Sazha Ramos And Rogan O’Donnell: How Recovery Houses Are Hit By The Pandemic

ILBS 13 | Recovery Houses

 

Without a doubt, recovery houses have been helping a lot of addicts go through a successful metamorphosis to become sober once more, allowing them to serve society once more. However, in this time of COVID-19, such communities are put to a serious test. Tim Westbrook analyzes the problem currently faced by recovery houses with Sazha Ramos, Founder of Recovery Organization Resources, together with Rogan O’Donnell. They talk about how some people use the fear of pandemic to leave recovery houses, only to become worse and relapse. The three aim to address this through proper self-care, staying healthy, and keeping a critical mind when consuming information from the media.

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Sazha Ramos And Rogan O’Donnell: How Recovery Houses Are Hit By The Pandemic

There are a lot of places to get information and in order to do that, it takes time to figure out what you want to do, how you want to take care of yourself. In order to do that, we need to take responsibility for our own wellness, is what I’m saying. Maybe watching the news, isn’t the best idea for you, but figure out what works for you? I know for me, I’m usually at 6 or 7 hours sleep. I’ve been sleeping like 8 to 10 now because that’s how I deal with stress.

The question of the day is COVID 19 and recovery housing. What’s better? What’s safer? Is it safer to go to sober living or is it safer to stay home? Is it safer to get sober, to get clean, to get the support of the community, the accountability and everything you need to help you stay clean and sober, to help you get on that path to recovery? Is that a better route or is it better to continue drinking and using? We’ve had this happen since March 2020. This pandemic has gone on for such a long time. Now, I’m here with Sazha Ramos and Rogan O’Donnell. They’re both huge advocates for recovery housing. I own Camelback Recovery and we’ve had COVID outbreaks at our homes. Rogan has had COVID outbreaks in his home. Rogan, yours was at the beginning of the pandemic. We’re going to talk about that. Rogan and Sazha, welcome to the show. I’m glad to have you.

Thanks, Tim, for having us. We’ve been following your work for a little bit now and you’ve had some amazing people on the show. It’s an honor to be a guest and to work with you on the C4 panels. We know you’re doing the deal out in Arizona and we love Camelback Recovery.

Sazha is a navy veteran in recovery and Founder of the Recovery Organization Resources. She brings a unique perspective to recovery housing after living in one, operating two and now working nationally as an advocate for recovery houses. In 2021, she will complete her Master’s in Social Work at Rutgers University and continue to bring new thought leadership into the recovery housing space. Rogan, it’s good to see you as well.

It’s nice to see you too, Tim. Thank you.

Before we get started, let’s talk about Sazha. Why are you an advocate for recovery housing and passionate about it?

When I grew up, I didn’t think I was going to become the recovery housing girl, but it found me and you accept your destiny as you do in recovery. A lot of it is because I love the sense of home and community. I got sober in Prescott, Arizona. I went through TreeHouse Learning Community, which is a Collegiate Recovery Community. It was co-ed. It was apartment style. I wasn’t in an apartment with any men, but they did live next door to me. After being in treatment for four months with women, I liked the change. I was young enough, where I wanted to be around young people. When you’re in recovery, as I’m sure you all know, it’s like, “I found people that are doing what I’m doing and I can have fun.” I was 25 years old and I enjoyed it. I liked it.

We can look at all the yucky stuff in life, and there's plenty of it, but all it takes a little spin to become positive. Click To Tweet

It was different from me being in the military and living in barracks. I was following the rules there. I know how to follow the rules. I was in the military. Going into recovery, it’s the opposite polarity of that. I have always been an entrepreneur. My family comes from the nursing business. They’ve owned a home health care, going into elderly people’s homes. I’ve been around home healthcare for a long time. I’ve had that background. I lived in one for ten months and then I worked for one in Arizona. Later on, I decided to open one in Louisiana. That was truly a calling, which was cool because I know Rogan’s was a calling as well.

It’s that thing around like creating a home, family, community and connection. Now working at the national level, it’s been interesting to see how each state is different. I know we’ll dive into why we talk about the Wild Wild West as recovery housing, but I believe that recovery houses are even more important than treatment because that’s where you’re integrating back into society. Detox and 30-day treatment are important to remove the shock factor, but in order for you to live your life, integrating back into the community at a recovery house is important.

How long ago were you at TreeHouse?

I was at TreeHouse in 2014.

Was Molly McGinn there?

Yes. I owe so much to that community. They have helped me so much. They continue to help me. I’m still connected with them. Molly keeps trying to get me to come, where we take all the students for spring break or winter break. It’s nice to be around like-minded people. We were all in college. We all were working on the recovery program. We’re young and wanted to be alive. It’s going from not wanting to be alive to learning how to be alive.

How long were you at TreeHouse?

I was at TreeHouse for ten months, which is two semesters.

ILBS 13 | Recovery Houses

Recovery Houses: If you stay sober for a year, you have a higher probability of staying sober for five years. And if you stay sober for five years, you have a higher probability of staying sober for the rest of your life.

 

Do you think you stayed long enough?

Yes, because I moved maybe less than five minutes away. I could go down the street and see them. The Collegiate Recovery House was like a revolving door of people. Even if you didn’t live in the community, they hired me to work for the community where I did overnights. I was still friends with the people there. Either I tried to stay longer or they kicked me out or it was the other way around. I was there and I was connecting and that’s something important in the quality of recovery house, those connections that exist after you can leave.

What do you think is the biggest thing that you took away from being in that recovery community for ten months?

For me, I came in like I knew everything. I was hot shit because I went from working on Capitol Hill, owning my own apartment and living on my own since I was sixteen years old. I go into this recovery house at 25 and I’m like, “I got this. I know what to do.” It was where I started to begin to trust other people. Truly understand what trust meant. When they were like, “Maybe you should only take one class now and then go get a job at Whole Foods washing dishes.” I was like, “I was working on Capitol Hill. There’s no way I’m going to wash dishes,” but I did and liked it. It’s another reason why I’m super into wellness now because of what I learned at Whole Foods. I learned this simplicity of life and how beautiful it can be if I don’t engage in my distractions.

You went and worked at Whole Foods and you’re working on Capitol Hill. I hear and see that often. I’m sure you guys see it as well. If you have someone who had some career, prior to getting clean and sober, then they go to treatment and they live in sober. We had someone who had here. He was making big money and he interviewed to become a house manager for us. I was happy because I thought he was going to go for it and I was like, “Yes, this is what you need to do. You don’t need to go out and get yourself another career. Not right now.” He declined. He said, “I’m too good for this house manager position. I am better than this.”

He was drunk within a few days. It was sad because he was with us for quite some time. He was a leader in the house. Being the house manager is like that next step in recovery. It’s a job. “Let’s continue focusing on your foundation. Let’s continue focusing on recovery so that we can get ourselves ready for the stressors of everyday life.” I drove for Uber for a while. I’m a college graduate. I went to Davis. I’ve owned businesses. I’ve made lots of money. I’ve done lots of things. Driving for Uber is humbling. It was so much fun. I was able to put my ego aside and I had fun. All I did was I drove people around. I talked with people. Some people were super wasted and I was like, “I’m glad that’s not me. I’m grateful.”

Like you with the Uber, I learned how to have fun with the little that I had and I was okay with that. I needed to learn those foundational steps in order to enjoy the life that I have. I didn’t enjoy the life that I had when I was 22, 16, 17 or 18 or the success that I had. It wasn’t even real in my opinion because I’d never stopped to smell the roses.

We’re going to talk about the impact of COVID-19 on recovery housing and the questions are, is it better to get clean and sober? Is it better to go to sober living or is it better to go to a hotel or an Airbnb or go back home to your old environment? First I want to switch over to you Rogan and tell me a little bit about you, and how you ended up to where you are now?

If we aren't using the brain and the nervous system together, as they should be, our body will not become better. Click To Tweet

To stem off to what you said is, pride and ego are killers. In early recovery, I can’t go ahead and be a house manager or drive for Uber or work at Whole Foods. The ego takes over. We know the analogy. The next thing you know, I’m drunk in a couple of weeks or a month or something of that nature. It’s the nature of our business. So much of that knowledge comes from having the experience of living in a recovery house and being part of that recovery community because here we’re all talking about our education and all these great things that we’ve done, but the fundamentals that we get in recovery is new education. We learn about our bodies, our minds, our spirits, how to grow and that in itself, I’m sure we all know the statistics. If you stay sober for a year, then you have a higher probability of staying sober for five years. If you stay sober for five years, you have a higher probability of staying sober for the rest of your life.

More about me is that two big numbers happened. I celebrated 30 years of recovery. I got sober at the age of nineteen, about a month and a half until I turned twenty, my freshman year of college. The whole part of it was that there were other people living in a sober house on campus who showed up to my doorstep at my bottom. I had had a whopper of 3.5 weeks and knock on the door. The funny part is that spiritual connection. I had said to the power of my understanding God, “If you’re not there, I’m F-ed and we’re going to go crazy and go live in Haight-Ashbury. Walk around and sell flowers or put me in a mental hospital with my paper slippers. I’ll shuffle and draw because this whole living thing is done with and I’m too much of a chicken to take my own life.” I’m stone sober. I went to sleep. A knock on the door, there are two upperclassmen that said, “Do you want to go to a meeting tonight?” I’m like, “Okay.” They have a sober house called Serenity Hill about a quarter-mile off of campus at Franklin Pierce College in Rindge, New Hampshire.

For the next 3.5 years, I graduated from college. I got my life together. I repaired relationships with the family and with other people in my life. I found out that I was smart. I could do these things, be this person and be helpful and useful. As you were saying, taking a job, not a career. One of the blessings of getting sober early on was I didn’t have any choices. I was in college. This is what I was to do, make it happen and put one right foot in front of the left, but I had other people who were older, who were already trudging the path, and were able to say like, “This is what’s going to happen. Watch out for this.” Collective knowledge comes into play in a sober house where, “I tried that it didn’t work for me. Try this. This worked for me.” That’s where things blossomed.

I too have owned a plethora of my own businesses and knock on wood, I’ve been successful. Sazha and I have met up and created a together Recovery Organization Resources where we’re on this national platform and trying to make a difference in what recovery housing looks like. As you were saying, about COVID, unfortunately, New Foundation Recovery House in Freehold, New Jersey, as my sober house has started over many years ago. The simple part is we, in Freehold, New Jersey, are on the national scene as far as the first deaths occurred because they had family from Italy come over here to have a family reunion and all of a sudden, the outbreak started to go on.

When that happened, we all know, but to go back in time, you had shut down. You had closures like you wouldn’t believe. Essential businesses were the only businesses that remained open and you had to qualify to be an essential business. For the record and for your show, I don’t know about you, but I never got a letter saying I was an essential business and yet life and death occurs at sober houses. A dumptruck here in New Jersey was an essential business to haul that dirt, to go put in a hole somewhere, but your family members, my family member’s life in a recovery house is not an essential business. That’s also more of what’s inspired Sazha and I to get on the national platform to be able to make some impact to get like-minded people to come together to say, “We got to rethink this. Recovery houses are life and death. Recovery houses are the continuum of health care. They build recovery communities.”

As you said about that person who didn’t want to take the job and was drinking in the next handful of weeks, that person for them to drink, it is Russian roulette, spinning the gun. It was for me. For the men that I’ve seen in my sober house, it is. The unfortunates are in owning a recovery house for a long time, thank you for the blessings that we haven’t had anybody pass in our sober house, but there are people who have come through my sober house who have left and moved on. I hear from the Grapevine that they relapsed and passed on no longer to be with us and no COVID.

Continuum of care and going back to what I was saying is an essential business. If you take away like what’s happened to us, our twelve-step meetings have become Zoom. There are lots of controversy of going on Zoom and staring at the screen and being able to have that personal connection and being able to make those relationships and bonds and stuff. I get it. Everybody is different and everybody has their own pathway to recovery, but I’m an old school, 30-year AA guy. For me, having that connection early on was essential for our non-essential business. It was essential to recovery. In a nutshell, my recovery house, unfortunately, our house manager for about five years, his whole family got COVID bad.

He was in the ICU for about 3.5 weeks, along with his mom and his siblings. His mom, unfortunately, is no longer here with us because of the COVID virus. He didn’t want to come back to the sober house because of everything that took place, which is completely understandable. We’re a small sober house. We were only eight guys and because of him testing positive and being hospitalized, we had three guys who turned around and said, “I don’t have a job. I’ve got a stimulus check. I’m making $600 a week, way more than I’ve been making in a long time.” They called, “I’m out of here. I’ll come back when the pandemic is over.” Three people left and it’s all cordial too. The guys were straight-up honest and polite like, “This is what I’m doing. I don’t care what you have to say. Thank you. Goodbye.”

ILBS 13 | Recovery Houses

Recovery Houses: Even though recovery houses are all about life and death, recovery houses are still not considered essential establishments amid the pandemic.

 

One of the other gentlemen, because he lost his job and he was worried for his wife and kids, I don’t want to say he had a nervous breakdown, but he had some breakdown and was hospitalized. He wasn’t coming back. There are four guys. Two of the guys had already planned on leaving. We were all happy and excited because at the beginning at the end of April 2021, they were gone, which was planned. They escalated it because it was already there. It was no big deal. We were left with one gentleman. To be able to keep the sober house up and going under those conditions when you’re shut down and everything is turned upside down, we had talked to him. He had made plans to move back with his family. We ended up closing our sober house down after eleven years of doing some good quality work. We’re not closed forever, but temporarily until the Coronavirus has come and gone, we’re not going to open back up again.

It’s unfortunate because your business is there to help people get on the path to recovery. That’s not happening. You’re not able to help anybody because you’re closed. I have my experiences because I’ve had COVID outbreaks at a couple of my homes. With the people that you had in your home, because your home stayed full all the time for eleven years.

We were known from coast to coast and North to South. We had people from California stay with us, from Maine, Texas, Florida, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Connecticut. It did a lot of good.

You’ve helped a lot of people on their path to recovery, get clean and sober, stay clean and sober. This COVID thing hits. Without your guys even getting COVID, they end up saying, “I’m going to drink. I’m out.”

The three of them that came into my office. I don’t want to say they all came in together. It was one after another. Within a couple of days, put forth. They were being told they were receiving stimulus checks for $1,200. They were told that they were going to get an extra $600 on the unemployment plus their unemployment. They had come in within 30 to 60 days of recovery. All three of them had significant others or relationships that were lingering, “We’re human, it’s human nature. I got a pocket full of gold and she wants me.” How good is that? The truth too is like, “I went to rehab. I lived in a sober house for a couple of months. I’m doing good. I can go home.”

We don’t have any twelve-step meetings to go to anymore. It’s all going to be on Zoom. I don’t have work to go to anymore. To your point, is it better to stay in the community in a sober house versus go back home or wherever those guys were going? I would have said to stay in the recovery house for the simple part of that. You’ve got a like-minded community because what I’m talking about underneath the undertone is fear. They’re afraid she’s going to leave because of the pandemic. The job is already gone because of a pandemic. There are no meetings to go to because of a pandemic. The world is isolating and shutting down because of a pandemic.

I go on and listen to the news and it’s fear, dead and scary because of a pandemic. To stay in with like-minded people who could talk about that, and as we’re told in our communities, peer-to-peer and be able to support one another, in my opinion, would have been the perfect fitting. With the perfect storm with our house manager who was a rock and a pillar, having the unfortunates to be hospitalized for 3.5 weeks and the passing of his family member and scary stuff like that, it put more fear in our isolated incident at New Foundations, where it was a lot to expect to be able to keep it going without being able to turn it around. In all fairness too, I’m involved with the sober house and was there on a regular basis, but I have small children. We have this pandemic happening and people are getting scared and schools are shut down. I’ve got kids at home, and then I have men in recovery at a recovery house and my house manager is in the ICU, it became completely different than I could have ever imagined.

Do you know what has happened to the three men that were at your house that left you, including your house manager? What’s going on with him?

Self-care is such an essential part of recovering, staying healthy, and having a healthy mind. Click To Tweet

My house manager is living with his brother and sister-in-law. She was hospitalized with the Coronavirus for about a month. Everybody, there is doing fine. I spoke to him and he’s doing well. The other three gentlemen, I’ve put calls out to everybody to keep in touch once a month. Those three guys, I have not gotten a phone call back from them ever since April 2020. That’s the way it goes. The two guys that were scheduled to leave, they’re doing great. They’re with their families. They’re riding it out and doing the best they can. The cool part is we send links to different meetings all around and do the encouraging of like, “Do you want to go to a meeting in Australia, Scotland or Ireland, check this out.”

Some cool stuff has happened with being able to go to twelve-step meetings, you can go to twelve-step meetings all around the world now, literally. This is the coolest thing, I think. Any minute of the day, you can Zoom into a meeting somewhere on the planet. I can go to California, if I got up late or got up early. You are in Arizona. Here we are in New Jersey, as a simple example of this, but now we will be able to do that forever. Out of the bad, there are also some real positives. This Coronavirus has put a spotlight again on the continuum of care of what recovery housing does, but also what recovery does.

We’ve got people who are elderly, who are now on Zoom meetings, where they may not have been able to leave their homes or may have had health conditions and couldn’t go to regular meetings. Now they have that opportunity to be able to get and stay involved in their recovery and in a community in a different way, but yet in a way that works for them. A little gratitude for something that’s come out of this because we can look at all the yucky stuff and there’s plenty of it, but I do want to spin a little bit to a little positive.

It’s staying connected. We have to be flexible. To your point, a lot of good has come from this. Being in recovery, one of the things we learned to look at is, “What am I grateful for? I know I have to be grateful for everything. Until I get to a place of gratitude, then I’m going to be resentful. I’m going to be a victim. Until I’m grateful, I’m a victim.” None of us are victims. I’ve learned more about this. I went and saw Dr. Rebecca Miller over at the Holistic Urgent Care Center. There are lots of strains of coronavirus. We all have had Coronavirus at some point or another. It’s not that big of a deal. There have been casualties as a result.

I’m not a doctor. However, my understanding is that there’s a 99.6% recovery rate or something like that. The recovery rate is massive and it’s more important for us to take care of ourselves, get enough sleep and human connection. Being around people, which one of the things with Zoom meetings. It’s like, “Make sure your camera is on, you have your own camera, you show up early, you stay late.” You try to talk to a few people, you try to connect to a few people and everything’s going to work out okay. I know lots of people who have had the Coronavirus. It hasn’t been that big of a deal. It’s like any other strain of Coronavirus has caused deaths as well. It’s like any flu.

I’m not trying to say insensitive or nonsympathetic or anything like that, but as humans, we have immune systems. Our immune systems need to be exposed to call it the triggers of everyday life, call it viruses, call it dirt, call it mold. That’s how we get stronger by being exposed. Taking care of ourselves, eating the right food and getting enough sleep. Sazha, I had Corona outbreaks at a couple of my homes and there are two completely different ways that the homes responded to them. I think I need to talk about that, but Sazha first I want to turn it over to you and tell me about your experience or do you have any specific experiences with Coronavirus in any of this that you have been closely attached or related to?

No. I’ve been connected with some that I’ve been talking with, but personally in recovery. I moved back home from Washington DC to New Jersey, to my people’s house. My mom was treating patients with COVID. Every day, the whole family had to change because my mom was being exposed to COVID every day. My father would go and pick her up. She’d bring her new clothes. She’d come in, she’d shower and on the daily, we were cleaning. I imagine at a recovery house, they had to do something similar if you’re working with healthcare or patients of that sort. I was reading the notes from the National Association of Recovery Residences open call. Do you go on those, Tim?

Occasionally, yes.

ILBS 13 | Recovery Houses

Recovery Houses: The immune system needs to be exposed to the triggers of everyday life, be it viruses or dirt, to become stronger.

 

It’s a good way to stay on the pulse. As the recovery housing woman, I like to be in the know. From the call, these are some notes that I got from there is that people are still dealing with isolation and what is going on in terms of the vaccine? One of these issues is that the information isn’t coming to us in a way that’s accurate and truthful. What we’re talking about with the vaccine and the virus, we’re seeing on the news that it’s serious. Some people know people that have died and have recovered as well. There’s all this information that trying to dissect through, but who do we trust enough to get this information from?

Because some people don’t trust the government, some people don’t trust that meme that has the COVID information on there. Where do we get this information from? On our call, there was saying there needs to be someone stewarding this information and going through it and being a leader in that space to digest it for people in recovery, in a layman’s term. Not everyone wants to listen to Dr. Fauci and not everybody watches the news, honestly. For younger generations, it’s not the only way that people are getting media. It is affected by people differently. A lot of the complications can come from being previously sick and then being more susceptible to a flu-like virus. At the bottom or top or center of it, some people aren’t well, to begin with, especially people in recovery if you have been hurting your immune system from substance use.

I and Rogan went to Dr. Amen’s clinic to get our brain scanned. It said, “six years of opioids. There’ are holes all over your brain.” I was using opioids for a lot longer than that. I’m interested to see what the brain looks like, but the brain is connected to our nervous system. If we aren’t using the brain and the nervous system in a way that’s like a feedback loop, we’re not getting well and not going to get better. This whole thing of trying to dissect that information is complicated because there are people and things out there that want us to be confused and want us not to have the information. We’re not empowered around our wellness and that we’re not sovereign beings around our recovery.

You guys see I posted, “Is this a fake pandemic?” I’ve heard lots of people say it’s a fake pandemic and it’s not to say that the Coronavirus is not real. To clarify, it is real, however, is it a pandemic? There are lots of people that are saying, “It’s not a pandemic.” To your point, it’s like taking care of ourselves, eating the right foods, getting enough sleep and not being stressed out. I had COVID-19 and I can tell you looking back and it was interesting because the day that it hit me was when I was feeling under the weather.

What I mean is that I got less than five hours of sleep. I work a lot, stressed out and I had a lot going on. In the evening was when I started to feel a little bit of a scratchy throat and I didn’t think anything of it. On the next day, I had a headache, my body was aching a little, my voice was a little cracky. The COVID test was positive. I went and saw Dr. Rebecca Miller. I had therapy. I had 50,000 milligrams of vitamin C in an IV bag of things. It’s like, “I make it through. It’s like any other sickness.” Now, I’ve already hit. I question whether or not it’s a pandemic though, and that’s what lots of people are saying. It’s like, “It’s just Coronavirus.”

I had COVID outbreaks at two of my homes. It’s interesting the way that they were handled at both homes. The first home was a female home. It was Serenity Ranch. A couple of the women ended up hanging out with a past resident who tested positive for COVID. We let everybody in the house know. Everybody knows that we have residents with COVID-19. We make it very clear. By the way, we take lots of precautions in our homes. We clean and sanitize. We don’t let outsiders into our home. Anybody that’s an outsider, be at a repair person or anybody that doesn’t live in the home, myself being an employee of Camelback Recovery or any other staff members, we all are wearing masks when we go into the home.

We are very safe and we follow CDC protocols. We take the temperatures of all of our residents on a daily basis. We’re constantly checking and doing everything that we possibly can. It means that a couple of the women were exposed to COVID. They quarantined in their rooms. We provide all the food and because we provide all the food, that means that everybody is not out grocery shopping and going out to eat. It limits the exposure. All of our food is delivered by cart or by Amazon Foods. We do the best we can to limit the exposure. Food was delivered to them in their rooms.

Anytime they left their room, they had to mask up and wear gloves. That home Serenity Ranch all decided, “We’re going to stick together.” We gave everybody the option to leave like, “You can leave if you want to leave. We’re not going to make you stay here.” They all decided to stay. They decided to quarantine together and stay together, stick together as a community. The transmission rate or how contagious viruses, it’s 20% of people in the same household will catch the Coronavirus, which is lower than the normal flu. For the normal flu, the rate of transmission is like 35%.

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I’m not a doctor. This is the information that I have been given. In Serenity Ranch, they all decided to stick together as a community. They did a prayer, meditation, gratitude. They stuck together. They quarantined together as a community. At the end of two weeks, only four of them total got ended up positive with the Coronavirus and they all made it through. They’re all still clean and sober, and doing well. There you have it. We have another case of another one of our homes, one of our male homes, Papago Springs and a couple of the guys tested positive at that home. We’re already through it.

The house managers decided to stay. For the most part that the guys stay, and then there were a couple of guys that decided to leave. We gave them the option like, “You can leave if you want to.” A couple of the guys ended up leaving. What we found was them leaving, the Coronavirus was an excuse for them to go because they both relapsed that same day. That’s been my experience. Rogan, it sounds like you have the same experience. It’s not that the Coronavirus is not real. It’s not a pandemic though in my experience. In my non-professional opinion, that’s what I’ve seen is that people are much better off in the community getting clean and sober and taking suggestions.

If someone goes out, they say, “This is the day for me to stay at this home.” All it is is an excuse for them to drink. It’s an excuse for them to go get high. It’s an excuse for them to relapse. That’s what we have seen is that people use it as an excuse, which we’re all in long-term recovery. We see people go in and out. Addicts early in recovery will look for any reason to go out. Any time they’re out a week, everybody wants to get clean and sober at one point until they’re triggered, until they’re having a bad day or until there’s an excuse or a reason to leave. That’s what ends up happening.

You don’t even have to be in early recovery. For me, it’s facing like, I believed everything was going on. I’m like, “I’m going to die. What do I want to do in my last dying months?” If you’re not mitigating your fear in recovery, your life could look totally different now because of what’s going on.

It’s fake evidence appearing real. It’s like, “I might have the Coronavirus because I was around somebody that had it.”

When we think about this, take everything that we have on the table, and we put together our collective minds, the idea of this pandemic is that it can be as simple as us being this close and all of a sudden, it spreads. The fear factor of it spreading is real because we have seen it spread from all over the world. I’m not saying that it did, but if it originated in China, it certainly has made an impact here in the United States, along with Germany, Italy and all the other countries. Is this a fake pandemic? The fact that it’s globalized does change the tune. There’s something real here. We can’t say that in my opinion, it’s fake just because of the impact that’s had worldly.

I don’t know though, as if the fear that’s been generated has to be generated so much when it comes down to common sense. I’ve heard it. I’m sure you guys have too, the common flu in America kills, unfortunately, hundreds of thousands of people. Now Coronavirus is doing a number, but they’re similar numbers. That’s the other part is we don’t know. I get what it is that you’re saying. Tim, you did an excellent job with your house to say it straight up. You gave them education, awareness, the tools to be able to handle it, choice, and the cleaning utensils.

You present it now. Why didn’t the professionals who are in the government do that for us as citizens? Why didn’t they turn around and say, “Take a multivitamin, make sure you get plenty of rest, everybody go on and get a therapist and talk about the stresses of life and how life has changed? School students, we’re not going to yo-yo you up and down. You’re going today. You’re not going tomorrow. We’re going to cancel school for the year or you’re going to be online and it’s going to be from 9:00 to 2:00, instead of 7:00 in the morning.”

ILBS 13 | Recovery Houses

Recovery Houses: Everybody wants to get clean and sober until they’re triggered by one bad day and find an excuse to leave.

 

We could have as a society done a lot better of a job as to how you handled it at Camelback Recovery, which isn’t it funny that we’re talking about recovery and recovery housing, and we go ahead and have the empathy, compassion, and understanding to be able to give a choice that the awareness, education, ability, tools, structure for your ladies house to do well, where we could have had that same attributes going on here in America if we would have done a similar protocol instead of fear and scare. Do you remember the paper towel and toilet paper pandemic? That was a pandemic. The funny stories were like doing drug deals with like, “Do you want to buy the toilet paper? Give me the money.”

That’s embarrassing though to be a country that’s concerned about toilet paper instead of getting vitamin C or better water or quality water or ozone to clean your air. There are many things that should have gone off the stock before toilet paper. That’s how backward our society is in regards to healthcare and wellness.

According to Ken and Mary Richardson, the founders of CoDA, fear is on a spectrum. You’ve got concerned, worry, anxiety, panic and terror. What the media is promoting is toxic fear. That’s what that’s what’s happening. It’s not that the Coronavirus is not real, but whether or not, it’s the magnitude or how bad it is. That’s been blown out of proportion and it’s causing fear, anxiety and it’s toxic. I don’t agree with it is, the level of toxic fear that’s out there. It’s not helping people stay clean and sober, nor helping people stay safe.

To finish off what I was driving at is like, is this a fake pandemic? I believe it’s become a real pandemic because of what the the media has done, because of the fear, because of the isolation, because of the worries, because of that it’s knocked us out. To go back to the beginning of a conversation where a recovery house isn’t even considered an essential business, and I have nothing against dump trucks and doing your work and what it is, but we’re talking about picking up dirt and bringing it to another site and dumping the dirt down versus life and death. I can always buy a dump truckload of dirt. I can’t buy another human being. Yet the world didn’t even see which before this pandemic, we were having the opioid pandemic or the opioid crisis.

The world doesn’t even see that recovery is going to be jeopardized by not being an essential business. That’s a real factor here in New Jersey because we were one of the first States to get blown up off the map. We had to travel around with a piece of paper that said we printed off of the government listing that said you were an essential business. If you got pulled over by the police and you didn’t have that piece of paper, you were going to get a ticket. You’re going to get in trouble. You’re not in essential business. You’re not allowed to be out there. That changes, to go back to what you were saying, that fear, we’re getting it from the media, but we also were getting it in real life stuff on the clutch of what’s happened in the social justice world with everything else that was happening in America. It’s like a ticking time bomb. I say that the pandemic is real. Is it necessarily a COVID pandemic? I don’t know specifically a COVID pandemic, but there’s been a pandemic created around it all.

What’s the main message that you guys would like people to take away from this talk?

There are a lot of places to get information. In order to do that, it takes time to figure out what you want to do, how you want to take care of yourself. We need to take responsibility for our own wellness, is what I’m saying. Maybe watching the news, isn’t the best idea for you, but figure out what works for you? I know for me, I’m usually at 6 or 7 hours sleep. I’ve been sleeping like 8 to 10 now because that’s how I deal with stress. For someone like super high-performing, I’m like, “I’m sleeping for several hours,” but that’s what I need now. That’s how my body regulates what’s going on in this overload of information. I do think that people can start, taking real responsibility around their wellness and it looks like many different things. You can find us on our website www.RecoveryOrganization.com, where we share easy tips and tricks.

I teach meditations weekly and it’s a lot about a breath because the message is, “We can’t breathe. I can’t breathe.” A lot of breath meditations increases your chi. That means you have more energy to do things. You have more energy to deal with your addiction, your neuroses, or whatever’s going on. We need more energy right now because what the pandemic is doing, it’s taking away our energy. Fear takes up 60% to 80% of the brain when you’re worried about fear. That’s a lot of energy, you can’t deal with anything else. I highly suggest meditations for sure, but any other way to take responsibility for your wellness now would be my message for everyone.

[bctt tweet=”As the media continue to spread toxic fear, anxiety will be everywhere.” via=”no”

What about you Rogan? What message do you want people to take away from this?

I hope that people take away that if we go back into the basics of recovery, how’s it work? Honest, open, and willing. With everything that’s going on, I was afraid when I first came into recovery about life itself. I’m not saying I’m not, still, but I was afraid when I first started getting sober. Good people said, “Honest, open and willing.” If I’m honest about I’m feeding into this crazy media show, I’m feeding into all the fear that’s being produced, I’m not being open about my own concerns and my worries and I’m not willing to take an active role in my wellness, then I need to be able to point the finger at myself. I would like to leave everybody with, if you’re in recovery, you’ve already done a terrific, amazing job, getting yourself and having the help of others to get you there. Let’s keep up with the positives. Let’s utilize our recovery community. Let’s utilize all the tools in the toolbox and let’s keep on doing that one foot at a time.

I’ve got one more question for each of you. Sazha, tell me about your morning routine.

I love my morning routine. I love the structure. I’ve been sleeping for 9 to10 hours these days. I get up at 8:00. I have a yoga set that I do every day. My personal pathway to recovery is Kundalini yoga. I know you had Tommy Rosen. I’ll also be teaching on Rama-TV.com. You can check me out there. For people in recovery, I may be able to get you free memberships, please feel free to reach out. They also offer free memberships to veterans. I have a yoga set. It ranges from 20 minutes to 1 hour, depending on how much time. I usually do 30 minutes and then I’ll leave some for the nighttime. First, I make my bed. That’s important. I make my bed first thing in the morning. It drives me crazy if I don’t. A lot of it comes from me being in the Navy, but that’s my first accomplishment of the day. I made my bed, it looks good. I have something to look forward to. I do my yoga. I come downstairs. I usually drink some tea, and drive right into work. Depending on how flexible I am in the morning, I schedule my morning around that routine.

How much time do you take to yourself in the morning would you say?

I don’t want to say that I’m selfish, but I prioritize self-care. Sometimes it’s for two hours.

What about you Rogan?

I’ve had a ritual for a real long time. I always spend 30 minutes just pulling it together. Pulling it together could be sitting in silence, drinking ice tea and practicing meditation and prayers. It could be reading an inspirational or 24-hour affirmation book. Sazha has been kind enough where she made me my own personal video of meditation. That’s about 24 minutes. I have to do that before I take a shower because I do get a sweat on. If I take a shower and then do it, I’m a little sweaty. It’s changed, but I’m religious with 30 minutes. I am spoiled in the summertime. It’s a lot longer and when the weather’s right, I go for long walks with the dog. That easily could be an hour. I do a prayer throughout the whole day. I’ll like to stop at certain times and check-in with gratitude, even when I’m feeling great and even when I’m feeling bad, I check in to say, “Can you imagine all these leaves fell off the tree at this time?”

We’re all three in alignment that self-care is such an important part of being in recovery, staying healthy and having a healthy mind. It’s all about the mind, body and spirit. The main message I want people to take away from this is, is this a fake pandemic? That’s not the main message. The main message is that Coronavirus is real. Self-care is the most important thing you can do for yourself. Staying connected, getting enough sleep, yoga, meditation, breathwork and staying connected to positive people in your life.

Journaling, turning on Facebook, waking up and looking at the news, and watching the news, that’s going to spiral you out of control. The best thing that everyone can do in my experience, and this is what you guys are seeing as well, is like, “We got to take care of ourselves. Let’s start with the morning routine.” It doesn’t matter what the morning routine is, but let’s start the day off on the right foot and get things going. We all want to be happy, joyous and free. That’s the path. Thanks again, Rogan and Sazha. It was fun to have you here and everybody else. I hope you have an awesome day.

Thank you, Tim. Have a great day.

Important Links:

About Sazha Ramos

ILBS 13 | Recovery Houses

Sazha Alexandra Ramos is a navy veteran in recovery and founder of Recovery Organization Resources. Sazha brings a unique perspective to recovery housing after living in one, operating two, and now working nationally to advocate for recovery houses. Next year she will complete her Masters in Social Work at Rutgers University and continue to bring new thought leadership into the recovery housing space.

About Rogan O’Donnell

ILBS 13 | Recovery Houses10-17-1990 Recovery date
Owner of New Foundation Recovery House 2009.
Co founder Recovery Organization Resources

 

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