Growing Emotional Fitness

Recovery Unscripted banner image for episode 72

Episode #72 | September 12, 2018

Featured Guest: Miles Adcox

Being a leader has never been easy. And when vulnerability is viewed as weakness, how can leaders find balance between taking care of business and taking care of their emotional health? We’ll discuss that and more with Onsite CEO Miles Adcox on this episode of Recovery Unscripted.

Podcast Transcript

Miles: There’s literally been a time where I was struggling. I was struggling because of an adverse circumstance I had experienced in my life. High levels of stress came on board. I dealt with anxiety and depression about it and wasn’t in the best position to lead our efforts. Two ways I could have handled that. I could have close that up and tried to deal with it in hiding. I could’ve


slipped off and kept it anonymous or I could have sat in front of my team and told the truth and I did. I had the same fear every leader has. If they know where I am, will they trust me ever again?


David: Being a leader has never been easy and when vulnerability is viewed as weakness, how can leaders find balance between taking care of business and taking care of their emotional health? I’m David Condos and we’ll discuss that and more with onsite CEO, Miles Adcox, on this episode of Recovery Unscripted.

Speaker 3: My father was an addict, my grandfather was an alcoholic, my half brother and father both committed suicide. It’s about telling them, Miss Tennessee didn’t always have a perfect life.

Speaker 4: All human pain, no matter who you are, we have one pill to take care of it all. That’s insane. We’re going to look back in 50 years and think the entire country was deluded to think that that would work.

Speaker 5: I’m not just coming at you from a law enforcement side. I come at it because I have a family member who still struggles.

Speaker 6: I faced a lot of problems but the one thing I didn’t do is give up. That’s what I want people to hear is do not ever give up [unintelligible 00:01:34].

Speaker 7: Sharing firsthand stories and expert insights from the front lines of behavioral and mental health care, this is Recovery Unscripted.

David: When I first met Miles Adcox, I didn’t find it hard to believe that he serves as owner and CEO for an internationally renowned emotional health and personal growth retreat. Even though he was about to take the stage and give a keynote presentation to a room full of clinicians, he just had an air of openness and tranquility about him. But when you hear him describe his vision for Onsite and it’s cornerstone program, Living Centered, you really get a sense that underneath that tranquil exterior he’s driven. Driven to rethink how the mental healthcare field views itself and those it’s trying to reach.

Miles: I think in today’s climate, those of us who have been in the mental health space for quite some time and those of us that are even new to it, owe the culture of debt to where we got to get smarter about how we present what we do, how we introduce what we do in the mainstream. In other words, I think part of the stigma that we complain about in the mental health community, we create. Because I think we box in our information. I think we’ve hung our hat too deeply on enmity. I think we feed the problem in some ways instead of support it.

Now, picking on myself too because I’ve been there, I’m not picking on my colleagues, but I really think we are at a crucial time to innovate because the problem’s growing faster than we are. Our resources have never been bigger, more collective in terms of treatment options and therapy options and the problem is bigger than it was before we started. We have to ask our question, what are we doing collectively to support people in our country? You ask me why Living Centered and why not healing trauma or healing depression or healing anxiety?

Is because I want to make the door wider. In a sense, I want to depathologize the process of taking a deeper look at our own problems and rewriting our narrative and make it accessible to everybody before they think they need it. That was the idea of Living Centered and a lot of our offerings is that we do attract people that are in recovery and that need support with mental health services. We also attract a whole another crowd that just wants to take a deeper dive and raise their EQ and self awareness. We just try to neutralize our offering and make it more digestible for a mainstream.

David: Yes, because that’s a good point. It can be hard to admit I have trauma or even know what that means but to say, “Oh, do you want to live a centered life?” It’s like, “Well, yes, okay.”

Miles: Who wouldn’t do that right?

David: It’s a easier first step. One of the themes of your presentation today is emotional fitness. In your view, why do so many people today who are otherwise successful, may be physically healthy, why are they still neglecting their emotional health?

Miles: Honestly, I think that we’re- it’s a double whammy. I think biologically, we’re wired in a way that that’s not a natural place for us to go and look, but more so, I think, it’s because we’re culturally conditioned. In every direction we look, we see something which we compare ourselves to. Vulnerability has never been marketed or presented as a strength. Typically, therapy, mental health offerings are still widely presented as this is where you go when something’s wrong with you. It’s backwards. It’s not what’s wrong with you that you would seek out counsel in becoming a better version of yourself.

It’s actually what’s right with you. Now the good news is, is culturally it’s starting to trend, it’s getting better. It’s almost getting more cool to do personal work than not. I love that direction. It’s an opportunity for us


if we need it where it is culturally and get out of what we think we know and start doing things that meet the pace of people becoming more open to the idea of what we’re doing.

David: As we open ourselves up and explore what’s inside, it can get a little messy. We all have fears that are trying to control our actions. We all have blind spots that keep us from truly seeing ourselves but running from those darker more challenging parts of our emotional health, isn’t going to make them disappear. Even though it may seem counter-intuitive, inspecting that relationship between ourselves and what scares us, can actually turn fear into an asset.

Miles: I think fear has gotten a bad rap over the years. Even from the way we position it as mental health practitioners. I really don’t think fear is the problem. I think it’s our relationship with fear. I would rather look at that than call it out as a bad emotion that we try to recover from or treat or get out of our system which that was the way I was counseled early on in my own process.

David: Like it’s a thing needed to be eliminated.

Miles: Right, we’ve got to get rid of it. Instead of actually it’s a proper human response to a lot of things and it’s an asset as long as you’ve got a decent relationship with it and you embrace it. The reason I call it emotional fitness instead of emotional intelligence is a lot of things therapeutically, I think we look at as we check it off the list. Then we don’t come back to it. We have to work out our emotional muscles just like we work out our physical ones. I like the idea of fitness because it continues to put us in a position where we need to do a tune up.

I usually don’t talk to the practitioners that will be in the audience about the clients that they treat. I won’t be talking to them, because I think we as an industry, we can’t model our offering in an effective way and expect a good outcome unless we mirror it with our lives and have the ability to do our own work and continue to do our own work and not just, “Oh, yes, I’ve done counseling when I was in grad school.” No, we need to offload it every week for that matter.

We’re in a tough profession, in an amazing profession, but the amount of vicarious and secondary trauma that we take on as mental health practitioners, if we don’t find a place to offload that it will compound and take us out. That’s why burnout is so prevalent in our field.

David: Yes, and the idea of blind spots [unintelligible 00:08:01] gets into that self-awareness, right?

Miles: Totally. Yes, I think self-awareness in a sense, is our super power. The interesting thing about therapists and counselors and coaches and interventionist is, for the most part, you’re naturally pretty good at it. You’re a decent connector which is why you got into the field. You know how to listen well, empathize well, or communicate well, one of those three skill sets, but those aren’t skill sets that naturally grow unless you work on them. I think we take them for granted and it’s like, “Yes, I’m a good this.” Which means that I’m just going to do it and do and do it forever and never try to improve on that skill.

We learn all these different sophisticated clinical modalities on how to reach people in different ways with ever working on the core idea of how to become a better listener or how do we connect better. Ultimately, you don’t connect with another human being unless you connect with yourself which tends to be the place we spend the least amount of time.

David: Sure, yes. I know another one of your passions is helping people become great leaders. Well, what are some tips you’d have for those in the leadership positions in behavioral healthcare who generally want to foster a culture of emotional health within their organization?

Miles: It’s a messy proposition because it’s counter to traditional leadership thought. In a sense, it disrupts the space because we’re asking you to lean into, in a transparent way, your own mess. Own it, open it up to other people to explore it, which historically, we always thought that if a leader was to look vulnerable or to own mistakes, then that would make them at risk for not being trusted.

David: Yes, it’s like a sign of weakness.

Miles: It’s a hundred percent the opposite. In the hundreds of leaders that I’ve worked with in our space and outside of our space, those that lean into that vulnerable truth are trusted more. They could reveal some of their deepest– I’ve done that in my company. I’ve had to– There’s literally been a time where I was struggling. I was struggling because of a adverse circumstance I’d experienced in my life. High levels of stress came on board. I dealt with anxiety. and depression about it and wasn’t in the best position to lead our efforts. Two ways I could have handled that. I could have closed that up and tried to deal with it in hiding. I could have slipped off and kept it anonymous where I was going, or I could have sat in front of my team and told the truth and I did. I had the same fear every leader has, if they know where I am, will they trust me ever again?. Not only did they trust me


more, they stepped up and everybody felt like they could lead better. It ended up being a blessing in disguise.

David: Ultimately, my leadership, core leadership theory is that people become better leaders by becoming better human beings. When you’re pouring yourself into helping others day in and day out, taking care of your own emotional health can often get overlooked. How does someone keep the daily stresses of this work from building up to that level of burnout? Ultimately, the answer is probably not going to come from a list of quick and easy solutions, but from a real change in outlook and lifestyle.

Miles: I’m not a three step road map to self-care. I know that sells and it’s one reason probably I haven’t written a book yet. I’m working on one now but- because it’s every self-help book you read is there’s a guide, there’s a map, there’s three steps, six steps, five steps. The reason for that is that our prefrontal cortex is wired to take in information in that way.

It feels good to know that, “Oh, I do these three things and it means my EQ will go up. I’ll be emotionally well. I’ll be better balanced. I have found it the opposite. It’s not that those aren’t helpful, that we don’t necessarily hold trauma and pain in the part of the brain that takes in that information. I think we have to own the idea that it’s a process, it’s a working process and something we have to lean into over and over and over again.

Ultimately, having a safe environment to be able to offload stress. Being a helping professional creates abnormal life circumstances. It just does. You’re hearing painful stories every day. The general public doesn’t do that unless they just live on CNN all day.

Being in our profession creates abnormal life circumstances. Abnormal normal life circumstances create high levels of stress. Unaddressed stress creates loneliness, anxiety, depression, addictions, broken relationships, et cetera. All of which kill connection. Think about it, that what got us to the dance is that we’re pretty good connectors. Yet, we’ve signed up for a career that in some ways is designed to kill our core strengths. That’s only an obstacle if we don’t know about it.

I think creating, whether you’re in private practice or group practice or a big corporate culture, you have to have safety to offload stress in a healthy way. There’s a number of ways to do that, that you can carve out from the basics to healthy diet, exercise to all the way to going to counseling and coaching and just having a colleague that you can be real with.

David: Just being aware of that is a big part of it I’m sure. Miles, thank you so much for your time. Before you go, what’s next for you? What’s next for Onsite? You mentioned you’re working on a book, maybe?

Miles: I am working on a book. I’m excited. It’s in the works now. It will probably be about a year away. It ultimately is


about speaking truth and it’s going to have a leadership element and it’s going to have elements of what we do in our space. I’m pumped about it. We spent two days with a writing coach, the last few days getting me jump started into the process. Then I’ve got a podcast called the Unspoken Podcast that I co-host with a good friend of mine. Those are all new, fun things in my world.

David: Miles, thank you so much for your time. It’s been a pleasure.

Miles: Thank you. Thanks for having me.


David: Miles Adcox is a speaker, soon to be author and owner and CEO of Onsite. He sat down with me at the Innovations and Behavioral Healthcare conference in Nashville. If you’d like to follow what he has coming up, you can find him at and on social media, @milesadcox. As always, this podcast is powered by Foundations Recovery Network.

If you’ve enjoyed this conversation, be sure to check out discontinued events to find more about the great conferences they host nationwide, with pioneering speakers just like Miles. Finally, thank you for listening. If you could take a second to share this episode, or leave us a review on your podcast app, I’d really appreciate it. I hope to see you right back here for the next episode of Recovery Unscripted.

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