EPI 4: Dr. Larry Smith: Embracing The Journey Of Recovery Interview
EPI 4: Bipolar: Dr. Larry Smith: Embracing The Journey Of Recovery Interview
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Welcome to the Bipolar Excellence Podcast. Episode Four, Dr. Larry Smith: Embracing The Journey Of Recovery interview. Dr. Larry’s a really cool dude. He’s a chiropractor out of Canada.
We both wrote the books about our life stories at the same time, using the same company. Once again, with these old interviews I did, there’s the interview.
And then I revisited it years later for an old podcast I no longer have. And I gave an explanation of what was in the interview there. So I won’t carry on here. This one’s going to focus on addiction more heavily than anything else.
But if you’re a follower of mine, I feel strongly that unfortunately, this might pertain to you. Seems addiction and bipolar seem to go hand in hand. So with that here is the old interview. Enjoy!
Original Review Starts Here
Hey everybody! This is Ken Jensen with the After Bipolar Podcast, Episode Four, the Dr. Larry interview.
I’m not sure exactly when this interview happened. Dr. Larry and I both used the same company to help write our books. And that’s how we got connected to one another.
It was on a group call of some sort with the owner of that company, Glenn Dietzel. Glenn has evolved a number of times into something completely different from when I first found him. And I got to meet Glenn once.
That’s a side story. I’m going to link to Glenn in the show notes. And I’m going to talk about that sometime. That was an interesting day in Manhattan with him, as I broke probation to go meet him.
Back to Dr. Larry. Larry is a chiropractor in Canada. And he had a long run with addiction, starting from when he was young, same as me, but his lasted far longer than the mine did.
He wrote a book called “Embracing The Journey Of Recovery: From Tragedy To Triumph”. And I interviewed him in relation to my story. And his story was so, you know, so similar. Addiction is addiction.
And he had a lot to say about it. And he read some stuff out of his book in this interview that you’re about to hear. Very pleasant demeanor, very fun to talk to, a very nice guy.
We talked a few times before this, before I interviewed him over the months. And it was just really nice to meet him. I fell out of touch with him years since, but I don’t know. I’m going to have to find him again, maybe and bring him on as a guest.
I’m sure he’ll be willing if he still even focuses on sharing his message as he once did. I don’t really know, just a real nice guy, real positive thing to bring into my life. Just meeting him as I brought him into others.
So here’s that interview. I handled it well. I liked how I did it and I wasn’t any kind of uncomfortable like I was when I did the radio interviews, the actual radio station interviews that proceeded this one.
I just can’t remember when I did this, exactly. But Larry wrote his book in 07. I know my book, its final version was in 08. And Larry read that. So I’ll bet it was around the same time. I was just having a better day and Larry was an easier situation to deal with, I guess, for my nerves. So here’s that interview. Enjoy!
Interview Starts Here
Ken:This is Ken Jensen, the Bipolar Eradicator. And I am speaking with Dr. Larry Smith in Canada. He’s a chiropractor who overcame many addictions and went on to become a triathlete. And Dr. Larry is a friend of mine that I met through a book authoring program.
And we see eye to eye on the benefits of exercise in overcoming addiction. And just leading life to go the way you want it to go, so that you can stay healthy, stay on the right track and get what you want out of your existence.
Dr. Larry wrote a book about this. He’s going to be talking about it some more. And he’s going to go into specifically what his life travel was all about and what he did to beat his addictions. And how he stays clean and sober so that you folks might pull something from it as well.
Okay, Dr. Larry.
Larry: It’s great to be on the call here with you, Ken. So I’ll just give you a little bit of my background and let’s just say I have a lot of qualifications in alcoholism and drug addiction.
Ken: Don’t we both.
Larry: I graduated from a treatment facility in both 1997 and 1999. And I guess I didn’t learn my lessons. So I had to go and suffer for a few more years. Usually in public, I give them my academic qualifications, but for the sake of tonight’s call yeah, that’s my qualifications there.
The good news is. I have… it’s about nine and a half years clean and sober. And these have been absolutely the best years of my life.
And as you mentioned, I’m a chiropractor and practicing in beautiful Vancouver Island. And for, coming up to 22 years now. I have a live apart/ together relationship with my girlfriend, Laurie and her family. And we’ve been going out for about eight and a half, nine years. And I also still have my father and my sister in Winnipeg.
Just lost my mum back in last September 29th. And as sad as it was to see mom go, it was great to be with the family at the time of passing .And also it was great to be clean and sober, you know, enjoy the last moments of mum’s life.
Right now you can’t see it, but I am wearing a marathon shirt that I should have earned back in 1997.
I’m wearing it because that’s when I was in treatment. And I kept it with me because I really wanted to do a marathon that year, but I was so sick and distraught and very, very ill and nearly died that I couldn’t do it. But again, the good news is that since cleaning up, I’ve done six marathons, six half Iron Man triathlons and two Iron Mans.
And that’s something I always wanted to do with the Iron Man triathlon. But I never could quite seem to train for it because the drug addiction kept on getting in the way.
Ken: Yeah. It eats up time.
Larry: Yep. And I’ll just go over my early years of just a little bit how I got started with my drinking later on to the teen years and then the university years. I’m sure many of you who suffer from addiction will relate.
I first got drunk at age 11. My parents… see my mum was a non-drinker and my dad was a social drinker. And they had company over and they didn’t realize they shouldn’t be leaving a full bottle of white rum in the kitchen unguarded. Because I got to watch people drank and seemed like it would be a fun thing.
So, you know, I guzzled about 10 ounces of it straight. And let me tell you that was the highlight of my life, getting drunk for the first time. Oh my God. I was, I was so high. I felt wonderful. I was on top of the world. I was funny. I was Mister Magnificent. And that lasted for about an hour or two.
And then things didn’t go well for me after that. Because I went up and then I came down and got violently ill and threw up all over the place and all over the company’s shoes.
And basically the next day is probably the sickest I had been in my life. And my parents of course, were quite upset .And that’s when I declared to myself and to the whole world, the Alcoholic National Anthem. You know what that is?
I’m never going to drink again.
Ken: Complete with many promises.
Larry: Yes. And unfortunately it took 30 years after that, for that to come through. So I started age 11 and I didn’t quit till age 41. So 30 years of drinking and lots of other little drugs in there to go along with that.
10:00 Min Mark
So that was one of the big things that happened to me at age 11. The other things that happened to me age 11 was I was molested by a priest. And I won’t go into too much detail into there, but obviously a traumatic experience. But another good thing that happened to me at age 11 is I received my first chiropractic adjustment.
And it impressed me so much, you know, I thought, gee, maybe I might become a chiropractor one day. I really loved the guy, Dr. Kramer. He was a such a cool guy. And I thought, maybe I’m going to do this. And did the things that happen at about age 11. I was started to become really involved in community and school sports.
I was into football and hockey and gymnastics and you know, the thrill of scoring a goal in hockey, you know, that was just, you know, and it just was such a wonderful feeling. And you know, I’m still playing hockey as of this day. Same as scoring a touchdown in football and then came gymnastics, and then went to do my first back flip.
So a lot of things were happening in my life in the formative years, you know. Some of them positive, of some of them not so positive but you know, that’s how life goes. But as you see, as I’m going to be talking about the, you’ll see how it all turned out.
So takes me into my teen years. And I was continuing to do well in school and in sports, you know, I was mainly interested in the sports and I would do well in school, just, you know, enough to get by.
But when I got pushed, I could get the good marks. But you know, I wanted to get the parents and the teachers off my back and play sports. And then there was a thing called alcohol I wanted to do on the weekends. So by the time I was 13, 14, I was basically the weekend alcoholic. We would go drinking Friday and Saturday.
And we used to call it fishing. Go outside the liquor store, the beer vendors and the drinking age was 21 back then. We had to get the older people to buy it for us. And that never seemed to be a problem. And the only important thing was hiding it from mum and dad.
And that seemed to get harder and harder. Because they saw I was sick on Saturday and Sunday morning, they would suspect I had been drinking. And with my mum, you know, drinking alcohol and being drunk, that was only what the vagrants did and what bums did.
And no son of mine is going to be a drunk. But little did she know that I was doing it all the time. So that continued on. And there’s this one story I can tell you when I was age 16, I didn’t even have my driver’s license.
Back then, I guess we had run out of a beer or alcohol. So I decided to steal my friend’s car and go pick up some some alcohol and at the same time, call on a girlfriend.
I thought that she was my, my girlfriend. Good news was, I got back to the apartment safely without smashing anything up. But my friends weren’t too happy with me, so they kicked me out. And so I tried to hitchhike home and ended up being picked up by the police.
So it was a good thing they picked me up while I was walking and hitchhiking rather than driving, or it would have been even harder to explain to my mom who had to pick me up to the police station. So that was my first and last experience being at a police station. I’m pleased to say.
Ken: Oh, just that one time?
Ken: That’s incredible!
Larry: Yeah, there’s some other stories there with with being caught. And this is just before I went into treatment: I got pulled over and I told them I had a hypoglycemia. Hadn’t eaten in three hours. And I said, well, if he doesn’t believe it, I’m just going to say, take my keys away. But he believed it. He brought me some granola bars.
So I was incredibly lucky, however, with the drinking and driving. AIt’sdangerous. I have a lot of guilty feelings about that over, you know, over the years that I did that. And fortunately I didn’t kill myself or others.
Ken: Well, it is a miracle guys like you and I didn’t do more damage with a vehicle than, than we did, but you know, we’re here now to make sure others that might be listening to this don’t take it at least as far. Turn it around faster than we did. Not take the decades that we did to turn it around.
Larry: Yeah. And I’m getting at the new generation here with my, my girlfriend’s son is he’s found some mood altering chemicals. And I keep on telling him about, you know, I don’t want you to go down my road.
And he quite understands that, however, it hasn’t stopped him so far. Now I’m beginning to feel what my mum and dad felt. I can say the helpless feeling of, oh God, the kid’s going to do it. We’ve got to keep them safe.
So, moving on to university years. That’s where we up the ante here, because I went through both the university of Manitoba and a Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College in Toronto. And of course there’s more academia. You have to study a lot. And I was still doing gymnastics at the university of Manitoba.
And what it meant is I had to work hard er. And I had to practice harder doing gymnastics. But of course that meant there was more of a reward on weekend. I got to drink harder, since I deserved it because I worked so hard during the week.
So my typical university day classes, I go from eight o’clock till about two. Have gym practice till five, and basically study all night. And as they say, starting to party all weekend.
One morning I started to get sick and I was getting a cold or a flu and my sister had some 222s. And all I knew was my clogged up nose and my fever went instantly away and I got instantly high with that.
It was that hit of codeine. And the only thing was it bothered my stomach and I fixed that problem. So instead of taking the 222s with aspirin, I took a Tylenol with codeine. And in Canada, it’s readily available over the counter without a prescription. And unfortunately that one I held onto with the booze for the next 30 years.
It just, I can’t even tell you what it did for me. All I knew was I needed to have it. If I didn’t take it, I would get a rebound headache. I needed it to study. Basically needed it to function. So at that time university and chiropractic college, amazingly enough, I was trying to stay straight during the week.
But on the weekends it was the alcohol. But in the meantime I was onto the Codeine and my favorite were the the benzos. All your Valium and Xanax and what have you as the head… the voice of anxiety in my head, because I had to study so hard. I had to work so hard. And I was so worried about passing.
And I just wanted to quiet those voices and that’s what did it for me. And unfortunately I became more and more of a recluse. I did have friends, but I would never tell them what I was doing, outside they may see me with a beer or two. So I was hiding and hiding everything. And it was the pills, unfortunately, were readily available.
You know, the advent of the Internet. The doctors didn’t give it to you. You just you know, you went on to the internet. So this was becoming a problem for me academically. I had not done well on a few courses and I knew I couldn’t drink anymore.
So I would take Antabuse. For those of your listeners who don’t know what it is, it’s a drug that makes you sick instantly as soon as you take it.
So I would take that on Monday to Thursday, stop taking it on Thursday and started drinking on Friday. But unfortunately one time I was drinking on Friday, but the Antabuse hadn’t left my system and I was turning violently ill. I was bright red. My heart was pounding. And all I knew was I felt very sick, but you know, I had to get drunk.
So what I decided to do is I had to clear this from my system. So I found a sauna and I started to exercise in the sauna so I could get the Antabuse out of my system, so I could go and get drunk. Now isn’t that insane? Or what?
Ken: That’s pushing the body and the heart and everything so hard. I know they were big on Antabuse when I was in the Marines. And there were guys that same thing, just how to get drunk. They’d take it, they’d just vomit throughout the night and just keep drinking anyway.
I never got stuck with Antabuse for all my drinking. But it was pretty horrendous to watch what they were going through and we were made of tough stuff. So they would just keep going.
Larry: Yeah. And basically it doesn’t work. For short periods. Yeah. But just as we’ll get into later on in the recovery, takes a lot more than taking a pill to make you sick.
So meanwhile, going through the university chiropractic college years, you know, the, a series of volatile relationships. Geez. I couldn’t figure out why. It ended in a quick marriage and a disastrous divorce and that’s something I actually am grateful for happening. Because my ex wife, she threatened to tell the world my secret, and she did.
This, guy’s an alcoholic.
But the thing is I don’t have to hide from that anymore because now I’ve written a book on it. I’ve overcome it. She was trying to use that to, for me to stay with her. It didn’t work though.
Ken: Yeah. Gimmicks don’t work. You just got to fix the problem and that’s that.
Larry: Yeah. And then I had a, quite a concerned priest.
I was attending a church at the time, just to meet some people. And they were a nice group of people. And he finally took me aside one day and said, “You know, son. You can’t get close to God if you got all this stuff going on in your head.” And he says,” My brother is an alcoholic.”
20:00 Min Mark
And he gave me this big blue book here. It’s the Big Book. And I was reading with quite a lot of interest. Till I found out…I was learning how to control drinking. They said they, you couldn’t drink at all. And so I thought, well, this is no good. So that was the end of that experiment.
I mean, too bad and it made a lot of sense, but it means you can’t have any? And I remember talking to my sister back then, “How can you possibly live a life without alcohol and drugs?” I was screaming to her as I was going through another tantrum of how bad things were.
Ken: That’s the biggest, that’s the biggest thing I think, besides the problems it causes for any of us, whether we’re mentally ill or not, or, you know, quote unquote, just alcoholics or drug addicts.
You, you just, you can’t imagine how to fill whatever hole you mistakenly think it’s filling in your life. You can’t see how to operate without it. And it’s horrifying.
And that fear keeps people, on so many levels, from just kicking it out of their life and living a better life. That’s like, it’s just around the corner.
Larry: I know. I mean it just.. It’s there. I just couldn’t conceive of it at the time. Talking to you my stomach is turning because I know how messed up I was.
But those emotions, those feelings, they’re still, I’ve got them. I knew exactly what I felt like. And just I like to talk about the stuff. I like to keep it at arms length, but I don’t want to forget what it was like. Cause I don’t want to.
Ken: Yeah. Right.
Larry: At that time I thought I was seriously mentally ill.
I said there’s gotta be something wrong with me. And when I went to treatment, I go to psychiatrist and they were talking about me having borderline personality disorder. Cause I like to ,you know, harm myself physically. But they said they weren’t sure. “You stay sober for a year or two and we’ll see how you’re doing.”
And you know, sure enough as you say, just an alcoholic addict. There was no mental illness. And at the time I was hoping I was. Then it could take Prozac or then it could take some type of drug.
I really, for the first year or two was hoping there was something else wrong with me.
Cause I just, I wanted to have that prescription. That fix. But I must say I know people who have the dual disorders and you know, that’s no fun. When you never really know what’s causing the problems until you clean up.
You know after reading your book too, I think you were masking your illness through the booze from what I understand.
Ken: Right. And then at different times, one or the other’s in the lead. You can’t tell really what… it’s the snake chasing its tail. You can’t tell which one’s actually driving the show. And they both make each other stronger.
Larry: Yeah. But that’s the background between the early years, teen, university.
And as I say, amazingly enough, I did set up shop on Vancouver Island. And I put on the image of looking very happy and healthy on the outside, until I finally crashed back in 97 and 1999. But as I’ve mentioned to you before I’ve written a book and we don’t want to talk about all the war stories and how bad it was.
I mean, we have to recognize that’s part of our story. But one of my main themes of Embracing the Journey of Recovery, it’s hope. I’ve made it. You’ve made it. And the people, your subscribers, they’re either making it, or they have made it, or they will make it as they keep trying.
So what I would like to do for you, Ken, if you would allow me to, is just go over some of the stories from Embracing The Journey. And what I talk about in the first chapter it’s called “A Message Of Hope.”
And it’s basically not about what’s happened to you nor is it a contest of who has most pain, worst trauma or serious disease. Because to each person suffering from a life-threatening injury or illness, his or her situation seems the worst, doesn’t it?
Larry: Yeah. So the focus is on the present: what an individual can do to move forward. And we explore the issues of the recovering individual, but we actually confront the many problems and dilemmas that inevitably arise.
And you want to embark on the journey with a balanced approach of the mind, body and spirit. If you’re injured, mind, body, and spirit, the recovery has gotta be mind, body and spirit.
And as we talked, you talked about earlier is, we’re basically into the fitness part of it. Because I see a lot of people, they do their meetings or what have you to stay clean, but they still have so many health issues.
They’re not leading a quality life, even if they are clean and sober. So from the beginning my story is the getting into recovery. I was 41 years old. Had a well-established practice. Was a sports enthusiast. You know, I really appeared happy and healthy on the outside. But after my divorce, I finally realized I had a real serious problem with alcohol and you know, the other mood altering chemicals.
I had contracted pneumonia. I’d lost nearly 35 pounds and I could barely walk.
And that basically when I gave up and finally asked for help. And I was on a very rapid, downward spiral. And just before I crashed I ended up writing into a journal my thoughts and feelings. And I’ll just read that for you here. Actually quite powerful.
“It was dismal, dark and damp outside, which perfectly mirrored my inner world. Lying on the cold bathroom floor, I perceived that struggling helpless boy from outside my body and wondered how he could escape. I’ve been hiding so many deep dark feelings for so long. And I now realize that I’ve just been masking my pain with alcohol.
I need to get help and to find the courage to tell somebody my story, but I’m so afraid. And I’m so lonely. It seems that the grown man I have become, can find no way to escape the feeling of pain, humiliation, hopelessness, and despair. Who will listen to me? Who will believe my story?”
I feel much like the character described by T.S. Elliot in The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.
‘I should have been a pair of ragged claws scuttling across the floor of silent seas.’
And that was the last coherent thing that I wrote before I finally was dragged on into treatment. A very, very low part of my life.
Ken: It’s pretty dark image.
Larry: So, I have a humorous anecdote too.
The two people that dragged me to treatment. And this is what I have seen, what you attract into your life. I guess this one person thought that we had a relationship. And I really didn’t know what she saw in me.
But she had watched me get married and she was going to, after I got divorced, she was going to marry me. And this was while I was dying as a drug addict.
And then two years later, I stumbled upon, only this time it was a guy, who thought I was I gay. He was going to clean me up. And then I would realize that I was gay. Then I could have my life back. So I have to bless both of them though, because they got me into treatment and they saved my life.
It’s amazing what you attract into your life.
Ken: It is. And one of the things I like people to understand is, life does not happen to you. It might feel that way, but that’s not the case. You’re directing it and you’re bringing it to you. Whatever you’re seeing in your life is really a reflection in the mirror. You’re seeing your thoughts brought to reality. Nothing’s happening.
Larry: It’s a reflection of where you are at that particular time. And, you know, that’s what it was. There’s a lot of hurt. There’s a lot of confusion. But again, I am grateful for having survived that because without that, I wouldn’t be where I am today to appreciate what I have.
And and that’s the next topic I would like to talk about, is gratitude. And I know you have a lot of gratitude after reading your story, Ken.
Larry: I couldn’t put your book down. It has to end sooner or later, all the things that were happening to you. But it was like, oh my goodness.
Ken: Yeah. That’s, that’s a common reaction. I won’t use the language of 70 some odd year-old lady told me once. But she had had friends read it and say that, geez, he just wouldn’t quit.
And he just kept going until he made it. But even with you, I mean you know, with you say like 30 years of drinking. And for all my problems we had different shaped problems, but you were at it probably even longer than I was. So you hung in there too.
Larry: The memories.
Ken: Thank God they’re memories.
Larry: Burnt, burnt in there. Where was I?
Larry: Gratitude. Okay. So how do you practice gratitude when you’re feeling shit? I get that all the time with the “easy for you to say, doc, and you know, you’ve got this beautiful life of yours. And yeah, yeah, yeah. Look at me. I’ve lost my job and my wife and my car. My kids hate me.”
So I go back to what happened to me in treatments. And basically, it’s practice it every day. You know, at the end of each day, you take inventory and it’s not to say you ignore or deny events or situations that are painful. You acknowledge them.
30:00 Min Mark
But at the same time you acknowledge the good things that happened to you. And you know, simply understand the truth that in each and every day, there are plenty of things to be grateful for. And I strongly feel it’s virtually impossible for a person to heal and become well, if they’re a hundred percent focused on pain and suffering.
Larry: Yeah. And you go along with that, I’m sure.
Ken: Right, because even if you find tiny things to be grateful for, it’s like banking money. They just start adding up and they add up and give you strength to go forward. And it’s a way of looking at life too.
It’s not just banking them and pulling from them. Like you just said, it’s the reverse of talking pain and suffering constantly. You’re talking some positivity.
Larry: It keeps you going. I mean, if you can hang on to that.. and the early days of my recovery, you know, I could barely walk. I was pissing my pants People were making fun of me. And I was detoxing and withdrawal symptoms, you know, the hallucinations, the shaking.
And I basically didn’t even know if I was gonna live. And then I felt humiliated because these drug addicts were laughing at me. Didn’t they know I was better than them? The arrogance!
So they ended up being some of my best friends. So in my severely weakened state, the counselors would come up to me and they made me find one good thing that’s happened to me each day.
And of course I’m looking at them, what good can you possibly find since going into treatment? And so they just sat there and said, you sit down there. We’re not letting you go until you tell us one good thing that’s happened to you today.
And then I remembered, there was one of my peers named Shauna. She’d basically seen how the other people were making fun of me. She befriended me. And she said, she went through the same thing when she was detoxing.
You know, she says, I know what you’re going through. Hey buddy, you’re in the right place. You’re going to get better. I’m going to be your friend. And says, let’s just hang out together.
And that, you know, the act of kindness, that was the flicker of light and hope that kept me trying for just another day. It was just the one act of kindness. And the next day they’re basically saying, “Okay, you found something yesterday. What did you find today?”
And there might’ve been 10 bad things. But there was always one or two good things. And I have practiced that faithfully. And I’m actually proud to say too, even more so as the years of sobriety go on, have become more grateful. Even though at times I guess we all get down and despondent and things aren’t going our way.
But when my mom was passing, I would recite 15 or 20 things I was grateful for about her and her life. And then saying, gee, there’s a great family around me. Hey, I’ve got a great career. You know, I got a house. I’ve written a book. I’m in good shape. What the heck is it that I was so depressed about?
And I’ve seen a lot of people coming into my practice. They were really in a lot of pain. They’re not doing well. And I just have to keep getting snapped on the head. Which is why I make a practice every day: count 10 things that I’m grateful for, each and every day.
And I do it most days, but I have one for you that you probably have already done yourself too. You pick the worst day of your life and just pick five things that you’re grateful for that happened on that day. You may not be able to get it on that day, but there are great things that have happened because of the tragedy.
And you know, I can’t say I was blessed when I was down there. Down not only in the dumps but nearly dying. You know, why am I grateful that I’m dying? But right now I can see the gratefulness, because I was down there. Now I’ve survived. I can help others. What a wonderful thing, isn’t it?
Ken: Well, that is! I mean, even for me, it took me a long time, once I even started to become better. It took a while. It took a solid year for me to even handle getting off all my medications. I was off of them in months, but it was a year before my body and mind stopped assaulting me with panic and whatnot.
But now, you know, same thing. At one point I was a recluse in my parents’ basement for two years. And God help anybody that got too close to me. I wouldn’t even know what I would do. But I can guarantee you, it will be bad if my mind told me to do that. I couldn’t even stop it. And now I help people like you do.
So that ties into, as far as gratitude, like on two of my worst days, I was dead- dead. My heart magically restarted after the millionth time they electrocuted it back to life on two different occasions.
So I’ve always been grateful for the docs in the ambulance. Cause I wouldn’t be here now doing what we’re doing to help people, you know, hopefully get out of this or avoid it entirely.
Larry: When they hear it, they know it’s possible too. And everybody’s got their own story.
Ken: And like you had said earlier too, it, there’s no need to compare. I mean, I’ve been dead, all the way dead. So I’m a medical miracle. But you… if you haven’t done that, it doesn’t matter. Because like you said, wherever you’re at on the pain ride, you just can’t imagine it being any worse and that’s that.
Ken: So don’t think because someone’s worse than you or you’re not as bad as someone else, you’ve got room to keep going. Either way, pain is pain and you just, you want out. And it ‘s unnecessary. Even with mental illness.
Larry: Oh, definitely. Speaking of mental illness, my partner, Lori the reason that we’re together is through a tragedy. Her husband committed suicide. And he was the one always helping other people out. And a total surprise. And no one knew.
He went to the doctor to get meds two or three weeks before he did himself in. And you know, that was the end of it. I guess he reached out too late. And so Lori and I were comparing our notes.
I was new in recovery and she was new in her recovery too. And that’s what we said. Let’s not have a relationship of who’s got it worse. Why don’t we help and support each other? And you know, it’s worked that way. You know, watching the kids grow up too. I mean, that’s another thing.
The kids, you know, without the father and the resentment of another man coming into the house. Which is why we stayed apart was a smart move, but they say, yeah, there’s, we all have our story.
And I I’m grateful that, you know, we attracted each other into our lives and we were still going strong and yeah, it’s no piece of cake. We we have our moments, but we worked through everything. And a lot of it is just you know, working the recovery program. And she’s grateful for what she has too and she has hope and she helps others.
And that’s my next topic. Basically is when you’re in recovery, do you help other people or do you just spend more time working on yourself? And the person that I wrote about in my book whose name was Joan, she had cancer.
And basically she had spent her whole life looking after other people. But she thought for her recovery, the hell with it. I’m going to look after myself. The other people will have to wait.
Now, in my case, it was the opposite because I’m devoted to looking after my patients all day long, but I didn’t have any dependents to support at home. And in the early months in the recovery, you know, I lived on my own. There’s no significant other, there’s no children.
So after about six months clean and sober, I was encouraged by my sponsor and peers to begin helping others. And by, you know, doing service volunteer work I’d be helping others, but they said, yeah, it’s going to help your recovery. So I took this really seriously and I regularly became the chairman for my support group.
And I found out a lot of things. Number one is the, I already knew before, but the harsh and cold reality of alcoholism. You know, I was really privileged to lead a meeting at a local detox facility on three different occasions. And it really kept me in touch with the physical pain, the emotional anguish, the hopelessness of those suffering.
And all I gave was a very simple message to those attending the meetings. I’ve experienced the same things they were going through. I understand their pain and I was giving them hope. If I can recover, so can you.
So after about a year of sobriety, I had a day I always remember. I signed up with another member of my group and we went to a local prison. And they say the cold, hard reality of alcoholism hit home that night.
And we walked in the doors and I know the prison guards, they graciously welcomed myself and my friend, Pat. And they said most of the inmates were in prison because of crimes related to alcohol and drugs.
And the meeting went very well, even though we only had about five people there. And I remember this one guy was describing all his problems with alcohol.
He’d committed all the break-ins and robberies to feed his habit. But, you know, I listened to the guy. And I really believed that he meant business. And you know, when you get out, I’m going to take you to meetings. So after the meeting, my friend, who is a little longer in sobriety than me, basically had two sobering things to tell me.
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He says, yeah. Yeah. Don’t get your hopes up too high about trying to turn some of these guys around. Because they’re just at a very high risk to relapse and re-offend, once they’re released from prison.
And then the other thing he told me, it was very sobering, as the person that had very bad news, but one of my peers from the treatment center… the disease had proven too much for my friend and he committed suicide.
And this is a guy I looked up to in recovery and I thought he was doing a lot better than I was. That he couldn’t take it anymore and he decided to end his life. And you know, how could it possibly happen when the guy seemed to be doing so well? But you know, that was a jolt back into, “This thing is serious you know, it’s really serious.”
And then three weeks after that I had news about the person I talked to from the prison meeting. And it was more bad news. The man who I had expressed a great desire to clean up and go to AA after he got out of prison was once again, in trouble with the law.
So the the fellow, what he did is he got out of prison. The same night he was released from prison he got drunk, committed another robbery and was arrested and he was back in prison.
Ken: Yeah. I think when I got like that, and ourselves included, cause we’ve probably done it with just trying to quit drinking alone. How many hundreds of times, if not more, did we swear up and down we’d quit.
And then, you know, as soon as the hang over cleared we went back to it. But it comes down to habits. And this transfers even to mental illness. That’s the interesting thing I learned.
There’s a lot of parallels and similarities between addiction and in various mental illnesses. There’s a lot of crossovers. And if you have a dual diagnosis, you’re almost, you got double work on you because you’re almost blowing it twice as hard.
But a lot of it comes down to habits. And you can mean from your heart and you’ll probably want it. I mean, all of us that have drank long enough, we want nothing but to never drink again. You really don’t. But until you change how you think and your habits, you will return back to it.
Larry: Yeah. And that’s you’re hitting the nail on the head. Cause that’s the next thing I’m going to talk about is, what’s the plan? We’re talking about hope and we’re talking about helping others. But you know, let’s get down into the nuts and bolts. What they gave me at treatment was an aftercare plan. And that was to replace all the habits.
And then this is all to do with accountability. They weren’t gonna let me go unless I came back to the facility and work part time, come back and tell people how my day was. Get my meetings set up in the neighborhood, get setup in the community.
I had to go to my banker and my accountant and the lawyer and my office manager. They’re all concerned, but you know, basically at that point is now could they trust me?
But I had to assess. Here’s what’s been going on. Come clean and actually it was very cleansing. People were very helpful. But unless I did that just to let them know… what’s wrong with him now? So the plan that came up for me was, number one, is three meetings a week.
And I did basically five to seven a week. I would go to work all day, have a supper, go to a meeting, go home. On each Tuesday, I would go back to the treatment facility for aftercare. That’s another an hour and a half of group session. And they recommended 14 months. I did 18 months.
And I’m not the outgoing type. I lean towards introversion. Although I can talk when I’m really interested about something. Like about recovery, I can talk for a long time.
But coming to these group meetings here, I actually dominated the group, which means I would be talking about my issues and have the counselors and the peers jump all over me just to make sure I was on track.
And I’ll tell you that was tremendously helpful, especially the last four weeks. Cause as I said, this could be my last session. I really wanted to get strong feedback. What was I in danger of doing? Was I getting too overconfident? That type of thing. And I really got hammered. And I used to hate that in group.
I hated getting hammered. I wanted to hide all my secrets. But there was no secrets cause we were all basically the same.
Ken: Yeah, we’re the same guy or girl, pretty much.
Larry: We have all the same fears. We have hopes. And it’s through that I got the wonderful connections and another thing to be grateful for.
You know. Real relationships, instead of what kind of clothes somebody wears, what kind of car you drive or… you know, those things are nice, but I want to know a person with a big heart and helping others. That turns my crank. And then you get to know somebody on a real feeling basis.
And that’s what I get from the support groups is just now that real connection with people. And I had a very diverse group come to my 50th birthday party. Yeah. Support group people. There’s a few professionals. Some kids, some neighbors, family and everybody just had a wonderful time.
And it was just so nice to have people like that. A caring group of people. And you can have fun too. And you don’t need the alcohol to have fun. I mean, I sort of believed that when I was drinking, but I thought really not, it’s not possible. You have to be drunk.
Ken: Exactly. Yeah.
Larry: How could you, how could you have fun without it? So, anyway, yeah. That’s so the meetings, the aftercare and the other thing is to find somebody. A mentor, a sponsor.
We’ve had that through our book authoring too. As somebody who’s been through that before and then like you and I talking to each other too, is, you know, mentoring each other.
You need that. To know somebody who’s been there before. And I have had a really, quite a good sponsor. He would just put me back on track. If I would be whining, he’d look at me and he goes, you’re okay, just do your work.
He didn’t want to hear any crap. Very quiet and firm. And that’s all I need is just a little, you know, smack in the head, just, you know, shut up and just do your job.
And so the sponsoring was another thing. And then it’s reaching out to people, you know, make three phone calls a week to somebody in the recovery circle. And it could be the same people. It could be different people. And in fact, in lieu of my meeting tonight, that’s what I’m doing is I’m calling you here.
Cause I was so excited. I can have a, a whole meeting where I get to talk for a whole hour rather than listen to everybody else.
Ken: Well, I’m glad to have you, so…
Larry: It’s nice. And the other thing to recover too, is you need to look at your nutrition. And I can’t go into specifics here for you, you know, for those who want nutritional advice.
But I think a lot of people: let’s start out with three meals a day. A friend of mine and he would go to work, eat nothing, have nothing for lunch and then come home for dinner and have a nice big dinner and then a meal before he went to bed. And I mean just, oh, not healthy. Recovery or for your heart.
Ken: No, and that’s the first step in my system that I teach and it applies to addicts and alcoholics as well. Probably even more so if you’re mentally ill and don’t have addictions. But yeah. I look at the bodies as a simple machine.
It’s more than that, but if you just take it as a machine, it needs things to go. And in this case for this topic, addictions, when you drink and do drugs, your body to fight the destruction you’re causing, it uses up all its resources to try to keep the boat afloat. And now it’s out of parts and your body will consume itself in a mad effort to fill holes elsewhere.
It’ll create a hole somewhere else. It’s robbing Peter to pay Paul. And for my listening audience, that’s one of the things that leads to bipolar or very severe depression. So one of the first things you have to do is start repairing the nutrition deficit.
Larry: I love that analogy. That’s from your book, isn’t it?
Ken: I don’t know. I talk so much. I don’t know where they come from.
Larry: I just love that because it makes so much sense and I could really relate to that. I work on trying to improve that to a sense that Lori and I have been together, I worked on a nutrition. As it was too much, I don’t have time to eat so I’ll eat a Hungry Man.
And it just, you know, like way too much fat man. I mean, it was a meal. It’s just not a very healthy meal. So tonight I did a little better there. I had a nice pasta casserole with tuna in there. And I steam some vegetables. Very nutritious. It’s got all the food groups in there. I have an orange for dessert. There you go.
Ken: One of the things people don’t realize like, in the case of let’s just say drinking, we all know enough drinking’ll give you a heartburn. You’ll almost never go anywhere without your Tums or Rolaids when you’re drinking hard.
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Besides the body being poisoned, and by fighting it, it depletes its reserves of enzymes and vitamins and minerals and everything to get rid of all the alcohol and repair the physical damage, you also wipe out the lining of your intestines and all the little bacteria that are in there that are supposed to be in there that actually help you digest your food.
So now not only are you using up your pieces, you’re not getting the fresh pieces added back in, even when you do eat. And then to top that all off you start damaging… people don’t realize the intestines are where almost all of the serotonin in your body is made, which is what keeps you naturally happy.
If you mess up your intestines, you can physically damage your ability to be happy.
Ken: And a lot of people don’t seem to realize you need the healthy guts, not just to look good or be strong and fit. Your ability to be happy is directly in jeopardy. And drinking and drugs. I mean, between the poisons themselves, and then the way you’ll eat or not eat while you’re high, you’re killing the center of you that keeps you happy.
Larry: And we wonder why we didn’t feel well.
Larry: I’m glad you brought that point up too, cause some of the simple things too. And again, the scientists and society is looking for the magic pill. It might be a part, but you know, it’s the whole, the whole healthy living. There’s the whole, the whole recovery.
Ken: It is. You have to take the universal look at your situation, whether you’re mentally ill, or an alcoholic or a drug addict, it’s all related. You have to look at your whole life and start fixing everything, in a sensible fashion. And do whatever’s the easiest first.
But taking a pill? I tell people by taking a pill, it’s like putting out a pan fire on the stove while the rest of the house is going up in flames behind you, you got your stove under control. That’s it.
Larry: So next, the other thing that’s missing as we both talked about, here’s the exercise. And for me that wasn’t a problem, you know, a marathon runner, triathlete, most people don’t want to be getting into what I’m getting into. It just happens to be part of me. You want to start out though the three to four times a week.
I mean, in treatment, they made us walk twice a day, which was, which was just great. Small steps as well. If you haven’t been exercised and you’ve got to get the medical clearance, you know, we want you to be doing a little bit of cardio and a little bit of stretching.
You do that for a while, get your body used to the movement and you’ll feel better. Then when you’re starting to feel better, then you can start adding things like some weights or maybe some Tai Chi and yoga. Whatever turns your crank. Try working all the systems in the body.
But again, one of my pet peeve is standing outside of some of the support group meetings is the people smoking and exercise doesn’t seem to be important. And it just drives me crazy.
It’s like my mom will say, I’m a weird person because of all the exercise I’m doing. I’m going no, God, you guys got it all wrong. You should be doing stuff. I mean, I love some of the people dearly. You know, they’re dear friends, but I lost one cause he continued to smoke. You know, five years sober, but he got throat cancer and died.
Ken: Well in a way I’m grateful in a backwards fashion. And I almost wish other people… I know other people do, but… I mean, like on a higher percentage, I wish people could experience what I experienced.
Part of how I ended up quitting smoking and all the drugs and drinking and staying away from it to this day, is not so much any of the loftier ideals involved in what people do to stay clean.
But going back to mental illness, I know that if I throw something down the hatch that does not belong in the body as food air or water, I’ll have a panic attack. And my panic attacks are so huge, I will do anything to avoid them. And in this case, all I have to do is behave. I kind of wish more people could have that effect; have that happen to them almost.
They’d stay straight too. And it’s hard. It’s hard. And then I used to get very mad, because once I went straight, I had whittled it down to nicotine. And then I got mad because I realized like, okay, it just dawned on me one day. I will not have fun or I will not be able to relax if I don’t have any nicotine.
And then I just did the rest of the math. I’m like, so that’s it. So you’re telling me without nicotine, -this is me talking to me- I’m not going to enjoy myself. Just simply because a bag of chew or a box of smokes isn’t around. And that just seemed ludicrous to me.
And I got real mad and I realized that I needed to find out why- like you had said a crutch- why does there always have to be at least one thing on board? And I got very annoyed at myself of my weakness.
And a lot of people do, but I just, I kept getting annoyed until I was in a rage about my weakness. And I decided I’m going to figure out why I seem to need this crutch. I didn’t want to be beholden to a substance, made me feel tiny.
Larry: It’s just, yeah, it’s fascinating. When we talk about getting addicted to things. And it blows my mind away what people can get addicted to and for how long and some never overcome it. This is a tragedy.
Ken: And then back to your exercise, you brought up another good point there. I write a lot about what I do and I when I’m in the gym, I’m one of those guys that you’re not so sure you want to come right up and say, “hi”. I look kind of intense.
And I’m usually lifting as hard as I possibly can. And that’s how I’ve done it for years. And I love that. And people, for a little while, till I addressed this, were thinking, that’s what I wanted them to do to beat their bipolar.
Or like you with hockey. That’s pretty insane right there. That’s flying teeth and blood and gore and then running a triathlete. There’s only about, I don’t know, a couple thousand a you guys, period.
So that’s pure madness in my opinion, you know, jokingly. But people don’t, they need to know, you don’t have to go to the levels you and I go, that’s a personal choice.
Larry: Yep. Yeah. You get movin’. You find something you like, you know? And I got a friend of mine. He doesn’t do much physically, but it’s consistent. Half hour, 45 minutes a day. He says, it’s not much, but it keeps me going and it keeps me happy. And I said, that’s perfect. There’s nothing wrong with that at all.
I mean, he’s got quality sobriety in there and he’s helping an awful lot of other people. So yeah. You gotta work at your own pace. Find what works for you. And there’s a lot of resources. There’s personal trainers.
There’s coaches, there’s your friends, there’s your family. Somebody out there will be able to help you. And then in your book too, you talk about that as well, I believe.
Ken:Oh, yeah, definitely. It’s one of my steps. Big time. You have to get moving. You have to. Your body’s not designed to hold still. If you think about it, think of a person who’s a paraplegic, who doesn’t have their legs, or use of their legs.
A lot of the times, these people don’t live as long as the rest of us. And I would think it’s got a lot to do with just the body not being able to move. There’s something about moving, locomotion in general, that keeps the body healthy.
Larry: It was meant to. We were meant to move. The last thing before I get distracted we’re talking about physical exercise. For myself, I needed vigorous. But the other thing I found I needed was some quiet time, which is what I’ve done now for the past nine and a half years. I do a personal meditation for about 25 minutes.
I go to work, have my lunch, and for 25 minutes, I let my mind and my body go and it just restores me so I can go out in the afternoon and work very hard. I feel rejuvenated.
And also right now I’ve trained myself too is where I need to relax after dinner for 10 minutes, I can close my eyes and go, you know, right down the well, and it rejuvenates me.
And I have the most relaxed feeling in the world, which is what I was looking for taking copious amounts of Valium. It brings me right down. I feel relaxed. And that’s without a chemical in my body. In fact, it’s way better than any chemical I’ve put in my body.
And so I was able to train myself and I just… the last two or three years, I thought, geez, this is the feeling I was chasing after all these years, I just wanted to have quiet and not have these voices bothering me.
I know the demons coming in my head, just screaming at me. And I am able to, for the most part, now if it’s a really bad day, quieten myself down. And of course on the bad days, I’m not doing well. That’s another story. And you know, I can’t sleep, but I think that’s going to happen to anybody at any time.
But for the majority of time, through the quiet time in the meditation has done wonders for me.
Ken: Yeah. There’s definite benefit to holding still. Not taking a nap. Holding still. Staying conscious, but not energizing any thought processes. There’s a big health benefit.
Larry: Yeah, they’ve done a lot of studies on it. Whether it’s transcendental meditation or mindfulness meditation, or just sitting still breathing, they know it doesn’t really matter. So that’s what I’ve got for my aftercare plan.
And then when I go to the treatment centers, I’ll read it to the people when I’m taking a medallion or when I’m telling them my story. And I basically, you know, look in the eyes at them.
I’m saying, I know half of you guys I’d hear you’re working on your aftercare plan and you’re just about ready to get up and already you’re thinking, well, I don’t need to do this and I don’t need to do this.
You need it all. You know, I know the counselors are jerks, but they really do know what they’re doing.
Ken: Well, yeah. And that’s another scary part for people in trying to even undertake something like what you and I have done to fight our, you know, in my case, mental illness and both our cases, addiction. It’s not a one shot deal and you’re done. You have to change your life and stick to that plan forever and forever is a very scary word to people.
Ken: But it can be done. We’ve done it. And I know personally, you and I both have our different ways we can teach people to be cool with that, so to speak.
Well, that’s what’s good too, is the diversity. There’s no cookbook way. There’s some basics you need to do, but I mean, we all come from diverse backgrounds.
Yes. Now where can people get a copy of your book?
Larry: Basically right now if you go on to amazon.com or amazon.ca or any of the online bookstores, that’s where we have it on sale, or if your first-hand callers call me, I can give you an online version for free if you just send me an email, say you want my book, I’ll send you an online copy right away.
No problem, no charge. Because I really believe strongly with what you’re doing in helping people here. So I know I’m very excited to help you out Ken.
Ken: That’s very good of you. And what was the name of your book? One more time.
Larry: It’s “Embracing The Journey Of Recovery: From Tragedy To Triumph“.
Ken: Okay, good stuff. Yeah. This is going to be a big help because I had so much on my plate with helping people in just mental illness. I’ve never dug too deep into fighting addiction. And I think there’s some different, unique ways about how I went about it that don’t seem to translate well in a lot of different other systems.
So I enjoy taking people to guys like you who have a clear cut system and working it into what I do. It’s a big help to people. And then, like you said different systems are better for different people, too.
Larry: Exactly. And I’m working right now with the with the local group, the Forward House Community Society. And basically, it’s mental illness. And if you happen to have a mental illness with an addiction, they’ll take you as well, too.
So I have done presentations with them over there. And I’ve become a little more familiar with types of mental illness, how people are dealing with it and seeing them in all stages. And it’s really neat to see these people turn their lives around and see the happiness, the joy.
You watch them through the struggle. And then, I haven’t been back in six months and I see these people and they have transformed themselves.
Ken: And you personally know how huge the sense of relief is when you know you’ve got it and your life’s improving. And to be able to pass that knowledge on to someone else and watch them take it and use it. That’s a supremely gratifying. I mean, not because we’re so great or nothing. It just simply is very gratifying.
Basically we took our wreck of a life and we turned it around and did something good with it. And those people can go on to do the exact same thing or do something, whatever.
They can take the good out of that and help someone, in some other completely different fashion. But they’re not going to be able to help anybody if they’re still down in the hole.
Larry: Oh, exactly. So as long as you get out to face each day, you do something a little each day. If you’re feeling crappy then get up and call somebody. Have you have your breakfast first. Get on the phone.
There’s a lot of things you can do. No one says you can’t feel crappy. Because you know, you will for a lot of the time, but you get up there and then you got to do something every day.
Ken: Same thing with my system. No difference. It’s not going to be an easy switch. And make your mind up and stick to it.
Larry: You liked my comment too. You read my Ironman story? When I was going up the hill, for your listeners, I said about 180 K and I was at about 130 K and I was having a horrible time against the wind. And I was just swearin’ and cursin’ and I didn’t have any gratitude. And near the top of the hill, there was a sign that said, “Suck it up, princess.”
Ken: That is something you would most definitely hear a lot in the Marine Corps. I laughed very hard when I read that. “Come on girls! You can make it!”
Larry: You got somebody behind me. He was 78 years old The sister, Madonna Bruder. She’s a nun. She had the most respect anybody there.
Ken: Yeah. You’re in this fight to get well… you think you’re all done, but you’re not. You can always give it one more tiny. push. That’s something I learned in the Marine Corps too.
You always got another, you got another round of push left in you. You just have never been pushed this hard before to have to prove that you have it. And you’ve done it and I’ve done it and we can show other people how to do it too.
Larry: Oh, absolutely. That’s why I’m excited to be on a call with you tonight. And I hope we can continue doing this in the future.
Ken: Oh, definitely. And in the not too distant future, side-by-side onstage. That would be fantastic.
Larry: Oh, geez. I would love to absolutely love to!
Ken: Well alright, Dr. Larry, I thank you very much for your time and I know it will be a big help to people listening.
Larry: Yeah. And they’ve got the email. If they have any questions for me anything in particular, if you want a copy of a copy of my online book or get it on the online bookstores, amazon.com. And I think our books are, they kind of work together, hand in hand, a lot of the same themes.
Ken: Yeah, definitely. All right then. I appreciate your time and I think we’ll cut that off right there. That should hold people for quite a while.
Larry: All right.
Ken: All right, Dr. Larry, have a good night.
Larry: Ah, it’s beautiful. I’m watching the Lakers game, so …
Ken: You’re happy. I know how you basketball people are. Okay Good night.
So that was Dr. Larry. Cool mellow dude. Right? I really hope I connect with him again. I know, I feel strongly, he’s still working on sharing this message, I’ll bet, in one way, shape or form. And I’d really like to connect with him again.
Who knows? Maybe I’ll reach out to him. I’m not sure what I’m doing with a lot of this just yet, but it would be nice to interview him again and just see where he’s at. And see what new things he’s learned.
And then just just to say hi to an old friend. I really liked him. Fingers crossed. I hope you liked that interview. I hope you go get Larry’s book, Embracing The Journey Of Recovery. And between his story and my story. Maybe you find what you need to overcome that particular demon set.
If you want to know exactly what I did to overcome that demon set, go to my website, outsiders journey.com. Find the Greenfield for my free wellness system, click on it. And you’re in. That’s exactly what I did to beat bipolar. And my addictions, bad as they were, were just one facet of the bipolar problem.
The much larger problem. If you’d like to know what I did with the wellness that followed then click on the blue lady. Give me your email address and let’s start building out your dream together. That’s it guys. Thanks for listening. Catch you on the next interview. Two? Is It? Two to go!