Cultivating an Environment of Innate Listening

Recovery Unscripted banner image for episode 104

Episode #104 | October 2, 2019

Featured Guest: James Hadlock

As the healthcare industry evolves, how can treatment professionals turn off the noise and really listen – to emerging trends, to their patients and to themselves?

We’ll dive into this with speaker, coach and founder of human connection company BluNovus James Hadlock on this episode of Recovery Unscripted.

Podcast Transcript

Interviewer: I’m here with James Hadlock. Thank you for being with us.

James Hadlock: Thank you. I’m very excited to be here.

Interviewer: Absolutely. Let’s start with your story. I know I’ve seen a little bit of your story in your bio, sounds like you got some crazy stuff, so let’s start there.

James: We’re going to jump right in, huh? Well, thank you. I’m getting ready to turn 50 years old. If you’d asked my wife, I’d probably act more like I’m getting ready to turn maybe 25. I’ve been around awhile. When I was 31 years old, I had been on this pretty fortunate road of entrepreneurial success, and I was being recognized as the 26th fastest growing company in Utah. We had less than 20 full-time employees, and we had managed to take our company from $2 million in sales to almost $20 million in sales in less than 18 months.

Interviewer: What kind of company was it?

James: It was a trade show and event company. T-Mobile was our biggest client, multi-million-dollar client. We did a lot of the kiosks that you see in the malls for T-Mobile. On the outside, everyone would think, “Man, this guy has got it made.”

I’m getting all these accolades. I’m making tons, and tons, and tons- more money than I thought I would ever make in a lifetime, I’m making in weeks. The more that I became successful and had the notoriety, and the more that I thought I had arrived, the more I noticed how unsettled I was, and how– Even though I had dabbled with prescription medications here and there, that backache maybe wasn’t as bad as I made it seem.

During the same time that I’m going through all this success, I’m also starting to struggle mightily with not only prescription medications, but I would go out on the weekends after being completely abstinent for– I hadn’t tried anything for years and years and years. I’m going out to the clubs. I’m introduced to ecstasy and GHB and ketamine, and within six months of being abstinent, I was overdosing on almost a weekly basis. GHB, if you know anything about that designer drug, it’s very unpredictable with the body.

Interviewer: You were overdosing on that.

James: I was overdosing a lot on club drugs. Then over time, that escalated into a very big Oxycontin habit. Oxycontin hadn’t been on the market very long, so we didn’t know really much about it. Several thousand dollars a month was going into my Oxycontin habit, and then that escalated into cocaine and dabbled in meth.

When I talk about substance abuse, to me, it wasn’t about the drug, it was about the escape, and it was all about fixing those feelings of, “I wasn’t ever going to be good enough. I was going to struggle with my own self-worth.” Rather than trying to even ask why I might have those issues with confidence and struggle, I just decided to fix those feelings.

I remember one of the things that really stands out about that time when I was having all this success, was closing a deal with T-Mobile. The moment that we walked out, this is a multi-million-dollar deal, and when we walked out of the room, I looked over at one of my business partners, I’m like, “How in the hell am I ever going to top that one?” I struggled with perfectionism. I struggled with just how I thought the world viewed me.

Interviewer: You couldn’t enjoy it in the moment.

James: I couldn’t even enjoy it for five minutes. I was already thinking about, “Okay, now I got to figure out how to make the another next $20 million.” It perpetuated this fear that drove me to using habitually more and more and more. Then, of course, you know where the end of that story goes. I was in and out of treatment. I was on and off the streets. I was on suicide watch on several occasions, and I really didn’t have a stop button. My stop button was either I ran out of money, I ran out of drugs, or I overdosed, and I’d wake up in a hospital room, I’d be incubated.

Everyone’s heard those stories. Frankly, what I’d like to really switch gears on, is share a lot more about how that transformation for me happened. That went on, I lost that company by the way. We went from 26 fastest growing to filing bankruptcy within like four years. It was devastating, not only to me, but for all the other families and all the other employees, right. After losing that and now being destitute. I remember the first time I went to treatment, I paid cash. I just wrote him a check. I didn’t even ask him when I showed up how much it was going to be, because at that point, money was not really that big of a deal for me.

The second time I went through treatment, I had to be scholarship, and I was fortunate enough to have some friends that were able to help me get into a facility that helped me, but back and forth, that whole roller-coaster ride. Then I had this really interesting moment when I had been clean for a little while. I was trying to put everything back together in my life. I was interviewing for some high executive jobs, kind of that same lifestyle I’d been used to before.

I remember getting rejected, and this company, I went through 17 interviews. I thought, “Oh, my gosh, I’m going to make it. I’m going to get back on top again.” I remember them telling me, the CEO saying, this was in Wisconsin for a big multinational company, and he said, “We’re going to make a formal offer to you, and we love everything you’re talking about.” I thought, “Oh, my gosh, I’m going to get back on top.” By this time, I’m borrowing a car from a friend.

I am just trying to make ends meet. I was really looking forward to this. I’m excited, I’m like, “Yes, I’m going to change my life this time.” About two weeks later, I get the call, that they decided to go a different way. When I didn’t understand that it was really self-worth is what I was struggling with, I went off the deep end and seriously, it went from 0 to 60 all over sudden. Next thing I know, I’m being chased down the road by several dozen police officers. By the way, I don’t remember any of this. This was all cited back to me by the judge. Somehow, some way, I didn’t harm anyone. I don’t know how, I don’t know why.

You hear the stories about people who are driving under the influence that ended up serving prison time because they killed somebody. That wasn’t my experience, but it certainly could have been. I remember coming to, when I had about 50 guns to my head, just outside of my car in the middle of nowhere in some little no-name town. I became deeply suicidal because I thought they’re going to send me to prison for the next 30 years. I just, in my own head, I couldn’t even make sense of that, but for whatever reason, they allowed me to bail out. I had to borrow money from a friend to bail out, and then I went and I hid myself in a hotel for about a week, week and a half, because I just couldn’t even imagine going to jail.

I still knew that I was going to have to face the consequences, and so rather than doing that, I put a plan together. I wanted to take my own life, and over a series of about three or four days, as I’m going through my head on how I’m going to do this, and why I’m going to do it, and I need to just ease my own pain, a couple of things emerged for me.

One was, I had two daughters at the time from my first marriage, and I just remember thinking about all the friends that I had had, that had told me about when they had a parent that had taken their own life. I couldn’t bring myself to thinking about what I would put my daughters through that– I remember saying to myself, “A deadbeat dad is better than a dead dad.” I know that sounds pathetic, but it kept me hanging on.

My second kind of “Aha” is there must be a reason why I’m even alive. Like, how have I gone through all of these overdoses, and comas, and heart attacks, and everything that came with my drug use, how in the world was I still alive? There’s going to be a reason. I remember in that moment calling my mother in Idaho, and within minutes, she was on the road.

Now, here’s the thing. My mom was absolutely not an enabler. In fact, just a year earlier, she had testified against me in court because of a probation violation, but for whatever reason, this time, she was like, “I need to be there for you.” Maybe one of the things I should say about that is I think a lot of times, we just have this notion if we’re a loved one that’s got someone who’s struggling with addiction that we’re just supposed to follow a certain path. What I would invite listeners to consider is every situation is so unique and I think there are moments where it’s very important to hold a certain boundary.

Then other times, I think it’s very important to support them because you just never know when that switch is going to go on for somebody. I always talk to people about just listening to that inner voice and I saw my mom do that. There was so much value in when she testified against me in court. There was a ton of value when she felt she needed to come down and be with me in that moment.

She came and grabbed me, she put me in the car, we went to the house and over a two-week period, I started to ask myself these really big questions around, “How do I go from Mr. Super, overachiever, successful, entrepreneur at the age of 31, multi-millionaire to lying, cheating, stealing, borrowing friends’ cars, wondering where my next fix was going to come?”

A light went off inside of me, and the first thing that I noticed is that the same thing that was driving me to be that overachiever was the very same thing that drove me to use and that was fear. I was afraid of being rejected which is why I went off so badly when I was rejected from that company. I had no real sense of self.

To me, becoming that great salesperson was more about survival than it was about being successful. It was more about me needing people to accept me and so I would go above and beyond to try to get that acceptance.

Interviewer: That was like a coping mechanism at the time.

James: Exactly and the difference of those two scenarios though is that I’m getting reinforcement, I’m getting pats on the back. “You’re the most awesome salesperson, you’re blah, blah, blah,” right? Whereas on the other side, I’m ostracized, but that insight led me then down a path of really trying to understand why I didn’t think so highly of myself.

I’m not talking about in an ego way, I’m talking about in a– I’m lovable, I’m a good person. I am somebody who has value and when I started to go down that path of going inward rather than looking outside of me for the answers, it was like somebody switched on a light in my soul and I’m going to say something right now that probably goes against most people’s belief systems around recovery.

I knew 11 years ago that I would never use again and I call that transformation. When you think about that visual of a caterpillar turning into a butterfly, it used to be one thing, now, it’s something completely different. One of the things that I talk about when I do a lot of speaking is that transformation is really the key to not only recovery but the key to happiness and well-being.

I think so many times people when they go down the path of recovery and they’re trying to figure out how to live their life, we just replace one addiction for another. The difference is is that addiction may be working out or may be working in the industry or it may be becoming a therapist or losing yourself in something. I’m not so sure that that is the best way to approach recovery.

I think real recovery is where you have a sense of freedom that you’ve addressed whatever it was that was driving that behavior in the first place. I don’t want to get mixed up in disease concept or any of that, that’s not even for me to talk about, all I can talk about is my own experience and how– When I had a transformation and saw myself differently, I no longer needed to fix those feelings of inadequacy or self-worth.

Interviewer: Well, I think at the core of it, you were talking about the happiness, the well-being. If you’re healthy like emotionally healthy, mentally healthy, then you’re not going to need whatever that other stuff is. That’s like you say finding your identity, finding yourself, so it doesn’t matter if your addiction is working out. You can still work out, but it doesn’t have to be that addiction if you’re finding your identity or your well-being and who you are as opposed to doing this thing.

James: Yes. In fact, it reminds me. Yesterday, I was speaking here at the conference here at Innovations. I was talking a little bit about my story and sharing with people that I became charismatic and I became very animated and passionate as a survival mechanism. Someone is like, “Well, yes, but aren’t you doing that right now?”

My response to that was, “Yes, but it’s coming from the inside out, not the outside in.” I’m not doing out of survival. I’ve literally embraced who I am in such a way that this is- what you see is what you get. I come from a place that is more authentic and more real and people really resonate with that. A lot of times, it’s not about looking at the end result, it’s about finding out where is that really coming from. Does that make sense?

Interviewer: Yes. Let’s get into your presentation that you gave here at the conference. Innate Listening was the title, Cultivating an Environment for Better Outcomes and Transformation. Let’s start by having you define what’s this concept of the innate listening. What does that mean to you?

James: Innate listening was a term that my wife and I created. We started out about seven, eight years ago. When I had my own transformation, I was fascinated with personal development and leadership training and maybe even the science behind how does that all work. I became a student of my own experience and really, I became a researcher of that.

One of the things that I noticed is, I used to hear people say this all the time. We’ve got to create the safe environment for people, it’s got to be a safe environment. You hear this from therapists, you hear this from people in the industry. My question is, okay, so how do you do that? Is it just a set of special circumstances that show up? Or can you deliberately provide the environment that feels safe to other people?

Nine years ago, when I was really exploring this and going deeper into that, one of the things that my wife and I stumbled on was a term called polyvagal theory. I know it’s a big word.

Interviewer: Unpack it.

James: Polyvagal theory comes from a neuroscientist by the name of Dr. Stephen Porges. Dr. Porges, he was working with a lot of veterans and his theory was is that, if something happens in our body automatically without us being conscious about it, when we are in survival mode. For instance, if a bear all of a sudden jump through the wall at us, what would happen to your body?

Interviewer: It would be fight or flight or whatever you call it, you’d tense up, you’d run.

James: There are some physical manifestations.

Interviewer: Like adrenaline?

James: Yes, adrenaline, heart rate, we sweat and we react like- fast twitch muscles will kick in and you’re probably jumping under the table without even thinking about. What Dr. Porges is theorized is that if something is happening on that end of the spectrum when we’re in fight or flight, I wonder what’s happening to the body without us even recognizing it when we’re in safety.

The more that he did the research and started to work with a lot of veterans with PTSD, what he noticed is that absolutely, some things were going on in the body that we weren’t even aware of when we started to feel safe, when we let down our guard. I’ll give you a great example and we’ve all experienced this. You walk into a busy restaurant, it’s super noisy, you can’t hear a thing from whoever is in your party. Then you sit down, you start having a conversation and what happens to all that ambient noise?

Interviewer: Starts to get turned down a little bit.

James: It disappears, right?

Interviewer: Yes.

James: You and I probably didn’t know before I talk about this, is that there is a little bone in your ear that when you start to feel safe, it tunes in and focuses into the person in front of you. Think about that for a minute. The reason that we need that peripheral hearing is because if some threat comes in, we need to be aware of that, right?

Interviewer: Right.

James: The moment that you feel safe, do you need that anymore?

Interviewer: Doesn’t need it anymore, yes.

James: We’re talking about the safety where you literally not only do you let down your guard consciously but unconsciously, your body settles down in such a state that it opens you up to new conversations. It opens you up to connect with the person across from you. It opens you up to new thoughts and to creativity which is just another fancy way of saying, it opens you up to the insight.

Well, guess what is the formula for creating a transformation? You have to see something different. So as far as the science goes, everyone talks about it. You need to be in a safe place to really create change in your life. This at a neurological level explains it in such a way that it reinforces a very common belief that most therapists would have.
Interviewer: How do you describe the importance of listening in this context? Why is that such a vital part of the whole thing?

James: Yes. When we started to look at this, one of the things that my wife and I noticed as we collaborated a lot on this was most of this, we have a conversation and we’re listening not with the intent to understand what the other person is saying, but we’re listening to respond. I’m trying to come up with– I’m going to come up with a really smart answer to whatever you’re saying or I’m going to make sure that they hear this piece.

What happens is we’re really not even having a conversation with the other person, we’re having a conversation with ourselves and just picking up bits and pieces of what they’re saying with the idea that we’re going to respond and look smart and we’re going to be the one with all the answers. We started out calling it deep listening, but the more research we did, we found that that was a term that a lot of people used. We knew that if we wanted to get people’s attention, we needed to shift the narrative a little bit.

We came up with this idea of innate listening. Now, the word innate itself is just another way of saying natural, automatic. It’s already built into the system. Here’s very simply put how innate listening works. Number one is to see the person for who they are, not for what they’ve done, not for their history, not for how they look, not for how they act, but to see them for who they really are. In other words, be present, be right here, be in the moment with somebody.

Number two is to listen with empathy and compassion. One of the examples I use in that, I think most people get that in general terms, but when you start thinking about walking in somebody else’s shoes, we’ve always heard that as a term, right? “Oh, yes. You need to walk in someone else’s shoes to understand,” but I think there’s a missing piece to that term and it is walk in their shoes from their perspective, not from yours. Does that make sense?

Interviewer: Yes. You’re not bringing your experience, your preconceived notions into their shoes and saying, “Oh, this isn’t that bad,” or whatever it might be.

James: Yes. Just think of the narrative that we tell ourselves is I’m going to try to come- I’m going to try to understand you, but I’m coming from my perspective and trying to understand that. Well, that doesn’t work. You’re putting a filter on and yes, it’s impossible for me to walk in your shoes from your perspective, but what if I just had a mindset to try?

When I start to understand a little bit more about you and here’s what I’ve come to learn myself and I don’t know if you’ve ever heard this term, but there was a term that I heard growing up most of my life and it was, “To know someone is to love them.”

That takes on a whole nother meaning because here’s what I’ve learned. When I do really take the time to try to understand you and your perspective from your eyes, from your viewpoint, I can’t help but love you because all of a sudden, I get to see your true self. We hear terms like vulnerability and authenticity and maybe you can check this with your own experience, but when we really do get to see someone for them, what is always the reaction? “Man, I really like that person. Oh, my gosh. I just connected with them in such a way.”

This idea of listening with empathy and compassion really goes back to that idea of if when I get to know you, I’m going to love you because we are built to connect, we were built to really know each other. That’s number two. Number three is to let go of judgments and to really allow for yourself to rather than form an opinion or go into a conversation with somebody with the idea that I think I already know where they’re coming from, but a simple way to say it is just be curious.

I wonder why they think that. The reason that we have such a problem in our world with politics, it’s because nobody’s listening to anybody anymore. We think we know the answer so I close myself off to everything you’re talking about. I just want you to know what I’m talking about. You flip it, they’re thinking the same thing. I’m right, you’re wrong. There’s no need for any more discussion. We wonder why we’re not getting anywhere in our world is because we all just think we’re right and we haven’t asked the question.

“I wonder why you think that? I’m really interested, deeply interested in that.” That’s another piece. Then the big one. Here’s the big kicker. I always love watching when I’m teaching either admissions or marketing teams or I’m teaching therapists this concept. When I come out with this last one, this differentiates all other types of listening and it is to not give advice or feedback. The therapist might be thinking, “Well, that’s my job.”

Here’s the point. When you drill down and you start talking about everyone’s perspective, there is nothing I can say that will ever change your mind, you have to see it for yourself. Really, my job is to point you in the direction and to let you see that. In the moment, and I’ll take my own experience. My parents told me they loved me every day of my life growing up, I didn’t believe it. Deep down, I had a belief system that said I’m not lovable. I was full of guilt and shame.

Interviewer: Yes. You didn’t have your self-worth.

James: Even my parents every single day telling me they love me was not enough. I had to see it for myself. The moment that I was in a safe enough environment to not feel judged and where I could just be– And frankly, it was very serendipitous. At this point, my parents had given up on me being anything other than the deadbeat that I had shown up as and so they dropped all expectations. Well, guess what that created for me?

Interviewer: A safe environment.

James: The idea of innate listening really is truly step by step understanding that creating the kind of environment that’s free of labels, that’s free of expectation, that’s free of advice or even any feedback, it opens me up automatically based on polyvagal theory that all of a sudden, I’m going to be open to a new conversation and it allows me to be more creative and gain new insights on myself and the world around me.

Interviewer: And not feeling that pressure to have to respond like you were saying earlier how you want to respond and seem smart, but even you want to respond and like help or, “Hey, I’m going to be the fixer,” like, “Okay, okay. I’ve heard what you have to say, I have the solution for you.” It’s not about that either, right?

James: No. That’s right. Here’s a debate that I think. Typically, so I’m married. My wife and I have been together for almost 11 years and I can tell you from even that experience when she’s sharing something with me, she doesn’t need me to fix anything, she just wants to feel heard. Frankly, I think every human being wants that. We just want to feel heard, we want to be acknowledged that somebody took the time to just be with me for a minute.

Think of what’s going on with social media and how disconnected we feel because I call it the junk food of social connection. It feels good for a minute, but it’s not really fulfilling that deeper connection that I think we all long for.

Interviewer: Yes. I’m going to get some quick likes. That’s like a bag of French fries.

James: Yes. Right? Yes. Oh, my gosh. That tastes really good right now and then 10 minutes later, you’re like, “Why didn’t I get more of that?” It’s that sugar high. Being heard and deeply connecting with someone is such a game changer in every single one of our relationships. I can’t even tell you what’s happened over the last 11 years of me practicing this more and more every single day that the relationship I have with my kids, my wife, my parents, the people around me. I see the world differently today because of the way that I choose to show up as a listener of really wanting to gain a better understanding of who you are.

Interviewer: Yes. You’ve touched on this a little bit, but the idea is instead of maybe offering that solution, jumping back in with advice, not doing that, but you still want to guide or lead somehow, especially in this treatment context, you want to guide whoever you’re listening to to that Aha moment to help them feeling empowered. How does that work? How does that go about?

Interviewer: Yes. I talk a lot about following that nudge. It really, again, it comes from– This is where that listening to another person can be applicable to yourself where you start to listen to that inner guidance system that I call it or that deeper intelligence inside of you to just know when to ask a particular question. This works, by the way, not only with therapists, but it works with admissions and marketing as well.

If you’re on the phone with somebody, even though you may get a hundred calls and every call may seem similar to another one, every single call is unique in its own way and handling that is different for every single situation. Going back to even my mom. My mom was very good at listening to that and saying, “You know what? This is what’s going to serve him best. Me going to court and actually sharing that he’s violated probation or I need to get in the car right now.” She listened to that in those moments that brought the most value for me in that situation. I invite people to not only listen to others this way but listen to yourself.

That deeper part of you that some call gut feeling or intuition. What starts to happen is if you’re present, if you’re listening with empathy and compassion, if you’re not judging what’s coming up and you have the courage or the openness to follow that, it’s going to guide you in such a way that you’ll be able to navigate that. Then you’re co-creating with your clients. You’re co-creating with that mom is calling you on the phone that’s frantic about what do I do. It works with people out there, but my greatest value with it is me using it with myself.

Interviewer: I know you do a lot of work with lots of different groups of people. There’s highly successful people, executives, athletes, people in this world, therapists, that kind of thing. Do you approach these different groups differently or how do you adjust this for different audiences?

James: Foundationally, everything that I teach is essentially the same. It’s the context. When I’m talking with a group like I was here at Innovations with therapists, I bring a lot of the science behind me. I talk about the power of insight and what that really means and what that looks like. I talked about polyvagal theory. When I’m talking with a group of admissions and marketing like I did in Long Beach here several months ago, I don’t talk about the science.

They don’t care. What they want to know is how does that apply to me being better on the phones and connecting with people quicker. We focused more on that. When I work with- I work with a lot of executives, professional executives in particular in the addiction recovery space, in mental health space as more of an executive coach. In that context, it becomes a very deeply personal exchange. I look at it as I’m just pointing to the signs that leads them down a path to have those insights for themselves.

I’m not responsible for anyone’s success. I’m responsible for pointing them into a direction and they get to decide if they want to follow that direction or not. Then the insight will come from them. Here’s what’s great about that. No matter who I’m talking to whether it’s a parent and coaching them through on how to talk to their loved one, but they get to own that. It becomes more sustainable, right?

Interviewer: Then they feel that empowerment.

James: Yes, and here’s what I know about the human experience. Underneath all of our habitual thinking and on all the tactics and strategies, underneath all of that, there lies this deeper sense of intelligence and self that is full of compassion and patience and love. We’ve all experienced that. Most of the time that we get so caught up in our heads in what we think we should be doing or what we should have done that we lose our place in being present in the now.

Then all bets are off, right? The problem is sometimes, we have a little bit of success doing it that way. I thought, “Man, if I’m a hardcore goal setter and I do this and I do this like,” because that worked for me. What I didn’t understand is that it wasn’t that that was working for me. It was me allowing myself to be clear and then following those nudges along the way. It makes it such a much easier experience, whether something some challenges in front of me or not, it just seems to flow a lot easier.

Interviewer: In this world, what are some things that you wish more people in health care, specifically behavioral health care. What are some things you wish they understood about listening, about the value of that, about how to do it better?

James: There’s a quote something that goes around, “The road to success and the road to failure is so small.” I think we fall into this trap of thinking we know and we really don’t know. I use that especially with listening because I’ll get people going, “Oh, yes. It’s just like active listening or it’s just like this,” and it’s not.

Let’s use a sports metaphor because that’s an easy one to for people to compare. You think about a professional sports team that goes undefeated and you think about a professional sports team that loses every single game. I’m telling you the difference between those two teams is inches.

Interviewer: Yes, they’re both full of professional athletes. They are top of the heap.

James: Yes, but it’s the slight little– Michael Jordan, I think everybody on the planet probably knows that name. Michael Jordan just did a few things slightly different than anyone else has ever played that catapulted him into another stratosphere. It was slight. It wasn’t big things. I think that we get used to, “Oh, we went to school and I got my master’s and then I got my PhD.” We just we think we know.

If I could boil it down, I would to see more curiosity because that will drive innovation, which we lack a ton of in this industry. If you want to have a real talk about what changes have really been made in our industry, there’s not a whole lot because we’ve just gotten stuck in this old way of thinking. Every industry does, right? Then all of a sudden, we didn’t know the taxi business was so outdated until Uber showed up. Now, who uses that taxi anymore? A lot of times, we don’t even know what we don’t know, right? We just think that, “Well, taxi’s fine. It’ll get us there.”

The way in the state of our industry today is we’re just getting by. Let’s be honest. The numbers aren’t that great. The outcomes, we can’t even decide on what the outcomes need to be measured, right? I would love to just see more curiosity. I’d love to see people ask questions like, “Well, why does it need to be a 30-day program or why RTC over this way or why can’t Telehealth be more involved?” I don’t know but I think curiosity could help us leapfrog some of this stagnant progress that’s been non-existent I think for years.

Interviewer: It’s such an important mission. It seems like, “Okay, yes, that’s worth it. We should do that.”

James: Yes, but I think we get comfortable. I think we’re just getting by, and we’re not ask- I think we need to ask better questions and explore that, collaborate more. I think curiosity would solve– Believe it or not, I think that would solve all of it. I think we just started not thinking we knew everything because we are not even close, not even close. We’re missing the mark.

Interviewer: Yes, it’s probably like thinking back to the taxi analogy. The taxi industry goes down, it’s like, “Well, that’s bad for the taxi drivers and their families.” But if the addiction treatment behavioral health goes down, that’s bad for a lot of people. Even when we’re doing really well, we’re not covering that all the people that need to be helped.

James: There are 23 million people in the United States. According to the Surgeon General from the 2016 report that they were somehow able to come up with this number of about 23 million people that need help. I think that’s grossly under the real number, because you have to remember that’s got to be people who are actually saying that they–

Interviewer: Admitting.

James: You’re right. They’re admitting it. Even with that number, only 10% are getting any treatment. We have less than 10% of the United States that’s struggling with a substance use disorder. They’re even getting help. My big question to the industry is, “Why?” We are missing something I think significant when we can only serve less than 10% of a population that is struggling mightily. This isn’t bad credit. We’re talking about lives on the line, and only 10% are getting help. We are missing something I think pretty significant.

Interviewer: Yes, and it’s not– You just mentioned it’s not a demand problem. You think about another industry. If there was 10% of people who want cheeseburgers who are getting cheeseburgers, the cheeseburger industry would figure that out. They’d get more cheeseburgers to more people.

James: Yes, and I think it’s a combination of a lot of things, right? You’re exactly right. Here’s the thing. This, it’s a recession-proof type of product that we’re offering because people are just struggling. It doesn’t matter how much money they’re making, there’s no real indicators here. I just think the problem is ever evolving and yet, we don’t seem to really be listening to what’s happening well enough to address it and to actually help more people.

Interviewer: Yes, right. Well, just to wrap up with this final question. Everyone who serves in this industry, it’s very personal. Obviously, it’s very personal to you with your journey to get up and fight for this cause every day. Could we end by just having you sum up why this mission matters to you?

James: I personally don’t want people to feel as alone as I did. Anything I can do to offer support or help or insight so people are still reminded that they matter and that they’re not alone is– I don’t know how that needs to look, honestly, I don’t even care. I know that that is absolutely my purpose and I remember 11 years ago, January 16th, I wrote in a journal that has since been burned in a fire, another story, another day.

I remember writing in that journal, I knew I had purpose. I didn’t know what it was, I didn’t know what that was going to look like but I knew I had purpose. Today, I know what that purpose is and it is to help people know that they’re not alone and that they absolutely matter and they deserve all the joy and happiness and well-being that life has to offer, and it’s right there for them. Whether that’s speaking in a conference to a bunch of therapists to hopefully inspire them, or provide them with some knowledge around how they can do that better, that fulfills my mission. If it’s me being present as a dad, that fulfills my mission because I got nine kids.

Interviewer: Oh, my goodness, wow. Okay.

James: I know right. Being there for them so they don’t have to question their value is vitally important to me. Across the board, but I know, connection is key and that’s absolutely what I’m here for.

Interviewer: Yes, all right. Well, James, thank you for taking the time to share that with us and connect with us today.

James: Thank you.

Unlearning Toxic Masculinity

Episode #105 | January 8, 2020

In a culture that often encourages a toxic version of masculinity, how can treatment providers help men unlearn harmful stereotypes and uncover their own trauma?

We’ll answer this with SCRC clinical director Hedieh Azadmehr on this episode of Recovery Unscripted.

Cultivating an Environment of Innate Listening

Episode #104 | October 2, 2019

As the healthcare industry evolves, how can treatment professionals turn off the noise and really listen – to emerging trends, to their patients and to themselves?

We’ll dive into this with speaker, coach and founder of human connection company BluNovus James Hadlock on this episode of Recovery Unscripted.

The Realities of Self-Harm and Suicide

Episode #103 | August 15, 2019

What can behavioral health providers do to better understand the realities of self-harm and to know how to respond when they spot the signs in their patients?

We’ll discuss this with non-suicide self-injury specialist, author and counselor Lori Vann on this episode of Recovery Unscripted.

For more about Lori’s work, visit

Integrating Buddhism and the 12 Steps

Episode #102 | August 8, 2019

How can ancient principles from Zen and Tibetan Buddhism integrate with modern treatment programs to help more people build lasting recovery?

We’ll discuss this with author Darren Littlejohn on this episode of Recovery Unscripted.

For more about Darren’s book, The 12 Step Buddhist, visit

Can LGBT-Affirmative Therapy Help Re-Write Internalized Messages?

Episode #101 | July 17, 2019

In a heteronormative culture, how can providers use affirmative therapy to help LGBT individuals re-write the false messages they’ve internalized?

We’ll answer this with psychologist, author and activist Dr. Lauren Costine on this episode of Recovery Unscripted.

For more about Dr. Lauren’s work, visit