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

ILBS 17 | Neuroplasticity


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ILBS 17 | Neuroplasticity

Daddy, Daddy Please Stop Drinking

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ILBS 17 | Neuroplasticity

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Earnestness is a synonym for sobriety. Click To Tweet

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is your wife in recovery?

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

ILBS 17 | Neuroplasticity

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


How long have you been married?

Six years on February the 14th, 2021.

How did you end up in the United States?

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

Are you living in Texas now?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are the steps to change your neural pathways?

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

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

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

ILBS 17 | Neuroplasticity

Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’ve never heard that before.

ILBS 17 | Neuroplasticity

Alcoholics Anonymous: The Big Book

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Does she drink?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ILBS 17 | Neuroplasticity

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s great to see you.

Important Links:

About Dr. Robb Kelly

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

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

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

Life Gives To The Giver With Joe Polish



“Life Gives to the Giver” is a conversation with Joe Polish, who created one of the most elite business networking groups in the world for industry transformers. His foundation, Genius Recovery, helps people with addiction recovery. His two groups, Genius Network and 100k, are the most sought after connection networks in the world that are tailored to building a better entrepreneur.

Joe’s mission around recovery is to help change the global conversation around addiction to be viewed with compassion instead of judgment. Check out the trailer for Joe’s award winning documentary at

Watch the episode here:

Listen to the podcast here:

Life Gives To The Giver With Joe Polish

I am here with Joe Polish. The reason why I have him on my show is because I want to find out more about how he went from being a 100-pound crack cocaine addict to being one of the world’s leading connectors, owner, and founder of Genius Network and Genius Recovery. I also want to find out more about his sabbatical that he’s going to be taking. He’s taken a one-year-long sabbatical. What is he going to do to take care of himself during that sabbatical? What does recovery look like?

Joe Polish created one of the most elite business networking groups in the world for industry transformers. His foundation, Genius Recovery, helps people with addiction recovery. There are two groups, Genius Network and 100K. They are the most sought-after connection networks in the world that are tailored to people being a better entrepreneur. Joe’s mission around recovery is to help change the global conversation around addiction to be viewed with compassion instead of judgment. Check out the trailer for Joe’s award-winning documentary at

Joe, it’s so awesome to have you here. Welcome to the show.  

It’s good to be here, Tim. I love the name, I Love Being Sober.

Joe has the I Love Marketing podcast so I Love Being Sober came after Joe. He is a good friend of mine. Life Gives to the Giver is the name of his book.

Let’s talk about whatever you want. You can ask me anything. We can talk about sobriety, throes of addiction, craziness, entrepreneurship, whatever will be helpful. It’s about connection. The opposite of addiction is connection and I find that to be quite true and accurate.

Where are you from?

I was born in El Paso, Texas. In my entire childhood, we moved to different parts of Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. My mother died when I was four years old while we were living in a small town called Kerrville, Texas. My father was very heartbroken and distraught. He never recovered from my mother’s death. We would go to a new town. He was a locksmith so he had to establish himself as a new business and clientele. When things started working a little bit, he would uproot and go somewhere else. He was always a guy that was running away from something. He died in 2002 and I was his primary caretaker in the last year of his life, along with help from my brother and a couple of other people. I was with my father quite a bit. We never had a great relationship. My father was a very disconnected guy but he did the best he could with a lot of challenges and pain.

I lived in Arizona, in Phoenix area. I lived here most of my adult life. The only time I moved away as an adult was when I was a drug addict right out of high school. I went to New Mexico and lived in a trailer with my father to get sober. I moved there in the first six months. I didn’t go to rehab. I just removed myself from the environment. I didn’t have access to the people until the drugs. That was very difficult. I had not dealt with the underlying trauma that causes addiction in the first place. That came later in life. My worst stage of being a drug addict was when I was in high school and right out of high school.

The opposite of addiction is connection. Click To Tweet

How did you start experimenting with drugs?

My brother was smoking pot. It’s weird because as I sit and think about it, my childhood is a blur. There’s so much of it that I don’t remember. The entire periods and years that I have no real memory of. I was introduced to pornography, smoking pot, doing drugs and snorting speed, then in high school, that’s were cocaine, crystal, and LSD. I never shot heroin or anything but I smoked it before. My drug of choice, it’s hard to say, but it was cocaine. It’s because of the dopamine hit that cocaine can give you. It started with pot though, I was getting high almost daily.

Back in those days, I went to Dobson High School in Mesa, Arizona. I kept the bond in my locker. I don’t know if you can get away with that now. When I went back in that high school, they had metal detectors and all kinds of stuff that never existed when I went there. I graduated in 1986 but I didn’t graduate by walking with my class. I was watching the graduation ceremony from the backyard of a friend who had his backyard bordered the football field in high school. I was smoking cocaine with him out of glass pipes, watching my high school graduation during the night of it. I was getting high and I was in a dark place. I was an anti-authority rebellious guy, doing drugs, and dealing drugs to support my habit. It was a bad time. Looking back now, I’m lucky I’m alive.

I weighed 105 pounds, which was my worst state in terms of weight because I had not eaten for about a week other than Chicken McNuggets and horrible food. On average, I weighed about 120 pounds. When you’re a male and you’re 5’10”, in terms of height, you can imagine how skinny and scrawny that is. I looked like a skeleton. I’m going into all kinds of crazy stories that you can make movies off of it, but I’ll leave it up to you how you want to guide and direct it.

You were introduced to drugs or your brother was the reason why you started experimenting with drugs, why did you keep on going?

It made me feel different because reality sucked. I didn’t like and I didn’t feel good about my reality. I think that addiction is a solution to the pain. I never thought about it that way, but getting high, escaping reality when your reality is painful is like a rest stop from angst, anxiety, depression, and nervousness. I was a very shy, introverted, weak kid. I didn’t know how to make friends. I never felt comfortable meeting people. I desperately and badly wanted connection. I wanted to be liked and accepted. I felt rejected and that I didn’t fit in. Growing up, whenever we would establish relationships and friendships, they would get uprooted.

When my mother died, I was abandoned. It’s not her intention. From what I know of her, she was an incredibly amazing woman. She was a former nun and she left the convent because she had gotten ill, and a lot of bad things happened in the church. It’s the story I was told. I had all of these caretakers that abused me, lie to me, and betrayed me. I was thinking about this. My father was a locksmith and he had his little locksmith shop in Kerrville, Texas. We lived in this weird house that had aluminum around the whole building.

My father wanted his ashes buried next to my mother’s grave in Kerrville, Texas. I remember after he had died, I waited for a little over a year, then I took his ashes to Kerrville and personally placed them in the ground right above my mother’s grave. That was in his will and his wishes, so I abided by what he wanted. I remember driving by the place where we used to live. I didn’t quite know where to go but I found it. The building was still there. He had his locksmith shop in the front, then we had our house in the back. It was a weird place to live. I had this reputation as a kid that I would sit on the counter at his locksmith place. People would come in to get their keys made and I would smile, and people would give me money.

It was the weirdest thing because I hadn’t thought about that for years. I learned how to smile even though as a kid, I was in constant terror. I felt so much fear. All I can remember vividly as a child is that I was very scared. The only memories I have with my mother was when I was jumping up and down on a bed. Someone snagged me off the bed because my mother had ovarian cancer. That’s what I believe it was. I’m not 100% sure. It’s hard to read the death certificate. I’m trying to verify that years later. She died in 1972. Someone pulled me off the bed. My mother wanted me to be there but it was hurting her because they cut her from her neck down to the groin area. They open her up across and removed organs. It was terrible. I remember she had stitches and big cuts from the surgery. She was dying.

That was one memory. Another memory I have with her was the tubes up her nose in a hospital. I don’t know if that was the day she died or a few days before she died. I have no memory of that. I was just there with my brother who is four years older than me and my father. After my mother had died, I remember a blurry memory of my father outside of the hospital, leaning against a tree, and bawling his eyes out crying. He lost the love of his life and here he was with these two kids. I was smiling all the time because that’s the only way I learned how to cope with the pain. In my life, I’ve done a lot of that where I put on my game face.

ILBS 14 | Genius Recovery

Genius Recovery: Any form of escapism is a way to feel an artificial form of connection. Addiction is a solution to pain, but it is a solution that could kill you.


I would go out and try to act like everything is okay when it wasn’t, and it never felt okay. The introduction to drugs in any form of escapism was a way to feel an artificial form of connection. It’s like what Bill W said, the Founder of AA. He said that his alcoholics were trying to drink God out of a bottle. You’re trying to drink, snort, smoke, fuck, gamble or eat the pain away. You do something to deal with the pain. I had a lot of pain and when I was getting high, I thought it was entertaining and it was. You can party and have fun.

I’m not one of those people that will say all of it was miserable. Getting high at times felt exhilarating when feeling not okay in the world that doesn’t. However, there are these things called consequences and they can destroy you. I now believe that the worst day sober is better than the best day not sober because of where it can lead you to. It’s a complicated thing but I’m glad I went through it. What I do now with my focus on Genius Recovery, which is a passion project. It’s one of the most important things to me. It’s to help change the global conversation about how people view and treat addicts with compassion instead of judgment, find the best forms of treatment that have efficacy, and share those with the world. There are many ways to treat addiction. I do believe addiction is a solution. It’s a bad solution. It’s a solution that could kill you, hurts other people, and cause addicts to lead a double life. I was a very functional addict.

When did you realize that you had a problem with drugs?  

I was in deep denial. People were pointing out to me that, “You should not get high so much.” There are probably 100 times from close friends. I started to isolate the deeper I got. I remember in Psychology class, I got high to do a talk because I was afraid of public speaking. I got stoned because it helped ease the tension. I ended up giving a talk in Psychology class about the dangers of THC and marijuana. I remember I was in an acting class and we have a little skit where we’re not supposed to talk. It’s supposed to be a silent thing. I had a friend who we hung out and get high together. We go to parties and stuff. She was pretending to be a drug dealer and I was a drug buyer. I gave her a little vial filled with speed in front of the whole class.

I feel terrible that I did these sorts of things. Back in the ‘80s, cocaine and speed had just come onto the scene. The way people do and consume drugs and the way jokes are made about them, there are different stages of life where we respond to things differently. She had given me this little vial, I poured it out in front of this acting class. I had a rolled-up dollar bill, and I snorted speed. That’s a shit that I did in high school. The teacher came up after and I was like, “It was baking soda and some aspirin,” but it was speed. I have snorted it in front of the whole class as part of an acting skit. It was bold, stupid, dangerous, and it shows you where my life was. I was like, “What’s the point of all this?” I felt rejected. I didn’t feel accepted in school.

I was young and wanting to be anti-authority. I was a nice guy though. I wasn’t mean to people. I’ve always been a compassionate person. I wasn’t hurting people. I was just hurting myself and I was taking dangerous risks and stuff like that. I was abused as a kid. I was raped and molested as a kid and I was paid money not to say anything about it. That wired into my head that sex is not an intimate act of love and oneness. It’s something you do to get off. I never saw a model of a healthy relationship. My father never remarried. I never heard I love you until around the age of eighteen.

We moved all the time. Every time I would establish a relationship, it would be uprooted and we go somewhere else. I became very used to losing my relationships and abandonment. I remember going to a summer camp that my father sent me to in Texas. It was a Catholic boys camp and the camp counselors were more like young adults that take care of the kids. They were abusing us. They were making us do sexual stuff to each other. It was terrible and bad. That stuff embeds dark things into you. You feel like a piece of meat. You feel used and abused, and it was dark. The drugs helped those memories that will never go away. It would numb them for a bit. It became a way to do it.

Looking back though, I love this definition of intimacy. I had my first Twelve Steps program in 2003 at SAA, Sex Addicts Anonymous. He had introduced me to a guy who spends his life sponsoring sex addicts. I never met him in person. He was never a sponsor of mine but he said to me a definition of intimacy, which is a mutual exploration of a shared safe place. Abuse is anything that takes away the safe place, and addictions are what we do to make ourselves feel good when we don’t have a safe place. I never felt safe. When I’ve talked to a lot of addicts, you don’t feel safe in the world. You’re going to try to connect with something that either makes you feel safe, it gives a false sense of security, or you’re numbed out, you don’t even know the difference.

It makes sense why if you’re depressed, anxious, lonely, sad, and feeling enormous fear. There’s nothing wrong with not wanting to feel those feelings. It’s how you go about scratching the itch. I was using ways to scratch the itch that worked temporarily, but they left me more wounded. You become physically and mentally addicted. You become spiritually distraught if you can feel any connection whatsoever, and then you’re coupled with people that were raised under either strict religion or were gaslighted using God as a way to manipulate them. It’s hard for them to find a spiritual connection.

My friend Don Woods who’s a doctor that helps people with trauma, the way he refers to it is if you understand the atmosphere and conditions of somebody’s life, it would make sense the way that they are. For anyone who’s reading this who are in active addiction, in recovery, an addict or who knows someone that’s an addict, in pain and depressed, look at their lives. My friend Gabor Maté has this great line. He says, “The question is not why the addiction, but why is the pain there.” If there’s enough pain there, you’re going to find coping mechanisms. You’re going to find addiction as a way to deal with the pain. To this day, when I see someone smoking, drinking, or any obsessive out-of-control behavior, instead of saying, “That person is making bad decisions, they are more of degenerate,” it’s like, “Where are they hurt? What pain are they trying to escape from?” That allows me to have more compassion for them and myself.

The worst day sober is better than the best day not sober. Click To Tweet

When you feel resentment, anger, rage, and betrayal, sometimes, you’re angry that you take it out on yourself. If it gets bad, then all of a sudden, your reactions start affecting other people. When people get to the point where they’re doing criminal behavior or they’re hurting other people physically, mentally, emotionally, sexually, you’re usually dealing with people that have out-of-whack biochemistry. Dr. Daniel Amen who’s a brain doctor, he scanned my brain six different times. I was doing an interview with him on my podcast. He said, “If you saw the brains of serial killers, you would rethink the death penalty because these are not normal brains. These are sick brains. If you take a look at what trauma can do to somebody, it alters the way you think, the way you react to life, and the biochemistry.”

Addiction is a form of isolation. It’s a shame. Addiction feeds off of shame, guilt, anger, and resentment. You know all of this. You have been in recovery and what you do with sober living homes and whatnot. I had to learn all this stuff. That’s a challenge. Trying to think your way out of something that’s deeply embedded in a cellular level is a difficult thing. I applaud the heroic journey of people that go through recovery because not only is it incredibly difficult, but society still doesn’t accept and embrace addicts. The symptoms of addiction can hurt people. Addicts in their worst state lie, cheat, steal, cause trouble, and can commit crimes. They can be the most difficult people.

To help someone that you love that is suffering from addiction, not only is it suck for the addict but it sucks for the people around the addict. To go through that journey to find that hope and that healing, which is there. That’s where the magic of life is. Addicts that have come out on the other side and they’ve gone through Twelve Steps where they’ve gone through the journey of powerlessness and connection, they are some of the most incredible giving, caring, loving people because they’ve been through hell.

You’ll hear sometimes in Twelve Steps, “Religion is for people who are afraid of going to hell. Spirituality is for people that have already been there.” I have a lot of friends that are in recovery that do Twelve Steps that are atheists. They don’t even believe in God. You don’t have to have a “strong” belief in religion. You can still connect with the source. You can still find ways to connect. I often say that because a lot of people like myself spent thousands of hours praying to God they can never feel and were betrayed in church. They had God and had religion used to manipulate them to make excuses for doing terrible things to people when they’re children. It’s very complicated. One of my favorite recovery sayings is, “We’re not going to open up the gates of heaven to let me in, but it opened up the gates of hell to let me out.”

One of the things that I hear people say at Twelve Steps meetings is, “I’m a grateful recovering alcoholic or drug addict.” I feel that way too. I’m grateful that I went through the journey that I went through because I wouldn’t be who I am now without all of the wreckage, journey, drinking, drugs, pain, selfishness, and self-centeredness. It was awful. However, I am who I am now because of everything I went through. To your point, alcoholics and drug addicts in recovery are some of the most amazing people. What was the straw that broke the camel’s back that you finally decide to get clean and sober?  

I was first clean and sober from drugs because then the real core addiction was my sexual addiction because of the abuse. It became one of my primary coping mechanisms. When I got sober from drugs, I was living in Mesa. I lived with a couple of roommates and one of them was a bad cocaine addict. He was a dealer. Almost everybody that’s a drug addict is dealing at some point. It may not be their primary occupation. It’s like this funny Chris Rock line from a skit years ago. He’s like, “A crackhead is with another crackhead. They are not married to someone that wakes up in a three-piece suit at 5:00 in the morning and goes to work. They’re hanging out with other crackheads.” I had a belief at that time that everyone got high. I got high to go to bed and I woke up to get high. My whole life revolved around doing drugs and inebriating myself.

This guy was an addict and he had got busted for possession. I came home one night and he was over the sink, smoking freebasing cocaine which is like pure cocaine. I said to this dude, “You need to go to bed.” I knew he had a trial in the morning for cocaine possession. I went to bed and I woke up in the morning and he’s in a three-piece suit smoking, still over the sink while his lawyer is waiting outside to drive him to court for charges of cocaine possession. I’ve thought about that situation a lot since I got going. That is not someone that has control over their life. A lot of people would be like, “What an idiot.” This has even nothing to do with intelligence. No one wants to do that. When people are like, “They want their life to be that way.” No, they don’t. There’s not a single addict that wants to be an addict.

There’s nothing useful about having no control over your life and having a drug or a behavior dominate your every waking moment. It’s terrible. This guy went to this court case. It was probably a week later or a few days later. I’m there at this apartment with a friend of mine watching TV and he comes in the apartment. As soon as he walks in, he’s got a can of lighter fluid and starts squirting the lighter fluid all over the living room, all over me and my friend. I have long hair back then. The lighter fluid is dripping off of my head. This guy got this giant can of lighter fluid. He’s screaming and he holds up a match. “I’m going to fucking touch this place.” I’m sitting there like I’m going to die. I’m like, “Put the lighter down.” He finally puts the lighter down. It was like some shit out of a movie.

At that moment, I was like, “If I don’t get out of this place, I’m going to die.” I packed up all my shit in this piece of a crap pickup truck that I had, the Chevy LUV, and I drove to New Mexico with my possessions, skinny and screwed up. I moved into a trailer that my father was living in and have no friends. I have no access to drugs and cut myself off from it completely in Las Cruces, New Mexico. I spent a few months getting sober. I ended up getting a job, delivering newspapers in the truck. I started going to New Mexico State University. I would never get a degree in anything but I was trying to do something. Along the way, I ended up getting a job selling gym memberships.

That’s when I first started working out because through high school, I was never in sports. Around that same time, I was getting molested as a kid. I had a sadistic little league coach that would force me to hold the baseball bat in a way that I could not hit the ball. It ended up ruining my liking for sports. I ended up quitting the team because I couldn’t play the game the way that this coach forced me to try to hold this baseball bat. I was the only one on the team that he was doing this to that I can remember. Back then I was a shy and scared kid. I didn’t grow up to be this opinionated adult that I am now. I would like to think that I’m a nice person but I have strong views on things. I don’t say stuff if I don’t feel that I can at least back it up and have some knowledge of itself.

ILBS 14 | Genius Recovery

Genius Recovery: Addiction feeds off of shame, guilt, anger, and resentment.


To fast forward, I moved to New Mexico, I got sober, and I ended up getting a job in a gym. That led me up to meeting someone at this gym that I was selling gym memberships at. I became very good at selling. I had never worked out. I started to exercise and lift weights. To try to do recovery without exercises or some physical engagement, a good gym or an exercise routine can be as valuable as an amazing therapist. In many cases, I would argue even better in some cases. You want to have both. It’s not one over the other. That became one of the forms of self-care and one of the ways because I believe the issues are in the tissues. Part of the trauma is in your body.

The exercise helped. I felt better physically. Before going to New Mexico a few months earlier, I would wake up every morning and blow my nose and blood would come out and sometimes small chunks of flesh. I remember riding my bike around the block when I was in my worst stages of addiction and I nearly passed out. That’s how damaged my body was from all the drugs that I was doing. When I started working at this gym and getting in better physical shape, it totally transformed me physically. I put on muscle, not a ton, I’ve always been a skinny guy but I transformed myself. I went from weighing about 120 pounds to about 150 pounds in a matter of a few months which is a huge difference when your body is out-of-whack.

You’d quit cold turkey then.

I had to take aspirin or Tylenol every day to deal with the headaches. It was cold turkey and I didn’t go to a rehab center. I ended up getting a job at a mental hospital because of someone I met at the gym. I would drive the addicts at this mental hospital to AA meetings for Alcoholics Anonymous, NA meetings, Narcotics Anonymous, and CA meetings, Cocaine Anonymous. I would sit in on these Twelve Steps meetings as the driver who drove these patients to this meeting, never realizing how valuable that would be to me later in life. I never even voluntarily went to Twelve Steps groups. I went because it was part of my job but I would sit in there and listen to these stories. I realized I’m an addict and I’m sober.

That seems almost impossible to decide to pick up and drive to a different part of the country. You completely isolated yourself. I’ve seen this happen before. Geographic is a good temporary solution. You cut yourself off but then you’re working at a gym. What was the withdrawal like? How were you able to stay sober? You’re thinking about drinking, drugs, alcohol, and other things to stay sober. What did you do?  

I worked out and stayed busy working. I got a job. I hated life and I was depressed. It was miserable but being high all the time and messed up physically was also miserable. Here I was in the prime of my youth, I think I had sex one time in two years during that period of my life. That’s how messed up I got my body into that state of being. It was a form of sexual anorexia which is another form of addiction because all the addiction is binging or purging. It’s either excess or deprivation. On one level, I quit doing drugs but I was deprived of human touch.

That’s always been something that is part of my recovery. It’s excess or deprivation. There are a lot of similarities with process addictions, behavior addictions, with people that are over-eaters, food addict, bingers, purgers, anorexics. It’s the same thing. It’s a form of the inability to do anything in moderation. Addiction is doing something you want to do or that you don’t want to do, and not being able to stop that has negative consequences attached to it. I ended up coming back to Arizona. I was in better physical shape. The sexual addiction, which I didn’t even know what that meant or what that was, is an intimacy disorder.

It’s not fair to all people with sexual addictions to say sex addict because people immediately conjure up, “They want to sleep with everybody. They’re perverts.” There are a lot of sex addicts that aren’t able to have any form of healthy sex and are not able to be sexual at all that is very lonely and deprived. There are others that are exhibitionists or porn addicts. You name it. There’s a whole gamut of forms and behavior. That stem from every human has an arousal template. When they’re first introduced to sexuality, if it’s done in a dysfunctional way, they’re probably not going to have a healthy sex life. My introduction to sex and intimacy was toxic and abusive. One thing I’m thankful for is I never became an abuser. I just abused myself and it was hard. This sounds crazy. Anyone that’s not in that place yet won’t take this in the best of ways. It’s a gift if you can get out of it. If you can’t, it’s a nightmare.

When did you first realize that you had an intimacy disorder or sex addiction? The drugs are gone. You’re able to stay clean and sober, but now you’ve got this other thing that crops up, which I see a lot quite often. People are recovering from alcohol. They’ve got this other thing that crops up, and they don’t realize it. Tell me about that.

Years ago, I did an interview with my friend, Pat Carnes. He’s known to be the top sex addiction doctor in the world. He’s the first one that wrote books on it, Out of the Shadows, which was his first book. I did an interview with him, which everyone can watch on YouTube. Type in my name and Pat Carnes. We talked for about 1 hour and 45 minutes on sex addiction. The first time it occurred to me was the craving was always there. This is one of the hardest things even to this day to talk about. For years, I’d never publicly talked about sex addiction. I’m like, “What is anyone going to think about me in the business world?” In the small space that I’m in, I’m well-known. You can talk about being an alcoholic and drug addict but talk about being molested, sleeping with escorts, hookers, and that sort of shit. There’s a lot of shame attached to that.

Addiction is looking for love in all the wrong places. Click To Tweet

I didn’t know even how to think about it. I knew that I have a craving that is not normal here. There’s sex addiction and love addiction. You’ll see a lot of women in love addiction. I know many that are sex addicts but love sounds like a softer thing. It doesn’t sound aggressive or shameful sex. There’s a lot of shame attached to all forms of addiction. Sex addiction has a lot of judgment compared to other ones because you’re a sex addict. When you’re young, a lot of men and women, their hormones are out of balance. If you find a way to satiate an angst and it works, you start building these neuropathways that you keep going towards that behavior.

I quit doing cocaine but I got drunk with a friend and he wanted to pick up prostitutes. I have never done that before. I never would do it sober. I’m drunk and he’s like, “Let’s drive.” I get into this guy’s car, we drive, we go to an area of town, and we picked up a prostitute. It was the weirdest thing. It was tons of shame, fear and stuff but it was exhilarating. At the same time, it was dangerous and then I did it again. It was always when there was alcohol involved, then it was driving in this area and having this insane craving to do this. I had this insane pain in my body. After being sexual with this woman, it went away.

I had a great interview with Gabor Maté. I consider him one of the top addiction minds in the world. He’s a friend and he talks about a heroin addict. When they’re talking about their first shot of heroin into their veins, it felt like a warm, soft blanket engulfing them. That’s what the seductiveness of addiction is. You can have those moments where it makes the world feel okay. It makes you feel safe and good. The crazy thing is you can get those feelings in the middle of the most dangerous places with the worst of people that you can be hanging out with where it’s illegal and you can die. That feeling of you will risk your life, safety, and health to not feel that angst, and it’s the craving brain. That’s when I knew like, “There’s something not right here.”

I don’t want to take this whole time going through all the horror stories of it but that lasted on and off for many years. Once I made money and I became a millionaire, I was a functional addict. I created a business that helped other people and it truly helped other people. Here I was, going on stage and doing seminars. I do these events and it would change people’s lives. People would come up to the mic. I didn’t do self-help personal development stuff. I was teaching people marketing. I taught them how to run and grow their businesses, and then I leave these events with a massive adrenaline rush, I’d go back to a hotel room alone, and I’d want to hire an escort. It felt good. What I didn’t realize is I was trying to connect.

It wasn’t like I’m trying to use women. Every woman that I can think of, I was cordial and nice, no matter what the situation was. Maybe there is some woman that would be like, “You’re a total asshole.” I’m certain there have been times in relationships that I’ve been a jerk and I’ve been an asshole. I’m not trying to pretend I’m some angel here. I never wanted to hurt anyone. I wanted to connect and it didn’t feel safe because I didn’t have a relationship. I was a trusted servant at a Twelve Steps meeting. I was doing very active in the Twelve Steps. I was doing well in my recovery. I had a new child with a girlfriend that I was going to leave, but I found out she was pregnant so I stayed with her.

This was in my late twenties when I was with her. I ended up staying with her because she had gotten pregnant. The baby was born and I love this child twenty times more than any woman I’d ever been with before since. She wanted to move out of state. I joined a Father’s Rights group and pursuing sole custody to try to keep her from leaving the state because I wanted us to raise a child together. I found out five days before the child’s first birthday while pursuing sole custody that I was not the biological father. It was the most painful thing I’ve experienced up to that point in my life. I didn’t know what to do and who to trust.

I tried to adopt the child. I offered her a lot of money to let me adopt the child because I didn’t even care about that anymore. I wanted to raise this child that I loved and I didn’t have the mental abilities. I didn’t know what to do. Here I was running a successful company but my personal life became a Jerry Springer Show. I went off the deep end. I lived a double life. I continue to run my company. I had a relationship that was a massive form of betrayal. In the middle of doing a good recovery program, I had this massive life event in betrayal and it caused me to act out and relapse. That took about fifteen years of my life, on and off. I’d get sober for six months or a year and relapsed. I was sober with sex, not with drugs.

It’s like drugs and alcohol, you’re seeking fulfillment. You’re empty. The human connection in your life is lacking. When you pick up an escort, you were feeling the human connection even for a brief period of time.

I have this little sign on my wall that says, “Addiction is looking for love in all the wrong places.” That’s what all addicts are trying to do. They’re trying to find love, they’re just finding it in the wrong places. You’re not going to find true love on a porn site, at the bottom of the paddle, or smoking a cigarette. You may feel like it. You’re gambling in Las Vegas, and you’ve got the adrenaline that feels like woo. What humans want is more woo and less ahh.

If you feel like sleeping with a hooker, snorting cocaine, drinking alcohol, eating a hot fudge sundae, all of those things are going to give you some pleasure. You’re pleasure-seeking and you’re trying to reduce pain. Here’s the weirdest thing, Tim. In some addicts, in the same way that a recovering person can walk into a Twelve Steps group and they don’t have rapport or respect from anyone in their family because in many cases, they burned all their bridges. They can walk into a meeting and they can find acceptance because they’ve been in the trenches. It’s the same way with how prisoners of war during Vietnam would sometimes go to therapists and they wouldn’t get better. You stick them in a group with other veterans that had been in the trenches and been in war, they have an instant rapport because they’ve been in the same circumstances.

ILBS 14 | Genius Recovery

Genius Recovery: There’s a lot of shame attached to all forms of addiction, but sex addiction has a lot more compared to other ones.


Addicts can bond in the same way but we also find people whose dense match our depth. How the drug addicts find each other. They’re on this frequency. They are magnetically attracting themselves to other people like that. If you’re in a dysfunctional relationship, you’re either massively co-dependent which is attached to all forms of addiction or you’re in a place where your level of consciousness is meeting someone with another level of consciousness. My goal is to hopefully keep increasing my level of consciousness. Years from now, if I was to look back at this conversation, I hope I’ve evolved quite a bit. I’m not thinking a lot of the same stupid things that I think now. I’m much better now than I was years ago.

You talk about drinking, drug use, hot fudge sundae, and excessively looking at Facebook. They’re all the alcoholic behaviors. I was talking with Tommy Rosen and it’s not just about drinking and doing drugs. There’s way more to it. I’ve gone to lots of AA meetings and I know lots of people in recovery that they have all these other behaviors. It’s a setup for disaster and relapse. It’s doing the work. For you, what did it mean to do the work? How were you able to get to a place where you felt good without having to seek fulfillment in alcoholic ways?

I’ve spent probably $500,000 in my recovery. Here’s what worked and here’s what didn’t work. It’s not that it works or doesn’t work, it’s the person doing the work. Everyone is going to experience life in a different way. To get sober and stay sober requires four different things. Tommy Rosen who’s a dear friend has been very helpful in the formulation of this thinking. My first interview I did with Tommy was years ago. I wrote a book with Anna David and Hal Elrod called The Miracle Morning for Addiction Recovery. I’ve been writing about it. There are four areas. There’s community. I don’t know a single addict that’s a true addict that recovers in isolation.

You have to find other people. The most successful way to do that is Twelve Steps. I’ve done a lot of Twelve Steps. Could I’ve got sober without Twelve Steps? Absolutely not. It was incredibly beneficial. What didn’t work is when I was attending the meetings. What works is getting a sponsor doing the steps. Twelve Steps is not about attendance. It’s about steps. You attend to learn about the step but you’re ultimately doing the twelve steps. That’s the magic of it. You don’t go to Twelve Steps because of where you’ve met. Everyone that’s an addict has been through shit. There’s shame, guilt, and all sorts of crap. It’s just different levels and how you interpret it. You go to Twelve Steps because of where you want to go. Recovery is not about where you’ve been, it’s about where you want to go.

The second is it’s biochemical. It’s food, nutrition, serotonin, dopamine, it’s eating well. If you have a damaged gut, 70% of serotonin is made in the stomach. If you have digestive issues and you’re eating foods that aren’t good for you that’s causing inflammation, you’re not going to feel good. The number one killer in America or the world from a substance is sugar first, tobacco second, alcohol third, and opiates fourth.

There are a lot of consumables that we consume that are very damaging. Look at how many caffeine addicts there are. Me acting out sexually in someone’s thing is I’m going to watch porn, I’m going to sleep with an escort, I’m going to gamble my kids’ college fund away, I’m going to gorge myself with food. I’m going to eat, purge and cause myself to throw up, I’m going to be a cutter, or I’m going to shoot heroin or snort cocaine. Take morality out of it, the same driver is the same thing.

If you’re looking at your phone, you can’t put your phone away at night, and you’re addicted to Facebook, you’re an addict if you can’t stop. There are different depths. Some people are completely out of control, some are functional addicts, and some don’t even know it. It’s very sneaky. There are different layers of it. A lot of that has to do with the trauma and the biochemistry. That’s why you’ll see a lot of people will get sober from drugs and alcohol. They’ll go to AA meetings and guzzle coffee, eat donuts, and drink sodas. They’ve still got these obsessive behaviors. I would argue I’d rather see someone eat a donut than shoot heroin. Nonetheless, they’re still in that pain state.

Being in recovery versus being recovered, different people have different views on it. It’s when the pain stops. It’s when the white-knuckling subsides. That feels better. I never thought the white-knuckling would ever stop. Workaholism is a sneaky one. I have workaholic challenges. I’m taking a one-year sabbatical so I can immerse myself in recovery, music, art, and more health stuff because I want to have my form of identity debt. How much of my life is built around this persona that I’ve created in my business world? I want to be able to look at that thing.

I do want to talk about your sabbatical.

The biggest thing is the trauma work. That’s where the issues are in the tissues. That’s where the yoga, breathing and meditation. You know the book Breath by James Nestor. It’s an incredible book. I’d recommend it to everybody. He becomes a friend of mine. The proper use of plant medicines. This is where it gets tricky when you’re dealing with people that are drug addicts and they’ve gotten high, and they consume chemicals. There are a lot of people that go to Burning Man and go to different places. They call it their spiritual journeys, getting high in a camper when they’re just like, “Let’s get high in a conscious state.”

Recovery is not about where you've been. It's about where you want to go. Click To Tweet

We can do a whole episode on that and I’ve had conversations with Dr. Andrew Weil and the different people I know. There are organizations like that have some of the best information on plant medicines and psychedelics that are out there. There are smart people like Gabor Maté. Ayahuasca and ibogaine are effective for opiate addictions with the right set and setting which is an old Timothy Leary line where, “It’s the mindset you’re in, your intentions in the setting.” There are a lot of incredible people that are working with these new ways to treat trauma. I believe addiction is a response to trauma. I used to believe it was a brain disease. I don’t believe that. EMDR and books like The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk or Waking the Tiger by Peter Levine, Gabor Maté’s In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts.  

Tommy Rosen has a lot of great stuff. I know you’ve interviewed people that are real experts on trauma. The fourth is the environment. Based on the studies by Bruce Alexander with Rat Park, if you put a rat in a cage and all they have is drugs, they’re going to take drugs over food, over sex, over sleep until they die. You put them in a more conducive like rat paradise and give them the choice of drug water and regular water. They won’t do the drug water. The ones that do are the ones that are severely traumatized. If you’re in a new environment that’s triggering, you’re going to have to. You look at those four areas which are community, biochemical, trauma work, and environment.

As an addict, you want to deal with all four of those areas. That will give you the highest possibility with recovery. That’s what I’ve done. It wasn’t until I started incorporating all of those things where I finally had long periods of time. At the time that we’re doing this interview, it’s been a little over four years since I did any bottom line, what I would consider acting out behavior sexually and/or otherwise. I’ve been at this for many years. If I could have gone back, I would have taken Twelve Steps more seriously. I wouldn’t have tried to buy my way to the best experts in the world because I had money. I thought, “If I just hire the right therapist.” It was my weird way of avoiding doing the work. Go to a Twelve Step meeting and do the steps. I have found the smarter the addict is, sometimes the more difficult it is for them to get recovery because they think they can intellectualize their way out of it.

It’s like, “My best thinking got me where I am now.” That’s the old saying. It’s the people that are not willing to take suggestions. That’s the thing. Twelve Steps were written a long time ago where people take suggestions and listen to what other people have to say. It’s like, “My best thinking got me where I am, so let me listen to somebody else even if I don’t agree with it.” It’s not going to kill me, regardless. It’s like, “Let me give this a shot.”  

One of the best ways to do recovery is based on Life Gives to the Giver. It’s when you start helping other people, you give up yourself, and you become a contributor. When I started helping other addicts at a much deeper level, my recovery got better. When I set up my foundation and I started putting energy and resources, trying to help reduce human suffering and expose people to great minds and methodologies, it all gets better. I started feeling such a much deeper connection. If you’re disconnected from yourself, you’re not going to be able to connect with other people. The more connected you are with yourself, the better you’re going to be connected. Going to my sabbatical, I want to have as much deep of a connection I can make with earth and my life, and what matters.

2019 was a real pain in the ass for me. It was difficult. I got Valley Fever, which people may not know what that is but it’s something that people in Arizona, New Mexico, and California get, mostly in Arizona. I never got it before but I got it. I had a breakup of a relationship that was painful. My best friend, Sean Stephenson, died when I was with him in the hospital because he had an accident. I had a big business betrayal. Thank God for recovery though because through one of the worst years in my entire adult life, I still managed to stay sober. I immersed myself in work which you can argue well that it’s a fine line.

I feel love and I feel proud of myself for sticking with it. If there’s any message I want to convey, no matter where you’re at, if you’re falling down and you may feel hopeless, there are people that believe in you more than you believe in yourself. We wouldn’t even be having this conversation if we didn’t want some pain, lonely, scared, desperate voice to hear it that feels like giving up and they’re never going to be able to make it. I cannot tell you how many times I thought to myself, “What is wrong with me? Why can’t I do this?” One thing that I will say is that I never gave up though.

I kept showing up even when I didn’t want to. There were periods of time where I didn’t show up for a few weeks or a few months. I’d go to meetings and I’d quit. I quit calling people and I wouldn’t use the tools. The sun is always there during daylight. The moon is always there during nighttime when the moon is out. It’s the clouds that’s get in the way. Whenever you feel like, “Where’s the sunlight?” It’s there. Sometimes, it’s stormy and there are clouds and it will pass. That’s why it says, “This too shall pass,” in the same way that a storm will pass. If you’re having a storm or having a shit show with this pandemic and the loss of whatever, it will pass. Don’t destroy yourself in the process.

How did you decide to take the sabbatical?

I had a friend who was worth about $300 million that I’ve known for many years that originally gave me the term that I used in the business part of my world, which is Easy, Lucrative and Fun. I teach people how to develop an ELF business. 2019 was not very ELF for me. It’s the other acronym which is hard, annoying, lame, and frustrating. I had this friend who had given me the term ELF many years ago and his son, who was a musician, ended up reaching out to me. I had talked to this guy. We were talking every other week. His son reached out to me on Instagram, of all things, and asked if I was on WhatsApp and if he could call me. I’m going to get rid of my social media during my sabbatical. If people try to find me, I don’t know if I’ll be there.

ILBS 14 | Genius Recovery

Genius Recovery: The goal is not happiness; it’s to be connected.


He let me know that his father who’s 59 years old, they found him in bed that morning dead. This guy was worth about $300 million, smart guy, cool guy, talented, and skilled. It wasn’t an addiction, it was a health thing. Something popped into my mind saying there are many people in pain, angst, and depressed. You’ll get different stats but depression has increased by four times since the pandemic, anxiety disorders have tripled. Depending on the stat you get, addiction has increased 40% to 60% or in some cases, I’ve heard some stats of 500%.

Suicide rates have increased by 600%. It’s crazy.

Depending on what studies you look at, they are ten times increased in alcohol consumption. During painful times of humanity, people’s addiction goes through the roof. I want to take the time to think, ponder, and remove myself from so much of the opportunities because I’m at a stage in my life where I have opportunity poisoning. I have more opportunities thrown at me than I could ever do in a thousand years that are thrown at me on a monthly basis. Entrepreneurs that are too tightly scheduled cannot transform themselves.

I have something on the wall in my office that says, “Be willing to destroy anything in your life that’s not excellent.” I want to change my phone number. I’m only going to talk to a handful of people and I’m going to think. I’m going to think about what the game is. In some games in life, the only way you win is if you don’t play. I want to play a game that I enjoy playing and I’m winning. Most of my clients are rich. They’re millionaires. They run multimillion-dollar businesses. A lot of them, with all the money and all the resources are still in pain.

My clients do better than most people. I run one of the most narcissistic groups of givers that are successful entrepreneurs that I know. It’s an incredible group of people so much so that I’m going to trust my clients to run my company for me. My members are going to run my group. My other friend, Dave Kekich, and he’s paralyzed from the chest down, has been in a wheelchair half his life. He says, “Things are seldom as great as they seem when they’re going well or seldom as bleak as they seem when they’re going wrong. Lighten up and you’ll live longer.”

I want to get rid of any parts of my ego that don’t serve me well. Not that I’m going to be able to fully do that because I’m human. I’m dysfunctional, weird, eccentric and all that shit. What I want to do is have an ego death and I want to come up with new perspectives. I will never do that in the way that I want to unless I completely shift my activities and the responsibilities that I have. I want to figure out how I can make a far greater impact on addiction recovery. Fortunately, unless I lose my money, I don’t need to work for money. I’ve built a relatively successful company. If I had all the money in the world, I would put it into addiction recovery. I want to figure out how I can do the most.

I think addiction is the greatest global problem in the world even the pandemic or pain. I could make a case of how that is a culture that is addicted to the adrenaline of fighting and raging. If someone wants a better perspective on that, read the book called War is a Force that Gives Us Meaning. That’ll explain how some of what we’re witnessing with all the political bullshit in all of the fighting that’s happening in the world right now is a response to a heightened state of fear and angst. It’s addictive.

How are you going to take care of yourself for the next year?  

I’m not going to plan the sabbatical until I take it which does two things. One, it gives me a lot of time to not have to think about exactly what I’m going to do. It’s an easy way to avoid when someone asks me what I’m going to do during the sabbatical. I don’t have to tell him anything. I’m going to do a lot of art. I’ll go back and start throwing pottery because when I was in high school, the only thing that allowed my brain to escape, without doing drugs, was throwing pots on a pottery wheel. There was something about it that allowed me to feel connected. I’ll immerse myself in music. I may learn how to play an instrument. It’s a couple of that I’m thinking about but I’ll decide on that.

I’ll do my Twelve Steps again. I’m going to go through another round of doing step work which would be very helpful. I’ll do a lot of addiction-related recovery stuff and I’ll try different things that I’ve not yet done for trauma. I’m going to learn more about that. I’m going to do physical activities and immerse myself in exercise. I do a lot of yoga. I have a friend who I do a lot of yoga with. I may have her take me through 200 hours of teacher training and not that I’ll ever teach yoga. If I don’t do the teacher training, I’m still going to do a boatload of yoga with her. As far as travel, it depends on the ability to travel. With travel bans and everything, I don’t know how easy it’s going to be to travel.

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A video I watched about breathing, the speaker was great. He said at the very end, “Some doors, the only way you can open them is from the inside.” There’s not a lot of external stuff that I need to do. It’s more internal stuff. I want to open up doors. I want to eliminate a lot of possessions. I want to be more of a minimalist. I want to look at the relationships in my life and see who matters. What’s the difference between important and most important, and the people that are most important?

My friend, Ken Glickman said, “If you’re on the Titanic, you have only three life jackets, and you have 100 of your friends that are in the water. If they don’t get a life jacket within 60 seconds, they’ll freeze to death, they’ll drown. You’ll immediately learn the difference between important and most important.” Hopefully, I’ll never be put in that situation because that would seem horrendous. However, I’m going to try to force that upon myself to say, “Out of all the shit that I could do and all the people in my life who cares about me, who do I care about?”

I care about a lot of people. I have a hard time saying no and I want to build my spidey senses to attract the best people and to be the best person that I can. I have a lot of growth I need to do in myself. I’m happy with myself. The goal is not happiness. The goal is connected. I want to look a lot at death. How do you come to grips with death? Look at how many people are terrified of extinction and live their lives in ways that they’re dying every day. In a lot of ways, addiction and death are very similar. You’re killing yourself versus life taking its course if that makes sense. I don’t know if it does.

One of your favorite view is to connect people. You’re a connector. How is that going to be? Are you still going to connect people? Are you going to be in Phoenix or are you going to pull a Dave Chappelle and go to Africa or somewhere else?  

I don’t know yet. When it starts, I’m going to have deeper connections and less shallow connections. I’m going to write a lot. When I say write, I mean handwriting on paper with a pen. I’ll type some things up on a computer and whatnot but it’s mostly going to be writing. It’s easy to look at screens and have your whole reality altered because marketing now is around algorithms. I need to have long periods of pondering without obligations. I want obligation elimination. I want to have fewer but better relationships. On my phone, I have over 6,000 contacts of people that I know personally.

There’s this thing called the Dunbar Law where you can only have 150 relationships at a certain level. There’s probably some validity to that. I am the exception because I manage hundreds of relationships and connect people. I have a connection network. That’s what Genius Network is. I have people that will continue to connect the people that I have put together. I started the process, I’ve been a catalyst for that. Some things will fall apart, of course. There’s going to be mess. My staff at times want to reach out and want Joe to fix it. We have to figure out the parameters on that because a lot of it, I’m going to let shit fall apart, and they’ll have to figure it out on their own.

That’s how you know if your team has it together. If they don’t, how do they handle upsets if you’re not there? If you never give them a chance to do that, how do you know how well they can do? I think everyone is going to step up and I’m going to have to step back. In the stepping back, I will go deep versus shallow because we live in a world of shallow. Think about likes and followers. People you don’t even know are calling them friends on Facebook and you’ve never even had a conversation with them. It’s not a friend. That’s an artificial friend, that’s a manufactured, technological thing to make you have the illusion that you’re somehow connected. We’re more connected electronically than we’ve ever been in human history, but we’re more disconnected as humans. I want to dance. I want to do tribal shit like crazy stuff that even as I say that I’m like, “Let’s see if Joe does that.”

You’ve got to go about a ten-day silent meditation, that Vipassana way.  

I’ve had probably 100 people tell me that. I have friends that run it in Hawaii. They’ve been inviting me for years to come to Hawaii and stay there. The beauty is I’ll be able to do whatever I want.

We’re sitting here, what needs to have happened for you to feel satisfied with your sabbatical?  

ILBS 14 | Genius Recovery

Life Gives to the Giver: Musings on Wellness, Success, Marketing and Being an Entrepreneur

I don’t know if any of these will happen and I can only say this for interview purposes, for entertainment purposes because the things that I’m going to get out of this, I’m leaving myself open to all the things. No matter how much goal setting or what I think I want, I want it to happen to me, not to me try to say, “This is what I have to have happened.” What I hope in my current state of consciousness, which I hope in 2022 of January, I’m in a completely different frame of reference and have a different worldview. I have a great partner in my life that is an intimate, loving, and caring relationship that I’m aligned with. Better physical health and feeling much better physically. I learned through James Nestor that I never breathed effectively in my entire adult life.

I want to be more effective at breathing. I’ve got a deviated septum and I want to retrain my body without surgery as much as possible to eliminate inflammation within sinuses and stuff. I want to be able to sleep. I’m not a terrible sleeper, but I’m not a good sleeper. I want to be able to have a good night rest. I want to have a lot of an abundance of energy. I have a book that will be finished before I go on sabbatical. It’s the goal and when I come out, I want my book to go out into the world, put it out to the wild and I’ve already written three books, but I want this particular one to be incredibly beneficial. I want to come back to a whole new business model, and a team that feels empowered and has stepped up.

My team that has been running my company has evolved. My clients are still getting tremendous value out of Genius Network and they’re better. Those are some of the things. Having said all of that, I’m trying to go into it without any expectations because I might have to crawl up like a little baby crying and deal with traumas that I didn’t even address yet. It’s the Joseph Campbell thing, “The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure that you seek.” I’m going to have to go into some places that are scary as fuck that I’ve never done before and I’m going to do my best to walk through it.

You’re not going to have anything to keep you occupied. Work, people, and all of the things that are thrown at you constantly every single day, that’s not going to be there.  

Recovery work builds you for this shit, doesn’t it? Learning powerlessness is a good setup. If I can get sober from addiction and have periods where I’ve gone through some of the stuff I’ve gone through, I think I can make it through a sabbatical. I may go to bad places where they need volunteers and they need people to help. When I say, “Do no work,” it’s not like I won’t help other people. I’m just not going to do business activities that are trying to make me money and stuff. I’ll think about it, of course. It’s a silly notion. We’ve been talking about genius waffles. I’m going to figure out how to create the healthiest waffle. It’s for shits and giggles because it’s going to be ridiculous and funny.

Thank you for being here. Is there anything else that you want to share with anybody about getting sober, any suggestions, or how people can find you?

Go to and get Life Gives to the Giver. We have two different covers of it. You can get that book for free. I talk about my philosophies on life, recovery and business. People tend to love that book. If anyone is struggling with addiction, I Love Being Sober, The Miracle Morning For Addiction Recovery. I did it with Hal Elrod and Anna David. You can go to I’d love for people to read and share the letter that I wrote if it resonates with them. You click on the Open letter. I wrote a letter about my views on addiction and people tend to resonate with that letter. There are all kinds of free resources there that help people with addiction recovery.

I wish everyone the best. No matter where you’re at with recovery, there will be days that are very difficult and hell and you feel like giving up, don’t. Reach out the tools of recovery. The sun is always there. If I had $1 for every time I felt like giving up, I’d be very wealthy without ever running a company. Whenever you feel like your life sucks, help somebody who is in pain and you will immediately feel better. Go volunteer to an animal shelter, burn unit, recovery clinic, or a homeless shelter. Show up to meetings and be diligent. It will come. The gifts of recovery are there. You just have to stick with it.

Thanks again.

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About Joe Polish

ILBS 14 | Genius Recovery