In this episode Zach is joined by Drew Hanthorn, a local Indianapolis business owner who runs the Steel House Indy and is in recovery himself. The two discuss how Drew balances recovery and owning a business, and his advice to those managing employees struggling with addiction.
Welcome to Recovery Radio by Landmark Recovery with your host Zach Crouch. In this program we’ll discuss the root causes and treatments of alcohol and substance addiction, speak with experts in related fields and help navigate the road to recovery. Now here’s the host of Recovery Radio Zach Crouch.
Zach: Hey everybody. Zach Crouch here again and you’re listening to Landmark Recovery Radio, your source for addiction and recovery news and knowledge. You can find us online wherever you get your podcast so please hit that subscribe button, tune in each week. We have new episodes. We have a great one today. We have guest Drew Hanthorn joining us on the show. Drew is local business owner in Indianapolis, Indiana. He runs the Steel House Indy. He is also in recovery and he has been in recovery for a while now for himself, for his family. He is going to share with us today about running a business while also living a sober life.
Drew, a pleasure to have you on. I appreciated the conversation too before the episode. Welcome to the show.
Drew: Thank you Zach.
Zach: Tell us and also the audience a bit about your background. How did you come to own your own business?
Drew: As you mentioned up coming up on 10 years in recovery. I was a former IV heroin addict. I was homeless and lost. By the grace of God of I started recovery. I ended up getting a job right out of rehab and it was just a way to pay the bills. I was working for a manufacturing plant when I found out my girlfriend at that time, now wife was pregnant. Long and short, I was working on this manufacturing plant and I was on a welding station in this big manufacturing plant. We manufactured seatbelt components in a school bus seat in a local company. The welders make $5 more an hour. Being me at the time I’m like I could use $5 more an hour. I never welded in my life.
I took a stab at it. The welding foreman would walk by my station every day and I stopped him on a Friday one day. I said what would it take for me to get into that welding shop. I ended up having a 10 to 15 minute phone call. He was a very nice man. He gave me an opportunity that kind of changed the course of my life. I remember the scariest moment of my life was to ask that one question. I don’t know why looking back but I was just so terrified to ask that question. At the end what did I have to lose?
He gave me a chance. That day I asked him a question he said come back on Monday and I will give you a welding test. I’ll go talk to your supervisor and we’ll give you a welding test and see what you’re made of.
I went home that weekend and got on YouTube as people in our generation do and look up everything I could about welding. I don’t know anything about it. I had the confidence apparently but I didn’t know anything about it. I was watching videos and what it entails. I walked into this on Monday very intimidated, a bunch of just burly men in this welding shop. There’s me who is Mr. clean dress, nice guy. I walked in there and he takes me back to this corner. I laid down a couple of beads. It’s obvious to him that I don’t know what I’m doing but he saw something in me. I’ve reached out to this man. He saw something in me and he gave me a chance. He taught me how to weld.
I worked for that company for a couple of years. I realized that there was only so far I could go based on where I wanted to be. I actually made a deal to myself very early on in my career that if I could not climb the corporate ladder to make a certain enough amount of money for my family that I would search other opportunities. I would always give my boss the benefit of the doubt and share that conversation with him but eventually that vision that I have of where I wanted to be every two years I ended up getting a promotion and or leaving to another business.
I went to three different welding manufacturing businesses in that period and I was working for a company HD supply local that we made fire sprinkler systems. Still welding and fabricating at that point. The 12 month mark came up and I knew I had to kind of start thinking about what I’m going to do for the next 12 months. I went to my boss and I presented what I’ve been doing. At that point I was comfortable having that conversation with my superiors hey, this is where I want to be. If you can’t offer that to me I’m going to have to start looking elsewhere. She really appreciated that because she knew I had that work ethic because she actually took that first time in company history took a shop fabricator out of the shop and put him in the…
Zach: I want to say something real quick. I think that is a great point because I believe at least at some level and this isn’t just true for people in sobriety trying to get a job. This is I think true for people in general is that there has to be some initiative on behalf of the person who wants to get ahead. That doesn’t mean that you have to be a jerk and start trampling over people to get to the top. What I’m saying to your point is that you may doing a killer job, you may be doing just a bang up job in a place. What’s in it though for someone who is a supervisor even who is probably stressed out and has a lot on their plate to just go ahead and say you know what? I see Drew is doing a great job. He really deserves to have this opportunity. They might not even be aware of it. They’re just simply trying to get ahead.
Drew: That is what it comes down to. They’re not aware of it. You bring up a very good point because that conversation in particular she had absolutely no idea and it was funny to me because there was so many fabricators in that position with me. I think there were nine of us at the time. It was something that they all talked about because the job opening was kind of posted early. Someone was leaving a couple of months in advance. I was the only who actually went after the job. They all talked about it. They all wanted it but none of them put that initiative in place. I knew that I had a decision to make and I also knew that I had an agreement with myself that this is what my vision was going to look like. I just stepped up and took it. It was that easy. It was kind of just getting rid of that fear at the back of my head that I have nothing to lose. I’m not going to lose my job for asking to interview for a position. I had to really get rid of that.
Zach: You’re going to be able to clarify where you go next.
Drew: Where I stand. That was a big thing and I’m glad you brought that up because that was something I really had to struggle with early on in recovery. What I refer to as an old map. The old maps of my brain that told me to do this may look very different in recovery. I don’t have to be fearful of those things anymore. I can choose to be excited about those things instead of getting caught up in my own self.
I interviewed against three or four other people and they chose me. It was a great opportunity to kind of just see how a shop that I worked for, how the front of office worked in that shop because in fabrication shops those two things are often very disconnected. It’s a very us versus them mentality which has always bothered me. I worked there for about another 12 months.
I was contacted by a head hunter while I was still working there which I didn’t even know what head hunter was at the time. That’s why I told her to her face. she contacted me and she had she had found my resume because that’s one thing I always even as I own a business I keep my resume posted out there. I will throw that out there. I don’t ever look at an opportunity as a final this is the end. There’s always more opportunities out there so I always keep my resume out there because you never know.
I was contacted by a headhunter and she said I’ve got a local position at the sales position. I was immediately turned off because I was just like what do you want me to do in sales. I’m not a sales person. I’ve never talked in front of people. I’m a quiet fabricator. I sit in a desk now nobody is around. It was just so foreign to me at the time but I said what the heck? I’ll go for the interview and I interviewed with this man who is now my business partner. At the time he would not take no for an answer. He saw something to me. He saw potential in me that I didn’t see in myself. That was a big turning point in my life just knowing that this man who has run a successful business for 30 some years whose dad created this business saw something in me that I couldn’t see in myself.
I had a young family at the time and I had to make a very tough decision because what they were offering me he ended up throwing ten thousand dollars onto that to get me to stop being like he knew before even knowing me that I was already in my head. He made sure that I was going to make the right decision. Long and the short ended up working for my business partner as a salesperson, knew nothing about sales but he also knew that I could just connect with people. It was something that I was natural at. I truly believe that recovery taught me how to how to connect with people of all walks of life. It doesn’t matter in recovery what your background is.
Zach: Let’s just pause there for a second. I’m curious because I think that term sales it gets sort of misrepresented. You brought up an interesting sort of concept or an idea. I don’t think it’s anything new but what did you find in that sort of year or so when you began the process of sales what worked. Was it pure relationships and honesty and integrity and anything else like that?
Drew: After failed attempts of trying to sell a product I really realized that my strong suit was just connecting with people. In those moments, looking back at it I didn’t really know how to put it into words. I just sold stuff. I was able to sell jobs. I was able to sell better than anybody had at that company but it was because I never looked at it as sales. I didn’t look at the dollar amount. I didn’t look at the product. I knew what I believed in and what I believed in was helping people. At the end of the day that’s what I was doing.
I was helping people fulfill what they needed to fulfill. In a variety of ways across different jobs that looked like different things but at the end of the day I was able to help people. It’s funny you bring that up because I’m actually now training sales people and that is the number one thing that trips people up is sales doesn’t have to be looked at as sales. It is just connecting with people.
It is just going out and talking with people and understanding that we’re all connected. Whether we like it or not humanity is all connected and establishing those connections and letting people know that you are authentic in what you’re trying to do. It doesn’t matter what you’re selling. It’s just connecting with people and understanding that hey, you can call me when you need me. That’s all it’s about.
Zach: Talk to us about what advice would you give to you know a fellow business owner when I’m thinking about managing employees who are struggling with substance use problems?
Drew: As we spoke earlier I’ve got four employees who are in what I would call long-term recovery. They’ve been in for a while and I have a fifth who just relapsed fairly recently. I actually personally brought him to his house, helped him pack his bags and help them get to rehab. For me when I hire people I don’t hire them based on their skill set necessarily. It’s a plus for me obviously in a custom fabrication shop. It’s a plus to have that but I also give people the opportunity to learn just like I did.
I knew nothing. As I told you that story getting on YouTube, going back to my first days of I got to learn how to weld but I did it and I got here. I know that anybody is capable of that. When I’m interviewing with someone I’m looking at them as a person. I’m not looking at them as an employee. I’m looking at them as a father, as a brother, as a as a sibling, whatever that is. They’re a human being just like I am and I feel like they should be given an opportunity just like I was.
I’m walking proof. I am absolutely walking proof that you can go through recovery and at the end of the day you can succeed in whatever way you want to succeed. I’ve seen that happen with my employees. I’ve been there to listen when they’re struggling. I’ve taken time out of my day to just spend four or five whatever hours they need just venting because I know at the end of the day what matters to me is those relationships. Those connections with people is what matters to me. My business will succeed as long as I continue these connections and these relationships.
The dollars are a just unfortunate side effect of business when it comes down to it. It’s a beautiful thing when for what happened with my employee to have six grown giant scary men hug this guy because he was crying was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen in my life. He walked in so hurt and so broken and so scared and to have all of my guys just following in my footsteps of taking time out of what’s going on to really focus on what matters. Their buddy was struggling and their buddy needed help. We all rallied behind him and we got him to go to rehab when his family’s been trying to push him for two weeks at the time.
All it took was us just being there for him and he was ready. He was ready he hit the ground running. It was such a monumental thing for me. As an employer all it took was just being aware and being present enough to see that my employees and all of our employees are people who have stories that at the end of the day they just need someone to listen to.
It’s something that’s very near and dear to my heart that I wish more employers would understand that this is not a choice that we don’t wake up one day and become addicts. We’re here and we’re together and the recovery system works. Sometimes an employer is that fundamental person who can change the course of a person’s life.
Zach: I love it because it’s a 100% right on. I’m wanting to hear too you know just you brought this you know the gentleman that you referred to that gave you that opportunity. I was thinking about this when you talked. I was thinking about, I’m not trying to single you out but why do you think why do so many not make it. Actually you’ve gone beyond those limitations even the story that people say once an addict always an addict be in the position you find yourself in today. Was there someone even if you go back before your active addiction started, even in childhood that you’re looking at and you’re just like man, this guy or this gal really made an impact on me at that young age.
Drew: For me it really comes down, I was blessed with my dad ran a business. I came in contact with a lot of people but the business that he was involved in there was a guy named Jim who works there. He always just had this outlook on life, I would hear stories about Jim and what he was going through. It wasn’t until I was an adult to see that he was suffering from alcoholism but to see how far he fell and how high he climbed kind of just made me realize at a young age that anything is possible.
This man lost his family. This man lost his house. This man lost his job. This man lost everything but it didn’t matter that the stories that I was hearing from my dad were so vastly different from my experience that I had when I talked to him. I played hockey and his son played hockey. I would always see him. I was just so polarized from these stories that people tell.
That really stuck with me because at some point in my recovery I realized I was telling myself a story. I was limiting myself to this box that I’m an addict and that I’m stuck in this box. I don’t have to be. That’s part of who I am today and I will never ever be ashamed of that but that doesn’t have to be the full story. I can choose right here and right now to create the life that I want to create. It doesn’t have to do with that. I love being involved with recovery don’t get me wrong but it doesn’t have to define my life.
That was a big turning point in my life to just realize that I did have a choice that I can still be involved with recovery. I can still identify as an addict but I don’t have to let that control my future. I can let that be what made me who I am today. Seeing him, it’s funny you bring that up. I haven’t thought about him for a while but seeing him how he was just so cool, calm and collected.
Thinking back from that point as an adult of just especially in this pandemic of how many people are losing a lot of their “stuff” but at the end of the day I have my family. My wife and I had that conversation recently. At the end of the day whatever happens I’m happy because I’ve created a family that is joyful and we love each other. We go out and we create joy in other people. Whatever that looks like that’s what matters to me, those relationships in my life of my legacy being left a long, long time from now.
When my legacy is left it’s going to be people saying yes, I remember that guy. He went out of his way for other people. He cared about people. He really understood humanity at its finest that we are all interconnected and we depend on each other for survival. I wish more people could think like that.
Zach: Did you ever think 10 years ago that you’d be saying that?
Drew: No, not even a chance. I was a lot of I don’t want to say fake it until you make it. It was more like winging it. I mean like the whole story about the welding like that explains it all it. It was uh uncomfortable but I kept telling myself for me it was a constant reminder as an addict it couldn’t get any worse than it was because that was death. At the end of the day what do I have to lose? Worst case scenario I end up right back where I was.
That’s kind of the philosophy I took on life like I can’t be afraid to try things because at the end of the day the worst thing that could happen is I would end up right back where I started. That fear started to just slowly dissipate and like I said it actually started to turn to excitement because I really challenged myself to try new things. As scary as they were at the end of the day I’m going to end up right back where I was and this isn’t so bad. What do I have to lose?
Zach: Nothing. Not a damn thing.
Drew: Exactly and it’s a hard concept for people but the more you practice it and the more you get out of that comfort zone that we all find ourselves in the more that we really grow. I’m a firm believer that addicts especially who have been through that level of addiction and setting their vision on sobriety that’s conscious creation right there. Anybody who’s listening to this right now who has suffered from addiction and has made a conscious decision to get clean and sober has consciously created a life that they can apply that to in their day-to-day life. It’s an amazing thing once you practice it enough and can tap into it.
Zach: Sounds like momentum almost.
Drew: Yes, it really is. Absolutely, that’s a very, very valid way of looking at it.
Zach: I love it. Drew, it has been a pleasure.
Drew: I thank you. Thank you.
Zach: Talking to you about this I kind of like to close with, I don’t always do this but I’m curious to know what’s on your bedside table right now. What are you reading?
Drew: I am actually reading two different books both based on the ego. That’s kind of a part of my life that I’m looking at right now. I will tell you that I don’t know the names of them only because my business partner gave them to me. He gave me very specific chapters to read out of them. One of them is The Power of Now. That’s the one that I know because he told me to read the first the first eight chapters of it but they’re both about kind of the ego.
My business partner is very kind of buddha-esque in his way of thinking. It’s really put things in a perspective of just what the grand scheme of things look like and how that looks like for me and my life. I totally chalk a lot of what I’m going through right now on a growth scale to being self-aware and an understanding that like I said earlier the world is connected. We’re all connected to each other. We all have the power to help each other. I would say that the last book I read was The Power of Now. Like I said the first eight chapters so I can’t say what the other chapters are like.
Zach: That’s awesome.
Drew: Drew, hey keep up the good work. Keep on loving on those people that show up for you because it sounds like they certainly show up and appreciate what you’re doing.
Zach: I appreciate what you’re doing and what everybody at Landmark is doing.
Drew: Listen man, I always close this show by saying listen, if you know someone struggling with an addiction, any kind of substance use disorder reach out to someone you love, reach out to someone you trust and get some help. You can also visit us at landmarkrecovery.com. In there you will learn more about substance abuse programs that are both saving lives and empowering families. Until next week I’m Zach Crouch with Landmark Recovery Radio wishing you well.
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