Posts

Mental, Physical, Emotional, And Spiritual Healing Using Natural Alternatives With Michael Roviello

ILBS 23 | Natural Healing

 

There is a lot more to recovery than just going to inpatient treatment, seeing a therapist, and going to 12-step meetings. While these things are important, you also need to find long-term solutions that can help you recover and continue living a happy, joyous, and free life. You need not only cut out bad habits from your life, but you also need to form healthy ones in turn. Bringing someone who can help you out on this new path, Tim Westbrook sits down with Michael Roviello, the co-founder of Optimyze, which is the only human optimization center in Phoenix designed to align your mind, body, and breath with the four elements of nature. Here, they talk about mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual wellness using natural methods, including red light therapy, breadboard breathwork, and cold water therapy. What is more, Michael also shares his journey with pain and medications that later on took him to the Amazon jungle exploring healing modalities used by indigenous people to explore the mind-body and spirit with great results. He then founded the Wim Hof Method using cold water, breathing exercises, and a change in his mindset as a tool for self-healing and a deeper understanding of self. Join in on this insightful and jam-packed conversation to learn more about the importance of holistically working on yourself for long-term recovery. 

Watch the episode here:

Listen to the podcast here:

Mental, Physical, Emotional, And Spiritual Healing Using Natural Alternatives With Michael Roviello 

My team and I, over the course of many years, have helped thousands of people on their path to recovery. We started this show because there’s so much misinformation about addiction treatment, mental illness, and recovery in general. There’s so much more to recovery than going to inpatient treatment, seeing a therapist, and going to twelve-step meetings. Those things are important and AA saved my life. However, to find long-term recovery and live happy, joyous and free, there’s a lot more to it than stopping the drinking, drugs or any addictive behavior. To live a new life, a person needs to develop new healthy lifestyle habits. Taking care of the mind, body, and spirit are crucial aspects to the recovery process as well.  

I’m here with Michael Roviello. Michael is the co-founder of Phoenix’s only human optimization center to align your mind, body and breath or elements of nature, Optimyze. We’re also going to talk about physical, emotional, and spiritual wellness using natural methods including red light therapy, breathwork, and cold water therapy. As a New York City native, Michael chose to leave his hometown of Queens to join the US Navy in 1999.  

With years of conducting helicopter cert rescue missions deployed around the globe as a helicopter rescue swimmer, combat search and rescue crewman, and anti-submarine warfare operator deployed to Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan in 2001 and Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003. With cervical spine issues, their logical pain and degradation, Michael turns to natural methods after fully exploring Western science, medical practices, spine surgery, pain management and pharmaceutical intervention.  

The funny thing about pain is that it comes in and out. Click To Tweet

After declining the professional recommendation for a second cervical surgery, Michael explored alternative methods and ideologies to healing putting a lot of emphasis on trying to understand the mind-body connection with hopes that this would put an end to anxiety, depression, insomnia and neurological issues. Michael’s journey took him into the Amazon jungle exploring healing modalities used by indigenous people of that region using medicinal plants, diets, and ancestral practices to explore the mind-body and spirit with great results.  

Michael also found the Wim Hof Method using cold water, breathing exercises, and a change in his mindset as a tool for self-healing and a deeper understanding of self. Using the cold water therapy, breathwork and sauna, Michael committed to a daily practice seeing great results in pain management, improved sleep, inflammation, clarity, peace of mind, energy and resilience. Using these natural methods and living a life committed to working on himself physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually, there never has been a need for a second surgery, pharmaceutical intervention or pain management.  

Using lessons and research from his journey into natural and alternative methods of learning from some of the best in their fields, Michael became a Wim Hof Method certified instructor teaching across the US and Mexico, XPT, which is breath, move and recover, coach combining contrast therapy training, breathwork and pool training to others around the valley. Michael is a teacher by nature and has Master’s Degree in Adult Education and Training. He considers himself a student for life in the area of self-exploration, biohacking, wellness and ancient practices that have stood the test of time.  

Michael, it’s so good to have you here.  

That’s a mouthful.  

That’s definitely a mouthful, but it’s appropriate and necessary to tell people who you were.  

Thanks for the introduction. It pretty much covers a wide stand of my life so up until the present day. Thank you for having me on your show. I appreciate it.  

You’ve had quite the journey. Tell me what it was growing up in Queens.  

Queens, New York, a concrete jungle. It was a great experience in many ways and a challenging experience in other ways. Like anyone growing up, we’re sponges. We’re taking it all in. We’re learning from our environment, and my environment was the hustle and bustle of the inner city of New York. I was born in Jamaica, which is a rough neighborhood, and was raised in Ozone Park and Flushing, which also are rough neighborhoods. I was raised by a single mom who was raising four children on her own.  

Mom was doing her best to put food on the table and take care of things. Us, siblings, had to grow up fast. We had to figure things out for ourselves, get to school, and get home from school. I didn’t notice later on but I realized that I lacked a lot of discipline and mentorship at a young age. That was something that was lacking. The other thing was nature, which is a big part of what we’re going to discuss. New York City doesn’t have a lot of nature. You have Central Park. In Upstate New York, you have the beaches but in everyday life, you are surrounded by buildings, noise, traffic and buses. didn’t realize until later on in life how important it was to have access to nature, the healing abilities, and the power of nature.  

ILBS 23 | Natural Healing

Natural Healing: The interesting thing about surgeries is that everyone’s willing to give you drugs.

 

That was early life. I learned a lot of things. I learned how to communicate well, figure things out fast, sense danger at a young age, and figure out who’s playing me and who’s not. You can learn a lot of good communication skills but there are also a lot of obstacles as well growing up in that type of environment. There were high stress and high anxiety, and I didn’t have great role models except for my mom, who’s extremely hard working. Some people in my family are good role models but I lack that mentorship and discipline for sure.  

Did you have siblings?  

I did. I have three older sisters. 

You, your older sisters, and your mom.  

It was a house full of women in the ‘80s. 

I can relate to that. It was me, my two sisters, and my mom. I was in the middle.  

It’s hard to find an open bathroom. It’s nearly impossible. 

When did you start experimenting with drugs and alcohol? 

I started at an early age, which is funny because later on in life, I learned, “I was young,” but at the time, growing up in that neighborhood is pretty standard. I started drinking at the age of thirteen years old in the neighborhood parks. The older kids in the neighborhood were always at the park. New York City is a big place to play handball and I know it’s not too popular out West, but if you’re watching the movies, there are always these handball courts and everybody congregates around the handball courts. As a young buck, you had to wait your turn to play. If one of the older guys would let you play doubles with him, it was a big deal. I was good at handball.  

The older guys embraced me and I would get to hang out with them. They were already 16, 17, 18, and up so they’re already drinking and smoking weed. I was surrounded by that at age thirteen. I was looking up to these guys because these guys are cool. These are the top guys in the neighborhood. They had pretty girlfriends, have clout, and they also helped to keep you safe. If people know that these guys like you and you are part of their crew, then other people are going to leave you alone. There’s a lot of psychological positioning that’s happening in that type of environment. By the time I was thirteen, I was already drinking and smoking weed. 

More self-care, less self-expectations, and participate in less toxic behavior. Click To Tweet

Were you getting in trouble when you were younger? What was high school like?  

Highschool is a mix. I was smart, but I didn’t apply myself and I was bored. I wasn’t interested in the curriculum. I would pretty much cut school quite a bit and drink on lunch breaks or during school hours. I get by with some passing grades. I was lost. It’s the best way I could describe it. I had no direct path and I didn’t know what I wanted to do. Also, in the ‘90s, this was the movement of the house music scene in New York City. New York City was all these big nightclubs like The Sound Factory, The Tunnel, and The Limelight. These were the Studio 54 of its time.  

As you would imagine, these places are filled with all kinds of recreational drugs. By the time I was 16 and 17, I was going into Manhattan and getting into different nightclubs because I was still hanging out with the older guys. The older guys embrace me. They took me under their wing. That was the era of ecstasy and all of those what they would call designer drugs. That was a big hit in 1997 and 1998, and those years. I got heavily into the house music, club music, and underground scene as well. I started off with alcohol and weed and quickly moved to designer drugs and cocaine as well. 

Where were your three elder sisters in all this? 

Everybody had a different story where you had some sisters that had gone away to college. They were off, gone, and doing their own thing. You had other sisters that were working and had boyfriends. I was the only boy in the house in an ItalianAmerican family. It’s interesting because you get away with a lot. Everyone had this assumption, “Michael does no wrong. Even if he does wrong, we’ll pretend that didn’t happen.” That’s common as well. I didn’t have that strong father presence in the house to say, “I know what you’re up to,” and give me some discipline or sit down and have that talk or anything like that.  

I was a wild young man going with the flow, living life in the present moment. I have amazing years, to be honest with you. I had some great years, a lot of fun and experiences, but those types of behaviors and the drugs especially started to take their toll on me. I was becoming more and more lost. I wasn’t having any clear direction as to where I wanted to go, what I wanted to do, or anything like that. I set the bar low for myself as well. I didn’t have big goals or anything like that at that time. When I think back, I notice that.  

You’ve had your struggles with anxiety, depression and insomnia. When did that start? Did that start at a young age?  

It’s hard to tell how those things start or when it starts because when you’re a teenager, there’s so much going on. It’s hard to reflect on what my emotional state was at 18 or 19 years old. There are so many ups and downs. We were either going out drinking, doing drugs, getting into bars and partying. I love partying. A lot of highs and lows, but you don’t look at that as, “That’s anxiety or I’m depressed.” I didn’t quite know how to define it.  

ILBS 23 | Natural Healing

Healing Back Pain: The Mind-Body Connection

I started to struggle with those things a little bit later on after my military service. I started to classify that may have a problem here and there’s something I need to do to address that but that came much later on. It’s the same thing with sleep. When I was a teenager, I slept like I was dead. We’d party hard and sleep all day. Sleep was never an issue. Sleep became an issue for me after my military career when I got out and separated from the military service.  

How did you end up in the Navy? What made you decide to go to the Navy? 

The way it worked out was at a bar in the afternoon. I was twenty years old, sitting in a bar in the afternoon which was next to a recruiting station. One of the military guys came in to get lunch. He sits at the bar, served alcohol, and lunch and saw me sitting there by myself drinking. He had a conversation with me and asked if I was interested in the military. At that time, life wasn’t going too well. I had some events that occurred. I must have been doing some self-reflection at that time in my life. I was open-minded. I didn’t shut him down. I was like, “Sure, why not? I’ll be open to see what the military has to offer.” The way he set it up and described it to me was, “You go down, you take a test, depending on how well you’ll do on this test, it depends on what types of options would be available to you.”  

I was in community college because I always had a high aptitude. I was smart. I didn’t find myself. I was in community college at the time, and I was passing all my classes with flying colors. It was easy. I was thinking about becoming a firefighter in New York City or doing some blue-collar type of job. That was interesting to me. When I spoke with the Navy, that opened up some different doors. I scored well on my tests and I had a lot of options. I was also into physical fitness at a very young age.  

I was always in great shape. I played high school football and wrestling. I got into weightlifting, bodybuilding, and all those types of things. The recruiters saw me and said, “You’re in great shape. Would you be interested in these job applications for the military that required a high physical fitness readiness?” One of the options was the helicopter search and rescue program. Ultimately, after many discussions with them, that’s the road and path that I went down.  

How did you injure your back? Was it while you’re in the Navy?  

Early on, I had an injury in the military. I had this debilitating pain that would radiate out with my neck. I didn’t understand that because I never had pain like that before. It’s the first time in my life I ever had real pain that didn’t go away after a few days. This was pain that was chronic. It was staying with me every single day. It was a tough decision because you have this physical pain, but you have all of these mental and physical things that you have to do in order to pass to your school. I was in Schools Command.  

I remember, there was a school that I had to go to and it was called the Aviation Warfare System Operator School. This is where we learn how to hunt submarines. You’re pretty much in the classroom eight hours a day learning about all of these different approaches on how to track and hunt submarines from all over the world. Every country has different types of submarines. Some are nuclear, most have battery power, there are diesel submarines.  

Battery, electric and nuclear, which most people are familiar with. It’s very much the Hunt for Red October. If you’re familiar with that movie. My boss was in that movie. It was a famous scene that he was in. That was one of my primary jobs. When I was in that school, I was in a lot of pain but I hid a lot of that pain because I didn’t want to be removed out of the program. I didn’t want to get put into another career field where I was doing some administrative work, supply work or something like that.  

I was in a select group that was going to be tracking submarines, doing combat search and rescue, working with special forces, and also jumping out of helicopters to save people’s lives. I had made it through this program. I was halfway through it and I wasn’t going to let that slip away. I stepped it up. I took Motrin, I dealt with the discomfort and I passed all of the necessary requirements, whether it was the push-ups, sit-ups, runs and swims.  

The funny thing about pain is that it comes in and out. There are times where it was debilitating and I would be holding my neck for the entire class and my teachers didn’t quite know what to do with me, but I sucked it up and dealt with it. There were times where I dissipate and I wouldn’t feel it for a few months at a time and I would think it’s gone. It’s this thing that plagued me for years and come in and out. I had no idea how to explain that or what that was until much later on in my life when I started to learn more about psychosomatic pain, mind-body inflammation, and all those other things that I’m sure we’ll get into. 

How long were you in the Navy for?  

What you think you can or think you can't, either way, you're right.  Click To Tweet

I served a five-year contract. The five-year contract started in 1999 and ended in 2004 but a lot happened in 1999 to 2004. Right out of training, I got sent to a squadron and we were getting ready for deployment. Sure enough, as we’re gearing up training for our scheduled normal deployment, that’s when 911 happened. That was September 11th, 2001 and I was already basically on an aircraft carrier heading West towards Afghanistan as early as November of 2001.  

We were one of the first ships to get there and to start participating in the theater at that time which was Operation Enduring Freedom. I got there early on. We were flying missions in and out of Pakistan, Afghanistan and supporting all of the waters of the North Caribbean Sea. There were a lot of shipping vessels in and out of there, so we were doing all kinds of different things like intelligence work, boarding shipping vessels, maintaining the seas there, and making sure that there are no submarines in the area from Iran or anybody else that wants to get involved.  

It was wartime and it was getting a lot of publicity because everybody was super patriotic at that time. The whole country was, in a way, united which is different from what it is now. We had all kinds of publicity. I had Jay Leno on my ship. He spent one week. He did a full special. We had Tom Brokaw. We were flying a helicopter with Tom Brokaw and he was filming some event. History Channel was doing something. Pamela Anderson wound up coming out to aircraft carriers to do signings. It was this big show. It’s interesting to reflect back on. I was there for all that.  

You hid this pain the entire time. 

I hid it. 

You sucked it up.  

I sucked it up. The doctors knew because I would go and tell them but in the military, there are a lot of fakers. There’s a lot of fake pain. I hate to say it but there is. A lot of guys that want to get out of stuff. We call them State Called Warriors. They didn’t want to get involved in the physical training so they would say, “This hurts, that hurts.” There are real injuries too, don’t get me wrong, but still easily give you some pharmaceutical medication and move you on your way. I was okay with that because I wasn’t trying to get out of work. I wanted to keep up with the pack so I did that.  

I kept up with the pack and I did what I needed to do to continue to fly and operate. I was good at what I did and the leadership liked me. I was climbing up the ranks fast, becoming a flight instructor and rescue swimmer instructor. I also had a couple of rescues under my belt as well. My Navy career was going well and I had also been selected as Air Crewmen of the Year for the entire United States Navy at one time. Everything was falling into place. I wasn’t willing to let all of that go so I could sit behind some desk and do some administrative work.  

When did your back start bothering you? You finished the Navy in 2004. When did you start thinking, “I need to do something about my back because it’s bothering me?”  

ILBS 23 | Natural Healing

Natural Healing: Our perception of life has so much influence on everything.

 

After the Navy, I separated. I went into the corporate world, which is common. They call it from Navy blue to corporate gray. It’s a good transition for the military because it’s structured in a corporate environment. I was supporting the military. I worked for the Office of Military and Veteran Affairs at that time and I also was working my way up in that career. went back to school and finished my undergraduate degree. I wound up doing a Master’s Degree and I went to get a second Master’s Degree. I was an overachiever. I was taking it all in at that time of my life.  

I was still having the ins and outs of the pain, where at certain stages of my life, I was feeling little to no pain, and certain stages of my life, it was really bothering me. I started going to doctors here in Phoenix and Scottsdale area, and I was getting a lot of different opinions. The one thing they all had in common is they were all pharmaceutical-based. It was lots of painkillers, anti-inflammatory type of pills, muscle relaxers, and steroid injections which were the pain management clinics. I was doing all of it. Sometimes it was effective temporarily but the pain kept haunting me. It was trying to tell me something, that’s for sure. 

I wasn’t changing my habits either so I don’t want to be a victim here. I’m here now and everything is all at me. I wasn’t taking care of my bodymind and spirit. I was still drinking heavily on the weekends. That was part of the culture. It was 2004, 2005 and 2006 in Scottsdale. Everything was booming. There was lots of business and everybody has money. I was making good money as well. Even though I was working out and lifting weights, I wasn’t stretching and doing any flexibility training.  

I wasn’t doing anything to help my situation therapeutically. I was pumping iron, thinking that’s healthy and good. Although I had lots of muscles and I was strong, it wasn’t necessarily healthy. These are all things that were my armor. All of these things were part of my armor. They’re a part of my mask. It’s the mask that I wore. It’s the mask that I showed people. It’s the piece of me that I wanted other people to see that I was this ex-military, successful business guy, well-educated, and had money in my pocket.  

I have no interest in being vulnerable. I have no real interest in sharing the fact that I was in pain, I had sleep issues, I may have had anxiety and depression. Those were the types of things that I wasn’t sharing with anybody. I kept them all to myself until it got too problematic where I had to take some action. That point came when I started going to a chiropractor. I learned that the pain quickly turned into complete numbness for a period of time.  

At first, I was happy because I was like, “The pain is gone,” but I was losing all functionality. I was losing strength in my hands, my balance, and ultimately losing feeling. That had me concerned as it would with anyone. It had the doctor’s concern. They sent me to a specialist, a neurologist, and they thought I had multiple sclerosis because I was losing physical function. My body would shake out of control. I had tons of muscle tremors. I had loss of feeling and neuropathy. All these things were happening. My health was declining fast. I wanted to see a surgeon shortly after that appointment.  

Once they found out that I did not have multiple sclerosis, which was great news, but I also found out that my spinal cord was being choked and I was losing spinal fluid. It was leaking and I was losing all kinds of motor function so they needed to give me emergency surgery at that time. That’s exactly what I did. I had emergency surgery. Shortly after the surgery, I started to get better. Things start to get better for a moment.  

Tell me what unfolded after your first surgery.  

The interesting thing about the surgery is that everyone’s willing to give you drugs. It was like, “This is interesting.” I started to take Percocet at that time and painkillers. I was taking medication but I was also keeping up with bad habits, which was drinking too much on weekends and stuff like that. I didn’t have that self-discipline that I needed. Ultimately, the combination of that was bad. I didn’t make a lot of healthy changes. I took the protocols that they gave me which was to lay off the weights, the physical fitness, and recover. I did that. 

For a period of time, I did feel better. I didn’t have that same loss of function. My body recovered fast. I noticed that my genetics and my healing abilities were good. About 9, 10, maybe 12 months, somewhere around there, I started to have all the same symptoms. I was having throbbing pain from my neck, more loss of function in my hands, my hand strength became weak, and I was also having a lot of muscle atrophy.  

Vulnerability is power. Click To Tweet

I have to go back. I have to see the surgeon and tell him what’s going on. It was back to pharmaceuticals. I was getting more of the steroid, pain management, clinic injections, back on the muscle relaxers, and the anti-inflammatory pills. Because I had so much medication for such a prolonged period of time, it was starting to affect my organs because my blood work was coming back with elevated numbers, readings, and stuff.  

Once again, I was inflamed, puffy, retaining water, weak and having pain. They recommended me to do a second surgery. At that point, I said, “I had enough. That was it. I’m not going to do a second surgery. What I’m going to do is find another way. This was a turning point in my life. This was the point where I was starting to look within. I had an interest in alternative therapies and medicine. I was exploring that. It was basic, but some people had come into my life to introduce some new concepts to me. Ultimately, I never went and did that second surgery. I went down the rabbit hole of natural therapies.  

It came into your life and opened your eyes to the possibility of something different.  

Possibility of something different, different way of thinking, and the fact that I had all of these unresolved issues inside of me that needed to be addressed. That was critical for me and it led me to a lot of different things. I started to explore myself. This is the first time in my life I honestly say that I took an interest in trying to find out what was going on inside. I was interested in learning about me for once. I want them to know who I was, what my journey was, what my trauma was, and what was unresolved.  

I started to slowly break down the ego and even learn about what the ego was. It wasn’t even part of my vocabulary at that time. I started to do different things. I became interested in workshops. I went and did Landmark. I’m not sure if you’re familiar with them. That opened up my mind to see things from a new perspective and understanding how important the power of perception was. I started to learn about people like Eckhart Tolle. I was reading his books and understanding the mind, the present moment, and how you’re spending too much of your time thinking about the future that will lead to anxiety. If you’re spending too much time reflecting on the past, that will lead you into depression.  

I started to understand how much control and influence we have over our lives, and how important the present moment was, and why that was so powerful. That attracted me to meditation. Meditation was one of those things that everywhere I looked, everyone was doing it. There was no bad data on meditation. It was one of those things that were universally good for you but I couldn’t do it. I could sit there as if I was meditating but honestly, I had such a busy mind. My mind was thinking about stuff. What do I need to do later? How long has this been? It wasn’t effective for me. I was listening to a podcast at that time and that introduced me to floating, which was the sensory deprivation tanks. That helped out. 

Is it like True REST? 

Yes. True REST is one of them in the Valley. That helped because it helped take a lot of the sensory input away. I started to learn about this journey of going within and that took me down in many different rabbit holes. Some are good therapies. I tried it all. I was interested, I was exploring, and I was trying out different things. Some things I went to were very effective. I went to spend a lot of money. I have a session with somebody and it wasn’t that effective but then some things were effective.  

The most important thing and why I share this is because I was getting my own feedback. I was trying things out and figuring out what works for me getting my own feedback and that was taking me to different places as well. Ultimately, it led me to learn about indigenous cultures, their ways, their spirituality and medicine, but it also took me to the Wim Hof Method, biohacking, and all that other stuff that I’m into now.  

What I’m hearing you say is that you learned how to be present and pay attention because the Western way or the way that was prescribed to you was to have another surgery, take a pill, and go through pain management that leads to lots of other issues. You decided, “No, I’m going to be present. I’m going to pay attention.” That allowed you to try all these different things out.  

ILBS 23 | Natural Healing

Natural Healing: We are not a victim anymore of our environments, our surroundings, and our situation. We actually are in the driver’s seat.

 

There was a book called The MindBody Connection by Dr. Sarno and there was a concept that I never even explored before. Basically, that psychosomatic pain can cause physical pain in the body. Nobody had told me that before. No one ever said, “Michael, you need to sit with your thoughts or find out what’s going on emotionally,” or explore that aspect of it, which was more mental and emotional healing. Everything was like, “You’re like a car, a piece of machinery. It’s like your alternator in your car. If your alternators mess up, you remove it, rebuild it, put it back in and get the car back on the road.” I always looked at medical practices, much like machinery engineering. These types of people, Dr. Sarno, Eckhart Tolle, and Edgar Cayce started to open up my mind to mental-emotional mind-body connection stuff and how impactful that was on pain management.  

It was recommended that you get another back surgery and you decided against that. How long did you have to deal with this pain in your back? How long did it take before you’re able to work through it and not experience pain? That seems a pretty hard thing to do.  

It was quick. Once I started to change my mindset and my perception on pain, things started to dissipate. As I said how the pain would come and go, I was finding out that there was more go than there was coming, which is good. Every time I reflected back and I said, “Michael, you get to reflect back in your meditation. You’re going to think about a time where you were experiencing the most pain. What was going on in your life at that time?”  

I would look back and I would think back to that time. What was going on in my life? I had high stress. I was making poor decisions. I wasn’t treating myself well and had bad thinking. My thinking was toxic. It was self-love, call it what you like. It’s interesting but once I started to change that and make the shift into better and healthier thought patterns, more self-care, fewer expectations of myself, participate in less toxic behavior or invitations like the big events that they have every year, the Birds Nest, and all these other big events. I said that I’m not going. People were like, “We’ve got to go. Everyone is going. It’s going to be fun. It’s going to be a day drinking from 10 AM to midnight or whatever.”  

I didn’t go. I stopped participating. I started saying no and that helped. I changed my perception. Honestly, I started to feel better more. Although the pain, neuropathy, and those types of things were not gone, I learned that I have some influence over this. That’s when my body started to tell me that I was on the right path. I started to believe that this stuff worked. It wasn’t as foo-foo stuff that was in some self-help books. It worked. I started to believe in it and trust it. That helped me out. That helped me to be on the path for sure.  

The mind is a powerful thing and as they say, “What you believe or don’t believe it’s true.”  

Whether you think you can or you can’t, either way, you’re right.  

I was something along those lines. It’s all about your mind. What you think and what you put your energy into thinking, a lot of times, it comes true. What do they say, “Most medication,” and I’m making this up, “they’re high percent placebo effects?” 

Yes, high percent placebo effects which no one talks about.  

It’s a high percent placebo effect. It’s all in our minds. Someone that thinks they’re sick a lot is probably going to be sick a lot.  

The beautiful thing is there’s a science to that. It’s not this notion of power, positive thinking. The guy that is doing the best job of describing how that works, how the DNA works, and how our genetics work. This is epigenetics on how important the environment is in our life. We always were told that our genetics dictate so many different things in our life. We’re learning more and more that our inherited genetics only make up a small portion of things that our environment has a bigger impact on our genetics.  

This term, epigenetics, Dr. Bruce Lipton talks about it a lot in his research and work. Also, Dr. Joe Dispenza talks exactly how the placebo effect works from a scientific perspective. It’s a beautiful thing because what it does is it gives you back power because your environment is not only, “Is it cold outside? Is it hot outside?” There are all kinds of things. It’s the people you hang out with energetically. Whether you’re getting involved in dramatic types of things, dramatic types of people and toxic relationships, we all know somebody who has everything. They have the money, the lifestyle, the career, and the title, but they’re miserable inside. They’re depressed, anxious and suicidal.  

We all know the person who has little to nothing from material wealth but has that can-do, I love life mentality, and they’re happy. Our perception of life has so much influence on everything. Guess who controls them? We do. That’s the beauty in this type of work. We are not a victim anymore of our environments, surroundings and situation. We are in the driver’s seat. We get to turn the wheel, change direction, hit the brakes or hit the gas pedal, influence our lives, and our outcomes. Those are the things that you don’t learn in school and at the university.  

You can't really experience growth if you're not willing to be uncomfortable. Click To Tweet

As I told you, I went back to school. I have a Bachelor’s and two separate Master’s Degrees but they don’t teach these things. These are things that you have to go digging for yourself. Sometimes, life is going to push you in that direction if you’re not getting the signal. Unfortunately, sometimes it has to push you into a bad situation where you have experienced some pain and downfall because you’re not getting the memo. That’s what happened to me. I was thick-headed and I wasn’t interested in showing this vulnerable side of myself because I have a big ego.  

I had to learn much later on in life, which is less than I would have loved to have learned earlier, that vulnerability is pure power. That’s why we’re so drawn to people who are vulnerable or willing to be vulnerable. We’re drawn to people who know how to express themselves freely. It’s one of those things that humans are in awe of because we know it’s not an easy thing to do. Some people are naturals and some people work hard to develop certain skills, but they’re good skills to have. 

It seems much safer to put the walls up.  

We think it’s much safer.  

It’s much safer and put the walls up, not be vulnerable, and you don’t want to get hurt, or you got hurt in the past so we put up the walls. We’re not vulnerable, we don’t truly connect with other people, and conversations are much on the surface. That doesn’t lead to fulfillment because that’s what we all want. We all want fulfillment.  

Think about this. You can have those stuff. You can have your wall and your armor. It’s a safe place and it’s okay. You can have it, but you quickly experience growth if you’re willing to be uncomfortable. There’s always a give and take. You’re not going to have this growth that you might be desiring, reading about, or watching in a documentary, film, or whatever is inspiring you at that moment. You’re not going to be able to have that growth if you’re not willing to be uncomfortable.  

It’s like how you’re not going to be able to find true love whether it’s with yourself or external true love without being willing to be vulnerable. You can’t have your cake and eat it too. Life will always move you in the direction to try to break down those walls. Sometimes, it’s more subtle but sometimes it can be dramatic. It might be that car accident that set you into a place where you have to spend time to reflect on life because you’re tied up on the bed in the hospital for a period of time or you’re nursing a broken leg. Your life has been trying to tell you to slow down.  

You’re getting all these hints along the way. People were telling you. You’re getting subliminal messages in all aspects of your life, but you don’t want to listen. Now, you’re forced to slow down and you can’t move. You’ve got to go with it. Life will push you in that direction. I learned that it doesn’t always have to be so dramatic. I don’t want to get hit in the head with a baseball bat every time I need to learn a lesson. I’d rather get a soft little nudge and I’ll say, “I got it. Thank you. I appreciate that,” and get life back on course. I try to stay away from baseball bats these days. 

Tell me about Wim Hof. How did you discover Wim Hof?  

The way I discovered Win Hof was the VICE documentary called Becoming Superhuman with Ice Man. It’s a famous VICE documentary on his life. I was fascinated. Honestly, I thought this guy was interesting. I liked the character. I loved this aspect of the medical, influencing your immune system and all these types of things. I had already been going down that rabbit hole and learning about health, mental health, physical health, emotional health, science, anatomy and physiology.  

All of these things are subjects that I had to go back into the books to relearn because it was touched on in school. I was ready for his work. I was prepared for that moment to learn about this method. I was also much into esoteric stuff because I learned that healing isn’t just the mind and the body, but spirit is of equal importance. It’s mind, body, and spirit balance. Finding the balance of all things mind, body, and spirit. I was reading esoteric stuff and spirituality. I was researching, searching and finding.  

What I learned in my journey was I was working on my mind and my body as I started to make good healthy changes but spiritually, I was a big fat zero. I wasn’t working on my spirit at all. That’s mainly because I left religion a long time ago. I lost a little faith in that process growing up as Italian-American Catholic. I left it back in New York. I never took it with me. Spirit is equally important. I want to stress that it’s important. The Wim Hof Method was one of those things that I saw as a complete method. By practicing the method, you can access your mind, body and spirit all in one practice. The three pillars of the Wim Hof Method help you to connect that.  

I did many different methods and techniques. Some are effective. Some were not. What I liked about the Wim Hof Method, it worked immediately. It was simple and cost-effective. I implemented that right away. I started to go down the rabbit hole of learning more about science. That took me to learn and understand a lot about our immune system, which is great because all of that knowledge that I acquired helped me for this time in our lives, which is this pandemic and everything. It’s all about immune health. If you are starting from zero in understanding the immune system and immune health, you’re behind. I was ready to go ahead. I was able to prepare my body, mind, spirit and immune system for these times. It served me well. It allowed me to teach many other people and help them on their journey during these difficult times.  

ILBS 23 | Natural Healing

Natural Healing: Vulnerability is just one of those things that humans are in awe of because we know it’s not an easy thing to do.

 

With the Wim Hof Method, you’ve got the cold water therapy and the breathwork. What’s the third pillar?  

Commitment, which is also known as a mindset, is the pillar that is the most important. If you think about Wim’s story, Wim hikes Mount Everest in his shorts. It’s great feat. It’s extremely dangerous. He’s been to the full ice caps. He ran a marathon in the African desert without water. He’s done a lot of interesting things with 26 Guinness records. He acclimated to the poll and he’s had some adaptation to cold. He knows this magic breathing exercise that can automatically make a human superhuman.  

That makes Wim Hof so unique. In my experience, in my opinion, it’s the power of his mind. He has very strong and powerful mind. He’s got a strong commitment and strong discipline. I believe that discipline is the key to happiness. When we say what we’re going to do and we follow through with it, that helps us to feel better, happier, more alive and all of those things. The three pillars of the Wim Hof Method are breathing exercises, a very specific one, commitment, and cold therapy. It’s all in one combination.  

Of the three, which do you think is the first one that a person should learn more about or experience?  

The first thing to touch on is all three all at once because what you can do is easily go to a workshop and learn about everything. I teach locally, here in the Valley, five of our Fundamentals Course, so people can learn how to do breathing exercises, apply commitment and discipline to their exercise, and what is the science of the theory of cold water therapy. You have access to all of it. You have access to it by doing a breathing exercise, which you could do from the comfort of your own home, in your bed, in a safe space. You have the ability to follow through commitments to do it on a daily basis and put it into action to see how it impacts your life in a positive way, and you have access to cold showers.  

Cold showers are going to be out the door soon because the weather is starting to warm up here in Phoenix. Anywhere else around the country, cold showers will linger for quite a while but you have Optimyze with cold water seven days a week, which you weren’t aware of. I recommend doing all three because, in combination, they’ll work. It’s a practice. You’re not going to be perfect the first time you do it. You implement it and you get better. All of these techniques, what’s amazing about the breathing and cold water, as you know we’ve done and you’ve come to my classes before, in common, they both take your attention inward. They allow you to bring your attention inward, taking away all the busyness of the day, the mind, all that chatter that’s out there, and have you focus on yourself. That’s good practice for humans. 

When you’re jumping into a 32 degrees water ice bath, you’re not thinking about anything else. You have to completely surrender.  

Yes. If you don’t, you suffer. It’s a great lesson. It’s depth, realtime, or suffer. You could suffer if you want. You might learn something by suffering. A lot of my life has been suffering and I’ve learned many things or you can learn to accept, surrender, and find peace with it. It’s a great training ground for the mind, body and spirit. That’s why I use it seven days a week as you do as well. 

With breathwork, a lot of people are like, “I know how to breathe. I know how to do breathwork. I breathe every day.” I didn’t realize that either. To do breathwork is work. Why would someone want to put this energy into doing breathwork? Because it works. Most people breathe shallowly throughout the day. First, what is the negative associated with very shallow breaths that most people take throughout the day?  

Shallow breathing is a type of stress. If you think about it, what happens when you step into the cold water? You breathe rapidly and shallowly. What happens if you get a phone call in the middle of the day and it’s terrible news? You get this emotional, panicky feeling. You got some bad news that you lost your job, you lost a loved one, or you lost anybody. It’s some loss or grief. It’s a sign of stress. What’s beautiful learning about breathwork which the name can turn a lot of people off. It’s like, “What does that even mean?” It has other names like breathing exercises. You can do that, but then people start to think it is a Lamaze class for pregnant women. 

It is like Lamaze class. 

You’re learning how to breathe to modulate pain. That’s what they’re doing.  

Life will always move you in the direction to try to break down those walls. Click To Tweet

Not that I’ve ever taken a Lamaze class or anything about it. I’ve heard that breathwork is similar to a Lamaze class. 

You’re learning how to modulate pain and different things. I’m not too familiar with what they teach in that class. For the readers that are curious about breathwork, you have two different types of people. You’ve got people who are interested in the spiritual aspect of the breathing exercises and they know that there’s something there, and then you have a science. You heard about the science. For science folks, you have access to your autonomic nervous system. Your nervous system responds to the type of breathing that you do. When you inhale, you’re activating the sympathetic nervous system. When you exhale, you’re activating the parasympathetic mode of the nervous system, which would be like the brake of the nervous system. The sympathetic nervous system would be like the gas pedal. 

When you have access to your autonomic nervous system, that means you also have access to your heart rate. If I breathe fast and shallow, my heart rate will go up. If I slow and calm, my heart rate will go down. Most people don’t realize that they have access to this because they think, “It’s automatic. I don’t have to tell my heart to beat. I don’t have to tell myself to take a breath.” It’s true. It is automatic. Thank God. If you ever think about every time you needed to take a breath or your heart needed to beat, it will take all your attention and focus so you wouldn’t have much energy to do anything else.  

Like a car, you can switch to manual mode at any time. When you switch to manual mode, you start to focus on your inhales and exhales, and change the way you breathe by extending an exhale or maybe breathing more rapidly, then you start to influence other systems of the body. It would be your brainwaves and also your heart rate. If I breathe shallow and fast, the heart rate is going to go up and I’m going to most likely have a little bit more brain arousal. My heart rate is going to go up and my sympathetic nervous systems could be activated, which means it might release different types of hormones into my bloodstream.  

If I breathe calm and slow, where I’m breathing in for eight seconds and breathing out for eight seconds, I’m calming everything down. Now my brainwaves are starting to calm down. The frequencies are starting to come down. We’re getting into alpha brainwaves, theta brainwaves, and then the heart rate is also going to come down. You also have influence over your blood pressure. You can increase blood pressure and decrease blood pressure also by the way you breathe. If anyone is interested, what it does is it puts you into the driver’s seat of this wonderful, amazing machine that we’ve been given. This body and this operating system of our mind that nobody gave us directions.  

We weren’t born with, “Here’s the operating manual for this machine.” You spend the whole life trying to figure out how this thing works. We only have scratched the surface of what our body is capable of. Wim Hof has shown the world that we are more capable of what we think we can. That’s the beauty of breathwork. We can talk about breathwork for a whole show. For anyone interested, you have access to how the machine works if you learn how to control your breathing and optimize your breathing, then you can have a beautiful, powerful influence on your state of stress, ability to sleep, ability to relax, recover, and your ability to drive energy up as well.  

You can make your own medicine, which is even beautiful too. I know that looks crazy but this is science. There’s scientific research to show that breathing exercises release epinephrine, which has a positive effect on inflammation. Your body is a pharmacy. When you start to learn how to operate this machine, you get to be the driver and not be driven by somebody who has installed cars running amuck in the neighborhood. Now, you’re having to pay bills for that. You get to operate this beautiful, wonderful machine that we have called the body.  

The other thing that happens with breathwork is you can bring your body from an acidic state to an alkaline state. People talk about drinking pH water because they want to get to an alkaline state, even eating foods that are not acidic or foods that are alkaline. We take 25,000 breaths per day. Bringing your body to an alkaline state through breathing and breathwork seems like it makes way more sense. You take 25,000 breaths a day is way easier. 

The ancients say that we only have so many breaths in a lifetime which is this esoteric principle of don’t breath too much. Science supports that too. One of the main benefits of learning breathing exercises is it will help you to breathe less. If you were to take an inhale for five seconds and exhale for five seconds, that’s a ten-second period. Multiply that to how many breaths you are taking in one minute. That’s only six breaths. That’s not many breaths in one minute. Look at a dog. How many breaths does a dog or a cat take? They breathe so rapidly. Even when they’re in a relaxed state, they breathe super rapidly. If they’re laying on the floor, their belly is moving. They breathe a lot. They take 20 to 30 breaths a minute or something like that. It’s fast.  

Look at a turtle, I forget how many breaths per minute, four or something, even less. They don’t breathe much. Look at the lifespan of a dog or cat. It’s not long compared to a turtle. Breathing less is one of the keys to longevity. Focusing your attention on your breathing will automatically cause you to breathe less. Talking less makes you breathe less. That’s why our Native American brothers and sisters talked a lot less in many ways. They listen more and talk less, which we all know are good skills and important. We could get into all the CO2 oxygen stuff. If you talk a lot, you’re scrubbing CO2 and all that kind of stuff. Learn how to breathe less. It doesn’t mean holding your breath or anything like that. It just means slowing down your breathing and being in natural rhythm.  

A lot of the breathing techniques that are out there ramp up the nervous system and ramp down the nervous system. Ultimately, what they will assist you with is your body can utilize oxygen more efficiently in a higher CO2 environment and you have a higher CO2 tolerance. You will have to breathe less but deeper, fuller breaths which are providing oxygen into ourselves because all of our cells need oxygen all the time. It’s one of the things that we cannot go without for long. We can go out without food for quite a long time and we can go without water for a significant amount of time, but we cannot go without breathing for 1 minute or 1.5-minute. You’re in trouble. Breathing exercises are important and a big part of that, of course.  

James Nestor wrote the book Breath. He talks about overbreathing. People overeat and overbreath. What does that mean?  

That’s taking too many breaths within the day. They’re shallow breathing. You’re going to breathe more, which is going to put your nervous system in a more sympathetic tone, which is the fight or flight tone of the nervous system. It means you’re going to be producing more stress-related hormones, which are going to negatively impact the body. When your body is in this chronic stress state for long periods of time, now you have inflammation problems that can eventually turn into autoimmune problems. It can potentially turn into cancer problems because everything is harmonious.  

The body is at harmony. Cancer is competing with your body for resources. Autoimmune is over-replication. The body is at harmony. You want to find balance in all things. You want to find this homeostasis. Stress is anytime our body is out of homeostasis. How fast that we rebound back to stress is important. It’s good to train your body’s stress response with stress. Back to your original question. Overbreathing will lead to a shorter expiration date, so learn how to breathe less. That book is a great reference because they teach the five-second inhale and five-second exhale as one of the techniques. 

I’ve been doing breathwork for a couple of years. The first thing I do in the morning before I get out of bed is I’ll do three cycles of the Wim Hof Method, I pray, and then I meditate for ten minutes. My blood cells are filled with oxygen and I’m wide awake by the time I get out of bed. I wake up early. Even if I don’t get a lot of sleep, I’ll still do my breathwork. I’m awake, alert and ready to go.  

ILBS 23 | Natural Healing

Natural Healing: Your body’s a pharmacy. When you start to learn how to operate this machine, you get to, once again, be the driver and not be driven.

 

It enhances all that, providing more energy because of the ATP reaction. It helps you to be more focused. It has an anti-inflammatory effect which is the epinephrine that you’re releasing from that type of breathing exercise that you’re doing. There are a lot of great benefits to breathing exercise. It’s also great because the second thing is you pray, which is affirmations. You’re putting spoken words into the universe and spoken words in vibration and frequency.  

That helps to call in good things into your life. Its hard to get into a meditative state. Your mind is extremely busy thinking about one million different things. Your brain is in a beta wave stress life state. Trying to meditate is almost impossible but when you do breathing exercises prior to the meditation, it allows your brain to get into lower frequencies, more alpha and theta wave frequencies. That’s around 5 to 8 hertz for theta and alpha is above that. It makes the meditation a lot deeper, better, and more beneficial so it’s a good tool.  

When I do Wim Hof Method, I realized there was a period of time, my first breath-hold on the exhale would be two minutes. Second, 2.5 and third, 3, 3.5, or even longer. I was also able to stay in the cold plunge for a longer period of time and then I realized I wasn’t able to hold my breath this long. It was a struggle to get to two minutes and I was not able to stay in the cold plunges long. I read Wim Hof’s latest book and I realized that he’s talking about going from an acidic state to an alkaline state.  

He also talks about how Olympic athletes and professional athletes are more in an alkaline state, which makes it where they can tolerate more pain. I also realized that I wasn’t belly-breathing. That’s the other thing I read. I was lazy. I was still doing the breathwork but I was lazy. Because I was lazy and I wasn’t belly-breathing, I wasn’t able to hold my breath for as long on the exhale. I was not in an alkaline state. This is what I make up about it anyways. I wasn’t able to stay in the cold plunges long, which part of it I’m sure was in my mind. 

There are some things that I could touch on there. The alkaline state is interesting. Without getting into all the science because it’s scientific and confusing, when your body is temporarily stressing, your blood goes alkaline. It’s called respiratory alkalosis. Many times, your blood pH increases above neutral, which is 7.3. You’re in more of an alkaline state. They measure them at 7.8 or so. It’s slightly alkaline. Most people go, “What does that mean? What is that doing?” That’s a good thing because there’s all this craze about alkaline everything, alkaline water and alkaline food.  

To be honest with you, you don’t want everything to be alkaline because your stomach is acidic for a reason. It’s acidic because it breaks down food and it doesn’t stop that way. There are different aspects of the body that probably benefit from being more alkaline and there are different aspects that benefit from being more acidic. When your blood pH becomes alkaline temporarily, respiratory alkalosis, your body has the ability to bypass certain pain receptors. There’s a whole science of how that works that I won’t get into, but that temporary ability helps to modulate pain.  

That’s why the hyperventilation techniques used in Lamaze classes and the Wim Hof, that rapid breathing, you’re scrubbing CO2. By overbreathing, CO2 starts to decrease and oxygen increases, but that doesn’t mean that all the oxygen becomes available. It’s just free-roaming. When that’s happening, you’re changing the chemistry of the body. That’s making the body temporarily more alkaline for the time being, which has a positive impact on pain modulation. Hopefully, you found a lot of information there, but that’s how it works. It’s a good thing and it’s effective.  

As for why you can’t stay in an ice bath longer, there are a lot of different factors that can be like where we are emotionally and mentally at that time, our ability to let go and surrender, and our ability to go within, and not be thinking about stuff. There are too many factors to say, “It’s because of this.” I never said a problem. I’ve been practicing this. I teach this. There are times that I have a hard time holding my breath for a long period of time or my ice baths may not be as long, which I don’t subscribe to the idea of a long ice bath either. 2 or 3 minutes is fine but it’s just human. What’s most important of all is always trust your body.  

Let’s talk about cold water therapy. What are the benefits of cold water therapy and ice bath?  

Cold water therapy has been around for thousands of years, although it’s common and trendy now. Cryotherapy is out there and lots of people are posting pictures of doing ice baths on Instagram. I want people to know this is nothing new. It’s super old. I could get into all the different cultures that did cold water therapy. Let’s be honest, hot water heaters are not that old. Everyone was taking a cold shower not that long ago. Hot water heaters are the thing that’s in the present. Cold showers and cold water bathing has been around forever.  

There are different cultures that talk about cold water therapy for spiritual aspects. There are different native groups that use cold water therapy for preparation for other ceremonies that they would do. They stated that it cleanses the body and restores the body’s vital energy. You know, just from optimizing and when you get out of the ice bath, you feel home, electric, and you feel the energy. People get drawn to that feeling. They want more of that and that’s why they’ll keep doing it. There’s science supporting what that is. There are ATP production and all that kind of stuff.  

The core benefit of doing cold water therapy is inflammation. I would say that’s probably the most important because inflammation is the cause of all diseases. There’s this pro-inflammatory cytokine called TNF alpha. It’s much related to all types of disease from diabetes to any disease that’s out there. You’re going to find an abundance of this TNF. Something that we don’t want necessarily a lot of but in therapy, our body releases something called norepinephrine also known as noradrenaline. It acts as an inhibitor of TNF alpha, which is this pro-inflammation cytokine.  

Discipline is the key to happiness. Click To Tweet

It’s helping our body to reduce inflammation naturally without a steroid injection, medication, pill over the counter, pharmaceuticals, or anything like that. That’s going to have side effects. Noradrenaline does that on its own. It’s creating some medicine. Other things that I like that I consider a positive benefit of cold water therapy or ice bath is you are training your nervous system. When you stay in cold, the first thing that happens is your breathing changes. You can catch breath, rapid, shallow breathing. You go into a fight or flight mode, which is an activation of the sympathetic nervous system and your body and mind are saying, “Get the hell out here.” 

With training, using different techniques and methods, changing everything, and mentally surrendering, you are learning how to adapt to stress in a positive way because you are living in stress, breathing through stress, and surrendering to stress. This is a type of hormesis and allows us to react and adapt to stress in a more positive way which builds emotional and mental resilience. Those are two benefits. You get other benefits such as metabolism. Your body will use visceral fat to produce heat. It’s a process called thermogenesis. Our body will start to brown fat.  

Once it starts to brown fat, it will use the visceral white fat, which is the stuff around our organs and stuff that leads to cardiovascular disease. It will use that visceral fat as key production, which means it’s reducing visceral fat over time so it’s great for metabolism as well and aid in weight loss. It’s good for mental because big doses of norepinephrine are released into the bloodstream almost immediately. That has a positive impact on mood, focus and attention. That’s why we feel that presence. We feel a little bit more connected.  

Also, it has been shown to have a positive effect on our brainwave states because it’s taking our brainwaves out of this high beta range or external thinking into the lower brainwave states, which are like alpha and theta wave states. You’re not worried about what you need to do later on or what you should have or could have done earlier this morning or yesterday. It’s much right here, right now. That’s the beauty of it. When you get into those moments of right here, right now, your brain starts to calm down and becomes less aroused. Your inner world starts to become more real than your outer world.  

What’s beautiful about this is your mind is more suggestible when it’s in the theta state. You do your prayers and morning breathwork, which is a great time to do it. My personal practice is I do my prayers and affirmations in the ice bath because my mind is in this suggestible state and my attention is internally within. I’m using these mantras, prayers, and attunements to help change my vibration, frequency, and calling good things in my life.  

There’s another benefit that I see from cold baths. I produce more energy. We’ve talked about the feel-good hormones, and the positive effects on inflammation and metabolism because of visceral fat reduction. I would say those are the main ones. There are other benefits like circulation, so think about it. When you go into the cold, your blood is pulling from the extremities into the core. This is like a survival mechanism. It’s going to keep your organs at the temperature that it needs to be at. When you get out of the ice bath, what’s happening is that all that blood is reflowing back to the extremities. We have 100,000 miles of the circulatory system in our body blood vessels. It’s hard to even fathom.  

I just googled it. Don’t take my word for it. That’s how much blood circulation we have in our bodies. Think about that. By opening and closing, because vagal constriction occurs when you go cold or when you go into the heat, or you get out and start to open up, you’re starting to move blood and make this vascular system less rigid. Improved circulation is one of the key indicators for health and wellness. It’s overlooked quite a bit and it’s not talked about enough. It’s important for overall health. There are some benefits of cold water.  

There are a few benefits. For me, there’s a drastic change that happens after I do an ice bath. I go over to Optimyze almost every single day and I feel amazing. Any racing thoughts that I had are gone. I’m able to be present. I’m not thinking about the future and the past. I’m completely present, I’m in a zen state, and I sleep well. I’ve got nothing on my mind. It’s a beautiful thing. Let’s talk about red light therapy. People ask me, “Do you feel different?” I don’t know if I would say I feel a drastic difference. It’s one of the things I do, but I want you to talk about it. What are the benefits of red light therapy? 

A little bit of history first because I love history. It was originally created by NASA to help grow plants in outer space. That’s where it comes from. The sun also emits infrared rays and red light therapy. When people refer to red light therapy, I want you to notice two types of technology that they’re working with, which are red light wavelengths and near-infrared rays. That’s what your body is absorbing when you’re standing in front of those panels that you see out there on social media or wherever else. When the sun is coming up in the morning and when it’s coming down in the evening, one thing you will notice is that it’s amber.  

The amber is what’s producing a lot of those red light rays that are being put out into the field at that time. This is all point photobiomodulation, light therapy. Our bodies need light. In ourselves, we know that. Our body is made up of millions and billions of cells and our cells have mitochondria. Mitochondria is like little battery packs. To decline in mitochondria is agent. We can correlate agent with the decline of our mitochondria. If you smoke cigarettes, have a lot of unhealthy habits, want to drink a lot, don’t want to get good sleep, want to stare at screens late at night, do all these bad habits, eat high inflammatory foods and all that kind of stuff, if you want to live a life like that, you can.  

Essentially, what most likely will happen is that aging will occur faster and the decline in mitochondria will occur faster. If you want to slow that down, take care of yourself, and slow down the aging process, red light therapy is a great therapy. It was originally created by NASA. What he found was it was healing the scars on his hand. He was like, “This could be used as a therapeutic device,” and then it’s come a long way, but now they use these LED lights. It was originally lasers. LED lights help your mitochondria to create more cellular energy. When your cells are energized, they do their job better, just like anything else.  

When they do their job better, they’re going to produce collagen. They help with pain and inflammation. For men, they can help raise natural testosterone levels because of link cells. They can help with scar tissue but also produce more energy. Ultimately, when you’re doing red light therapy, you are helping your mitochondria to create more ATP energy. There’s some science for you. It’s great therapy and it’s only ten minutes a day. That’s why I love it so much because it’s easy and cost-effective.  

What are some of the main bullet points? If you were to give me six bullet points of the benefits of red light therapy, what are they? 

ILBS 23 | Natural Healing

Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art

Number one cellular energy, for sure. The other one would be it helps with pain and inflammation because of the near-infrared rays. It helps with the production of collagen, which is skin health, which of course we all want. Whether it’s trying to kill a tissue or it’s just looking more youthful. It’s been shown to improve sexual health because it’s a vessel dilator. It’s opening up the vascular system, which is improving blood flow and circulation, and also nitric oxide, which is also a vessel dilator, which essentially how arousal works if you want to get into it.  

Testosterone hormones are wonderful. I have my personal story of how it helps to get your body to create its own natural testosterone rather than having to rely on pharmaceutical and medical intervention as you get older. Naturally, as you get older, what’s going to happen is testosterone is slowly declining especially in the 40s, 50s, 60s, and so on. If you keep your hormones up, you have more of that longevity, more vibrant, more energetic, and all those types of things. Cellular energy, inflammation, circulation, sexual health and pain are the main bullet points. 

What do you want people to have taken away from our talk? 

Thank you for asking. There are many things we covered. We covered a wide variety of topics. We covered science, theory, and the story of how I got from A to B. I don’t have all the answers by any means. I’m just a seeker. I’m always looking to be better. My take for the audience would be not to stop exploring. You have more influence than you think you have, especially as you dive and learn more about how this operating system of the mind and how this machinery of the body works. We have more influence and we are more capable than we think.  

Lastly, I would say that discipline is the key to happiness. If you’re looking for happiness, which we all are no matter what our differences are, because we do have lots of differences, but we’re more alike than we are different. If you apply discipline in certain areas of life that you’re lacking in your physical fitness, diet or sleep patterns, it results in a wide variety of the spectrum. You’ll learn that when you follow through, you say what you’re going to do and you do it, ultimately, you will feel better in your nervous system, serotonin, and all those things. The science stuff will respond to those behaviors in a positive way but you need to apply discipline first.  

I’m not perfect. I have bounced around. Eating poor and getting away from some of my better habits, but I always find my way back. The fast you can find your way back, the better. If you take two months, where you get off track for months, now you’re in trouble. If you get off track for a week and now you’re back on track again, then you’re doing all right. Don’t be so hard on yourself either. Be smart, reduce the amount of time that it takes you to get back on track. Hopefully, you’ll be feeling better with that. It’s all about the journey. There’s a lot to explore. It’s a beautiful place and a beautiful time to be alive.  

Michael, how can people find you? 

I’m the Cofounder of a center here at Phoenix called Optimyze. We’re on 38th Street Indian School right in the heart of Arcadia. We have another extension that will be opening in Tempe. We would love to have you come and do an Optimyze set or session and get access to these benefits. You can find me personally on Instagram. I go by @Michael_The_Arc. I also have a Facebook page. I also teach the Wim Hof Method Fundamentals course here in the Valley. If you’re interested in these types of discussion, these types of lessons, and going through the process and being guided, then you’ll love this workshop. I invite you to come and check it out.  

I would attest to that. I took the Fundamentals workshop and it was amazing. It gave me such a great foundation for the Wim Hof Method. I was doing ice baths and breathwork prior to doing the Fundamentals course and after the Fundamentals course. Digging in and learning more about it was such an amazing thing. There were six people in the class when I took it and there were 200 pounds of ice in the ice bath.  

The water was at 28 degrees and all six people got in that water for 90 seconds. It was such an amazing thing to do breathwork correctly around people because there’s the energy of the people and the energy in the room. Every one of us was able to do the ice bath for over 90 seconds, which was a beautiful thing. Michael, thank you. I appreciate you. I got a lot out of our conversation. Thanks, everybody. I hope you have a wonderful day.  

Thank you. Thanks for allowing me to share my story and hopefully inspire someone else to try these different techniques. Thanks again, Tim. I look forward to seeing you soon.  

It sounds good. 

Important Links: 

About Michael Roviello

ILBS 23 | Natural HealingFrom my previous role as U.S Navy Helicopter Search and Rescue Swimmer our Motto is “So Others May Live” to my current career embracing and sharing Wim Hof’s message of “Healthy, Happy and Strong”, and co-founder of Optimyze, Mind, Body, Breath, Michael continues to learn and grow gaining a deeper understanding of self and how the elements of nature can help us to understand our mind, body and spirit.

How To Make Your Messy Life A Memoir: The Path To Long-Term Recovery With Anna David

ILBS 21 | Memoir

 

Following the path towards recovery is not an easy feat. So when one is long on their way at it, we can call for a celebration! New York Times bestselling author of eight books, Anna David is a person in long-term recovery, having recently celebrated her 20th year! In this episode, she takes us behind the work she has to put upon herself to live a happy, joyous, and free life. Her journey shows us that the path to long-term recovery is more than just to stop drinking, taking drugs, or doing addictive behaviors. It takes a complete change, where you need to develop new healthy lifestyle habits. Follow Anna on today’s show to learn what those are and how she made it and started living a new and happier life. Plus, she then shares how she is helping people write and publish their books, lending new knowledge on how you can make your messy life into a memoir. Anna has been published in The New York Times, Time, and The LA Times, among many others, and has appeared repeatedly on The Today Show, The Talk, The CBS Morning Show, and dozens of other programs. Her newest book, Make Your Mess Your Memoir, is a combination of a memoir and a business book.

Watch the episode here:

Listen to the podcast here:

How To Make Your Messy Life A Memoir: The Path To Long-Term Recovery With Anna David

We started this show because there’s so much misinformation about addiction treatment, mental health and recovery in general. There’s more to recovery than just going to inpatient treatment, seeing a therapist and going to twelve-step meetings. Those things are important and AA saved my life. However, to find long-term recovery and live happy, joyous and free. There’s a lot more to it than stopping the drinking, stopping the drugs or stopping any addictive behavior, for that matter. To live a new life, a person needs new healthy lifestyle habits. Those are the types of things that we talk about on this show, amongst other things.

We talk about a lot, everything recovery-related. I’m excited to be here with Anna David. She is a person in long-term recovery. She celebrated many years and is a New York Times Bestselling author and she’s been published in The New York Times, LA Times, amongst many others and appeared repeatedly on The Today Show, The Talk, The CBS Morning Show and dozens of other programs. She’s been featured at three different TEDx events and her company Launch Pad Publishing helps people write and publish books.

Her latest book, Make Your Mess Your Memoir, is a combination of a memoir and business book. I’m excited to talk with Anna about her journey through addiction, how she got clean and sober, how she went from the messy life to becoming an author. What did she do? How did she get there? How did she clean it up? How did she turn her life from a messy life into a fun, amazing, productive life filled with friends, an amazing business and relationships? Anna, it’s good to see you. Let’s dig into it. Tell me what it was like for you growing up?

I grew up in Marin County up in Northern California. To summarize, my dad was the Crazy Eddie of Northern California. He sold discount TV and stereos. He got in a lot of trouble for embezzlement. When I was sixteen, which is around when I started drinking and I do not want to say that is the cause of my alcoholism but there was trauma around my dad. I believe that alcoholism, we have a genetic predisposition that’s either exacerbated or diminished depending on what happens to us during our formative years. I didn’t realize for a long time that I had some trauma. I grew up like my dad. I go, “I’m normal. I’m a miracle,” because there’s some crazy shit that happened. I grew up with tons of privilege and I’m super grateful for that. He ended up losing a lot of money and I feel lucky because I grew up with all these advantages. My dad stole my trust fund, so I learned the value of hard work and everything I have, I have worked for. I know a lot of trustafarians that are not like that. In many ways, I feel like I got the best of both.

When did you first start drinking? How did you answer that realm?

When I was in eighth grade, my friend goes, “Let’s steal my mom’s liquor.” We did that thing where you take vodka and gin from your parents’ liquor cabinet and fill it with water like little bits. We drank it and it was not that magical. It wasn’t until my freshman year of high school where I discovered the magic and I loved it. It was fun. A lot of people assume that sober people were killjoys, cops and ruin everyone’s drinking. If it weren’t so fun, I never would have done it to the excess that I did.

When did you realize it was a problem?

Drugs are a huge part of my story. In the end, it was a lot of cocaine alone in my apartment here in LA. It’s hard to do cocaine a lot by yourself and not know it’s a problem. I knew it was a problem. When I transitioned from doing cocaine with other people to only doing it alone, I knew it was a problem. I didn’t know that there was a solution I could access.

When the brain is thinking something pretty extreme, it's probably not reliable. Click To Tweet

How old were you when this happened?

I’m 29.

You had been drinking. The drinking and the drugs progressed?

It progressed rapidly in college but cocaine, as they say, is the eTicket into AA or recovery because it gave it a rapid ascension.

Did you write before you got clean and sober? Were you a writer?

I wrote short stories my whole life. I had my first rejection letter when I was eight. I was already submitting articles to highlights in those kids’ magazines. I majored in Creative Writing in college and worked at Entertainment Weekly Magazine, People Magazine and these entertainment magazines. I got fired from all those places and then I got sober.

Did you get fired because of your drinking and drug use?

I’ve been fired from every job I’ve ever had. I’ve been sober for many years. Ironically, there was one where I got busted and I didn’t get fired from that because you can’t fire somebody for having a drug problem because there are laws against that. I had this crazy situation at this website where I worked and dated a guy who worked there. He got fired and he thought it was my fault. He tried to exact revenge by telling the head of human resources that I was a coke addict and they handled it very intelligently. What they did is they told me that they were hiring me an assistant and they hired someone for me to be their assistant. It was ingenious, so that I quit. They went under. It was the internet boom. I had tons of job offers even though I was barely functioning. I was unemployable but employed because I had writing skills and because there are these websites in 1999 that were popping up everywhere that needed people with writing skills.

As a cocaine addict, what was it like being a writer?

ILBS 21 | Memoir

Make Your Mess Your Memoir

Pretty unproductive.

Give me the rundown of an episode where you were writing or attempting to write and what happened?

I have an essay that’s in this anthology about addiction and recovery. The essay is called The Beep because I had a computer that would beep if you didn’t move for over 60 seconds and it would go, “Do you want to save?” There would be this beep. The beep was loud to my cocaine addict brain. If you do enough coke, you don’t move after a while. I’d be sitting on my couch like, “I should move but I can’t. What will happen if I move?” This craziness. I lived in fear of this beep. I spent two years revising the first line of a screenplay that was better before I started.

The very first night I did cocaine alone, I wrote a spec for a show called 3rd Rock From The Sun, which I had never seen before but didn’t let that stop me. I wrote the spec and I remember hearing the birds chirping my neighbor going to work. I remember saying, “I’m going to be a huge TV writer.” Unfortunately, I will have to be a cocaine addict because look how much I could get done and that’s okay. Nobody cared about this TV spec. I did have a good agent at the time and I had meetings on TV shows and stuff like that but I never got hired. I was not hireable.

I do have a great story about that. I got called in on this show called Rude Awakenings. It was this show in the year 1999 about a girl who’s an actress, who gets sober and goes to AA. It was created by a woman named Claudia Lonow. I went in and met with her. I remember her saying to me, “Have you ever been to an AA meeting?” because that was the content of the show and I had cocaine drip going down the back of my throat and I was like, “No.” It was a lie. I had been. I ended up going to rehab right after that, getting sober and maybe six months into my sobriety I’m wandering around Rodeo Drive in LA and looking for this meeting. I can’t find the entrance and this woman is like, “Anna, it’s right in here.” It’s Claudia Lonow who’s now a good friend of mine. She was unsurprised to see me.

What made you decide that, “I’m going to do this. I want to get clean and sober.” Was there an intervention? What helped you make the decision that you wanted to clean it up?

There was no intervention. I wanted to die. I didn’t know drinking was a problem but I knew cocaine was a problem. I knew that it was killing me and making me incredibly depressed. I didn’t think there was a solution and I had heard about it. I’d been to meetings and I thought, “It’s got to be the end of life but I guess I should try it before killing myself because what if it’s okay?” I went to outpatient treatment the following week and then they took us to AA. I’ve been in it very happily ever since.

What helped you stay clean and sober?

The greatest part of recovery is getting to understand that your brain just doesn't interpret things correctly at times. Click To Tweet

My life got immediately better. I was completely isolated and alone. It was the information that my drinking wasn’t about drinking. Once I learned that my drinking had been about the way I think, my self-obsession and that there were tools to treat that, I didn’t want to drink anymore. My sobriety is not about willpower. I don’t want to and because I do a twelve-step program, I have something to treat that way of thinking on a daily basis. I do think a lot of it is a spiritual thing in that. I tried over and over again to quit. I tried all the things, keeping my cocaine at my friend’s house, going on trips and throwing the drugs away.

I would dig them out, throw them into the dumpster, dig them out, flush them, call the dealer again. I tried all the things. I go to these weird rooms where people say, “We’d like you to do these things that have nothing to do with throwing drugs away, nothing to do with going on trips. Those rules are on the wall and we like to help other people show up in this weird room, sweep the floor and do these steps.” I did what they suggested and quickly my desire to drink and do drugs went away. Since that doesn’t make any logical sense, I was like, “There is a God.” I pray every morning. I can remember to turn it all over to that power. Whatever that is, whether that’s the power inside of me or outside of me, I can be happy.

This is a decision and it’s all about the action.

I take a lot of action. I go to meetings, pray, help other people and the action is oftentimes internal. It’s oftentimes, switching my thinking around. I have a business where I help entrepreneurs write and publish their books. I have a lot of people who reach out to me who can’t afford our services. I used to be resentful because I’m spending all my time giving people free book consultations and I have attitude shift where I go, “Our business is booming. I can help a whole bunch of people. Why don’t I look at this as a way to be of service?” Suddenly, they’re not a pain. They’re awesome people who wouldn’t otherwise be able to have access to this information.

It’s service work. The reason we do service work is to become fulfilled because that’s what we’re seeking is fulfillment. We’re all seeking fulfillment. You have a business and you have to make money. However, you also have the opportunity to be of service and help people. Your first big hit was Party Girl.

It was my first book. HarperCollins acquired it and released it. I did four more books with them and then I did one with Simon & Schuster. Publishing was a very frustrating process because I was one of the lucky ones and the successful ones and yet I couldn’t make enough money to make a living. I discovered business skills a few years ago when our mutual friend, Joe Polish, taught me almost everything I know. I’ve been able to set up this successful business where we get to help people who otherwise wouldn’t be able to write and publish books.

We are going to talk more about your book, Make Your Mess Your Memoir which I can’t wait to talk more about. How has being clean and sober enhanced your life? How has working a program and your behavior? How has your life been enhanced as a result of that?

In every way possible. There is not one part of my life that is not affected by it. I had wanted to write a book since I was six years old and it wasn’t until I got sober, I said, “How can I write a book?” I can’t but I could write up three pages a day. I learned one day at a time. On a practical level in meetings, I learned public speaking. I get paid to speak publicly. That was for the Toastmasters. I learned how to do it in twelve-step meetings. The more important thing because it infiltrates everything is relationships. I didn’t know how to have a relationship at all. The skills I learned were very dysfunctional. I feel like through recovery, I was reparented and I was able to learn all of the things that I didn’t know how to do.

ILBS 21 | Memoir

Memoir: You are not responsible for your first thought. Your first thoughts are usually pretty negative, but you are responsible for your second thought and the first action you take as a result of those.

 

It’s taken me a long time. I have a brain that is in extremes to things like, “After this person, I’m going to take off.” I did it for years. Now I know when my brain is thinking something extreme, it’s probably not reliable. I have people in my life that I run things by. I was many years sober. One of my best friends is trying to make a plan and he says, “I can fit you at 3:00 AM on Saturday.” I go to my boyfriend, “Can you believe that he said, ‘I can fit you in 3:00 on Saturday?” My boyfriend says, “He loves you. He’s trying to make a plan with you.”

My brain twists things. It hears insults where are they are not happening. That’s the greatest part of my recovery is that I get to understand that my brain doesn’t interpret things correctly at times and I need to reassess. I’ve learned that I’m not responsible for my first thought. My first thought is usually negative but I am responsible for my second thought and the first action I take as a result of those thoughts. I’m grateful for that.

Being in recovery and in twelve-steps sometimes I’m around people that have not worked a program and sometimes I cringe. I go crazy when I see the way that some people think. It’s like, “I’ve learned how to think. I’ve learned how to pause when agitated or doubtful. I’ve learned how to call my sponsor or call other friends in recovery. I’ve learned how to call somebody other than Tim. I need to talk to somebody else besides Tim about what I’m thinking because what Tim’s thinking a lot of times is crazy.” It’s taken one day at a time. The other thing I understand you say is, “What’s the long game?”

We have goals. We know where we want to go. However, right here, right now, it’s one day at a time, one minute at a time, one hour at a time. We need to head in that direction and continue doing the next right thing and next thing you know you’re writing a New York Times bestselling book. You’re on the stage of TEDx, on The Today Show, helping a lot of people like this book, Make Your Mess Your Memoir which is amazing. How did you come up with this book? Tell me about it.

I used to read strictly Matt Mars and I would come away with a lot of knowledge about a person but not practical information. I started reading a lot of business books and then I would come away with a lot of information but I wouldn’t be captured by the story. I thought, “What if I could combine the two? What if I could tell my story to make people understand why they should listen to the business advice that I’m going to give?” One day I remember I was driving to the dentist and that thought occurred to me and I wrote it down at a stoplight. I go with what is joyful? I don’t write books to make money or to just have them published.

I think like, “Does this bring me joy?” It did. I had a lot of fun writing it. I started writing it right when the stay-at-home order started, which was on March 13, 2020. I felt powerless, like everybody else and wanted to do something. I declared to my newsletter list and on social media, “I’m going to get on Zoom every day at 10:00 AM and write. Anybody who wants to join me can join me.” A bunch of people joined me and we did it every day. It turned into a membership program.

You got on Zoom and wrote. Help me understand. I don’t understand that. You all got on Zoom and you were all writing?

It’s a membership program that they do every day. One of my team members runs it. It’s called the Inner Circle and it’s about 40 people. The reason that they do it is that they need accountability and support. A bunch of them have already released their memoirs because I’ll help them know how to hire an editor, do a cover and then do a launch. It’s a daily accountability group. It was free for months. I realized that when people pay, they pay attention. If we started charging a fee then people would show up for it and it’s incredible. People have gone through many things in 2020 and it’s their support group.

When people pay, they pay attention. Click To Tweet

They don’t have many but some of them are sober. I had constant access to my readers. I had 40 people every day where I could find out what did they want to know about writing memoirs? What didn’t they know? I was able to infuse the book with actual information that I could gather from my readers. I also wanted to have a book that would show people what I could do, what my company could do. It blew our company up because I ended up getting on Good Morning America. I’m always correcting the misconception people say like, “You are a New York Times Best Selling Author. You must make so much money from book sales.”

I sold being on GMA for five minutes. I sold like a handful of books but I brought in six figures worth of new business from people because, ironically, when you show people how to do something in a book, they want to hire you to do it for them. Some people want to go do it themselves but other people want to hire you to do it for them. We brought in some incredible clients as a result and we’ve been able to release their books.

Who are the potential members that you’re looking for? Who would be a good candidate to join your membership club?

Our membership group only opens twice a year. That’s full. We’ll open up again in the spring of 2021. There’s an application form at LaunchPadInnerCircle.com and anybody can fill it out. We review applications in the spring and fall of 2021. That’s more something I do to help people. Our clients are all seven-figure entrepreneurs who either want to write a lot. We do a lot of recovery books because those are a lot of the people that come to me but it’s either memoir business or self-help.

It’s two completely different groups. One is aspiring writers who are creatives and then one is badass entrepreneurs who understand that the best marketing tool they can have is a book. That’s my audience. I should mention them on the show. I have a big podcast called Build Your Business With A Book. Every week I answer a question about everything from like, “How do you know what is a good cover?” to, “How do you write a New York Times Best Seller?” to, “How do you make money from putting an email address in a book?” That’s the main thing I do.

Writing a book is a great idea for anybody, for that matter. Make Your Mess Your Memoir and you have a lot of people that are in recovery that are going to be attracted to that title. Can someone read that book, take and run with it and write their own book?

Absolutely and publish their own book but I do recommend, listen to the podcast, ten-minute episodes and they are a good adjunct to the book. A lot of people deal with imposter syndrome. I go to my membership group once a month. I give a pep talk, we workshop each other’s books, I give feedback on what they’re writing and what I think a lot of people struggle with is, “Who am I to declare myself a writer?” I’m a big fan of, “Declare yourself whatever you want.” I am tired of the gatekeepers having to tell us, “You’re a writer. You’re an entrepreneur.” If you write a book and you release it, you have declared you’ve chosen yourself and anybody can do that. I highly recommend if you do not have experience writing, get professional help with it but go ahead, get started and see what happens. Use some guidance. I also provide a structure in the book for a ten-chapter format to follow if you’re writing a memoir.

You’ve got your business and podcast. What else do you do in your life?

Many things. I meditate twice a day, twenty minutes in the morning and twenty minutes in the afternoon. I have this kitten who likes to bite my feet and my hands when I’m meditating. She’s cutting it short. I’m a huge exercise fan. I’m doing this bizarre, unusual form of exercise. My boyfriend built a gym in the garage and there’s a ballet bar called GST. It’s a fascia stretching workout of all LA-sounding weird things. That’s what I do every day. It gets you in crazy shape and it gets rid of any physical pain one might have. I love walking to the Hollywood sign here in LA. That’s something every day that it’s sunny I do. One of the things I picked up in pandemic time is bike riding.

ILBS 21 | Memoir

Memoir: Ironically, when you show people how to do something in a book, they want to hire you to do it for them.

 

Walking to the Hollywood sign, is that a trail or a walk on the street?

You can’t walk up to the sign but you can visit this gorgeous trail. You can walk on the road. I discovered this bike ride where it goes around the same loop and then I picked up painting in the pandemic. My thing is that I do paintings for people. I lack in talent and I make up for it in cleverness. It was my friend’s 50th birthday and I painted her a picture of her dog thinking, “Why does everyone ask me to recite poetry?” It’s a picture of her doing yoga. I do a lot of things but I also work a lot because I love working.

I work a little bit as well. I’ve got the ism for sure. I enjoy it. When we were drinking and doing drugs, that consumes a lot of our life. My experience and what I’ve seen is that the only way to successfully be in long-term recovery is you have to find new things to do, new hobbies, new interests, new friends, new things like for you. You meditate in the morning, you meditate in the evening. I do breathwork, journal, work out every day, eat healthily, get enough sleep. All of these things, my life is filled with healthy relationships. My life is full and your life sounds like it’s full also.

I think because I’m work-obsessive for a long time, I felt bad that I didn’t have hobbies. I can sit in front of the computer for eight hours straight and not even notice. Life is full. I remember when I first got sober, I remember thinking like, “I can get into all these things.” I went and bought rollerblades. The first Halloween when I got sober, I said, “I’m going to become one of those people who makes her own costumes. Why not? I’m sober now.” I decided to be a candy cane. I bought white pants and was sewing red fabric on them. I’m like, “It’s because I’m sober does not mean I have to do it everything.” I was excited to be among the living again.

Also, remembering what you did yesterday.

When you did cocaine, you unfortunately remember everything, blackout. The thing is I do think also that is what helps me so much. I’m lucky that I remember how dark those coke days were. I do not delude myself into thinking, “I could go back there and that would be okay,” because I remember wanting to die all the time. I remember it like it was yesterday.

Tell me about your morning routine?

One of my books was The Miracle Morning, which I wrote with Joe Polish. I do my miracle morning every morning but I do my own variation of it. When my boyfriend stays over, I get up two hours before him. I am one of these people who pops out of bed like the Energizer Bunny. I’ve learned from him that’s unusual. I get up and read a newsletter that a friend of mine writes. His name is Jeff Kober. Everybody should go and subscribe to his newsletter. He’s a meditation teacher but he’s one of the best writers. He’s in my membership group. He’s a member of the Inner Circle.

Remember that how you feel today is probably not how you're going to feel tomorrow. Click To Tweet

I read his newsletter and then I meditate. I learned a form of transcendental meditation called Vedic meditation. I pray for the same thing every day and that is because I had a powerful experience during my 6th- and 7th-step. I am riddled with the desire to emotionally punish people. It rules my universe. Every day I have to pray, “Please help me not be punishing because it’s so subtle and insidious and I don’t even know I’m doing it.” I installed this plugin on my mail called Mailbutler and it delays emails ten seconds when you send them so that when I start to write a passive-aggressive thing, I can stop it. It’s amazing. I’ve never been punishing with you.

You have not with me but I can see it. We’ve had enough conversations to where I can see that.

I have to pray not to be judgmental because I’m extremely judgmental, which goes with punishing. I judge and then I decide to punish. I pray not to be jealous because that’s when that’s been creeping up. That’s what I do then I immediately go for the coffee and I go to the computer.

Tell me about your coffee.

I don’t do anything bulletproof or fancy. I have regular Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts coffee, lots of milk, lots of sugar. Standard coffee.

Do you coffee every day?

I do. I feel okay about it. I did increase from 1 cup to 2 but I’m not one of these people who’s like, “Caffeine is ruining my life. Sugar is ruining my life,” gluten, gut issues. I have plenty of physical issues but it’s not that stuff.

Two cups of coffee. I was going to ask you if you drank coffee alcoholically but you answered the question. You went from 1 cup to 2. Are they like 24- or 32-ounce cups?

They’re big. It’s not ideal.

ILBS 21 | Memoir

Memoir: The only way to be really successful in long-term recovery is finding new things and hobbies to do, new interests, and new friends.

 

It is ideal because that’s what you do. There’s no problem.

I don’t have a problem with that. I do get headaches and I bet if I quit caffeine and sugar, I would not get headaches.

If you quit caffeine, at least in the short-term, you wouldn’t have headaches.

After the withdrawal was over, I would not get headaches and I’ll take my little treats where I can get them.

You said you’re not gluten-sensitive. What is your diet like?

It could be better. In the morning, I have a cauliflower tortilla with one egg and some protein. It’s delicious.

Do you make the cauliflower tortilla or do you buy it?

I buy them somewhere.

I’ve never seen cauliflower tortilla. What brand are they?

The universe has a much better and longer plan for you than you have yourself. Click To Tweet

I forget what it’s called but you go to Erewhon, which is this completely overpriced grocery store in Los Angeles. I don’t know if it’s anywhere else. I buy them out and freeze them. I buy 60 at a time. I make a fake pancake, which is an egg, one scoop of no-fat yogurt, one scoop of wheat germ or bran and whisk it together. It’s delicious and then I have a bowl of cereal. I’m a big breakfast person. I have that over a period of a few hours. I’ve had the egg and the cereal but I haven’t had the pancake yet.

Have you picked up a waffle maker yet?

I have a waffle maker.

I made waffle omelets. They were amazing. We do waffle Wednesday at our homes. We do inspections on Monday or Tuesday and whoever gets the best score, me and one of my other admin staff members, go over to the house and we do waffle Wednesday. We went up to the Oasis, which is one of our homes in North Scottsdale. Nina, my program director, said, “They want to do waffle omelets.” I was like, “Let’s check it out.” You can make waffles out of anything. Sure enough, eggs, all the fixings and then you put them in the waffle maker. I went up there and I made an omelet station at a hotel. I put peppers, jalapenos, pam, tomatoes, avocado, mushrooms. I had all this stuff. I whisked it all together, two eggs, all the fixings and then you cook it for two minutes.

I have an avocado and mushroom.

It was amazing. If you want to put cheese on it, after you’re done with it, you can do that. In one of the omelets, I put a little bit of the almond flour and oat flour, which is the mixture that I used to make waffles. I put less than a quarter cup of it in with the eggs and it helped it fluff up. It’s like quiche. The waffles were amazing. I’ll be doing it again.

My boyfriend loves to cook. I’ll have him cook me all this stuff on the weekends when he’s here. I get to eat it all week. He’ll make spaghetti squash, homemade sauce and meatballs. I can have that all week, steak, chicken, we got an air fryer. That’s a big thing, air frying chicken. That’s how I eat. I’m a big fan of Kettle Korn and having a little chocolate every day.

To people walking away from this, what message do you want them to have heard in our talk?

One of the most efficient ways to help other people is to write your story out and share it with them. Click To Tweet

If you are toying with the idea of getting sober, know that it’s nothing like you expect it to be. Whatever these expectations are, they’re wrong. Remember that how you feel now is not how you’re going to feel tomorrow. If you walk into a meeting or go log on to a Zoom meeting and think, “This sucks. These people are freaks. I’ll never come back here.” Those feelings can change. If you are sober and wondering why you don’t have all the things you want, that’s happened to me many times. It’s always when I forget that I’m impatient and that the universe has a much better and longer plan for me than I have for myself. If you think, “Why did I have to be an alcoholic? Why did I have to have trauma? Why did I have to go through this?”

Perhaps, it is so that you can help somebody else. One of the most efficient ways to help other people is to write your story out and share it with them. You can help people globally rather than one-on-one. You deserve to tell your story. People will always say to me, “There are many addiction recovery members out there. My story is not that special.” I say, “My story is not interesting and I’ve made it into eight books and dozens, if not hundreds of articles.” You’ve got a story, share it and keep doing what you’re doing. Stay sober. Live the dream.

It is living the dream and I can attest to that. You can attest to that.

It’s a life far bigger than I ever could have imagined.

How can people find you? What was the name of your podcast?

It’s called Build Your Business With A Book. Everything is on Launch Pad Pub but if anybody is thinking, “I want to write a book but I don’t want to be broke,” they can go to BookBuildBiz.com and find out, “How have I been able to build a seven-figure business by writing a book?” Go do all the things that we do for our $60,000 clients. That is available. That’s the best way. I’m also on Instagram @AnnaBDavid and the places. I’m at Clubhouse.

I’m at Clubhouse too. I still haven’t figured it out. I get notifications all day long, though.

Thanks so much, Tim. Thank you for having me here.

Anna, thank you so much. I’m grateful that you got to spend time with us. Thanks for reading and I hope you have a wonderful day.

Important links: 

About Anna David

ILBS 21 | MemoirAnna David transforms entrepreneurial thought leaders into bestselling authors so they can attract higher-quality clients, become go-to media sources, land speaking gigs and grow into being the leaders in their field.

New York Times bestselling author of eight books, David has shared the stage with Tony Robbins and has spoken at three different TEDx events, all of which are featured on the TED site. For over a decade, she’s toured colleges around the country, speaking and educating students about alcoholism, relationships and writing.

She’s written for The New York Times, Time and The LA Times, as well as many publications without the word “Time” in their title. She has appeared repeatedly on The Today Show, Good Morning America, The Talk and The CBS Morning Show, among others, been written about in publications like Forbes, Entrepreneur and Women’s Health. 

Her first book, Party Girl, has been repeatedly optioned for film and TV, most recently by the producer of Scorsese’s The Irishman.

Over a decade ago, The New York Post declared that she invented the subgenre “chick lit with a message” and she’s still trying to decide if she should be offended by that or not. In the meantime, she obsesses over helping her clients achieve from their books what she’s achieved from hers.

Get Comfortably Uncomfortable: Coming Back From Addiction To A Season Record Holder With Darren Waller

ILBS 20 Darren Waller | Season Record Holder

 

They say all addiction stems from trauma. For Darren Waller, it’s the mindset he carried of having to constantly prove himself to those around him, even if it meant going down the wrong path. At 16, he started smoking, drinking, and doing drugs. In this episode, he joins Tim Westbrook to share with us his comeback story, his journey to recovery, and how he found peace and purpose in his life. Darren takes us through the highs and lows in his life—how he went from being arrested, getting suspended in college and NFL (including a yearlong ban in 2017), going to rehab, and working at Sprouts to going back to the practice squad to back to back 1,000-yard seasons, the Pro Bowl, and becoming the all-time single-season record holder for receptions in a season in Raiders history. Follow along this conversation to learn how Darren pulled himself back from the dark place he found himself in, got comfortable with the uncomfortable road to sobriety, and took off the mask that has been keeping him from truly living life as it should be.  

Watch the episode here:

Listen to the podcast here:

Get Comfortably Uncomfortable: Coming Back From Addiction To A Season Record Holder With Darren Waller 

We started this show because there’s so much misinformation about addiction treatment, mental illness and recovery in general. There’s so much more to recovery than going to inpatient treatment, seeing a therapist and going to twelvestep meetings. Those things are important and AA saved my life. However, to find long-term recovery and live happy, joyous and free, there’s a lot more to it than just stopping the drinking, stopping the drugs or stopping any addictive behavior for that matter. To live a new life, a person needs to learn new healthy lifestyle habits. Those are the types of things that we talk about here on this show. We talk about addiction treatment, recovery, twelve steps and we bring guests on the show that have gone through recovery and have made it out the other side.  

I’m here with Las Vegas Raiders, Darren Waller, to talk about his struggles with addiction along with his comeback story. Darren Waller was born in Landover, Maryland and raised in suburban Atlanta, Georgia. He was involved in a lot as a kid including football, basketball, baseball and tennis. He graduated from North Cobb High School in 2011 and earned a Business Degree from Georgia Tech in 2014. He was drafted by the Baltimore Ravens as a wide receiver in the 6th round of the 2015 NFL draft. He went from being arrested three times, suspended multiple times in college and the NFL, which included a one-year long ban in 2017.  

Once you get used to drugs, you build up tolerance and stamina. Click To Tweet

He got cut. He went to rehab and after that got a job working at Sprouts, the grocery store. He was back on the practice field and that led to back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons, the Pro Bowl and an all-time single season record holder for receptions in a season in Raiders history. I’m so grateful and excited to have Darren here with me on the show to learn his comeback story. We’re going to talk about his journey to find recovery, how he found peace, his purpose in life and how his messy life became his message. Darren, welcome to the show. I’m grateful to have you here.  

Thank you for having me. I love what you’re doing. 

Shout out to Donny Starkins. Donny Starkins is a good friend of mine and Donny introduced us. He thought we might be a good fit. We’re here, I’m super excited and I know a lot of people out there are excited to know your story. What happened? First, tell me what it was like for you growing up as a kid in Maryland. You grew up in Maryland. You grew up in Atlanta, Georgia. 

I was born in Maryland but when I was a baby, we moved to Colorado for a couple of years but all I remember is growing up in GeorgiaWe got there when I was five years old. Growing up there for me was great on paperI had both my parents, they’re still together to this day, a great neighborhood. I had an older sister. I never experienced any kind of violence, trauma or negativity from my parents. They were always encouraging and challenging us to be great without being overbearingThey let us try new things and experiment. I went to good schools. The thing that was tough for me was I started going out, hanging out with the kids in my neighborhood because they were doing the things I like to do. They all happened to be white but they were my friends because they were cool and I liked hanging out with them.   

You didn’t grow up in a broken household, homeless or halfway on the street. You grew up in a normal house. Your parents are still married and you had one sibling?   

Yes. I had an older sister. 

Tell me what happened from there.   

These are great kids in my neighborhood that I was hanging out with. The thing that came from it was all the kids that looked like meother black kids like me, I started getting made fun of for it. They were telling me I wasn’t black enough and that I was white. Those things hurt me from elementary school. It made me think that something was wrong with me by the way that I acted or the people that I associated with. From then on, it became tough for me to view myself without thinking something was wrong with me. That carried on up into middle school. You see the guys that were popular with the girls and everyone wanted to hang around and be around them. They were the complete opposite of me. They were loud and bravado type, try to be cool and impose their will, whereas me I was quietsensitive, I cared a lot about what people thought. I felt I had to be like those guys and be the complete opposite of me in order to be accepted.  

When did you first realize that you were being treated differently by other people? You grow up and you have other kids that “look like you.” They were making fun of you and telling you that you weren’t black enough and that you were too white. That’s traumatic.   

That was the end of elementary school, at the beginning of middle school, it was that early 9, 10, 11 years old when I was already feeling hurt by it.   

They say all addiction stems from traumaI can only imagine how you must have felt as a 9yearold kid, 10yearold kid and being made fun of that.   

I carry that mindset all the way through college and even into the NFL, I still felt myself having to do these outlandish things to impress other people or to be accepted by other people. After doing the work, I traced it all the way back to when I was little and the pain that I felt from that, I still was trying to overcompensate for several years down the road.   

You clearly played sports from a young age. Were you always one of the top players on any of the teams that you ever played?   

I was good out of the gate. I started when I was four and I was naturally good at it, all the sports I played. That continued all the way through middle school. Once we hit high school, people started growing a lot faster than I did. I wasn’t always bigger than everyone else. There was 9th grade and 10th grade yearI was the smallest person on every team that I played on. These guys are getting bigger and hitting the weights. I was riding the bench on the football my freshman year. When I did get out there, I would get hurt because I was frail physically so I had a lot of injuries. People will make fun of me, I always had a cast on or I wasn’t built for this.  

I had a coach who told me I should play a non-contact sport because I couldn’t stay healthy and I was small. That was 9th and 10th-grade year. At that timeI was already feeling down about myself. Being in the South that if I played football and was good at football, that would be my way to impress people. They would accept me. The fact that football wasn’t going well or other sports for that matter, it was like, I don’t feel like I have anything else to offer. I don’t have anything else to get these people to like me or approve of me.   

Around that time when I was fifteen, my sophomore year, I remember I had friends, I was over at their house and they pulled some pills out of their parents’ medicine cabinet. They were like, Try this, it’ll make you feel good.” At that time, I remember I was like, “I’m not going to drink or do drugs.” At that time, I was like, “I don’t feel good. I would like to feel good.” I tried it and from that time I knew that was what I wanted to do or that was how I wanted to feel. It started from there. I probably started smoking and drinking when I was sixteen.  

ILBS 20 Darren Waller | Season Record Holder

Season Record Holder: At the time, drugs were my friend. Anxiety was subsiding long enough for me to go out there, perform, and not care about what people thought.

 

To your point, it’s a solution to the pain. You just wanted to feel better.  

It started every now and then with the pills and then it was every weekend then it was during the week, a couple of days because I was good at school and I had a high GPA so I could do these things and get away with it without it hurting my performance. As I continue to do that, it became almost every other day. At that time, it was weird because once I started doing drugs, my life got better in a weird way. I started growing. With growing, there became a spot on the football team and the basketball team. With being a main player on those teams, people want to be my friend and girls like to hang around me. I was thinking, “All this started because I started doing drugs.” Doing the drugs, it eased my anxiety and made me feel calmer but it also could be in friend groups that I wanted to be with cool people. I was like, “It’s making my life so much better ever since I started doing drugs. I’m never going to give this up. This is how I’m going to live life.   

You said that you had a bunch of injuries. Were you not playing sports for a couple of years? Did you take a break around 15, 16 years old?   

When I was fifteen, my second year, I had a lingering elbow injury from baseball. I played 1 or 2 games of football and it made my elbow that much worse. I had to have surgery on it. I was out for around nine monthsI was out for a good amount of time from that injury. I didn’t have much to do. That’s what led me around that crowd and got me into experimenting with drugsI was outI had a cast on for a long time, a sling, this thing on my elbow. I felt down about myself at that time.   

You started experimenting with drugs. When were you cleared to get back on the field and start playing again?   

The spring of summer right before going into my junior season. In that time, I had a crazy growth where I went from 5’9 to 6’2 over the summer. I came back. That’s what made things different. It gave me opportunities. They saw me and my new stature and the coaches wanted to put me inI started lifting. By the time I got healthy again, I was so fed with people saying I was weak and frailI went to one of the strength coaches that were there. He helped me with all my form and was pushing me. I was getting stronger and was able to handle the beating of playing football and multiple sports on top of that. By that time, I was ready. At the time, drugs were my friend. The anxiety was subsiding long enough for me to go out there and perform and not care about what people thought or so I thought at the time. I thought that I had the recipe for success at that point. No one was going to stop me or anything. 

I also remember my junior year, I got kicked off the basketball team. That was one of the first consequences from using that stuff because there was a situation where I was high at the time but there are these guys on my football team that wanted to throw rocks and bust people’s windows out. I was like, “I’ll drive for you all because I wanted to be a part of that. They looked at me like, “He’s cool. He was the getaway driver.” It was in the neighborhood next to my parent’s neighborhood, which is a great plan of action. While they were doing it, I was in the street, waiting. Somebody got my license plate and gave it to the police.  

I remember coming home one day from basketball practice and my parents were like, “The police came by today looking for you. You need to turn yourself in.” I remember I was like, “Dang, at first but after that, it was like, “People are going to think I’m cool for getting arrested.” I already was not even considering that drugs or alcohol was the problem. It was like, “No, there was some credibility that I was going to get from it. I didn’t know at that time I was already starting to rationalize my actions and my habits so early and that could have risked going to college. It eventually got swept under the rug but it cost my parents a lot of money and disappointment. Now, it’s the beginning of all that kind of stuff.   

I can relate. As a high school kid, even younger than that, I got in lots of trouble as well. It goes with the territory. It’s like the alcoholic behavior. The lying, cheating, stealing starts even before the crazy addiction progresses and gets to its worst point. What I’m hearing is that you were a chameleon. You were an athlete, you got good grades, you were in the band.  

I was in the middle school band but I quit because I was laying when I got to high school.   

You were an athlete, you’re in the band, you were smart in school, you were getting good gradesgetting in fights, and getting in trouble. You had probably many different groups of friends and you could change on a dime. You could fit in wherever you wanted to.   

Putting on a different mask, depending upon who you're spending time with, can become your main coping mechanism. Click To Tweet

It was like I had different masks for every time I was around all of those groups. I was trying to be tougher when I was around athletes or guys that were getting in trouble a lot with everyone else around. There were certain classesAP classes and advanced classes where I was the only person that looked like me in there. I had to get my stuff together while I’m in there. I can’t slip at all. I had to have my perfectionist mask on in thereI can’t do any wrong there. Everywhere I went, it got exhaustinearly on but I felt like it was something that I had to do.   

Once you get used to it, just like anything, you build up a tolerance and stamina so switching, putting on a different mask depending upon who you’re spending time with becomes something that you do.   

It became my main mechanism of coping and navigating life for probably the next ten years.   

Do you think that as you were growing up, were you ever authentic or did you always have a mask on?   

If I was authentic, it was rare. It came out at times. There are people that I still know from that time that saw flashes of the real me because they could still see some of it in me now. It was few and far in between because I’m so caught up in being the stage character everywhere I went. I didn’t feel at some point who I was. I was going to get exposed, laughed at, talked about. I couldn’t deal with that. Anything people would say about me or the potential of what they could say about me crushed me to the point where I was, “No, I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing and keep blending in.”   

That’s tough, you’re 9 or 10 years old because it sounds like you grew up and you’re a sensitive kida goodquiet kid and then you got crushed.  

From that, the definitions of what a man should be I know internallyI felt like my qualities were feminine in a way. I felt like I wasn’t what man should be. It was like, “I have to do everything differently. I can’t be me. I have to be somebody else.” Those were seeds that I was planting that I thought I could get out of in a quick amount of time but it’s still taking work to get out of those mindsets.   

You graduate from high school and you end up at Georgia Tech. When did you realize that you wanted to focus on sports and a professional athlete?   

I don’t even know if I truly wanted to play sports after high school. I got so entrenched in trying to upkeep the image of being an athleteI finally got that. I thought that was what I wanted but it caused so much war and anxiety because I feel like I had to please many people and represent where I was from. I didn’t love football like that. I loved the results of football and that gave me and the status that gave me around people because I was seeking that from when I was younger. I didn’t have dreams of being a professional athlete. I was enamored by the NFL and classic films of those guys but I never thought that I could get there.   

ILBS 20 Darren Waller | Season Record Holder

Season Record Holder: We’re not just meant to learn things and then keep them to ourselves. We’re meant to give it away. We only keep what we have by giving it away.

 

I didn’t have a lot of scholarship offers, I had a few and even Georgia Tech, in a way, forced my hand. I remember at the camp, the coaches are like, “If you don’t commit now, we’ll take your scholarship and give it to somebody else. I was like, “I need to commit now.” I was also one of the lowestrated recruits in the recruiting class. I didn’t have those big dreams. I just felt like I had to continue on that path because at some point I’ll be happy with it. It was the success formula. It was likeI’m an athlete. Women are going to be after me or I could make money and then I’ll be happy.” I was prescribing to somebody else’s definition of happiness and not mine. I was expecting these external results to make me feel good on the inside but I was going about it the opposite way.   

You were seeking fulfillment and it wasn’t happening. You ended up at Georgia Tech. What was it like being in college?  

From the moment that I stepped on campus, it was like, “I have to prove myself here.” At that time, I was already well into my addiction as far as how much I was drinking, how much I was using. As soon as I stepped on campus, I remember within 30 minutes of my parents leaving the dorm room when I first moved in, there were older players out in the dorm and they kicked our door in and had liquor bottles. They were like, “Freshmen, you’ve all got to represent, show that youre tough.” I was like, “This is the perfect entry point for me right here. I’ll go out there. I put myself out there. From there on, I go wherever they go. Always people are in frat parties. Wherever we go, if you go out to bars, everywhere I go, it’s a proving ground. I’m going to outdrink people. I’m going to out pop, out snort, out anything people because I know they’ll accept me for that. I know people love football player at parties and the football player that’s out there and chasing women. It was like that 5, 6 days out the week from Jump Street as soon as I got on campus 

Football took a back seat because I felt like that young freshmen sophomore again. When I was back in high school, I was like, “I was the lowestrated recruit. I’m not going to play. I’m just here to get an education so I’m hereI’m going to have fun and I’m going to go crazy.” Football wasn’t a priority. I was going through the motions there and started going through motions with school. School wasn’t a priority because my using became such a priority. Every single moment of the day that I had the opportunity to use, I was using. Everything else suffered.  

What was your drug of choice? 

It was Oxys, Percocets first, alcohol, weed, Xanax and cocaine.   

Were you a blackout drinker?   

Yes, I’m blacking out every weekend almost. If not every weekend, every other weekend.   

How did that affect your performance on the field?   

You really have to take care of your body and mind in order to take yourself to that next level. Click To Tweet

At the time I could still run fastlifting weights and getting stronger but looking back, I didn’t feel like I was more injury prone back then. I couldn’t go for long periods of time. I could make it through a day but it was the wear and tear of a season, I would be exhausted from this. My performance suffered and mentally the most because I wasn’t doing the preparation that it took to handle that load mentally. Also, the Xs and Os of things, I wasn’t on top of any of that because that takes extra time outside of the building to hone those details. I was spending that time getting lit as possible.   

When did you realize you had a problem with drugs and alcohol?   

Probably my sophomore year because I got to a point where I was trying to hide everything from everyone. I didn’t want to be around people that weren’t like me. I was getting so lit. I was throwing up places, passing out, messing my body like scars on my face from falling. I grew farther and farther away from my family and friends that I had grown up with. I was completely isolated and sad all the time, depressed. At that point I knew something isn’t right but I always justify it with like, “I was doing something wrong. At some point I’m going to be happy if I don’t mess this up. I have to stay the course on what I’m doing and then I’ll be happy and my life would be fulfilling.   

When did you decide that you wanted to do something about it? Did you ever try to get clean and sober while you were in college?   

I stopped for six months once but that was only because I failed a drug test and they sent me to an outpatient program where I’ll go to for three nights a week for two hours. I wanted to get the school and the administration off my back. I stopped for a little while but then I proved to myselfI was like, “I can stop at any time.” My willpower. I went right back to it after those six months because I felt like I could get over on everyone and fool everybody.  

You whiteknuckled it for six months?   

Yes. 

How did you feel during that period of time? That’s clean and sober, not working a program. There’s a big difference between working a program and digging into the trauma. Life is amazing and we’re going to get to that because life is a lot different now than it was when you whiteknuckled it.   

It’s funnyI don’t want to look too far ahead but the first six months that I was clean like my clean date now. My first six months I was clean and sober but I was envious, irritable, my defects were flamingI was clean and everything but it was like, “I still feel bad. I still don’t feel great. I don’t feel anewI don’t feel these promises but I wasn’t doing any work. I was just clean.” The drugs and alcohol are just symptom, which is what I learned after that. That’s not the real problem because I take that away, that’s great. I’m improving a little bit but the real problems are still there.   

Let’s fast forward. You ended up getting drafted in 2015. At what point did you realize, I got a shot at making it to the NFL?”   

My junior yearI kept getting better and better on the field as time went along in college. People would say that, “You could go to the league.” I didn’t believe it because I didn’t have confidence in myself. My junior year, I was making plays in big gamespeople were saying like, “You can go to the league. There would be NFL scouts at our practices watching me go through drillsI didn’t believe it was possible because I didn’t have that confidence. I’m a human being out on that field. When I’m off the field, I’m lying about everything and stealing stuffnot being a great person or the person that I can be that’s going to carry over my performance on the field. I can’t just flip a switch and my mentality is positive now. I ended up getting drafted despite suspensions and probably should have been getting kicked out of school because it was the test that I failed and getting arrested again while I was there. I still ended up getting drafted because of my skillsetif it developed into something, it was a skillset that not a lot of people had.   

Were you a hard worker on the field?   

I didn’t become a hard worker on the field until I started working in recovery. Before that, at the bare minimum, I would go a little extra sometimes but it was only to give off the impression that I was going the extra mile.   

You ended up getting drafted and you’re playing for the Baltimore Ravens. What was your first year like?   

ILBS 20 Darren Waller | Season Record Holder

Season Record Holder: You can’t rest on what you did yesterday or carry what you did today into tomorrow. You just have to be in the moment, be consistent, and continue to maintain a positive attitude about the experience.

 

I remember I got there in the spring and do the OTA practices and all that and how exhausted I was out of the gate. The weight of playing football to impress people and to continue to put off this image increased exponentially by getting to the NFL from where it was in high school and college. It wore me out. I remember I couldn’t catch a cold in Alaska butt naked in those practices, I was psyching myself out. I was lining up and I was like, “Don’t drop this off. You’re going to drop this.” When on the route with the ball with your side, I couldn’t catch anything. I was over it and wanting to quit after two months of being drafted. Those are things that you don’t hear. I want it to be done that quick but eventually, I made the team because they saw improvement in me. I got hurt seven games into my rookie season and I was on injured reserve. When you go on into injured reserve, you’re not in the building like that. I was in the building until noon and then the rest of the day I was by myself because I’m not a part of the team. I do my work and go home. I’m not in the locker room or in the huddles or around veterans that can pour into meI’m just at home. Me in a room by myself with a mental state that I was in was not a good thing. I was going out into the streets and started to find what I could find and making relationships out there and they were not the good company.   

NFL versus high school versus college, how much more pressure or how much better were the players? How much faster was the ball thrown? How much harder was it? Were you blown away or was it a little step up? How big was the step from college football up to the NFL even on the practice field?   

There was a little bit of both. As far as physicality, it was a big step. As far as the mental load of the playbook and the schemes, it was a big step but I feel like the actual playing of the game wasn’t that big of a step. It was still football at the end of the day. The players were more talented in the college level and they hit harder, but I feel like more of the big step was in you having to take care of your body and mind in order to take yourself to that next level. Everybody’s good, everybody’s talented at that point but those that are driven intrinsicallyhave purpose, and are caring for themselves mentally and spiritually, those are the ones that rise above.  

Tell me about the problems in the NFL. 

Towards the end of my second season, I was debating quitting. I went to the coaching staff and was like, I don’t like feel me being here is for my health.” I was finally starting to get a little bit of clarity and being marginally honest with the coaching staff about what was going on. I still remember all this time that I wanted that approval. I went to them when I was quitting with hopes of them saying like, “No, stay. They were like, “That’s okay, just let us know your decision. That crushed me. I wanted them to want me after all the stints that I had done 

After that, I was like, “Forget this. I also tore my labrum. I’m like, “The next game I could tell them that.” finished playing through a season through that. I was like, “That’s it. I’m going to put it into this myself. I remember the mindset of I’m going to fail every drug test on purpose just to legally put me out of my misery and I won’t look like a quitter. There would be some coolness to me, crashing and burning off of drugs and knowing I had potential, I could have been something instead of saying I quit because I feared what people thought, I feared what they would have said if I were to step away from the game. I didn’t want to have to go through what people might say about me. I’d rather put my body in harm’s way and almost kill myself so I didn’t have to face what the potential of what people could say about me, so I did that.  

Was that subconscious at the time? 

Growth and comfort are opposites. Click To Tweet

Yes. I’m rehabbing my shoulder with the team. Once my shoulders rehabbed, that should be around the time where they would suspend me for a year. That’s what happenedI remember I had to practice for a month before I got suspended. I was like, I’m sure to go out there and play and not care about what anybody thinks. I’m going to go out there and try to have fun because this is going to be the last football I ever playI’m not going to play football again. It was like practicing, I was hot and there was nobody there, no cameras, no lights. At that moment, that was the most fun I had playing football since I was a kid because I was not trying to impress people. I was like, “I’m going to go out on a good note.”  

I was playing with a sense of urgency because I knew football wasn’t promised to me after that. By the time the suspension got handed out, I was likeI was just getting to like football. I could play free of expectations and people’s opinionsI could enjoy the game but that suspension hit. I was out and I was depressed from that. Instead of getting help and turning my life around like I said I would, I kept using and my using increased over the first two months of me being suspended, which led up to the main event that made me want to change.  

Tell me about the main event and the crash and burn.   

I was going back to Baltimore. This was August 11th, 2017. I was going to move out of my apartment because I was suspended the whole year and didn’t want to spend money on renting somewhere else, I’m moving back with my parents. I got there the day before my dad got there. I was like, “I’m going to get high here one last time.” I went and picked up some pills and thinking that they were what I usually got. They were like fentanylI had taken them and was pulling up to this grocery store and I was right up the street from my apartment and right near the practice facility for the Ravens. We’re pulling in the parking lot. I was about to hop out like normal. I couldn’t get out because if I got out, I would have thrown up everywhere and it would’ve caused a scene. I would have fainted probably. I was like, “I’m going to sit in the car until I feel a little better in maybe in a few minutes.” Maybe 30 minutes passed by. I remember it was like somebody pulled a power plug and I woke up and it was nighttime. I was sweating, cold and out of it 

ILBS 20 Darren Waller | Season Record Holder

Season Record Holder: The recovery process is where you learn and grow the most and gain the things that really make your life what it is and make it feel like it has a purpose.

 

At the time I thought I took a nap. I was high but it was how tired and defeated I felt but the next day I thought I could be something more. It was like an overdose. That could’ve been over for me and that was scary enough as I processed it over the next few hours and into the next day. I was like, “It’s been a ride and I’ve been trusted it but now these drugs are not my friends anymore. It was my friend. It was the key to peace, making friends and having a good time but now it’s none of that anymore. It scared me enough to be like, “I’m not in control anymore.” I thought I had control over it but I have no control whatsoever. Since that day, I haven’t used it from there. After that, I was honest with my parents for the first time and honest with the league. My parents shared my family history with me and was saying like, “Your family has been doing the same thing generation after generation. Are you going to continue to look at that and act like it’s not the truth and continue to do what you’re doing? Are you going to be the person that changes that?” The overdose and my family talking to me like that was enough for me to change and willingly go to rehab.   

Sounds like you have a caring, loving family. That approach sounds like it was effective and helpful. That was the moment that was the turning point for you?   

There was a little bit of push back on my behalf for the rehab at first. Eventually I was like, “I need to learn new skills and new habits and put myself in an uncomfortable situation for once. My comfort zone isn’t doing a lot for me right now. I went to a detox place for four days and then I went to a rehab in Maine at this place called McLean Hospital Borden Cottage. I’d never been to Maine before but it was one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been first off. Second off, the rehab experience was incredible. I remember when we first got there, we went to a meeting the first day and I was terrified. I looked at the way people were speaking and talking about the steps and all the literature they were reading, I was like, “What is this place? How’s this even possible? I was sitting in the back, quiet, listening and taking it all in. I was like, “It’s going to probably take me a while before I’m in here sharing and laughing and smiling.” I was there I’m sweating. I’m looking around. I don’t know what’s going on but I kept going back. The sharing one-on-one with the counselors there and the other patients like me, the people like me that were there and sharing amongst them, that was the first time I’d ever been honest in my life. First time I’ve ever been open and talking about these things. It’s like you feel an instant relief 

There’s still work to be done so I went into a new foundation but like the first couple of times I shared, I was like, “This is what’s cool to me. This is something I want to be a part ofI could feel the unity inside of me, my body, my mind and my spirit. Yes, keep doing this.” I stuck with that and learned how to meditate there. I got a lot of tools to the point when it came to an end, I was like, “I don’t even know if I want to go home. I feel safe here. I feel here is a place where I can continue to grow and be safe. I remember someone shared there, they were like, “We don’t learn these things to stay here. We learn these things so we can go back into the world and impact the world in a positive way because we’re not meant to learn all this stuff and then keep to ourselves. We’re meant to give it away. We only keep what we have by giving it away. That was the first time I heard that. First off, that makes no sense but then it clicked and I was like, “It’s more about giving than what I can get. 

God would provide His will. He would put you in a situation where you could improve your life and of the others around you.   Click To Tweet

As they say, it’s like sober living, “You should stay until you’re afraid to leave. Being in treatment, you’re there, you’re comfortable. At first you probably were uncomfortable. You didn’t want to be there or a lot of people, they don’t want to be there and then you get comfortable there, you’re afraid to leave and that’s when it’s time to go.   

I thought growth and comfort are opposites because when there’s comfort, there’s a tendency to kick your feet up and coast a little bit. Whereas when you’re uncomfortable, that’s where you’re straining like there’s pressure being put on you but good pressure is hard work that requires everything in you to muster up the courage, strength, and the energy to accomplish these tasks. When you do accomplish those tasks, light bulbs go off and you feel an authentic confidence and resiliency in yourself.  

When I left there, I was afraid but my family helped me out and stepped in, they were like, “We have an idea.” One of the people that they went to church with was a store manager at Sprouts Farmers Market. They’re like, “We feel like you could benefit from having structure. When you have structureyou can be on top of things.” With continuing to want meetings and working out every now and thenMy ego inside of me was deflating. I remember I was like, “I could be an assistant store manager. They were like, “We need a grocery clerk.” I went with itI already had humility from the experience up to that point and going to rehab.  

I was like, “I’ll do it. I have enough humility to come in here and work. It ended up being a great experience from teaching me to work and not expect a round of applause or crowds of 80,000 people clapping for me when I did my jobIt felt good and a sense of respect for myself for doing my job and went home. That lesson was valuable, which is serving people even if they weren’t necessarily nice to me or they made jokes about why I was being and how I wasn’t on the field. I saw girls in there I used to talk to and they would see me in there and I’ll try to hide. I learned many lessons in that time. I’m grateful for that experience.   

ILBS 20 Darren Waller | Season Record Holder

Season Record Holder: You can have a comeback story of your own, no matter how low your low is. You have the power, the tools, and the skills inside to rise above.

 

I can only imagine. It’s one of the things that we always say to newcomers is, “Just take suggestions. I’ve seen it and I’m sure you’ve seen it too where people think they’re better than, they have a big, high powered job, they make a ton of money, they’re executives, professional athletes and working at grocery store is beneath them. I drove for Uber for a while. It was the best thing I did. You’re not having people clapping for you when you’re driving around someone in an UberI can’t imagine how valuable that experience was for you and being able to put your ego aside and do your job.   

That was incredible for me. When I got reinstated into the league, I got back to the Ravens. I thought I’ve got a good perspective going in but part of my mind was like, “I’m going to give an opportunity to bounce back.” I thought my opportunity was going to come immediately but I got cut in training camp because they’d drafted two young Titans who were good players. They cut me and put me on practice squad. That was another body blow to the ego right there but that was necessary. I was back on the practice squad and I was like, “I could take from the Sprouts experience likeI’m here to serve. There’s this theme of service that God is trying to teach me.   

The Tennessee Titans at the time were the number one defense in the league. I was like, “If I can make plays against them, there’s no one in this league that I can’t make plays against.” It got to a point where it was routinely making plays, routinely going up top. People were like, “Scout team players shouldn’t be doing this.” I felt good about it but it’s about consistency at this point. I can’t rest on what I did yesterday or carry what I did today into tomorrow. I have to be in the moment and be consistent and continue to maintain a positive attitude about this experience.   

It went almost 2/3 of the season. I remember seeing Titans were getting hurt around the league but no one hit up my agent to try to get me. I was like, “I’ve got to stick with it. There was one week where I was down and it was the week the Raiders were playing the Raiders. I was like, “I don’t know if it’s going to happen. It’s Thanksgiving now. It was the Sunday after Thanksgiving.” Right before the game, we always have this extra workout routine I would do on the field when everybody else went to the locker room to get their pads on because I wasn’t suiting up.  

For meconsistently doing that hours where some of the Raiders coaches saw me working out and were like, “Who is that guy? They signed me randomly. If I wasn’t doing the work and doing the reps that I needed to be doing to even be seen in that moment, I wouldn’t be sitting where I am now. I learned that from recovery and doing the work there and planting the seeds that wouldn’t grow immediately but at some point, God would provide. His will would put me in a situation to where I could improve my life and improve lives around me.   

Putting yourself in uncomfortable situations requires you to trust what God is doing in your life and believe in the plan He has for you. Click To Tweet

I was at a meeting talking with some friends and one of the things we talked about was the long game. Prior to being in recovery, we want things now. I want things now and I’m inpatient. However, what I’ve realized is that I do things now and the results may or may not come later but it’s putting in the work now, it’s doing the hard work now. As they say, “Life is easy if you live it the hard way and hard if you live ithe easy way. You do the hard things now. You have the hard conversations now. You put in the work now. The result that may come tomorrow, next week, next month or in six months but it’s not being attached to the result. You weren’t attached to any result. Therefore, you weren’t getting beat down and disappointed, you were just doing your work.   

I feel like we want results but if somebody worked to give us the result right when we wanted it, we would even appreciate it like that. Through the process is where you learn and grow the most and gain the things that make your life what it is, make it feel like it has purpose because then when the results come, you reflect. I felt like my greatest gift now is the ability to reflect on where I was and what it took to get to where I am now, not the things that I have now. I’m grateful for recovery teaching me that. It’s still in my brain because I was hard wired to, I want things now. I want things to fall into my lap with me doing the least work possible.” I know for me to enjoy my life, that’s not a mindset that I can go forward with.   

How has your recovery journey enhanced your life?   

It’s allowed me to have more intimate relationships with people like my family. I could be more honest with them. I don’t have to necessarily hide anything from them or lie anymore. I can tell the truth and live with the results and experience the love that I have with them. It’s allowed me to be a more reliable employee. I was never reliable before I came into recovery. I was very erratic. I would do some good things sometimes but I wouldn’t put in the work or lay a true foundation to be consistent or to be someone that people can look at it and be like, “I trust that guy. He is going to be there giving it an honest effort day in and day out.”  

It’s helped me on my music journey. I enjoy making music and it’s allowed me to create without fear but also to create something with substance and realize that everything that I do or that comes out of my mouth, it can be wholesome and beneficial or help someone in their situation. It’s helped me become a lot less self-centered, a lot more honest and open-minded to the idea that me serving myself and getting what I can get is not what’s going to make life work. It’s not what’s going to make it meaningful to me. If I make it about other people and how I can make the world around me betterthat’s where that best feeling comes from. I feel like that’s where recovery has taught me the most.   

That’s how you find fulfillment is being of service, being meaningful, helping another person. Prior to getting on this journey of recovery, what we think is that we need to lie, cheat and steal and we need people to clap for us in order to feel good. That’s not even fulfillment. It’s so surface level and it doesn’t last for longer than a second. If we want true fulfillment, we have to be of service. We have to give it away to receiveWhen did you realize that life was better, clean and sober and being on this journey? You can probably relate to this, it’s like, “I’m never going to be able to drink again. I’m never going to be able to do drugs again. What am I going to do when I’m at a concert? What am I going to do when I’m watching a football gameWhat am I going to do because drinking and drugs were involved in all of the other activities?”  

ILBS 20 Darren Waller | Season Record Holder

Season Record Holder: Surrender the outcomes and the results of things. Be okay with putting one foot in front of the other and just immerse yourself in the process, making it less about what you can gain but more about what you can give to those around you.

 

I was jealous and envious of people that could still do all those things my first six months of recovery. I wasn’t working any steps. I was just going to meetingsI got a sponsor around the six-month mark and I started working the steps. Once I started working the steps and putting pen to paper, things start to open up. From thereI remember times where I was at Sprouts like, “I had dropped this gallon of apple cider that was in a glass jar on the floor on the busiest day, on a Saturday in the store. Complete goofball move.  

I was mopping it up and picking the glass up. People were looking at me crazy and laughing but I remember at that time I was like, “I feel better about myself here at Sprouts. I’m making $11.62 an hour and I’m going to meetings. I feel better here than I did when I was in the NFL making six figures a year and people were in and of this with me in my position, I feel way better here.” In that moment where I look like a fool but I was there and I was like, “I’m honestly here trying to do the best that I can with what I have in the situation that I’m in.” It was a weird moment but a light bulb went off. I was like, “I feel way better here. It’s the complete opposite of what most people would think but it wasn’t about what other people thought anymore. Right around the six-month mark in recovery is where it started to change. Before that, the thinking and the behavior was stagnant but from there, it was up from there.   

Were you taking suggestions in your first six months?   

No. I go into the meetingI’ll listen and be like, “That was good. They say“That was real. I felt that before.” I wouldn’t do the extra after that like go talk to them about that and how I felt about that and get a phone number. It goes to meet and sit there and I was like, “This is what I’m supposed to be doing. Let me check this box off. Instead of, “What can I get out of this?” It’s, How can I pick these people’s brain or get around them and feel that fellowship and have that nourish me?” I was still in that isolation mindset because I was still that guy that I wanted to hide everything from everyone. I didn’t want them to think about me what I thought about myself. It took me six months to realize in those meeting rooms that people weren’t there to look at me that way or to judge me in that capacity. They were there because they knew how I felt. I was like, “Nobody knows what I’m feeling or nobody understands me.” I was in a room with people that understood me for six months and wasn’t seeking to build anything with them. God was trying to help me realize more, in that timehow my willpower wasn’t enough, how my idea of living and controlling things wasn’t going to sustain me for where he was trying to take me.   

You say growth and comfort can’t go together. Explain that to me. What does that mean to you?   

I feel like growth and comfort are opposites because when you’re in a comfortable place, in a comfortable zone, you want to stay there. You don’t care about how much higher you can go because you want that good feeling, that safe space of security. As people, we want security and to have clarity. Whereas, if you put yourself in uncomfortable situations, you may not have that clarity but it also requires you to trust what God is doing in your life and believe in the plan that he has from you. If you trust those uncomfortable situations, those are what’s going to challenge you to work your mind and your spirit and challenge it daily because when you challenge it daily, that builds strength 

If you’re lifting weights and you get stronger by lifting heavier, that’s not a comfortable feeling but if you’re lifting light, you can maintain but you’re always capable of more when you’re comfortable. When you’re uncomfortable and you continue to seek uncomfortable situations, that’s where the magic is. I remember my friend James said, “The real service is the one that’s inconvenient, not the one that everything lines up with what you can do and it fits your schedule. It’s something that you want to do but true services are the one where it’s like, “I’ve got to do that.” Feel comfortable doing it. I feel like the more that you put yourself in situations like that, you’re increasing your opportunities to grow and impact the world in a better way.   

I like that, “True service is inconvenient. What’s on the other side? We’re sitting here talking about being comfortable and I’m thinking about Wim HofWim Hof, The Iceman, he talks about being uncomfortable and he talks about how we wear sweaters, we turn the heater on. We’re also used to being comfortable that we don’t stress our immune systems out. We don’t stress our bodies out. We were so used to being comfortable. When you go in and you do an ice bath, you’re uncomfortable and you have to surrender and go with it and as a result, you feel better, you have more mental clarity, more mental awareness, decreases inflammation and your body functions better. Stress is good. Too much stress is not good. However, we all need to be stressed out. Stress is what creates growth. When did you realize that you didn’t respect yourself?   

I don’t think I had that self-awareness until probably when I got to rehab and started sharing for the first time. That was September of 2017. I started sharing honestly and I was getting responses like, “That’s okay. Thank you for sharing that.” I was like, “I wasn’t supposed to be hiding this all the time. All the time, all opportunities that I could have had to speak up or to change or to view myself, “How can I take care of myself? I never gave myself those opportunities. By that point I was like, “I haven’t been respecting myself. I haven’t been loving myself. I haven’t been caring for myself because I haven’t allowed my true self to breathe or come to light in any form of fashion. Anytime he wants to speak up, I stuff it back down and don’t give him an opportunity to speak.” Around that time, once I let a little bit of honesty and it was like, “There’s no way I can say I love myself.   

Stress is what creates growth. Click To Tweet

How are you looking for uncomfortable situations now going back to the comfort zone? 

I’m trying to get better. I still have a fear of confrontation like tough conversations. That is still a hurdle for me when it comes to relationships especially creating boundaries when it comes to those relationships. It’s something that I will beat around the bush a little bitI’ll talk to people that I respect and close with in recovery about it but it’s taking that step towardsI don’t willingly go to that uncomfortable situation. The results from that may come quickly and slowly but I’m trying to work at it. Whenever that breakthrough comes is when it comes. That’s something that I’m trying to improve at. 

It’s thinking about what’s on the other side, that’s what we always have to look at. You have the hard conversation now, things are going to be easier on the other side. You connected with Donny Starkins, tell me about Comeback Stories. You have created the showI want to hear what’s that all about?   

Donny and I connected via Instagram. Donnhas done a lot of work with some great athletes on the mental side and the yoga side. He saw Hard Knocks which was the first time that I was vulnerable about the things I went through. He connected to my story and reached out and wanted to work together. We started working togetherHe’s been a great resource for me and also has become a good friend for me. I was in Arizona, staying in his house for four days but in that time, we were having these conversations and they were great conversations, he was like, “What do you think about doing a podcast? I was likeI have no idea how to do a podcast. I have zero idea.” He was like, “Do it, try it. It’s not about you. It’s about who we could affect and who it could impact.” I was like, “Let’s do it.  

We’ve been picking people’s brains about how to go about doing it and creating a format. Now we’re cranking out episodes. The first episode came out, which was my comeback story. We’re trying to reach out to guests in all walks of life. I have a friend of mine from high school that’s on there and there’s also some household names on there. We don’t want to make it athlete-specific. We love having people in recovery on there but comeback stories can look and present themselves in many different types of ways. We want to have that represented in our show. We’re all about the comeback story and what happened to people’s lives and how that plays a role in who they’re becoming. They have to accept their reality but they don’t have to stay there. They can do what’s necessary to grow, change and walk into a life that they love and respect. That’s all we’re trying to do.   

What would you say is the main purpose of the show?   

The purpose of the show is to inspire the listener to realize that they have a comeback story of their own no matter how low their low is. They have the power, the tools and the skills inside of them to rise above that and to keep rising in anything that they want to rise in. Inspiring them to see people that they love and respect seeing their story but teaching them that you have your own story and that you can respond to adversity in a strong way.   

How is producing this show going to help you?   

It allows me to see other people’s perspective, see how they approach life. I don’t think I know very much in the grand scheme of things and I am okay with that because that allows me to learn from peopleI’m learning, sitting with you right hereit’s allowing other people’s experience to come into my world and realize that I’m so much more like these people than I ever would have imagined. Feeling that connection and realizing that one common thing that we share is adversity and we have to overcome that. If we can lean on somebody else or pick up something from somebody else to help us in our journey or vice versa, that’s all it is about.   

How do you take care of yourself now?  

The big things for me are prayer and meditation first thing when I wake up and the last thing I do in my day. Journaling has been a key for me. I didn’t realize how profound writing things on papers for me, let everything out. I have some daily devotional recovery readings that I like to read those and write how I’m feeling on that for the day. Those were my things I love to read. Creating music does something for me in my soul. Making beats, writing lyrics, these are things that fill me up because the profession that I’m in and the things that are being asked of me and demanded from me, it takes a lot for me physically, energetically, emotionally. These things, recovery day to day and my creative habits are what fill me up and allow me to continue to be consistent.  

What kind of music do you create? 

Rap is my thing but I sing a little bit. My beats are inspired by a million different genres because I listen to pretty much everything. I don’t try to limit myself to just rap music. I feel there’s so much good music out there.   

Now we’re in the off season, what are you going to do before you start practicing and gearing up for next season?   

I took three weeks off from training. Those three weeks sadly come to an end very fastI’m back to working out and going to progress into working out, running, and doing football drills. It’s also a time for me to read a lot, to meditate a lot, to be still, to go to meetings as much as I want to. This time is a great time for me to continue to progress spiritually, mentally in my recovery first and foremost because the minute I start thinking that these opportunities I have in my life are more important than the foundation which is recovery, that’s where I start to slip. This is always a good time for me to keep the main things, the main things and to slowly get myself back into shape and not feel like it’s a competition or anything. It’s what the path in which I get back into my shape. The mindset to get ready to play again, I let that play itself out. I handle and trying to control things I can control.   

Looking back, what message do you think you want people to take away from our conversation? 

The best thing that you can do is surrender the outcomes and the results of things. We have visions and goals that we want to work towards. Be okay with putting one foot in front of the other and immersing yourself in the process, and making it less about what you can gain but more about what you can give to those around you. Your journey is not always going to be perfect. It’s not always going to look like somebody else’s recovery or somebody else’s career but find the simple joys in the gratitude in your journey, how far you’ve come, how much better you are than a day ago, a month ago, a year ago and keep moving forward because God isn’t trying to keep you where you are or have you feeling what you’re feeling forever. There’s better for you on the other side. Trust that, don’t be caught up in the future because worrying won’t fix anything or make anything easier that you have to do. Accept your past. Don’t allow it to dictate who you’re going to be going forward.   

You have your own story, and you can respond to adversity in a strong way.   Click To Tweet

Be present, focus on the journey and don’t be attached to the results. The journey is perfect. As long as we’re not attached to the result and we just focus on the journey, life is good.   

I’ve had results and been miserable. Take it from me.   

How can people find out more about you? How can they follow you? How can they find out more about Comeback Stories?   

If you want to follow me, I’m on Instagram @RackkWallTwitter is @RackWall83. The Darren Waller Foundation website is DarrenWaller.orgFrom there, you can find out how to donate and see our vision for what we’re trying to do. The Comeback Stories Show you can follow on Instagram @ComebackStoriesShow and that’ll take you to wherever you need to do. You can go to subscribe to ComebackStories.com to find our first episode. It’ll take you right to Apple Podcasts page as well. We’re also on Spotify and going to be on all platforms soon.   

Darren, it was so awesome getting to talk to you. I learned a lot about youA lot of what you said resonates with me and I can relate. I enjoyed it. Thank you so much, Darren. Thanks, everybody. I will see you next time.   

Thank you, Tim. I appreciate it. 

Important links: 

About Darren Waller

ILBS 20 Darren Waller | Season Record HolderDarren Waller was born in Landover, MD and raised in suburban Atlanta, GA. He was involved in a lot as a kid including football, basketball, baseball, tennis, band. Graduated from North Cobb High School in 2011 and earned a business degree from Georgia Tech in 2014. Drafted by the Baltimore Ravens as a wide receiver in the 6th round of 2015 NFL draft (pick #204).

Went from being arrested 3 times, suspended multiple times in college and NFL (including year long ban in 2017), he got cut, went to rehab, worked at sprouts, then he was back on the practice squad which led to back to back 1,000 yard seasons, the Pro Bowl, and all-time single season record holder for receptions in a season in Raiders history.

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

 

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

Watch the episode here:

Listen to the podcast here:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Five of your friends were murdered?

Yep.

How did that happen?

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

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

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

That was when you were 22 years old.

Yep.

You were still drinking.

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

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

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

SAA meeting or SLAA?

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

ILBS 16 | Healing Powers Of Music

Sonic Recovery: Harness The Power Of Music To Stay Sober

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

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

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

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

When did you start thinking you might have a problem?

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

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

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

I’m 31.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is your sobriety date?

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

ILBS 16 | Healing Powers Of Music

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

 

Give us a quick breakdown of the three circles.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They don’t even know how they got there.

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

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

ILBS 16 | Healing Powers Of Music

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

 

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

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

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

What instruments do you play?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How did music originate?

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

We sang before we spoke.

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

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

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

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

ILBS 16 | Healing Powers Of Music

This Is Your Brain on Music

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ILBS 16 | Healing Powers Of Music

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dancing is number two and listening is number three.

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

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

Tim, how can people reach you?

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

Is there anything else you want to share?

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

Tim, thank you so much.

Thanks, Tim.

Important Links:

About Tim Ringgold

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

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

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

Supportive Environments: Growth Occurs in a Fertile Garden

A rose grows best in a healthy garden. Provided with adequate, yet not overbearing, amounts of sunlight and water and fertile soil, a rose can blossom to its full potential. In a similar manner, when we are in recovery, we grow to our full potential within a supportive environment. We can become our best selves when we are nurtured with a sense of community and belonging. We thrive within stable and predictable structures. Much like a healthy garden, our environment can determine our potential for growth and change in recovery. Some of us may not have the proper resources for recovery in our current or past home environments. You may have attended short-term recovery programs for only a week or two, then returned prematurely to an unstable home life. The instability, lack of support and structure, and overall feeling of chaos may have led you right back to engaging in your past addictive behaviors.

The Revolving Doors of Treatment

Short-term recovery programs sometimes operate as if they have “revolving doors.” People go into treatment, live a sober life for a few days, feel confident in their recovery, go home, and then find themselves seeking help again only a few weeks later. What happens? Often, we do not have the resources at home to maintain our recovery. We might live with loved ones, who care for us but enable our behaviors. We could live in an area where access to our means of addiction—such as living near a local bar—is readily available. Living in unhealthy environments can lead to us feeling triggered and we can relapse. Then, the cycle of the revolving door treatment begins.

While short-term treatment programs have the best intentions, they may not always provide the adequate length of time necessary for us to change our behaviors. Humans are considered by many people to be “creatures of habit.” We thrive on routines and tend to resist change. Change, for many people, may seem scary. Even change for the better can open the door for more challenges that we may not be ready for. Short-term care may help us find some coping skills or tools to help us manage our addictions. However, if we are returning to an environment that triggers our unhealthy habits before we have had time to develop a truly healthy mindset, we may be doomed to fail and find ourselves going back into the revolving door treatment.

Healthy Environments for Recovery: The 5 Pillars of Recovery

What constitutes a healthy environment for recovery? Mainly, a safe and comfortable home that encompasses these five pillars of recovery:

  • Accountability
    • We need to be held accountable for our actions in order to change for the better. Sometimes, in our homes, we are not held accountable by our loved ones. Though they care for us, they may unintentionally enable our unhealthy habits.
  • Support
    • A healthy environment is made of both the place and the people. Finding support among peers, who are struggling with similar issues, will help you recover. They will understand what you are going through in a way that other individuals in your life may not.
  • Structure
    • Some of us may live in chaotic environments with a lack of routine or structure. We may not have the skills to build a routine and find ourselves lost throughout the day. Healthy environments are structured and predictable. We may struggle at first with healthy routines. However, as time passes, we can adjust and learn how to put more structure into our lives.
  • Community
    • A sense of having a connection with others who are striving toward common goals can help us feel a sense of belonging. Healthy environments help us feel like we are accepted for who we are. Having common goals with those in our immediate environment can help us find support in achieving our goals.
  • Purpose
    • Being in an environment that encourages us to find or to live out our purpose in life can set us on the right track to recovery. When we are surrounded by positive and encouraging people for adequate lengths of time, we can find a new way of looking at life.

Time For Change

Learning new behaviors takes time. A healthy environment for recovery treatment will allow for longer exposure to a supportive and structured space. Often, short-term recovery programs do not provide us with enough time to learn new skills or build resilience. Without building resilience and taking the necessary time to change our mindset, we may be unprepared to face our unhealthy environments and become tempted to utilize our negative coping skills. By spending time at a long-term treatment program or a sober living home, we will likely have an adequate amount of time to acclimate to our newly found sense of hope in recovery.

 

Have you been struggling with relapse due to “revolving door” treatment programs? Is your home environment enabling your unhealthy habits and behaviors? Have you learned healthy ways of living during a week-long recovery program only to find yourself falling back to your unhealthy habits? You may not have had enough time to learn new habits and skills. Learning how to recover from addictions and how to live a healthy lifestyle takes time. You are unlikely to master the skills necessary to maintain sobriety for a lifetime in a short-term treatment program. Camelback Recovery believes that recovery habits need to be fostered in a safe and supportive environment over a long period of time. We use the five pillars of recovery to teach you how to cope with life outside of treatment. Call us today at (602) 466-9880 for more information on how we can you or a loved one recover from addictions.

How Can Going to the Gym Help My Recovery from Addiction?

Many treatment facilities and sober living homes have been emphasizing the importance of physical health in sobriety. Some, like Camelback Recovery, even offer gym memberships to those attending their programs. What does exercise and going to the gym have to do with recovery from addictions? If addiction is rooted in the brain, how can physical activities help? Why are so many programs encouraging fitness in treatment? 

Addiction can be treated with holistic approaches, which involve both our physical and mental health. Holistic approaches are treatment methods and health habits that include strengthening the mind-body connection. We can help our minds recover by focusing on our physical health as well. During addiction, we may have allowed our physical health needs to fall by the wayside. We may have neglected healthy eating and exercise habits. Our physical health can impact how we feel and can play an essential role in our emotional regulation. 

Releasing “Feel Good” Chemicals

Exercise can help us manage anxiety and depression by burning off excess energy and releasing “feel good” chemicals in our brains. These chemicals are released in our minds when we do any physically exerting task. The “feel good” chemicals help us get through challenging physical exercise by rewarding us with good feelings in our minds. We may have used alcohol or other substances to release these chemicals artificially. However, alcohol, substances, or other addictions only provide temporary relief at a substantial cost to our overall physical health. The root cause of addiction may be an underlying issue with anxiety or depression (or both). By exercising or going to the gym during recovery, we can help to address this underlying issue by introducing a healthy habit into our lives.

Building Self-Esteem and Confidence

Exercising can provide us with challenges that we can use to boost our self-esteem and confidence. We can set goals in the gym and see the results as we watch our bodies change and grow stronger. When we accomplish goals or other physical achievements, we can notice a change to our mindset as we begin to believe in ourselves. We may be surprised at what we can accomplish in the gym! This confidence can carry over into other areas of our lives. If we can regularly tackle a challenge in the gym, we may feel more confident dealing with other obstacles on our path to recovery. 

Tips for Success in Exercise and Gyms

When we go to the gym, we may jump into the activity quickly and burn out within a few weeks. This can happen to a lot of people both in and out of recovery treatment. Gym memberships and attendance tend to spike following the New Year’s holiday, as people make vague health resolutions. As weeks go on, attendance drops as people fail to commit to their resolutions and new-found goals. Often, these people are unprepared for the commitment of building a weekly routine for their exercise goals. They also may not be prepared for the length of time required to form new habits and give up before giving themselves an appropriate amount of time to change. Here are some tips that we can use to be more successful in maintaining our exercise and gym routines:

  • Create a playlist of songs we enjoy. Music can help us focus on our exercise routines by cutting out other background noises that can be distracting. Music can also boost our mood or make us feel good or powerful! We might even find that we enjoy going to the gym as a time to listen to our favorite songs.
  • Pick the right time. Many people think that we have to work out in the mornings to get the best results. The truth is that the best time to exercise is whenever we are exercising! Finding a time that will work best for ourselves will help us stick to our new habits. For some people, this is before or after work. Others may have extended lunch breaks and can exercise at this time.
  • Go with a partner. Starting a new workout routine can be challenging to do alone. We might know someone else interested in our new goal. Our gym partner can help to support us and keep us motivated. They can also help to hold us accountable.
  • Set a goal. Our goals to exercise can be simple. We may want to keep a number in mind to help us stick to the plan. Our goal can be something like, “I will run on the treadmill for 20 minutes, three times per week.” Another goal may be, “I will complete a weight lifting routine four times per week.” (Bonus tip: when starting with exercise, set a goal around building the routine and not losing a specific amount of body weight, running a certain speed or benching pressing a set amount of weight.) As we build the habit of going to the gym or routine exercise, we can then start to work towards those other goals. Keep it simple at first!)

 

Physical health and wellness can go a long way in our recovery. We can open the door to forming new healthy habits, building new friendships, and building our self-confidence by exercising regularly. Many recovery treatment facilities and sober living homes emphasize the importance of maintaining our physical health needs as we form healthy habits during recovery. Addiction can take a tremendous toll on our physical selves. We may have gained weight or lost strength due to our bad habits. We may get winded easily and struggle to get through the day. By building up our physical selves, we can be strong to face the daily challenges of recovery! Camelback Recovery understands the critical role that healthy eating and exercise can play in addiction treatment. Call us at (602) 466-9880 to discuss how our sober living programs can help you with your whole-health needs!

Overcoming Shame and Recovering From Sexual Addictions

Many of those seeking to recover from addictions of all kinds struggle in dealing with shame. Sometimes, you experience shame due to feeling weak, admitting that you need help, or having guilt over past actions. For those with sexual addictions, shame is a common barrier to treatment and many people may never find a way to recover. Sexual behavior is a private and personal matter for most people. When sexual behavior is used to cope with other stressors in life, a person might become addicted to the feelings of excitement and release, much like an addiction to drugs or alcohol. While anyone in recovery from sexual addiction or any other addiction has likely hurt others in their past, the key to recovery is separating your addictive behavior from your true self. During recovery, you have to accept responsibility for your actions and make amends. However, you do not need to burden yourself with holding onto shame for your past. Hope is possible and you can change for the better. 

Similarities Between Substance and Sexual Addiction

One way to overcome the shame of sexual addiction is realizing that the motivations for sexual addiction are similar to those of substance or alcohol addictions. When experiencing shame, you may feel that others in society will judge you harshly. You may feel like a criminal or that your actions are beyond redemption. Society has come to terms with viewing addictions to drugs or alcohol as a problem that people can recover from. While in the past, many of those addicted might have denied their issues or hidden them from others, brave individuals have come forward to pave the path for others to heal from their addictions. While sexual addiction might be a somewhat taboo topic today, those who come forward now to face their addiction head-on will help to clear the pathway for others in the future.

Sexual behavior can have similar effects as other substances, which is why some people are vulnerable to addiction. Sexual behavior, like drugs or alcohol, can make a person feel a “high” that they continue to chase. Some people might use sexual behavior to cope with stress or anxiety, just like others may use alcohol or other substances to achieve the same ends. A sign of addiction is when chasing this “high” comes ahead of all other things. When prioritizing sexual behavior above everything else in life, the person might have an addiction. You might also be addicted if sexual behavior is the only way that you cope with any stressors in your life. Many people are susceptible to addictive behaviors and are not alone in recovery. Although sexual addiction may be different from others, the motivations and emotions involved are similar and often the same.

Shame: A Barrier to Healing

Shame can get in the way of healing from all forms of addictive behaviors. For those addicted to sexual behaviors, feelings of shame may be the result of having victimized others or treating a romantic partner poorly. While you need to accept responsibility for your past and your behaviors, the cycle of shame only serves to prevent you from real change. Shame can be a negative coping skill for you; shame enables you to avoid dealing with your addiction. When experiencing shame, you may feel like punishing yourself or feel like your guilt justifies any pain you may have inflicted on others. Shame becomes a layer that separates you from dealing with your emotional pain. Feelings of guilt and shame only block you from dealing with the underlying causes of your addictive behaviors. Being vulnerable to share your experiences with others in recovery can help you begin the process of healing and growth. You will find that you are not alone in your experiences.

Your addictive behaviors are different than who you truly are. Many people with sexual addictions think that they are flawed on the inside and are incapable of change. They may be unable to recognize that their behaviors were the result of poorly coping with stress or other underlying issues. To recover from sexual addiction, you must realize that your past behaviors do not define who you are today. You have other qualities and values that define you. While you cannot change your past or things that you might have done, you can change for the better. Recovery from sexual addictions—like all other addictive behaviors—is possible and there is hope for all those who are struggling. Let go of your shame and guilt; allow yourself to enjoy the gift of recovery. 

 

You are not alone in your addiction, whether you are addicted to substances—like drugs or alcohol—or addicted to behaviors, like sex or gambling. Other people are in recovery from their addictions and are learning new ways to cope with life. They have separated themselves from their addictive behaviors and have broken down the barrier of shame, which impedes many from true growth and change. You may feel guilt for your past behaviors, or you may feel that all hope is lost. However, you can recover from sexual addictions as others have in the past. At Camelback Recovery, we open our doors to those suffering from all kinds of addictive behaviors. Our home environment is a safe place for everyone to share their stories and experiences. 

Call us at (602) 466-9880 to begin your recovery today.

How Is Technology Helping Those in Addiction Recovery?

Advances in technology have impacted nearly every aspect of our lives. For those of us struggling with addiction, technology has helped us in many ways, like providing assessments, finding services, gaining information, and maintaining support. While many of these advances are helpful, some negative consequences, like cell phone addiction, have been commonplace. The key is to find a balance to gain benefits and minimize unintended consequences. We need to be cautious and verify information found on the internet. We also could become addicted to cell phones or other devices.

Access to Self-Assessments

Some people may be unsure of what their underlying issues may be. They may feel confused or misinformed about their behaviors and thoughts. Online, there are hundreds of mental health and addiction assessments available for people to take. Self-assessments are relatively quick and easy to complete. While they may not provide a comprehensive evaluation, self-assessments can help people narrow down some of their issues and can point people in the right direction towards getting help. We must also be sure to verify with our doctor or a medical professional about any problems uncovered during an online self-assessment. A self-assessment is not a diagnosis; however, self-assessments can help us open up a conversation with professionals to begin finding appropriate help.

Finding Services and Treatment Facilities

The internet has provided an easy way for people to search for services when they need help. Searching the web can help us find treatment facilities or out-patient clinics in our area. We can also find support groups in our community by completing an online search. Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous have a substantial online presence, which can help us find 12-Step programs in our communities. Treatment facilities and sober living homes, like Camelback Recovery, have been using technology and social media to spread their message of recovery and hope to those in need.

Access to Knowledge and Information

When in recovery, we may struggle with a specific issue and can benefit from more knowledge on the topic. Online magazines and blogs can provide a wealth of information ranging from tips on remaining sober to information on treatment facilities. We might find information on cooking healthy meals, exercise routines, yoga practices, mindfulness exercises, and other activities that we can engage in to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Some apps offer entire exercise plans and even meal plans to help us. Unfortunately, we also have to be mindful of misinformation. Due to the ease of posting information online, people may post things that are not true or even harmful. Be sure to review the source of your information carefully to see if the information is valid. Sources from trusted publications or government websites are often more reputable than online forums, where anyone can freely post whatever they want–accurate or not!

Maintain Support During Lockdowns and Restrictions

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted everyone in our world. The disruption in our lives and routines has left many of us struggling with our mental health. While under lockdowns or other social restrictions, many of us felt alone and had a difficult time maintaining a support system. Technology has helped many people continue getting the support they needed during lockdowns. Apps, like Zoom and Facetime, allowed for people to continue meeting with their counselors or engaging in group therapy sessions. They also helped people maintain contact with family members and other supports. Telehealth sessions have become popular for medical appointments and screenings to provide help while minimizing contact in public spaces.

Issues Arising from Technology

Technology also has some negative consequences. Some people find themselves addicted to their phones or feel anxious to stay up to date with social media continually. Push notifications can be intrusive and disruptive to our daily lives. When entering treatment, cell phones might be a distraction to those who need to focus on their recovery. Many apps have been developed to help people curb their cell phone usage by limiting the number of times social media apps are opened or limiting our daily screen time. We can look at our phone usage in our setting menu to get an idea of which apps dominate our time on cell phones. People in recovery from addiction are also prone to cell phone addiction. They may replace their drinking or drug habits with excessive phone usage. Finding healthy habits, like exercise and healthy eating, can replace our bad habits more effectively. When we engage in recovery, we find healthy ways of living that can help us resist replacing our practices with other addictive behaviors.

 

Technology can be a handy tool for those in recovery. We can find services, information, support systems, or self-assessments online. We can also use technology to maintain contact with our support system and medical professionals when direct connection is not an option. Some issues can arise from the use of technology, like cell phone addiction or misinformation. We must be careful to find information from trustworthy sources. We also should be mindful of our usage on devices, as they may distract us from sobriety and from living our lives. Camelback Recovery has been using technology and social media to provide information for those suffering from addiction. We have a social media presence to spread our message to others in need. Call us today at (602) 466-9880 for more information about our sober living homes!

Community: Finding Your Tribe in Recovery

Recovery from addiction can be difficult. We may need to distance ourselves from those who enable our addictive behaviors. Due to this separation, we might feel alone during a time where we may need the support of others the most. When you are in recovery, you can find a new sense of community among your peers. Your peers can help you fulfill your needs of belonging and teach you healthy ways of building new relationships. Your peers can also teach you new ways of having fun without engaging in addictive behaviors. Finding a new “tribe” in recovery can help you feel less alone and less isolated. Remember that you are not alone. You now belong to the greater community of all those in recovery, where a helping hand is always nearby!

Replacing Unhealthy Relationships with Healthy Ones

Much of the recovery process involves replacing old, unhealthy behaviors with new, healthy ones. Relationships are also important to our recovery, and we may need to seek building healthy relationships. Healthy relationships can give us the support and understanding that we need while going through the emotional process of recovery and healing. One way to start building healthy relationships is by looking to your peers in recovery. Your peers are also making changes in their lives and may have similar goals in recovery. Finding a common ground or similar interests is one of the fundamental steps to building any relationship. Peers in recovery already share many things, such as common backgrounds, similar struggles, and comparable goals for wellness. 

Recovery treatment programs and sober living homes foster a sense of community by bringing people together with the common goals of making their lives better and changing their lifestyle habits. The common bond of those in recovery gives us a sense of belonging and fulfills our need to find people from a familiar “tribe.” We share stories, express emotions, and help one another with our goals. Community is one of the pillars of many recovery programs. By supporting one another, peers build their own sense of community to ease the feelings of isolation and loneliness that can accompany recovery from addiction. Peers in the same recovery program help to hold one another accountable toward achieving common goals.

We may feel bad that we have to “replace” some of our friends. Some people have been in our lives for many years and will forever be a part of our stories. Unfortunately, sometimes our  closest friends do not respect our desire for change and may enable us to continue our addictive habits. Change can be difficult for anyone, and our friends may have a tough time seeing us change, even when we change for the better. They may also be struggling with their own addictions and might fear that they are losing a “partner-in-crime.” They may also enable your behaviors to maintain their own sense of belonging. When you notice that your friendships are not helping you change to build a better life, you may need to walk away from them. While saying good-bye and letting go of these people may be difficult, your fellow peers in recovery may have felt the same sense of loss. Your peers might be able to relate to the pain of losing friendships that you have built over the course of a lifetime. During recovery, you are not alone and you have the chance to rebuild a sense of community with others, who will support you in your goals.

Defining a Recovery Community

A community can be defined as a group of people sharing common interests that live within the same area. In recovery, our definition of a community may extend outward beyond a specific place or region. Often, those in recovery consider themselves to be part of a larger network of all others in recovery. We may find people in our community or “tribe” on online recovery groups or in our support groups, like Alcoholics or Narcotics Anonymous. Most recovery support groups consider themselves to be a part of a larger group of individuals attending groups across the nation. We may also meet community members during stays at long-term treatment homes. Community in recovery can consist of a sense of being part of a larger group within the entire country or being part of a smaller group of supportive individuals within your hometown. Remember that there are many others out there with similar struggles and challenges as you who can help you find the resources and the support that you need to continue with your recovery.

 

One of the most difficult aspects of growth and change is realizing that we may need to let go of some unhealthy relationships. Sometimes, these relationships keep us stagnant and prevent us from achieving our life goals. We may feel lost or alone when beginning recovery, as we may be cutting ties with people we have known for years. Long-term treatment programs and sober living homes can help you foster a sense of community during your recovery. Many programs emphasize the feeling of community among all those in recovery. You are not alone in your recovery and others are willing to help you with the process. At Camelback Recovery, we have a structured home environment with individuals learning to cope with similar issues as you. Through our common goals, we cultivate a sense of community among the peers within our home. Call us today at (602) 466-9880 for more information!