Episode #11: Alternative Approaches to Addiction and Recovery with Jay Shifman

Today’s guest lives by one mantra: Choose Your Struggle! His name is Jay Shifman He is a speaker, a consultant and he also hosts the very popular Choose Your Struggle podcast. Jay has certifications in Psychological First Aid, Drug Policy and the Social Contexts of Mental Health and Illnesses, Suicide Prevention and Coaching, among others. Aside from all this Jay has a B.A. in Psychology from Northern Kentucky University, has served as the Political Director for the bipartisan consulting organization MainStream Strategy and he has written for publications including David’s Voice, New York Minute Magazine and Guy Talk. Jay has a very intense story of his own struggles with drug misuse, overdosing, suicide attempts and recovery and it is super inspiring to me the way he has channeled his troubles into such great triumphs.

INCLUDED IN THIS EPISODE (But not limited to):
• How You Can “Choose Your Struggle”
• Alternative Approaches to Addiction and Recovery
• Why the “Anonymous” Programs Often Fail
• Substance Misuse vs. Substance Abuse
• Helping the Homeless
• Misusing Prescription Drugs
• Overdose
• Suicide Attempts
• Negligent Doctors
• What It’s Like Inside Psych Wards
• Psychological First Aid Defined
• Mental Health Red Flags
• Micro Dosing Mushrooms

Website – https://www.jayshifman.com/
Podcast: Choose Your Struggle – https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/choose-your-struggle/id1502017563?uo=4
Linkedin – https://www.linkedin.com/in/jayshifman/
Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/jayshifman/
Twitter – https://twitter.com/JBShifman
FaceBook – https://www.facebook.com/JayShifman

The Abstinence Myth – https://amzn.to/2WaOA3q
In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts – https://amzn.to/3mefoKR
Chasing the Scream – https://amzn.to/3ghgy4v

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[00:00:00] You’re listening to the sex drugs and Jesus podcast, where we discuss whatever the fuck we want to. And yes, we can put sex and drugs and Jesus all in the same bed and still be all right. At the end of the day, my name is Davanon and I’ll be interviewing guests from every corner of this world. As we dig into topics that are too risky for the morning show, as we strive to help you understand what’s really going on in your.
[00:00:24] There was nothing on the table and we’ve got a lot to talk about. So let’s dive right into this episode.
[00:00:31] Today’s guest lives by one Monday. Choose your struggle. His name is Jay Schiffman. He’s a speaker, he’s a consultant. And he also hosts a very popular choose your struggle podcast. Jay has certification in psychological first aid drug policy and the social context of mental health and illnesses, suicide prevention and coaching among others.
[00:00:54] Aside from all this, Jay has a bachelor’s in psychology from Northern Kentucky university has [00:01:00] served as the political director for the bi-partisan consulting organization to mainstream strategy. And he has written for publications, including David’s voice, New York minute magazine and guy talk. So he has a very intense story of his own struggles with drug misuse, overdosing, suicide attempts, and recovery.
[00:01:17] And it is super inspiring to me the way he has channeled his troubles into such a great triangle.
[00:01:29] De’Vannon: Jay, Jay, thank you so much for coming on my show today. We’re so happy to have you. How are you doing,
[00:01:36] Jay: buddy? I’m good. Thanks so much for having me, man. It’s a, it’s a pleasure to be here and I’m cycled to do it.
[00:01:43] De’Vannon: Yeah, you’re, you’re, it’s very rare to find somebody who can match my excitement level, but you know what?
[00:01:49] I’m not, I’m not surprised because you know, we both been through a recovery and we dealt with things and, uh, you know, sometimes when people have struggled more, they enjoy life. [00:02:00]
[00:02:01] Jay: I couldn’t agree more. I, you know, one of my favorite things to do is just get out there right before this. I, I had lunch with a friend and I left half an hour early and, and strolled afterwards just to be out in the city and enjoy it, even though it is definitely hot.
[00:02:17] Uh, but it was just nice to be out and be around people after the last year, you know?
[00:02:22] De’Vannon: Absolutely. And I just want to say happy belated birthday. I say you had a birthday on the 10th of July.
[00:02:28] Jay: Yeah. So thank you for the donation to the birthday fundraiser. I agree.
[00:02:34] De’Vannon: Of course. Anything I can do to help is so, so to start out, I’d like you to speak to us about your passion.
[00:02:44] You do quite a bit of things that we’re going to get into a lot of those things, but it’s what is, what do you feel like is the epicenter and the core of what makes you get up every day to do what you do?
[00:02:58] Jay: Yeah. So the, the there’s [00:03:00] two goals that my business choose. Your struggle has stated goals that I get up every day and dedicate myself to, and they are number one, ending stigma, number two, promoting honest and fact-based education around mental health, substance misuse, and recovery and drug use and policy.
[00:03:17] And I truly believe those two go hand in hand because we have a lot of organizations to do one without the other. And I kind of like to put it this way, if you’re talking to someone and you’re trying to educate them, but they don’t know where you’re coming from. They’re not going to be as receptive. And if you just try to break down stigma and tell your story, that’s amazing.
[00:03:37] But then what, you know, what do you do after that? And so I truly believe that number one, you know, we have to tell our stories, we have to help break down that stigma, as they say, you can’t hate up close. And once you’ve got that, that a wall of stigma broken down, then you can start helping people understand that everything that they’ve been told, everything that they were taught about [00:04:00] drug use about substance misuse, about addiction.
[00:04:03] 90% of it is flat out false. And so having these conversations and promoting honest and fact-based education is so incredibly important,
[00:04:14] De’Vannon: sounds like a man on a mission. I love the purpose in that very determinant way that you speak. And so, so you, you mentioned do user struggle. That’s your podcast and you’re also a speaker and a consultant.
[00:04:30] And, um, we’re going to talk a lot about. The all the purpose that you just mentioned to us now, I’m going to break down exactly how you feel about every, what can be improved about it, how the previous programs have gone wrong and what you’re doing different. Um, the justice briefly, I do want to talk about, uh, you being a speaker and a consultant.
[00:04:56] I read up on you and you know, you’re a speaker now and [00:05:00] you’re all, both and everything, but at the beginning it wasn’t quite that way. Or she said that you felt like your story put like a Scarlet, a upon the story of the Scarlet letter has to do with the woman who was the whore of the village and everything like that.
[00:05:15] And everyone stayed at her, but she was the one who Jesus would have went and picked up by the hand. So, so you said that you felt ashamed and reluctant, and it was your dad who had a very short quote to you, or maybe one small piece of advice one day. Change your trajectory. So speak to us about how you’re so bold now, but you didn’t start off this.
[00:05:39] Jay: No. And by the way, you did your homework. So, so nice work. Uh, I, uh, you’re right. You are, you are, you hit the nail on the head. And I think that, unfortunately, that experience is all too common for people in recovery. You know, we, uh, have been taught for forever that this is, this is something to be ashamed of.
[00:05:58] And I will say to make that [00:06:00] abundantly clear, no one ever said that to me, in those words, what, what happens instead is you internally. The this thinking and, and it’s, it’s everywhere. It’s movies, it’s TV. It’s the way our politicians talk about people who struggle with addiction and mental health. Uh, and honestly the biggest damage, the most damage that’s being done is the number one organization.
[00:06:24] For people who are in recovery has the word anonymous in its name. We are taught to stay silent about this. And as you it’s so perfectly alluded to the story with my dad. Uh, I was invited to tell my story by a buddy of mine who runs a storytelling organization. And I said no three times, uh, but he was persistent.
[00:06:45] He knew that this was a good story. He was one of the few people in my life who knew this story because I was very private about this. And I went home to see my parents for dinner. And, um, I walk into my dad’s office and he’s sitting there reading the paper and I just started telling him about [00:07:00] this, about how I, I keep being asked and, you know, to, to be very clear.
[00:07:03] This was six years ago. My dad at the time was not a very, let’s say woke on this topic. It wasn’t that he truly believed you had to talk about these things the way that he does now. Uh, because obviously seeing my work has changed the minds of a lot of people around me, but, but at the time, His thinking was not like that.
[00:07:23] Instead he looked at me and he said, why wouldn’t you do this? And I said, well, cause I’m terrified. And he said, fear is never a good reason not to do something. And then he picked up the paper and started reading again, as if he didn’t realize he just blew my world apart. Right. But he was right. He was so right.
[00:07:42] You know, th th all of the things that I was scared of, none of them came true. And in fact, most of them were flat out the opposite of what actually happened. And so, again, it wasn’t that he thought this was a, an important topic to talk around. Instead he was. Disappointed that I [00:08:00] would limit myself like that.
[00:08:01] And he was right. And, and I, I’m glad I listened to him and I’m glad that I followed through with it. I agreed the next day to tell my story, uh, and ended up doing so. And it literally changed my life. It was one of the few nights in my life that has completely launched me in a new direction. You know, here I am six years later doing this work full time, uh, that would not have happened if it wasn’t for that one night of telling my story.
[00:08:25] And I wouldn’t have told it if it wasn’t for my dad. Uh, basically it’s saying that I was an idiot for not doing so
[00:08:31] De’Vannon: nothing like an advantageous
[00:08:32] Jay: change. That’s exactly right.
[00:08:36] De’Vannon: Advantageous changes. That’s one of my, um, declarations that I speak often, you know, advantageous changes coming to me and things like that.
[00:08:45] And so tell us about your now your consultant business has an unusual name. It’s our name? Yeah, they stationed consulting. That’s right. I was wondering, does that name have a special [00:09:00] meaning to
[00:09:00] Jay: it or it does. Um, so my wife, uh, her, her family’s Hispanic or her grandmother is Mexican and, um, In the south where my wife is from she’s from Charleston and not really the south.
[00:09:13] I shouldn’t make that broad statement on the coast, uh, on the island. It’s, it’s sort of a tradition that, uh, that’s not really called streets. Every street is a station. Um, now why that is, I couldn’t tell you, but someone probably could. Uh, and she grew up on station. I think it was 23 or 22, right? Uh, on the island that she grew up on, uh, just off outside of Charleston.
[00:09:36] And, uh, when we got together, uh, she moved in with me in Cincinnati where I was, where I was born and raised. And she said, we got to give our house a name, uh, cause in the south, everyone, you know, every house has a name. And, uh, we decided to honor her grandmother and her Hispanic heritage. By naming it or an Ellis station.
[00:09:56] And so when I started my consulting business, [00:10:00] uh, that’s where the name came from and it was honoring my wife, uh, who was, you know, my biggest source of support. And in honor of her, I wanted to give the, the, the business, that name that would be an homage to her and her family.
[00:10:13] De’Vannon: Messy. I love deep meanings like that behind things I think is especially powerful.
[00:10:19] What we name things or each other when we’re having children or pets and things like that. Yep. No, that’s very, very
[00:10:27] Jay: cool. So it’s funny you say pets because, so, so my business, my number one business is choose your struggle, which is my personal brand. I own the copyright and all that kind of stuff. Right.
[00:10:37] But a trademark, excuse me, not the copyright. Uh, but, but all of my consulting and all of that is under Ornella station. And our house here in Philadelphia is called Ornella station east. Uh, but our dog who we love very much, uh, her name is Nell after or Nellis. So it is, it very much is a, a name that has taken over a lot of things in our life.[00:11:00]
[00:11:01] De’Vannon: Absolutely. And I’d like to just speak briefly about your, like your, your community service work. I know you recently joined the Savage sisters board and you do a lot of other stuff too. That one really stood out to me is I want people to know just how well-rounded you really are.
[00:11:21] Jay: Well, thank you. And I will say for the listeners, he’s not talking about my physique, which is also well-rounded.
[00:11:27] Um, that was an easy, that was an easy one. I love you. So, um, you know, it’s super important to me as a guy who comes from a lot of privilege. And I mean that in multiple ways, as, as a white man in this world, and especially this country, as, as a guy who was born with, with plenty of financial privilege, it’s very important to me to not be the traditional privileged guy who puts his money.
[00:11:59] [00:12:00] Somewhere maybe serves on an arts organization board, which is also important. I don’t want to minimize that, but some of these stereotypes are true. I wanted to make sure as a person with lived experience as a person, myself in recovery, that I also put my time, uh, you know, th there’s an old adage. My, my, my, uh, past, uh, career was in fundraising and in nonprofits, there’s an adage, uh, that, which is that people give three different things, their time, their talent, and their treasure, a treasure, obviously, obviously being money, a time being, you know, hands-on in talent being okay, I’ll serve on a board, I’ll do that kind of stuff.
[00:12:35] So it’s important to me to give all three. Um, and the community outreach, the community service is where I give my, my time and a lot of my talent as well. Uh you’re right, right now, most of that effort is going towards a group called Savage sisters here in Philadelphia. They’re a harm reduction and recovery housing organization.
[00:12:55] Uh, they’re the one that I was doing this birthday fundraiser for. Uh, I’m actually, after we’re [00:13:00] done here, I’m going to do some outreach with them today, uh, where we give out things like Narcan, the overdose, reversal, drug, food, and water, clothing, that kind of thing to people, uh, currently experiencing homelessness and struggling with, um, uh, very severe and unhealthy drug use.
[00:13:15] Uh, and, and they also, like I said, have houses for people who are fresh into recovery. So, uh, that’s an organization I care deeply about. In the past, I’ve served on multiple different boards, uh, volunteer with multiple different organizations, um, you know, depending on what sitting I’m in. And, uh, these are things that are very important to my wife and I, we, we are new here to Philadelphia.
[00:13:37] We’ve only been here for about three and a half months, and we’ve done things like, uh, organized trash pickups, um, and, and, uh, you know, gotten involved with our neighborhood group and stuff like that, where making sure that, that we use our privilege for good, uh, is something that we are incredibly cognizant of.
[00:13:56] De’Vannon: I appreciate that. Um, especially [00:14:00] going out and reaching out to the homeless people like that, uh, having lived on the street for some time myself, I can tell you whatever, whatever comes along is, is greatly appreciated. It really goes a long way. And I think it’s really, really humbled of you to have come as far as you have to still be that connected to you.
[00:14:20] Where you no longer are and then to be turning that into such triumphant productive work. Thank you for that. Absolutely. And so tell us, how about your podcasts for a, for a moment? Oh, choose your struggle. Oh, I love the original music by the way.
[00:14:41] Jay: He’s pretty great. Right kid mentally very talented.
[00:14:45] De’Vannon: Oh yeah.
[00:14:46] I had, you know, my snap back on his Bob and my head up and down. And so it’s a very, um, it’s a very cool podcast. I want you to tell us, tell us about the name, choose your struggle with it has [00:15:00] a whole history and meaning behind
[00:15:01] Jay: it. That’s right. So choose your struggle is my podcast. It’s the name of my company.
[00:15:06] Uh, as I said earlier, I do have the trademark on choose your struggle. Uh, I it’s all over my merge, all that kind of stuff, but what it really comes from is the realization. That when I was at my worst, which was 2008 and 2009, when I was fully in the throes of addiction, um, my mental health was struggling.
[00:15:26] I had lost the ability to choose what I was going to struggle for. And by that, I mean, every day my struggles were to avoid withdrawal and to just get off my couch and try to be a, a person that contributed to, to the world. Rami, right. Those were the things that I was, uh, struggling for it. And I didn’t choose that my situation did.
[00:15:48] And once I got into recovery and once again was able to choose where I was going to struggle what I was going to dedicate my time, my talent, my treasure, all that kind of stuff. Do it made me realize that while [00:16:00] I had, um, the, the, the, the loss of my choice, uh, sort of decided for me, by my struggles with mental health and substance misuse, we all have things in our life that, that threatened to take away our ability to choose, uh, whether that is living in extreme poverty.
[00:16:18] What are that is, um, uh, living with health, uh, limit limitations. I mean, obviously the examples go on and on. And it is difficult at times to, to find the choices that we do have when these genes, um, uh, giant factor is our are, are, are weighing on our choices. And so one of the things that I work with people on is trying as an outside observer or helping them themselves to take a step back and recognize, all right, these things are outside of your control.
[00:16:49] Of course, we all have things are outside of our control. And depending on our level of privilege in this world, depending on our, our, uh, current situation yeah. In our lives, those [00:17:00] could be bigger or smaller factors, but we all have things that, that threatened to take away that choice. However, we all do have some choices in our lives and, and helping people recognize where they can choose is a passion for me, because of that, uh, previous experience I had had where I had lost my job.
[00:17:20] De’Vannon: Well, first of all, let me say congratulations on having over 10 years of recovery time was thank you. Come. And I want you to talk about when you lost it choices, I’ve read up back when you were like in your early twenties, it seemed like it started with some prescription medication. Um, and, uh, can you tell us about how you begin to lose this choice and where things begin to go off the rails?
[00:17:46] Jay: Yeah. So it really all started as a preteen. I was diagnosed with ADHD, um, as well as depression, anxiety, OCD, a bunch of other stuff, but, but ADHD was the really important one. And, [00:18:00] uh, at the time this was the late nineties. I’m 35. When the explosion of, uh, diagnosis or rates of diagnosis of ADHD was in full throws.
[00:18:12] We went from roughly 350,000 young people in this country diagnosed with that particular disorder in the mid eighties, uh, to almost 2 million when I was diagnosed myself in the late nineties, which is just unreal. Right, right. Uh, and this was also the time when all of these, these medical companies were pushing out nude pills like every day.
[00:18:32] So my therapist puts me on a succession of these four or five in about a four year span. Um, at the same time, I’m struggling with these other mental health things. As I said, And, uh, I’m a person going through puberty. We all remember how difficult that is. Right? And you take all those factors together and that person is going to struggle.
[00:18:52] I mean, that, that is, it is going to be difficult for that person. Unfortunately for me, my therapist saw this and gave it a new name, a [00:19:00] mood disorder, which he then gave the name bipolar and started treating me for that in my late teens. Uh, by my early twenties, I was on over five different medications a day, all of which I was misusing or addicted to, and my life just got progressively worse to the point.
[00:19:15] As I said earlier, where, uh, in 2008 and 2009, I was 22 and 23 and very much just had lost control. Uh, and in the summer of 2009, I attempted suicide twice and overdosed in a two day span about a 36 hour span. Um, and, uh, that really launched me. Into a new direction. Debt was not a good one. Uh, I spent three weeks in a locked down unit, uh, three months in a long-term care facility.
[00:19:43] What we would have called a mental institution 50 years ago before finally, uh, deciding to basically take charge myself and trust myself for the first time. Uh, in my adult life, I checked myself out of this, um, long-term care [00:20:00] facility in on January, our December 31st, 2009. And on January 1st, it doesn’t tend to started to make my way to Arizona, to live with my grandparents, where I went through.
[00:20:12] What’s called step-down detox, uh, which took me almost four months, uh, and stepped down as the opposite of cold Turkey where instead of stopping in one day or just all at one point, which is what cold Turkey is, uh, I took a little bit less every couple of days. And as I said, that took me almost four months to.
[00:20:33] De’Vannon: Such a young age to, um, to fall prey to the whole prescription medication. I don’t know if you would call it, uh, maybe epidemic that has, you know, had a, such a negative impact on our nation because you know, it was being prescribed to you by the doctors that you trust, um, who you’re expecting to take care of you and give you more than what you [00:21:00] need.
[00:21:00] And so, cause you know, we’re taught, you know, bad things I suppose, to come from like the streets or from a bad place or from the creepy neighbor guy, walking around the neighborhood, watch a guy, you know, an all black shifty eyes and stuff like that. And so, you know, so your guard is down, you know, when you’re at the doctor and they’re giving you this medicine and then, you know, only, you know, what’s really going on inside of you so that you feel like.
[00:21:28] You know, at that age, what was going on with you mentally, they just kind of say it like this here, take some medicine and just get out the door. Do you feel like that they were really addressing the problems that you have?
[00:21:41] Jay: Yeah. So at some point my doctor knew what was happening, uh, and there’s records of that because, uh, by the end I was taking, uh, roughly a month, well, a month worth of, of, of medication and roughly 10 to 12 days.
[00:21:55] So you cannot get a renewal at that point [00:22:00] without a doctor’s permission. Um, clearly, uh, because I was still able to get the drugs that was the doctor’s permission. So, uh, he knew, um, now by the end, did he recognize that he had really screwed this up? I don’t know. I’ll never know. Uh, in fact, I used to hold out hope that I would have the sort of, you know, sitting in a courtroom or, or, or in whatever, across from him.
[00:22:24] And he would say on, so it’s like, it’s a bunch of, a bunch of bullshit. Right? I was working with a therapist about four years ago, who finally said to me, Jay. That’s never going to happen and it’s not going to happen because if he did that, he would go to jail and he will never admit to you that he messed up.
[00:22:45] And I needed someone to tell me that I needed someone to say to me, you’re not going to get that apology that you thought that you you’re hoping for. You need to move on. And I did. Um, and that was very helpful. I wasn’t carrying around a lot of things. Uh, but there was some [00:23:00] resentment, there were some, some, like I said, some hope for closure that will never come.
[00:23:04] And so I needed this person to someone who knows someone who, who, you know, cared about my mental wellbeing to say, you know, for the good of your own health, you need to realize that you’re, you’re grasping at straws and it ain’t going to happen. Um, that being said, I am, there is a little bit of, of reassurance every time I tell this story to a new therapist and our watch their face fall, and them say things like, oh Lord, good God.
[00:23:31] You know? So, so, so them saying, oh my God, that’s so terrible. Um, I had a doctor look over my medical records. I, I got all of them from like Walgreens and CVS and I showed this to a doctor and he read over him and he went, Jay, I know, you know this, but you know, this is criminal. Right. So, so those are the things.
[00:23:50] That gave me a little bit of that reassurance that I needed. Um, but, but it allowed me to move on and not hope for, for the apology that was never going to come. [00:24:00]
[00:24:00] De’Vannon: I totally, well, first of all, I’m sorry that, that happened to you. I can identify because I was, I had experienced anger and resentment and stuff like that at the doctor who had left my positive HIV results on a voicemail, on a new year’s Eve, uh, back in 2011.
[00:24:18] And it was the same thing, you know, I was, I don’t know if it was apology. I wanted her money from a lawsuit probably more than money. Cause I was like broken homeless anyway, uh, at the time. But there were ages that I felt that him and an idea to go after him to get like, you know, medical records and stuff like that.
[00:24:38] But you know, the, the Texas medical board. And from what I understand, this is kind of how it goes in this country. They tend to get behind their doctors anyway, whether they’ve done right or wrong and they take their side with it. And I, and the only reprieve that I got from that was exactly what you just said was when I talked to other doctors and nurses and [00:25:00] they go, then somehow it comes up in the conversation.
[00:25:02] You know, how I found out about HIV, you know, I wasn’t brought in, into a facility, you know, with the mental health people and all of that. He just like left it on a voicemail and was like, you know, click. And so, and then they, and I get that same reaction from them, like what the fuck, you know? And so it makes me feel like really great that that happens.
[00:25:22] And so, um, and so, um, I totally identify with you on that.
[00:25:28] Jay: So I want to underscore something that, that is a very common thread in both of our stories that I hear that. And when people see these big national lawsuits, you know, against sack, the Sacklers with Purdue and all this kind of stuff, there’s this thinking that these sorts of things, getting them to admit wrongdoing.
[00:25:47] It’s not that it’s a slam dunk. I don’t think anyone thinks that, but then it’s easier than it is. You are so right. It is almost impossible to get any sort of a person in the medical field, uh, to [00:26:00] not only admit fault, but to be, to be, um, uh, declared at fault in a legal setting and sort of de to underscore that point when I was getting all my medical records, you know, CVS and Walgreens, one of them gave it to me.
[00:26:13] The other one said, unfortunately, I’d, I’d asked over five years later and they only keep records for five years. I don’t remember which one it was. Um, the long-term care facility. I got all my records, the, um, uh, the, the lockdown unit got all my records, the one place that, I mean, that took a little bit of fighting, but I got it.
[00:26:30] The one place that gave me by some estimates, maybe only 10% of my actual records was my therapist office. And it was because they. The, you know, rallied the troops, they, they drew the wagons or whatever the expression you want to use and gave me only what they legally had to. Now I could get a lawyer and fight this.
[00:26:51] I’m not going to, um, because at this point, uh, as, as we’re saying, you know, we’re not going to get that, that, we’re sorry, we’re not going to get that. You know, [00:27:00] the, the, the, the, the siting in our favor, and at this point, it’s not worth the fight, but, but there is very much a, you know, protect our people at all costs mentality.
[00:27:12] De’Vannon: Right. And, um, and I’m gonna extend that into the realm of veterans. I’m also a, a veteran, um, from the air force in the six years that I did in there. And we may not be able to get that, but what we can do is pay attention to ourselves. And, uh, I, I prefer to look at it more like we’re consulting with the doctors as opposed to they’re managing our health because they tell us something that’s not right.
[00:27:39] Or if it doesn’t balance out that we don’t have to do what they say. And when I first started seeing getting mental health from the department of veterans affairs, they had me say like on 200 milligram Depakote, which I thought was like a bit much considering I had never taken it before and all these other drugs.
[00:27:56] And later on, I went to go get what’s called like a problem list at the VA, [00:28:00] which has all your diagnosis on it. And they didn’t have me diagnosed with anything. And so I was like, usually when you prescribe medicine, you treat them right. And so they prescribed me all these high bills medicines, but it was attached to no particular illness.
[00:28:17] And so, but even more so to the point, dealing with the government in the private sector, they’re really the most you can do, but get a second opinion and go somewhere else. So I would like to encourage people to take control. Of their medical direction, especially considering the, the money that’s paid to the doctors, they really, really should be doing a better
[00:28:38] Jay: job.
[00:28:39] Yup. Yup. It’s very sad. I mean, we have to be our own advocates for this and it, it, you know, it’s incredibly disheartening because, uh, first off you’re right. It’s, it’s very common for people to not get second opinions. You know, someone told me I had bipolar and we said, you know, we trust this guy. He says it, I believe [00:29:00] it.
[00:29:00] Um, that isn’t the case with physical health. You know, my aunt had cancer, she went to second, third, and fourth opinions for everything and got the best treatment. Uh, so that is very common with mental health. And second, um, you know, we are in a country that debt, you know, that the, the medical industry is so broken that as actually, I was just having lunch with someone who we were talking about this, and she described it as collective Stockholm syndrome that we’ve sort of become defensive of any positives in the medical field.
[00:29:32] Like we don’t want change because what if we lose this thing? And it’s like, yeah, but that’s the one point positive over 50 negatives, right? This whole industry is so broken. Uh, I’m new to Philadelphia. As I said, I’ve been here for three months. Uh, I cannot find it. Um, I’ve been calling I’ve called three different places now to, as soon as they could see me was September, uh, for those lists that are, I don’t know when you’re putting this out is currently the middle of July.
[00:29:56] Uh, this is ridiculous. Uh, I called 13 [00:30:00] therapists. Only three of them got back to me, two of them weren’t taking new patients. And the one that was literally refused to see me, she didn’t like my insurance, even though it was in her network. And she said, no. So, uh, I don’t know what to tell ya for people who think that this, this, uh, insurance and medical industry is working just fine because you know, you’re wrong.
[00:30:20] De’Vannon: They, um, um, I wonder if a lot of that has to do with, like, I would fit in the, in like a lot of stress that people have had in terms of availability, but for sure. I really am not overly fond of how like insurance and things like that can prevent people from getting help need. Um, now you actually have insurance and you got rejected, but there’s so many people out there who don’t have it, right.
[00:30:49] Or maybe it’s insufficient or something like that. So they can’t, uh, get what they need. When I was in rehab, one guy had to leave. It was a, it was a [00:31:00] veteran VA veterans affairs rehab, but he had private insurance from his job. And somehow they only would allow him to be there for so long or pay for so much, but he had to leave in the middle of treatment because of a financial concern.
[00:31:13] And I think that’s absolutely ridiculous.
[00:31:16] Jay: Yep. I couldn’t agree more. And to make it even putting him in a finer point on that, you know, we are one of the only countries in the world where our insurance is tied to our employer. And, uh, if which is already a problem, but a recent study just came out that said that, uh, by 2030, it is expected that over 50% of people in the job market will either be gig workers or less than full-time workers, which means that we are facing a cliff at which point, over 50% of the people in those in this country may not be, may not have insurance that is starting.
[00:31:57] De’Vannon: Well, you know, I think a large reason why that [00:32:00] might be, as people are getting tired of the bullshit that they’re having to deal with pulling up work every day and more companies coming up as a result of that, that’s empowering people to go to work for themselves and to do things on their own. And then they’re like, they’ll figure out the medical, but they want to have peace of mind every day.
[00:32:17] They did have to go about their day. And I don’t blame them.
[00:32:21] Jay: Not one bit.
[00:32:23] De’Vannon: I want you to talk to me more about when you attempted suicide and the overdose. So was the overdose a result of this suicide attempt or were those. And was this pills that you were doing or was it something else or,
[00:32:38] Jay: yeah, so w what literally happened was, uh, it was a summer day of 2009.
[00:32:43] Um, I had just gotten home from a, uh, a music festival, which was the end of a six week, uh, period where I basically was living out of my car, going from festival to festival, following a band around the Eastern part of this country. And, uh, it was a wonderful time. [00:33:00] Uh, I was at the worst point in my life in terms of their mental health and my, and my substance misuse and addiction.
[00:33:05] But here I was spending six weeks on the road, around people who were just like me, you know, uh, I didn’t stand out and I just loved it. But then I came home and I sort of had this realization of like, wow, that’s where I fit. I don’t fit in here. Uh, also at this point for over half a decade, I’ve been on all this medication that’s supposed to be making me better.
[00:33:27] It’s not an in fact, I think it’s making me worse clearly. There’s no hope I should give up. And so that’s what led to the suicide attempts. Uh, I called a friend of mine to tell her that I was going to commit to it. And I had already dumped out all of my, the pills I intended to take. What I thought was probably a lethal dosage, uh, on my computer.
[00:33:48] Uh, she texted two friends of ours who rushed over and stopped me. Uh, and instead of learning from that experience, the very next night, our, let me rephrase that instead of recognizing just how bad things were. [00:34:00] I did learn from that experience. I learned to take the pills first. And so I called the same friend and said, this is what I’ve done.
[00:34:07] I’m telling myself. And instead of texting our friends again, she called the police because that’s what you do in this country. When someone is having a mental health issue and as the police are tend to do, uh, they kind of made things worse. Uh, th th the one policeman showed up why they didn’t send an ambulance?
[00:34:24] I have no. Uh, but he led me out of my house in handcuffs and threw me into the backseat of his cop car along the way, bounced me off the side of his car. Uh, and that’s the last thing I remember the next thing I know I woke up, uh, sort of came to sort of lucidity, uh, handcuffed to a bed in a hospital. Uh, and the next thing I knew was when I actually came back to full consciousness in the lockdown unit the next day.
[00:34:51] So I survived the overdose, um, by, by being monitored all night in this hospital bed while handcuffed, uh, [00:35:00] and then came to not having any idea where I was in a lockdown.
[00:35:06] De’Vannon: I’m glad you’re still with us today.
[00:35:08] Jay: Thank you
[00:35:12] De’Vannon: so much. A value brings to the world and I love how you’re willing to share your story. I spent like, I think like 12 or 14 days at a, in a, in a VA, a locked down unit and, um, And I’ve been to jail too, like three times.
[00:35:28] And so it’s, uh, it’s an interesting experience, uh, especially in like a mental health, a lock down unit, if it’s, um, it’s unique, it’s the stress that I can’t even it’s like, it was like, it was like more stress on me being locked around. Other people who, who I personally feel like were crazier than I was at the time.
[00:35:55] And so there was one guy like looking at like the. Square [00:36:00] tiles. Like they were moving and trying to move them and stuff like that. And standing on furniture and talking to people, you know, I was fucked up. I wasn’t quite that fucked up. I mean, I wasn’t judging them, but I’d get a little bit better. But I mean, I couldn’t believe that I was there doing the like macaroni art, introduced it, like I see on TV, like, okay, this really happens.
[00:36:22] Jay: Yeah. So actually you make a really good point about the TV because we see varying degrees of this representation. Right. And a lot of people think back to one flew over the cookers and that’s, which had some good elements in it. I think if you really want a good, at a good sense of what a lockdown unit is like a watch the movie, it’s kind of a funny story, uh, on read that book, which is also fantastic.
[00:36:44] Now, unfortunately, the guy who wrote it had firsthand experience and, uh, sadly ended up killing himself a couple of years ago. Um, but, but the movie is, so I think. One of the better representations of what it’s really like to be in a lockdown unit [00:37:00] in terms of the interpersonal relationships, um, and the varying degree of people’s, uh, states of mind and states of being in, in, in those sorts of sorts of situations.
[00:37:13] De’Vannon: And so I read that, um, you, you have knowledge in an area called psychological first aid, and I’m curious, I’d like you to tell me exactly what that is. And if any of these recent experience experiences here that we were talking about just now where something like this might’ve fit in better than say the experience you had with.
[00:37:38] Jay: Yeah. So, uh, I’ve, I’ve actually been certified in this twice. Um, psychological first date is very similar to regular first day, which I’m actually, uh, coincidentally, uh, I’m in the process of renewing my first day, um, uh, certification right now because I do so many of these outreach events, uh, where I have been in positions where I need to administer Narcan.
[00:37:59] And I [00:38:00] just want to make sure that I can provide the best help for anyone that I may have to, to assist with. But a psychological first aid is the same thing, but so for someone’s mental health, um, I’ve been certified through both John Hopkins university, which has a wonderful program, uh, completely online.
[00:38:14] Uh, took me a couple of hours or maybe, maybe a couple of days. I don’t remember. Uh, and then, um, uh, the red cross also has a great program, uh, and, and I definitely recommend it to everybody. I mean, this is, you know, the same way that everybody should be first aid certified. Uh, everybody should be mental health, first aid certified or psychological.
[00:38:33] Certified, um, basically what it teaches you is in situations like this, what to do. And, um, it can be everything from, uh, I went on from there to get a, uh, sort of second level, which was a trauma certification, which is like, uh, helping out in a situation where there’s been mass trauma. Um, you know, I do not ever believe that I will be helpful physically.
[00:38:56] You know, even though I have my, like I said, I’m about to have my [00:39:00] recertification for, for first aid. That’s great to help a minor injury obviously, but, but all of us can be incredibly helpful with a person’s, uh, mental health. I mean, it, it, of course trained therapists are great, but a lot of this work immediately after a trauma or in the middle of a trauma can better be served by someone with firsthand experience who can say, I know what you’re going through.
[00:39:24] I’ve been there myself. Can I please sit with you? Can I help you?
[00:39:31] De’Vannon: Right. It’s something about having like the fact that saying that says, no one knows how much, you know, unless they know how much you care, but it’s like exponentially more innocent in that because having walked through and experienced gives you instant credibility with people.
[00:39:49] And so that people are there for a more open to hearing what you have to say. Um, like in like in the spiritual [00:40:00] sector, like how people, um, try to proselytize and make everybody like them a lot of times. Um, but that, in my experience, like whenever, like, like say a Jehovah’s witness used to knock on the door and stuff like that, and try to tell me, you know, what, you know, if you lied to them, you know, there was never a, well, how are you doing today?
[00:40:20] Like there’s no common ground from which to spring forth. So why would I listen to what you have to say? Um, and so. And so I think you’re a fabulous position to be able to do that. Um, are there any particular instances or stories that you can recall when you were out doing, um, you know, the harm reduction or handing out needles or, or serving the community?
[00:40:47] Does any particular story impact you that you can
[00:40:51] Jay: remember? Yeah, so unfortunately the most impactful one was actually a negative. Um, it wasn’t a moment of help. Uh, I was [00:41:00] out with this organization Savage system. And, um, we were split up into a couple of groups in different parts of, of this, uh, this couple of blocks in a neighborhood called Kensington here in Philadelphia.
[00:41:11] And, uh, I was across the street helping someone and I come back and, uh, um, I walk up to one of my, uh, fellow volunteers, uh, who is, we’re all watching, there’s like five policemen around a person. And they’re just beaten on the guy. Not like, like, not like with their sticks, but like very physically, you know, and I said to my, my buddy, I said, what are they doing?
[00:41:38] And he’s like, yeah, unfortunately that guy was, was in overdose and they didn’t have Narcan. Uh, so they were just trying to bring them back by beaten on them. And we, I was like, why don’t they have Narcan? He was like, man, police around here just don’t care. They don’t carry their Narcan. So, uh, I was like, well, can we go give them some he’s like, we just gave it to him.
[00:41:57] We told them they need to use it. [00:42:00] Hopefully they do. Um, but that was a situation where it was like, it was so sad to me that here were five policemen or whatever who were less prepared to help then all of us, because we had the. Medicine on us. We have the right training and yet we were not able to help in that situation because, uh, of, of the law enforcement intervention, you know, which was more harmful, more detrimental than, than our help would have been.
[00:42:35] Uh, and not really that that episode really upset me. And, um, I left there and was talking to the head of this organization, Sapphire sisters, uh, an incredible woman named Sarah Laurel. And I said, what can we do? And she’s like, man, I don’t even know. She said, I advocate all the time. Uh, but, but you know, the, the policemen, they want the right to choose whether they are trained in this.
[00:42:58] And I said, I mean, I get that. Like, [00:43:00] I wouldn’t want to be forced to do something either, but then I would step out of the way and let other people do it. It’s only these policemen in these union policemen, police unions, that mandate that they are the only ones allowed to assist in these situations. And they are the only ones that are allowed to choose whether they get the right training or not.
[00:43:20] And it creates this, this situation where, you know, something like 10 to 15% of police here in Philadelphia are Narcan trained. And yet no one else is allowed to go on patrol in these neighborhoods only they are. And we’re losing a bunch of lives because of territorial BS. Yes.
[00:43:39] De’Vannon: Well, I can tell that’s still some others you even hear as we speak
[00:43:47] Jay: very much so,
[00:43:53] De’Vannon: so yeah, I mean, I’ve had a number of run ins with, with police too. Let’s say, [00:44:00] uh, yeah, they, they, they, they can be a hot mess. They, I mean, I don’t really just want to say like Elise, but, uh, you know, the same time I’m kind of like, fuck the police, you know, I think NWA, uh, it, the nail on the head was that song way back in the day and yeah.
[00:44:21] Yeah. I grew up in the nineties. I’m okay with that. The
[00:44:25] Jay: thing is, is, is I am definitely in the fuck the police camp, but at the same time, even if you’re not. Like most of the defensiveness and, and I’ve, I’ve argued this point with a lot of people is, well, that’s not the police’s job. I agree with you. And that’s why they need to move out the way.
[00:44:45] But, but this idea that we can’t take funding from them to pay for these things that they don’t want to do is ludicrous to me. They don’t want to do it. There’s a Porter say they shouldn’t have to do it. There are detractors say that we all agree that [00:45:00] police shouldn’t have to do this. And yet the police will not allow for the money to go anywhere else.
[00:45:05] And so we’re caught in this, this circular, uh, circle of bullshit where we literally all agreed, no one thinks the police should have to do this. And yet nobody will allow the police to get less funding so that other people can be trained to do this work.
[00:45:22] De’Vannon: So, so what you’re saying is they want to keep the money.
[00:45:26] Yes. Although their duties would be diminished. They don’t want their funds to be diminished.
[00:45:32] Jay: Yeah. And, and, and, and unfortunately our political leaders love to then go, well, you know, our hands are tied. We can’t give the money. Uh, unless we take it from police and then they’ll turn around and do things like, oh, I don’t know, Funday $7 billion war department in this country or, or any other, you know, ridiculous costs.
[00:45:50] It, it, it, it, it, it doesn’t make sense to me that we love to squabble about these little amounts of money. Even though we are the richest country on earth, [00:46:00] we could solve all these problems in a minute, but ain’t going to happen.
[00:46:04] De’Vannon: Yeah. Unfortunately, our values don’t align across the lesson.
[00:46:08] Jay: That’s a good way to put it.
[00:46:09] Our values do not align
[00:46:11] De’Vannon: and don’t, everything is it’s value based, you know, down in our subconscious, even in, in everything like that. And it causes us to feel justified. In the things that we do, you know, people like you and I are going to always fight for the person, you know, are, as they say on the hill colleagues across the aisle, you know, you know, are going to fight for the economy or for the structure for the system and things like that.
[00:46:42] So, um, let’s, let’s, let’s take a turn and get more into recovery, sobriety and substances. I’m in the middle of like doing the, um, 12 steps myself. My drug of choice was crystal meth. So I started out by getting AA. When I [00:47:00] was in rehab, then I touched on narcotics anonymous, then there’s crystal meth anonymous.
[00:47:04] And now with the sponsor that I have, we’re kind of doing like a hybrid of all of that with kind of getting back into mainly the AA books, since it’s more like God centered. And I’m very clear on what I believe spiritually and, um, And so I don’t necessarily agree with a lot of it. And so, um, after I go through this 12 step program, this one time, I’m not going to do it again because I don’t think that that’s necessary.
[00:47:36] And so I was quite intrigued with your different take on it too. And the more get into this, I’m seeing that there’s so many other people out there and so many different perspectives, whereas the AA program or the anonymous program, all of them that I’ve dealt with, it’s like, they want you to kind of do like how some preachers do in church.
[00:47:58] I knew a lot of religious [00:48:00] references because I have a strong religious background of them and I try to push that on anybody. I just, I am who I am. Um, because it’s like how, like when you’re in churches and stuff like that, and they want you to just, just do what we say and believe this period of questioning thing.
[00:48:14] That’s how I’m finding the anonymous program is an, um, And so it was helpful when I was like new, there’s a variety, but now that I’ve like woke up, I’m all like seeing the holes in the program and I don’t find it to be sustainable. Uh, you term your, instead of saying substance abuse, you say substance misuse.
[00:48:38] And so I’m going to be quiet. Then I went off on a tangent, therefore Mo thank you so much for patient and listening. And, um, so explain to us what substance misuse is as opposed to substance abuse. And then talk about your take on what recovery should.
[00:48:56] Jay: Yeah, so there’s a lot to unpack in there first off.
[00:48:58] I [00:49:00] hope, you know, I’m sure you know this already, but you are not alone in having questions about AA. Um, so, okay. So let me answer this substance misuse first, because that’s a little quicker, so. Substance abuse is a term we’re trying to get rid of because, uh, when you think of the word abuse, what do you think of spousal abuse?
[00:49:18] You think of violent shit, bad shit. That’s a good way. Um, there is nothing abusive. About misusing a substance, right? There is the only person who is physically harmed is yourself. Uh, now you may commit abuse, but that has nothing to do with the drug. That is, that is very different. Now, the other reason we’re trying to get rid of that, other than the fact that there’s a lot of stigma around the word abuse, is that it puts the emphasis on the drug as if the drug is abusing you, which is just not true.
[00:49:53] Um, substance misuse is a more correct moniker because you and I could [00:50:00] use the same substance. I could be able to put it down at the end of the day. You couldn’t. I mean, that’s just how this works. There are a lot of variables that go into struggling with, with misuse or addiction. Um, and. We don’t know all of them.
[00:50:13] We know many of them, we don’t know what, to what extent. And I think that a lot of, a lot of researchers are truly on the side of it’s different for every person. And so the idea that it’s the drug’s fault is just. So misuse is more accurate as in you are misusing a substance that other people can use safely.
[00:50:36] So there’s a spectrum of this, right? On one end you have substance use, and that is literally smoking a joint that is having a drink. That is whatever the case is. Right. Uh, farther down, you fall into the misuse camp and that’s a wide swap that covers everything from flat-out medical addiction, which is by the way, for listeners who don’t know this addiction is not a term we should be [00:51:00] tossing around everywhere.
[00:51:01] Uh, addiction is a medical disorder that it’d be misusing. The word addiction is like misusing the word cancer. You know, it’s, it’s a very serious thing. And you shouldn’t say that unless you literally mean a medical addiction. Now what a lot of people have is not an addiction. That’s not qualified. Um, by the, by the signs of the medical disorder, which is, uh, if different researchers to be believed somewhere between four and 8% of substance users struggle with addiction.
[00:51:30] So it’s a very small number, a much larger number is what we call misuse. And that can be everything from the college kid who bins drinks on weekends to the person who gets up and smokes weed all day, uh, to the point where they’re actually having diminished, uh, capacity for action in their day. Cannabis is not addictive.
[00:51:50] It is not possible to be physically and mentally dependent on cannabis. Uh, that is the qualification for an actual addiction. [00:52:00] Can you misuse addiction or cannabis? Of course you can. Can you be men are mentally, or can you be mentally dependent with physical dependencies on cannabis? Yes, you can. You cannot be addicted.
[00:52:13] And so that falls under what we would call misuse. And so by helping people understand these different qualifications, it really helps people rethink the way we talk about these issues. A perfect example. Now I personally am not sober. Uh, I am very lucky that I’ve never had. A unhealthy relationship with alcohol.
[00:52:36] I’ve never had an unhealthy relationship with cannabis. Uh, I have my medical card and I, and I smoke freely here in, in Pennsylvania. Uh, I can have a drink and not need 10 drinks the way that I could not have a pill and not need 10 pills. And so when we think of the traditional yeah. Approach to recovery.
[00:52:55] That experience does not fit in there. And when I first got into recovery, I [00:53:00] was sober for about six months. I didn’t do anything. I didn’t even drink coffee because I wanted to give my body a chance to heal. But eventually I tried what they call the AA experiment and I haven’t had a drink and it was perfectly fine.
[00:53:13] Uh, I smoked a joint was perfectly fine and, uh, I’m very thankful that cause I enjoy both of those immensely. Uh, the one thing I have not, well, I haven’t gone back to a lot of drugs, but the one thing that I very much sure that I will not try again is prescription pills considering that was my, my biggest struggle.
[00:53:31] Um, and yeah. That is also becoming much more common, uh, right before COVID I was at a, um, uh, like a research couple of day seminar kind of thing. Uh there’s specifically for the medical community. I went because I was interested and, um, sobriety for sobriety’s sake as being the response to addiction or the response to substance misuse was never mentioned, uh, sort [00:54:00] of AA was only mentioned in passing or in the questions.
[00:54:04] Um, AA is no longer the preferred method for, uh, people in the medical world. Um, you know, as much as you and I were bashing, uh, the medical institution early. They have come very far on this issue. Uh, they, they very much, if you are struggling with addiction, uh, with, uh, let’s say opioids and your doctor does not recommend buprenorphine or methadone or some are some, um, what we would call medically assisted, uh, therapy.
[00:54:32] Uh, they are in the extreme minority. I mean, this is standard practice now. Uh, and, and we’re seeing that change happen pretty rapidly. Um, thanks to policies that are finally being pushed through, uh, Washington. So, um, you know, is a. Uh, something that helps people. It is, uh, and I never want people to think I’m bashing AA.
[00:54:54] What I am bashing is the idea that was strong for about a hundred years. That [00:55:00] AA is the only way, and that is just not true. Um, and not only that it’s very harmful. You know, when, when AA is success, rates are about 30% for just people who come forward with drinking issues, uh, which is a small number as it is.
[00:55:15] But, but that’s, you know, 30% sadly in our world is not terrible as, as sad as that is. The last study of AA is a success rate or AA only without medically assisted treatment without, uh, co current behavioral therapy, uh, for, for other substances was about 8%. And if you could look me in the eye and tell me that eight out of a hundred people finding, finding recovery through this only method is a success.
[00:55:41] Uh, I don’t know what to fucking tell you. Uh, so, uh, that’s why I really appreciate, uh, even those people in AA who are willing to say now, Come to AA because the group aspect is so incredibly important. Uh, having that, that peer, uh, there with you is so w when it’s a good relationship, by the way, because [00:56:00] as you know, firsthand, it’s not always the best relationship.
[00:56:02] Unfortunately, you get a bad sponsor who tells you something like, oh, I don’t know, uh, buprenorphine is not recovery or taking your psych meds means you’re not sober. These happened in the rooms all the time. They’re very dangerous. Um, uh, people who say that, but when you have a good sponsor and a good room, it is one of the most helpful things in recovery.
[00:56:23] However, it can not be the only treatment and, and any doctor who says that, uh, will be laughed out of the room at this point. So it is, it is getting to a point where this is more, uh, society’s thinking and not the actual medical field, which is wonderful. Uh, now we just need to have everybody else catch up,
[00:56:44] De’Vannon: and I hope everyone catches up really, really quick. Well, I hope people start to think more for them selves. Um, um, I’m a strong advocate of personal [00:57:00] research, both in the spiritual aspect of life. And then also in recovery in particular, I think the, the anonymous program then, like I said, there’s alcoholics anonymous, narcotics anonymous.
[00:57:13] I think there’s, um, sex anonymous. I think I’ve heard of cocaine anonymous, you know, there’s all kinds of anonymous programs, but they all seem to kind of echo AA as like the coordin where they pull their baseline of what they’re telling you from. I felt like it was a village starting out. The problem I had with it is where did you go from there?
[00:57:34] There is no graduation. So my really going to sit here and do these 12 steps again and again and again, you know, what’s the point we already talked about this shit before. And so, um, I see a lot of people in and out. Of those programs that I’ve wondered at times, you know, is, is this, are they constantly relapsing and, and not finding success as the, these programs that find it because of [00:58:00] programs that are unrealistic?
[00:58:01] Is it because there is no out, there’s no end in sight? Um, is it because the, uh, their autonomy to think doesn’t is taken from them? You know, I like my wine and I, and I started drinking very young. And so I was raised responsible with wine the only, you know, have it here and there. And so that was never like an issue for me, but, you know, buy crystal meth anonymous or a standard, you know, our relapse everyday.
[00:58:30] I go over to my wine cabinet and, you know, and so, and so I feel very sorry for people like that who may not be searching for better options than what have been currently presented to them. And so that’s why I’m calling. We’re having this conversation. Um, I bought a book by rational recovery, which is, uh, a huge movement, like against like the anonymous programs.
[00:58:56] I intend to read that soon as I expand my knowledge. [00:59:00] And I really encourage people to, to do the same thing. If it’s not working, you know, it’s your 10th time in rehab or, or if you keep fumbling through the steps, because there’s more things out there than the anonymous programs.
[00:59:14] Jay: Yeah. Actually, So I am. So I think it’s so cool that you got a book to read on this because a lot of people, uh, are, are whether they’re paralyzed by choice or, or, or the lack of it, or they don’t have the foresight that it sounds like you do to say, you know what?
[00:59:33] I think there’s more out there that I can research. Uh, that’s why I think so many people go to AA is that everybody knows it. Right? If you struggle with addiction, somebody is going to ask you if you’ve been to AA, it is a, it is going to happen because that’s what, that’s what the average person on the street knows.
[00:59:50] So let me drop a couple of book recommendations for people who are looking for other ideas. Uh, the number one, the best one I can recommend is a book called the abstinence myth by a friend of mine. His name [01:00:00] is a D Jaffe, Dr. A D J. He started a program called ignited out in California, uh, that it’s a virtual recovery group trying to be, um, sort of what AA is for people who don’t want to go that route, because the thing that’s missing, uh, if you don’t go to AA, like I didn’t, I only went to AA a couple of times.
[01:00:20] I didn’t really like it. Uh, and then because of that, because I didn’t go to AA, I had no one to help me through my recovery journey. I did it alone, which is very difficult and I don’t recommend it to anybody. So, so check out the recovery, uh, that the abstinence myth by a D Jaffe, it, it’s talking about other ways to have that connection.
[01:00:38] Uh, the book, um, in the realm of hungry ghosts by Dr. Gabor, Matay up in, up in Canada. Uh, he is a doctor of that that works with people, struggling with addiction, specifically, uh, at risk populations, like, um, indigenous Canadians and, uh, the homeless. Um, and, and this book is all about how these experiences really helped him.[01:01:00]
[01:01:01] Revisit some of his ideas about addiction that were wrong. Uh, and it’s, it’s, it’s one of those books that I read it with chills the entire time of like, oh my God, more people need to read this book. And the third one is a book called chasing the scream, uh, by one of my heroes, Johann Hari. He is a, uh, uh, a journalist from.
[01:01:25] Uh, London, he is a drug user. He’s open about that. And he writes about, he spent a couple of years basically living the drug war. So he, he kind of embedded with not with cartels, but he went to Mexico and went along these paths. Um, he went to, uh, the inner streets of Baltimore and, and got to know, uh, drug dealers and people who were living off of, of drug dealing.
[01:01:50] Um, you know, he, he did the work and really showed just how harmful the war on drugs has been specifically to people of [01:02:00] color, uh, but also, uh, pretty much everybody and how a being the, the go-to for the world. Uh, especially, unfortunately our criminal justice system has done nothing, but continue to feed the beast.
[01:02:15] That is the war on drugs in our, in our prison population or prison. Boom. Uh, and it was really eyeopening so much so that it became a New York times bestseller. And, uh, it, it, it really helps some people open their eyes. So, um, there are other options. There are people doing this work to help people learn other options.
[01:02:33] Um, but it ain’t easy. And, and it’s why people like you and I have to keep having these conversations.
[01:02:39] De’Vannon: Well, I’ll never heard anybody put, uh, alcoholics anonymous or the anonymous movement in the same bed with the war on drugs, which we know is a hot damn terrific mess. And, um, I think that their failure to evolve the anonymous programs.
[01:02:59] So your team [01:03:00] evolve is a huge problem because I mean, they revise the additions over the years, but they haven’t really changed their whole course in that some things started decades upon decades ago. You know, we’re really, really living in a different time. I knew that my time was going to be limited with them.
[01:03:18] I, I asked my sponsor would whether or not alcohol and tobacco was a mood and mind altering substance. And his response to me was that the program doesn’t define them as that. And so. I was thinking, I was like, I’m not going to argue this point. That’s bullshit because everybody knows Frank coffee and you take, you just smoke cigarettes in order to put yourself in a different mood or state.
[01:03:45] Yeah. You know, you don’t do it for the fucking flavor. So you’re doing it to wake up in the morning or to relax or whatever. And so I was like, so the program is what, not a book is a bunch of people. And so the program is so we can change. [01:04:00] And so right then, and moment I could see that he’s pattering and he is thinking based on what the program is telling him think.
[01:04:07] And so, and I’m like, I don’t want to be that way. And so I know this is, this is, this is, this has an expiration date for me. Another thing about the programs is they like you to say that you’re an addict every time that you speak and say something, and like you were saying, that word is very powerful, eat, taken lightly.
[01:04:24] I re I re I’ll, I’ll say something like, maybe like I’m an addict in recovery or something like that, but I won’t just. And that negativity over myself. And so.
[01:04:40] Jay: No dude. That was perfect. And, and why you touched on something I think is really important. And it goes back to my point before about people who have drawn the connection between the war on drugs and AA. So I’ll try to spell this out. Now. I will say I’m not nearly as good as this as, as Johann Hari did in chasing the scream.
[01:04:59] So definitely read [01:05:00] that book, but the war on drugs was started as a war on people. This, this idea that it was about harmful drugs is, is nonsense. We all know that right, uh, to, to make it even clearer. The first anti-drug laws in this country were actually in the, in the late 18 hundreds, specifically targeting Asian immigrants, um, because there was a moral panic at the time that Asian immigrants were using OPM to corrupt white women.
[01:05:22] It was in the laws. Thankfully our forefathers were racist that shit. And we’re just out open with this, this racism in their laws, right? So fast forward to the actual war on drugs and. The thinking was that drug use, this was a moral failing. That was what they decided. Right. And, and who were the ones most at risk for their moral failing?
[01:05:44] Well, of course it was those deemed less desirable by our country, specifically people of color and immigrants. So, uh, you know, this was out in the open again. Uh, Richard Nixon’s chief advisor has said as much that they knew the war on drugs was total BS, but they could use it [01:06:00] for political purposes. This was, this is a quote that he is famous for.
[01:06:03] So if that is your, your, your, your standard, right. If that is what you mean, Are you then politically able to invest in treatment? The answer is no. Why? Because if you’ve decided this is our moral failing, well, you can’t treat a moral failing. Those are just bad people. And so if we can’t treat them, what are we going to do?
[01:06:24] We have to lock them up. Right? So if we can’t treat them, but we can try to improve their morality by increasing their access to other people who are more on a moral or better, farther down on a, on a rehabbing moral path than they are. Well, that’s a wonderful thing. What does that sound like to you?
[01:06:43] That’s a, and so that is why, even though AA is not a medical. Um, medical base treatment method. It is the only one recommended by our justice system. It is. If people go through drug court, what do they get sentenced to a, [01:07:00] because our country’s still sees drug use as a moral failing, and they see addiction as a moral loss, not as a medical issue.
[01:07:09] So that’s where AA gets tied up in the war on drugs. It was a response to, uh, the, our, our government needing a way to, to sentence people, to try to fix the morality of their use and not their actual medical issue.
[01:07:28] De’Vannon: Oh, fuck.
[01:07:32] Jay: Yeah. I mean, all of that, I don’t want to bash a, to an extent because we need the connection. However, it is so fucked up that our country, which, which has separation of church and state as one of its main things, requires people struggling with an addiction to go to an organization that makes you find God, uh, as a person who was born and raised Jewish, who is not really that religious, uh, that was [01:08:00] one of my issues with AA.
[01:08:01] And they told me, oh, you know, it just says, you have to find out your, your higher power. I’ve read the big book, by the way. That’s a bunch of bullshit. It’s a Christian book and nothing against that. If that, like, for people that it works for, I’m so happy that it works for you, but know that you’re in the minority and let’s not force everybody to go through this program.
[01:08:24] De’Vannon: Right. It is a, it is a spiritual program. So for somebody like me, That works, but I totally get if somebody is not spiritual that I want to be around at that point yet I can see how they will be totally turned off by it. Um, it also stands out to me that everybody kind of gets to pick their higher power.
[01:08:42] So like mine’s is Jesus Christ and other person’s entire power might actually literally be the group itself, you know, and everything in between. And so, and I was like, okay, so my higher power is God, why can’t he just heal me of all of this addiction stuff. And then I can get on with my life and [01:09:00] not have to fool with this anymore.
[01:09:02] And you know, and so right. And so, so then, you know, my sponsor, you know, people, they don’t, they, they don’t really quite want to go that far with it. I think my sponsor explained it as like the healing part is like, you can be around the things that used to trigger you, but you won’t do drugs. And now you’re healed.
[01:09:22] I feel like, I feel like I can go further than that. So rather than trying to argue with the program, because they clearly not trying to change, you know, the thing, you know, the thing for us, which would be great if they would evolve and turn into something that’s relative to the year 2021 and, um, you know, is to get other options.
[01:09:42] And so, so for people out there who, who heard this, tell us what, what are some other red flags that we should be aware of when it comes to our own personal mental health?
[01:09:58] Jay: Well, uh, so a couple of [01:10:00] things I would say with when it comes to substance use, be aware of why you are using and when to, to put a finer point on that, is it a mindful use or a mindfulness use?
[01:10:12] Um, if you are, let’s say drinking because you get home from work, you walk in the door and before you do anything else, you grab a beer. And before you know it, you’re sitting on the couch with a beer and right. That is what I would call a mindless use. Uh, you are not choosing to use that substance. It is part of your habit.
[01:10:29] Uh, now, if, if that’s just your only beer of the day, I mean, that’s fine. If you have a couple, that’s fine. If, if that’s your first of 10 and that’s the only way you can get through the day, clearly you’ve got a problem. So, uh, make sure that your use is mindful that you are choosing that you are truly enjoying.
[01:10:47] The use of a substance, if you are not, these are signs of, of, of, uh, substance misuse, uh, and not a mindful enjoyment of a substance. So that’s, that’s number one. Now, when it comes to, uh, to other just [01:11:00] general generalities of mental health, the, the most common red flag that you are currently struggling with your mental health is, is losing enjoyment for things that normally bring you joy.
[01:11:11] Um, you know, I personally let’s say I’m a big baseball fan. Uh, normally the idea like I’m going to a game on tomorrow, if all of a sudden one day I’m just like, eh, I don’t even want to do that. That is a good sign to me that I am struggling, that I’m entering a period of depression that maybe something’s going on.
[01:11:32] And that should be your wake up call to spend a couple of minutes or however long you need to get in touch with yourself. Now, I’ve I personally. I’m not really a big fan of meditation. I can do it, but I don’t want to enjoy it. I don’t find enjoyment in meditation. And so I practice other forms of mindfulness.
[01:11:54] Um, those are hard to find sometimes because our culture is so fixated [01:12:00] on meditation. And so I spent about two years talking to therapists and other, um, uh, researchers on this. And I came up with a pretty good list. Uh, and I actually made a course for the platform listener bubble, which is an online education platform, uh, where if you search for mindfulness beyond meditation, you will hear a it’s about a 45 minute course, total there’s 10 sessions, all of them about different medic, uh, mindfulness practices that don’t include traditional meditation.
[01:12:29] And all of them are ways to get more in touch with yourself. Get more in touch with your subconscious and really learn more about what’s going on inside your head without traditional medicine.
[01:12:42] De’Vannon: Hmm, I’m gonna check that out myself. So what about your cannabis advocacy? I know you said that you do enjoy it.
[01:12:57] Um, do you feel like that that’s something people can use [01:13:00] to help them get off of harder drugs or exactly? To what extent do you advocate for.
[01:13:06] Jay: That is a wonderful question. Um, I, I do believe that many people, uh, can use cannabis, uh, to get off of harder drugs. Now, let me say a couple of things about that.
[01:13:16] Number one, that is not true for everybody. There are some people. Uh, did it won’t help. Um, that’s just the reality of anything, you know, uh, some people, you know, equine therapy working with horses is the biggest, biggest thing in recovery right now, right? Every, every recovery centers got their equine therapy that may help some people.
[01:13:36] I think it’s a, it’s a punchline for a lot of us who do this work. Um, they would rather offer horse therapy than actual medication. Um, but it actually can help some people, which is wonderful. Uh, that being said, it’s the same thing with cannabis. It will help some people won’t help everybody. I will also say, uh, that it is very good at helping people switch from one thing to another.
[01:13:58] Now, is that a [01:14:00] long-term solution? Absolutely not. Uh, switching from hard drugs that you’re currently struggling with to, to cannabis is much better for you. Uh, you’re not going to overdose, uh, it’s way easier to find a safe supply of cannabis than it is of heroin. However, If it’s still getting in the way of your life, you know, there’s still a problem there.
[01:14:19] So I do believe that cannabis is, is a tool that people can use to, to help with their recovery. Uh, it’s been great for me. I find it reduces stress and anxiety wonderfully. Um, I, I am a big advocate. I actually, you can’t see it, but I ha I’m growing a plant right here next to me. Um, I, I’ve got a buddy who sent me some seeds, um, and, uh, it, I love it as, as forgetting for a second, that it’s a cannabis plant.
[01:14:43] I love it because it gives me something to care about more than, you know, obviously love my wife and my dog, but, but it has another thing. I’m not a big plant person. I literally. Three plants in my office. Uh, one of them is my wife. So that’s how little person I am, but this there’s something about [01:15:00] this plant that is beautiful.
[01:15:01] I think it’s because I do love cannabis. I’m a big fan. Uh, I both of high THC, the kind that gets you high and just high CBD. I smoke CBD our Walker on the street here in Philadelphia with an old man’s pipe full of CBD because I love it. Uh, it, it, it, it it’s great. Um, medicine for me, it keeps me from having high anxiety on days that I am feeling very good anxious.
[01:15:25] Um, and I think that because of that, I just loved them this plant, and I tend to it like, like I don’t anything else. So, um, I will say by the way, that is not legal in our, in, I don’t recommend that to everybody because I am taking a risk, uh, theoretically, although I don’t think the CIA is busting in my door for one cannabis.
[01:15:44] Um, but, but there is something about, uh, this plant. I, I like the smell and this one plant is enough that my entire house smells like weed. So, uh, it, it, is it or something powerful about, about the cannabis plant? [01:16:00]
[01:16:00] De’Vannon: Hey, keep growing I garden. I grow, I grow things here, but, um,
[01:16:07] Jay: I’ll tell you, actually, since we’re talking about this, uh, my newest passion is, is psilocybin magic mushrooms.
[01:16:14] Um, I, I, I took a lot of mushrooms when I was at my worst and I didn’t take them for about 10 years, but more than that, maybe, maybe two. And, uh, I started reading up on, on microdosing about six months ago and I went, you know what, I think I can do this safely. Uh, so I got a kit offline, uh, and, and started growing my own magic mushrooms and, um, eventually harvested, uh, just a bunch.
[01:16:41] And I love it. Uh, I I’ve been micro-dosing now for about six weeks and, uh, I find the benefits to be wonderful. Um, it’s been really enjoying, I’ve really enjoyed the process of growing them, myself and, and playing with them again. This is not legal. I know that. And I don’t recommend it to anyone because of [01:17:00] that.
[01:17:00] However, if you are interested, I, you know, reach out, we’ll talk about it. Um, but, but I have found the benefits to be pretty incredible. And now that psilocybin is, has been decriminalized in Oregon and in Washington, DC. Uh, I’m very excited to try, uh, psilocybin therapy, uh, which is next on my, my therapy buckets.
[01:17:22] De’Vannon: Oh, is it like relaxing? Is it a neutral? And the emotion is invigorating? Like how does that make you feel? Like, are you eating these restrooms? Are you processing it into a liquid?
[01:17:35] Jay: No, I, I eat them like, like anything else? Um, not really what, what it does for me. And this is also very personal. I know that a lot of people find it to be an incredible brain boost.
[01:17:48] What I find when I, when I take it is a very low doses we’re talking. Um, if a normal dose of mushrooms is anywhere between 1.5 to four grams, depending on who you are [01:18:00] and what you’re trying to do, if you’re really trying to be higher, if you’re really trying to like trip, right. What I’m talking about is 0.1 to 0.3 grams.
[01:18:08] So we’re talking less than a 10th of a normal dose, right? So the goal is to not feel anything, if you do it right, you won’t even notice that you’re on that. You’ve mentioned. For me, what it does is effectively provide a shield. I just feel good. I feel happy. I feel at peace. Um, you know, on a couple of weeks ago, my wife and I went out for the day and, uh, we went to this event and the event was disorganized as community events tend to be.
[01:18:37] Uh, we ended up waiting in line outside in the sun for about 15 minutes, normally as a person who gets annoyed very easily, uh, that would have been a very annoying occurrence to me. And I felt nothing. I just waited in line with my wife and, and she even remarked later, like, wow, you were really calm. And I was like, yeah, like that’s what this does for me.
[01:18:57] It’s just a shield against [01:19:00] these strong negative feelings. Now I will say that taped a little bit of work. Uh, they, it has the ability to, um, magnify anything you’re feeling even at low doses. So if I was already annoyed, when I took it, I would have been much more annoyed. Uh, but if you take it and make a conscious effort to, to be positive, to be at peace, uh, you will find yourself feeling pretty.
[01:19:23] Darn good.
[01:19:27] De’Vannon: Um, thank you for sharing all of your, uh, quote unquote, illegal endeavors and, and, and yeah, you we’re in need plan.
[01:19:38] Jay: Ah, so I put up an ad on our, an ad. I put up a post on, on Instagram asking for recommendations. And, uh, there were a lot of good ones, but none of them really fit. And, uh, I’ve just been calling it baby girl.
[01:19:51] So we’ll see eventually I’m sure I’ll come up with something better.
[01:19:54] De’Vannon: I think that’s quite appropriate. So it is, it is my baby. I’ll give you the [01:20:00] last word here. What advice do you have for people or what. Where marks would you want everyone to hear you say today?
[01:20:08] Jay: Well, so a couple of things, number one. Um, if, if any of this is interesting, if you want to learn more, uh, reach out, please, I would love to, I clearly love to have these conversations, but, but the, the thing I always make sure I say, whenever I speak, whenever I’m interviewed is, is reach out.
[01:20:25] If you are struggling. I, as someone who lived through this, uh, You know, did the dumbest thing in that moment, which was nothing. I stayed silent. And, uh, even though there were so many people in my life who would have happily sat with me, I didn’t think that that was true. And so I did nothing. Uh, now obviously as someone who lived through that experience, I found out later how stupid I was, because everybody told me how stupid I’d been.
[01:20:48] Um, but, but in the moment you don’t think that you truly believe, oh, I’m alone, nobody cares. It’s just all stupid. So reach out. Uh, and I always make this [01:21:00] offer. If you truly believe there’s nobody in your life who will listen again, I you’re wrong, but if you truly believe that, reach out to me. Um, as you’ve heard, I have training in this also I lived through.
[01:21:12] I’ll happily talk to you and, and you can find me at my website, which is Jay schiffman.com or, or on social media. I’ve had people reach out to me over Tik TOK. That’s not a joke. It happened. I don’t recommend it because I always forget that I have a Tik TOK and forget to check it. But, but people have, um, find me on Instagram.
[01:21:30] That’s where I respond the quickest usually. Uh, and just here, here’s the code word. All right. I always say this. Um, you don’t even have to say, Hey, I need to talk. You can say, I heard you on, you know, whatever, wherever you heard me, uh, obviously in this podcast and this, in this instance, and just say, I have a question or do you got a second?
[01:21:47] Or there was something I wanted to ask you about. You don’t even have to say, I need someone to listen. That’s all you gotta do is tell me you got a question and I will understand. I will take time and I’ll say, great, here’s my phone number? [01:22:00] Or here’s a zoom link, which would you prefer less chat? Uh, because those of us who do this work have a saying, and that is, we’d rather spend two hours listening to you today than two hours at your funeral tomorrow.
[01:22:10] So please reach out.
[01:22:12] Amen and amen. Right. So, wow. What a great conversation and such an intense passion. And so thank you so much for coming on the show today. I look forward to giving this one live so we can get it out there and get some people help.
[01:22:31] Jay: Well, thank you so much for having me. Uh, I am, I am always excited to have conversations like this with our host truly understands and has their own passion for this work.
[01:22:40] So thank you. Thank you for what you’re doing and thank you for having me on
[01:22:44] De’Vannon: absolutely
[01:22:49] Thank you all so much for taking time to listen to the sex drugs and Jesus podcast. It really means everything to me. Look, if you love the show, you can [01:23:00] find more information and resources at sex, drugs, and jesus.com or wherever you listen to your podcast. Feel free to reach out to me directly @ DeVannon@sexdrugsandjesus.com and on Twitter and Facebook as well.
[01:23:14] My name is De’Vannon and it’s been wonderful being your host today and just remember that everything is going to be all right.

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