Scott Strode, founder & national executive director of The Phoenix, reveals why rock climbing and marathoning helped him break the cycle of his addiction and how he is transforming the way our country approaches recovery with fitness and community.
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Hello friends. It's episode number three hundred and four of the way I heard it and it's called the shadow on the wall? Is you because surveys suggestion that it very well might be? Yes, I believe, that's how we all start in the cave staring at ourselves chained up looking at the are those on the wall. I don't think that's really how we all start. No, no! That's that's on how it all starts. That's an allegory that comes up in the conversation you all are about to listen to courtesy of my friend Scott strode, whose referring of course to platos famous rumination on the journey to enlightenment, visa viii, a cave man shackled in place inside of a cave, we'll get all that we made much more clear than churches did but dumb. Thank god you, by the way, played out what a name dropper I mean. Honestly, that's plato not play dough totally different conversation right.
My friend scot I met several years ago at a stand together. Event stand together. If you haven't heard, is, and even if have an organization that funds and support it's a number of non profits and bloody. Do gooders myself included. They ve been very generous with micro works over the years and
so. I went to one of these gatherings years ago and found the same thing I found with returning the favor. It was like a a giant repository of people who woke up every day, just annoyed that the world wasn't the way they thought it should be people trying to make a difference in their communities, except on returning the favor. It was usually pretty modest. You know zip code sent right. This is a whole different deal. Stand together, supports organizations that are not only making a difference locally, but can be scaled and can really blow up. That's what's happened here. Scott strode is an alcoholic and a recovering addict
and he was addicted to virtually everything a guy can be addicted to and he hit rock bottom and then he not only got himself turned around. He created an organization called the phoenix which is essentially you'd, be tempted to look at it and say: oh, he built Jim's an outdoor activities all over the country. No, That's not what it is all it is at a glance, but what he really did was he figured out a way to create a community among, like minded people and he's not alone. A lot of people have come at this problem,
in a similar way, but I don't know of any body whose had results like the guy you're about to meet. Eighty seven percent report remaining sober after three months that just completely blows away the standard metric of people who are trying to get their life turned around. This thing is grown like a weed hundred and sixty two thousand members. As of now they got affiliates and forty five states. So it's really tempting to talk broadly in a macro away, and we do for part of this. But we also get pretty micro in this. If you will pretty granular and I think what you'll find at least what I found shock was that you really can't separate the two so really personal story with a giant success story, its impact
I mean tens of thousands of people at a time when I I just don't know if the country's ever been more in need of some kind of solution know, and it's not only nationally mic, but it's also globally and they have an app called the phoenix, a sober community that people are using to get together and you're right. It's not that he created gyms or whatever he created places where he created a system for like minded people to come together, be sober together in an activity that gets us out of our heads. People do stuff like climb a mountain mountain bike. Yoga could be just taking a walk, it brings people together, and one thing I just want to say because we didn't cover it in the conversation was what he's doing with concerts he's. Also using this app like if you're sober, and you want to hang out with sober people in the music industry. La are like people at concerts. You can go where your sober shirt show up. There get a gaggle of people and
they're going to support bans that are sober and people in the bans are sober because it music industry is filled with alcohol and drugs and what not sell its great for guide a look out into the audience and see a bunch of sober shirts. If he's in recovery himself, it's a really cool idea. Having said that, the final thing I'll leave you with is there's no panacea. There's no playbook! There's no secret pill. Different people are going to respond to different ways, especially when it comes to covering, but look here listening to a guy right now who has a line of whisky right, I drink a little whisky every day I enjoy it. This isn't a lecture. This isn't a sermon! This isn't about scolding. It's not
What shaming it's just about the undeniable reality for me, any way of acknowledging that one hundred thousand people died last year because of fentanyl. I don't even know how many died as a result of other chemical and substance addictions, but we're in a really tough time and the people that stand together take this very seriously. What scott's doing at the phoenix has just been hugely in actfl and by the way, not to beat the horse to death, but you know a chad houser was on a couple of weeks ago. He came out of the stand together program as well. Todd rose before that and get used to it. Folks, I'm not going to do it every week, but at least once a month you're going to hear somebody plucked from this end of the pool because they're remarkable people and are doing things that have to be done. The shadow on the wall is you with scots drug right after this,
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Well, like my knees, Scott stroke, hi. How are you I'm great? Are you doing I'm done well. I don't want to alarm you, but there's a bicycle, growing right out of your head I know I was wondering if I was like a halo issue over me where you sitting as we speak, I'm sitting in the phoenix boston which is our one of our flagship locations and were in the hard abbas. and by an area really impacted by substance use, so it's a perfect spot for our front doors open under this community.
In the imaginary thing that I do called preparation. I click through a couple of links that chalk helpfully provided. I didn't learn much cited already know about you. You and I have met a couple of times over the years at various stand together functions. I know your base story and I knew you were from Boston, but I didn't know that you had made that deal with the red sox. That's a huge in road. I would imagine- and you know, probably very personal thing, given you grew up and beantown yeah yeah it's well. I moved here lived here for about eleven years. The first part of that I wasn't in recovery and Boston is a pretty good city to be not in russia I am well, you should write. vacation brochures yeah. I did get sober, virtually fellows only sober guy here, but
love, the city than moved colorado actually started the phoenix and then come Back here was sort of just a dream of mine to launch phoenix here and, and the partnership with the red sox was just yeah so exciting to be able to kind of tell the story about this. Phoenix at that scale. Obviously I wanna hear the story from start to finish, but it is worth just ruminating for a second on the on the impact and the power of going back home. You know, I mean Tommy Wolf said you can ever go home again, and I I nobody is getting at of like going back to high school. Everything feel smaller and familiar but different. At the same time- and I I do a lot of work in baltimore, some on the tourism bureau and its every time I go back,
just such a weird combination of familiarity and newness. It's hard to articulate, but I imagine its doubly true for you, because you're kind of a new person I mean you ve, truly been reborn so to go back to the place where you grew up as a new creature. If you will That's just gotta be a kick yeah. It is I mean I, I spent my really younger years in pennsylvania, actually not far from baltimore. So I have some living amends the baltimore as well as boston, but you know the coming back to boston in recovery. Having been a very different person when I was here before, is just one of the gifts of recovery is being able to give back to a city that was there for me, They tough time in a really general way. How important is the give back notion in general and
Look a lot of people who listen to this nome, I'm a broken record, the subject, but I'm only asking because I think there is great value and selfishness when it comes to helping yourself and in the course of of helping other people, and when I worked on a show called returning the favor for a few years. It was you know, I call guys like you bloody do gutters, because I try and take a little bit of some of the piss somebody earnestness out of this very serious conversation we're about to have- and I dont do it out of like it's, not illegal speck by any means it's just it's an attempt to keep things as soon as possible and as real as possible and your home phoenix your whole life man, it's it's about as real as it gets. It is, but it's like you, norman doin, this being drawn to this work. After
is sort of my own lived experience struggling with addiction really is part of, and I believe a life of purpose is what we're all ultimately seeking and having sort of have walked in the dark. In my addiction, I have this different appreciation of the It feels like to stand in the light in outline and because of that I have a unique ability to be able to translate to folks that are still in that dark place. What life can be like on the other side of of addiction. So to me it's a gift for me life a purpose. Well, let's jump into that in a minute, but first just on a macro level. Where do you think we are as a country? terms of our is there some kind of benchmark is or some sort of chart. I should know about the tracks addict
and in a very general way, and if so, what is it? And just how bad is the problem overall, yeah? I would say we're in one of the is moments in our country. Around this issue and the pandemic, rina was a sort of often say, was the sort of gasoline on the pandemic of the addiction, so the full isolation and the disconnect that people are experiencing you know through the pandemic, has increased by almost thirty percent the impacts of addiction and deaths of despair in our country. But I also think that people have realized that we need to do things differently. It's gotten bad enough that I think some innovation and some creative thinking is now being used to address this issue. So the phoenix is one of those things is just to
a different way to approach the addiction crisis and a personal way too. Obviously this was I'm assuming your idea from the ground up, but maybe make it small, then you know, walk me through the process whereby you, you became resigned to the fact that you are inadequate and then somehow something must have happened. think clicks, there's always and inciting incident. What are you doing here? yeah. Well, I can sort attired back real early to the term. They call adverse childhood experience, but is really experience and trauma as a kid. I grew up with us father with untreated mental illness and When my mom remarried, when I was a kid after my parents got divorced that introduce alcoholism into our family in and
Oh growing up around untreated mental illness and alcoholism made for a pretty dynamic childhood, and so I and drinking and drug pretty early. I was Reno found it cause. I could break into the liquor closet at the house in, and you know shop with were vodka and then all of a sudden I was kind of the cool kid and other kids one to hang out with me, because I had access and that led me to other things and eventually to my drug addiction is well, but somewhere in there is little window of time where my mom knew that I was in trouble and tried to get me into a program to help help me turn my life around at the time and I went on to a boat. Under this programme on a ship in and something about me, at sea was just the power our this, like instant cause and effect. This the captain would say: don't do this thing and you know be inserted defiant
yeah whatever and then a wave would crush me on the deck of the ship and as washed off, and I was in the scuppers- and I climb my way up. I realized they came. Maybe he's got a good point here is so gas deliveries of the air so, but that what happened? There is poor through those challenging experiences and facing that adverse sort of adverse conditions with the crew. I started well, this camaraderie with them in this belief and myself that I didn't have in my in my addiction, and are still drinking and using, but I came ashore in new england and so working in shipyards in its pre gruelling work and the prove that I was working with. You know we were tired and we partied hard, and that's just how we did it. and the thing is they don't go home and I would at the bar. Then I would go to the after party then I would be the after party find myself, you know and and it just
have gone on like that for years, because how old are you at this point I was in my eye was essentially Twenty one, just turning twenty one and twenty two here in Boston and I can a shipyard and fair haven massachusetts and also the charlestown navy art here in Boston so was it a sense of community that the shipyard represented because it doesn't sound like a classic. You know the treatment of motorway elinor, letting you something it gave me some thing in the programmes I worked in. Those spaces were primarily focused on experiential work with youth, so we know we'd bring sort of youth experience and challenges and lower income neighborhoods in boston into the boat yard, and we build boats with them, and it was this sort of teamwork. building experience, but sort of I was a hypocrite in some ways, because at night was leaving there and struggling with my own addiction,
getting sober enough to come in the next day to work and but it was actually an interaction with one of those kids. You know it was like as if he could see through me that I was trying to share with him about how he should live was hypocritical. he knew on some level that I was struggling to in it. To raise my awareness about wanting to change my life, the whole notion of hypocrisy, in every element of life. Today. It feels to me anyhow, especially coming out of the lock downs that it's been on display like really we ve never seen before, and not just in our political figures, not just in our educational world. It's everywhere, you look right and what is it about hypocrisy as it applies to recovery. Do you have to completely rid yourself of those hypocritical tendencies or is?
enough to simply acknowledge them, or is it all of it baby steps yeah. I think that I think there's some risk in Folks, at step into recovery in this sort of more, stream way of thinking about that they are We now have their act together and everybody else a sort of broken owen and that they have reached this pinnacle and because you feel like you're at a pinnacle, the ability to fall and is also there now, where I cannot think of it more as I developed and awareness and covering that that I think we're actually all in recovery from something and we're all sort of healing from the human condition in some way- and my thing was this drinking and drugs and really born from my adverse childhood experience, but for other people
be, what they look like or how much money they make or how many likes they have or how many followers many. let's have ways were seeking our emotional well being externally and at the time I was just trying to do it through a bottle of rum ho ho HO, so we're all addicted. In that scenario, rural addicted to something food relationships, dope a meme likes right exercise. I mean how much of what you ve done with phoenix has been replacing one addiction with another:
you know it's it's something that is certainly sort of present at phoenix. I think of it more as developing a positive coping mechanism, we're all sort of seeking these coping mechanisms, often the mechanism itself. It ends up being pretty destructive in our life, but something about exercise inherently, you know kind of gets to the self esteem wounds. You know you stand on top of the mountain for the first time you cross that finish line. For the first time, the pitfall is: do you? and have to cross at finish line faster, and then you have to do it as a pro athlete. Then you have to lose x amount a way to do it better than you started, in the cycle of it starts to affect you and the people. You love, natively, and that's really my lens fur. If you
healthy relationship with something is effect you or your loved ones negatively, and if it does, then you should look at your relationship with that thing and I certainly went there with my own exercise. You know when I got sober. I've felt great being over. So I quit smoking and I felt great quit smoking. So I quit coffee and then I saw her racing triathlon than I had to go faster than I want to go the world championship than I had to do tat before our mountain bike races and they just got more and more extreme. If I didn't have something on the calendar, I felt empty land and then I realize that the real magic of it was sharing. the training with the people I loved and hiking up the mountain, not necessarily whether or not we got to the summit and in those relationships that I really began to heal and that extreme sort of relationship with exercising sorry to lose its power. So when the phoenix started I actually could be,
sort of a little bit of a regulator for folks whose regulator wasn't quite working. Yet here's, how intensely they did those sports, because it's really tempting and I think a lot of people do when I just kind of glibly suggested you know one addiction with another. I think there's truth to it right. It's it's either. Healthier is not healthy, but you're, saying that underneath the activity hairs, this other thing- and maybe it's an artifact from some preexisting trauma where some unresolved thing in your own self, but there's there's something there. I just met, a guy that you might be interested in his name's, ed curry, and he He grew the carolina reaper, the hottest pepper there at the ghost pepper
the guy down to one of the carolinas, whose growing things that are basically just liquid fire and getting them into all sorts of sauce sauces and things and he's got a great business, but it was a full on heroin attic at a glance you know hanging out with him and growing as peppers and eating his papers, which my god help you. If you do this, you know your tempted to just sum up by saying aright. He replaced heroin with cap station right one active ingredient with another active ingredient Really, to my shame, I think I did that, but when I was looking at the footage of the peace we shot the other day listening to him talk to me on camera, it was never really about the pepper it was about a new relationship with his wife and it was about this community of people who just get off. Swallowing liquid fire and then somehow right. So I I get it. I think
I think, whether its exercise or hot sauce note, there's always a human under that trying to deal with something a little bigger and broader, and I think that's a great- that's- really insightful, observation because I say this often at the phoenix we do stuff other than just working out. We do meditation and yoga and book club and art and a whole bunch of other things. Anything led by somebody. Who's been touched by substance use, whether it's a loved one or somebody who's in recovery cells, but exercises of one of the core pillars cassettes. What we started with an my story, but am You say that you often come for the work out, but you're staying for the friendships and you don't always know that, like sometimes you become a student of the activity in europe you know you learn the olympic left and then you're, getting more focused on how you lift off the ground and your high pole and how you receive the bar bell and then your gun
up in weight in the bars gettin heavier and after refine your form even a little bit more and then also You find this little group at phoenix where europe really focused on that. Your meeting in the german on days when there are aren't even programmes and and then you're olympic weightlifter you take on this identity, but what happens also is that you you. Haven't a tough day in your shocked by the realities of life. Like we all. Are you real as your starting to turn to that core group of people as your support network and that that's actually the magic. It's not how much weights on the bar. It's the folks that you're high five and after you The bar do: doo doo, doo, doo, doo, doo, doo, doo, doo, doo, doo, commerce, health care and hospitality all have in common I'll tell you. There are desperate for quality workers. If you need to higher quality candidate asap,
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smart as to share. Swear man, I wish you'd chuck and I in another life sang in a big organization called the course of the chesapeake, which was part of the society, for the preservation encouragement of barbershop quartet Second rights is one of these random little subcultures that you've heard of but most people don't know anything about, and we were lucky to have a director who was renowned in that space. and there's sort of a working assumption when you join a chorus like that and become a part of a big singing mechanism. You know you re eyes. You you're getting closer and closer to the guy, to your right and to your left in front of him behind you, these right, and so
The default position is this: music is making this incredible fellowship but check how many times when he pulls to the side and say none other than the fellowship. The fellowship makes the music amuse me again. It sounds kind of clear, but it sounds like a small thing, but the chronology of how you think about whether you're trying to become a great world class chorus or a world class weightlifter. Or using any of these things to overcome, and another thing in your life. It seems like the more and more like the law. I live in the more I look around the more I realize it's, never the thing I'm looking at at the thing right under the thing thing always yeah, that's true, and I see it at phoenix as well I think that we need some sort of an institutional level. We we know that You know so nice words are drawn in by the by the sing.
Here by the weightlifting or whatever it may be, but on some primal level or looking for that sense of community and connection with us there's. Nothing is one reason the phoenix has been able to scale across the country. Is that there's other people out there with it? This desire to help people who are experiencing addiction is struggling with substance use because there are so many people that are love that our gone through this and they don't seem to be a lot of resources out there. So that's how we get all these in bounds from communities across the country. People want the volunteer, restart phoenix, so then go back a bit when you were at your low point Were you looking around for the phoenix and not finding it or were you finding a you know, a poor substitute for it. It's difficult to know
because so many people Scott get to a low point and ate and they stay there, though punch their own ticket right or they look for help, but they can't find so I just I just wonder why you yeah think I mean I was searching in. I was. I knew I didn't want to keep living the life I was living and I felt as if the addiction has really been stripping away, the dreams of who I thought I could be in life, and so I started, sort of seeking something else to do and for some reason I was really drawn to getting into the outdoors, and I thought to myself. I want to get outdoorsy so I went to an outdoor store. And I said what I need to be outdoors in the guys like I needed cortex jacket, which was actually pretty good advice, and I got one and I was walking out- and I saw this ad for ice climbing and I thought ice- climbing sounds like the craziest thing I've ever heard,
and there is a picture of this guy and a brochure on this sheer ice cliff and I signed up for a class and I went and I had to stay sober that day. So I could climb the next. You that I wasn't so hung over, that I couldn't climb, and then I realized. If I stayed sober two nights, I can actually climb two days on the weekend. So I start to peace, gather recovery in that way, but the sort of sneaky part you know the kind of self esteem healing sort of trojan horse. Of that experience was that every time I got to that but that climb, I believed and myself a little bit more and that belief in myself translated into the idea that I could actually stay sober too, and that was me no really catalyzed the road to recovery. getting better is a bit like the frog in boiling water right baby steps little. But or look at more
he's getting worse the same way I mean do these things happen incrementally or if an attic falls off the wagon? Is it just with a thud I'm not really sure my question is other than to say that there is a war. King assumption. That once you're in the hall it you're, always an alcoholic you're, always in recovery right and then there this other sort of school of thought, I have some friends who went through something called them are, are right, rational recovery, because the a thing didn't quite work for them, and so I hears the sensible question Is there a play book or are there many many many ways to try and get to a place where you can? You know, live your life. I think there are many ways and
I think that we try to be mindful of that at the phoenix like not everybody's, going to want to do olympic, weightlifting or yoga or meditation or whatever, but I think the key thing at the phoenix is creating the the supportive environment for people to try and to dare to change their life. The path you know and if they struggle on that path they know they're, supported and surrounded by people who care about them. That gives you the courage to tie into the climbing rope for the first time and try rock climbing or to you know, pick up. Bar belpher first time are to go under the yoga met for the first time whenever it it may be. But I think if we start getting to sort of dogmatic about how you have to get in the recovery to me, that's often a signal. that you're still white knuckling you're like real
holding onto that thing so tightly, because if you don't believe that that's the only way, then you start to doubt that you are on a path that can be successful. Nowhere. Is it phoenix? We try to say we support each other all thing. are welcome here. Faith is your party recovery and the twelve step community? Great? If you don't do any of that great, if just wait left in his your thing gray, you know if you we stay here today, cause you have to be forty. Eight hours sober to come to a phoenix event and you go drink tomorrow. We want you back next week at the same time, because you'll have forty eight hours again, if you can pull that off again next week, and if you get a couple is like that now you're sober half the week, you know so we we make it accessible for people aware there at an and through that people find their path. It seems like the only real rule you have. Is the forty eight hour sober rule traffic? I mean it's free right. Anybody can go to a phoenix thing in if you,
silver fir forty eight hours, you're welcome minister have amazing is that it is that, because of the ice, climbing thing that you experience personally, that you wanted to implement, we'll put some kind of sides on this yeah because you know. Basically, we have to be clear, headed enough to participate. It also shows a level of commitment enough. If you show up in here, trying to get that forty eight hours to be there and then the only other rules are adhering to this sort of code of conduct, which really just says we're respectful and thoughtful of each other, we're here to lift each other up, not pull each other down. I think those principles are sort of surrounding phoenix. Events are ways that serve our. I could hear more broadly is that if we were imagine that are real
in four interacting with others within our community is actually help list them not to pull them down in a wicked peel. A lot of things I think in our country, but that sir, the culture at phoenix, Jordan and is so people understand, things started in Boston yet and actually started in colorado, where I moved to do triathlon kind of full time, but having gone sober in Boston, I always wondered bring it back here. So how big is it now? It has grown quickly and then slowly. At the same time, I'd say it's been around for fifteen years, there's a we were kind of expanding slowly, because we want to make sure we didn't lose the magic of the culture, but we re Likewise, we met some really incredible philanthropists sort of challenged us to think. Like should Phoenix run, every phoenix event, staff paid staff or could volunteers do this
So we opened up this tab on our website when we were just in colorado, california and had just started in massachusetts and people could volunteer start, a phoenix near them, and we have seven hundred cohorts across the country, apply to start phoenix we took the tab off the website and started to figure out how we actually do that and am through working with some like incredible thought, partners and philanthropists, we came alongside this vision that Anyone anywhere can volunteer to start a phoenix programme, and if you're connected to this mission, you can raise. hand to start a hike or a walker, a book club or coffee. So sure, whatever it is near community, train you on the model and through our mobile app view, find support from our violent your coordinators in and you can start a phoenix event,
So if you have a loved one has been touched by it and you want to help or if you yourself are in recovery, you can do it. So it's a super broad net for a very big problem, but what it feel like when you saw the response like once, you really put it out there like the old, if you building they will come and then they show up, and now you go oh crap they're here and so to speak to that. If you would, but also through the lens of that, if expression you just use the m, the magic of the culture right you get too far over your skis and all of a sudden, you know you're in your own way, and you ve become something so big. You can't control it. That's always interested me, especially and philanthropic endeavours. There's a couple elements there, like, I think, as we once we had the capability.
Organization that kind of open up those volunteer opportunities. It just started like wildfire. We had somebody at a at a local crosspatch jim who got a couple hours was donated by the gym owner and also made across the class in arkansas somewhere safe thing happened in wherever San francisco somebody one delete a bike ride now phoenix is in san francisco an hour in over forty states and a hundred and fifty plus communities. And we have about fifteen hundred volunteers and in the sixteen years or to building up to this year we serve two hundred thousand people with phoenix free programmes this year alone, we served another hundred thousand people oh now our steady state of people reached with the phoenix is over a hundred thousand people a year, and it's all through these incredible volunteers that are raising their hand and wanting to get started, and
when I get a kick out of that from is like I'll travel. A lot for phoenix somewhere, in my sober sure, or a phoenix shirt and I'll be in an airport Some kid will come up with a young man. You go to phoenix too, and I will again It looks like just like I go in Wichita, you know and we like start talking and it's pretty cool, and he says what stuff do you like to go to and I was like I'd go to as much stuff as I can and that really feeds my heart in know to get up and keep doing the work on an ongoing basis. So, to see a grow like that has been really special, but the trick is that making sure these early adopters that are valid tearing the raise their hands share our culture, and that is become the role of the organization. I think that that I think is hard for non profit. to do, and companies in general is too to allow themselves to recreate their role and their purpose.
but never lose sight of their core values and their and their vision, I would imagine virtually everyone in the organisation has been touched by some level of addiction. How many have been touched personally to your knowledge yeah, I would probably say everyone that works here. You know, and sometimes it's not directly in their family of origin or something it's a loved one or something they saw impact youth in their community or something like that, but I think we ve got really good at seeking out people who have this. Like a cue, I q, empathy kind of combo that makes them we know able to help. Others he'll think that there's something special
to go off track here for a second but like I know my rack Scalia there's no track. I love the allegory of the cave by played out it's like nine pages. That philosophy it's about. All I could manage my shipyard brain, but but I love it and if you read that it talks about sort of being shackled looking at the wall and their shadows on the wall of the cave and and whoever those are that are shackled, their believe that to be a reality and then you're on Jack odin allowed a walk in the cave and you start to think way. This is reality and then you get to ascend into the light and you are ass to the light, and then you understand the world as it is, and I think that to me is recovery in and if we can remember what it was like to be shackled, we can also be there for those folks that are still in that place and help them ascend everything
that allegory and everything that I know about you kind of redounds to aid to a modesty? Does humility about you I think this is the main reason that I wanted you on this podcast, because it's very difficult to lead a big organization, especially one where so many people have such a shared experience and and and not default to some kind of certainty, especially when you have success under your belt like this, especially, when your future depends heavily on more philanthropy and more generosity right. So you, you know I seeing that humility, I think with competence is something worth talking about, but also the humility that comes with not saying look. I broke
shackles. I got out of the cave and now I know now. I understand what the world is. I don't know if you saw this but two days ago, the james web telescope identified a tiny red thirteen point, one billion years in our past, in a galaxy that has as much star mass as the milky way, but is about a third of the size so picture like a for foot tall. Do that weighs eight times It's like this galaxy is not supposed to be there this gap see this little red dot with over a hundred billion, stars in it just turned virtually everything we think we know about the origin of the universe upside down,
I just haven't even commented on it. Yet I talk to my buddies, who produce how the universe works, which have been working on for ten years and its it's one of those discoveries that is just leaving everyone just so gobs. act? They can't find the words yet to make sense of it. So in a very very large universal pardon upon way. It's like the science just dagger it out of the cave and looked around and went out. Ok, so that gonna work. What we thought I gonna work and so sorry for the for the rent. But it's that allegory never ends it just gets bigger and bigger and bigger, and the minute you think. Sorry to make political, but the minute you think the science is settled, you're, not a scientist anymore. I agree totally and I think you're right. I think I think that's where we know sort of
finding that humility to understand why I don't even know if I've ascended into the light yet right, like I might just be walking around gave c in the fire and the images on the wall. We know and thinking that I know what what life is and what the world is but if you can stay in that humbled budding but inquisitive place. continuing to learn then- and I think that's where the magic is. You know, I I running non profit. They know. I worry about folks that serve apply for jobs. That sort of no the way like here's, how you do it I find that if you're really more curious to learn the best way, that's the sort of trade we want higher because it means you're gonna, continue to try and pivot and evolve ideas and and get input from other people and make it better and that sell phoenix
grown aware. It is nothing I did its. I got the ball rolling and then brought people alongside it. They could help lean into it with me and now it's gone where it is. Do you have a core group of people that have been with you from the start that you simply couldn't do this without the area for sherman employ number two that started at phoenix still works here. Sixteen years later, actually just talked to him today, In his role as change about fifteen times same is mine. You know we have all had a bunch of different jobs and eat, we are building something from nothing: carbon adele, the wilderness, you You know when I started a nonprofit. I didn't think I'd have to become an expert at installing floors and gems but basically I can put down area or floor and an afternoon in twelve thousand square foot Jim pretty effectively. So while it's like my flooring, skills have gone way up about executive directors. You can, after due at all.
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If around the micro business, I'm going to see what it is your actually doing, and are you sure about that man? Are you sure, and now I'm shackled to in the cave, looking at the items on the wall, again in a hurry back. That's when I first read that the whole plato allegory thing, the things struck me was, if you can see, shadows on the wall, it's because there's fire, and if you have fire and you're in the cave and you're looking at the wall, the odds are pretty good, though shadows are you yes right so like, if you're your own shop? I know, staring at that shadow and not quite being able to connect the fact that the fire that you were smart enough to make, but maybe not smart enough to keep just outside of the cave and the smoke that coming from the fire is probably slowly killing you that mysterious thing on the wall is simply your own reflection. Then then you can start to think about. Maybe oh you know the demon. I'm fighting. Look at that he's me
that's all. Well, that's! What's gonna circling back to what I said earlier that we are often seeking our emotional wellbeing externally, because sort of finding at here is tough. You know, that's where you have to start to be able to forgive yourself fur things and also love yourself for things and believe in yourself. In other ways- and you know it saw now- there's a good treatment centre, though started called the meadows, and this woman p a melody who started. It said we're all perfectly imperfect, and once we understand that life gets a little bit easier because you don't beat yourself up as much if you feel it. your failing, as you understand that that's actually part of the journey of growing and getting better. It's actually a great answer to my earlier query, which was: how do you ballots humility and the certainty that you need to lead?
Fifthly, and so yeah there, it is to admit into words that you're, both perfect and flawed perfectly imperfect homeless are not bad what they said. The best leaders only are right. Fifty one percent of the time. I know that's all it takes, you know and you can be a good leader. No way I get around with much lower percentage and bad masquers work with great people like advertising right only ten percent of it works, but nobody knows which percent? So you gonna throw a lot of money on the wall and hope that it sticks, which begs the question: how do you deal with failure? Because, even though you ve had a ton of success, within Felix. I'm sure. Over all these years you ve seen people come in, do their best and fall flat on their face and go straight back into the life. What does speak too? That yeah? I think, tat
as it relates to a sort of addiction you you need did just we need to take the shame out, We know we need to stop looking at it as a sort of moral, failing and think of it more as a way that were all of us are trying to cope with something within you know, often its pain in our four others, its other reasons, but I think that when you take the shame out of it, it allows people to get re engaged in a supportive community more quickly. That's why at the phoenix, yet it's only forty eight hours sober it's. If so, if you're thinking about recovery, you can dip your toe in and try it. but also if you relapse by tomorrow. You'll have forty eight hours and we want you back. We miss you. We love you get back in here and then But we can turn that to day relapse into just that, as opposed to a two year. Relapse is just
be an openness. Another reason I wear a sort of sober sure in I'll just be an proud of my recovery and put out there. I'm not saying everybody, recoveries gonna, where sober short or that everybody's gotta get sober. I'm just saying that I'm proud of who I am and recovery and by making it serves something that's hopeful and out. There is a message of hope. allows people that are struggling to step into it and not feel like their broken or something's wrong with them. They realize actually they can find a really rich for life in recovery, and that might be the encouragement they need to get sober. Go ask about sam alone to boston right cheers was in Boston. There was a great show and there's some people in my life of struggled with addiction and one of them,
I remember watching an episode of chairs with and saying where do you fall on that kind of thinking where, like four, admittedly, a fictitious character, retired baseball player name sam alone, he part of recovery is running a bar, it being surrounded by alcohol for part of other people's recoveries is getting as far away from it is possible and simply not not letting that temptation anywhere close again. There doesn't seem to be a useful bromide or platitude or pay book, but where do you fall on it? I've never been asked somethin like that, so that I gotta think about it. For a second, I would say that for me, if we back to the allegory one. Last time like just knowing their still people down there shackled. I can't move far away from it mike, I feel like. I need to stay where you talk about the phoenix, a lot that if you there's people still in the burning building, don't you feel obligated. You have
reach back in and that sort of how I approach it. I understand why p or might move entirely away from it but I also wonder if you're staying to close to that all life, if that still feeding something in you, some kick some little high that you get from being near and on the edge of the fire so close that do you could get burned out. So I think that there is a balance. If you step away and you feel like you- have the fortitude and the support network and strength the kind of reach back in four others than the knesset, You do and if you need a little more time to develop that before you can take that time, what about leverage you said something once I don't offer was at a coke event, or maybe was your ted talk, but you were talking about your mom right from one Mama's boy,
I remember the day my mother picked up the phone and ask me the question that change the course of my life and drove me into a sewer to produce show called dirty jobs. You talked about a moment when you did I think you just didn't want a letter down. You would come to that point. How bigger role did that play in you just deciding enough already yeah. That was probably me talking to max actually about the last night I used, and was sort of wrapped up in paranoia from while the drug use and had been on a bender drinking and using for a few days- and I was locked up in my apartment and that with the lights out serve
waiting in the bathroom, because I thought people were after me, and I was sure this is how my life was going to end, and I thought somebody would have to tell my mom that that that's our son and his life ended on the bathroom floor somewhere in you know in this sort of drug bender, and that was really the spark that sort of lit the fire that ultimately became phoenix. You know that was the last night I drank and used, but then the bigger sort of thing there is that my mom was one of those people that believed in me, even though I didn't yet believe and myself, and that little thread of belief kept me tethered from sort of floating away forever in my addiction and- and I think if we can help connect those threats to others? We can do that forum, even if they didn't get it from their family of origin. So
finding that thing in any attic who would like to recover. That would make them smaller. Like finding the bigger thing I mean, I guess you know a would talk about it in terms of a higher power. I just made it more down here on the corporate plane were just the idea that somebody's going to call your mom and say yeah Scott checked out. We found him on the bathroom floor with two days of cocaine in his system. That conversation was just so hideous that it actually redirected you, but that's an external fear right, and so is it again him I know a as is an overly simplified question, but isn't there always enough leverage somewhere to get people to get to that place? I well it depends pans, and I think that I think of it.
Less as leverage and more so as a moment of perspective on your life, your clear, headed enough for a window of time if its forty eight hours to come the phoenix just that window. time that gives you enough enough of a moment, have perspective on your life and what's possible, and I think that special about the in excess in that small window were often folks are experiencing something that has them believing differently about themselves. So you come in your anxious, you're nervous. You ve never been around a group of people without a drinking and drug in your system, but you have the urged actually come to that zoom class on phoenix yours up at a yoga van, are gonna, buy, cried and near mountain breaking down the hill and you crash in how you, like you, get back up and dust off
we get back on the bike and maybe anita you know- maybe you've got the road rash or whatever, but you know at the end, that you're like leave, smiling and lifted, and you believe in yourself in a different way, and you hopefully began to take that belief and to other parts of your life, and maybe that night you don't have to go by twelve back on the way home and then the dead. You call a friend that you do know goes to talks that meeting next thing. You know you're begin in some steps towards recovery. Did you ever surprise yourself with with something that you did? What I mean by that is reaching the mountain top. Did you ever think? Well, I can't really do this, but I'm gonna try because the effort will be the reward. And did you ever surprise yourself and did that encourage further, and if so, what was that yeah? It's actually. I think that one of those moments was really pivotal for me, which was I stay
I thought I was sort of a fraud or a fake or not deserving of love or stuff. I kind of picked up as a kid, sir. It taught me some of those lessons and If I was climbing a mountain with some friends and it was a big mountain and it was a dangerous one and I we are climbing with a guide, I did think that I sort of could do it on my own, so I went through a guiding service and there was a moment where the guide made a decision, a safety decision that I disagreed with and at that point I had some years of of experience as a climber, and I I myself sort of disagreeing with this guide on the side of a mountain in a storm and ended up going down the mountain with a couple guys and the folks at went up got. a spite and were pretty severely. Pinned down by some, whether in the folks that went down we're sitting at base camp drinking tea, looking up at the mountaineer with our digits intact in them Oh man was a time when I read
why's that I actually had something that contribute to others. That was something I was always looking for and be able to steal the bottle of vodka. You know it was to actually be a meaningful part of a group and to feel loved and respected and believed in, and I found it in that little moment. What would I take from that? Is you had the courage to question authority and I'm not preaching rebellion as a default position, but you know there's another big recurring theme in a lot of these conversations we have here, which is the primacy of experts, whether it's in the form of a guide like you just had, or a teacher and its also back to that weird cease all between humility and certainty. You hire a guide to take you to. hearts unknown on the side of it. Admittedly, treacherous environment- and here he is,
pardon me, I'm assuming its a he for no good reason. With years of experience you ve brought him in because of his experience because of his wisdom. because of his credibility, can you say nah now Now I'm going to other way. Good luck up there, that's huge, and it I just ego, there's ego, for sure, but that sort of self. tool. Is the kind of dignity that comes with being able to get to a, it's in your life, by whatever means where you can rely on your gut, or at least trusted that's hard to teach well now we can. We can blame check for kick off the self actual innovation conversation now, because that is like you're saying in our town, because I think that self actual innovation is actually what's happening at phoenix
I know what's coming in and and at first it's just sort of you know trying the activity and starting to become a little bit of a student of that and then really pretty quickly. You realize you can actually volunteer to give that two other people and then you add another phoenix class. To the calendar, so we can reach even more folks but like the allegory. The caves, EL factual information is something that continues to grow your gift, your talents that you can then share with others to make a meaningful contribution, get better, over time and the contribution you can make becomes bigger and that continues to oh and sort of evolve. A point I want to pull out a year. Your thought you where does that in the non profit space? We see this all the time to we tend to try to work in a system that is already established and do our little peace within that system rarely, do we say, let's change. The whole way were approaching this this.
industry has been around for forty years Who am I to say that we can do it differently or better, and truth is I'm guy in recovery, he was about two hundred thousand other people. They say we can you know it all. The folks at have ever come the phoenix like we're starting to realise that we can try its form. The way we approach really complex issues. Just by having the courage to stand up and say, I think, there's a better way. Yes, I think the moral of your story to me anyway is not the fact that you were right. It's not the fact that you get to sit at base camp sipping tee up there and saying we chose wisely. It's a nice happy But the moral of the story is. Surely there was a time in your life a year or two or three prior to that moment,
Where have you been in the exact same circumstance? You wouldn't have dared question the primacy of the guide. You would have followed him up or down right, so as lance Armstrong said, it's not about the bike. It's about getting to that moment where you have the courage to say I'm gonna have to go my own way here. I could be wrong, but I rather be wrong, then just put my head down and follow his way was just the opposite. He leaned into drugs? While you know metaphor and know what the shadow on the wall was looking awful lot like a fire
interestingly, is hanging right behind scott to now see how the plane shocked, yeah everything's good, he's, welcome to come to phoenix too we'd love to have him lead a ride, so that would be great I'll make some goals. I wanted to ask a question about what you think the biggest challenge to combating addiction is these days I think that one of the biggest challenges so is that were often trying to address the wrong thing you know like. I think use my days in the shipyards, as an example could be a good analogy here, but like I worked in shipyards before we, war, respirators and protective equipment, and we wish to paint with red lead paint and toxic bottom pain on ships and wash off with diesel and then go drinkin. like tat was the way you did a man in that I got some
sort of tumor from that and that tumor. Give me a headache if you treated the headache for me, you would alleviate some of that pain. If he treated the tumor for me, you would save my life, but what about everybody else? That's in that shipyard. You know so like lying to the environment where the toxic sort of route is is the magic. so like if we're trying to address addiction, our country and death of despair, we need to go by Did they underline why to really get after it not just treat the headache and that's the trauma, that's the trauma, I believe right with a capital tee and it could apply to virtually anything yet, not just a big traumas. Right I mean people have a tendency to think of it, always in terms of
well the thing that you remember, which seems clear, but there are so many little traumas and people's lives, so many little disappointments that stack up. I would think, and I mean have you seen that I think that's it great observation as well, and I think that it's, I always think of the big traumas are obvious to us. You know like you're, like wow, that's trauma when you hear about it and then so a lot of a say: well, we'd inexperienced that so I have an experience trauma, but that it is like you know when you have like, father was often the little less as heads and very demeaning and vienna would walk out on the soccer field and tell you what you did wrong in front of the whole bench in the other. Players like that was style. If you won the game, he would yell at you cause you gotta played better, but if you
about each one of those is a little cut. If you get a thousand of those, they can kill. You now so like. I think those things stack up, if we don't really sort of acknowledge it and process it, because often we see extreme trauma- and we say- oh I didn't have that. So I should just sort of suck it up you say you never actually begin to heal from the thousand cuts. Then it's gonna come out somewhere It's going to come out in relationships is going to come out and sort of our relationship with substances be no seeking that emotional well being externally. So I think going more fundamentally to the system that creating a lot of these things. I think we can address criminal justice reform. I think we can address homelessness. I think we can address mental health,
Lee mass shootings all these things if we could really get to that core. Why, as a driver behind many of these things, I just wonder I think of most of those traumas really in one of two categories: once more conscious of whether their large or small, I mean the fact that you remember your old man gone out on the soccer field and doing that. Yes, that I'll try x, and I can see how that would all add up. But it's the stuff. You can't remember consciously, then, makes me interested I'm fairly sceptical, most things in and dubious of a woloda, traditional therapies, but I do think there is enormous. value and benefit in not recovering memories. That's a whole different conversation, but just recalling
Some of the small things that added up that your conscious mind is just pushed away. That's the part of the map. It says here be dragons right man, if you can identify those. I can't imagine anything bad happening as a result. No, I think too. It's also that's. Why there's something special about community. You know at phoenix. You find this unity and I have to say like we react. the programmes are folks coming home from the criminal justice system and I'll go down. Their left waits with those guys, and I would imagine there probably like who's this big ball guy, lift and ways with us who can about his early childhood trauma like I've really haven't heard many people talk about that stuff in the more talks about it, the more I'm realise, and actually my dad was probably a lot like his dad. and now the sudden you're starting to find a space. Where you, So given permission to be vulnerable and in
if the vulnerability is actually where we're building a bond, also not just around the shared activity. It's just so fascinating to me, barbershop harmony is a community. Climbing mountains is a community working out. Is a community but being in prison? Is a community and joining a gang is a community and sitting around the dilapidated house doing cocaine in heroin, forbear or god forbid, fetnah. Whatever is on the many these days. That's a community too. So I mean it really does make point that our need to be around like minded people for better or worse, that's primal, no church. Churches, a community that you know what chuck does after he goes to church, he plays disk gulf hat with a bunch of doing for hours you can guarantee or make it a phoenix event chuck. That would be great.
What I'm going to consider that? Why not? Let's yeah I mean it's such a weird, random quirky thing to do, but your passion. For that I mean we he'll play golf or the irish and then I'll call me to tell me about every brick and whole in law- the wind here in this one and that desk, but it's great it's great, does it small at its personal, and you got half a dozen bodies with you. While the interesting thing is that the guy who leads the group that I play and also leads the recovery at my church ass, a couple, so this would fit right in yeah. Absolutely doesn't it phoenix event, see that's how we grow. That's good right is not speaking of which it's the phoenix dot org to find out where it is near you and you can also go to the appstore. Could you guys have an app called the phoenix, a sober community in that
you can find a community too, and an activity correct, yeah, yeah, just download the app and it'll you know turn on the geo, location and they'll. Tell you what events are around you and and if there aren't feeding events around you, you can be the person new starts phoenix near you and I can do it by I'm on a voluntary and sell grows? I wanted to us. We appear to be landing the plane here that dumb this doesn't happen. A lot in In terms of I mean there are a lot of wonderful five o one sees out there. There are a lot of charities who have moved the needle and I've spent a lot of time talking with a lot of them, but the accelerant that it takes to do with phoenix is done. I've only really seen at one other time with a guy named Luke mick. Son who had a thing he started. Building bunk beds for kids were sleeping on the floor now
and we did a story on him a few years ago and they went from six chapters to like five hundred, and it just goes to the point that when you're talking about something that so basic a kid not sleeping on the floor, people get it and the degree to which people have been impacted by addiction, all kinds of addiction. You can't turn on the tv now hundred and four thousand people dead last year from fetnah alone. The thing is real it's tearing the asset of our country and a horrible way and you're such a big part of the solution. Scot I mean really it's a privilege to talk to you and I guess the final quest. Is where's this thing going we know the phoenix rose from the ashes, but what's it going to do? Next it's going to grow wings, going to fly off going to find another galaxy somewhere thirteen billion years ago see its own shadow on the wall. What happens while, I think with us gone to adding?
for programming through the pandemic were now international, so people are coming from overseas now the phoenix which is great- but I think you know continuing the build our technology to be able to reach even more people. You know, one thing I think about when you you know when you hear our algorithms and all that sort of challenges that some of the technology today is causing. Is that the same thing adverse childhood experience right. If we understand that those experiences exist, we have to believe that we can actually create the opposite. Positive, nurturing uplifting, empowering places and the same thing with that technology if we can use it to actually help people rise, that would do the magic because then phoenix is everywhere and it can start to apply
other things. You know the model, the idea of creating this nurturing space. We can start applying it to other issues and transform the way our countries approaching many of these things, which were currently failing at ptsd. Maybe exactly I mean I would love to see what can happen in that space. We profiled, maybe a dozen different organizations taking non traditional approaches to try and combat that. But virtually everything we ve talked about applies, I think, to a service person coming home and just looking at the re entry and what you said before about shame. You know it's so true, although I gotta say I'm sorry, china, we gonna, wrap it up, but man shame is If those things it's like, I think, shame gets a bad rap. Frankly, I've written papers called indefensible
aim there. So many people that I know who actually could benefit from a little bit of like, but by the same token, if you're overwhelmed with it, if its heavy, if its crippling you and keeping you from getting off the bathroom floor right, if it's just Then, of course, then it's a bad thing last question: how do you know and shames bad guess is when it is doing just that when you're allowing it to instead having it be reflecting on something and learning from it, so that you can grow and continue on your journey you're, allowing it to fort you from moving forward there s about, say I have suffered a piggy back on to that. What you said mike about the shame what you said about doing. Something are all these things like just designed to.
get you out of your head. Because that's where the shame is right now and I think in a we see that often too it's like you, come in, you had a tough day. The world is piling up on you with all the stuff we all deal with when you come in here and you start moving your body and laughing and hanging out with people that believe in you and are there for you and you walk out forgetting what you are so stressed about in the first place so it's just be unable to reset sometimes and get to that next day been. Sometimes it is just that breaking your pattern. You know I got dragged one of those tony robin seminars many years ago and that's one of the things that break your pattern if you can do with a mountain bike or nice climb or barbershop song or a square dance. You just have to break your pattern. Somehow you have to do it
you're doing it your jagged little pill, you're disrupting things. Everybody loves! You man keep doing it. Are you gonna? Be it the next event? Then I got together, yeah I'll be out there for sure I'm excited for it, and so I had to keep grinding gettin phoenix everywhere. So fantastic. You know I have a line of whisky right yeah. I know I was shocked I'll be your built in designated driver always It's always good to know a couple of sober guys to keep them around you, brother, I'm going to put you on speed dial! Thank you. I appreciate it How much and good luck with all of it appreciate you guys doing- and I couldn't get out of here without saying my wife said- make sure you tell mica set high down, and I said why are you so interested she said? She's, like you know, I don't even know if I know em they're my some trouble, but she really was excited to say hi to you. So if you ever hanging down boston, let me now randal by a coffee or something
is she there now, no now she's back home, we just had a brand new little one, so she's watching the baby. I just got back from paternity leave, so we're not sleeping at all over here. I dare say you ve broken your own pattern, Scott! Congratulations thanks! Why this episode is over now. I hope it was worthwhile. Sorry, it went on still body if it makes you smile your satisfaction in the way that people do days? leave as of today I be and nudge, but
Well the advertisers really like to judge at your own age around a bunch. Just an honor to all you gotta do is leave a quick five star review you got to do is leave a quick five star review. All you gotta do is real. Quick you've got to do is leave a quick, classical review you can do is leave a query, even if you hate I've saw especially thank you.
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Transcript generated on 2023-03-08.