that part they want to keep. They just want to stop using drugs.

That’s different in narcissism. For some of them, people will say like, “I don’t want to be a nice empathic guy. That means leaving money on the table. I don’t want to be a nice empathic person, that’s going to mean leaving money on the table or getting a worse deal.” The idea is like, “What if you got the worst deal?” It seems like the nature is you’re still walking off with a lot of money and now a lot more of the employees are going to get a better severance out of this. They’re like, “Why should they get my money?” You keep this wall that winning is important to them, that pulling them out of that un-empathic space can get challenging.

The Twelve-Step program is a program of honesty. It’s about behavior change, doing the next right thing, keeping my side of the street clean. If it is not in line with making more money, then why would they do that?

Ignoring red flags in a relationship will make you pick the same kind of person all over again. Click To Tweet

It would be a tough sell in those situations. I know that Twelve-Step programs and meetings are very much user-led and user-guided. That feels like the foxes in charge of the henhouse. I don’t even know who’s going to run that meeting. Bless their hearts.

I’m a grateful recovery narcissist.

If they’re recovered narcissists, they are like, “I don’t want to be in a room with all you all.”

Are there some treatment centers that are geared more for people that are narcissists?

In terms of psychiatric?

An inpatient treatment center for somebody that’s an alcoholic or drug addict, but it’s like, “All the narcissists should go to this one,” or are they the more expensive one?

If anyone figured this one out, a treatment program, I don’t think it could be a 28-day, it would have to be longer, that was able to master the narcissism alongside the addiction, it would be worth its weight in gold. Some people proclaim to do it, but I don’t think they’re doing it. This isn’t the fault of the treatment centers. My read on the literature is that there’s absolutely nothing convincing in the narcissism treatment literature that shows long-term efficacy. What happens is that even in the scientific literature on the treatment of people with Narcissistic Personality Disorder, it tends to be researched on very small samples. Sometimes it’s more like case reports. You can’t generalize from case reports. These are often courses of therapy that last 12 to 18 months, 2 to 3 times a week. I don’t know many people in the United States of America that can afford therapy with a highly-trained therapist, 2 to 3 times a week, and stay in for 12 to 18 months. That is available to less than 1/10 of the population.

Granted rehab is much more condensed so you’ve got the person around the clock, so it’s not outpatient extended for a year. You’re talking about someone specifically trained in these specific models and work at them while you’re still trying to manage sobriety. It’s a tall order. You need a uniquely motivated client, and then you need outside of that one heck of an outpatient therapist to work with them in perpetuity. That set up is almost impossible to achieve. I suppose if you had all of that, then sure. It’s a silly thing to proclaim. That’s like seeing if you moved a personal trainer, a personal chef and a personal something else in my house, I’d lose weight and I’d look like $1 million, I’m sure I would. I don’t have those things. It’s the same thing here.

ILBS 18 | Understanding Narcissism

“Don’t You Know Who I Am?”: How to Stay Sane in an Era of Narcissism, Entitlement, and Incivility

The other thing is that they would have to want it.

My point is even if they want it, without that pristine top-drawer level of treatment, the first time frustration or disappointment or abandonment or stress crosses their path, they’ll snap. It means then that you create a life that doesn’t have those things in it. I don’t know what that means, it’s like living in some strange bubble.

In your experience, are there certain addictions that narcissists are more prone to?

They’re equally prone to all addictions because addictions at the core are regulatory deficits. The desire to regulate with something outside of the organism rather than to self-regulate. Drugs and alcohol are going to top the list, but people who have Narcissistic Personality Disorder struggle a lot with gambling addiction, spending addiction, spending and acquiring shopping, they struggled with food and you’ll see co-located with eating disorders or at least very dysregulated eating behavior, either like extremes of starving for reasons of looking a certain way, getting almost obsessive-compulsive, “I’ll only eat this and that in a very certain way.” It’s over-controlled to almost offset the chaos of narcissism. You see a whole host of dysregulated patterns that will sit alongside narcissism, and often more than one.

Dr. Ramani, how can people learn more and find out more about you?

The best place to go is my website, Doctor-Ramani.com. If you go there, you’ll see links to everything that I do and the workshops I do. The other place I’d suggest to people is to go to my YouTube channel which is DoctorRamani. That is a trove of hundreds of videos on narcissism as it relates to families, relationships, workplace, why narcissists do the things they do? Why do survivors of these relationships do the things they do? All of that is there in a massive library of videos that you can look at, at no cost. There are lots of different ways. I have two books but all of that information is on my website.

Her YouTube channel is amazing. She’s got hundreds of videos that are awesome. Dr. Ramani, thank you so much. Thanks, everybody, for reading.

Important Links:

About Dr. Ramani Durvasula

Dr. Ramani Durvasula is a licensed clinical psychologist in Los Angeles, CA and Professor of Psychology at California State University, Los Angeles. She is also a Visiting Professor at the University of Johannesburg. Additionally, she is the founder of LUNA Education, Training & Consulting, LLC, a company focused on providing content and education about high conflict and antagonistic personality styles such as narcissism and their impact on mental health, relationships, families, and the workplace.

Dr. Durvasula is also the co-founder of the Narcissistic Abuse Awareness Alliance, a collaborative professional group of therapists and coaches working with clients experiencing these relationships. She takes on entitlement and incivility in “Don’t You Know Who I Am”: How to Stay Sane in the Era of Narcissism, Entitlement and Incivility. She is the author of the modern relationship survival manual Should I Stay or Should I Go: Surviving a Relationship With a Narcissist, and of You Are WHY You Eat: Change Your Food Attitude, Change Your Life. She also has a popular YouTube channel that focuses on narcissism and difficult relationships.

The focus of Dr. Durvasula’s clinical, academic and consultative work is the etiology and impact of narcissism and high conflict, entitled, antagonistic personality styles on human relationships, mental health, and societal expectations (and vice versa!). Her work has been featured at SxSW, TEDx, and on a wide range of media platforms including Red Table Talk, the Today Show, Oxygen, Investigation Discovery, Bravo, and she is a featured expert on the digital media mental health platform MedCircle. Dr. Durvasula’s research on personality disorders has been funded by the National Institutes of Health and she is a Consulting Editor of the scientific journal Behavioral Medicine.

Dr. Durvasula is an honest, authentic, and brutally honest voice on the struggles raised by narcissism in the US and globally.

Neural Pathways, Neuroplasticity And Addiction Recovery With Dr. Robb Kelly

ILBS 17 | Neuroplasticity


Neuroplasticity holds great promise in holding the key to addiction recovery. This is especially true with alcoholism, the mechanism of which relies heavily on hardwired patterns in our neural pathways. While it is certainly true that alcoholics are born with a predisposition towards alcohol addiction, it’s not a fact that we are powerless to change. Joining Tim Westbrook in this episode, addiction consultant and addiction recovery expert, Dr. Robb Kelly explains how we can work with the human brain’s plasticity to change the neural pathways responsible for alcohol addiction. He also shares the highlights of his powerful recovery journey, which he documents in his book, Daddy, Daddy Please Stop Drinking.

Watch the episode here:

Listen to the podcast here:

Neural Pathways, Neuroplasticity And Addiction Recovery With Dr. Robb Kelly

My team and I over the course of many years have helped thousands of people find their path to long-term recovery. We started this show because there’s so much bad information and misinformation about treatment, addiction recovery, the treatment world in general. We bring guests on this show as a way to provide accurate information, to provide the truth as a way to help people realize how much more there is to recovery and treatment than just going to treatment for 30 days, working a 12 Step program and quitting. There’s a lot to it.

I’m grateful to be here with Dr. Robb Kelly. He has a PhD and a renowned addiction consultant who believes in treating the problem of addiction, not the symptoms. He has worked for many years helping addicts and alcoholics to recover their lives from the disease of addiction. Based on his own experiences working with addicts and alcoholics for many years, a PhD in Psychology from Oxford University, and as a recovered alcoholic himself, he is a triple threat against the disease of addiction. Dr. Kelly was the CEO of a thriving telecommunications company when the walls came crashing down on him due to alcoholism. He ended up homeless and broken on the streets of Manchester, England until he found the courage to save himself.

He’s lectured on the subject of addiction at many high-profile universities, national conferences, public schools, churches, business organizations, hospitals and is recognized as the leading authority on addiction recovery methods that are changing lives all around the world. Dr. Kelly’s methods may seem unconventional leading some people to refer to him as the Gordon Ramsay of the addiction world because of his direct, no-nonsense and candid approach to treating addiction. Dr. Kelly works to make the road of recovery less of a mystery tour. Welcome to the show.

Thank you, Tim. It’s great to be here. Thank you, guys, for reading. It’s going to be a great show.

It is going to be a great show and we’re going to talk about it a lot. We’re going to talk about neuroplasticity and its role in changing neural pathways. We’re going to talk about trauma and addiction, returning to the scene of the crime. We’re going to talk about the grateful and recovered alcoholic from being hopeless to being hopeful, which I don’t know about you, when I first got clean and sober, I started going to Twelve-Step meetings, started going to AA meetings. I would hear people say, “I’m a grateful recovering alcoholic and drug addict.” It’s like, “What? That doesn’t make sense.”

I was sick of hearing that sometimes when I first came around, but the Twelve-Step meetings helped me. The fellowship alone is good. There are many ways to get sober and many other outlets. The latest we’ve found with brain science is years ago, we found we could change the way the brain thinks. They are like plastic. We can direct and mold neural pathways into great thinking. It’s nothing less than a miracle in 1939 when they wrote the book, they were talking about neural pathway Zen, but they call it psychic. Many people think a psychic is somebody around a crystal ball, but no. Psychic of the mind, psychiatrist, psychologist, they were talking about a change of mind back in 1938 and ‘39.

I’ve got your book here, Daddy, Daddy Please Stop Drinking. I’ve got this and if you want to learn more about Dr. Robb Kelly, this is a good, quick read and you can learn a little bit more about him and more about his story. Why don’t you tell us, Dr. Kelly, what happened? Tell me a little bit about where you came from.

I was thrown on stage with a musical family at the age of nine. I was a bass guitarist, very gifted. I have some of my first drink at the age of nine in Liverpool over in the UK. Because I was nervous, my uncle gave me half a beer and I drank it. For the 1st, 2nd, 3rd mouthful, I went down and that changed my life completely. It was the best thing that happened to me. I got confidence, went back on stage the second half and I played my heart out and everyone said it was amazing. That set off my alcoholism, although I didn’t know it then. I truly believe you can’t drink yourself into becoming an alcoholic. You can drink yourself into becoming an abuser of alcohol, but we’re born this way, predisposition along with maps neural pathways as a child because there’s always trauma, whatever it is alcoholism. Three schools, still drinking, nothing crazy. I went to Oxford, I put myself through that. I wanted to go to the best university because I’m an alcoholic. No matter all in all out, that’s my deal with everything.

ILBS 17 | Neuroplasticity

Daddy, Daddy Please Stop Drinking

When did you think that you might have a problem with alcohol?

The day I realized I was at a real problem and couldn’t stop drinking was the last day on the streets. I was homeless for fourteen months. On the last day on the streets, I realized I can’t stop drinking. Other than that, I was fighting against it. I didn’t believe it. I was in denial 100% and wrecked everybody’s lives around me, but didn’t think I had a problem.

I can relate to that. There are lots of people that can relate to that.

It was heartbreaking when I found out, but it was years and years. I was 28 when I found out what was going on, which was scary.

Once you realized you were an alcoholic or you thought you might be an alcoholic, then what?

There was a bunch of stuff that happened before that, but the actual breakdown was on a Monday morning, 2:30 in the morning. I dropped down to my hands and knees. It’s a cry from my belly. I wasn’t crying because I lost my kids, my wife, my houses, my medical license and all that stuff. I was crying because for the first time, I realized that I can’t stop drinking. I remember looking for the sky at the time and saying, “If there’s a God up there, I can’t do this on my own anymore.” Thirty seconds later, a guy walked around the corner. It was Missy’s last boss from his Bible study, and he bumped into me and that’s where my life started onto the road to recovery. It was crazy.

What specifically happened? You bumped into this guy and then what?

He took me back to his house and he said, “You can stay here.” He was a Christian, he wasn’t an alcoholic, which I was a bit pissed out because I thought God would send me an alcoholic with a bottle of vodka in his hand. We’re at his house and he said, “You can stay as long as you want, Robb, but you’ve got to come to these AA meetings with me.” I’d been to the AA meetings. They were horrible, but I had to go because he had a nice house and it was a dry bed. I went and while I was there, the same old war stories and halfway around the room, this guy called John talks about the book. He talks about permanent recovery. He talks about life beyond my wildest dreams. Every time he said it, he would point to the book page and the paragraph.

You can’t drink yourself into alcoholism. You were born that way. The minute you take alcohol, all bets are off. Click To Tweet

I knew he knew what he was talking about. He gave me hope saying I will recover from being an alcoholic because that’s what I am now. I’ve recovered from a hopeless state of mind and body. I went over to him asking for help. As a fact I said, “Can you be my sponsor?” He said, “No,” which was a couple of breaths and going, “What?” He said, “I’ll be your spiritual advisor for a period of eight weeks.” Every single week, 10:00 on a Wednesday, I would walk to that man’s house for about an hour because I can’t afford the bus fare. I’d sit with an hour for him and I will walk an hour back. It’s three hours every Wednesday night. I would read the book during the week and he gave me four highlighters.

I marked off God’s words, messages and promises. During the week, I would make 4 or 5 pages a day, and then back to his house on a Wednesday. He showed me much stuff in that book that I’d never seen before. I want to share the Twelve-Step meetings that are aghast of what it is, especially the wording in there. I did the steps with him overnight because that’s what the book says, “After step five, go home,” which I did. I walked out of that man’s house and I knew if I continue the program, I’d never drink again. He told me things were going to happen, “The next day, Robb, things are going to start happening to you.” The very next day, I got a part-time job, which during the week turned into a full-time job.

After my first two weeks, I got my first paycheck and I went to the gas station or the petrol station in England. I bought him a little teddy bear and a card. I wrote on it, “Thank you, John, for introducing me to God, that took the compulsion to drink away.” I walked back to his house or his apartment when I got there, there was nobody there. I was banging that loud on the door. The next-door neighbor came out, a lady and she says, “Can I help you?” I said, “Yeah, can you turn where John’s moved to or relocated?” She said, “There’s been no one in the apartment for at least six months that I’ve been here.” She closes the door. She’s obviously a crazy woman and on the left-hand side and a guy comes to the door and I said, “Can you tell me where John’s relocated to?” He said, “That apartment’s been vacant for a year. You’ve got the wrong address.” I never found that guy, but the stuff he taught me was unbelievable.

What do you mean? You were going to see him and he didn’t live?

I don’t know. I went back to the meeting and I said, “Guys, remember this guy was I talking to, John, in the corner, near the coffee machine?” The chairman was there and he went, “There’s no John, Robb. We didn’t see anything.” I grabbed him because I thought he was making fun of me. I grabbed him by the scarf and rammed him against the wall. I said, “Don’t you ever disrespect me again.” A couple of friends pulled me off and they said, “What’s going on?” I said, “Who was the guy I was talking to over near the coffee machine?” This is what one of them said, “Robb, you were talking to yourself over near the coffee machine. There was nobody there called John.” That’s it, that’s the last I know of that conversation. I’ve never traced him since. Be as you see it but I know what I think I saw. I focused on some angel saving me and taking me through certain steps to make sure that I can carry this message and help other people and that’s what has happened to me. I reached millions of people with my show on the TV, on the radio and my books. It’s been a great journey.

You had a career prior to getting clean and sober and prior to working in the field of addiction recovery.

I was running a telecommunications company. We built the mass for all the Army and Navy first of all, but telecoms came in. We started building telephone mass for them. Then the drinking and drinking, I finally lost all that before I went to the streets. The career was there, but I lost everything. When I went on the streets, I didn’t have a penny to my name and nobody would speak to me. I had to beg on the streets. I remember and it keeps coming back into my mind. I stood outside a hamburger place and a married couple came out with two kids and I heard the man say to the woman, “I don’t think I can eat all this hamburger.” I followed them for about ten minutes until he finally threw half of it in the trashcan. I went in the trash and dug it out and wiped all the mess off it, and I ate that hamburger as I was starving.

Once you got clean and sober, how long did it take before you decided that you wanted to work in treatment?

ILBS 17 | Neuroplasticity

Neuroplasticity: God gave you a million-dollar mind. Stop hanging around with ten-cent minds.


Don’t forget all by then, I got my PhD in Psychology. My first job at Alesco was as a policeman. That’s what I did with my job. I did various things after that, but I think straight away. I went in and that was part of my deal to God was that I would aggressively work with other people, and that’s the only way I did. I set up the practice but I didn’t charge for anybody. I do it pro bono and I would work with people. Finally, it turned into a full-time job that turned into a crazy career over the years. I was straight into it. I was going around meetings at nighttime with my book, traveling as far as I can with my book and teaching people and showing people exactly what’s in the book because it’s nothing like you think it is.

Everyone thinks you can read it and that’s it. No. From page one, the stuff on that page, you don’t even know what it means. The word, earnestness, people see it and I mentioned seven times in the book, earnestness. I asked everybody I meet, “Do you know what the word means?” “Yeah.” “Do you know what the synonym of earnestness is?” “No.” It’s sober. The words are there for the reason. They’re not just thrown together. Every single word is vital and necessary to life. It’s been a great journey so far.

There are four levels of learning. You read it, listen to it, write it down, speak it back and level four is you teach it. When it comes to step twelve, carrying the message and sponsoring other guys, this is a lifelong journey. It’s like you want to get fit physically, you go to the gym, you work out. You don’t just go to the gym and workout, then once you’re in shape, you’re done working out forever. Being in recovery and being spiritually fit is ongoing. We have to constantly work on ourselves, confidently go to meetings, sponsor guys and carry the message. That’s the only way we’re going to continue and stay spiritually fit.

It’s like going to the gym. If you’re getting fit at the gym and you take three days off, it tells. It catches up. It’s a maintenance of a daily spiritual program for me. Maybe we could even talk about the hypothalamus reset every 24 hours. That gives me an idea that this has to be done every day and when I stopped doing it, there are relapse causes there. You’ve got to look at that. A lot of people I was asking, “When did you start to stop praying? When did you stop going to meetings?” Meetings will never keep me sober. Meetings will never get me well.

Of all the studying I’ve done around in my time, must have been over many years of college, universities and schools, I’ve studied Carl Jung, addiction. I studied neuroplasticity on the brain regarding addiction. The best piece of literature I’ve ever read is the full 164 pages of the book that we’re talking about pertaining to the alcoholic and the recovery of the said person. Once I started reading it out, I started getting into it even more. The book says that we have a daily reprieve.

When you look at the word reprieve from the Oxford English, it’s a state of execution. I have a daily state of execution. If I did yesterday what I did now and now what I did tomorrow, I’m going to stay sober. This is not one day at a time. It doesn’t mean not drinking. It means how much can I pack in that day, in that stream of life? How many people can I help? How can I be of service to other people? When I say thank you to somebody, dopamine is released into my brain. I don’t know about you, but I like some dopamine, not high every day.

I don’t have bad days, Tim. I do have better days than others, but usually I’m at a 9 out of 10 on a happiness scale because I spent many years crying inside and outside the rooms, on the streets, with my family, in treatment centers, nothing worked for me. I’m the only person or alcoholics who will recover. I’m the only people that get two lives in one lifetime, don’t miss the second one up because of the dreams you have at nighttime of doing this and doing that becoming successful and the daydreams you have, that’s God’s telling you your future. What happens is you surround yourself with people who hate you or don’t like you or want to put you down and they drain you of God’s vision for you. In the end, you settle for that job working at a supermarket or sweeping the floor. What I’ve got for you is you had a multimillion-dollar business to run where you can help millions of alcoholics, but you’re hanging around these people. You’ve got to hang around the people who are going to lift you up and never put you down. God gave you a million-dollar mind. Stop hanging around with ten-cent minds.

As they say, willpower doesn’t work. Ben Hardy wrote a book called Willpower Doesn’t Work. It speaks to the environment and the people that you surround yourself with. What do they say? You’re the average of the five people that you spend the most time with. You’ve got to spend time with people that have what you want.

Earnestness is a synonym for sobriety. Click To Tweet

An old man once told me outside my school when I was waiting for the bus. He was a wise old man and he said, “Say you’d get a job for $5,000, but you want $10,000, how would you do it?” I went, “I don’t know, work harder.” He said, “Hell, no. You hang around the people that earn $10,000.” This blew my mind. All my life I’ve been hanging around people that I look up to. People that help more people, earn more money, drive bigger cars, love people better and service every single day and you become that person. If you think about it, have you ever hung around a friend who has a special saying like, “Get out of here?” After a few weeks or a month, you will say that saying because you will become that person because we mirror each other. If you’re hanging around guys that don’t have any ambition, you keep drinking and keep relapsing, then that is going to be you. It’s a human science. You can’t change it on your own. There has to be repetition and strength in, and it can affirm around the actions that create your future. One of my favorite sayings is, “Show me your friends, I’ll show you your future.”

I have a friend named Joe Polish. He’s the Founder of Genius Network and also the Founder of Genius Recovery. He always talks about creating value. He wrote a book called Life Gives To The Giver and it’s all about creating value. How much value can I create? We all want fulfillment and pre-sobriety, “I lie, cheat and steal to take what I want.” Being in the rooms of AA, being in the Twelve-Step rooms and surrounding myself with people, not even all of them are in recovery, but I spend most of my time with people that believe in value creation and I’m going to achieve fulfillment when I give. I’m going to give, be a kind person, an honest person and keep my side of the street clean. That’s how I achieve fulfillment.

It tells us time and time again that we have to act as the good Samaritan every day, not just 4 or 7 days a week because what we have to remember is all the stuff we’ve been through. It’s like a semester at Harvard. These are teachings for your future. Learn by what you’ve been put through because God only puts you through that because he knows you can handle it. You come out on the other side and you are armed with the facts about everything. You might be the only person, that somebody who’s going to die of alcoholism and cease. What are you going to do? Are you going to piss and moan or are you going to excite him by your eyes, your actions and your voice? Excited about life. After all these years, you bet I am. I once heard in the rooms, “Be careful, Robb. After three months of sobriety, you’re on a pink cloud, you might come off it.” I’ve been on a pink cloud for a lot longer than that and I am not coming off it.

At what point did you realize that the way you were going to achieve fulfillment was by giving?

There are a couple of people around me that I surrounded myself with. He wasn’t talking monetary but you said, “You’ll never go broke by giving away.” He meant it spiritually, on kindness and everything. That’s what I do now. We were in a position, me and my wife, where we run a very successful million-dollar company and we give a lot of money away, but we don’t just give it to any old person. We give it to people in recovery who have children, especially a single parent. We’ll help anybody out when they call us and as long as we know them. We don’t give to strangers unfortunately. If we know that you’re doing the right thing and you’re helping, it’s all about giving my time, my money, my thoughts and my experience back to the next person.

I run a book study every Saturday morning. I’m a very busy guy, but all bets are off on Saturday morning. My wife does not book anything. That’s my time giving back. I do an hour of book study and it’s beautiful. Everyone in there is amazed and learning real good stuff. That’s what it’s about for me. I put that first before my working life because that’s what’s getting me through and that’s what inspires other people because that’s my job now. I’m always going to be in the trenches. The other stuff you see me do, the TV, the books, it pays the mortgage and keeps my wife happy. My job is in the trenches working with them. The only paycheck I get off them is watching them recover and get the job, the life, the wife, the car back and have an amazing life. That’s me paid in for.

Is your wife in recovery?

No, she isn’t. She had a brother that took his own life because he was an alcoholic. There’s a relation there that she knows. She was a director at a university when I met her, but she’s adapted to this. It’s funny because when I first met her, she didn’t like her job too much so she wanted to change it or something. One day I came home and says, “We’re that successful right now at work that you can go in and give your notice in tomorrow.” She did. She was the happiest person in the world for about three days, and then she says, “I can’t do this anymore. It’s driving me crazy.” She came and worked for us and then she became the Director of Operations. She does all the wages and everything.

ILBS 17 | Neuroplasticity

Neuroplasticity: We have to change the neural pathways into self-care, positivity, feeling better, and getting more out of life.


How long have you been married?

Six years on February the 14th, 2021.

How did you end up in the United States?

I came over here for two weeks, a church in Plano near Dallas, Texas got in touch with me and said, “We want you to come over with. We heard a lot about you and we want you to spend two weeks with a youth ministry. We have big crack cocaine in the real posh areas of Plano,” which is one of the wealthiest cities in America at one time. I booked everything, and I went over and I come over here. The minute I landed at DFW Airport outside Dallas, I knew I would never go back home. I didn’t, and that was several years ago.

Are you living in Texas now?

I live in San Antonio, Texas. I lived in Dallas for several years, but we came in about several years ago to San Antonio because it’s near her family. We found the house of our dreams. We’re going to be here until God decides he got some more work up there for me.

I love San Antonio. Let’s talk about neuroplasticity and its role in changing neural pathways.

Neuroplasticity is the tracking of the neural pathways in the head, part of it. What happens is when we’re born alcoholic, not drug addicts. I’ve got to stress that drugs and alcohol are two different entities at all. Alcohol reacts differently on the brain than any drug does. We’re born this way. The minute we take alcohol, all bets are off. Whatever it is, alcoholism is always trauma. Let me define trauma for you because many people are like, “Not in my life.” There are two types of trauma. For the alcoholic brain, the addicted brain, “Get down off that chair, you stupid idiot. How many times have I told you you’re not clever enough to go to college?” That’s child abuse. Anything less than nurturing is child abuse. That’s where the abuse comes from.

Show me your friends and I'll show you your future. Click To Tweet

Our neural pathways, which is our thinking process, always leads to self-sabotage. That’s why we can get a week a month or even a year sometimes of building up that bright future for me and my family and all of a sudden, I go on a spree and drag everything down. I get back in with my wife and the kids are okay, and the job’s there again. I do exactly the same thing because the neural pathways in my head are self-sabotage in your pathways. They’re always going to self-sabotage. That goes back to the hypothalamus I was talking about before. Part of the job of the hypothalamus is a fight or flight part of the brain. It secretes into the brain, “What’s going on? Fight off? Should I run? Should I stay?” All the major quick decisions we have to make and survival instincts.

It tells the normal person to drink water and eat food to survive, that’s why we don’t need to teach your baby how to eat. It already knows, hung down its mouth means it’s hungry. That’s normal. To the alcoholic, it tells us to drink. Now, that’s new science we’ve got into. What does that mean for the alcoholic? The brain’s telling us to drink. How do we change that? We have to change the neural pathways into self-care, into positive, into feeling better, getting more out of life. What happens is the main neural pathways in my head were going down the main freeway. I have to start taking the side roads to my destination, and sooner or later, the side roads become the main neural pathway thought process in my head and the old self-sabotage fizzles out and finally goes away.

Before the neural pathways are changed, our reaction, our urge and desire are to drink. Is that the solution?

It is the solution, but it’s not the disease. “This is getting too much. It’s sunny outside. It’s raining outside. I’m going to drink because I’m self-centered, selfish and I can’t handle life.” My brain is telling me that I’m never good enough, “You are never getting down off that chair, you stupid idiot.” I won’t speak to my worst enemy the way I speak to myself, not in a million years. If I drop a pen on the floor, I’m not an idiot. I just dropped a pen on the floor. The internal dialogue will either save your life or kill you as an alcoholic.

What are the steps to change your neural pathways?

You have to have help from somebody like me who specializes in changing neural pathways, and the neural pathway is a new thought pattern. Have you ever noticed when you first started driving a car, no matter what size the car is, it feels like a tank? When you’re passing cars, you’re scared in case you hit them, yet you’re 10 yards away from the car. That’s just the way it is. The more we do that, repetition strengthens and confirms your pathways. All of a sudden, now we can back down the driveway while speaking to mom on the phone, listening to music and waving to the next-door neighbor without the thought of driving. Those solid neural pathways have been built and ingrained into the brain, how to drive. Now, spend a year not driving, and the car turns into a tank again.

We need to do this on a daily basis to keep the neural pathways solid and become a thought pattern without thinking about it. We call it the knee-jerk reaction, and it is the same with alcoholism. You need self-care so you need to do good things and good thought patterns. We use brainspotting, NLP, Neuro-Linguistic Programming and SE, which is Somatic Experience, to change the way we think, act and behave. It’s repetition over a 90-day period because that’s how long it takes for the brain to reset chemically, and we’re on a good start to a great life.

Once the new neural pathways have been developed, how does the person keep the new neural pathways intact?

ILBS 17 | Neuroplasticity

Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions

Repetition, every time. The thing we talked about is the daily maintenance, not just spiritually, but everything of a set routine to keep us busy, always giving back, available and positive whenever you can. I talked to everybody. I went to the bakery a couple of months ago. I was getting a cake for someone’s birthday out there at the Twelve-Step meeting. There was an old lady behind the counter and I always have a ball with people, I always laugh and joke. She’s like, “If I was 50 years younger, we’d be dating.” I was like, “If you were 50 years younger, I’d let you date me.” I’m going back and forth. She’s laughing and I’m laughing, the usual that I do. We’re back tomorrow because she wanted to write her name on it.

We went back the next day, and a manager was serving me and all of a sudden, this old lady came from the back of the store and she said, “Can I speak to you?” I said, “Yeah.” She said, “I want to thank you.” I’m like, “For what? What did I do?” She said, “Yesterday was my first day back since my husband died six months ago, and I was dreading coming into work and I was scared. I was nervous and all that stuff but laughing and joking with you in the first hour I was there made my day.” I didn’t know that. I had no idea. She told me, but that’s the stuff we need to do is to make other people’s day and it’ll come back to you tenfold.

Being optimistic, being positive and laughter. Laughter is some of the best medicine.

If you walk into a room and there are ten people in the room with a frown on your face, most people are going to frown back. If you walk in the same room with the same people with a smile on your face, most people are going to smile back, and that’s what we need to do. Don’t wait for other people to make the change. Be that guy that does that change. Be that guy that walks in the room with a smile on his face. Be that guy to say the first word in an elevator when everyone’s looking the opposite way and nobody speaks. Be that first guy to make somebody’s day. That’s what it’s all about. Don’t sit and wait for somebody else to do it. Get up and do it yourself. Be a leader. Alcoholics who’ve recovered from a hopeless state of mind and body are leaders. This isn’t an affliction. It’s a superpower. Start using the power that God’s given you. The Twelve Steps book says we are empowered. I can tell from experience that empowered people empower people, and that’s what it’s about. I spent too many times at the back of the line, too many times crying, hoping and wishing. This is it. This is the chance to reclaim your life. We get two lives in one lifetime. I say I’ll call it for you.

You can feel the energy in a room. When you walk into a room and it’s dreary and it’s depressing, to your point, be the person that brings positive energy. If you’re the person that brings the positive energy, that brings the smile that says, “Hello,” that brings the laughter. That changes the whole environment and that changes the energy in the room.

The positive energy that you talk about, Tim, is very contagious. It’s like when somebody starts laughing, other people start laughing with you. You don’t know what the other joke is because you’re laughing. It’s going back to the mirror effect in the brain. Be that change. What’s the worst that can happen because that’s how you are. Even if they don’t feel better, you will, every single time.

Abe Lincoln said, “You’re as happy as you make your mind up to be.”

The truest statement I’ve ever had. It’s unbelievable, it’s true. If I’m happy now and then tomorrow, if I’m miserable, what’s changed? I still live in the same house, got the same wife, dogs, cars and business. “I’ve changed,” that’s the neural pathways from the self-sabotaging coming back again. Stop your day and start your day over anytime you want. You get up in the morning, you stub your toe, you cut yourself shaving. Whatever it is, stop, breathe and say, “I’m going to start my day now.” I’m telling you now, readers, if you don’t get better after what I said, call me. I will give you $10,000 because it’s impossible to do because what we say to ourselves, we react on.

Selfishness is what kills us, not alcohol. Click To Tweet

That internal dialogue will rule your brain. Fight back against that depression. I don’t want to get into all that, but just that little depression that alcohol is getting to, fight against it. Change your day. Start your day, breathe, call somebody up. Be of service. Anything you need to do to get you out of yourself because selfishness is what kills us, not alcohol. Alcohol is the end result. The selfishness of oneself will kill you. Once that starts to happen, it’s like a corroding thread. It’s going to rip through your mind and your body. Before you know it, you’re dead from your drinking. Let me tell you this, when you’re drinking, you’re no good to anybody. Forget yourself. There are 10 to 20 people out there that day that are drunk who should have heard something about what good you had to say, but because you were selfish and drank, they didn’t hear it. They’re probably dead now. Think about that.

The selfishness and self-centeredness, going back to the drinking and the drugs are selfish. It’s self-centered. It means that I’m not helping somebody else because if I am helping somebody else, then I’m not thinking about myself. I remember I was about 4 or 5 years sober. I remember I’m going through these things in my life and I’m calling my sponsor and he’s working with newcomers and he’s not calling me back. I’m like, “What about me?” I realized I needed to get another sponsee. I need to work with another person. The reason I work with another person is to get outside of myself. Tim needs somebody besides Tim, and then I get to a place where I’m grateful. I’m full of gratitude and I realized my problem aren’t that big of a deal.

That’s one of the secrets in life. If you could get that down to a tee, the pursuit of happiness, you’ve arrived. You keep doing that on a daily basis and being that guy.

Trauma and addiction, returning to the scene of the crime.

Going back to that stuff that you don’t want to talk about. The Twelve-Step book talks about grosser handicaps. There are only seven of them that I’ve ever found. Go back and clearing that stuff up because many people, when they did step 4 and 5 go, “I’ve dealt with that rape and molestation.” Have you or do you just want to come to that humbling experience with a guy who’s your sponsor? You don’t know. You’ve got to ask yourself that question. We go back to the scene of the crime and we clear that stuff up. We look at it for what it is, the effects it has had on you and how we’re going to get out of that because that stuff sits in the subconscious brain and it will affect the rest of your life if you leave it lingering. What happens with this stuff back at the scene of the crime is it gets built up and other stuff is added to it. It’s like a zip file on your computer screen, sooner or later, you’re going to click on it and all that crap that you’ve stored up will come out all at once. That’s the biggest cause of a breakdown because the brain can’t handle it. It switches off. The central nervous system closes down, then we’re in big trouble.

We’ve got to clear away the wreckage of the past.

All of it, every single bit of it that we can and live that great life. I have nothing in the past that’s lingering that will come up. Forget about anybody else that will come up and destroy you. The amends I make to people is not for them, it’s for me. The stuff that I do, it’s not for them. It’s for me. This is the stuff I need to do and people forget about that. If I’m walking down the road and there’s no one around. You throw the trash into the can, it misses, it hits the floor, “Do I pick it up or do I leave it there because there’s nobody watching me?” That defines the kind of person you are. If you pick up, you live in the right. If you leave it there, it’s all show. My mom used to tell me, “When you meet somebody, look at the shoes. If it’s shiny at the front but the back of the heel is dull, they are all for show. If they shine the back of the shoes where the heel is, they are the deal. They’re thoughtful, they’re impeccable with their word.” I’ve always done that now.

I’ve never heard that before.

ILBS 17 | Neuroplasticity

Alcoholics Anonymous: The Big Book

It’s true. Just look at the guy’s shoes, especially not so much now when shoes have changed, but back when you used to have to use polish on your black shoes, you always look at the back. If it’s still scuffed and messed up, then they’re just doing it for a show. They’re not doing it because they’re thorough and they live a good life.

I’ll have to start paying attention to that. Although being in the middle of a pandemic, it’s not like I’m out seeing a lot of people as it is. A grateful and recovered alcoholic from being hopeless to hopeful, talk to me about that.

The transition for the Twelve-Step program will take you to a place you’ve never been before. Here’s the deal that nobody knows. This is self-based evidence from our program that we use here is when you have the psychic change and the spiritual awakening, your DNA changes. You’re not the same person as you were when you walked into the rooms, so start reading the book. What does that mean? The book is quite specific when it says, “The same man will drink again,” so our DNA has to change. Once that happens, we’re on the right road. We’re a different person. The pursuit of happiness again is there for you and we can chase it and we can live the dream we want to live.

We don’t get stuck in the past. We don’t want to forget the past because it’s got us to where we are now but I don’t live in my past. I remember things, I talk about it now and again, but I don’t live there. I live in now. I’m lucky and blessed because I have people around me to do all the stuff that I can’t get involved with the booking, the talking, the appointments, the payment, and that’s all taken off me. I have no idea what I’m doing tomorrow. I just know that my wife will give me now. She’ll say, “Here are your appointments for tomorrow.” That’s it. I get to live one day at a time and I get to live in the moment, which is awesome.

Do you ever feel not supported by your wife in your recovery path or your recovery journey?

No. She is an absolutely amazing woman. She sticks by me all the way. I’ll be honest, Tim, if it wasn’t for her, I couldn’t be doing what I’m doing now. Everybody needs the person that they can rely on, who lifts you up, reminds you who you are, for support and the person on that day when you’re not having a great day, but pushes you forward to do what you’re doing. She is 100% behind me. She’s my best friend. She’s my wife. She’s a phenomenal business partner. She’s got everything.

I guess where I’m going with this is because she’s not in recovery, what I experience a lot of times is that people that are not in recovery don’t speak the language, and sometimes they don’t totally get it.

The best thing she did was to read the Big Book. She got knowledgeable about it. She knows what’s going on. That’s the good news. The bad news is when your wife reads Big Book and you’re doing anything wrong, she’ll let you know straight away. There are good and bad signs. Don’t forget we are surrounded by patients, sponsors and stuff like that. At the house, we often have what we call Sober Sunday. We have a big call entertaining house. We got pools and spas in the back and a full kitchen. We’ll open the house up to everyone at the meetings, and we’ll come around and she talks to people. She’s in the crowd herself even though she’s not an alcoholic or addict.

The difference between alcoholics and heavy drinkers is not in how much they drink, but in how it affects their brains. Click To Tweet

Has she ever worked at a Twelve-Step program or anything like that?

No, nothing at all. She’s been on a few times as I have to get to see the other person’s point of view. I’ve been to CA. I’ve been to all the Twelve-Step groups to get a piece of it and see what they’re up against. She doesn’t work anything. She has her spiritual journey and she has a spiritual guru that she works with. She’s not a Twelve-Step person.

Does she drink?

She’ll do once in six months, once every twelve months. I’m very big on surrounding myself when I go out with people who drink because for many years, I couldn’t do that. Now, I can still get 1 or 2 friends, “Are you okay if we drink?” I’m like, “Yeah. Why are you asking me for?” “I’m just making sure, it must be difficult for you.” If this was difficult for me, I’d be drinking. The compulsion had to be taken away. I have a new life now. Alcohol is not my problem. Thinking is my problem. It’s not the drinking problem, it’s the thinking problem. That’s what it’s all about. Alcohol’s the symptom. It’s like when I get chickenpox on, he says, “Robb, you’ve got chickenpox.” “How did you know?” “I can see all the spots on your body.” That’s the symptom of chickenpox. I have a viral infection that as an adult can kill me. It’s the same with alcoholism. You see the bottle with the whiskey in it or wherever it may be. You don’t see the disease that centers in my brain that has an effect on my body.

Being a person in long-term recovery, I’ve dated girls that are in recovery and girls that are not in recovery or women that are in recovery and are not. To your point, anybody I date, I date. Anybody I surround myself with needs to be supportive of my recovery journey, but I’m never tempted to drink. It’s a symptom. We can live our lives and I don’t need to control people. Other people can do whatever it is that they want to do.

If we can’t go into a place where beers are served, alcohols are served, a mix with people, you’re not in the right place. You’ll probably relapse. We need to be on the fit spiritual ground. We can go anywhere we wanted. I often got used to like German wine, and that’s what my wife drinks every now and then. I often take the glass and smell it because I know a good wine from a bad wine. It has no effect on me. Why would it have an effect? It’s the symptom. If you’ve got a great person around, who supports you for who you are and support your journey, that’s what we need because we can’t do this on our own.

There was an experiment done a few years ago with ten mice in ten cages. Each cage has a feed of water and cocaine. Every single one of them chose the cocaine. Every single time, they went back to the cocaine. What they did then is they collected all of the mice to come in one cage, and 9 out of 10 of the mice went to the water. Together, we can do it, singly we can’t. There’s a big lesson to be learned then, hence the fellowship. The fellowship will not get you well, the fellowship will not keep you well, no human power can relieve my alcoholism, but God could and would. The fellowship is very important for lifting each other up, hearing other stories, compliment other people and being grateful for people around you.

The opposite of human connection is addiction and alcoholism. We need each other. We need a fellowship. We need to be around other people and surrounding ourselves around people that want the same things that we want, surrounding myself around people that have what I want. That’s how I’m going to get what I want.

A lot of people think it’s all monetary and it’s not. You can hang around and be a great guy without even earning a lot of money but you can succeed. Quantum physics tells us that I can be on the same basketball court for instance at 25 places at the same time. I could be 25 different places on the same basketball court. Ask yourself where you want to be. “I will be one over near the balls. When I got it, I bang it in the net and I’d be the hero,” so would I. The question is, “How do we get there?” “Here we go, we walk over and we take that position.” That’s all it is. If you can visualize it, you can hold it in your hand, but you need people around you to keep that dream there. Never share your dreams with people who never share their dreams.

Do you think people can achieve long-term recovery without the twelve-step program?

ILBS 17 | Neuroplasticity

Neuroplasticity: We’re never going to be blonde enough, tall enough, thin enough or rich enough. Take that on board and live life to the max.


I’ve seen it done. This is hard because there’s a great distinction between an alcoholic and a heavy drinker. I know people have drank more than me, drank longer than me, were in blackouts more than me, but it’s not how often we drink or how much we take. It’s the effect that chemical has on my brain. That’s the difference. You’ve got to ask yourself of people who do it on their own, “Were they real alcoholic or just heavy drinkers?” Heavy drinkers can stop drinking, given a sufficient reason. The doctor goes, “You live as blah, blah, blah. If you don’t stop drinking, you’re going to die.” They can stop in moderation. They’re not alcoholic.

When I take the first drink, can I stop? No, I was in a hospital bed once again. The doctor lent over me and he looked right in my face and he said, “Look, Robb, if you ever drink alcohol again, you will not even make it in the ambulance to the hospital. Am I making myself clear?” While he’s telling me this deadly message, I’m looking over his shoulder at the clock on the wall, thinking the liquor store closes in two hours’ time, “If I can get out of it in the next 30 minutes, I can get to the liquor store on time.” That’s how crazy thinking is.

What is it that you want people to take away from this conversation that we had?

There are a couple of things. Whatever you desire, whatever you want, you can get it. If you’re doing the right thing, following a great program, and doing all the things it tells me, don’t let anybody tell you, “You can’t recover on this and have an amazing life. It’s not true.” Stop hanging around with people that bring you down, that are jealous of you and want what you’ve got. You’ve got to realize that you are worthy. Remember, we’re never going to be blonde enough, tall enough, thin enough or rich enough. Take that on board and live life to the max. Every single day, live life to the max because God forbid, if you ever die tomorrow, what would you regret not having done now? Keep that in your mind and make sure you do it.

How can people reach You? Find out more about you? Find out more about the services that you have?

Dr. Robb Kelly on any Google search or any of the platforms, just search my name. You’ll see it. RobbKelly.com is the website. I often do this on only great shows and not crappy shows. I’m going to give you my personal cell phone number should you need it, (214) 600-0210. That isn’t for business. That is if you’re struggling and you need a fifteen-minute pep-talk. I’m not going to cost you anything. Call me and we’ll chat. I will change your life in fifteen minutes with the talk I will give you. I guarantee it.

Also, it’s worth mentioning on Amazon only. The last thing my daughter said to me years ago was, “Daddy, Daddy Please Stop Drinking,” and that’s the name of the book on Amazon. The only reason why we do it is we don’t take a dime from it. Not all the profits, all the proceeds, everything that goes into that buying of that book for $10 goes back in the community. We gave a bunch of money away. It must be $100,000 the year before or maybe $200,000 back into the community, back helping people. Go and buy it. It’s a great read. Let me know what you think about it.

Dr. Robb Kelly, I appreciate you. It was good getting to know you and getting to know more about you. Thanks, everybody. I hope you all have an amazing rest of your day. Thanks again, Dr. Robb.

It’s great to see you.

Important Links:

About Dr. Robb Kelly

ILBS 17 | NeuroplasticityRobb Kelly, Ph.D. is a renowned addiction consultant who believes in treating the problem of addiction, not the symptoms. He has worked for many years helping addicts and alcoholics to recover their lives from the disease of addiction. Based on his own experiences working with addicts and alcoholics over the last 20 years, a Ph.D. in Psychology from Oxford University and as a recovered alcoholic himself – he is a triple threat against the disease of addiction. Dr. Kelly was the CEO of a thriving telecommunications company when the walls came crashing down on him due to alcoholism. He ended up homeless and broken on the streets of Manchester, England until he found the courage to save himself.

He has lectured on the subject of addiction at many high-profile universities, national conferences, public schools, churches, business organizations and hospitals, and is recognized as a leading authority on addiction recovery methods that are changing lives all around the world. Dr. Kelly is currently the CEO of the Robb Kelly Recovery Group, an addiction recovery coaching company he created based on extensive research and behaviour studies that he conducted over the last 20 years.

Dr. Kelly’s methods may seem unconventional leading some people to refer to him as “The Gordon Ramsay of the Addiction World” because of his direct, no-nonsense, and candid approach to treating addiction. Dr. Kelly works to “make the road of recovery less of a mystery tour.”

Sex, Drugs, And Rock N’ Roll: The Healing Powers Of Music From Addiction With Tim Ringgold


How do you deal with or reduce stress and be sober? Most of the time, everyone looks for something when stressed, and for Tim Ringgold, he found recovery in music. In this episode, Tim Westbrook interviews Tim—a certified music therapist, author, and host of Reduce Your Stress—about his journey of recovery from his addictions to a sober life through music. He discovered how music affects the brain and how to get back into the rhythm by listening and playing music or even making music. Join them today as they discuss Tim’s journey through sex addiction to recovery and the healing powers of music. Sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll are in that order for a reason!

Watch the episode here:

Listen to the podcast here:

Sex, Drugs, And Rock N’ Roll: The Healing Powers Of Music From Addiction With Tim Ringgold

For many years my team and I have helped thousands of people find their path to long-term recovery. We started the show because there’s so much inaccurate information out there and bad content about the world of recovery and addiction treatment. This is a platform for us to share the truth. There is so much more to getting clean and sober than going to treatment for 30 days then working a twelve-step program. There’s so much more. Those are integral parts of the process. The twelve-step program saved my life and it saved lots of lives out there but there’s a lot more to it, things like food and nutrition, self-care, exercise, fitness, music, developing new healthy lifestyle habits to replace the old lifestyle habits that got us in trouble. These are some of the things that I talked about on this show.

It’s an honor to have my friend Tim Ringgold here. Tim is a board-certified music therapist, columnist, author, and host of the podcast Reduce Your Stress. He’s provided music therapy to thousands of teens and adults to help them lower anxiety and reduce pain. Tim is also an award-winning international speaker having shared the stage with some of the top minds on music, the brain, and personal development, including Tony Robbins. Tim was the first person to give a TEDx Talk on music therapy back in 2012. He is also a former regional president of the American Music Therapy Association. Tim, welcome to the show. It’s good to have you.

Tim, it’s great to be with you. Thanks for having me.

We’ve been working on this for a while. It’s good to have you here. I have your book, Sonic Recovery: Harness The Power Of Music To Stay Sober. Tim, give me a little backstory about you, music, and addiction.

It’s great to be here. It’s always great to hear other people’s stories because you hear yourself in it. I’m happy to share mine a little bit. I’m a kid who grew up on the East Coast who found himself on stage when he was four. I remember, it was like, “This is why I’m here on the planet. It’s music, it always has been.” I was a lucky kid. I had a great upbringing. What didn’t appear like any acute trauma, later on in life, I went back and realize there was a specific relational, spiritual trauma that I would love to touch on because it would be enlightening to the readers. I had a good life until I was 22. On April 18th, 1995 while I was at a live show listening to some music, my five best friends were murdered. I ended up going to five funerals in four days. I’d get up, bury a friend, get as hammered as possible, pass out, and then wake up the next day and do the whole thing over again.

Five of your friends were murdered?


How did that happen?

It was an escalating tenant-landlord dispute that went way beyond. For those of you who remember, it was the day of the Oklahoma City bombing when Timothy McVeigh blew up the Federal Building. They were murdered the night before. When I turned on the news, there’s the Federal Building, blown in half on the national channels. On the local channel, it was my best friend’s house burned to the ground and they’re pulling body bags out of the ashes. I thought it was the end of the world. It was the end of my world because my band rehearsed in that house every Wednesday night and this was Tuesday night. If it had been the next day, I would have been one of those five because only three friends lived there and two are in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Kryptonite is the thing that affects us that doesn't affect others. Click To Tweet

Burying five friends in four days is not something I recommend for anybody’s journey. I played music at all of their funerals and their memorials. It was my way of saying goodbye. I was the musician in the group. My community embraced me even though it tore me up. The night of the last funeral, I went back and went to some live music. For the first two hours since I had gotten the news, I found peace. No amount of drugs, alcohol, porn, food, or cable TV, and I used them all that whole week, had numb that pain but the music did. It was a pivotal moment in my life. From that moment, I was like, “That’s it. I know what I want to do with my life. I want to be the instrument pun intended that provides peace for others in their toughest times.” That’s what my journey has been like ever since.

That was when you were 22 years old.


You were still drinking.

I was drinking, smoking, drugging, sexing, and porning.

You’re doing everything and anything to numb the pain. When did you realize that you had a problem with drugs and alcohol? What was your drug of choice?

It turns out sex was my kryptonite. I was a guy who was in the music business and they say sex, drugs, and rock and roll in that order for a reason. I loved that lifestyle. When I left the music industry, I was able to walk away from drugs and alcohol. It didn’t bother me at all. Women and porn were kryptonite for me. I was powerless around it. That’s why I use the word kryptonite. For those of us who are walking a recovery journey, there are things that affect others that don’t affect us. There are things that affect us that don’t affect others. Kryptonite is my term. I didn’t put two and two together. It took a long time to realize that I had this problem. It was probably not until 2003 that I fully understood that I was powerless over women and that my life had become unmanageable. I walked my ass into a twelve-step meeting on February 17th, 2003. I was scared out of my mind. I’m like, “A freak show.” The meeting was in a circle in a church.

SAA meeting or SLAA?

It was SAA. By the time they got to me, I was like, “I’m Tim. Apparently, I’m a sex addict because you told my story and you talked about thoughts and feelings that I’ve never shared with anybody but I have that exact thing going on inside of me.” It was such an eye-opening experience because what I found in my recovery journey and my clinical journey is that there are a lot of characteristics of thinking in the addictive mind where the person thinks they’re the only one that’s either victimized, suffering, or thinking about whatever it is.

ILBS 16 | Healing Powers Of Music

Sonic Recovery: Harness The Power Of Music To Stay Sober

When you go to a meeting, suddenly you realize you’re not the only one but it’s a symptom. It’s like a cough. Your thoughts can be a symptom and you thought you were the only one and you thought you were special. That was wonderfully eye-opening for me because I realized I’m not alone and other people have gotten sober. I don’t have to reinvent the wheel. I don’t have to try anything new. I can follow in other people’s footsteps and take the next right step.

When I called the 800 number for that meeting, a guy named Klaus answered the phone and he said, “I got good news for you. I called the same 800 number ten years ago when my wife served me divorce papers and we’ve been together ever since.” I thought, “If you’ve gotten that darn down the road with divorce papers and then walked it back from that edge, there’s hope.” Klaus gave me hope. The first gift of recovery was hope. The second gift was this feeling of I’m not alone.

When did you realize you were a sex addict? At what point?

I didn’t know I was a sex addict. I didn’t know until I was sitting in the room. I knew I might have a problem.

When did you start thinking you might have a problem?

I didn’t even think I had a problem until I filled out on SAA-Recovery.org. There’s a questionnaire. It’s like, “You might need to go to a meeting if.” It’s ten questions. They’re very specific. I took the questionnaire. I answered yes to eight of them. The criteria were if you answer yes to two of these, you might want to go to a meeting. When I scored 8 out of 10, I was like, “Fuck, there’s something is going on.” I was in a total delusion when I finally went to write out an inventory of all the people I had been unfaithful with my girlfriend with. If you had asked me how many were on the list, I would have told you four and I would have believed it.

My brain had compartmentalized my behavior so well I wasn’t consciously aware of the wreckage until I did an inventory. Do you know those old school lined paper, there are 26 lines? I filled every line and I was mortified, shocked, and surprised because the names kept coming. I had to turn the piece of paper over and I was like, “What?” I went to bed and then I woke up the next day and more names came back to me. My subconscious had buried all that behavior because of all the shame and the cognitive dissonance. I didn’t want to know myself as a player, as someone who was sleeping around, as someone unfaithful. I would have passed a lie detector test that I didn’t have a problem.

How old were you when you went to your first SA meeting?

I’m 31.

The first gift of recovery is hope. The second gift is the feeling that you’re not alone. Click To Tweet

Nine years after the major incident where five of your friends were murdered.

That story is the origin story of when I realized the power that music has over my suffering, my pain, and my experience of the world. I didn’t connect the two dots along that journey. I was still going along, wrecking ball, out of control, and not thinking I have a problem. When I got into recovery, I went back to school a year later for music therapy. At the time, I wanted to go work in hospice. As I was in my music therapy career in school, I remember doing my first rotation in an inpatient mental health facility. I was working with guys who are struggling with a number of different things, one of them being addiction.

When I went to do my internship, I worked in a 28-day residential program and I saw myself sitting in all my groups and I was like, “Wait a minute.” I’m in this position where this one leg of me, a brother in recovery, is here. This other leg of me is this clinician who knows something about music that others don’t. I can help people in recovery lean on music the right way to support them in their recovery and prevent them from relapsing due to their own music. I was happy because my two worlds came together.

That’s awesome. When you were at the treatment center, where was that in your journey?

I was about five years into my recovery journey at that point.

When you got into recovery for your sex addiction, were you drinking? Were you doing drugs at the time as well?

Weed was my drug of choice if you want to use a substance that isn’t alcohol. I was a recreational stoner and drinker. I wasn’t drinking regularly or smoking regularly. I also wasn’t abstinent. It wasn’t on my radar. I might have a beer or two when I go out on the weekends but I might not. I might go months without smoking and then I might see some friends, stoner buddies, and we might get stoned once every six months or a year. It wasn’t part of the constellation of what was hitting for me.

What is your sobriety date?

In sex addiction, sobriety is a little bit different around using the three circles. My circles have changed throughout the years. There are things that at one point where in my middle circle went to my inner circle and now they’re back.

ILBS 16 | Healing Powers Of Music

Healing Powers Of Music: Not everybody is as coordinated as the others, but everybody has rhythm. If you can tap, snap, clap, hum, rap, sing, strum, or scratch, you can be musical.


Give us a quick breakdown of the three circles.

In sex addiction and SAA, we define behavior in three different circles, your inner circle, middle circle, and your outer circle. Your inner circle behaviors would be behaviors that lead to what we call the pitiful demoralization, the bottom-line behaviors, the ones for you that wreck you that leave you feeling more disconnected afterward, that heaped the shame on. They’re behaviors, they’re subjective. Working with your sponsor, you’re the only person who determines what’s in your inner circle. You work with your sponsor to either, over time, add things to that and take things out. It’s a process.

Your middle circle is behaviors. You could look at them in two ways. One, they might be a slippery slope towards your inner circle. Two, they might be a safety net where they’re the least worst option. If you’re feeling squirrely and out of control and you engage in a middle circle, it’s not great. It’s better than your inner circle. That’s like a yellow light if you will, that’s your middle circle. Your outer circle is all the behaviors that lead to you feeling more connected and what we might use the term healthy behaviors, recovery behaviors. The idea is that you could put everything you do from the moment you wake up to the moment you go to sleep in one of those three circles. “My sponsor,” his definition of sobriety is that it’s a process of working with another person to determine what’s good and bad for you. It’s a little bit of a different way of looking at sobriety. It’s dynamic.

It’s not, “I had a beer or I didn’t have a beer. I did a lot of coke or I didn’t do a lot of coke. I smoked some crack or I didn’t smoke some crack.” That’s black and white. You either did or you didn’t. You have these red, yellow, green behaviors, that’s what they also call them. The red behaviors are your bottom-line behaviors, those are the things that lead to guilt, shame, demoralization, and you feeling horrible about yourself. You’ve got the yellow behaviors, which are somewhere in between. You’ve got the green behaviors, which lead to a healthy lifestyle. Those are healthy lifestyle habits. Those are for you playing the guitar. Those are for you running, exercising, eating healthy, having good healthy conversations with people, and with women that don’t lead to objectifying them, whatever would lead to you not feeling good about yourself.

In my journey, sleeping with other women, middle-inner circle behavior. It has always been an inner circle behavior since my first day of recovery. I’ve been abstinent from sleeping with women since the first day of my recovery. I’m grateful for that. Pornography, a whole different candle wax for me. For some people in recovery, it’s a middle circle behavior. For some people, it’s an inner circle behavior. For a long time, it was in my inner circle and I struggled with getting any time more than two years. I could get a year. I could get two years and then I’d have a slip. I’d look at it and then the clock might start over if you will but the frequency went from daily to monthly. It went from monthly to semi-annually. It went from semi-annually to annually. It went to bi-annually and then it might slip back to maybe quarterly.

There’s an important thing when it comes to behavior, which is frequency, intensity, and duration. If you’re changing any behavior, there’s on-off with drinking or with smoking where it’s like, “I never did it again.” Someone who’s working on a recovery journey, the challenge of the sobriety date idea forever thing is I find a lot of people get sober incrementally. What I mean by that is they put down until they don’t and that’s a short period of time. As they practice their recovery, those periods of time get longer and longer and they’re progressing. In certain circles, they feel a lot of shame around the story because it’s a chronic relapse. They’re putting together longer and longer periods of sobriety each and every time. They’re getting better at the game. It’s almost like they’re taking ten steps before they fall over as a kid and then they’re taking twenty steps before they trip. Now they’re taking 100 steps.

For me, my journey has been this incremental way out here. I would love to come on here and be honest and go, “I haven’t looked at porn in twenty years.” I wouldn’t be honest. I couldn’t tell you that. That was the one that’s been the hardest for me to quit. It’s been probably months since I viewed any. I’m feeling rather safe. I still have a sponsor I work with. We talk on the phone probably five days a week, that’s the strongest part of my twelve-step journey. At first, I kept looking at it through this shame lens and then I looked back and I was like, “Your relationship with it is different than it was when you were out of control.” Let’s try to stop beating ourselves up so much. Let’s be a little gentle and yet not take our hands off the wheel and be like, “I’m fine. I got no problems at all,” but to ride that fader between the two.

One of the problems with AA is that if someone slips, if they relapse, it’s like, “I started over. I’ve got less than 30 days.” It’s like, “You have less than 30 days.” However, your recovery journey doesn’t start over. You’re not starting from the ground. You had a slip. You’ve already done some things. You’re already on the journey to recovery. It’s part of the journey for some people. It’s not for everybody. For most people, relapse is part of the journey.

Any behavior change in your life is going to probably require more than one go. My first sponsor walked into his first meeting and never struggled again. His nickname was Gandalf the Wizard because he was this aged guy, white beard, and he never fucked up afterward. I was like, “I can’t be like you. I must be broken because this program works for you. It doesn’t work for me. I can’t put it together any time.” I used to think that the whole thing about less than 30 days, it’s less than 30 days continuous in this run. As if you’re the same person as a newbie who walked in. Let’s all agree it’s an imperfect program and most of us who have been in it are grateful and know that we’d either be dead or in jail without it. We hold both in our hands.

Sobriety is a process of working with another person to determine what's good and bad for you. Click To Tweet

You were still smoking weed and drinking. Are you still smoking weed and drinking a little bit? Are you completely abstinent from drugs and alcohol as well?

I gave up drinking in January 2019. I noticed that every time I had gotten close to sleeping with someone, alcohol was involved. For me, it was like the kerosene that was lighting the fire. I’m also a speaker. Prior to COVID, I’d be on the road 2, 3, 4 times a month speaking at conferences or retreats. I would get into trouble on the road. I would drink on the road, two beers, and then suddenly I’m flirting. I was waiting on someone else’s integrity to keep me safe. Sometimes, I’d meet people who didn’t have that problem. I got close to the edge several times and I realized alcohol was involved every time.

First, I quit drinking on the road. My wife wanted to quit. I saw the ads for One Year No Beer on Facebook. It was December and I remembered I cringed. I was like, “What’s that about? Why did I pull back when I considered One Year No Beer?” Instantly, I was like, “I better sign up.” I signed up with my wife, not on Facebook but in my head. I’m like, “I’m going to do a year with no alcohol.” 2020 came around and I was like, “I don’t feel like going back to alcohol.” I’m glad I didn’t because there would have been lots of opportunities to drink in 2020.

Tim, once I made the decision that I don’t drink, I don’t have to make any decisions anymore. I don’t have to decide whether or not I’m going to drink today or whether or not I’m going to drink tonight or whether I’m going to drink tomorrow or whether or not I’m going to drink because of blank. There are no more decisions involved. It’s off the table. That has been freeing. People ask me, they’re like, “Do you miss it?” I was like, “About 5% of the time.” That’s about it.

Alcohol leads to other behaviors. When I hear you say you’re clean from your bottom line behaviors, instead of resorting to your bottom line behaviors, you resort to something else. You resort to alcohol, drugs, smoking weed, video games, work. If you resort to alcohol because you still drink, next thing you know, your judgment is not great. Alcohol leads to the behaviors. You hear people that say, “I’m a heroin addict. I’m a crack cocaine addict. I’m a meth addict. I don’t have a problem with alcohol. I can still drink.” I’ve seen this happen many times. They have a few drinks and they might be able to do it a few times. The next thing you know, they’re back to meth, heroin, cocaine.

They don’t even know how they got there.

You decided that this was going to be in your life, music, therapy, and you were going to help people. Tell me what transpired next.

The reason I was a musician and wanting to inspire people was because of my friends’ journey. I wanted to give people that peace. In the music business, that culture is unhealthy. I found myself being easily socially influenced than environmentally influenced by all kinds of bad behavior in that world. I discovered there was this career called music therapy. It’s like being a physical therapist working in the same places that a physical therapist works except using music instead of exercise to treat people.

ILBS 16 | Healing Powers Of Music

Healing Powers Of Music: Music is the most complex stimulus in nature for the human brain to process. It requires every sub-region of the brain to activate, to take in, take apart music, and put it back together.


I am one part athlete, one part musician. At one point, I wanted to become a physical therapist but it only felt it was skin deep, it was tissue, it didn’t touch the soul and it didn’t touch the mind. I got bored with it. When I discovered that there was a career called music therapy, it was like putting the two in a blender. At the moment I discovered the field, I filled out my college application to go back to school and my financial aid in that same computer Google search. I never looked back. I realized I can help others through the toughest times of their life and I can do it during the day from home, in a clinic, in a school, in a hospital, or in a professional setting.

That social-environmental cue and influence will be healthy for me compared to being in clubs, in venues, on the road, at festivals, where I might be wanting to use music to help others but that social and environmental cue was sex, drugs. A much safer way for me to express this desire to help people is as a music therapist than as a musician. Plus, I don’t have to be on the road. I don’t have to miss my kids’ childhood and that was important to me.

I went back to school, five years, full-time, in my 30s, and became board certified as a music therapist in 2008. My joke is I haven’t worked since because my experience is that I get paid to play and pray. You don’t work music. You play music. People are like, “You’re lucky.” I’m like, “I have a student loan and five years of my 30s that I don’t get back.” Aside from that, I knew that for the next 30 to 40 years, I would be doing what I love in a safe environment, helping people and not missing my kids’ childhood.

What instruments do you play?

My main instrument is my voice, that’s what I’m trained in since childhood. My second instrument and my accompanying instrument is the guitar. Additionally, I play the Native American flute. I play tons of percussion. I can pick my way around a keyboard. I know the theory.

You’re going to be playing music for the rest of your life.

It’s how I express myself. For me, going into the quick spiritual, I’m this one tiny fraction of the whole that came into form to experience itself. What do I want to be doing while I’m in form? I want to express myself athletically and artistically. When I say artistically, it’s musically specifically. The ultimate joy for me in life is when I experience myself playing. That’s the verb playing because I play sports and I play music. I’m here to play. How do I do that in a way that shines light everywhere around me and increases and improves those around me, those little fractions of me? How can I hook me up, the other me? Which one do I want to do? I want to do that through this medium of music. This is thrilling because I experience the same joy you do differently when you’re the listener and I’m the creator like I experience the joy of music when I’m the listener and you’re the creator. It’s a win-win.

What are some of the myths that we have around making music in our culture?

The main ones are that it requires talent. There’s this thing, the music gene, and there’s no such thing. There’s no music gene. Genes are far more complex than the gene. It doesn’t work that way. We like to try to make simple answers out of complex things. Every human body runs in rhythm. It’s the organizing principle of your body. Everything we do, we do in rhythm. Our cells, organs and body runs on rhythm, which is the foundation of music. Everybody has the ability to be musical. We don’t think that way in our culture. We think some people have it and most don’t.

There is a rhythm to the breathing in and breathing out of the entire universe. Click To Tweet

I’ve never thought about it like that. You’re right, everybody has rhythm.

Not everybody is as coordinated as the others, but everybody has rhythm. If you can tap, snap, clap, hum, rap, sing, strum, or scratch, you can be musical. Tim, everybody scratch is an itch in perfect rhythm. What we do is we take an egg shaker and we pretend we’re scratching. We’re perfectly rhythmic people. Some of us have been handy around the house. If I can hammer and nail, I play a frame drum. If I can bounce a ball, I can play a hand drum. It’s much simpler than we make it out to in our culture. The big myth is that most of us don’t have it and some of us do. We all got it.

How did music originate?

That’s a whole course. There are two lenses to think through, one is evolutionary. Music is what’s called a proto-language. It’s a pre-language. We sang before we spoke as a species to communicate. In addition to evolutionarily, developmentally.

We sang before we spoke.

Yes. We had sound before we had language. We would use sound to communicate and connect. We developed language later on. There’s a mirror of this, which is developmentally with kids. Kids sing before they speak. They vocalize and they sing before they have language. In all cultures, all moms sing to their babies. All moms sing in the same stepwise motion across the globe, regardless of language, because the kids don’t have language yet. They’re not paying attention to the words. They’re paying attention to the melody and the sound of mom’s voice and the tempo, meaning the speed of it. Developmentally and evolutionarily, music comes before language. It’s our stepping stone.

I’m thinking about a dog barking. Dogs barking in rhythm too. Birds chirp in rhythm. Crickets chirp in rhythm. Everything is in rhythm. Nothing is out of whack. It’s always in perfect rhythm, the same sequence, the same frequency, the same sound.

It is the fundamental organizing principle of the universe. There is a rhythm to the breathing in and breathing out of the entire universe.

How was music discovered? Where was this discovered that music was the first thing that was developed before talking and communicating through language?

ILBS 16 | Healing Powers Of Music

This Is Your Brain on Music

My honest answer is that when I’m spouting out these brainiac little quotes about evolutionary, they are from a guy named Dr. Ani Patel who’s a neuroscientist who studies music in the brain, and this guy named Dr. David Wolfe from the Ohio State University who is also a researcher on music in the brain. I got to attend a real high-level conference and I was a speaker with these guys at this one particular conference. They started to talk about the origin of music and where it started in our journey as a species. Both of those men, their lectures were the ones who taught me that piece of it.

There’s a great book called This Is Your Brain on Music by Dr. Daniel Levitin. He’s also a neuroscientist. He was a recording engineer with the Alan Parsons Project. He went back to school to become a neuroscientist. In his book, This Is Your Brain on Music, he gives you a great journey through music without losing you along the way. It’s a great read and I highly recommend it to anybody. You’ll come away with such a deeper appreciation for the power of music in your life.

What happens in the brain? How does music interact with the brain? How is it relevant to addiction treatment?

What’s the point? Music is the most complex stimulus in nature for the human brain to process. It requires every sub-region of the brain to activate, to take in, take apart music, and put it back together. When we do that and we have the experience that we’re either making the music ourselves or we’re listening to music we enjoy, our reward system gets activated. The reward system is what gets hijacked during drug addiction. That same reward system gets activated when we either make music or we listen to the music we enjoy. It is pleasure-inducing.

That’s relevant to people in recovery who are going through this journey of anhedonia where they’re not feeling anything in early recovery or early treatment because their reward system is been shot to hell and their brain is recalibrating. They don’t feel anything. Introducing pleasure causing behaviors back into their life is important so that they don’t feel they’re dead inside or that there’s no fun left. Whenever we make music or listen to the music we enjoy, dopamine is released in the brain and that’s that feel-good chemical.

When we make music together or we listen to music together, oxytocin gets produced which is the social glue, the hug drug if you will, in our brain. That feeling that we’re connected to someone else is released when we’re making music in a group or we’re listening to it. If we listen to relaxing music, our brain releases prolactin. Prolactin is a chemical that allows us to feel the afterglow, this chill, “That’s nice.” That feeling that we have when we’re satisfied is prolactin and slow tempo music will trigger the release of that.

Everybody knows music is good for their mood and their spirit. When I learned what music did specifically to the brain and the body, I got curious. The last piece that’s important for a person in recovery is that it turns off the stress response. Our nervous system runs in these three speeds or three gears. Rest and digest, which is your normal default nervous system. You’re in connection mode and creativity mode. We have the fight-flight response. People are familiar with that. That’s the sympathetic nervous system activation. That’s when we go into protection mode and reaction mode. That’s when we don’t consider the behaviors we’re doing at the moment. We may not be fully aware of what that’s going to do in the future. We’re right at the moment dealing with whatever’s going on.

Music resets that nervous system faster than any oral medication. Most people have experienced this for themselves when they were in an emotional state and a song came on. I hear this story all the time. I was here. The song came on. Before the song was even over, I was in a different state. It shifted me. It pulled me out. When I listen to recovery specific songs on YouTube, in the comments, I will read over and over, “This song saved my life. This song is the thing that got me into recovery. This song is the one that helped me through my toughest time.” As a musician, I’ve heard that personally as well.

We know that music turns off that stress response. When we have the stress response, that’s when the brain triggers cravings because it’s the brains’ way of trying to self soothe. What we want is we want tools that work fast to turn that stress response over before our brain can issue a whopper-sized craving. The brain is not designed to withstand cravings. It’s designed to do the behavior. That’s the system’s design, it’s trying to self soothe. We can use music in those moments to reset.

Music resets that nervous system faster than any oral medication. Click To Tweet

The brain is designed to do the behavior and not to resist, which is why willpower doesn’t work.

That’s why people feel terrible about themselves because they don’t understand that craving isn’t designed to be withstood. It’s designed to be listened to and followed. Gabor Mat at Wanderlust in 2016, I will never forget the moment he said, “A craving is your brain’s way of trying to love itself.” It’s trying to self soothe.

It was looking for the solution, the behavior that’s going to soothe.

Whatever is going to soothe. That part of the brain doesn’t care if it’s healthy, legal, socially acceptable. It doesn’t care if it caused a bunch of problems. The last 27 times he did, it doesn’t care about the future ramifications. It’s the number one answer. It knows, at the moment, that will scratch the itch.

Gabor Mat also says, “Addiction is a solution to the pain.” The question is not why the addiction. The question is why the pain. That’s why in addiction treatment, we have to look at the root of the trauma because the pain is the cause of the addiction and the bad behaviors. Is there a type of music that’s better to turn off the stress response than another type of music? There are lots of kinds of music. Is any music therapy? Can I turn on Eazy-E? Is my stress response going to be turned off?

Here’s what the research shows, it depends on whether or not you like Eazy-E and it depends whether or not you already have any neuro associations to using while listening to Eazy-E.

What happens is we have party playlists. We all got hammered to music. There’s a neuro association between the music we’re listening to, the emotions we’re feeling, and the behaviors we were doing. I remember early in my recovery, at the time, if I put on EDM dance music, within four beats I was thinking about women. It was coursing through my veins. I was like, “I can’t even come near this.” I could listen to any other music but that music triggered me because that was always the soundtrack. 

The good news is that neuro association tapers, prunes, and atrophies over time. In long-term recovery, you can go back and you can check-in and listen to music from that time and you’ll observe the music. You might even have a memory but you won’t have that emotional charge to it. It’s similar to the grief journey. Early in grief, there is an emotional charge with the memory. Over time, you’re left with the memory and the emotional charge fades. Music operates very similarly. It’s important for people in recovery to understand to avoid your party playlists for as long as until you check in with them. Notice that they don’t start to trigger that emotional charge.

The second thing people ask is, “What’s the right type to listen to?” The right type of music to listen to is the music that you enjoy, that you associate with safety, connection, inspiration, and comfort. If you love Celine Dion, all the power to you. Go at it. Listen to Celine. If somebody likes Michael Bolton, good for you. That’s why God invented headphones so that I don’t have to hear Michael Bolton. It’s like a flavor. It’s subjective. You don’t have to try anything new. You don’t have to buy anything new. Stick with the genres you already are comfortable with that already have that inspirational neuro association. Beware of the party playlist.

ILBS 16 | Healing Powers Of Music

Healing Powers Of Music: People feel terrible about themselves because they don’t understand that craving isn’t designed to be withstood. It’s designed to be listened to and followed.


There is dark music. You have Death Metal. You have Punk rock. What would your response be to that? Let’s say I love death metal. If I love Death Metal and I’m trying to get clean and sober, it’s not triggering, is that going to lift me up?

It depends on your relationship with Death Metal. It may very much so. What we noticed in the research is that music doesn’t cause emotion. Emotion causes the choice of music. It’s like the chicken or the egg. A lot of parents are concerned about the music their kids listen to that it’s going to cause them to be depressed or suicidal. They reach for that music because they’re already vibrating at that point and the music resonates with something inside of them. That’s why when you’re sad, you listen to sad music because it’s matching the experience you’re already having.

Here’s what they noticed, particularly with adolescence and this can be extended to adults. 1 of 3 things happens when you’re in that negative mood and you turn on what some people would call dark music. One, the music acts as this resonant catharsis where you feel heard and understood and you express and get out that emotion and you feel better afterwards. Two, it doesn’t do anything. You’re listening to the music but your mood preceded the music and your mood is still there after the music. Sometimes, the music will exacerbate those feelings. You’ll get in a spiral. It could be an anger spiral, particularly with metal, with fast tempo music. It could be a downward spiral. What they find is that sometimes, even the same music, kids will use it to experience all three depending on where they are in the moment.

It’s interesting that it’s not like, “Stay up. This is okay. This isn’t okay.” It’s subjective. What’s important is to have a connection with someone else to be able to talk about those experiences without any judgment. The problem parents have is they can’t talk with their kids about their music without judgment. They suck at it. They have total amnesia. They forget that when they were a teen their music drove their parent’s crazy. That’s why kids will spend more time in their bedroom listening to music and feel more connected alone in their room than down in the living room because the music doesn’t judge them, it doesn’t lecture them and it doesn’t scold them.

What about the lyrics? I’m a person that doesn’t listen to the lyrics. I’m more into the beat. I’m more into the way that it makes me feel. I might know all the words to a song. However, I have no clue what is being said. I can remember, I would get in trouble because I would listen to things and my mom is like, “Do you know what that is saying?” It’s like, “Not really. I’m not into it. I like the beat.” What do you have to say about the lyrics?

The jury is out on lyrics. When I pull kids to ask them why they listen to the music they listen to, l what you said, I get, “I don’t know. I like the beat. It’s bumping.” I’ve also had guys in groups say, “I used because Lil Wayne sang about it.” I have to be honest. There are three types of influence, personal influence, my own thoughts and beliefs, social influence, which is the influence of others on me, and then environmental influence, the influence of the environment on me. Social influence is real. We have to say that. What’s important is having a connection so we feel connected. We can check-in if you’re listening to something that’s got crazy lyrics. You start thinking, “That’ll be a good idea.” It’s more complex than I wish it was.

Music is therapy and music turns off the stress response. Listening to music versus playing music, which is going to do a better job?

The gold standard is making music. Making music doesn’t mean learning an instrument. It means involving your body in music. You could be listening to the music you enjoy and then try to stay with the beat whatever the beat is. Try to drum the beat. Try to sing along with the beat or hum it or rap along. If you engage your body with the music, it pulls you into the present moment because music is time-based. You have to be present to make music. It allows you to stay present whereas music listening, you can go all over the place. Music making is the gold standard and you don’t have to learn an instrument to make music.

Dancing is number two and listening is number three.

Making music doesn't mean learning an instrument. It means involving your body in music. Click To Tweet

Any way you engage your body, that’s aces.

Tim, how can people reach you?

I have a gift for anybody who’s reading. One of the gifts I give away to everybody is the gift of relaxation. We all need tools to help us reset our stress. If you go to SonicRecovery.com, I’ll give you a fifteen-minute relaxation vacation and that’s the place that’ll put you on my list. I’m also at TimRinggold.com. My podcast is Reduce Your Stress with Tim Ringgold, find that where you find podcasts. I release relaxation music and interviews on that every week. Upcoming is the Stress Elimination Summit Recovery Edition where we have 28 speakers talking specifically about how to reduce your stress in the context of a recovery journey and why that’s important. You can go to StressEliminationSummit.com to register for free.

Is there anything else you want to share?

Stick with it. Find the good and focus on it.

Tim, thank you so much.

Thanks, Tim.

Important Links:

About Tim Ringgold

ILBS 16 | Healing Powers Of MusicTim Ringgold is a board-certified music therapist, columnist, author, and host of the podcast, Reduce Your Stress. He has provided music therapy to thousands of teens and adults to help them lower anxiety and reduce pain.

Tim is also an award-winning international speaker, having shared the stage with some of the top minds on music, the brain, and personal development, including Tony Robbins.

Tim was the first person to give a TEDx talk on music therapy in 2012. Tim is also a former Regional President of the American Music Therapy Association.

The Champion Mindset With Whitney Jones



Life is not without its obstacles and challenges. How you deal with them is what separates you from the rest. How do you overcome whatever life throws your way? Tim Westbrook is with Whitney Jones—two-time Miss Fitness Olympia, five times Pro Champ, and owner of Pro Physiques—to share with us the champion mindset, learning how to be unstoppable and roll with the punches. Together with it, Whitney also takes us across her own journey, letting us into her own share of struggles with eating disorder, depression, and workaholism. Through it all, she shows the importance of self-care, stepping outside of your comfort zone, and setting high goals. Join Whitney in this episode to find out how she stands in power in her life as the champion that she truly is.

Watch the episode here:

Listen to the podcast here:

The Champion Mindset With Whitney Jones

I’m with Whitney Jones. Health and fitness is something that is near and dear to my heart and being clean and sober. This is for anybody that is early in recovery. They want to get clean and sober. They’ve been clean and sober for a little while. Health and fitness in my experience has been the opposite of addiction, the drinking, drug use, selfishness, self-centeredness, manipulation, lies, cheating, stealing and all this stuff that went along with the drinking and the drug use. Whitney is a mom of two incredible boys, two-time Miss Fitness Olympia, and five times Pro Champ, Owner of Pro Physiques Gym, the Pros Online Training and Prep Team, and FEARless by Whitney Jones and show promoter of the NPC Whitney Jones Classic.


Whitney and I are going to talk about health and fitness, mistakes people make in injuries because you’ve had a couple of injuries. We’re going to start stepping outside of your comfort zone and setting high goals. We’re going to talk about your history with your eating disorder, along with your depression and the trials that you went through and how you were able to get through that. The champion mindset, how to be unstoppable when life keeps throwing obstacles at you, and then also stopping the all or nothing mentality and being able to roll with the punches and how you’ve been able to roll with the punches in your life.


When I hear that, I think about doing the next right thing, I think about taking it one day at a time, one hour at a time, one minute at a time. We’re also going to talk about COVID-19 a little bit. You have a little bit of experience with COVID-19. We’re going to talk a little bit about that and is it a fake pandemic? Is it a real pandemic? I don’t know. Whitney, it’s good to see you. Welcome to the show.


Thank you. I’m loving being here. We’ve got some fun stuff to talk about.


I’ve been looking forward to this for a while. We set this up a while ago. It’s good to have you here. We’ll go ahead and dive right in to your story. Tell me a little bit about you and where you came from. Let’s go with it.


I’m a Southern girl. I was born in Jackson, Mississippi, but moved here when I was young. I claim Arizona. I love it here. I can’t see myself ever leaving Arizona. I have two boys. I’m a single mom raising two boys. I’m juggling a ton of different things with the multiple businesses, but I love being active. I love being healthy. I feel like that is something with all the uncertainty in the world and all the things that we can’t control, being healthy and diving into my fitness is something I can control. I feel like in many aspects, we need something that we can control that’s a positive outlet.


I got into that years ago. Growing up as a child, I played every sport I possibly could. As an adult, I needed an outlet to get stress levels under control and have something outside of work or family that I could have as my go-to. I ended up starting to compete. I compete in the fitness division. I get to travel the world and step on some amazing stages. What I do is in the realm of bodybuilding, I don’t do bodybuilding or flexing or any of that. I do the fitness division, where you do a two-minute routine with dancing, gymnastics. You have to be in shape too. That’s part of it. That’s my background and where I came from and where I’m at now.


Let’s back up a little bit because you mentioned that you had your bouts with your eating disorder. Tell me, when did your eating disorder start?


I started having the traits of an eating disorder in high school. It had nothing to do with how I wanted to look, physical appearance or anything, which is very rare from everything I’ve learned. Obviously as part of this, I got worse through college. I had to go through rehab, but it started because I’m an athlete and I’m competitive and attractive. I did not feel well before my track meet. I felt sick like I was going to throw up, ended up throwing up, making myself throw up because it felt awful. I had the best time ever in my hurdle race. I thought that was a reason it happened. Long story short, that’s how my eating disorder started. It had nothing to do with the normal reasons why eating disorders start. As I graduated high school and got into college, that became my go-to in regards to how to control how I can look and body dysmorphia and unhealthy eating habits. It dove me into this horrible place, very depressed. I have depression that runs in my family. My parents noticed and they started catching on to some of the things or bad habits I was doing. They had approached me on three different occasions. It was less than about three years.


Would you say that alcoholism and drug addiction is a progressive disease? Would you say the same thing about your eating disorder?



With all the uncertainty in the world, being healthy and diving into fitness is something you can control. Click To Tweet

It’s like if you have your first drink and you go, “That was nice. That was fun.” Next thing you know, you’re drinking a case a day and you’re blacking out. For you, you purged one time before the race. You had your best time ever. You felt pretty good after that. I can only imagine before a test, when you’re studying, going out to dinner, going out on a date, or whatever it is that you’re doing, the purging and then you can also eat whatever you want to eat.


That’s a thing I hate to say it, but in high school this wasn’t a normal thing. I’m making myself throw up for an athletic event, but then you start seeing it in magazine and start reading stuff online. This is a great way to be skinny and not gain weight and eat whatever you want. I went through this eating disorder process, totally opposite of what most people do, but then it became a way of controlling how I looked and felt, which doesn’t ever work. Let’s be honest, any type of addiction, you’re not getting what you’re hoping to get out of it, but it started this slippery slope where I got into an eating disorder where I was starving myself for days. If I did eat something, I felt guilty and had to purge. I was having major health issues.


My heart was significantly affected. By the third time that my parents tried to get me into rehab and talking with people, I finally was receptive. I had hit a point where I was like, “I don’t want to live like this anymore.” I didn’t want to be healed of an eating disorder. I wanted to stop the pain, the depression, that feeling like I was out of control. I agreed to go into rehab and try to give it my best bet this time. It worked, it helped me pull out of it. It was a long process. It was literally probably about a year where I felt like I could control and overcome it. It was a very dark time in my life, but I wouldn’t change it for the world. Some of the lessons that I learned during that time have helped propel me as a person with integrity that I knew I could overcome things that I thought never were possible, that I was way stronger and capable of more. Experiencing that helped me become the adult that I am now, trying to work and achieve things that seem impossible. At that point in my life, I thought there’s no way I’m ever going to get out of this.


I thought this is a joke and I’m constantly going to relapse, but it was having an open mind to say, “No. There are plenty of people in the world who overcome addiction. Why can’t I be one of those?” Finally, in my down moments, it was, be the ones that do break through, succeed, and overcome this. You’re either going to roll one or two ways. You’re either going to overcome it or you’re going to keep staying in this pit. I took it as a challenge. Challenge yourself, see what you can do, be one of those people who succeed and get through all these horrible times.


All addictions are tough. Eating disorders are very difficult to overcome. You have to eat. There’s no way getting around not eating. You went to rehab for 30 days or something like that, approximately?


I did that a lot of the outpatient for a good solid year, year and a half.


How old were you?


I was twenty.


Did you do any twelve-step work?


Yes and no. The program was a little bit different. It was almost like I started that process, but it wasn’t the standard or traditional that I know about now.


After you went to rehab, did you ever relapse?

ILBS 15 | Champion Mindset

Champion Mindset: You’re either going to roll one or two ways. You’re either going to overcome obstacles or, you’re going to keep staying in this pit.


The third time, no. The first two times, it was more going into counseling and open settings. The first few times were more like my outpatient process after I went through rehab. I relapsed those two times. I’m doing this because my parents are forcing me to, whereas the third time I was like, “I’m over it. Maybe there is hope.” I didn’t relapse after that because once I made significant strides, I knew I don’t ever want to go back. I realize happiness. Finally, I was getting back to my old self and this is something I have to control. I can daily, hourly, minute by minute, focus on staying on my path to recovery because I saw that dark side.


I knew it was so easy to get back there if I don’t take control of this. I was very fortunate the third time I didn’t, but I can attribute it to having an open mind. I didn’t have a bad attitude going into it. I truly personally wanted help. I wasn’t sold. I wasn’t like, “Yes, take me in.” I had that, “Maybe I could get help.” I tried to keep an open mind and then through weeks, it was like, “I can do this. I’m going to get out of this slump and this depressive dark hole.” I want to have my life back and I kept going with it.


What I’m hearing is that you were open to suggestions?




You were open to doing the work. You realized your best thinking got you where you were.


I was ready to do the hard work. I was ready for the challenge. I knew it was going to be hard, but I was like, “Let’s do this. Let’s try it now.” I didn’t want to keep repeating this cycle of, “Let’s get healthy.” I want to do it now. I’m willing to put in the work.


After you graduated from college, you got into corporate sales or something like that.


I was in marketing. I worked for an ad agency and huge corporation.


That had to have been stressful.


It was very stressful.


You worked a lot of hours. What brought you back to the health and fitness focus and what you’re doing now?

Embrace the whole step out of your comfort zone and try to do something that you think is absolutely crazy. Click To Tweet

I was working for a corporate business. I was working myself to the bone. There was no time for even trying to get in any exercise, social life, whatever. I realized this is taking me down a different path. Through my rehab and after college, I did use exercise as an outlet, again for stress relief, whatever it was. At this job, I was working so much that I started becoming unhealthy. Unhealthy in my mental state, unhealthy physically so I’m like, “I need to change this.” I tried to change at working in the industry I was in. It wasn’t working out for me. I still wasn’t able to allocate the time. I shifted and got into the health and fitness industry.


When I worked at the ad agency, I was training clients out of my house for fun, but I wasn’t even training myself. I love trying to keep people healthy, but again, everything was devoted to everyone else. I was like, “I’m going to do this full-time because I loved it.” It’s like, “Let’s see where it goes. I’ll train people for free. Why don’t I try to make a business out of it?” That’s where I propelled into the health and fitness industry. I’m like, “How fun would it be to exercise all day and help other people exercise and keep them motivated?” A lot of the stuff too, the cheerleading from rehab and having these people who support you and encourage you. I wanted to do that back to others. Through coaching and getting into the fitness industry, it was allowing me to give back and help other people. I found that super fulfilling and I haven’t left this industry sentence.


It’s like doing your corporate job, which drains you versus helping people and focusing on health and fitness, which you’re passionate about that energized you. I can imagine that your life is much happier as a result of the choice to continue helping people on their own journey.


That’s what lights my fire.


You talk about stepping out of your comfort zone and setting high goals. What does that mean to you? Give me an example of a goal that you set that was so high and it caused you to step outside of your own.


Embrace the whole step out of your comfort zone and try to do something that you think is absolutely crazy through the whole rehab experience. When I was in that mindset, I thought there is no way I’ll ever be happy again. I could never see the light at the end of this channel. Through that whole experience, I realized I can. I can be like all these normal people I see walking around, living life, being happy and laughing. I learned at that stage in my life, stepping out of your comfort zone is the way you level up. When I started getting into the whole health and fitness realm, I understood some of these athletes who are competing and doing these competitions and it intrigued me. I thought, “I’ll try it.” I loved it. I did my first little fitness competition.


It was like, “Maybe one day I’ll keep doing well and pursuing it. Maybe I’ll turn pro.” In our sport, you can turn pro. It’s like baseball where you’re playing in the minor leagues then you go pro. You are now in the majors. That’s how our sport works. I set these goals like, “I’m going to do these competitions. I’m going to turn pro. I want to step on the Olympia stage, step on the Arnold Schwarzenegger’s stage and meet him,” all these crazy things. Sometimes when you create these goals that are so insane that people think you’re crazy, to me, that’s when I know I’m on to something. You work towards it.


I liked that where it’s not an all or nothing mentality for me. I’m not going to view myself as a failure if I don’t get there. Again, these are goals that seem ridiculous, but I want to shoot for it because I never want to live in that should have, would have, could have. It’s like, I don’t want that what if. “What if I would have tried that?” We’re not getting younger so you might as well try. For me, I set a goal to be number one in the world. As an amateur in this whole sport, it’s like, “You’re nuts. That is rare.” People achieve that who have been in this fitness industry since they were little kids. That was not my case. I got started in this industry when I was 32 years old, which is a lot older than the average person would ever get into it.


I was like, “I’m going to do it.” Long story short, I achieved that. I’ve been two-time Ms. Fitness Olympia, which is number one in the world. It was an incredible ride to get there. The thing was, I had gratitude. I was grateful for every opportunity that I was able to complete. I was proud of my accomplishments through the journey, getting to the show. I wasn’t worried about the outcome. I can step off stage and say, “I did everything I was supposed to. I nailed my performance. I hit all my skills, base plan on a bathtub, then I’m winning. I took all the pressure off. I attribute that to being how I was able to get to the top because I was enjoying the ride and I was grateful and thankful. I was proud of all the little things and never focused on the result and on the outcome because that’s out of my control.


It’s a subjective sport. The judges could like me or they could not. They could hate my performance, they could love it. All I can control is what I bring to the table, the performance I put on and as long as I’m happy then I’ve won. It was a very fulfilling experience because either way, I was winning in my mind, granted winning the title is a cool thing. That’s the biggest thing that I said, “I’m going to achieve this,” and thought this is crazy.


You were Miss Fitness Olympia 2018, 2019 and third place here in 2020, which is no small feat. That’s such an amazing accomplishment. I listened to an interview with Tim Ferriss and Jim Loehr on mental toughness and energy management. He talked about an ice skater. I forgot his name, but this was the guy that was the best speed skater of all time. He didn’t have an Olympic medal. He hated the 1,000 meters. Jim Loehr talked to him about journaling and saying, “I love the 1,000 meters. The 1,000 meters is my favorite.” He said, “I know you hate the 1,000 meters, but let’s change your mindset.” That’s along the same lines as what you’re saying. It’s like set goals that are so high that are ridiculous. It doesn’t matter what the outcome is. It doesn’t matter if you achieved the goal or not as long as you do your very best, then you can feel good about the effort that you put forth. If you win, it’s awesome.

ILBS 15 | Champion Mindset

Champion Mindset: If you’re constantly focused on the opportunity, the positive aspects, and the things you can do, you’re setting yourself up to succeed versus setting yourself up to fail.


If you don’t, you should still be proud if you’ve done the work to get there.


There’s another interview I was listening to. It was with Tom Brady. Tom Brady’s attitude has never been, “I’ve got to win or else I’m a failure.” It’s not the all or nothing to your point. It’s, “Let’s do the very best that I can. Let’s set these goals that are high.” If you don’t set those goals high, we’re going to be able to do what we believe we can do.


The mind is powerful that it has helped me as an athlete and as a business person. Your confidence comes from what you’re saying and repetitively going about in your head. If you’re constantly focused on your doubts and fears and the negativity or what could go wrong, that’s what’s going to happen. If you flip it and you’re constantly focused on the opportunity, the positive aspects and the things that you can do, then you’re setting yourself up to succeed versus setting yourself up to fail. Your mind controls it all, but we get to control our mind. You’ve got to be able to connect those two. It’s not that difficult, but yet you can’t say it’s easy, especially if you’re not in the right headspace or if you’re struggling with stuff.


That’s where I feel like you need people who can surround you and help you believe in yourself. Once you get to that point, now you can conquer it but you can’t all of a sudden tell someone, “Go believe you can be X, Y and Z, and be the CEO of your company.” They’re like, “Really? Okay.” You’ve got to help. That’s where I feel like for me, I love giving back. I love to help people discover potential they may not even realize they have or give them that support and the encouragement. Inspire them to push, work hard and achieve what they want. Sometimes you need those cheerleaders around you to help you stay focused and believe that you can achieve it to build up your confidence.


It’s like you’ve got to surround yourself with the right people. You’ve got to surround yourself with people that are going to support you and support the things that you want in your life. We have 60,000 thoughts a day and 90% of them are repetitive. I think those are the numbers, I maybe off a little bit, but it’s something along those lines. How do you change your mindset or how do you change your thoughts? I’m sure you have negative thoughts that go through your mind. What do you do when you have a negative thought that goes through your mind?


I wouldn’t be human if I didn’t, but I try to live a positive life every single day and find the silver lining. Granted, there are moments, there are days where I’m like, “Can everything stop coming at me? It can’t get any worse.” In those moments where I feel like things are spinning and things keep getting worse. The day keeps diving down. I literally have to take a step back and take some moments to breathe. As silly as it sounds literally stepping away, getting some silence, taking some deep breaths and then I focus on what is working. There’s always positive. You can always find some good, but when things are going bad, when you’re having a down day, I know for me, that’s because all I’m focusing on is the negative, what I’m not getting, what I’m not having, or what’s not going right in the day.


That will for me, 100%, always continue to make things worse. For example, we’re getting ready for this. My webcam was not working. It was like, “It’s frustrating. The webcam is not working. My mic is not working. I’m trying to plug in my AirPods.” I’m lucky that I have that. I’m lucky that I have a laptop that’s working. I have backup plans. You can easily flip your mindset to say, “Who cares? The webcam is not working.” Don’t let it rattle you. Don’t let it frustrate you. There’s another option. Focus on what’s working, focus on the good that you have. For me, that always helps. It’s like take a step back and find something good that is working. That’s positive. I woke up and I’m healthy. They’re the simplest things that you can find.


For me that helps flip my mindset. Whenever I feel those moments coming on where I notice it, I can recognize the voices in my head. It’s like, “Take control of the situation. Take control of the day, bring yourself back into that positive mindset, positive mind frame. Everything starts working out.” Our days are filled with negative crap that’s thrown at us, but how you respond to it, how you deal with it is what’s going to dictate how everything pans out in the end. If you can laugh about it, if you can joke, if you can be like, “It’s crazy,” even better. It’s all in how you perceive it and how you respond to whatever is thrown at you in your environment.


I think that speaks to being in gratitude. It’s being grateful for everything in my life. I’ve realized that I have to get to a place where I’m grateful for everything, whether it’s perceived as negative or positive or whatever. If I perceive something as negative, like, “I had to go to rehab. I got COVID-19. You got COVID-19 too.” I can feel sorry for myself. I can be a victim or I can say, “I’m grateful that I’ve gotten it. I’m healthy. I don’t have to go to the hospital. I’m still breathing on my own. I feel good. I can still eat food although I can’t taste it.” Let’s talk about how do you deal with obstacles when they’re thrown at you?


It goes back to the same thing. You’ve got to focus on how you respond to it. For me, as an athlete, I’ve experienced many injuries. I had sixteen surgeries. I’ve broken almost every bone in my body. As an athlete competing and traveling the world, injuries can totally kill your career. They can make you completely be obsolete in the industry depending on the severity of it. It’s always scary. I’ve had some pretty good ones. I’ve broke my neck. I have a twelve-piece metal cage that had to surgically be implanted to put my neck back together. I’ve turned my rotator cuff labrum twice over here, twice over here, ACL, MCL, broken many things. With every setback, it forced me to focus on the positive. When I blew out my ACL and my MCL, I still had my upper body that I could use to function and continue to do exercise, workouts and even my fitness routine.


The only time I ever skipped a show, a competition was when I had broken my neck. Otherwise, I almost always competed with something broken. I competed on one of the largest stages of our industry with a torn ACL and a full leg brace. I’ve competed with broken elbows, broken wrists, broken hands. I don’t know what it’s like to step on a huge stage or the biggest show of the year being healthy. There was always something I could focus on. Focus on the body parts that work. Be as creative as you can and come up with a fitness routine where you can’t jump. For example, my ACL, kid you much, but I was able to create a routine that was dynamic, that was impressive enough and could trick my leg into doing certain things. It forces you to think out of the box.

Stepping out of your comfort zone is the way you level up. Click To Tweet

Again, it’s because I was able to flip it and focus on the positive to focus on the things that were working in my favor rather than dwelling on what wasn’t. I don’t like the whole pity party mentality. If you’re having a hard time, I would notice then it’s like, “Poor me.” No, screw that. Stop feeling sorry for yourself. Do something about it. You may get someone sympathy for 30 minutes that you’re talking to them and then they’re over it. What good does it do you to sit in that pity party mentality and try to get sympathy, try to get people to feel sorry for you? Who cares? Isn’t there a better side on the opposite end of the spectrum? Go show people that none of this stuff is going to take you down. That’s more impressive. That’s more powerful.


Don’t get sympathy, but get praise from people going, “I can’t believe you did that.” You could have sat there and been like, “Poor me. I hurt myself. I can’t do anything.” Use every excuse in the book, but I didn’t like that mentality. I wanted to be able to be the one who proved everyone wrong saying, “You thought my career was over. You thought it was down and out. I’ll show you.” That’s where overcoming adversity, but it’s all in how you approach it. It’s your perspective. It’s being grateful for the opportunities that you have. It’s finding the positive in a horrible situation. For me, I’ve experienced it a lot. I love to talk to athletes about this. Even a ton of my regular clients, they may sprain their ankle.


If you are ready to go and get your health back on track, then you injure yourself, that will derail people from their goals for all of 2021. I love helping clients realize, “This is a temporary setback.” Do not lose sight of all the goals you set for yourself in 2021 to get yourself on track, to get yourself healthy, focus on this being a temporary setback, but there’s still stuff you can do. Depending on your injury, you can still focus on nutrition. You can take stuff to a pool and get some cardio in if you can’t have impact. There’s always a way to keep moving forward. You have to be willing to do it.


Let’s talk about COVID-19. We’re in the middle of this supposed pandemic. You’ve had COVID-19, I’ve had it. I can tell you about my opinion and my experience with it. You tell me about your experience with it.


The first time I had it, it was awful. I was the sickest I’ve ever been. It was 104 fever for four straight days. They tested me. It looks like a flu, but it’s not a flu. This was back in the beginning of 2020 before COVID was the thing. I lost my sense of taste and smell. It progressed badly. I was sick for nine weeks straight and it turned to pneumonia. I was on an inhaler, but I didn’t know COVID at that time. I assumed it was a bad cold, the flu. I had it again in June. In June, it wasn’t near as bad. I probably would have never even stayed home from work if it wasn’t for COVID.


I had a slight fever. It never even went above 100, but I lost my sense of taste and smell and all that again. I got the test and sure enough it’s COVID. I do believe COVID is a thing. Do I think it’s the end all be all, all these shutdowns, and this craziness is warranted? No. That’s my opinion. It’s like a sickness. I don’t know if it’s that much different than a cold. Granted I have had some issues with my lungs as a result of it because it did get bad in the first place, but I’ve also had pneumonia before and that’s not good. We’re not shutting down the whole country because people are getting pneumonia. I battle with it as a business owner. I’ve been highly affected by all the restrictions and the shutdowns.


That’s where I think for me, it’s being taken to an extreme. I know people are dying from it. By all means, I could walk out right now and be hit by a car. There are risks with everything. There’s a lot that’s going on. I think it’s a shame how many people are being distanced from their family. You can’t see loved ones in the hospital that are dying. Not even COVID-related, businesses that are going under, people who are losing their entire life savings because their businesses have been affected by it. That’s where I struggle with what is happening with the whole COVID pandemic.


I’ve talked with lots of people about this and it’s a respiratory virus and it does not pose a major health risk. That’s my understanding. The recovery rate, the last I heard was 99.97% or something like that. It’s very high and it’s real. I was sick. I had a fever for one night and then my body was achy. I had a headache and then my sense of taste and smell, I didn’t think I had it. Two and a half days in, I lost my sense of taste and smell. I was like, “I got it.”


If we weren’t in this COVID-19 environment, then once I started feeling better, I would have gone out into the world. I would have been careful and not expose other people to my sickness because I didn’t want to get them sick. Because of this, we have to quarantine for fourteen days. I waited until I got a clean test back and so forth. I thought it was excessive. What is the result in terms of mental health addiction, isolation, social distancing, all of those things are having a massive impact on society? Let’s focus on being healthy, taking care of ourselves, getting enough sleep, ice bath, red light therapy, eating the right foods and all of the other things that we can do to take care of ourselves. This leads me to my next question, how do you take care of yourself?


I love the whole self-care movement that’s become popular because it’s important. My outlet is exercise, whether it’s each morning I get up and I have some cardio equipment at home. I do some walking in the morning, getting myself mentally ready for the day. I also then work out later in the day. That’s my outlet. That’s how I take care of myself mentally. It’s having some downtime with my boys at the end of the day, trying to sit and watch some TV and reading. I love massages. Having that relaxation where you can take your mind, or for me, it’s away from work. There are always eight million things I need to do. Being able to pause my life from my phone blowing up nonstop with all these things and my boys needing mom, I need to have a little bit of quiet space for me. For me, it’s something I try to implement at least once a day, some days I’m luckier and can get some more time in, but it’s super important. Mentally it’s great because you have to protect your own mindset, your own sanity. If you’re having a rough time, I think that’s the cue. That’s your indication that you need to take more time to do some self-care for yourself.


You talked about your morning routine. What is your normal morning routine?

Champion Mindset: You have to protect your own mindset. If you’re having a rough time, that’s the cue that you need to take more time to do some self-care for yourself.


I get up usually at 4:30 every day and I go downstairs. I do some cardio to get my heart pumping and go through and start planning my day. I sit down, then at my laptop, I hammer out at about an hour to an hour and a half of work. I’ve got to get my boys up and dress to school. I head into work. I work at my gym and I run all my other businesses out of that. I worked at the gym focusing on my apparel line, working on my annual event, my huge fitness competition, and training clients. I train a lot of clients online all over the world. I do their updates. I’m chatting with them, doing their check-ins, modifying their programs. My boys are busy. After school, one of them every night has at least a practice or a game for baseball and football and then for homework, dinner, relaxation. I always do a little work before bed as well. That’s a standard day for me.


I wake up early as well. I don’t know about you, but it’s the best. It’s the best because my phone is not ringing. People aren’t texting me, nobody’s calling me. That’s my time. When I get to be alone, journal, read, I do my red light. I do a little workout. I’m similar. That time in the morning is what I need to get my day started off. For anybody reading this, if they want to get into health and fitness and anything that you do, how can they find you? Tell me a little bit about the services you provide.


I do coaching. The main thing I do is helping anyone and everyone. There’s no limitation. I do coach athletes who do fitness competitions, but a large part of what I do is helping people achieve their highest potential in getting healthy and being at their best. Some people it’s, “I need to drop 20 pounds.” Others it’s, “I need to put on some muscle because I’m breaking bones and I’m withering away.” It could be a couple who want to do a little challenge together and get their quality of life back. People who are on all these medications for diabetes, blood pressure, anything like that. It’s honestly helping people get back on track with their health. I do a lot of the online training because I’m in Arizona, but not everyone in Arizona. I have a huge software portal system. It’s all communication. Clients check in weekly and they upload their photos.


I modify their diets, whether they want a custom like meal plan. If they want to follow macros, I do workout programs that are updated every couple of weeks, nutrition plans, cardio plans, supplement plans. It’s all of that. It’s an overall comprehensive approach to health. A lot of that involves a lot of the mindset coaching. If they’re struggling and they’re having a hard time getting motivated, what are things that they can do to get up and going? It’s coaching, not just to say, “Eat this, do this for your workouts. Good luck.” It’s very in depth. It’s helping all of my clients understand what works for their body. For example, some people can eat a ton of carbs and they never gain weight and other people can eat tons of fat. Some people do great with a little bit of cardio in the morning versus post-workout.


It’s helping all of my clients troubleshoot to find out what is the best thing for them? How can they be efficient with their workouts? How do they get in workouts when they are traveling all over the country for their jobs, or they have kids at home? There are always obstacles in regards to preventing you from getting into your healthy mindset and having the healthiest lifestyle. When you can have someone who helps you overcome those hurdles, that’s where it’s beneficial. That’s what I do. If you’re in Arizona, I have a gym to train clients. I have a full staff and they help train clients in person. Anyone that has any questions or is interested can email me at FitWhitJones@Gmail.com. I’d be happy to send information on my programs, pricing and give you a rundown of what it is that I do.


Your website is FitWhitJones.com. Whitney, it’s awesome getting to chat with you. I did learn a lot. Thank you so much for being here. I will see you soon.


Thanks so much for having me. I hope you guys all are having an amazing week. Make sure you kick off that 2021 on the right foot.


Thank you very much, everybody.

Important Links:

About Whitney Jones

2 x Ms. Fitness Olympia – 2018 & 2019
Owner of Pro Physiques gym in Gilbert AZ
Owner of The Pros Online Personal Training, coaching athletes all over the world
Owner of FEARless by Whitney Jones Fitness apparel line
Promoter/Owner of the NPC Whitney Jones Classic fitness competition
IFBB Fitness Pro
Fitness Routine Choreographer
Single Mom to 2 boys