Beyond Recovery with Tommy Rosen

Apr 30, 2019

Or, listen on Spotify

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Addiction hits close to home for so many of us. More than half of all American adults have a family history of problem drinking or alcohol addiction, and the growing drug crisis in the US is deadlier than gun violence, car crashes or AIDS, none of which have killed as many Americans in a single year as in 2017, when more than 70,000 people died from drug overdoses.

No area of the United States is free from this epidemic—most of us know a friend, family member, or loved one devastated by addiction.

This crisis costs American society more than $740 billion annually in lost workplace productivity, healthcare expenses, and crime-related costs. That’s not even considering the immeasurable emotional and spiritual loss felt in our communities.

And even though there are more than 14,500 specialized substance abuse treatment facilities in the United States (that’s more than there are Starbucks), the relapse rate for substance use disorders is still estimated to be between 40% and 60%.

But addiction is considered a highly treatable disease, and recovery is attainable, but it’s not without effort, community, and, as you’ll hear Tommy Rosen explain in this episode, ‘a holistic approach to long-term recovery.”

Tommy is a yoga teacher and addiction recovery expert who has spent the last two decades immersed in recovery and wellness. He is the founder of Recovery 2.0, a Global Community, Online Conference series, and Group Coaching Program offering retreats and workshops all over the world. And his first book, Recovery 2.0: Move Beyond Addiction and Upgrade Your Life, was published by Hay House in 2014.

In today’s episode, we’ll hear about Tommy’s personal connection to this work and get some insight into what it takes to heal. You might even shift your thinking on what it means to struggle with some less obvious types of longing and addiction.

I’m your host, Jeff Krasno, and welcome to Commune.  

Tommy: My name is Tommy Rosen. I'm a yoga teacher here in Southern California although I teach mostly around the world. My work is with people in recovery from addiction to use the tools of yoga and meditation, healthy diet, healthy lifestyle to help people on a path of recovery really to thrive in their life.

Jeff: Right, and you founded Recovery 2.0. What does that do?

Tommy: Recovery 2.0 is a global organization of people who have embraced a holistic approach to recovery from addiction. We create media online, we do destination retreats around the world, we have an online membership, we do online conferences or summits, and we have programs throughout the year online. We have a food program, a sleep program, a coaching program, and now we're launching our first coaches training program for other people who want to work with other people in recovery.

Jeff: This is not just a job for you. This is part of your personal journey.

Tommy: It's fair to say.

Jeff: Because I think it's important for people. People often see their own story in yours. I would be grateful if you'd shared some of your story of how you got to this place.

Tommy: I'd be delighted. I'm currently 27 years in continuous recovery. I call it the path of discovery, but I've been recovering or recovered now from drug addiction, alcoholism for these past 27 years. For 12 years before that, I was pretty much in a relationship with substances pretty much constant. But before that in my childhood, really what I was in a relationship with was sugar. I call sugar the real gateway drug. For me, it weakens the system. It creates a field, if you will, in the body where disease can really take root, disease of every kind. But let's just say a disease is a weakness of some kind, and let's say that addiction takes advantage of weakness at that cellular level. Addiction's really looking for a way in.

In my childhood the way in was me living from one sugar event to the next as a kid, a hyperactive kid who woke up on the right side of bed. I always was so glad to be alive. I was a grateful kid, but I could not sit still for even two minutes. I had an atrocious diet that fueled hyperactivity. I dealt with migraine headaches as a kid. I dealt with a lot of bronchitis. I took an incredible amount of antibiotics throughout my childhood and adolescent years. We've learned quite a bit about that. That's not a regimen for building strength and immunity, vitality, balance and health in the body.

Jeff: Set the stage for me. Where did you grow up?

Tommy: I grew up in New York City. I spent the first 16 years of my life there. I was born to two amazing people who each of them had a zest and a love for life, and each of them really struggled emotionally and, in particular, they really struggled with each other. When I was one-year-old, my parents divorced. What I know is that first year of my life was incredibly traumatic, not that I remember that. It's traumatic from the sense of you're an infant in an environment where there's an incredible amount of screaming and yelling, intensity, tension, anxiety. That creates a lot of fear and insecurity. On a subconscious level, you begin to think the world is not really a safe place, and you wonder what you had to do with that.

That sort of set into my being, I believe, an early kind of level of anxiety, which was always there until I learned finally how to deal with it appropriately.

Jeff: An emptiness that had to be filled and in a constant state of desire.

Tommy: It's very well put. It's like an itch that you could never scratch. If somebody were to ask you, "Tommy, what's actually wrong?" You would not be able to answer, but you would acknowledge, "There is something wrong, but I don't actually know what it is." It's like this low-grade discomfort. What I've come to understand is that's what we might refer to in recovery circles as the ism, if you will. It's that alcohol-ism, you know, that thing that is the causing condition that exists whereby a person would want to reach out to change that feeling, "I need to shift. This is not okay. I'm uncomfortable. I need to shift my reality in some way. What could I do to make that shift?"

For kids, the first thing really is sugar. That's the first thing where you as a child you're ambulatory. You can move around, and you could do something to change your state, and very quickly you learn, "Oh, when I do this, at least for a little while I feel something different, and then a little while later maybe I crash, then I come back to this sort of baseline." Baseline for me at that point is just anxiety, low-grade.

Jeff: What started with sugar escalated into drugs, and alcohol and maybe other things, relationship.

Tommy: Yeah, it's interesting. When people think about addiction, obviously we're going to think about drug addiction, and we're going to think about alcoholism. We've read about it. We've seen movies. We've probably experienced it amongst loved ones on some level.

Jeff: What is addiction, because I think you have a very succinct definition of it?

Tommy: Sure. The definition I work with is addiction is any behavior you continue despite the fact that it brings a negative consequence into your life.

Jeff: Where you have the big six, right?

Tommy: The big six. Thank you.

Jeff: So, roll them down.

Tommy: Here we go. Drugs. Obviously, we're aware that drugs are a major problem in the United States and in the world in general, but in the United States we really do take an enormous amount of drugs much more so than any other country by a lot. Prescription drugs but also illicit drugs. Alcohol will come next, but cannabis, methamphetamine, cocaine, benzodiazepines, opiates. It's just incredible how much drugs we're taking.

Alcohol is next number two. It's our society's pressure release valve. It finds itself everywhere. Whatever kind of gathering you're at if it's a birth, or a death, or a wedding, or a rite of passage of some kind, sporting event, music event, art event, alcohol will be there. It's sort of the way that we have agreed with each other that we're going to pass through time using this substance. This is going to be part of our deal.

Beyond that, we have food. We have, you know, one out of four kids is now obese in the United States.

We have things like heart disease. We have things like arteriosclerosis. We have type 2 diabetes. All of these things are driven by food addiction, but they're treated separately as if they originated onto themselves, which is a strange way to look at it. If people could see that as an addictive issue, you could get it before it went there. Beyond that, you have the people addictions: sex addiction, co-dependency. Co-dependency is sort of the big one that I think everybody has this on some level. It's the disease of the lost self. I have no connection. I don't know who I am, how I am, where I am.

Like as I told you as a child, I was so anxious. I was always hyperactive and always moving around, so I never actually was able to take the time to be still enough to get to know myself. In the absence of one's connection with oneself, you start looking everywhere for something that can solve that problem, and that really is addiction.

We have drugs, alcohol, we have food, the people addictions. I'll just stay on sex addiction for a minute. It's a point of embarrassment and shame for so many. It's the one that nobody really wants to talk about, and it's the one that most people have struggled with on some level. People have issues with their sexuality, confusion around sex. For you as a parent, it's something that your kids are going to go through that rite of passage, and there's going to be so much confusion around it for both parents and kids alike. It continues in our society, but when it becomes addiction, it's just another place that a human being will look to try to feel whole inside.

It's incredibly tragic because what it does is it actually separates them from being able to connect with another human being, and they look to the sexual act as a point of relief. It's more and more vacuous each time. It's very, very painful. I've been through all of it, and it's just awful. Beyond those people addictions, we have the money addictions: gambling, debting, constantly being in a state of debt, shopping, buying things that you have no need for, getting a little surge of dopamine, "Wow, this is great." Getting home and realizing-

Jeff: You have 20 of those in your closet.

Tommy: And you're $20,000 in debt, and you're wondering how that happened and why that keeps happening. Also, very painful, gambling. The sixth of the big six is technology, which everyone of us is dealing with on some level.

Jeff: I think if you look through that big six, I'll just run them down again. Drugs and alcohol, eating disorders, relationships, co-dependency, sex addiction, money with gambling and shopping, technology. When you look at the aggregate of those six addictions, you start to comprehend the scale of this issue.

We more and more start to hear about opioids, oxycodone, fentanyl hike in the news I think in 2017 with 50,000 overdoses but probably cumulatively over the last 10 years, I don't know, half a million deaths.

Tommy: Easily.

Jeff: We're talking somewhere between 15 and 20 million people having some sort of alcohol abuse. You start to really look at the numbers at the scale of this issue, and it is staggering.

Tommy: It's epic.

Jeff: Yeah. Those are the six big ones, but then I know that you also speak about what I think what you call the four aggravations, which aren't typically where your mind goes when you think of addiction. Can you talk about that a little bit?

Tommy: Definitely. I'm trying to get everybody to see that they are on this spectrum in some way not so that I have more company as a person in recovery from addiction but so that people are more truthful or close to the truth about the nature of the challenges that they face. That ultimately we're struggling with our mind, we're struggling with our body, emotional state, and we're struggling with our spiritual reality. We're just in struggle in those three ways.

I'm trying to get everybody to see like, "Okay, I am on this spectrum." But after I go through the big six, many people are like, "Well, you know, I appreciate the big six, but I've never had any problem with any of those things," and I'm like, "Well, let's look a little deeper at the four aggravations." It's negative thinking, self-doubt, procrastination and resentment. Then People start thinking, and usually there's protest in the room, you know, "Tommy, those are not addictions. I don't crave negative thinking. I don't crave to procrastinate. It happens." And I say, "Well, yes, but it fits my definition of addiction."

Any behavior you continue despite the fact that it brings negative consequences into your life. What's so important about that is many people think until that moment, "I have no control over my negative thinking. I can't control my procrastination. I have no control over my self-doubt or my resentment. Those things happen to me. I'm a victim of those things." It's very important that people immediately realize, "No, you're continuing those behaviors, and there's things you can do about each of them."

Those four aggravations fuel the big six. When you're stuck in those, the big six will come in some way shape or form.

Jeff: So, I have the 12 steps written down here-

Tommy: Mm.

Jeff: ...because I want to talk about that because I think you have begun to outline the different forms of addition, define what addiction is, discuss the magnitude and the scale of it, but we can look at the numbers but at the end of the day, this is such a personal thing.

Tommy: So individual.

Jeff: ...and so where do you start?

Tommy: Mm. Different for everybody.

Jeff: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Tommy: The 12 steps, what in my 29 years of experience with them, what I understand is the problem for people in approaching the 12 steps, it's either, "I don't like the God thing,"-

Jeff: Yeah.

Tommy: that. "I'm confused about the idea of God or spirituality and I certainly don't want any group of people to force their beliefs upon me," and most of us come to recovery with that attitude at least-

Jeff: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Tommy: ...myself certainly included.

Jeff: Yeah.

Tommy: So, that's one problem. The other problem is that it's unclear to people what actually takes place inside of that world of say, for example, Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous, and so what people end up saying is, "I don't want to become one of those people,"

Jeff: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Tommy: ...even though you don't really know what those people are, and since they are every walk of life, every kind of person, every gender, race, creed, religion, spiritual belief, every body's there. But on the outside of it you think to yourself, "Well, I don't want to become one of them." And so, I would say that the 12 steps have a major league marketing problem-

Jeff: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Tommy: ... from the inside and they always have. In the 12 steps they say, "We're a program based on attraction rather than promotion." So, we're not supposed to promote-

Jeff: Right.

Tommy: ... the 12 steps or a fellowship. But to say that it's a program of attraction couldn't be less true. It's a program of desperation. You go there because a court sent you there. You go there because you'll lose your family if you don't go there.

Jeff: Right.

Tommy: You go there because you're literally dying behind addiction and you have nowhere else to turn, so you're desperate. Now, once you're there and you start to make connections with people, and you realize number one, this is free. Number two, "People seem to be helping me and showing up for me. I feel better than I used to and now I'm being given, sort of, a path I can follow which is starting to make more and more sense to me." All of a sudden you're like, "Wow. This is kind of working and this is kind of cool. Why didn't anybody tell me about this before?" Because of anonymity, which has been interpreted as secrecy.

Jeff: Right.

Tommy: No one actually knows. But the 12 steps in point of fact, actually have a lot of genius to them.

Jeff: So, part of the 12 steps as I understand it, is essentially admitting that you cannot do this on your own. Do you think that's true? That there is a power greater than you, that you need to call on. Now whether or not you want to think that's God or a spirit or a sponsor, a mentor, but that you do not have the ability to cure yourself, and that's a big step for a lot of people. Do you think that's true?

Tommy: So, the way I would put it would be to say... I interpret that first step... It reads exactly, "We admitted we were powerless over addiction,-

Jeff: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Tommy: ... that our lives had become unmanageable."

Jeff: Yeah.

Tommy: So, that powerlessness is not something that anybody likes to admit. It's good to know where you're powerless. It's good to know where you're powerful. And so, what I do is I take that word powerless and I break it in to two words, power and less. I reverse it-

Jeff: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Tommy: ... and now I read it like that. I admit I have less power. In my mind, than what is necessary to solve problem currently.

Jeff: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Tommy: It's easy for me, easy for the people that I've worked with over the years to accept that. The ego doesn't get in the way of that. Have you been able to solve your problem with alcohol? No. Okay. No big deal. You've had less power that what you've needed to solve that problem. If you can accept that, now that means we have to tap into something, anything, where you can source more power to solve that problem. Now the way that 12 steps approach it, they talk about a power greater than yourself.

Jeff: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Tommy: That leaves a lot of room for interpretation and that was intentional.

Jeff: Right.

Tommy: So, you and I, Jeff, talking right now... Let's say you are helping me work on my addiction problem. You working with me together to solve this problem is a power greater than either one of us working on this problem alone.

Jeff: Yeah.

Tommy: We're right here. We're tapping into something greater than me alone.

Jeff: Yeah, and there's also some accountability, right?

Tommy: And there's practical things like accountability and an ongoing conversation between two people.

Jeff: Yeah.

Tommy: So, we haven't had to talk about God, although if you were a religious person, that's fantastic. I mean, I've worked with many Christian people and they say, "Well, my higher power's named Jesus Christ," and I'm like, "Well, fantastic. Let's work on your connection tapping into that power." Other people are like, "You know, I'm not into the religious thing. Nature, I really source my power and my energy from nature." I'm like, "Great. Let's first of all, have you be spending a lot of time in nature and let's have you build some prayers and some practices and build your relationship with the power that's there for you."

Jeff: Yeah.

Tommy: Other people are like, "Well, I think just this group of my fellowship within the 12 steps is where I'm sourcing power." "Great. Well, use that as your higher power right now."

Jeff: I'd love for you to talk to more about the power of community to help people to recover because... I mean, this is the commune but I guess so it makes a little bit of sense to talk about community.

Tommy: Yes.

Jeff: What is it about the community that helps people?

Tommy: Yes. Right before this, you asked, "Do I feel it's possible to do it alone?"-

Jeff: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Tommy: ... and I think fundamentally, I think everything that there is for a human being on this planet, everything meaningful, is a collaboration. Nothing is done alone.

Jeff: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Tommy: Nothing. Yes. So you ask about, "What is it about community. It's sharing something in common of meaning to each other and it's the essence of life. It's the essence of all life. With recovery and the power of community, there's just simply nothing that could actually ever be done alone.

Jeff: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Tommy: Aside from that, the power of collective intention is unmistakable. Yogi Bhajan who brought Kundalini Yoga to the west in the '60s, he always used to say, "When you're doing your morning practice, even if you're alone, envision that there are a million people around you-

Jeff: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Tommy: ... practicing with you. Feel them. Feel that you're connected," and just the visualization of that will transform a person's meditation.

Jeff: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah. So, with the 12 step program, if there are people, suffering from an addiction to opiates, where do they start?

Tommy: So, here's exactly the process of how somebody can get sober. I'm going to lump a few different drug categories together.

Jeff: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Tommy: Opiates, so that's heroin, Oxycontin, Vicodin, morphine, opium, that class of drugs, painkillers. Benzodiazepines, Xanax, Valium. These drugs, which are essentially anti-anxiety, sometimes they're prescribed to help people sleep. They're prescribed for different anxious or mental imbalances or emotional imbalances. Alcohol and methamphetamine and cocaine. I'm lumping those together because they're the most severe in the way they affect human physiology-

Jeff: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Tommy: ... and the human nervous system.

Jeff: Got it.

Tommy: And because it can be dangerous or extremely difficult or ill-advised to detox off of those drugs by yourself.

Jeff: Right.

Tommy: So, the first step for someone who's that deep in it is going to be to go to a detox facility. A detox facility could be in a hospital, a standalone facility in a hospital or it's a detox facility that's part of an inpatient treatment center. So, you show up and they know exactly how to treat you medically and to keep you safe and comfortable as you go through a detox experience, ranging anywhere from 4 to 10 days, really, maybe two weeks on the most extreme side.

So, those people are going to have to go through some form of medical detox first and hopefully, while they're going through that, somebody's counseling with them and getting them ready or at least open to the idea that when this detox is over, you're going right into treatment.

Jeff: Right.

Tommy: So, treatment can be inpatient treatment or outpatient treatment. Inpatient being the more immersive and therefore, more helpful and hopeful of the two. And it's really important to explain to people that detoxing off of drugs and alcohol does not really ever that I've seen equal, "I'm sober now."

Jeff: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Tommy: That's not the nature of this beast. Some people have gotten sober going from medical detox into 12 step programs or other recovery programs such as SMART Recovery or Refuge Recovery or Recovery 2.0 or the Yoga of 12 Step Recovery. There's a lot of different options now.

Jeff: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Tommy: For all the other drugs, so cannabis, nicotine... Let's just stay on cannabis because it's such a crowd pleaser. Everybody loves it. You don't want to get in between somebody who loves their marijuana and their marijuana. Usually people are very passionate about it, especially now as we're moving into legalizing it across the country. The weird and strange thing about marijuana addiction and it absolutely is addictive, is that you can't tell the price you pay by engaging in it until much later. So, your life may not implode.

Jeff: Right.

Tommy: You may enjoy yourself. You may be absolutely functional, but chronic marijuana use over time, it's been my direct experience and seen it in lots and lots of people, it dims the human spirit. It prevents you from growing in certain fairly fundamental and profound ways. It prevents you from ever getting to be in a natural cycle.

Natural, meaning androgenous chemical reality within your own body that your endocrine system is working the way it's supposed to work without you needing anything other than food and water, really, to operate it well. So, you have in a sense, you're tinkering with your inner chemistry and you've become dependent upon a substance to change the way that you navigate time and space, that change the way that you feel and the way that you are in your life.

And there are great, great prices to pay for that over time. People who struggle with marijuana absolutely many of them end up in treatment. It's such a hard one to kick for so many reasons that I've just named. It's not going to kill you at least not right away and there's so many communities that are synonymous with it. The art community, the music community and all of that is a difficult ... those are difficult forces to overcome when you realize, "Wow, this isn't really serving me anymore."

I've made all my friendships are with other people that I've been engaged with in this behavior for so long. Who would I be if I stopped this? Who would want to hang out with me? You don't actually know.

Jeff: Right.

Tommy: And then, there's the world of the psychedelics, really an incredible, confusing and misunderstood realm of substances that are certainly not all good and certainly not all bad. All these things, really, benefits to anything in a way. Even the opiates, you're glad to have them if you're post-op.

Jeff: Sure.

Tommy: If you're in the war and somebody shot you, you're very happy to have morphine right there in the field.

Jeff: Yeah.

Tommy: So, there's always reason and relevance for these things to be on the planet, but for what purposes? The psychedelics, I went deep into that in my adolescent years and early 20's and you know, Ram Dass, I interviewed Ram Dass and he said to me, "Do you feel psychedelics led to your addiction?" And I said, "No, I think that my addiction preceded all of that."

I think that my addiction had nothing to do with any substance, not even sugar. My addiction had to do with an underlying sense of something is just simply not okay with me and I need something to try and solve that problem and I just happened to look in a lot of the wrong places.

Jeff: Yeah, that brings up an interesting topic. Modern life makes it pretty easy to have addiction. As you said, alcohol, it's everywhere, part of every social gathering, everything.

Technology, you go anywhere and you can access the Internet and stare at a tiny, little box for 14, 16 hours a day, which by extension gives you access to pornography and gambling online and all of the other things, so it's very easy to become addicted to things if you are susceptible and so many of us are, how do we fortify ourselves to not become a likely host for addiction?

Tommy: What an incredible question. It's the basis of my entire life's work actually. I would start with connection and ultimately, we want to reconnect a person with themselves where they get to know themselves, truly, truly know themselves and enjoy their own company.

But to begin with we know addiction is a disease of isolation, and so we have to bring ourselves and we have to bring someone out of isolation if we're going to hope to help them heal. So, that's a very important piece of this. That's going back to your point about community and the importance of that, there is no healing without the collective in my opinion.

You can get so far on your own, but if you're really already stuck in this thing called addiction, you're going to have to come out of isolation, which doesn't mean just physically be around other people. You actually have to let people know you and you have to get to know other people. That's what I mean by coming out of isolation.

It's so hard for addicts, because we all feel this sort of shame of if you really knew me, if you really knew what I was capable of or what I think about or the things I've done, you couldn't possibly love me, so I just have to stay alone with this and ride out the rest of my life and just hope that things turn out okay. That's never facing ever the real core aspects of your life.

Once you share those things with another person and someone would say to you, "Yeah, I did all that, I did all those things," and for the first time in your life, you think, "Oh my God, maybe, just maybe I'm not quite the freak show I thought I was and always have thought I was and maybe I could actually be a part of something or be a part of the human race."

That's the first thing is we have to figure out a way to connect. Second thing, on a personal level, the food that we eat, the way that we eat it and our connection to it is much, much more important in this conversation than anybody lets on.

Your food is going to affect the way that you feel physically. It will affect the way that you think, it will affect the actions that you take.

It will affect the actual vibration at which you live, the energy that you carry. If you change your food, your diet, and your relationship to it for the better, you will improve all of those situations. You will improve the way that you feel. Now, if an addictive behavior is nothing more than reaching out to the outside world to try to seek comfort, then if we could create comfort inside, it would remove the need to reach out to anything outside.

So, we're really in the business of creating ease within an individual. Food is central to that conversation as is hydration, never met a person in active addiction who was hydrated, never. Those are very practical, very in-the-world kind of things, how you relate to food and how you eat it and what you eat and when you eat is very important as well.

So, on the topic of how can we make ourselves an unwelcome host for addiction, we're going to want to connect with people, we're going to want to look at our relationship with food, and then this is really important.

The keeping of secrets is a problem for people in addiction. And where that goes is it goes back to the shame thing and back to the connection thing, but it also goes to the core of the whole thing is how we feel about ourself. And the reason that we keep secrets is we feel that we can't let anybody know.

It's again going back to that shame thing. But so, we do a process in the 12 steps and through different aspects of Recovery 2.0, which relates to the end of your secrets. It doesn't mean you compulsively disclose to the world your inner-most garbage. That's not what we're talking about, but we're talking about making peace with the shadow side of yourself and it has to be done.

Jeff: Yeah.

Tommy: So, addiction attacks or works upon a human being at the level of mind, body, and spirit. It also skews our relationship with time, keeping us out of the present moment. To recover or to be unassailable to addiction, you would need to have protocols to strengthen the mind, calm the mind.

Detox and strengthen the body and deal with stress and help you to fulfill the spiritual longing that every human being has to connect, to belong, and to have a purpose. And then, in terms of the time piece, you're going to have to be trained through yoga and meditation to find the present moment and to be there as much as you can as a lifelong training. That's it, that's what we have to do.

The reason we don't have better outcomes in addiction treatment is because people are treating maybe one of those aspects. If you're a medical doctor, you treat something pharmacologically, which may be correct, but you've left out the psychological piece, you've left out the spiritual piece.

Jeff: Yeah.

Tommy: So, until we come up with a truly holistic approach to this thing, we're not going to see the kind of outcomes that we want to.

Jeff: And is that what you're doing?

Tommy: That's what I'm doing. Holistic meaning effective.

Jeff: Yeah. But "You're watering the roots, not just the leaves," as Marianne Williamson often says.

Tommy: It's the whole being. If you leave anything out, it leaves a doorway open for addiction to get in.

Jeff: Do you feel that this is sort of your gift back, because you were lucky enough and did the work to make it through the other side?

Tommy: When I was getting sober, or the week before I was getting sober, I had a friend who was as sick as I was and we were so sick. So, so sick. It was beyond funny. It wasn't about connection or love or even enjoyment, we were just sick people in the end stages of addiction. We were going to die.

And I went to him one morning after having spoken with my father and I broke down to my dad and said, "I'm not going to make it," and I agreed to go to treatment and I went to my friend and I said, "I'm going to treatment, I'm going to go tomorrow," and he patted me on the back and sincerely, with all sincerity, he said, "I'm so glad, because you really have a problem," and I thought, "He's going to smile or he's joking and he'll smile," but he wasn't joking.

And I went to treatment the next day and I got sober and my life changed forever. He would spend the next 25 years in and out of jail, in and out of homeless shelters, disconnected from his children, never getting to have a relationship with them or his wife and then, he would end up killing himself at 45 years old. And so, I think about that moment all the time.

And I don't know, I don't know what the difference was between me and him. We were both equally sick and he didn't survive this and I did survive this and along the way over the last 29 years, I just can't tell you how many people have died that I've known and how many people, how many others have made it and really succeeded in recovery from this thing.

All I know is there's nothing else that I feel I'm suited for. Like, I've tried to do so many different things in my life and I'm suited for this job. I feel like when I finally woke up to that, which is not that long ago, maybe 10 years ago, 15 years ago where the complete crystal clarity that I could help, really help individuals and large groups and I could also help improve overall treatment of this disease.

And ever since then, I have been put to the task and not always in pleasant ways, but I've always been put into service positions and places where I could actually make a difference. And so, that's what I do and I'm living in gratitude for the opportunity.

And I'm living in gratitude that I'm even alive to fulfill this and I don't know where it's going and I'm only just showing up one day at a time and doing everything I can to remain humble and helpful and kind and never to despair in the darkness of it and to live in the conviction that good is going to win here, good is going to win here. Good will win here and we all just have to show up and do what we feel we need to do and put that sign on our head that says, "Open for business. Put me to work, I'll show up. I'll do whatever it is."

Jeff: Whether it’s negative thinking or procrastination, or opioids, drugs, or alcohol, we can regain control.

No matter if you’re doing the 12 steps, or you’re just looking to take any step towards healing, according to Tommy, the first thing is admit we have less power on our own than is necessary to solve the problem.

Nothing in this life is done in complete solitude. So whether it's for you or a loved one, surround the problem with people who care. That might look like going to a meeting, or it might look like taking some time off to detox at a care facility, then following it up with treatment.

The important thing to remember is that you are not alone. There are millions of other people dealing with similar struggles, but you have options.

To learn more about Tommy’s work, you can visit

Thank you for listening to the Commune podcast. That’s all for now. I’m your host Jeff Krasno, and I’ll see you next time.

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