MJ Gottlieb is a serial entrepreneur and the CEO/co-founder of Loosid, a first-of-its-kind, free app for anyone interested in living a sober life. Loosid gives its members access to a sober community and stories of recovery as well as sober travel, dating, and restaurant options. On today’s episode, Zach and MJ talk about sobriety not being the end of fun, the importance of being vulnerable, life on life’s terms, and more. Check out the Loosid app and learn more about MJ on Twitter @MJGottlieb.
This program contains explicit content and subject matter, which may be unsuitable for some listeners. Discretion is advised.
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: I’m Zach Crouch, and you’re listening to Landmark Recovery Radio, your source for addiction and recovery news and knowledge. Today’s episode focuses on sobriety. I want to start with a quote by Brene Brown from her book, The Gifts of Imperfection. She says, “Understanding the difference between healthy striving and perfectionism is critical to lay down the shield in picking up your life. Research shows that perfectionism hampers success. It’s often the path to depression, anxiety, addiction, and life paralysis.” Love that.
Sobriety is not about perfection. Brene Brown points out the term healthy striving. I think that concept sets us up well for today’s topic and guest. With that being said, allow me to introduce MJ Gottlieb. MJ is a serial entrepreneur and the CEO and Co-founder of Loosid, a first-of-its-kind, free app for anyone interested in living a sober life. Loosid offers sobriety help, a treatment center, a telehealth guide, community connections, member hotline friendships, sober dating, daily sober tips, and booze-less guides. Loosid gives its members access to thousands of live and virtual events over travel and restaurants that offer alcohol-free drink options.
In July 2021, Loosid launched Recovery Voices, which features over 35 episodes from some of the most prominent voices in the addiction and recovery space. MJ has been a force in shaping brands over the last 30 years, having owned and operated 4 brands, a sales agency, a strategic consulting firm, and a digital agency over the last 29 years. MJ has been featured in Forbes, Fortune Inc., Salesforce.Com, Fox News, Cranes, Business, Investors, Business Daily, and many other publications. He also wrote a book entitled… Tell them the name of the book, MJ.
MJ: How to Ruin a Business Without Really Trying.
Zach: Thank you. with the foreword to the book written by Shark Tank’s Daymond John. I know we were talking about that before the episode and not to dig into that too much. Tell the listeners again what sort of was the impetus for that book?
MJ: I find that many people focus on the success of entrepreneurs. They readjust the success stories and where the real meat on the bone is, where their failures were, where they had to pivot were, where their obstacles were that enabled them to kind of find another way and come out a whole. When I lost my first business in the late 1990s, I started writing all the mistakes that I made on paper at a gym that I worked out, which was called Sports Club La. Now, it’s Equinox and in New York City. A friend of mine, David Belafonte, the son of the great actor and singer Harry Belafonte, said, “MJ, it’s great that you’re doing this from a static standpoint but imagine the number of entrepreneurs that you can help.”
She calls it everything what not to do when running a business. Many years later, I turned it into a book. Damon, who I worked with Forever, we were both funded by Samsung. In the 90s, I owned and operated fashion brands. Damon is a very, very big advocate for learning from the mistakes of others. She wrote the Forward to the book and it’s humorous. I may get humorous. It’s very layman’s terms but it is a way to, if you’re an entrepreneur and you’re starting, avoid some of the most prevalent mistakes entrepreneurs make when going into business for the first time.
Zach: I checked out a little bit. You can preview it. There were a lot of nerves and a lot of never ever.
Zach: I want to talk about Loosid. What kick-started this for you and what was sort of the emphasis and how did you figure out what the sober community needed? I guess, for the platform to be a go-to resource?
MJ: I’m a recovering alcoholic and addict recovered, not meaning cured, contingent. I work in a spiritual program daily. I had been a slave to drugs and alcohol for 41 years of my life. My business partner, her whole family have been ravaged by addiction. She was looking to acquire several treatment centers. And I said, “Janna, even if we open up a thousand treatment centers, maybe we’d help 100,000, 200,000 people a year.” But there are350,000,000 people are suffering 350,000,000 people suffering from alcohol abuse alone. 75.3 million suffer from substance use disorders in the United States. If you take that worldwide, you’re talking about half a billion people.
I have no interest in helping a couple hundred thousand people. I want to help anyone and everyone that needs help. The best way to do that is to bring everybody to one place, your phone. If you look at it from a brick-and-mortar standpoint, you look at Barnes and Noble, which I’ve been around for 125 years and made a couple of hundred million dollars in revenue. Amazon came around and did $88 billion with some bizarre amount. It’s just the power of digital. I always say we can use digital for good. We have the power to use digital for the bad. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of this compare and despair that’s going on in social media that’s taking up the addiction rates, the suicide rates, and all this stuff but we can use digital for incredible, incredible things.
Zach: That’s such a great point. The piece that you just mentioned revolves around the concept of despair and comparison. Talk to the audience a little bit about what you mean by that.
MJ: Sure. The recovery voices, which is the consumption category, which we launched on Loosid last month or actually in July, is about 40 hours of content of people who completely turn their lives around from addiction to living in these beautiful lives as well clinical experts and all this stuff. One of every single person that I have on that show is hand-picked are three-legged by me. With the one condition, the number one, they’re on fire with the program, a recovery. And number two, they are vulnerable. We talk about Brene Brown, the power of vulnerability. They’re vulnerable. They are super clear that it is okay not to be okay.
That’s how they live their lives on social media. They talk about their challenges. They talk about how they’re going through a bad time. They talk about what they do to get to the other side. That is an absolute. Every person that I have a chat with, kind of a fireside chat with, has tremendous vulnerability and honesty and just a level of rawness that very sadly, we don’t see on social media. Social media, there’s so much… I’ll give you an example. I see all these people posting, “Living my best life.” when they are by the yacht, and the car, and their girlfriend, and the house, and the Hamptons. I’ll see them in a couple of days. I’m like, “How are you doing?” I don’t know if I’m allowed to curse here, but they say, “I feel miserable.”
Zach: Fucking miserable, right?
MJ: Okay. He said, “I’m fucking miserable.” And I was like, “Oh, wow. You just posted, “Living my best life.” next to a freaking Ferrari. “That’s all.” But here’s what happens. What happens is people are looking. Let’s say that person has three or 4 million followers or 30 or 40 million followers, or even a hundred followers or one follower, that one follower is like, “Oh, my God. Look at him or her and look at me. I should just kill myself because this person has a wife and kids and living their best life. I’m on the ball.” And suicide rates go through the roof and people are overdosing and all that stuff.
They’re all full of shit because, to be honest, the talkers never walk, the walkers never talk. If you’re just posting that life is all rainbows and unicorns, you’re full of shit. If your life is rainbows and unicorns, you need to stick to it. You need to show the good with the bad. That’s one of the beautiful parts of Loosid. You have a community of about 124,000 people who just put their shit out and they’re saying, “I’m struggling. I don’t know what to do. I relapsed. I’m on day one. I want to drink. I want to take drugs. I want to shoot up.”
Zach: For 15 years of sobriety. Like me, right now, I’m 15 years sober. I was yelling at my kids the other day. Just like it was just so much that my dog had pancreatitis. Our daughter just got exposed to a guy who had COVID. Now, she’s at home. My son has to be taken to school. My wife has to rearrange her schedule. It was just too much. My wife and I love our kids but we’re just like, “Jesus Christ, just stop. Please, I just need some stability right now.” Nobody wants to talk about that. I went back and apologized to my daughter but nobody wants to talk about that. How hard this is right now.
MJ: It’s really interesting just to kind of talk about what you are talking about. I was fortunate enough to hear somebody who had about 50 years of recovery the other day. She said, the longer her life is, the harder it is to recover. It is because what happens is we get this thing in recovery if we’re working on a program called a Life. Suddenly, we have these things, which is like relationships that are of service to people. We start being able to pay our bills and life gets full. And then we’re like, “Okay, we stopped reaching out to people in our sober.
Network, we stop. Maybe if we’re members of Twelve Step Group, the Twelve Steps saved my life.” They’re like, “I’m not going to sponsor people anymore. I’m not going to speak to my sponsors so much.” They start taking Unity Recovery and Service, which is the three-legged stool of Twelve Step program. There’s a saying, “Don’t let the gifts of the program take you out of the program.” She said, “After 50 years, I think I can have a drink.” But what does it say in the big book?
It said the person had an incredible career for 30 years and then sat down and had a drink and died within a year or two. It’s not about the number of years in your sobriety, the amount of sobriety in your years. There are people 10, 20, 30 years sober. I do not want what they have but some people took a newcomer through the steps and that person is on fire with the program and has more emotional sobriety than 90% of the people that I know. It’s because he’s fresh off a working program.
Zach: It sounds to me like you guys on Loosid, such a great community of people. 100 plus thousand people. In recovery, but also within the addiction recovery space, so speak, trust and transparency are so critical. When talking to someone in recovery, talking to family members of people affected by addiction, how did you guys create that sort of trust in that safe environment on Loosid?
MJ: We have a staff of people that kick people out in a moment if they’re not being supportive because we’re an affinity group here that we’re dealing with life and death. If people are disruptive, we have members listed that look through content all day to make sure that nobody’s being steering people in anything other than a supportive way. We have a very easy way where people can kind of report that. When people come in and you see people sharing their vulnerabilities, what happens invariably is the person other people are like, “Oh, wow.
I wasn’t going to share but this person just shared that they had one day back and they don’t have any shame, which is this bullshit stigma. And so, I’m going to share that I have one day.” And then this beauty happens. We had somebody in Loosid yesterday that lost her brother. We send a push notification to every member of Loosid saying, “Hey, let’s help this person out.” That’s what we do. We look at people also with significant challenges and we try to get the community involved. You’re always going to get bad actors. I think they reported something like 450,000,000 fake users in one quarter. They’re the top of the line when it comes to security. But we’re extremely diligent about it and take it very, very seriously.
Zach: You bring up a great point, too, about sharing. I think it’s important to point out that the connection that people make especially early on in the process and even later on in the recovery process are so critical. In telling stories is the sort of vehicle for being validated and heard and see which is what happens with recovery meetings. I think that’s something that most people need, especially right now. We’re in the middle of this and we’re kind of going back into it in this isolating sort of period. I can see how that would be such a huge piece for people getting started in the recovery process.
MJ: Identification is everything and one of the things, again, how strong I am about the Twelve Steps Groups. That being said, the person gets to share once but they’re sick in their suffering. In Loosid, you could share a thousand times. People are going back all the time to their pain. It’s just these constant conversations that are happening through our posts in the community. They say that we’re only as sick as our secrets and whatever you have jammed up inside you, you need to get out.
You could share 20 posts a day. You get a reply 150 times. You could share like your life depends upon it because it does. It’s incredibly important to have the Twelve Step programs. I think that we need the ability, especially now in the COVID world but even pre COVID and post COVID, for people to be able to, 02:00 in the morning say, “Hey, I’m not feeling well.” That shows up in the main feed of Loosid. Suddenly, you have all these members jump in and walk them back from the ledge. That’s what it’s all about.
Zach: Now, I’ve got quite a bit of sobriety but when I first got started, it didn’t seem like it was going to be a fun adventure to get into the process of recovery. It seems like I would think it’s a challenge that Loosid faces and convincing people who have been caught up in addiction to get excited about sobriety. Is that something that you guys find?
MJ: 1000%. We started something called the Get Loosid Challenge, which talked about the three stigmas of addiction. One is the lack of willpower, which is just bullshit in the disease. It was identified as such by the American Medical Association in the 50. Number two is that there’s shame and guilt, then you should think of yourself as a freaking lapper. Number three is that sobriety is going to be the end of fun. When in fact, what’s happening is you’re going to be facing life on life’s terms for the first time.
If you don’t have a virtual program in place, your kind of fucked. That’s why when they say when you put down the drink and drug, life doesn’t get better. It gets worse. The first time I read that I was like, “Fuck.” But then I didn’t wait for the other side of the comma, which was you have spirits like wine and spirits that come from spiritual spirits. When you remove the spirits, you have to replace them with what? Spirituality. I come from urban hip hop. I had an urban hip-hop coding brand.
If I thought it was going to be about church basement signers and coffee shops, I was out. That’s one of the reasons why we created the Booze List Scribes, which shows thousands and thousands of online events that you can go to and now offline events if some things are opening up and now things are closing down because of the Delta Variant. It talked all through the big book. Wilson says we’re not a plum lot. This is all about having fun. The message still got like, when people do fellowship, they go to diners or whatever, we want to show…
Zach: One of those things when you go to your first meeting when you go to the first meeting, Twelve Step, whatever it is and people hear those words, you don’t have to use them ever again just for today. They hear. I’ve got to start putting down everything forever like a dentist. I know for a lot of folks when they hear that, it’s like, “Man, this is it. The fun is over for me.” I think the start of the sort of shattering of an illusion or delusion, rather, for many people, is the peace around. This is like you said. You’re starting to deal now with life on life’s terms without any sort of anesthetic to your feelings.
Zach: Let me tell you something. The thing is, sobriety is not only not the end of fun, but it’s infinitely more fun. I was doing 100 scary Jones and I was like, “Look. We need to get like Eminem in a year if that’s what it takes.” And these people with 100 million files and they’re like, “Oh wow, if Eminem is sober. Then it must be fun. If Russell Brand is sober, it must be fun or whoever it may be.” Sometimes that’s what it takes but people need to understand.
If this is sacrificing my fun, the amount of fun that I’m having, all I did was drink drugs to just get out of them now. Whatever problems I have, I drink and drug them away. I wake up the next day with the same freaking problems plus the problems that came on the night before. What happens when you face life on life’s terms, you get better at life and then you start clearing out all the garbage. That needs nothing but enjoyment because you’re not dealing with all of this wreckage every day that you’re piling up and you’re not pushing aside.
Zach: Real talk right now. What’s your biggest problem right now?
MJ: What’s my biggest problem? Two things. Recovery is my vocation and my adaptation. My biggest problem is I work a lot with younger kids, 21 years old or whatever convincing these cats that you can have an amazing fun life without going to these moronic fraternity parties and blowing your life fuck and I have to deal. I don’t have to deal with this stuff but it breaks my heart that they think that they need a social lubricant to socialize at my other biggest problem. These are my problems.
My biggest personal problems are I had a couple of buddies that didn’t want to count dates. What did they do? They overdosed and died. It hits me in the heart. Now, from the personal side, I had to deal with a lot of stuff. My father just passed. I had to bury him at a Zoom meeting. I had to be away from my mother and father for a year and a half during COVID. I’m not a special snoke like there a lot of people had to do that. I just got diagnosed with some autoimmune disease that attacks the nerves. I thought it was an old basketball injury so I got to get a blood infusion once a month.
It’s like a lot of shit like life doesn’t stop happening when you get sober but it all has to do with acceptance and being able to just do what’s in front of you. It is not like they said like COVID said, “We’re not going to give COVID to anybody who’s in recovery because they’re going through it.” Let me tell you. The person that changed my life the most I hardly ever know; his name is Phil Parker. He had like 45 years of sobriety. “He Lived Only to Drink” was the fourth edition of the Big Book. I used to go to a lot of meetings with him. When he would qualify, he’d hold his hands up.
He pulled his fists apart and he’d say on his left, it would stay solid and, on his right, he would use it as an analogy. He says, “You need to keep your sobriety separate in life.” He takes his right hand and he says, “Because life goes up and down and up and down. It doesn’t matter who you are. George Clooney, it doesn’t matter who you are. That’s called life.” And then he keeps his other fist solid and he says, “That has nothing to do with your sobriety. Your sobriety must remain rock solid at all times because life gets good and bad. That’s just called life.” To me, that has saved me more times than I can count because life doesn’t stop. We just get better at life.
Zach: Exactly right. I think the old saying is true. Your recovery last year, the day before, might not help you at all to get through the day today because you’re building up a reserve of recovery as you go along. You can’t depend on what happened yesterday to get you through the future, to get you through today. You’ve got to show up in a new way. It seems like every day because this is an evolving process in recovery.
MJ: I say that all the time. When I speak to people, I say, “Are you eating today?” “No. I ate on Wednesday. I’m good.” It’s like you say, you don’t stay clean today on yesterday’s shower. In the same way, you can’t stay sober today on yesterday’s sobriety. That’s why we have people that are freaking miserable that are in, quote, unquote recovery who are out of their minds. I was one of them, by the way, for 15 years because I didn’t want to work in a program. I was just miserable. I was white-knuckling it.
What happens when you white knuckle if you think of holding on the handlebars, eventually, you let go. You fall back. You relapse and whatever it is. Back to your question on fun, we need to lean into the beauty of sobriety. Let me tell you about some of the amazing things about my sobriety. I was able to be of service to my father. For the last 2014, he got sick. I got sober in 2012. I might count on my 10 years. The same guy that used to bail me out of jail and say, “You’re going to put your mother in an early grave.” I, suddenly, was getting, what would we ever do without you?
That’s the beauty of sobriety. I get the opportunity to be of service to people. My first sponsor said, “If you get the gift that was so freely given to you and you don’t give it back, you are a fucking shoplifter.” We would be sitting at meetings and he would say, “Shoplifter, shoplifter.” The truth is, if we don’t give it back, then this whole program goes away, whether it’s a Twelve Step program, whether it’s Refuge Recovery, whatever it may be. If we don’t give back what was freely given to us and here’s the thing, service keeps us sober.
I have a beautiful wife and yet it has challenges. We kind of make adversity our bitch when we’re sober. I go to a meeting all the time and speak to this Jerry Cone that fought Larry Holmes for the heavyweight Championship back 30 years ago. All these fighters, prisoners, and this, and that toughest guy on the planet I’ve ever met are in recovery. You don’t have to be a fighter in a boxer or whatever it is but we deal with life on life’s terms. We don’t have a glass of two wines or hit a pipe or just to take us out of them now. Whatever happens, I deal with soberness. There’s so much beauty in that.
Zach: You get to take that with you. Whatever lessons you learn from that experience, you get to take it. You don’t forget about what just happened and how hard it was. You have a tool in your toolbox now that you can take with you. We’re in September now. We’re in the National Recovery Month. You brought this up earlier but I’m wondering with each of our guests that we’ve come on in this month, I wanted to ask you the same question we asked them, which is when it comes to stigmas and misunderstandings about recovery and sobriety, what do you wish that more people understood?
MJ: First of all, they need to know it’s not their fault. People think that they’re bad people or their willpower. They don’t have enough willpower. Alcoholism is a disease and addiction are a disease. In the same way, diabetes is a disease and cancer are a disease. Here’s the good thing. It’s 100% treatable so long as you work a program. Your chances of recovery are 100%. The program works for 100% of the people. 100% of the time to do 100% of the work. Now, I have a fatal disease called Alcoholism. My former literary agent had another fatal disease called Inoperable brain cancer.
He would do anything to put his disease in remission. He died. I have the opportunity to put my disease in remission every day. My question to the person that’s sick and suffering is if we went down to the terminal cancer ward and we said, “Hey, guys, girls, how will you identify?” I have this thing that will put you in remission so long as you do some very simple things every day that people do you think would do it. I would say 100%. You need to know your chances… As long as you work the program.
There’s not only hope but as they say, recovery is guaranteed so long as we work it every day. Just like you said, we don’t wait. We miss a day or two days. No matter who you are, you can live a beautiful life. Let me tell you something else. I have a friend of mine who spent his whole life in prison. He’s a violent, beaten shot, stab. He was at the bottom of Attica for 17 years. Someone told him, “One day, you can live a beautiful life.” Something just clicked with him. Now, here he is in his 9th year of recovery and he doesn’t help people. All we do is cry and hug and laugh.
Zach: I love it.
MJ: That’s the beauty of recovery.
Zach: God bless you, man, for the work that you’re doing there. For folks that are interested in checking it out. I downloaded the app before I came on. It’s L-O-O-S-I-D. You could check that out. Go to iTunes, your app store, whatever, pick that up. What else MJ do people need to know about the app? It’s pretty easy to get on to check it out?
MJ: Identification is the number one thing that works with alcoholics and addicts. They’re just saying those amongst us, no explanation is necessary. Those not amongst us, no explanation as possible. When I say there’s 35 hours of content on there, that’s just what I’ve shot. I have another 100 hundred- and 50-hours queue with other recovery advocates. You can fire up Loosid recovery voices in your car and listen to the most amazing turnaround stories of addiction, NFL players, NHL players, rock stars, best Johnson. Brant Myers is coming out. The only player that ever got kicked out of the NHL for substance abuse.
We have West Gear from Corn. We have Brandon Lee. That’s a multi–Emmy Award winner who wrote an amazing book, Mascara Boy. We have Amy Dresner who wrote My Fair Junkie. Laura McCowen is one of the best-selling authors in the sobriety space. We have just unbelievable Ruby warranting that started the sober terious movement. Scott Strode that started the Phoenix, which is this unbelievable, sober, active community. You can just identify with their stories. If you need help, there’s a button. You could just tap the hotlines and just say, “I need help if the community jumps in.” If you need professional help, there’s a button and it’ll connect you directly to a treatment center. It’s all free.
Zach: It’s all free. A tremendous number of resources for living a sober life. It’s also a great platform for just connecting with other people. I’m going to check it out just to see what it’s about. For folks who are interested, you can also follow MJ on Twitter. That’s going to be @MJ.gottlieb. That’s G-O-T-T-L-I-E-B. Before we wrap up, we mentioned this in a recent episode. We want to hear from you guys, what topics would you like to hear more about?
Do you have feedback for us about a previous episode? Maybe you have a story to share about yourself. Send us an email at media@LandmarkRecovery.com. Or you can shoot us a message on Facebook or Instagram at Landmark Recovery. Again, that’s media@LandmarkRecovery.com. We are on social media. You can find us at Landmark Recovery. Thanks again for tuning in Recovery Radio. For our guest, MJ Gottlieb, pleasure, sir. Thank you so much.
MJ: Thank you so much. Have a wonderful day all.
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