Filling the Accountability Gap: Taking Parents Out Of Being The “Sobriety Police,” with AJ Diaz

Hopestream for parenting kids through drug use and addiction
Hopestream for parenting kids through drug use and addiction
Filling the Accountability Gap: Taking Parents Out Of Being The “Sobriety Police,” with AJ Diaz
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ABOUT THE EPISODE:

When AJ Diaz left his sober living home after a year-long stay, he got the same thing everyone else did – a sheet of paper that essentially said, “Here is your relapse prevention plan.We wish you the best.”  AJ felt in his gut this was insufficient to support people in early recovery, and after years of working in the field, he now knows he was right.  

AJ says staying sober within the four walls of treatment isn’t all that hard. Individuals receive hot meals, supportive staff, structure and routine, and socialization with others facing the same challenges. It’s when people – especially young people – leave treatment that the world hits them like a ton of bricks. They come face to face with relationships and complications that can disregulate everything they’ve been practicing, and without the buffer of substances to help them cope.

Seeing a desperate need for continuing outpatient care, AJ and his business partner created a supportive early-recovery program called Accountable. In this episode, AJ and I discuss the most common issues families face with a young person in early recovery (many will sound very familiar), why Accountable removes the responsibility of drug testing from parents and spouses, and why fathers often find it difficult to participate in approaches like CRAFT.

EPISODE RESOURCES:

This podcast is part of a nonprofit called Hopestream Community
Learn about The Stream, our private online community for moms
Learn about The Woods, our private online community for dads
Find us on Instagram: @hopestreamcommunity
Download a free e-book, Worried Sick: A Compassionate Guide For Parents When Your Teen or Young Adult Child Misuses Drugs and Alcohol

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AJ:
 0:01Parents should do their own therapeutic work separate from the child. I think that’s hugely important. That causes people to have to look at their own dynamics, how they were raised, their own relationships, and maybe there’s stuff that they don’t really want to look at. And so they’re like, you know what? I don’t really want to get into that because that is going to unearth things that I buried a long time ago and I’m all set on those, right? I’m all set. This is my kid’s problem.
Brenda:
 0:43You’re listening to HopeStream. If you’re parenting a young person who misuses substances, is in a treatment program, or finding their way to recovery, you’re in the right place. This is your private space to learn from experts and gain encouragement and support from me, Brenda Zane, your host and follow mom to a child who struggled. This podcast is just one of the resources we offer for parents. So after the episode head over to our website at hopestreamcommunity. org. I’m so glad you’re here. Take a deep breath, exhale, and know that you have found your people. And now let’s get into today’s show. Hi friend. How are you? Are you breathing? Are you making sure you’re getting water and sunlight and sleep? Are you leaning into your practices that keep you grounded and moving forward despite the challenges that might be in your life? I just like to ask this every once in a while because there might not be anyone else asking you about the basics of staying upright as you navigate all the things you navigate. Last month, I got to spend three and a half days with a small group of moms who are all in the thick of it with their teen and college age kids. And I was reminded of how incredibly strong and resilient people can be even if things are going not as planned in their homes and families. I got to see up close and personal the amount of work that you are putting in because regardless of where your child is, it takes a ton of work to get through the rough days. And to stay out of the trap of comparison, rumination when things are starting to go okay. So that’s my little PSA for you to pause the episode if you need to, so that you can grab some water and take a few deep intentional breaths. If that’s something that you haven’t done yet today, as you may or may not know, Hope Stream Community and this podcast were created because all through my rollercoaster ride, I could not find. A community or resource where I could get emotional support, stop being so isolated and learn ways to help my son. So I created it alongside HopeStream’s co founder, Kathy Chott and my guest today, AJ Diaz also pioneered his company out of a need that he saw was missing on the treatment side of this whole experience. Accountable was born out of the experience Matt Sorrell and AJ Diaz had when they both embarked on their own journey toward recovery years ago. Both Matt and AJ were incredibly lucky because they had supportive acute treatment for their substance use disorder, but at a certain point that level of care came to an end as it does. And they wanted to have someone in addition to their 12 step and peer support programs That could help them stay accountable towards their goals in recovery and life without the continued time commitment and expense of intensive or residential treatment. Unfortunately, no such service existed at the time. Sound familiar? When I heard this story and I heard from several of our HopeStream community members that they loved their experience with Accountable, I knew I needed to get AJ, the co founder and chief marketing officer on the podcast. to share more with me. AJ is a psychotherapist and is in training for his credentialed alcoholism and substance abuse counselor’s license. He got sober at the age of 24 after going through detox, a 30 day program, and then a full year in sober living. He had been working in the world of finance, but realized he really liked working with the new guys when they arrived at sober living. Running groups and mentoring them in their early stages of recovery. So from there, he went on to get his graduate degree and eventually started accountable. Accountable fills a unique gap when someone is working on sustaining their recovery, but doesn’t necessarily need or want a residential or intensive level of outpatient care, just like Matt and AJ found in their experience. The process includes online peer coaching, drug and alcohol monitoring and transparency to reinforce drug and alcohol addiction recovery, prevent relapse and rebuild trust. The program runs on a sophisticated software platform that ties all of a person’s services together and importantly, listen up, removes mom or dad or caregiver from being the sobriety police, which often ends up causing a lot of resentment and stress. As I know, you know, and what I love especially is working with accountable can cost as little as 300 a month and ranges up to 850 a month for verified drug testing, coaching, accountability check ins and peer support recovery groups. That is pretty unique and accessible for aftercare. And I believe it’s important to highlight resources that more families can actually afford. AJ and I covered a lot of ground talking about the most common issues and challenges that he sees families facing in the early recovery process, including things like rescuing, holding boundaries. Returning to old narratives and patterns, trying to control outcomes. You know what I’m talking about. It’s so insightful. I will let you jump right in. Here’s me and AJ Diaz from Accountable. Take a listen. AJ, welcome to Hope Stream. We talked a few weeks ago and I was like, we got it. We got to record. So welcome. And thanks for being here.
AJ:
 7:01Brenda, thanks so much for having me on. It’s great to be here.
Brenda:
 7:04So I would love to start with some background on you. And I know that this could be its own episode because you have a great store. Well, I don’t know. It’s a great story. Cause you’re here with us today. Right. And you’re in a great place. So I think it’s a great story. Um, it’s not a story without pain, but maybe you can give us. The, you know, 30, 000 foot view of how you came to be working in the industry that you work in a little bit of your background, just to give us some of that texture for, for who you are.
AJ:
 7:37I got silver when I was 24. It was certainly not on my bingo card growing up to go to Riyadh. But there I was kind of found myself there. I ended up doing the detox stay and inpatient stay. And when I was about to leave, I was down for any suggestion, frankly. And so ultimately went to sober living. My original intention was to go for three months. I ended up staying for a year, best decision I ever made. And kind of in that time, right. You and most of the livings tend to operate this way is that you have kind of like a phase system and pretty much they just give you more more rope and so I, you know, kind of carved out this little place myself there where I really loved when you guys came in and hey, this is how we do things. This is how it’s going to go. I think I felt very protective of everything, especially of myself and my recovery at that time. And I had a case manager who, shout out to Jeremy, if he ever listens to this, most amazing guy ever. And he had kind of said to me, hey, you know, for what it’s worth, you’re pretty good with the new people. Just want to throw that out there. It seems like you like it. And I was also kind of the background to that is that I had taken a leave from work. I was working in financial services and really had no idea what I wanted to do. So it really struck me when he said that. This was kind of the first thing in my mind that I was like, And so that kind of stuck with me and ultimately I got a job when I left sober living, worked that for about 10, 11 months. And during that time I was volunteering back at my sober living. And what I would do is I would run a group for people who were there. It’s kind of like, Hey, I’m a sounding board, right? I am not a clinical person. I’m simply just a peer here. And I’ve like sat in your chair, I’ve gone through these things, I’ve done all the things that you are embarking on. I’ve done. Well, I’m in the midst of doing like, I just want to, you know, be helpful in any way I can. And those three hours every Tuesday that I was there were the best part of my week, every single week. And it’s kind of got to this thing where, You know, how do I get more? So ultimately the reason I was at the job I was at was for 10 months was cause I quit and I launched right into working into sober living. That kind of got me my start in this pretty much moved my way through sober living to a point where I knew I wanted to be a therapist and went back to school, got my graduate degree and yeah, started working in the clinical field. I had wonderful jobs in the clinical field. The most recent one was working at Hazelden in their New York location, running their men’s IOP, which is really wonderful. And it was very cool for me also too, because I was a patient at Hazelden at that same time. So it was cool to kind of come back and be on the other side of the fence. And yeah, and you know, with Accountable right about four years ago now, you know, came over full time as we were building it up. I was kind of doing both for, for a hot second there and then yeah, spoke to my wife and I was like, Hey, I think that I’m gonna, you know, I think I’m going to do this. And she was amazingly supportive and you know, the rest is history.
Brenda:
 10:42It’s so, so hopeful to hear a story like yours where you didn’t have a straight path, you, you know, really overcame some huge odds to do what you’re doing today. I’m really grateful for people like you that follow. This path, because it’s not really like the sexy career path, right? You could have been in finance and all the stuff that comes with that. And not that what you do or what I do isn’t, you know, it’s so satisfying and all of that, but it’s not particularly glamorous, I would say. So I just, I’m so appreciative of people who’ve been through it, looked at all of your options of what you could do with the rest of your life. Cause 24 is really young, right? To, To get sober. And now you’re on this new path and you know, have this amazing life in recovery. So when, when people do that, I just think it’s really, really admirable. And I hope that people tell you that because I think it can be even easy to just gloss over it. Like, Oh yeah, this guy needs a longterm recovery. He’s doing this thing, but it’s like, wait a minute. There’s. There’s a lot of decisions that go into that you obviously see in, in your role there at accountable. You obviously see families and family dynamics, and I’m sure that there’s, there’s some patterns that you see, but what are some of those family dynamics that you see in the folks that you work with?
AJ:
 12:13It’s a great question. And, you know, this could be its own episode. This could be its own book. I believe there are books about that. I mean, it is so layered. There’s so much that does go into it. But I would say that, you know, like a high level of the Dynamics that I tend to see with families, right? Are that, you know, there’s a couple. I think the ones that stick out the most to me are sticking to old narratives. And, you know, I think what happens to a lot of families and especially individuals, right? When change is happening is that, you know, Or change needs to happen rather, I should say, is that everyone kind of the old trope is like, well, we just want to go back to normal, right? Let’s just go back to normal. And the reality is, is that normal got us here, right? Well, what was happening got us here. So we don’t want to go back to normal, right? We want to spring forward to something new, right? We have to define what that looks like first. I will also preface this by saying I do not have children. So, Take everything I’d say with a grain of salt or a shaker of salt. So, you know, but I’ve been a kid, right? So, and I think that’s an important piece that in the work that I’ve done, a lot of parents forget what it’s like to be a kid, right? We talked kind of a little bit about lived experience, specifically the old narrative is of cleaning up after the kids. And what I mean is, like, there’s no consequences, right? Shielding them from life, right? And, you know, that doesn’t mean to say that, like, we’re going to let them go hungry or go cold or get injured or be in some dangerous situation, but they need to understand that, like, hey, For every action, there’s a reaction positive or negative.
Brenda:
 13:52I thought the same thing. I was like, Oh, I, you know, when everything was going haywire, I was like, Oh, I just wish that we could go back to how it was. But you’re not thinking about the chaos and the dysfunction. And also sometimes What’s out there. What’s unknown is scarier than the dysfunction that you know.
AJ:
 14:12There’s an old saying for that, right? And you can use it at club or two when it comes to like the concept of someone utilizing a maladaptive coping mechanism as opposed to an adaptive one is that it’s the longest practice way of feel safe. Right. And if you kind of tease out, tease that out, right, it’s, it’s the, the devil I know versus the one that I do. Um, right. So, yes, I know that if I. I know what I’m going to get, but you know what, I’ve done that for 10 years for 15 years for 20 years. I kind of know what to expect as opposed to, and that’s safe because it’s no. And to your point about no, unknown is scary. It’s fearful, right? What is going to happen? It’s very dysregulated, unchartered water. So Yeah. One of the big ones that I see is sticking to old narratives and really specifically to it, it cleaning up for the sakes of the child. You know, the other one that I tend to see as well, and this kind of blends with that, is trouble with boundary. And it’s specifically not the setting of the boundary, but the holding of the boundary, right? It’s, can you, sure, you can say, Hey, we’re going to take away the car. We’re going to do X, Y, and Z, but can you follow through with that? And can you follow through with that now once? Not twice, but sustainably until change is not just happening, but like sustain, not to overuse that word. And I think too, within that, right, and this is like another teaser is coming up with boundaries that are realistic. Right. What I try to tell families all the time is think of what, what feels tolerable to you. What is the boundary or the, you know, the line, so to speak. Then you can say that if there is a pushback, you don’t immediately backpedal and say, well, no, we don’t have to do that. Right, because already there, you’re kind of coming from your heels, you know, so you want to have one that you feel really confident in that if child, spouse, family member, loved one pushes on that, you say, no, like this is what we’re doing and this is why. The final one that, that I, that I tend to see a lot is, um, parents wanting to, and I very much get this, desperately to control every outcome of every situation. And that also goes to, right, sticking to old narratives, that goes to traveling with boundaries. Right. I see it all the time, really, with boundaries a lot is that, well, they’ve done something, this boundary is coming down the pike from an outside source, and they’re like, well, we’ll, we’ll, we’ll do all these things and I’m going to kind of control and be the arbiter of this and it’s, well, what message does that say to the kid, you know, and I get it. I get where it comes from, which is I love my child. I don’t want them to feel pain. I don’t want them to experience this. But the dangerous thing is the messaging that they can internalize the kid is, huh. Um, I can kind of do whatever I want here and this will get cleaned up.
Brenda:
 17:13Yes. Did you have some of that in your family? Were you a good boundary pusher?
AJ:
 17:18I was a, I was a hall of fame and really it wasn’t until, you know, my family was united in those boundaries.
Brenda:
 17:28Well, I think it’s, I’m just, I’m like laughing, not laughing, but I’m smiling and nodding my head because these are exactly, exactly the same. Challenges that rise to the top with the families and hope stream community, the boundaries, the natural consequences, which I agree so, so difficult because you’re seeing this thing that’s going to potentially happen that could have a lifelong impact. IE a felony or a life ending impact, right? Fentanyl. So those are really big things. And so I, I hope that parents don’t hear us talk or hear me talk or whoever about natural consequences and feel shamed about not holding them or not allowing them because it’s so hard. It is so hard. That’s probably one of the most difficult things to do. Like you said, I can set a boundary. I can, those words can come out of my mouth, all of the best intentions. And then when it comes time to let that natural consequence happen as a result of the boundary that I’m holding, it’s like, Whoa, Whoa, Whoa. Maybe not. Maybe I can’t do that. So I like what you said about what is tolerable to you. I think that’s a really good filter for a parent to hear and to say, okay, maybe it’s not. ideal, like in the hierarchy of perfect boundaries or perfect natural consequences, but it’s what I can live with right now with what’s going on with my kiddo. It’s so hard.
AJ:
 19:04You know, I think the other thing to, and I’ll say this again, not as a parent, but as the kid It was on the receiving end, right? You know, I pushed things to the point where I didn’t give my family enough choice, right? So really they didn’t do it to me. They did it for themselves, right? You know, but they didn’t wake up one day and say, Hmm, how can we like make AJ’s life, right? I gave them no other resource.
Brenda:
 19:36Yeah.
AJ:
 19:36I left them without options. It’s like, this is what we have to do. Right. This is what we have to do. Right. So like boundaries are also this thing where it’s not an anti that person is a pro self preservation.
Brenda:
 19:48Yes. Pro me. That’s a good way to put, I haven’t never thought about that language around a boundary, but it’s, it’s so true. Well, I know when we were talking earlier, we both kind of had this, a similar experience and that we found a lot of dads are very resistant. to adopting like the craft approach, which leads with empathy and compassion and understanding and education, and often are just hesitant to getting involved. Like there’s a lot, what I see is a lot of the moms are like, well, no, you know, my husband or my partners. Kind of like is letting me deal with it. I’m driving the bus here. I’m making the decisions. I’m doing it and it breaks my heart. And so I’ve had several people on and I’m trying to like, dig into this a little bit because I think that that, I think there’s a lot of reasons for that, but I think the kids are missing out, right? When dad’s not involved. And so because you had some of that same experience, I thought I would just maybe dig into that with you a little bit to see. What your experience is and what your thoughts are around why this is kind of a, a trend that we see.
AJ:
 21:07A great book to go from the title that is, I don’t want to talk and it is all about, you know, male depression, um, and how it comes out and, uh, right. And that’s not saying that, you know, someone has a, meets the diagnostic criteria for major depressive disorder, but you know, how are we operating, right. That, how do we. If we are nonverbal in that, right, how does it come out other ways, right? Does it come out in rage? Does it come out in sex and again, in drinking, in work, all these different things. So like, that’s kind of a, I would say it’s a great piece to come from, right. And really what that dictates. And this will kind of go into, you know, what’s the rub, right. And I think it, you know, this is my assertion, right. I think it goes back to a lot of societal norms. And I don’t love painting in broad strokes, but a lot of guys, you know, operate from what I would call performance basis, right. And, you know, what performance basis scene is, is my worth, right. Is based on how I’m operating, right. Am I, how much money I’m making the cars, I drive the house. I tell my women what I’m putting out, right. That makes up who I am in my character, what my character is. And I think for a lot of people, and I think this goes for men and for women. We personalize it. What did I do wrong? Right? I did something, right? I did something. And you know what? If I really dive into this and look at it, I’m, I’m afraid to find the answers here. So I’m just going to ignore it. That’s easier. Right? And I will let my wife or my spouse deal with this because I don’t, I just, I don’t want to do that. Right? And. The other thing kind of front performance based esteem is that, you know, again, those societal norms that, hey, if I am vulnerable, if I am overly emotional, right. You know, all these different things, it’s weak. Right? I’m weak. Yeah. And because if, if I am operating or someone who operates with performance based esteem, right, my performance can’t be weak. Right. Because, you know, it’s no facto I’m weak and I just, you know, we can’t have it. Right. And what it does, to your point, you know, that if. When a child can see that is it creates what’s called split, right? And that’s never going to be good for right. Growing as a family system. It’s not, you know, mom and dad versus the kid, or it’s not the kid and mom versus the dad or whatever combination. It’s the family versus the problem.
Brenda:
 23:56Well it makes a lot of sense and, and still I think it’s, it is heartbreaking because there can be so much good work done and obviously we’re, we are talking in broad strokes. So there are dads and we have dads in our community in the woods who are just phenomenal at this, right? About tapping into their emotions and really connecting with their kids. So by no means are we saying that this is everybody, but it is enough of, there’s enough of a imbalance. That I see that I think it’s worth talking about and I will make sure and put a link to that book in the show notes so that everybody can find that. But when you, when you talk about this performance basis, I think that’s really interesting. And maybe it can even be an inroad to the way that providers, whether you’re a therapist or, you know, a group like accountable or hope stream, maybe what we need to do is shift our approach and how we serve up this material. so that it is more palatable, right? We’re talking less about emotions and, you know, opening up and join this group and dah, dah, dah, dah, dah. And maybe it’s more of, here’s a playbook for you, dad, that some other, guys in the past have used, and they’ve had really good success with it with their kids. Cause by the way, you’re not the only one with a kid who’s doing this. There’s nothing that you did wrong. We just need to shift and give you some of these like, almost like cheat codes, right? Like you, what you were never told is, X, Y, Z. I don’t know. What do you think? Like, maybe it’s the, maybe we just need to do a better job of serving up the, the information.
AJ:
 25:40I, I kind of agree with you. I think that, you know, it’s, we have to remember like one of the biggest axiom of, of any type of mental health, behavioral health, substance use work, right, is meet, meet the client where they are, right. I think that also goes for the family too. You have to do that, right? If, if someone is showing you, whether it’s verbally or non verbally, I do not want to talk emotions. Great. What do you want, right? And starting, right? We have to go with what’s accessible. Otherwise the walls continue to stay up and we’re trying to jam a square peg into a round. One thing that, that I always believe is that parents should do their own therapeutic work. Separate from, I think that’s hugely important because right, they need to be ready for a lot of things that will come part of the reticence, right? As I said, it’s, it’s, it can be based on this performance based esteem, right? What does this mean about me? Right? And from that, right, that causes people that have to look at their own diet. How they were raised, their own relationships, and maybe there’s stuff that they don’t really wanna look at, and so they’re like, you know what? I don’t really want to get into that because that is going to unearth things that I buried a long time ago and I’m all set on those. Right? You can’t teach an old dog new tricks. I’m all set. This is my kid’s prompt.
Brenda:
 27:23Hi, I’m taking a quick break to let you know some exciting news. There are now two private online communities for supporting you through this experience with your child or children. The stream community for those who identify as moms and the woods for guys who identify as dads. Of course, this includes step parents and anyone who is caring for a young person who struggles with substance use and mental health. The stream and the woods exist completely outside of all social media, so you never have to worry about confidentiality and they’re also ad free. So when you’re there, you’ll be able to focus on learning the latest evidence based approaches to helping people change their relationship. With drugs and alcohol in both communities, we have a positive focus without triggering content or conversations. And we help you learn to be an active participant in helping your child move towards healthier choices. You’ll also experience the relief of just being able to be real, connect with other parents who know fully what you’re going through and have battle tested mentors alongside you can check out both the stream and the woods for free before committing. So there’s no risk. Go to hopestreamcommunity. org to get all the details and become a member. Okay, let’s get back to the show. This might be TMI, but the other day we had a clogged drain and I got this really cool like thing of course from Amazon where it’s got this long green plastic thing that’s got these spikes on it and you shove it down your drain. This was a sink and you pull it out and what you get is disgusting. Like, it’s disgusting. It’s very disgusting, but I was thinking about, Oh my gosh, this is kind of like what we have to do when our kids are really struggling and we have to, we got to shove that thing down the drain and pull out whatever’s there because otherwise the water’s going to continue to pool in the sink. And at some point you can’t ignore it because now you can’t brush your teeth and now you can’t wash your face and right, like all these things. And so I, I think that that’s a really valid point to bring up because we need to. A, warn, warn people that this is likely going to happen. When you start doing your work, it gets really uncomfortable before it gets better. And B. It is going to bring up some stuff that you don’t want to see. You know, all the clobs of hair and all that junk’s going to come up, but it can be worked through. Like, that’s the good news is yes, it might come up, but don’t stop your thinking there. Like keep going. Like, yeah, but it’s going to get better in the end.
AJ:
 30:15I appreciate. And so, you know, I think when we talk about kind of like segue into like approaches, how do you chop things up? How do you give something that is accessible to who is hearing, to who is hearing? You know, and I think the start with it is like, let’s depersonalize this, right? This is not a reflection on you. This is not a reflection on you. You’re not a bad parent. You know, you’re not any of these things, right? Because if, and this kind of goes to working with someone who has active substance use, is that you have to, you know, tease out the shame that’s in there, right? Right. Because it’s this kind of revolting thing that like, if they consistently operate that I am a bad person. It’s going to be this like self fulfilling prophecy, whereas the same, same thing goes that if it’s parents and they’re like, well, I’m a bad parent, it’s going to be much, a much harder entrance. Right. So deep, right. And it’s, it’s a very important thing that kind of goes to shame is the language that we use. Right. So, you know, you can hear someone say like, well, I thought I was a great parent, but kid in and it’s like, okay, how about I am a great parent and this happened, right? Both can exist at the same time.
Brenda:
 31:39Yeah. It’s, it’s much better to hear that. And, and we do, we just, as parents, we go to that place of, I screwed it up. I did something wrong. I must be a terrible parent because I look around me and my neighborhood and my church and my everywhere and everyone else seems to be just fine. And I’m guessing. Not everybody is you see a lot of families you see, and maybe let’s, let’s have you just talk about accountable because I want people to understand the model because it’s very unique. But I think it’s, this is great to get your perspective because you do see so many different families. You have that therapeutic. Mind that can look at what’s going on. Like I look at it and I don’t see, like, I don’t see all that stuff cause I’m not a therapist, but you see that. So talk a little bit about where did this idea for accountable come from? And, and who is it for?
AJ:
 32:31It’s a great question. I will say that in this for anyone, that’s the first thing I’ll say. It came from, so my partner, my business partner, Matt. He, both he and I had very similar experiences when we left treatment and it, that experience tends to continue to this day, which is someone leaves treatment and they get a, essentially a sheet of paper, right? That says, here is your relapse prevention sheet. We wish you the best, you know, good luck to you. I know that because I’ve received one and I’ve also given them out. It’s wholly insufficient. Yes. When someone goes to treatment, it’s a wonderful thing, right? And also this might get some, you know, eye rolls, but. It’s not that difficult to stay sober in the four walls of treatment. You get three meals, it’s three hots and a cot. You get walked to everything you’re gonna do. You get smoke breaks. You get to interact with other people. You know, it’s, it’s when people leave treatment, especially for young adults, right? I’m really for everyone, but we’re kind of honing in on young adults here. Is that like the world hits you like a ton. I have to go back to school. I have to be with friends. Which friends am I allowed to be with? My girlfriend’s been waiting for me. I have to see her, but she smokes pot so I can’t pee with her. All of these different things. And it’s such a dysregulating transition. You see a lot of people cycle that. And so, like, recidivism is, to treatment is, backstream is so high. So, what happened to both Matt and I is that we left, we got this sheet of paper. Sheet of paper, sorry. We both thought individually, right. We didn’t know each other at this time. This is the stupidest thing ever. And our families, right. We’re kind of like this doesn’t, right. For Matt, who’s with his girlfriend at the time, his wife now, for me, he’s with my sister. And the only thing, and I’ll speak on the eye. That I could think of was I’ve just spent 13 months getting drug tested. I’ll do that. Right. It’s, I mean, at this point it’s, it’s, you know, normal as brushing my teeth. Okay. And that’s what I did. So randomly I would drug test throughout the, you know, throughout the week. And I did that for three years and it was the best thing I ever did. And it served two very distinct purposes. One, I knew I had to ring that bell every single week, so it really bemoothed me to take action so that the ringing of that bell was good. Right, because I really didn’t want to go back to treatment, right, cannot even express that enough. The second thing that it did is it kept my family feeling very, very safe. They knew that, hey, if something is to happen, it will be found. Right. It’ll be sound quickly. Right. And then we can kind of like, you know, send the calorie. And then for me, it was really helpful because when the anxiety was lowered, you know, I used to kind of walk around my house. And again, very understandably. So feeling everyone’s right. Because look, and again, I earned that I’m the first person to acknowledge that it still gets tiring to receive it. Right. It doesn’t mean It’s not fun. It’s not enough. It lowered my too. I didn’t have to walk into every, you know, social interaction with my family and preface myself of like, I’m okay. I’m okay. I have a cold. I’m simply just blowing my nose. I promise, you know, because look for so long, they, they, you know, I was so good at hiding. Right. And so for them and for any family, it’s like you kind of go There’s this, again, understandable, massive overcorrection of, I will never miss any flight, right? It’s going to be, you know, batten down the hatches. I won’t miss a thing ever again. And so it can affect, right, you know, the person who’s got it. So, yeah, so it served those really distinct purposes. And for Matt, it was the same situation. It was just, uh, and so we, that was kind of the seed, um, right. How do we create continuing care? That’s affordable, right. That can help individuals heal and also family systems. Because, you know, again, before that, right, my parents were drug testing me at home. It was World War III every single time, you know, when spouses have to test people, right, whether it’s a drug test, a breathalyzer. It’s just a resentment waiting to happen, and parents shouldn’t have to serve that role and abortion spouses, right? If that’s happening, right, it’s this like negative enmeshment with the family, and then you can’t grow as a system, right, as a family system. Right, because I hate you because you’re drug testing me, and you hate me because I forced you to have the test. So having a third party come in is huge. And then finally, right, you know, central focus of our program is coaching, right? Peer to peer coaching. All of our coaches are peers in recovery. They’re nationally certified. And, you know, treatment stops at 30 days, you know, inpatient treatment stops at 30 days. Even if someone does a full course of treatment, right? You know, detox, residential, PHP, IOP, OP, extended OP, if it’s available, takes you about six, seven months over, right? Everything we know about how the brain works and how things kind of come back after a period of active addiction is done at 14 months of abstinence. Right. There’s more metabolic activity, right? And that’s a fancy way of saying that someone has a little bit more, right? Mechanistic control. The prefrontal cortex is responsible for emotion regulation, for the stress tolerance, for executive functioning, all things that make or break relapse. We’re saying, so like what a drop off in time from someone leaving all of this to when things start to really get better. So, our thought was how do we bridge that gap?
Brenda:
 38:33So insightful because I hear that over and over and over and I experienced that with my son is there’s that gap where you kind of have nothing and they’re so vulnerable. Like you said, they’re going back to school, starting to interact with friends. A lot of times the young adults going back to college, I mean, come on, how do you do that successfully? To
AJ:
 38:59a pretty, to a sorority, it’s. That’s really hard. It’s been really hard.
Brenda:
 39:05Really hard. And I, and I can appreciate the value in removing the drug testing from the parents responsibility, or, or a girlfriend or a spouse, but especially for, for children. Parents, because you’re right. It just creates this battle every single time. And so having that removed, it can be like, Hey, this isn’t, this isn’t, you know, anything that I’m, that I’m specifically doing with you. Obviously a lot of times parents require, but I think it is a good way to rebuild that trust because that’s the hardest thing. You know, they come home. You want to believe him so much. And then how do you, so that’s, that is fascinating that you were like, yeah, well, I guess I’ll continue drug testing. Cause that was helpful. Not everybody’s obviously going to be there. And I know even if they, have signed on to work with you and a coach and do the drug testing. It can still feel, what I hear is my parents are trying to manipulate me. They’re manipulating me and holding this over my head. If I do the drug tests and they’re clean, then I get my college paid for, or then I get this paid for. So to them, it can feel like manipulation. And I’d be curious to hear how, how you think about that.
AJ:
 40:28It’s I laugh because I hear that. All the time, bro. Uh,
Brenda:
 40:32yeah, I’m sure you do., AJ: anyone from the ages of 17 to 20. My initial thought was, how dare you, your child, your baby boy? How could you do this to me? You’re such a terrible person. I gave them no other option. What was that option? There are other option was to let me operate the way I was operating, stealing from them, lying to them, manipulating them. Right. And so I think the, and this kind of goes to how I think to the best way to set that right is to explain, have dialogue around, right? I think it’s one thing to say to a kid, right? This is what we’re doing. And that’s why you say, cause that’s it. You know, I think a better approach, right, is, you know, this is what we’re doing. Do you understand why? No, I don’t. Great. Let’s talk about it. Right. And having open dial, right. Having open dial. Other things. And also reminding them that like, look, if you really want, you can go and do whatever you want to do. That’s your prerogative. And you have agency and having said that, we also have agency and autonomy to make decisions for ourselves too. So, you want to go be independent and do all those things? I think that’s amazing. Go and do that. Right? Just so you know, if you choose that, our independent choice too, right, is going to be to self preserve and this is how. So like, let us know, you know, and I think that’s a potentially a different way of leveling. But I think when, whenever I hear these things of, Oh, they’re making me do these things, right? It’s having a conversation with the child to say, like, Well, why do you think they are doing these things? Can you venture against, right? And, you know, the hope is that they can hear themselves say out loud, well, I did go to treatment twice. I have had two ODs. It’s like, okay, well, let’s pause. What do you think about those things, right? Those facts, right? Those objective things and the best way to approach. Do you think trust is just, just right there, right? Or do you think maybe there are some things that you have to do, right? Very understandable. And what I always tell people is this is trust is lost in buckets. It’s gone. It is earned back. What do you want those drops to? How bad? Yeah. So good. So, so good. I think that’s a very good approach and, and it is hard to pull yourself out of the emotion of it and all of that. So I like what you were saying. Like you get to make your decision. If you, if you don’t want to do drug testing that I’m guessing that might mean you’re going to. Okay. Potentially use something at some point, and we can’t stop you from doing that, but here’s what we have control over. And going back to what you said before about here’s what’s tolerable to us paying for college isn’t going to be tolerable. If we don’t know that your mind is clear. So when you’re ready for that, let us know. I don’t know. I never had to have that conversation. So it’s easier for me to sit here and say that in the absence of a very, you know, pissed off 19 year old or whatever. But I think it does make a lot of sense when you decide what you’re going to be able to contribute and what you can’t.
AJ:
 44:15You know, I think part of that too is, and it really goes to like the explanation. It’s not, this is just what we’re doing. And like a blanket statement of it’s because I said so, because I’m mom and dad and it’s my, my house, my rules, right? Those are, that’s cannon fodder for any kid to, you know, go rebel against, right? Uh, it’s really about like, Hey, like let’s have dialogue, like make your case, make your case what you should be able to do drugs and you go ahead, you know, like make it like, and I think if you. It’s all about the approach to intonation of voice, tone, language. I can be fledgling with someone and stay calm the whole time. I can really just, Hey, I’m going to have dialogue, right. And I’m going to, I’m going to be curious about what you’re saying. I could ask questions about like, Hey, what do you mean by that? You know, it’s
Brenda:
 45:19hugely
AJ:
 45:20important.
Brenda:
 45:21What is a myth or misperception that you think people have either about young people in recovery or sort of about the, the whole world of treatment and, and young people getting sober? What do you, what comes to mind for you? Like what’s something that if like for once and for all, you’re just going to clear it up for everybody.
AJ:
 45:44No kid is waking up choosing to do this. They are not waking up saying, how, you know, how can I just ruin everything? Right? It might seem that way. It might. I get that. But at the root of it, this is not, they are, they don’t delight in terrifying people. They don’t write something missing. Something is, you need to understand why it goes to the depersonalizing, right? Right? That’s what it’s like. Mom and dad, this isn’t, this isn’t an attack on you, right? You know, child is not waking up saying, yes, I want to do drugs because I want to piss mom and dad, right? That is my sole purpose. I will give a caveat that like, they may come off and say that. I would bet that what is underneath that is, hi, I want, I want your attention. We have kids, so you know, childhood development, right? And like, kids can’t talk. What do kids, what do babies do when they are hungry or tired or need attention? They scream, scream and they cry, right? And it tells you as a new parent, okay, I got to feed this thing. I got to change this thing. This, you know, kids got it out for one of those adolescents and young adults are the same. Now they may have words and they have a voice box, right? They might not have the language to say, I am sad. This is what I’m sad about, this is how things impact me, and I am choosing to subdue those feelings by using drugs because I don’t know how to manage it myself. I think if a 15 year old said that, I would follow. Right, right. So what they do is they make cries and say like, I, you know, I need help. And this is the only way I know how to do it. So I think my biggest, you know, myth is that they’re choosing to do it, right? They, this is all with malicious intent. I just, I don’t think that, I don’t, I really, really don’t. Like it’s a malady. It’s a malady, right? They have something going on and they have found this coping mechanism that now they are just used to. You know, but they’re not a bad kid.
Brenda:
 48:11Oh, I love that. Not a bad kid. A lot of parents need to hear that cause they’re at the point where they’re like, I actually think I have a bad kid. So thank you for saying that. I think that’s amazing. AJ, thank you for spending some time with me and explaining a lot of things. Yes. Very fun. Very fun. Thanks so much. Thank you. Okay. My friend, that is a wrap for today. Don’t forget to download the new ebook, Worried Sick. It’s totally free and it will shed so much light on positive tools and strategies you can use right now to start creating those positive conditions for change in your home and in your relationships. It is at hopestreamcommunity. org forward slash worried. And guess what? We have moved the entire podcast to our website at hopestreamcommunity. org. So now when you want the show notes or resources, or if you want to download a transcript, just go to HopeStreamCommunity. org and click on podcast and you will find it all there. You can search by keyword, episode number, guest name, and we have created playlists for you. Makes it much easier to find episodes grouped by topic. So we’re really excited to have that done and hope you like the podcast’s new home. Please be extraordinarily good to yourself today. Take a deep breath. You’ve got this and you are going to be okay. You’re not doing it alone. I will meet you right back here next week.

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