ILBS S5 84 Brandon | Relapse


A relapse doesn’t erase your recovery journey. You don’t have to start back at square one every time you relapse. People who think like that have a hard time continuing their journey. Know that when you recover from relapse, you will come out even stronger than before. Join Tim Westbrook, MS as he talks to the owner of Art Of Our Soul and host of Escaping Rock Bottom podcast, Brandon Lee as he shares his recovery story. Brandon almost killed himself from all the drug abuse until he was saved. Learn how inner child work and shamanism helped in his recovery story. Discover how relapse is not going to destroy your life and that sometimes it can just clear your path. Find out more about trauma and how it’s passed down to you. Listen in so that you can heal that trauma and not leave it untreated.

Brandon Lee is a 5-time Emmy Award-winning former news anchor for CBS News based in Phoenix, AZ.

Brandon is also a recovered meth & heroin addict since 2010. When he first got sober, Brandon’s sponsor told him to go to the art store to pick up supplies and start creating. That’s exactly what Brandon did to keep his mind busy during the “alone” times.

Brandon says creating art saved his life and it continues to be his main source of ongoing therapy in recovery. Brandon has also received recognition in the art world for his abstract style painting. He was just nominated in 2021 for the Phoenix Art Museum’s “Emerging Artist Award”.

Brandon’s podcast, “Escaping Rock Bottom”, focuses on mental health. The podcast goes in-depth on all things addiction by talking with addicts in recovery about their experience, strength, and hope. His podcast is currently being used as a daily workshop at more than two dozen treatment centers across the country.

Brandon is also a motivational/keynote speaker at mental health summits – most recently the keynote speaker for the Alcohol & Drug Abuse Certification Board of Georgia’s annual conference with medical professionals.

Additionally, Brandon is a best-selling author. His memoir, “Mascara Boy”, about child sex abuse and trauma remains in the Top 5 Best Sellers on Amazon in the category of Substance Abuse.

Watch the episode here

Listen to the podcast here

Recovery Through Relapsing With Brandon Lee

This episode is sponsored by Camelback Recovery, Arizona’s preferred sober living option to help newcomers stay sober during their first year in the program. If that’s you or someone you know, you are in the right place. Let’s get clear on one thing. We believe that a relapse or a slip is not a part of recovery, and that’s exactly why this show is dedicated to you or any loved one you know in their first year of striving to live a clean and sober life.

The purpose of this show is to come clean with all of the misinformation that’s out there about recovery, addiction treatment, mental illness, and the strategies to stay sober in general. If you believe you are in the right place or know someone who is struggling with addiction, it’s my privilege to share this show with you. I have no idea if you and I have ever met but what I do know is that AA saved my life.

I also know that define long-term recovery and live happy, joyous, and free, it’s not about stopping your drinking, drugging, gambling, sexual indiscretions or any other addiction you may have struggled with or suffered from because, at Camelback Recovery, we believe that sobriety can and should be fun. Any recovery process is not easy.

It is challenging. It can sometimes be annoying. For most of us, it is often difficult to stay on the path but here’s the good news. The self-awareness you gained from reading this, especially if you are in your first year of recovery, will help you make better choices, which will ultimately lead you to live a kick-ass sober life. Visit to learn more about our treatment strategies for alcoholism, drug addiction or mental illness.

We even offer recovery coaching so that you can enjoy the freedom and happiness you’ve always searched for. The man I’m going to have a conversation with is a five-time Emmy Award-Winning former News Anchor for CBS News based in Phoenix, Arizona. He’s also a recovered meth and heroin addict since 2010. When he first got sober, his sponsor told him to go to the art store to pick up supplies and start creating. That’s exactly what he did to keep his mind busy during his alone times. He says creating art saved his life, and it continues to be his main source of ongoing therapy and recovery.

He has also received recognition in the art world for his abstract style of painting. He was nominated in 2021 for the Phoenix Art Museum’s Emerging Artist Award. His podcast, Escaping Rock Bottom, focuses on mental health. The podcast goes in-depth on all things addiction by talking with addicts in recovery about their experiences, strength, and hope. His podcast is being used as a daily workshop in more than two dozen treatment centers across the country.

Additionally, he is a bestselling author, his memoir, Mascara Boy, about child sex abuse and trauma, remains in the top five best sellers on Amazon in the category of substance abuse. My guest is Brandon Lee, and relapse is part of his story. We are going to talk about his relapse, which led him to find his purpose in life. Brandon, welcome to the show. I’m so glad to have you here.

What’s up, Tim? It’s good to be on your show. I usually have everybody on my show, Escaping Rock Bottom. I always love when the tables are turned and other folks are leading the conversation but I’m super grateful. I always say that the more voices out there, the better. I’m glad I’m not the only one doing a podcast on recovery. It’s important to have as many people speaking out loud about their experiences in recovery. Kudos to you for launching your show.

I’m so grateful to have you here. To your point, the more people that talk about it, the more people we reach, and everybody has a different message that resonates with them. The goal of this conversation is if we can put something out there that resonates with somebody and save one person’s life or help one person find recovery, that’s what it’s all about.

ILBS S5 84 Brandon | Relapse

Relapse: You don’t lose the time that you’ve gained when you relapse. You don’t start your journey all over. This actually prevents a lot of people from continuing their journey within AA and recovery.


For 12 years, I went to 5 meetings a week in AA. If you do the math, that’s a lot of meetings. I do know what you said about how this show for you is letting people know that relapse does not have to be part of their story. I’m always here to say that it may not have to be part of your story but it also doesn’t have to be the end of your story. I see about 60 recovering addicts a day in my art studio as part of my art healing program, and 99.99% of the folks that I see daily have experienced a relapse.

One of the reasons why I speak so much about relapse and the shame about relapse is to help people rid themselves of the shame or when they do relapse. It is a high majority part of people’s stories. It doesn’t have to be part of your journey but it is a high majority part of people’s stories. I want people to understand that because you relapse, it doesn’t have to always be a negative experience. It can give birth to something beautiful if you heal from it.

I was at a conference in Palm Springs and went to one of the meetings there. The topic was about relapse. There are not many meetings where they talk about relapse and how relapse is part of the story. One person was sober for twenty years, and then she relapsed. To your point, there’s so much guilt and shame, especially when someone has some time. They have 6 months, 1, 5, 10 or 13 years. The sooner you own it and come clean, the quicker you are going to be on the rebound.

Without a doubt, my relapse lasted seven hours, and I call it seven hours of dark. In fact, I’m writing another book now. It’s called Seven Hours of Dark: How A Relapsed Saved My Life. What I’m trying to do is flip the script on how society views relapse. Oftentimes, a normie out there looks at somebody who relapses and says, “Why don’t you have a strong enough will? Why are you so weak? Why can’t you not use?” It’s important to know that it’s not about willpower when it comes to relapse at all. I give thanks, and it’s so important that people understand this. I get so much thanks for the foundation that AA has given me throughout my recovery journey.

Please understand what I’m about to say. This is no disrespect at all because of the traditions of the AA program and its principles of it, everybody in society could benefit if they do the twelve steps. You don’t have to be sober or in addiction and recovery to do that. Everyone would benefit from those things. Here’s where I differ. I don’t believe you lose the time that you’ve gained when you relapse.

I don’t believe you start over at 24 hours because that prevents a lot of people from continuing their journey within AA and recovery. At eleven years, when I relapsed, the thought of going back to 24 hours was too daunting for me to start over. I couldn’t start over 24 hours because it takes me back to when I was in a coma on life support at Hollywood Presbyterian Hospital. I relapsed for seven hours. Are you trying to tell me that those 7 hours wiped away the 11 and a half years that I had gained in recovery? Absolutely not. I never lose that experience, strength, and hope.

What I did was I focused on, “What do I need to heal from?” I was only out for seven hours on my meth relapse, which is not a long time at all. Nor did I feel it necessary for me to show up to a room in front of a bunch of random people to announce that I had relapsed. Taking accountability as me sharing with my shaman and my therapist that I had relapsed. They needed to do more inner work because I wasn’t ready to tell the world, especially as a public figure, that I had relapsed. I did take accountability with my therapist and my shaman. I began to do inner child work. It’s work that I had never done.

At that time, I had only gone to meetings. I hadn’t done trauma therapy and shamanism. I never did inner child work. When I say that relapse saved my life and gave birth to my new life, I mean that. Without that relapse, my shaman asked me this question, “Brandon, do you love the life you have now?” I told my shaman, Toby, “I love the life I have now. If I count the time a year and a half after a relapse, I’m happier now than I was in year 11 or year 10.” Looking at that, why would I regret the relapse that I had? I began to do that inner child work that has given birth to the new branding. That’s only happened because I experienced that relapse. That relapse only told me to say, “Brandon, you have a lot more healing work to do.”

If someone relapses, they have eleven years. You had eleven years. You relapsed for seven hours. I love AA. AA saved my life. There are lots of people that say, “Everybody should be involved in some twelve-step program. Everybody should work the steps.” It’s easy being an alcoholic and a drug addict. I had to go and do the steps, and a sponsor that took me through the steps. I connected with a bunch of other like-minded people that wanted to be clean and sober and do the deal. I know you’ve also experienced this. There are a lot of people that because they are going to meetings doesn’t necessarily mean they are doing the work.

Relapse is absolutely not about willpower.

I share this with people who come into my art studio all the time. I’m a true believer. Trauma is generational, and so are the awful sayings that our parents’ generation taught us like, “Time heals all wounds.” No, it doesn’t. It suppresses the energy down further into you. Time doesn’t heal anything. From what I’ve learned is that if I’m happier a year and a half after relapse than I was in year 10. Time in recovery doesn’t equal happiness. That’s something that I’ve had to walk and live through with lived experience. As I’m sure in many of the meetings you’ve gone to, have you ever been to a meeting where somebody is collecting 35 years? They stand up there and have their 35-year medallion.

Sometimes the saltiest, the crankiest, and the crustiest people in a meeting are those with 35 plus years. Why? Granted, they’ve never picked up a drink or use, congratulations to you. How many wives have they had? How many times did they cheat on somebody? Are they showing up for their kids? Are they doing well for others? Just because you have a length of time in recovery does not make you a healed soul. It does not make you nice.

As a matter of fact, one of the things that I used to hate was the saying where I hear these old-timers say, “Sit down and shut up to the newcomer.” I’m like, “My goodness, that’s the last thing you should ever say to a newcomer, let them share and get that energy out. If that’s what’s going to prevent them from drinking or using, let them use that space to do that. Don’t tell anybody to sit down and shut up for the first year.

I tell them, “You sit down and shut up. Don’t be mean to those people coming in. Time doesn’t equal happiness, which is what I want people to understand. I don’t want people to sit there and think that you must wait a year to celebrate your recovery because I don’t count time anymore. I don’t collect chips. I gave all my chips back. I don’t collect. It’s not important to me anymore. What I tell people is, “You shouldn’t have to wait for a birthday to celebrate your recovery. After five and a half months, celebrate each day. You don’t have to wait for a year.”

What I experienced was as soon as I hit one year, the day after I collected that shit, that afternoon, I experienced this almost emotional crash. I have to wait another year to celebrate me. When I hit two years, it wasn’t good enough. I was like, “When I hit three, then I will be happy.” When I hit three, I said, “No.” As soon as I hit year 5 and 5 is a solid number, then I will be happy.”

What I wasn’t doing was enjoying the moment, the present, and the now. That’s why I encourage people. It doesn’t take a long time to achieve happiness. That’s the one thing I pushed back about the word continuous in recovery. I don’t want people not to come back because they feel like they have to start over 24 hours because you don’t.

I want to dig into your story a little bit. Tell me a little bit about your upbringing.

I share my story all the time. It’s important to point out that I did grow up probably the most privileged little White kid in Orange County, California. I grew up on the beaches like Laguna Beach, Corona Del Mar, Newport Beach, and The Wedge if you are familiar with Southern California. I woke up every morning out of my bedroom window, and it was the view of The Wedge. It’s super privileged. I never had to worry about a roof over my head. I never had to worry about food on the table. My family did send me to the best, honestly, private Catholic schools around.

If any of your followers are NFL football fans, Carson Palmer, the former quarterback for the Arizona Cardinals, was one of my best friends in high school at Santa Margarita Catholic High School. I played international soccer and had a chance to go to Europe when I was a teenager and play. From the outside, looking in, I had a perfect life. At age fifteen, I began abusing cocaine and became a sex addict and a sex worker.

ILBS S5 84 Brandon | Relapse

Relapse: For those who really take a lot of pride in their chips, you do you. But know that it’s okay to stop counting time. Instead, heal yourself because happiness does not equate with time.


What people don’t know is all that privilege that I grew up around did not prevent me from being repeatedly molested as a child by my next-door neighbor, my youth soccer coach, and also my candle teacher every Friday who had unfettered access to me. In addition to that, I was also physically and mentally abused, unfortunately, by a mother whose I know her intent was never to harm me but she passed down trauma to me.

At age fifteen, I began to act out. Even though I was growing up with all this privilege, all that child abuse had a huge impact on the development of my brain. At age fifteen, I became a drug addict. I became very good at going into survival mode because survival mode for me to survive was to put a smile on my face and, do good in school, overachieve academically and athletically.

At the age of 21, I got into NYU. I was at New York University. Unfortunately, I was there on 9/11. I was on the subway and was trapped underground on my way to work. I leave people with this. I don’t need to go into detail but I saw things that day that no human should ever see. I will leave it at that. I didn’t even count that to be a traumatic life experience. I suppressed that even further. It’s also when my recreational drug abuse began to skyrocket all the way to the very end.

Did you start experimenting at fifteen?

At fifteen with cocaine, yeah.

You said it started to escalate at 21?

It started to take off at age 21.

Did you ever think that you might have a problem in between 15 and 21 or did you think you were recreational, “I’m doing the things that my friends are doing?”

We surround ourself with people who are doing the exact same thing so that mirror reflection doesn’t look any different. That’s why you think what you are doing is a normal recreational part is, “While everybody else is doing what I’m doing. What I’m doing is okay,” that mentality. At the very end, I was an anchor in Los Angeles, California, for Station KTLA 5.

Time doesn’t heal all wounds. It just suppresses the energy down further into you. Time doesn’t heal anything.

I used to get off the air at 10:35 at night. By 10:40, I was doing GHB in the parking lot and doing meth. Like many people who are in recovery have overdosed at some point in their life or have experienced that, I did too. I was in the slums of Los Angeles and the back alley getting high on meth. Here, I was a news anchor hour earlier and then was in the slums of Los Angeles.

In my overdose, I ended up collapsing and cracking my head open. I ended up in Hollywood Presbyterian Hospital in a coma on life support for about a week’s time. When I came out of that coma, the chief neurosurgeon sat there at the end of my hospital bed. He looked at me and went, “Brandon, you have been out for about a week. Unfortunately, you have a lot of bleeding in your brain now. If we don’t cauterize those veins and do brain surgery, you are likely going to die in the next 48 hours.” I looked at him and was not done. I literally unhooked myself from life support and walked right out of the hospital wearing a hospital robe and hospital socks.

I walked right down Hollywood Boulevard and found my truck. The last thing I consciously remember as if it was yesterday, I got into the truck like a zombie, opened up the center console, got out my meth pipe, and got high in my truck again. That’s the last thing I remember. I don’t know who found me. I don’t know who called 911. I ended up in a coma on life support again in the same hospital with the same team of doctors around me who had saved my life twice in two weeks.

It was the first time I was shown compassion, this beautiful Black nurse, maybe 5’, came to my bedside. She held my hand and said, “Brandon, do you believe in God?” I looked at her and said, “No, I don’t.” She goes, “That’s okay. My God still believes in you. I’ve saved your life twice in two weeks. I’m going to give you $10 in cash out of my own purse. I want you to go to my church on Melrose in Mansfield when they release you. They have an AA meeting there, and I want you to go to it.” I made her that promise. When I was released, I went to that AA meeting and was sober ever since that day eleven and a half years before I relapsed.

At 21 years old, it was when your drinking and drug use escalated. You ended up in LA. How long after that were you in LA and overdosing?

I would say that period of overdosing was probably a period of a year that I was 28, 29 years old when I got sober.

It was at 21 to 28, and at 29 was a blur. You talk about GHB, which GHB is also part of my story.

It’s all sex-fueled for me. That’s always I tell people. I was never a project tweaker. I knew project tweakers. They would crochet or clean their house. I’m like, “Why would you do meth and do that?” That sounds very boring. Mine was always sex driven but it’s no wonder being sexually exploited as a child that my drugs were so tied to sex.

You got clean and sober for eleven and a half years, and then what happened?

ILBS S5 84 Brandon | Relapse

Relapse: Those who have healed from a lot of trauma, especially early in their life have the ability to become the world’s best healers. They can help others through their darkness.


2020 was difficult. In 2020, the pandemic hit. We always say in recovery, “The opposite of addiction is connection.” The isolation fucked with everybody, excuse my language. It messed with everybody, and addicts or non-addicts messed with our wiring. The pandemic was a traumatic life experience. In addition to that, being a news anchor was not easy at the time. To be quite honest with you, everything became political. I became an easy target for a lot of hate when it became the masks and the virus. People came at me all the time, and George Floyd was murdered on my 40th birthday.

I had to cover a lot of those rallies and the protests. It was not easy. The election was that year and how that went, and here’s the thing. I don’t give a shit like, “Who’s a Republican? Who’s a Democrat? Who you voted for?” I truly don’t give a damn but I ended up getting a lot of extortion attempts made against me. It was enough to send me into fight or flight to where the authorities got involved.

I began violently shaking every single night. I had two weighted blankets that weighed 100 pounds to weighing me down at night, and it didn’t work. One night I couldn’t take it anymore. The violent shaking was so intense that I went into fight or flight mode. In flight mode for me, I was relapsing, and I got high for those seven hours, and it calmed me down. When I came out of it, the shame of that relapse was so intense that I didn’t even want to tell my therapist about it.

In January of 2021, I got a gun and sat there at the edge of my bed and played Russian roulette for two weeks because of the shame of the relapse. I was afraid that I was going to lose my job, “How could I tell CBS that I relapsed on meth? Who’s going to have a news anchor who’s a meth addict? They would never accept that. How would the public view me?” A year prior to that, I wrote a book called Mascara Boy. It was a best-selling book about recovery. That was a year prior like, “Who was I?” I thought I had lost my whole life. That’s how dark it got for me. That’s when I started doing inner child work in shamanism, which helped me heal from my childhood experiences.

Why I speak so openly about my relapse now is because I can’t be the only one who suffers that weight of shame after a relapse. I never want people ever to contemplate taking their life because they think they have to start over. The thought of starting over is daunting. That’s why I don’t count time anymore. That’s why I tell people also like for those who take a lot of pride in their chips and counting time, you do you. I’m not trying to take that away from you. I see a lot of broken people every day. I look at them, and I’m like, “Stop counting time.” Heal yourself because happiness does not equate with time. I never want somebody going that dark.

That’s what happened. It was unhealed trauma. I started violently shaking because I had never healed from my trauma. In those eleven years, all I did was go to meetings. I didn’t do any inner child work. I never went to treatment. I never did EMDR to get me past the frontal lobe, to the lower part of my brain, where we store those traumatic memories.

More importantly, we store that energy in the lower part of our spine. The Body Keeps the Score. It’s a great book. Everyone should read it. That’s because our bodies remember that trauma. Until we go back and do the inner child work, we will continue to relapse. It’s why I tell everybody, “If you are a constant retread and you continue to relapse, have you done inner child work? Have you gone back to heal yourself from the trauma?”

Trauma, in my opinion, is the gateway. Unhealed trauma is the reason why we use. Until we heal from that trauma, we will likely be triggered again down the road. Meetings are not the only thing. It’s why to look at recovery as a pie chart. Meetings are a sliver of the pie. They are not the whole pie. EMDR, trauma therapy, life coaching, and things that you offer at Camelback Recovery are part of a whole pie chart. It’s not one modality that heals off.

There are lots of people that think trauma is the root of all addiction. The body does keep the score.

Trauma is the gateway. Unhealed trauma is the reason why you relapse.

I tell people all the time, “Until you heal from the cuts that have made you believe, you will bleed on others who never hurt you.” I know that my mother’s intent was to never hurt me nor harm me. She did the best she could. She suffered a lot of abuse as a child. Unfortunately, she passed down that trauma to me. My shaman asked me this, “Brandon, do you love the life you have now?” I tell him all the time, “Toby, I love the life I have now.”

He says, “Good. You then need to give thanks to the mother who abused you because, Brandon, without her, you would not have this life you had. Brandon, do you love the life you have now? “Toby, I love this life I have. “He goes, “Good. You need to give thanks to that relapse you experienced, not suffered in 2020 because, Brandon, without that, you would not have this life you have now.”

Life happens for me, not to me. Relapse happens, not to me. It doesn’t have to be part of the story but to your point, it’s part of the story for most people. You are pointing out that twelve-step recovery is a little sliver. In the grand scheme of things, you have detox, treatment, and EMDR.

Congratulations, by the way, you guys launched an IOP program.

We did. We are in the Biltmore. That’s another level of care.

It’s so important people understand that. I will preach it to the end of time or my time here on Earth is that we have to look at recovery as a full pie chart. There are pieces of a pie that make a whole person. If you are somebody out there who’s going to meetings and miserable, struggling, and white-knuckling, you need to add another piece of the pie to your recovery. Recovery to me is showing up and doing good for others. It’s being a good father, a good husband or a good human.

That is what recovery is. We can only do that when we are healed because we all know this. Hurt people, hurt people, while heal people, heal people. I tell people this all the time, “Those who have suffered a lot of trauma in their life, especially early on in their life as I did, we heal from our trauma, have the ability to become the world’s best healers, and help others through their darkness.”

As you are talking, I’m thinking about as an addict. In the disease, we lie, cheat or steal because we want fulfillment. That’s all it is. We want the nice car, the big house, the hot girl, the hot guy, whatever. We want all of these things because we are chasing fulfillment.

We are chasing something to numb what’s hurting us.

ILBS S5 84 Brandon | Relapse

Relapse: When you are in recovery, the creative side of your brain actually goes dormant. So you need to unlock that side of the brain and get that dopamine flowing.


Once we get to the root of that trauma, then we are free to go out and help another person, which that’s how we get to fulfillment is by being of service, helping another person, and sharing what was given to us.

It’s so important. You would agree to this is that spirituality has to play a role in someone’s recovery. I don’t care. Spirituality has to play a role. What has been taught to me is that God does not call the qualified. God qualifies the call. It’s important that people understand that. Especially for people with trauma and history to not look at the trauma that you have suffered as a negative. Look at it as an opportunity to heal yourself from that trauma through that lived experience, that you will be able to go help others.

Tim, if 99.9% of the people who come to the Art Of Our Soul have experienced relapse if I had never experienced a relapse, how can I help them? How can I honestly say, “I get you? I understand the shame you are feeling.” I truly believe as part of my journey, my higher power had me experience, not suffer, a relapse so that I can do the healing work that I need to do in my studio every day to help those who have experienced a relapse. We all have a different journey in this world. We all have a different path, and we are all to help different groups of people. That’s what we are here to do through that experience. I believe I went through that experience for my soul’s purpose to live its purpose online to help those folks.

Why are you so passionate about carrying the message and helping other person helping other people?

I can only say this that I have had such clear, vivid dreams. If my version of myself several years ago heard these words coming out of my mouth, I would be like, “You need to certify this dude and send him to a fucking clinic.” I have had very vivid dreams to where I had heard my hire speak to me and tell me what my life’s purpose is to the point, Tim, that I walked away from a career of 22 years on September 28, 2021, in the middle of a major contract with CBS Arizona’s Family.

I walked away from that newsroom on September 28 mid-contract to live this life because I knew that this was my life’s purpose. I didn’t expect them to understand, although they did. I didn’t expect a lot of other people too because there are still some people that are like, “I can’t believe you walked away from the job you did at the age of 41. I’m like, “I know but if you heard the dreams and you had the dreams that I did, they were so vivid. I know that this is what I was called to do.

Tell me what it is that you are doing now.

I have the dream. It’s written on a paper towel when you walk into my art studio. When I tell people, I dreamt it. I did. I didn’t remember writing this but I woke up to three words that were sitting on my nightstand. It said, “Studio gallery in school.” Those three words meant nothing to me. I helped manifest that through my shaman. Two days later, on July 10th of last summer, I heard a voice in my head, and it was clear as day. It basically told me I needed to leave news and opened up an art healing program for trauma survivors like me to give them the gift of art in the way art has helped me heal from my trauma.

“Now go build it,” my shaman said. On November 1st, 2021. I opened the doors to Art of Our Soul. It’s an art healing program for all trauma survivors. Basically, I teach acrylic pouring. What’s so important is that when we are in recovery and whether we faced any trauma, it makes the creative side of our brain go dormant. What I’m here to do is to unlock that side of the brain and get that dopamine to flow.

Until you heal from the cuts that have made you believe, you will bleed on others who never hurt you.

If I can get people to experience joy again, when they go back to treatment, they are more engaged in therapy and group. They are happier. It’s important to unlock that dopamine early on in recovery for them to give that person hope that they can smile and laugh again. We do that through art and getting them into the alpha state in a state of healing.

I get goosebumps. I see it every day in my art studio happening, and I have been open. I’ve gotten all the feedback from all the CEO’s and the clinical directors. They are like, “Brandon, whatever it is you are doing, keep doing it. They come back from the shuttle and are laughing, smiling, and dancing.” It’s my pie of chart. I can’t heal everybody. I can’t heal the whole person but I can play a role and have that sliver of my pie of art healing so that EMDR group therapy, twelve-step, IOP, and PHP works a little bit better for them.

They all complement each other. That’s beautiful. I would imagine that some people have feel a bigger impact from the art therapy. They go surfing as part of their therapy. It’s surfing, hiking, whatever it is.

It’s a state of oneness where you are essentially elevated to an alpha state. I tell people all the time, “Have you ever done something usually with your hands or an activity where you lose all sense of time?” Time flies, you are like, “Where did those hours go?” You don’t understand scientifically, we live in a state of beta. Now, I’m shooting an episode with Tim over Camelback Recovery. I got another art session. I then got another meeting. That’s beta.

All of a sudden, we lose the sense of time. What’s happened is our body has been elevated to an alpha state. It’s a state of healing. It’s a state where it lowers anxiety. It helps with depression. That’s what going on a hike surfing does repeat on pottery. I’m eventually going to be adding pottery classes to my art of our soul and acrylic point. Anything you do with your hands. You lose a sense of time. That’s where we can help those people of where they suffered, and those whether it’s PTSD, anxiety, or depression.

That’s similar to being in a flow state.

My shaman told me when I first started, “Brandon, how many treatment centers have committed to your program?” I had three. He goes, “I need you to stop reaching out to treatment centers.” I was like, “Toby, I’m all down with the spiritual gangster stuff but I’m trying to run a business.” That’s not the best business advice.” He goes, “Brandon, I’m going to tell you something. When you are in the line of healing and healing work. Those who need you will find you. You don’t need to find them.” I hit 15 treatment centers in 7 months. When you are doing good and in the flow, my trauma therapist says, “You are in the flow, and you know it. Nothing is forced. It happens. I don’t know how anywhere else to describe it. Other than like now, I’m in the flow. It all flows. It takes work.

Flow follows focus. There’s a guy named Steven Kotler that wrote a book, The Art of The Impossible. The first time I heard that, and you think about it when you are in a yoga class, the whole point of a yoga class is the Shavasana at the end. I don’t know about you but that’s normally when the thoughts come to me. If I’m on a bike ride, I love the cycle and going on these rides, and I work hard. I swear all of my best ideas come to me during the last twenty minutes of the bike ride when I’m cruising home. It’s like light bulbs.

Do you want to know why? It’s because what you’ve done is you free the blockages in your brain to allow that to flow. Depression, anxiety, fear, and trauma all are blockers to get us to where we need to go. When you are doing those activities, what you are doing is you are reducing those blockers. Towards the end, you will notice is when all those ideas are flowing because you’ve removed the blockers, and now it’s allowing that creativity to flow.

ILBS S5 84 Brandon | Relapse

Relapse: Trauma is passed down. You didn’t choose to be abused as a child. Abuse changes the way your brain is formed. Why should you be shamed for the rest of your life for something that wasn’t your choice?


Focused meaning something that’s hard. You have to focus on it. That’s when the blocks come down.

It takes work. I don’t want to think people would think that, “Brandon’s life is so easy.” I’m like, “I do a lot of work. My inner child work is two and a half hour sessions. It’s constant. This isn’t like a one-and-done thing. It’s a lot of work.

You have to do the work. You hear a lot of people say, “You got to do the work.” What does that mean? How do you go and do the work? Some people don’t even know what to do. How did you realize you needed to do inner child work?

That was my awakening moment, my relapse. I was like, “God, what I have been doing up until this time clearly didn’t prevent me from a relapse.” That’s what I’m saying. I had eleven and a half years of my bank, and that didn’t stop me from relapsing in 2020. I was like, “I need to do something else.” That’s what I told my trauma therapist. She taught trauma therapy at that time and goes, “You are ready for Toby. You need to do inner child work with the shaman.” That’s when I began doing that. It’s similar to EMDR. I do it through deep breathwork. In about 8 or 10 minutes of deep breathwork, I’m able to drop back.

I see my life in a film strip and am enabled to see childhood memories or traumatic life events. I’m able to go there through a healthy, healed Brandon with the guidance of a shaman and a trained person and heal myself from those. It’s not a lobotomy. You don’t forget about it but you can heal yourself from those moments so that you are no longer triggered into fight or flight mode. I can recognize and acknowledge what happened but I can tell my inner child, “You don’t have to run anymore. I’m here. I’ve got you now. I’m going to take you out of this situation.”

Believe it or not, it works tremendously. It is a lot of work. I am privileged enough that I can afford a shaman. What my hope is that insurance companies will understand. It is better for their investment to allow all of these new modalities to help people. They should pay for that because if they don’t, they are going to continue to pay for people every time they relapse to go and do the same old entire thing that they’ve done over and over and over again. I’m a huge push with insurance companies. Every time I have a CEO of a health plan in front of me, I encourage them to include shamanism and deep breathwork into their modalities.

They are part of their decision-making process. I can’t even imagine being the person that makes those decisions on what insurance companies pay for.

It’s a more upfront investment. You are going to pay more and insurance companies would likely pay more upfront but if you can stop people from relapsing, aren’t you say to be more in the long run, and you got up there to a different game?

The main thing is that there has to be data to support the efficacy of shamanism or whatever it is.

Anonymity is rooted in shame.

They finally started to do EMDR. There was a time where insurance companies weren’t paying for EMDR.

There’s a lot to it. Let’s talk about your podcast, Escaping Rock Bottom.

My podcast, Escaping Rock Bottom, is simply put like a lot of people coming on, sharing their experience, strength, and hope. It’s their journey. What gave birth to it was I was writing a book. Six months prior to it, I was starting a podcast to build a base for my book to launch, and it took off in these crazy ways. We focused on people’s stories, their experiences, strength, and hope because what I have found is that a majority of people listen to podcasts in the morning when they are on their morning jog, morning walk or on their commute to work. What it’s now become is people listen to my podcast on their way to work.

I’ve got 3 seasons, probably over 120 episodes. People can listen to them on their drive. If you can’t make a meeting, it’s like going to a meeting. You are hearing somebody qualifying share their experience, strength, and hope. It’s a free-flowing conversation. The cool thing is that it’s now being used at treatment centers around the country as part of even a workshop.

They will listen to a podcast episode and do a group breakout discussion with it. It’s another voice out there talking about because, as you said, even in recovery, we come from a different experience. You never experienced a relapse. I have, so I can give voice to those who have experienced that. It’s important. The more voices we have out there, the more connection we can make with other people to make them feel like they are not alone.

That’s the most important thing because us, addicts, love to go into woe is me. “This is only happening to me. Why am I so unique?” The fact is I’m not unique. There are a lot of other people that have had the same thoughts, the same ideations that I have had, and by giving voice to it, which is why, if I can say this again, not an insult to AA at all. Anonymity is rooted in shame.

If shame wasn’t a factor, why would we need to be anonymous? Why? We wouldn’t have to be the reason why it’s anonymous is that if we did share it with our employer, we feared that we would be fired. We feared that people would judge us. We feared we would lose all these things. That’s all based on shame.

If we remove all of that and the more of us that speak out and openly and give a face and a voice to what addiction and behavioral health look like, we’re going to realize it looks like Emmy Award-winning news anchors. It looks like doctors, not just the person living under the 7th Street Bridge. That’s why I tell everybody. Everybody should say and be proud to say, “I suffered behavioral health. I’m in recovery, and this was my story.” What they are doing is helping that person who needs help to come out.

When I think of Alcoholics Anonymous, and it’s anonymous and the fact that it’s up to each individual person whether or not they want to share their story. If somebody doesn’t want to share their story, then they get to make that for you.

ILBS S5 84 Brandon | Relapse

Relapse: Alone time is the most dangerous time. That is when the wheels start spinning. So you need to find a hobby. Find something to kill that alone time and make the depression go away.


If you ask them the next question, it’s why. “Why don’t you want to share your story?” It’s because they are ashamed.

They are afraid they are being judged and not going to get a good job. They are afraid of what people are going to think of them. There are negative connotations associated with being an alcoholic or drug addict.

My life and I hope that people with you and your show that CEOs and people who do run their own companies look at people like you and me. They are like, “Why wouldn’t I want to hire a Brandon Lee?” Even with his story and background, “Why wouldn’t I want to hire them? Why wouldn’t I want to work or partner with Tim? These are great guys doing great things in their lives. They are living recovery out loud.” I had a relapse in 2020. I should still be considered for a job if I didn’t own my own company.

I want people to understand and see that I am the face of behavioral health. I hope by us living the lives that we are living makes it a little easier for the person out there to say, “I can have what they have too and I can recover out loud without living with shame because the trauma was passed down to me.” I didn’t choose to be molested as a child. I didn’t choose to be abused as a child but that abuse changed the way my brain was formed because it happened at such a young age. That sent me off the rails. Why should I be punished? Why should I be shamed publicly for the rest of my life? It wasn’t my choice.

I was connected with someone by my cousin. He was an investor and had some guys up in Kansas. They were going to invest some money into this detox facility, behavioral health. I happened to know the guys because we are both in the treatment world. He was asking me questions. I’m sitting over here going, “This guy is an investor. He’s not in recovery but I’m sitting here going, “I would way rather invest my money that’s actively working a program of recovery.”

That’s the thing about people that are in recovery. I know these guys. I know they’ve done the work. I know that they are good guys. I know that they are living a life of honesty. I know that they are doing the next right thing, and they want to help people. I would way rather go into business with somebody that has done the work, someone that’s on the path and in recovery because I know a lot about them by the fact that they are in recovery.

You are preaching to the choir. I am with you 100% because, at our worst, we are liars’ chiefs. He is a master manipulator. When we are working in recovery, we can be the hardest working, the most truthful, honest, and upfront people. Those are the kind of people I want on my team. On the same foot, it’s important for people in recovery. When you have clients that are coming to Camelback Recovery to get clean and sober and find a new journey in their life, it is why insurance allows peer support to be built.

We have the ability to break through to another addict faster than a trained therapist can without that lived experience of recovery in addiction. We can’t because we immediately can break through that barrier because they are like, “This dude knows the shit he’s talking about. He used to be me.” That’s the beautiful thing about working in the behavioral health field.

Brandon, this has been a great conversation. I’ve gotten so much out of it. Thank you for your time. I know how busy you are.

Not all storms are coming to destroy your life. Sometimes that storm is coming to clear your path.

You are the last group. You were the fifteenth, and everybody else was on a waitlist. I’m very humbled and grateful for the partnership.

Is there a question you wanted me to ask you that I did not ask?

You’ve done a great job, honestly, asking me a lot of questions. I’m grateful that you asked me about how relapses saved my soul and flipping the script on that. I’m grateful for that opportunity to speak on that. I leave people with this. It’s important for people to understand this. Not all storms are coming to destroy your life. Sometimes that storm is coming to clear your path. You will notice that when a tornado strikes, one neighborhood will be totally fine. The street over will be utterly destroyed. Take the word storm out and put relapse in. Not every relapse is coming to destroy your life. Sometimes it is happening to clear your path.

Use that experience as a way for yourself to grow. We learn from our mistakes. I didn’t come up with that saying that is life saying, we learned from our mistakes. Perfectionism doesn’t always exist. Stop trying to be perfect. You don’t have to be perfect. You don’t have to be. Not everything that happens to you has to be a negative thing. It can be a negative experience at the time, and it hurts and cuts but it can also be a time to grow and use that as an opportunity to heal.

There’s one other thing that I was thinking about I’ve seen so many people that have had 5, 8, 10, 11 or 17 years of sobriety. Those are the people in my experience. They have the hardest time getting sober again.

It’s because they don’t want to start over from day one.

Even if they do start over from day one, there’s something different. Thankfully you figured out, “There’s something different. I already had over eleven years. I’ve got to do something different than I was doing before. Going to AA meetings and working with my sponsor and sponsoring guys, that wasn’t enough.” You had to do something different. If you continue to do what you’ve always done, you will continue to get what you always got.

It’s the definition of craziness.

Definition of insanity is doing the same thing.

ILBS S5 84 Brandon | Relapse

Mascara Boy: Bullied, Assaulted, & Near Death: Surviving Trauma & Abuse

Are you inferring to the fact when somebody with a lot of time relapses for the first time and then continue to relapse or struggle?


It’s because they haven’t healed from their trauma. They are going back and doing the same things that they did before. You had the ability to white knuckle. I’m a pretty strong-willed person and dude. With the trauma that I suffered and experienced as a child, people are like, “How did you do eleven years without any trauma therapy, EMDR or shamanism? You did meetings.” That was my willpower. My white knuckles couldn’t hold on anymore, so that was the end of that.

It’s a long time. What I tell people is that they are continuing to do that same thing of thinking that, “If I did eleven years of meetings, I can do another eleven years of meetings.” The fact of the matter is that is not true. Your white knuckles are not able to grip as tight anymore. You have to give new muscles to hold onto your recovery, and that is by healing your trauma. Every time I see people in here with 5 or 6 relapses, I always tell them, “Have you done inner child work?” The answer is no, almost 100% of the time. I encourage people who are reading now. If you don’t know what inner child work is, Google it, research it, and find somebody who can help you do that.

What advice do you have for newcomers?

As my sponsor in recovery first told me when I was first getting sober, that alone time would be my most dangerous time. It’s when the wheels spin. What I want them to know is that you need to find a hobby. You need to find something with your hands. You need to find something to kill that alone time. That will make the anxiety and the depression go away.

I did it through art. Art is a huge thing that I do in my alone time when I get anxious, depressed or sad, it levels me out. Here’s what I want to tell them is that it does not have to take a year for you to experience joy, get that out of your head. You don’t have to wait for your birthday to experience joy and pat yourself on the back. You can experience joy in weeks or months after you get sober.

Definitely do the work but please, for the love of God, don’t think going to meetings is going to be what heals you. Doing the twelve steps is a part of the foundation of your recovery but it is not all of it. Be open to new ideas, EMDR, and shamanism, and do everything you can. Try every modality, not every modality will work for you. You will eventually find another modality that does. Remember that recovery is a pie chart. It is not one sliver of a pie.

That’s one of the things that I always say, “People need to get new hobbies, new interests, new friends, new eating habits, new sleeping habits.” All of those things need to happen, and that’s part of learning how to live life differently. That’s it. An important piece of learning to live life differently is developing new hobbies and interests because I don’t know about you but for me, everything about what I did my entire life involved drinking or doing drugs. That was always part of the equation, and that’s how it is for most people. When they get clean and sober like, “What am I going to do now?”

The body responds to that because meth and sex were always tied to me, meth, G, and sex. It’s called neuroplasticity. It’s the malleability of the brain. Neuroplasticity can either work for us but it can also work against us. If you have a porn addiction, you will never be able to have healthy sex because you are telling yourself, “I have to watch porn to get off.” If for so many years that you were a sex addict and you tied your drugs, it’s like when you stop, you need to take the drugs away. The sex is still here but it doesn’t know how to operate.

You have to retrain and rewire your brain into what healthy sex is because we can’t quit sex. Sex is very healthy for a normal person. When things are tied like this, and this is what we know, we take the drugs away, and this thing’s like, “How do I function?” You have to rewire the brain, and you do that through neuroplasticity with somebody who’s trained.

You have to rewire. That’s rewiring your brain activities, new friends, new all basis. It’s rewiring our brains so it can fire in a way that doesn’t cause us to make poor life decisions. If you are in recovery with 13, 14 or 15 years, and you haven’t relapsed yet but you continue to choose a bad partner. You are on your seventh divorce. You are still doing these unhealthy behaviors but you are sober. What I tell them is, “You haven’t rewired your brain yet. You need to rewire your brain so that you can make better life choices. You can choose a better partner in your life.”

Where can people find you? How can they find you?

It’s super easy. I’m all over social media. I know social media is like double these days. It’s @The.Brandon.Lee on Instagram. I’m on Instagram all the time and Facebook as well. You can check me out online, The Brandon Lee, Do a google search of me. Unfortunately, you will read a lot about me because of the career that I’ve had. The good, the bad, the ugly, it all lives online.

What if someone wants to be part of Art Of Your Soul? If they want to get involved and want to do therapy and Art Of Your Soul, how can they do that?

They can’t. I’m not open to the public yet. I only partner with treatment centers and organizations that deal with people with trauma. That’s the only way I’m open now. I’m thinking about expanding at some point. Here’s the thing. I want people who have experienced trauma in their lifetime access to it. I haven’t figured that part out yet. Unfortunately, I’m not open to the public. I’m only open to private treatment centers and organizations.

Camelback Recovery, we are partnering with Art Of Our Soul.

Come hang out with me once a week and we do acrylic pouring as part of your clinical program at Camelback Recovery. That’s the way it works. Here’s the crazy thing. I’ve had people graduate from their PHP or IOP program. I’ve seen them for a few months. This one girl looked at me and she goes, “I want to keep coming back.” I’m like, “I’m so sorry.” I’m trying to work on an alumni class. She looked at me and she goes, “If I relapse and I go back into treatment, I can come back.” I was like, “No.” Don’t relapse to come back and do art. That’s the best way to do it.

If you are needing recovery or an IOP program, I always say meet people where they are at. Some people aren’t ready for residential treatment. IOP is a great way to introduce yourself to a new way of living. You can do IOP. You can sleep in your own bed at night. If you are still living at home. Your excuses, “I’ve got kids or I have this.” We can meet you where you are at and check out Camelback Recovery, go into their IOP program and see maybe that’s a toe into the door to the new journey, and you can do it that way.

Brandon, I enjoyed this conversation. Thanks so much for your time.

It’s the same, Tim. Congratulations on your show too. Continue to recover out loud as we say.


Important Links

Related posts