Finding Peaks

Finding Peaks

Young and in Recovery

March 11, 2022

Episode 43
Young and in Recovery

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We are joined again by special guest Madeline as we discuss the effects and challenges of being young and in recovery.

Talking Points
  1. The barriers our team experienced when overcoming getting sober in their 20s.
  2. The strategies they used to overcome the barriers.
  3. Was there a moment when you started to believe you could choose recovery at a young age?
  4. How did you build a community?


“I didn’t feel young at all. I felt a million years old. And so tired, so tired. And my concern was not that it was going to kill me. My concern was, what if it goes on like this forever. That would be unimaginable.”

Madelyn Padilla, UN Admissions Specialist


Episode Transcripts

Episode 43 Transcripts

hi everyone welcome to another episode
of finding peeks uh
i’m really excited today to have chris
burns and madeline padilla join us again
uh for a conversation and it’s gonna be
lively i can already tell because we
were talking right up until uh we
started here so uh
what we have what i have in mind for us
to talk about today is
the process of getting young or sober
when you are young
started out as a young adult well
started out as a young adult men’s
program actually and then expanded to
women but we were with young adults for
and um and we faced a lot of questions
and challenges and
and a lot of obstacles in uh
in the process of working with people
getting sober when they’re young
and now since we’ve expanded to all ages
i thought it’d be fun to circle back
around and just kind of have a
conversation about what it’s like to get
sober when you’re young and i believe
both of you
uh actually got sober while you’re in
your 20s and um
and so i just wanted to start there with
uh maybe i’ll start with you chris
what barriers do you think you had to
uh when you had when you decided to get
sober when you were in your 20s great
question and thank you for kicking this
off yeah i am really excited about this
topic there’s a tremendous amount of
barriers to get sober young i think one
of the biggest ones in my experience is
um community for me because there’s not
a lot of people in your 22 year old
community generally that’s when you know
my friends are going off to college some
of them are going to grad school i
remember going through
my facebook feed or whatever it was at
the time myspace or facebook and i was
watching as i was getting ready to go
into treatment and joey was going off to
med school and kyle was going to be an
attorney and
my other buddy darren was going off over
here to be this uh sports agent all of
this stuff and really what consumed me
at that time was a lack of community and
be shame
and both kind of play an interesting
role in that process and so my fear
early on at 22 years old was that i was
going to miss an opportunity to connect
with my friends
and that’s something we hear oftentimes
a lot when young people come into
treatment is this like i’m going to miss
something i need to get back to my
friends and i know we do things quite a
bit different today but i remember one
of the uh this guy named michael at the
last treatment center i was at he said
very something very candid to me that i
don’t know that we would say today but
it got me thinking about kind of what
community actually is and what
connection um has to do with and he sat
down with me and i was about 30 days
into cottonwood day tucson in 2008 and i
said yeah michael you know i’m just
looking forward to getting out of here i
don’t need to do aftercare i’m going to
be hanging out with my boys they’re
doing great things and he looks at me
and he goes you’ve been here 30 days i
said yeah and he goes how many get well
soon cards have you gotten from your
boys and i was like whoa bud
that’s kind of hurtful but at the same
time what dawned on me is like i have an
to create something that’s actually
never been there
um and i think the fear is and the
barriers that i’m going to miss out on
something when in fact
i’m not there anyway and i’m not present
for that process and so i think that’s a
really big barrier especially for young
people is this idea that i’m going to
miss out on something and
that i’m going to have a life sentence
of sobriety i’m never going to be able
to drink normally yeah you know to share
a glass of wine in italy that was always
my thing i’m going to be in italy and
sharing a glass of wine you know um and
so some of those concrete
finite points that i heard early on
really scared me and that’s why i love
what we’re doing now in 2022 because
this isn’t a life sentence to anything
it’s really an opportunity to embrace
and engage in a recovery 24 hours at a
time and i believe today
that each person’s recovery is as
individual as the person that sits in
front of us
and that’s how i think it’s an easier
bite-sized kind of snack for young
people is kind of feeding that that
energy and that positivity i think you i
think you’re exactly right because i
i mean i remember i’ve had a lot of
conversations with with young adults
like hey you mean i can’t have a glass
of champagne at my wedding
or you know even some people are like
wait i’m not even i’m 20.
yeah i’ve never even had a legal drink
in my life and you’re telling me i can
never have one
and to your point chris like i think
it’s interesting to have
those conversations
and not be that rigid about it and just
be like hey this is
your own journey and be honest with
yourself rather than
digging in and being rigid about that
seems to be really impactful but but i
do i
this is so funny you’re like at my
wedding right or in italy right
why don’t we assess that when you’re
getting married and you’re going to
sit down then and decide if if you want
to have that because when you when you
get to where you want to go and you
dream these scenarios would be
the desire is not there
anymore i think we we focus way too
heavily on
the substances the lack of substances
are they there are they not that’s just
the least of somebody’s problems and and
i get why it feels so big and so heavy
coming in um because it’s like a friend
it’s like losing a close friend at first
i get that um
but that’s just not it’s not about that
glass of wine it’s not normal in melon i
know based on our conversation earlier
too i know
for you
you have a d you have a different take
on this question i have yeah i hated
this question i hate this question i was
thinking about it even more actually
he’s digging into it
i’m on the right over here and i’m like
uh you know
getting young and it’s hard to get young
sober and like
peer pressure and like all this like
educational stuff from back in the day
was coming back and i was like i didn’t
feel young at all i felt a million years
i felt a million years old
and so tired and so tired and and my
concern was not
if it was going to kill me i my concern
was like what if it goes on like this
forever that would be um
unimaginable so i i feel younger today
than i ever felt
using so i yeah i just
can’t relate but
i love that
if you really zoom out and i think
that’s what you’re talking about is this
like ability to zoom out some people
call it playing the tape through
whatever it might be it’s like
i’m not well
i am not well i am dying and when i’m
being honest with myself and maybe
that’s a big barrier um is being young
getting sober is being honest with
i just couldn’t find the truth in there
i was living in this narrative and i
think i needed to be in that narrative
because the other side of it to pop out
of it meant to just bludgeon myself with
the shame hammer right you know so i
think you bring up a really good point
it’s like if we can afford ourselves the
opportunity if we can get good great
people around us that afford us the
opportunity to zoom out and really
conceptualize what this is and i wasn’t
always honest about everything i mean
there were there were things that i
thought i could do i thought i could
face it alone
i thought because i i felt so empowered
by i had it hadn’t killed me i was like
i can face anything alone and i can
survive anything alone and i i could do
this independently
yes and no
yeah i had to find my own way we’ve
talked about that before it was an
yeah but but you know there were people
all around there were people all around
if i needed them you know so yes and no
not always honest but
when i think what i thought of when you
were saying all that madeleine is i’ve
had people be like well i’m gonna miss
out on all the partying or whatever and
then i’m like okay walk me through what
a party looks like for you
and really it’s it’s
it’s actually really pretty lonely yeah
it’s like
actually i would just sit in a parking
lot at king supers and then yeah for
three hours and then
go and use a loan
oh yeah that wasn’t a party oh yeah and
i hear i hear that on the phone too you
know people are like well what if i um
what about my friend i’ve you know i’ve
heard that and it’s like let’s let’s be
honest if you’re making this phone call
this is a solo sport i always say this
addiction is a solo sport
it is and it’s it can start with friends
you know or start socially or whatever
but i remember thinking thank god i’m
using a loan i don’t have to share this
with anybody
i need it you know it’s for me and if
someone comes along then i might have to
i’m going to be in scarcity and that’s
scarier than being alone you know so i
can’t yeah
that’s it’s it’s a solo deal it’s a
phenomenal this is a phenomenal point
too because i can remember when i showed
up at 22 i hadn’t been to a party for
three years
not a [ __ ] excuse
not a freaking party to speak of yeah
but my brain
fantasized like i i remem and i was in
the bathroom by myself yeah nobody was
there i was disconnected but my brain
was like no i’m at the kegger right and
i showed up to treatment and i’m like no
there was people there and they’re like
chris nobody was there man it’s just you
and i’m like
now that’s an interesting reality when
you actually realize that there’s nobody
there the whole time
when i think you hit it on the head that
that you you build this entire fantasy
in your head and the reality is like if
there’s i like to tell i like to ask
people like if there was a gopro
attached to your head what would it
actually show
because really like you said it doesn’t
show a kegger and keg stands it shows
alone in a bathroom
it’s a tough spot
yeah and it’s so interesting and you see
that a lot with young people and when
you’re able to kind of zoom out and kind
of walk with them a little bit on that
journey it’s very clear
that they had gotten to this point in a
solo endeavor i do i have to say you
know there’s an element of denial that
has its place and it’s totally
appropriate if you’re going to lift the
veil you better have support
you really want to know what it was like
you better have people around you to
back that up and i do think there’s an
appropriate time to do that and so
again i’m going back to being on the
phone with people they’re like do i have
to tell you everything right now and i’m
like no way
please don’t right please don’t because
you’re not supported enough to face that
i wouldn’t have been if i had really
gotten honest about what my life is
really looking like before making it in
the door
i’m out that’s that’s a wrap so
and dude you probably won’t take me so
you’re like actually decline yeah yes
yeah yeah i can completely relate to
that too and that’s a lot of
and i see it with mature adults do the
same thing oftentimes now it’s a bit
more polished um to a degree but you
have to
i love how you said lifting the veil
like if i lift that all the way up
i don’t even know what’s inside of there
right you know and that can be a really
scary thing and
you got to have appropriate people
around you kind of to do that dance so
hopefully you understand it too yeah
a little bit i would like to ask i
always like to ask these questions but
like was there was there a moment where
you’re like okay i think i can do this i
i think i can live a life in recovery
and i really can commit to this change
even though i’m young
let me rephrase the question what was
the moment
yeah so the moment for me and and i grew
up in this uh recovery world and 12-step
way of life
and after my
third inpatient program you know i was
really intent on taking every suggestion
and so one of the suggestions that they
gave me they said chris if you’re
willing to do anything and you want
connection and want a fellowship to grow
up around you have to get a service
i was like service position man what
does that pay
you know how does that work do you get
cigarettes like i don’t know how this
i’ve never done anything for nothing
it’s an interesting concept you all have
for a 12-step land he’s like chris just
do it i had great people around me thank
god they were like the bumpers
and so i go in i do my um 90 days sober
i go in to do my coffee position and
it’s a 90-day commitment and i’m at the
largest group in all of prescott arizona
crazy birds group of alcoholics
anonymous 6 a.m meeting and i go in
there and i’m pissed off
and this guy steve’s in there and he’s
he’s sweeping the floors i’m like
what are you doing here man and he’s
like oh great question man i got here 35
years ago on a wednesday my sponsor told
me the same thing he probably told you
just to get a service position watch
your fellowship grow up around you don’t
have any friends but you’re about to
have some and i’m like whoa steve that’s
crazy and he’s like you know what it’s
worked so well i’ve been doing it for 35
years every wednesday and i was like
and then he said what we’d like to do is
me and my two buddies that were here 35
years ago we’d love to sit down with you
we’ll call it the meeting before the
because we believe in you and i’m like
and that was the second
the second man that ever told me he
believed in me and i was like if you
believe in me i can believe in myself
and i showed up with those guys they
were like all you got to do is keep our
coffees full just these old timers down
they’re all 70 and i was like just
taking notes taking notes and then
another suggestion i got right on the
back end of that was to get coffee with
this guy named james and i went and had
coffee with this guy named james and i
don’t even know what we talked about but
i left that experience both of those
experience combined and i felt like god
tapped me on the shoulder that day and
said if you do this and you do this well
i’ll take care of you the rest of your
life and it was on that day
if i had great people around me i could
do this and i had a family of choice
grow up around me and after that coffee
position i had 50 friends
and that was really the inflection point
for me where i was like
i can’t do this but we sure can
well in the recovery moments chris
they’re not just like
again it’s not as sober not sober it had
nothing to do those god tap moments that
you’re talking about that you’re
re-recovering constantly with answering
that call or like
even acknowledging that that is the
recovery like i can think of two
instances and kind of go back to your
question jason
okay so i was in target and i’m doing
some grocery shopping at target this was
i was in the alumni house i spent quite
a bit of money but i had a loofah on the
bottom of the grocery cart
you know yeah it’s a dollar fifty yeah
and i spent a hundred dollars right and
i i go out there and i’m alone i’m
shopping by myself across the street
from the old center and i saw it in the
cart and i was like
and i and i took it back they looked at
me like i was nuts right i said i i
do with this what you will take take it
to the back you know um
i just i didn’t pay for it and then i
got out of there no one arrested me
first of all that was cool really cool
yeah and in fact they almost looked at
me with like some respect like that was
a good thing to do and i walked out of
the target feeling kind of high
like on life like feeling good about
feeling like a person like a responsible
person and then i was like i could
commit to this because that wasn’t so
hard and the payoff was worth it it’s
something small and then on a bigger
scale fast forward
i was in a job where my ego was getting
and my character defects were
getting me through it you know and it
was really
um i wasn’t using but spiritually i was
dying is what was happening and
i just didn’t i didn’t want to do
anything about it didn’t want to do
anything about it and i finally answered
that call and i was like i can’t do this
i can’t do this and i’m going to take a
leap of faith for like what the fifth
sixth time since
i’m just in a repeat cycle of that but
it gets better every level it gets
better every time so why wouldn’t i
trust that you know that
that’s hard to say
that luffa i actually just got a new
phone and i got a red one i paid for it
it was 99
and i got a red one and my youngest
son’s favorite color is red he’s like
that’s my loofah so i want to got a blue
one yeah and my oldest son that’s his
favorite color that’s my loofah so now i
got a black nice yeah that’s all you
yeah yeah
so how i mean chris i i really
appreciate your story too
um that a.a did provide that message to
you and then it turns out a a isn’t
necessarily for everybody
how how do you think people can build
communities especially young people
um when they don’t have that room with
at 5 30 in the morning yeah which is
very intentional yeah
you know it’s it’s a great question
jason and i was actually talking to my
therapist on monday about this i said
polly i bet she in 20 years a.a has half
of its members she’s like really
and i was like yeah news just in poly
we’re not sending people the way that we
used to because oftentimes some things
that they’ll see in there aren’t
necessarily trauma informed in the
individual that’s going in there you got
to make sure that that’s a good fit for
them and so
yeah i have kind of two stories of
recovery um you know
i think the best way and what paulie
really shared with me that stuck with me
is that
we have to do it together
we just can’t do this alone right so i
was checking in with someone in iop last
night a female client who actually had a
relapse in primary care she’s doing
phenomenal she has a community in yoga
she’s going every night to yoga and she
does iop three nights a week she feels
anchored into that it’s a strong anchor
point that’s community there’s another
person in there who’s getting people
together to go to a show at red rocks
that’s community i just think whatever
it looks like it has to be a we
proposition because that’s the
impenetrable force that’s when we’re
having a tough day that’s when adversity
smacks us in the face head-on and then
i’m able to counterbalance that with
madeline and jason here and if madeline
and jason are walking with me into the
world i’ll never drink again
um the problem is is we don’t always
have madeline or jason but they’re just
a phone call away
and so i like a lot of those community
events whether it’s church whether it’s
smart recovery whether it’s refuge
recovery whether it’s getting a few guys
so they’re going a game getting a
barbecue going it’s just community and
the community is so important that i
remember when i was in prescott arizona
for six months
all i did was fellowship i didn’t work a
step i didn’t go to a counseling
appointment i didn’t do any of that and
i felt pretty happy joyous and free just
being connected with people that were
doing great things yeah
i don’t know if you remember this chris
but i’m gonna let’s do it go back here
for a second i don’t know if you
remember this but we we had a
conversation on the phone and this was a
while back where i said i feel really
lost i we’re not going to the details of
that conversation but i said
i like i feel really lost i feel
paralyzed like i don’t know what to do
and you you said you don’t have to even
if you don’t know what the right thing
to do you said get with the people that
love you
get with the people that love you have a
conversation with them sit on it then
make the decision not get with the
people that know more or can
beat you in the submission the right way
get with the people that love you and
and you’ll get in touch with what you
need to do
that’s very accurate it’s good advice so
true because they’re going to be a great
sounding board and then once we have
those great people in our lives and
we’re connected man that’s when i
believe in the blue book and what it
says then i can go anywhere i can do
anything and that’s been my experience
in the back half of my recovery really
for the last seven years is
i don’t have thoughts of using i don’t
have thoughts of engaging in that stuff
and for whatever reason
when i was doing it the other way i
often had thoughts of those types of
things so i’m really grateful to have
that 12-step experience because some
people prefer 12 steps and i can speak
to that
and i really appreciate the authentic
recovery that i’m living today which is
much more balanced i believe that
my therapist says this all the time i
just believe once once you gain a
certain amount of recovery it really
turns into this great space and this
really functional recovery instead of so
much rigidity but to her point i
absolutely needed some rigidity some
external boundaries for myself early on
of which i’ve been able to kind of move
um and wade more freely in those waters
as of the last couple of years i like
water cuts through rock you know
it just takes a while it just takes a
little bit of time
well i think
this is all the time we have for today
this is uh
i think it’s been a great discussion and
and really
i think it speaks uh to hope
and um
and that people can get well uh at any
age truthfully and
i can’t imagine either of you sitting
here now are like looking back like oh
my god if only i could have used a few
more times and my life would have been
so much more enriched or full or
whatever like i don’t think there’s any
regrets around
uh getting sober if you can just find
those kind of inflection points they
both kind of talked about along the way
so uh with that we will go ahead and
sign off i do encourage you all to
follow us on
chris burns does a tick tock thing which
is teachers
they are funny and interesting and uh we
follow all the trends here i don’t
understand them but i
squatted in the middle of the meeting
last week and that was weird and i don’t
know why but uh
i dropped it like from rihanna or
beyonce or something i don’t know and
then anyway
or follow us on facebook youtube uh and
i personally like this as a podcast so
uh that’s also available so thank you
guys for this time and uh