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Working On Recovery

November 6th, 2020
A group of men in a group meeting. They are working on recovery together.

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 Zack Crouch.


Zach: Hello everyone. I’m Zach Crouch 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 podcasts and don’t forget to subscribe to get the most up-to-date information from leading experts. We have guest Edward Pinnow joining us on the show today. Edward is a licensed independent substance abuse counsellor and program director of Terros Health. They are a phoenix-based company that provides trauma-informed mental health along with primary care, substance use recovery and crisis intervention services.


There he leads Maverick House, a 29 bed level 2 residential substance use treatment center. He also oversees Maverick Living, a residential sober living program that provides housing, counseling and support. Ed is a 30 plus year veteran of behavioral health. He really was inspired by the opportunity to become part of something bigger than himself. He specializes in substance abuse treatment though he has helped individuals on the road to recovery from a myriad of other mental health conditions. Ed, great to have you on the show today. Thanks for jumping on podcast with us.


Edward: Zach, I really appreciate being here with you. Thank you so much.


Zach: I shared a little bit about your background but just from your perspective how did you get involved in addiction recovery?


Edward: It was pretty much on accident I would say. I grew up with my own dysfunctions as a child. Grew out of those, thank goodness pretty quickly and originally wanted to study politics. While I was in college I got this job working at a residential facility for adolescents. I realized politics is kind of pie in the sky but what I do here I can actually see change happen. I decided to make that my career goal is to make change happen one person at a time.


Zach: I get the piece about things that you can do. It sounds like from a really ground level perspective to make things happen and change but kind of going back what was it about politics though that interested you.


Edward: I think I was just a young pie in the sky, rebellious wanting to see change happen, social change, attack social injustices and what I found out for me was that working in substance abuse is a much more grounded way to go about doing that. My colleagues always laugh at me because I tell them I think I’ve got the only career where people pay me to watch miracles happen. That’s really a blessing to be able to go to work every day and have that kind of satisfaction.


Zach: I’m curious you bring up a very interesting point. The piece around social injustice. I just did a podcast with a gentleman out of Connecticut and this gentleman is doing basically a prison ministry for white-collar crimes. There’s an interesting misnomer because a lot of people have brought it up during the podcast that when you think of white-collar crimes you think of things like Bernie Madoff right but white collar crimes exist with anybody.


Anybody who’s a professional really who’s made a bad choice, a bad decision, unethical choice whatever it was. What kinds of social injustices do you see currently going on within the field of recovery but maybe also just within drug and alcohol use and in recovery and getting people the help that they need?


Edward: There’s always been inequities in behavioral health and that’s one of the things that we fight very hard about. One of the issues that we have here in Arizona and Terros Health works quite often with the population of Native Americans here. I’m sure you’ve heard on the news about the trouble that the Navajo Nation has been having with the Covid 19. Their numbers are just way out of proportion compared to other parts of the state and in other parts of the country.


There’s inequities all over the place and especially with substance abuse there’s a lot of stigma that continues to go on with it especially with upper-class people, lower-class people, day labor people. It affects everyone equally. It really does not differentiate between socioeconomic backgrounds.


Zach: You bring up the Native American folk and how I know that addiction, alcoholism has been a battle that they have struggled with throughout much of their history especially since moving on to reservations. From your perspective today, is that getting better?


Edward: There’s cultural issues that need to be taken into perspective when dealing with these folks. The socio-economic backgrounds that they face. There’s probably more homes on the reservations in Arizona without running water than there are with running water. It’s really taking a different look and meeting each individual where they’re at and trying to instill change from that perspective.


Zach: We’re talking about a particular population here but have you in your experience and addiction recovery have you noticed that addiction impacts a certain type of person either?


Edward: No, not at all. Like I say addiction does not discriminate against everybody. Every socio-economic background, race, creed, color, religion. I have them in treatment sitting side by side with each other. I’ve literally had school teachers, lawyers and prostitutes in the same residential program at the same time.


Zach: I know that a lot of people get into this field because like I’m going to be having, knock on wood. Not knock on my daily commitment to recovery. 14 years of sobriety come January.


Edward: Congratulations.


Zach: Thank you. If you look back at my family history it’s no question how I became addicted in a pretty early age to substances. What about you Ed, is there a history behind you too within your own family, sort of constellation of people that got you motivated to really grab ahold of this because you knew you didn’t want to see some of the same things happen that you witnessed in your own family?


Edward: When I was a child I was considered the hero child in my family. I had brothers and sisters who were addicts. There was domestic violence. There’s attempted suicides and I just didn’t want to be a part of that. I needed to find a better way because even at a young age I knew that was not a way to live. That’s why I started making some changes early on. Thank goodness and never looked back at that because that was a situation that I didn’t want to be a part of to fall into that rabbit hole. I’ve used that to motivate me and my experiences to help others continue with their growth of recovery.


Zach: From a I guess a macro perspective, when you take a look back at your history, your life to this point what do you think it was about that created a sense of resilience in you versus just say some other guy or even anybody in your family?


Edward: I don’t think there’s anything special about me. If anything I’d have to turn that over to my higher power because it really doesn’t make sense that I was able to walk away from that and not fall down the same rabbit holes that my siblings were falling down into. I just saw that I didn’t want to go there. I looked for a different path and through the help of my higher power somehow I made it out of there and surprisingly wound up working in addiction. If that’s not a miracle I don’t know what it is.


Zach: A lot of people who get into the program really, I mean I would say in the first couple of years you’re just kind of coming out of your haze at least with people who struggle with substances. A lot of people don’t get a sense of who that higher power is for them until maybe later on. It’s really even starting to make more sense to me in the past couple of years how important that is to me. What was it with your experience though? Did you kind of have a sense of what that was, that higher power was or did it kind of reveal more to you? Was it more revealing I guess as you kind of continued on in your life?


Edward: Well I can tell you that my higher power continues to reveal himself more and more today after 30 years than ever before. It’s a constantly changing concept for me and a growing relationship just like any other relationship in my life. It’s evolved over time but I depend on my higher power more now than I ever have in my life. It continues to flourish. What a great relationship.


Zach: You’ve been working with a lot of people obviously over your years. We both kind of know how important that spiritual component is to a lot of people in the recovery process. How do you coach or what do you say to those people who they hear that in a meeting and a 12-step meeting is an example that like God is everything. Turn your life over etc. and they have a hard time struggling you know with that concept. What do you say to those folks about where to start even?


Edward: First of all I used to be one of those people that would hate those folks as well. Why are you so happy? Why are you talking about God all the time? Why are you already got a smile on your face? I can’t stand this. But eventually what I discovered for me was that if this thing called God exists and I believe that he does. I don’t need to have necessarily a pastor or a priest or an imam or a rabbi or anybody explain to me who this higher power is. If this entity exists he’s fully capable of revealing himself to me the way he chooses to reveal himself to me. All it is my job to seek and once I got over that hurdle of just trying to seek this higher power everything seemed to start to fall in place.


What I usually tell folks is make no mistake about it, solely my opinion, everybody worships. Everybody worships. Whether that’s your job, whether that’s your car, whether that’s money, whether that’s fame or beauty, everybody worships but what I discovered is the people that let’s say for example worship beauty. Every month, every year, they start to die a little bit more because that beauty starts to fade away and get less and less and less and less but when you worship something of a spiritual nature whatever that may be for you it only seems to get bigger and bigger and bigger. The buzz just continues to get bigger and bigger and bigger. At the end of the day if you seek you’re going to find you just have to be willing to seek.


Zach: It sounds so simple but I think that there’s a lot of truth to what you’re saying. I think that it’s my opinion at least that fear stands in a lot of way in the way of people moving forward in their recovery process a lot of the time. I don’t know if that’s been the same with you having worked with the numbers of people over the years. Would you say that’s pretty accurate?


Edward: I think that’s hugely accurate. One of the big things that we face all the time is fear of the future but then when we start to realize oh the future is really just a fantasy. I don’t have any control over the future. Why am I worrying about things that haven’t happened yet?


The other thing that affects our folks quite frequently here is depression and regret from the past but then again that’s said and done with. There’s nothing we can go back to do to change that fact but if we live in the current moment, in the present that’s when we can connect with our higher power, that’s when we can be our most, that’s when we can fulfil our destiny is right here right now.


You may hear often in the big book one day at a time. Well, I’m a little bit sicker than that I have to do it one moment at a time very often. When I stay in the moment everything is beautiful. Of course you’ve heard the old adage that you know being here right now is a gift. That’s why they call it the present.


Zach: What are some of the myths you think surrounding addiction and how you’ve seen those stigmas affect people’s lives?


Edward: Oh boy. Stigmas and denial I think kind of go hand in hand. One of the big stigmas that I hear is he still goes to work every day. He can’t be an addict. Well, that’s not necessarily true. I’ve known so many working addicts that every other aspect of their life was literally falling down around them but because they were able to keep it together for eight hours during the day everyone was supporting them and thought oh he doesn’t have a problem. I think that’s a huge stigma that we deal with all the time.


Another one oh, it’s just alcohol. Everybody drinks alcohol. Well from 30 years of experience I can tell you that alcohol is probably one of the most dangerous drugs that exist even today. It negatively affects every organ in our body and it’s a killer in so many ways from drunk driving, domestic violence. It’s one of the only drugs that you actually can die from the withdrawal from. That’s a big misnomer that it’s just alcohol.


Zach: You talked about it’s just this right? In your experience if you worked with people who they put down the alcohol but then they pick up as they said and I’m an NA guy it’s often said people put down a spoon but then they pick up the fork. They start eating a lot. They over consume. I think it’s less talked about in these sort of what we call process addictions eating, sex even. Have you seen these play out the people that you’ve worked with and is it harder you think for people with those sort of process addictions to get past even that?


Edward: Well of course I’ve seen that in virtually every addict that I’ve ever worked with in my career. Everything from well it’s just alcohol to well, I just use pills. I don’t smoke it versus well I just smoke it I don’t use it intravenously. We’re always trying to look better than the other person and kind of make us look not so bad but to answer your question more specifically. The big book tells me that alcohol is but a mere symptom of the problem. It is not the problem. It is just a symptom. The drug use is just a symptom.


What we need to do is really look into ourselves and find a different way of coping. Instead of looking for just to be happy all the time we need to look for a place and the ability to find joy in our life. That’s where a 12-step program from my experience works the best for the most. It’s not the only way to get clean and sober by any stretch of the means. There’s smart recovery. There’s so many different other types of programs that are out there. It’s just 12 steps works the best for the most.


Zach: One of the things and it’s talked about the promises is I’m going to ask this question. I think a lot of people come in and they put down the substance whatever it is for them. It takes them weeks, months, years, sometimes decades for people to just feel comfortable in their skin where it’s one of those things that’s part of the freedom of being in recovery is eventually you will see as you said you get to be part of your own miracle. What was it like for you? Was it that day that you walked into the door of recovery and you instantly felt just sort of like free or was there a process that went down the path where each day you just got better?


Edward: I think it’s still a process. For me it really is one date of time. Yesterday doesn’t do much to help me with my life today. In my own personal journey I discovered that anything more than 24 hours can turn to pure ego in the snap of a finger but along with that is each and every day I get the chance to experience a brand new miracle of life and make those choices, make those right choices and be present to see the miracles happen in my life. Those just continue to get bigger and bigger and bigger day after day and hopefully I’m not done with the process yet. Hopefully I got some more miracles but I’ll just work on today.


Zach: Tell us about Terros Health. I was curious in Maverick House and Maverick Living. Talk also about the trauma work that you guys do in in those settings.


Edward: Wonderful thing about Terros Health is we are a truly integrated healthcare company. Terros Health has been around since 1969. We’ve had over 50 years of service in the Phoenix metro area. It started out with just a bunch of hippies who noticed that there’s a whole bunch of people dying from heroin overdoses because no one wanted to call the fire department because they were afraid of getting arrested. They all got together and bought this van and decided hey, you know what? If you guys call us we’ll come and get your person and take them to the emergency room. That way no one gets arrested.


It was a wild concept at the time and lo and behold the fire departments and the hospital started to work with Terros and the program just got bigger and bigger and bigger. Then they moved into substance abuse outpatient programming. Most recently with the integrated care is so fabulous because it’s almost as if we have one stop shopping for our clients.


One of the things that I’ve recognized for years is when you’re a substance abuser you usually don’t like to tell your doctor about it because you’re afraid they’re going to look down their nose and treat you differently, look at you suspiciously. Well within Terros Health we have five different uh medical sites where you can have a PCP that understands your addiction. They can also work with your counsellor, work with your trauma therapist, work with your psychiatrist. It’s all under one roof and that takes away the shame and the stigma for our folks which is just fabulous.


Also Terros Health has a crisis in the metro area and all the way up into the northern Arizona where they work on crisis calls, on the reservations, in cities in Flagstaff, in western Arizona. It really has become a wonderful area because it’s so easy for our clients to have all the services under one roof. They don’t get lost in the shuffle if that makes any sense.


Zach: Do you see our in our industry our sector of healthcare mental health and substance use treatment moving more towards an integrative health model as you’ve kind of pointed out which includes as you guys do primary health but even like dental health is I mean things like etc. and if so why aren’t we there yet?


Edward: It’s funny. I worked with the teams integrating behavioral health and the medical health. What I noticed it was like this is something that we’ve been asking for years. It almost reminded me of going to the 8th grade dance. I was so excited and I asked this girl to go to the dance with me. Oh my gosh, she said yes. We go to the dance together and what wound up happening she stood on one wall and I stood on the other wall. We were all afraid to dance.


I think that’s what’s happening with our integrated health right now. I believe that physicians and psychiatrists want to work with behavioral health therapists and substance abuse counselors because they don’t have the expertise. Of course the behavioral health folks want to work with medical people but everyone’s kind of a little bit shy and doesn’t step on each other’s toes. We just got to jump in and lo and behold once we work through that initial hurdle at Terros Health the results have been fabulous. Success stories all over the place where people would never be able to get to have services.


One of our latest things is we’re partnering with the Maricopa County Probation Department. It’s a TIPS program so we have medical and behavioral health facilities or providers stationed at probation officers’ offices. These folks that may never have seen a doctor before when they’re coming in to see their PO they can walk right over and say you know what? I haven’t seen a primary care physician in 10 years. Can I get an appointment? That has just been a fabulous program within Terros Health.


Zach: I don’t know what made me think of this but I’m going to ask the question. Ed, do you see insurance companies helping or hindering these efforts to move towards an integrative health model? Are there incentives like lower costs, better options for the consumer who has that particular policy etc. to move towards an integrative health model?


Edward: I really wasn’t sure in the beginning but now I’m convinced that this is the way to go and that insurance companies really are on the right path with this. Obviously if I continue to have my diabetes out of control that’s going to cause me to struggle with my recovery from addictions and vice versa, if I don’t get a handle on my alcoholism I’m never going to get my blood sugars in order.


The concept is really treating the whole person if you really want to have success because change is difficult for everybody. I don’t care if it’s trying to lose 10 pounds. I don’t care if it’s trying to stay clean and sober today. Change is difficult. Heck, I don’t even like change except for what I have in my pocket. When you have the right support and the right cheerleaders and the right coaches and the right treatment plan recovery is possible for everybody. That’s what we’re seeing here at Terros Health with this integrated model.


Zach: This has been a great discussion and continue to keep up the good work at Terros Health. Thank you so much for coming on. Last question for you. Where do people find out more information about your services?


Edward: They can visit us online at www.TerrosHealth.org.


Zach: That’s T-E-R-R-O-S for everybody. Awesome. 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 and don’t forget to subscribe to get the most up-to-date information from leading experts.


We have guest Sonia Osman joining us on the show today. Sonia is a business liaison with the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce Workforce Center in the fight across Kentucky State dealing with the opioid and substance abuse epidemic. Sonia’s passion is to educate and bring awareness to business leaders and organizations on how to combat this crisis. Sonia obtained a bachelor of science in business administration from Murray State University. She’s worked in the HR industry for 16 years. She currently holds the president position for Four Rivers Society of Human Resource Management Chapter in Paducah. Sonia, it’s a pleasure to have you on the show today.


Sonia: Thank you Zach. I am very excited to be here and it’s a pleasure to meet you.


Zach: Likewise. Tell us a bit about yourself. How did you get involved in this fight against opioid abuse?


Sonia: That’s a very interesting story. When we grow up we have aspirations and dreams. My dream was to become a corporate executive however there was another path for me as you could tell. As you mentioned being in the HR industry for 16 years as a leader I watched the organization struggle with workforce gaps and try to understand on like what was the resolution to that.


At the time it felt as though that we had a lot of competition around us. That what we attribute it to and kind of upped our marketing and things of that nature but being in the nuts and bolts of the grind every day it was very hard to see really what that underlining issue was. When I decided to accept my current position I knew that I’d be stepping into some really uncharted territories.


The challenge of building a program to teach business leaders how to deal with this population was a bit intimidating due to me having blinders on myself but my desire with this work I believe that these individuals are the employers were missing a talent pipeline. When we were able to start the program and build the program, the desire for the work just kind of increased for this population.


I believe that in light employers are missing these individuals because they’re educated, they’re talented and they want a purpose in life. As business leaders we need to realize that the talent pipeline, this talent pipeline will help us to fill all of those workforce gaps that we’re missing.


Zach: I’m curious I believe that there was a bill that came through the Kentucky State Senate like a second chance bill to help with those people who have had previous convictions etc. maybe they’re drug related convictions. Did that pass? Do you know anything about that?


Sonia: They are actually working on that now from the chamber level but yes it’s going to set parameters to assist employers in hiring this population but also employers if they’re not educated. Sometimes they don’t know what they don’t know. That’s why we do what we do from the chamber level because there are programs right now and resources that are in place like a federal bonding program and then what sees is a tax credit a program that if you hire individuals in these populations that you can get tax credits on an annual basis.


Zach: Just as you were talking I was thinking about what would be the risk because I mean that’s what we’re really talking about right? Just with employers assuming some of the risks involved here. What’s been the language or sort of the conversation like that you’ve heard on your end from employers and is it a valid concern?


Sonia: I think the biggest thing with our employers are the like safety and the relapse what that looks like. I, as a leader at that point before understanding this work and doing this work and researching and working in the trenches with this I felt the same way. I had those blinders on and it was like do we really want to implement this into our organization at this point.


We did a lot of work with our legal team and there’s areas of negligent hiring, there’s the drug screen process that comes in, there’s the background checks that come in. I think that once you collaborate all of those into a process I think that you can get a resolution but again, if you don’t have knowledge on what this population is like or how to manage it is it is a bit intimidating to bring them into the workforce.


Zach: Let’s talk about that too because I think that that’s something that our listeners would probably be curious to know more about. You mentioned before you had a certain understanding that you probably ran that you believed to be true. What have you learned or sort of come to discover to be true now with this population?


Sonia: That’s an interesting question. I’m so glad you asked that because I am a person, there’s a very close relative of mine that struggles with addiction. I could not understand for the life of me why they could not stop. My question was why can’t you just stop this. What I’ve learned is that it’s a brain disorder. It’s just like the brain, the lymphatic system overlaps the prefrontal context and it restructures everything the whole thought process, the decision making. A lot of individuals’ organizations…


Zach: Meaning that the rational brain is really not online.


Sonia: Exactly. It’s kind of like your computer. Your computer’s like flashing all these things. The systems are not communicating. They’re not functioning. That’s what happens with the brain. It’s not functioning in a healthy manner so therefore they can’t really do anything for themselves.


Zach: You’re out there talking to local businesses about addiction and recovery for their employees. What does it look like education? Alcohol dependence presentations what does that look like?


Sonia: The number one issue in businesses is the workforce so they can’t operate successfully without the people that they need. The workforce participation, I’m not sure if you’re aware of this statistic in Kentucky historically is very low. We are like 49 out of 50 in the United States. We really as business leaders need to take heed to that and try to understand what we can do on that level.


Zach: When you say 49th out of 50 in terms of workforce like retention or what does that mean?


Sonia: Yes, workforce participation. On any given day we have over 150,000 Kentuckians that are able-bodied that could be working but are not working. When we look at that root cause of why they’re not working Kentucky has double the overdose death rate than the rest of the country. These statistics are very like astounding and very eye-opening and through our education through the chamber we bring this to the business leaders. As business leaders we have to care about these issues because it’s plaguing our workforces, our families and our loved ones and our friends. What can we do? How can we step up?


We kicked off the program in June of 2018 at the Opiate Summit. We thought we would have like 50 organizations attend. In true reality we had over 300 attendees and 150 organizations that attended. This gave us a huge signal that the need for this business to become more educated and need to help combat these issues in the workforce while I and I was in attendance to that opiate summit and was able to speak to some of the employers on what those barriers and those challenges look like for them.


Their answers were very interesting to me. As I thought back I thought those were the same answers that I had because it was how do we talk to this population, how do we dialogue, how do we communicate, what do we say, is it legal is it not legal. In their minds they really needed to understand how to have a conversation with someone who came maybe in their office and said I’m struggling with substance use disorder. What can you do? Instead of not having any type of resources to give them.


This next year we spent the year traveling the entire state hosting like technical assistance workshops training businesses to update their policies and procedures, their treatment prevention and recovery and fair chances in the workplace because that was huge as well. Because we know that a lot of incarceration deals with a lot of drug charges. Once they get there it’s really hard for them to get treatment at that point.


our recovery team myself and my co-worker Ashley McCarty we begin creating resources and tools to change the organizational cultures to reduce the stigma surrounding substance use disorder. We were traveling and then when Covid came we had to pivot like our daily task. What we did is we had resources for organizations but we built a much bigger, robust program for these employers called the Employer Resource Guide which is housed on our Kentucky Comeback Website that we launched on July 1st.


This toolbox is very robust in the fact that it is a one-stop shop for employers to go in, to look at these resources and tools and to be able to build a foundation in their organizations to change that culture. We understand, that the organizations and managers don’t have time like to research all this because it took us about three months to get this employee resource guide completed. Because under the different content, the documents that we put on there they can actually go in and like customize and personalize all these documents to build resources for handbooks, policies, procedures, employee engagement, mental health, substance use disorder, how to stop the stigma.


Zach: I’m curious to know too because you’re painting a really good picture for how and why this is so important. I’m curious to know just in your experience so far where has the most pushback come from. Has there been a certain sector of industry that’s just been harder to work with and why?


Sonia: In our work we haven’t seen like one certain sector but we do know that there are five sectors that are hit real hard with this epidemic and this crisis such as construction workers and the medical field and the transportation field. I worked in the transportation build hiring DOT drivers and so it was a real challenge with those but because we were regulated by DOT there were certain guidelines that we had to follow.


That towards the end of my tenure there, I started to realize that we needed to look at that in a different lens. We needed to look at the background checks and the drug screens in a different way. We started to do that work whenever I accepted the program, the position to go to Kentucky Chamber to build this program for organizations.


After educating myself about this epidemic because I guess in my mind did not really understand how severe it was in our state. I mean we are in the top 10 for the most overdoses as well. That was another thing that employers had to understand like if that happened in their organization.


Zach: Let’s talk about that. You’ve seen a lot of this now. What’s been the most common sort of system you’ve seen for employers really to work with their employees that are struggling with substance use problems?


Sonia: We’ve learned through the leadership through working with these leadership and management teams that they need additional training referring back to their benefit plans in their EAP programs. Because in my previous business in the HR industry what I come to realize is we could teach them about these programs but they take this information and just kind of put it in the corner until they really, really need it. Then at that point they’re not understanding like how the employer can help us.


With the benefit administrator that we worked with we talked about how we could add behavioral services, how we can add treatment services into our benefit plan. This was a really easy resource to give to our employees yes as well as partnering with treatment centers, counsellors, therapists in our community. We had to build those relationships in order for the employees to understand. You also have to understand that these employees have to have a trust and a confidence in order to make that first step to have that conversation.


Zach: They’re not going to get tired. Right, absolutely.


Sonia: Exactly because of the stigma like surrounding that and we know right now 75% of the workforce ages 18 to 64 are using in the workplace actively with substance use disorder.


Zach: That’s huge.


Sonia: That’s huge. Yes, it is. We also know that 66% of these employees are dealing with this manner silently. What that means is they’re not talking about it. They don’t understand how they can talk about it or they work in a culture where it’s not conducive to open up those dialogues or conversations.


Zach: Let’s talk about that. What recommendations do you have for your individual worker who has a job but they’re struggling with substance use? How do they engage their employers to talk about this?


Sonia: I’m glad you asked that. Just as I mentioned with the 66%, the workforce is struggling with this disorder and they’re doing so silently. I asked you like why is that? Why do you think that that is happening and it’s because of the environment? First of all the environment is not conducive to have those dialogues and secondly, they’re not comfortable with having the confidence or the trust to speak about this due to stigma, losing their jobs, being maybe passed over for promotion, being considered as maybe weak in the organization if they’re a team member.


You have all of these things that they’re thinking about on a daily basis. We also have to understand that it may not be the employee themselves that is dealing with this. It may be a spouse. It may be a child. It may be a family member, a mother, a father, a sibling. Unless you’re able to really dig deep into those conversations and understand what is happening but there’s also indicators and signs and symptoms that you can tell.


If you have a star performer that has always been like that and all of a sudden they’re not a star performer anymore that should immediately have a red flag. You should be having a conversation. You should start to open up this dialogue. Sometimes you will get more than what you bargained for if you ask that they’re okay.


Zach: They’re feeling trapped I think at that point. They really don’t feel like they have options when they get to that level.


Sonia: Exactly but the other thing is I think that they said someone’s asked them they care so then they will have those conversations. Sometimes you may not know where to lead them or direct them but be a good listener, be compassionate, be kind and help them find those resources because they’re very, very easy. Organizations again, if they’re not educated and they’re not aware of these resources because there’s a we go out and talk about our employee resource guide. Because it’s so new employers are just like amazed that they have this in just one-stop shop.


On the flip side of that we have to also understand that the employee should learn about the benefit options including the EAP within their organization because that can help them. Once they understand how that works then they can seek treatment because I think what happens is a majority of employees don’t think that they can afford treatment. Until they understand how that works and what that if they choose a certain treatment center how that process needs to work through the organization.


The employee needs to first of all have that comfort level of speaking about it, the struggle and knowing that the organization will support them through the whole treatment but most importantly seek that treatment in recovery. Recovery is possible. We know that. I have worked with people that, you can look at me and you can look at you. We look like normal people but inside we could be screaming for help and people never know that.


Zach: Look at it this way too. Where do we spend most of our living day anyway? At work. I mean we’re at work. I think it’s incumbent on the employer to number one, feel empowered to have a conversation about this if and when they think that someone is struggling because I think the fact is that a lot of employers to your point don’t know how to have that conversation because they’re afraid of whatever.


It’s kind of like well we don’t really a manager on duty or something like that. I don’t really deal with that. That’s more HR related stuff but as a manager if you’re managing that employee it is your responsibility to approach that person and then offer some help.


Sonia: Yes and that’s what we teach them too as well because a majority of them will say well we’re uncomfortable having these conversations.


Zach: Of course. It’s an uncomfortable conversation. It’s a very uncomfortable conversation.


Sonia: Exactly. If you’re uncomfortable having that conversation then know who in your organization you can direct that employee to. Don’t just kind of blow them off or push them to the side or tell them that you’ll be there later. Immediately know that you should have, an organization should have kind of like a chart of who is because most of the time they’ll have like either their HR department, a health officer, a safety officer that are the individuals that deal with these type of conversations because while they’re trained first of all. They understand what’s going on in these situations and they’re able to offer help and they know where to look for that help so whereas your frontline management team who may not know that or is uncomfortable they need to understand that’s where that goes.


That’s what we’re trying to do across the state is to educate those frontline supervisors all the way to C Suite on if someone comes to you these are the things that you can do. Best practices, what to ask, what not to ask, how to deal with this, what is that next step, how do you talk about treatment, how do you talk about the benefits and it all is just a full circle of just understanding that whole process.


As business leaders not only is it the right thing to do but for our business it’s a smart strategy because you’re in need of talent. Employees in recovery have a lower healthcare cost, they miss less work and are less likely to leave their employer because why? They’re loyal to them because they gave them a second chance. These workers average 10% fewer missed work days than the general workforce and has 80% retention.


Zach: There is your case for employment right there. That’s it. They’re going to show up grateful. They’re going to show up oh my gosh like you said I owe this company, maybe I wouldn’t go so far as to save my life but I owe them a lot because they have taken a chance on me. That’s huge.


Sonia: Yes. It is amazing because I have experienced that with one of my co-workers who’s in recovery. She was sick and she would not go home. I was like you have to go home and rest. She’s like honey, I can’t go home. I’m like why can you not go home? She said because it reminds me, it takes me back to when I was in that addiction stage and like I didn’t care if I didn’t call in or I just didn’t go to work. She said you have no idea people who are in recovery that have to relive certain situations that they were in it’s so very hard for us. Because they’re thinking what is my boss going to think, what is my coworkers going to think. I said you can’t think like that. We as your support system we’re here so you come and talk to us. We figure this out and we give you what you need to get better.


Zach: That’s right. Sonia, this has just been a really I think enlightening conversation today. I just want to thank you for coming on and keep up the good work that you’re doing there. I really appreciate this. How will they find out more information about the work that you’re doing? Is there a website or something?


Sonia: They can go to kentuckycomeback.com for the criminal reform and they also can go to kentuckychamber.com under workforce. Our recovery program is under that but the biggest resource is the kentuckycomeback.com.


Zach: Awesome. Listen, thank you again for coming on. I also want to say listen, if you know someone struggling with an addiction and you’re searching for answers. Visit us at landmarkrecovery.com to 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.


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Landmark Recovery was founded with a determination to make addiction treatment accessible for all. Through our integrated treatment programs, we've helped thousands of people choose recovery over addiction and get back to life on their own terms. We're on a mission to save one million lives over the next century. We encourage all those struggling with substance use to seek professional help.

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