Richie Hession, CEO of BlueCrest Recovery Center, discusses Firsts in Recovery with special guest Mark Bonanni.

Transcript

Richie Hession

Welcome to the podcast. So okay, a couple things to start as we always have to start, if you want to subscribe to our podcast, it’s available on the major streaming platforms, iTune, Spotify, SoundCloud and YouTube. And then for upcoming podcasts, I just wanted to throw it out there for anybody who is watching this for whatever reason that we’re going to be doing one on patient brokering and Marketing tactics and all the horrible things that have gone on and do go on in the field. We’re going to have a special guest come in. There’s going to be a little panel to have some probably very uncomfortable and brutal conversations about this industry and the stuff that goes on and it was going to be this week. And then we had to change it. So this is going to be much lighter.

Richie Hession

So we’ve been asking and saying like, “What do you want to hear from podcasts? What do you want us to talk about?” These topics that we feel strongly about, that we’re going to talk about and then there’s other topics that other people want to hear. And so some of the people had said that they wanted to hear a little bit more. We’re going to move away from all these hard line topics that we’ve been having and we’re going to do something a little bit more, I guess you could say, it’s fun. I mean it’s serious, I guess, but people wanted to hear our experiences and they wanted Mark the Shark to be on with me and they wanted to hear about dating in early recovery, first job in recovery, hanging out with friends who still drink and use.

Richie Hession

So really, this is more about our recovery experiences and the stuff that we’ve gone through since Mark and I are both recovered. To that end, that’s what we’ll start. So Richie Hession and …

Mark Bonanni

Mark Bonanni.

Richie Hession

And we’re both-

Mark Bonanni

In recovery.

Richie Hession

In recovery. There it is. So why don’t we start with-

Mark Bonanni

[crosstalk 00:01:55] term.

Richie Hession

Why don’t we start with that one? I’m going to let you manage the questions and manage the topics however you feel like. There’s a couple like when I look at the stuff and I saw what we wanted to talk about. We didn’t prepare any of this. We’re just going to kind of you know.

Mark Bonanni

Wing it.

Richie Hession

Yeah. This is what they want you to talk about. I’ll talk about this. And first job in recovery and dating in early recovery, I actually have some interesting experiences that have happened to me in both cases. I’ll get into it but anyway, why don’t you start? Do you remember your first job in recovery and how do you speak to it?

Mark Bonanni

I think it’s actually worth mentioning that not only first job in recovery, I guess, because this speaks to different people. Sometimes people come in to treatment first time in recovery, they have an established life. I think it’s worth talking about that. The difference between habilitation and rehabilitation. Some people come into recovery, they already have a job so their first job in recovery is going back to the career. They’re already on track when you see those people. Then you got the younger population that’s coming in. The young opiate addicts are using hard drugs that are bringing them to their knees a lot quicker and they come in to a place like here or on [crosstalk 00:02:59]-

Richie Hession

Some of them with their first job-

Mark Bonanni

… ever-

Richie Hession

Period. [crosstalk 00:03:02]

Mark Bonanni

Right, at 32-

Richie Hession

[crosstalk 00:03:02] in recovery, yeah. True. It’s reality.

Mark Bonanni

And even talking to some new people recently, and they’re like, “I don’t know what I’m going to do with my life.” And so on and so forth. My first job in recovery was working in a deli. That’s what I had been doing. I was 21 years old. I’d been working in pizza places and delis and that kind of stuff and I was in a halfway house. And I took the first job that was available because I needed to-

Richie Hession

Absolutely.

Mark Bonanni

… pay my way. And that was essentially it and I guess really it’s concentrate on getting sober, concentrate on what needs to be done to maintain permanent sobriety. And what I tell people a lot that I work with whether its sponsorship or people in treatment or just early recovery anybody is, look it doesn’t matter because the reality is if you get sober, my experience has been this. And it actually goes to the dating part too. People, they want to go back to the gym. They want to get their money right and they got to get a girlfriend for the guys or the girls want to get a girlfriend. This has become the most important thing. It’s like dude, you were just living on the streets. You didn’t care about any of that stuff when you’re using. You’ve got a week sober and now you want to have a career?

Mark Bonanni

My experience has been that if I get sober, something happens. Something happens in the world and when I say getting so- like I mean really sober. I mean doing 12 steps-

Richie Hession

Yeah, you’re not talking about just abstinent from alcohol or drugs. You’re talking about status. [crosstalk 00:04:30] lifestyle.

Mark Bonanni

I’m talking about having a spiritual experience that does something that the universe likes.

Richie Hession

Sure.

Mark Bonanni

And people want to give you jobs, people want to give you raises, people want to date you. Something happens that they can’t put their finger on it but it’s been my experience that they can tell something’s going on with you.

Richie Hession

See, here’s the thing, right? And we’ll get into that but you brought up a good point and one of the interesting things that this is human nature.

Mark Bonanni

This is giving me goosebumps.

Richie Hession

Yeah, but this basic human nature. I get you, totally understandable. Early recovery, when people first get sober, a lot of us and then again, it’s different for everybody. Like Mark said, depending on your age and where you were and what you’ve done before, but I can speak for myself. When I actually got sober, I’m almost 26 years old. All my friends had gone. I dropped out of college. I had no real … I mean while going to what my first job was, which was not an unreasonable job had it actually been where I really was working at, an actually professional.

Richie Hession

Anyway with the job that I had, which we’ll go into, but the point is that I got sober at 26. And I looked around and everyone had graduated college. They’re buying houses. They’re getting married or already married, some of them having their first kids and I’m living in … My dad finally let me move back with him because I had been booted from my family’s houses but now I’m allowed to live back in with him in a bedroom under very strict rules. Every once in a while, he’ll let me borrow his station wagon because I got no car. Every once in a while, I’m 26 years old, he’d peel out $20 and say like, “Here’s $20 in case you get into diner. I know you go to the diner after your meeting sometimes. Here is something, so you can get something.” I’m like, “Thanks daddy.” 26 years old. Thanks dad, but that’s what it is. That’s where I was at.

Richie Hession

I guess my point is that when you stop for the first time in a long time and I’m not in the fog of alcohol and drugs and that’s when you’re getting high, you don’t care about it and you don’t even think about that stuff.

Mark Bonanni

Reality sets in.

Richie Hession

Now, I’m sober and I see what everyone else has done and is doing. And I see where I’m at and it becomes some people or like … and this sucks and they listen to this sponsor. And like, I know I got to work my way out of this hole and it’ll take some time. Other people were like, “No way, I need to get there and I need to get there now and I gotta work and I gotta make money and I gotta …” And then instead of throwing themselves into where recovery is the primary focus, work becomes the primary focus because they got to catch up, because they gotta get money in the bank because they got to pay those bills. This stuff’s not going to fix itself.

Richie Hession

All of a sudden the guy who didn’t give a shit about any of this two months ago, all of a sudden they’re telling you like, “Well, this isn’t going to fix itself and I need to dig myself out of the hole.” Relax. It’s all going to be there and this is all like fellowship stuff. Whatever the fellows you’re [inaudible 00:07:12], they say, “You take your-

Mark Bonanni

Lack of faith, no experience.

Richie Hession

… take your life problems and put them in this basket and then you take the … all right and then you work on this problem and once you work on your alcoholism and addiction, everything else is going to go away.” And they make those kinds of analogies and they’re right. But you can’t see that in early recovery and you don’t want to hear it in early recovery and the first job in recovery can sometimes be tough depending on what it is you look to do. For example, and I’ll ask you to speak to it, we see all sorts of stuff and there’s temptations in early recovery when okay, so you’re sober and you’re working. We’re going into certain assumptions for us.

Richie Hession

If you’re going to get sober, it means you’re no longer drinking and using or taking alcohol or drugs in any form at all, including steroids because steroids is a mind and mood-altering substance. So anybody who wants to get to the gym in early recovery, do so naturally because in my way of thinking, steroids is not sober.

Mark Bonanni

Been there, done it. Didn’t work.

Richie Hession

There you go, but we’re assuming you’re sober and we’re assuming that means that you’re doing 12-step work and that you’re having an experience and that you’re living a recovery lifestyle the way we would look at a recovery lifestyle. And now you’re going to go out and you have to get a job and sometimes people are tempted and they’ll be offered a job through somebody in the fellowship who will say like, “Well, I can get you a job on the sales desk.” and you’re selling some fugasi bullshit where it’s fast, easy money and it’s very tempting because you haven’t worked and like these guys are all doing it and blah, blah, blah.

Richie Hession

I don’t know, you can speak too, and we’ve seen people who’ve gotten involved in dishonest work in early recovery and you can’t live dishonest and stay clean. You can’t stay sober living a dishonest lifestyle. So your first job in recovery is important and I’ve had this conversation with you. I’ve had this conversation with other people in early days. You were better off working in a deli earning honest money and scrimping by in-

Mark Bonanni

Honest in a day’s pay [crosstalk 00:09:04].

Richie Hession

That’s it and it is better for you spiritually. It’s better for the long run because the truth is in early recovery when people get sober, people like us that are out there and I mean like the sick and suffering, when we get sober, I’ll take one of you over three normal people any day of the week. If you’ve had that experience and you’re live in a recovery lifestyle and use your powers of evil for good, we are unbelievably powerful and skilled in what we can do. You can operate the way we operate out there, now you take that skill set and you superimpose it over real life and jobs and work. We are Jedi and that’s the real.

Richie Hession

It’s happened to me. It’s happened to you. I’ve seen so many people that I’ve worked with. It’s just that that can’t be your primary … When your primary desire is to get money and make successful, it’s harder to get money and be successful. For me in early recovery-

Mark Bonanni

Where lose everything else and-

Richie Hession

[crosstalk 00:10:01]

Mark Bonanni

… you eventually pick up.

Richie Hession

Exactly.

Mark Bonanni

It’s weird how it works. It’s weird how it works. Whatever I put in front of me, I mean it’s cliche stuff but it’s cliche for a reason. Whatever I put in front of my recovery ends up being the first thing that I lose. Like jobs never kept me sober. Girls never kept me sober, probational. None of the stuff kept me sober. It was just get sober and all the rest came. And then there’s something about it too because I’m thinking about early recovery my last time getting sober, I’d had a career but I blew that through felony arrests. You can’t be in the finance business anymore, so I switched gears into advertising and that was paying the bills but it wasn’t like a career move but the funny thing is when I look back and if you talk to a lot of people in recovery about this stuff, sometimes and it’s really hard to imagine in early, early recovery when you have nothing and you’re just scraping by, well Biggie says it’s best man, more money, more problems anyway. The better I did, the more … I’m sick man.

Richie Hession

Did you just quote Biggie?

Mark Bonanni

Biggie Smalls.

Richie Hession

Biggie Smalls, of course-

Mark Bonanni

[crosstalk 00:11:00] you know but I mean it’s true, like some of the happiest times in recovery are the early recovery when all I’m worried about is getting to a meeting and talking to my sponsor.

Richie Hession

Absolutely.

Mark Bonanni

You know what I mean? And then it becomes like how the more-

Richie Hession

Keep it simple stupid.

Mark Bonanni

Keep it simple. The more I get, the more I want to keep it. The more fear it brings up. It’s crazy out and distinctly as I was going through it this time getting sober and success started to come my way again, I was like, “Am I going to have a good month next month? Am I still going to have this money? Am I going to lose what I have?” It’s a wild thing.

Richie Hession

It speaks to good sponsors. Getting a good sponsor in one of the fellowships that you go to is very important, like that person and the way they view that stuff and the way they look at it, because my sponsor told me a thousand times every time I’d bring up a concern about like, “I’m in debt.” And he’s like, “You’ve been in debt forever and you’ve never really been concerned about that stuff, so it’s irrelevant.” and I would bring it up and he would say, “Irrelevant.” He would just keep saying it’s irrelevant. None of that stuff is relevant, that’s all just in your mind. You need to focus on this. Step work primary, do the next thing, follow all these directions and have an experience and all that stuff is going to happen on their own.

Richie Hession

So I’ll tell you in recovery and I’m one of the ones that already had, I mean to say it’s a career as ridiculous but anyway, I’m probably one of the very few people who went to Wall Street and got sober. Most people go to Wall Street and then they get all fucked up on drugs. I went there. Wasted. A total full blown cocaine addict when I got there. So for me, these guys that I met when I went into the desk and I went to work, they were in a fellowship and they were in recovery or at least they went to like fellowship meetings and stuff. And they saw that I was out of my mind and they pulled me to my first meeting ever.

Richie Hession

So for me, it was kind of opposite situation but anyway, I’m not going to get into all my early story and what happened but suffice it to say now I come in, I go to detox, I get sober and now I’m in the process of getting sober with my sponsor. And now I have a job as a stockbroker. Right, I’m a licensed stockbroker. Thank God, I don’t know what it is man. People have asked me this before, it’s weird. I was in with some not good characters when I first was learning to be a broker and I was just on the learning phase. I wasn’t licensed. I was just kind of qualifying leads and I was in with guys that I don’t know, I was a kid. You know what I mean? I was in with people who are not doing the right thing or whatever.

Richie Hession

But once I became aware of it and I went and studied my tests and the more you learned, you’re kind of like, “This isn’t right.” Which is weird for me because I wasn’t good in that way but I think I just always had an aversion to jail. So I think I saw what was going on once I finally realized it and I was in a fog of getting high too-

Mark Bonanni

[crosstalk 00:13:41] this great guy.

Richie Hession

Yeah, not at all but once I realized that I actually went the other way and I went to some, not the Merrill Lynch’s of the world and those places, they would never hire somebody like me. I was a college dropout. I had arrest record. I had no credit. So I couldn’t get a job there anyway but I went to like these boutique little firms that were actually legit firms but they’re just small and they’re kind of out of the way kind of play little places, these little mediocre places but anyway, listen I went and I was working for those guys and I was not doing anything wrong. But I was so ineffective because I rarely showed up and I was always wasted.

Richie Hession

And we had a crew of guys that were working at this one particular place and the guys I were in with were like cocaine dealers on Staten Island and they were brutal guys and they were kind of friends and this and that. So they never messed around. They didn’t bother with us at this firm that I was at and they kind of let us do our thing and so I missed work all the time but they would never like fire me or whatever. But now I get sober, I have to go. When I say sober, I mean I start making amends and one of the first amends I had to make was to a bunch of people in my office because I was a brutal asshole. I was angry, violent. Never cared about anybody, selfish. I never came. When I did come, I was wasted. I would cause all sorts of problems. Absolutely brutal.

Richie Hession

And so I went and made amends and my manager was relieved that I made amends because I think he realized that for the first time, he could fire me and I would accept it and be okay with it and stop showing up. You know what I mean? But he didn’t. He was actually very cool man. If Phil [Aiello 00:15:14] ever watches this, the guy’s name was Phil Aiello. What amazing guy man, holy cow. I still think about him all the time. And what a good human being he was.

Mark Bonanni

You’ll think of all the people [crosstalk 00:15:22].

Richie Hession

And he did. He gave me a second chance and that was really, really cool. I’ll never forget him for that. And so anyway, Phil let me stay. And now here I am, first job in recovery in a way because this is the first time I’ve ever been in recovery where I’m actually working, where I’m showing up to work every day. I had to go to my sponsor and I told my sponsor, I said, “I don’t think I could do this anymore.” My sponsor was like, “Why?” And I said, “Because it’s dishonest.” And my sponsor, “But I thought you said the place you work.” And I said, “No, it’s not the place I work. It’s dishonest for me. What I’m good at are the phones. I can talk people into stuff. But I’m asking people to give me their money and invest with me and to be honest with you, I don’t know anything about Wall Street.”

Richie Hession

People would ask me a question like, “Oh, what’s the company’s EBITDA?” Now, I’ve learned a lot since then. Now, I’ve actually become educated and I do understand all that stuff but I didn’t back then. People would ask me what the EBITDA is and I don’t know that it’s earnings before interest and depre- I don’t know any of that. And so I’m like, “Well, it doesn’t matter, but you’re looking at it the wrong way.” and I would just take control of the conversation and talk my way around it and get them to buy the stock without that crucial information.

Richie Hession

Just because I had the ability to do that, doesn’t mean that it’s okay. So I’m telling people that I’m your stock broker and I’m going to watch out for your money but I don’t know the first thing about it. My sponsor was like, “Well, that’s very mature. It’s great that you see the truth in it but once you realize that you can’t do that anymore, what are you going to do?” Because now I’ve really got to get my first job in recovery, you know what I mean? Because once you realize that it’s dishonest and once you realize that you really shouldn’t be doing it anymore, you can’t. Right, because this program demands rigorous honesty and-

Mark Bonanni

It’s an awakening and doing things a little bit different outside the comfort zone.

Richie Hession

Yeah.

Mark Bonanni

Yeah, where did you end up after that?

Richie Hession

I’ll tell you. You don’t remember this part? It was interesting. It’s wild to put this out there but I will because whatever dude, I’m out there anyway and it’s not something that I usually share and the fact that it’s going to go out like this is going to be kind of weird but whatever. So I’ll tell you, this was my first job, real job in recovery. Now, I told you that I’m a college dropout. I’ve got an arrest record. I got no credit. So it’s interesting. I started off this little diatribe of mine by saying that place like Merrill Lynch would never hire me because they would never hire somebody like me. And I’m going to leave names out of it I guess. I guess I probably should. I should have called and asked him permission. He probably would say yeah it’s fine. He doesn’t care but I’m not going to do it anyway. You know who I’m talking about?

Richie Hession

So anyway, I was sponsoring somebody at the time and he had an unbelievable step experience. This guy, he was a Wall Street guy and I didn’t even know that at the time. It’s weird. Early days when I was sponsoring, I was sponsoring like eight people. It’s weird. You don’t sit down and say like, “Well, what do you do for a living?” I never asked anybody that, I don’t know why. It just never came up. I’d ask some of their family, their friends, like their life but for some reason, current job just thinking back on it back then for whatever reason, I never really asked that question.

Richie Hession

I didn’t even know what he did for a living this guy but as I’m sponsoring him, he has a rock star experience, like he was about to lose his job, his wife was leaving him, he was of ill health, like everything was bad in his life. And he was on that precipice of losing everything and so he went through and he started doing 12-step work. And he had this coolest experience. Watching this guy, he like, whoa! It was great to watch. I love watching people get recovered and stuff. And so he got everything back. The wife stayed, his health became great, his job he got promotions because people liked us when we start doing the [crosstalk 00:18:49]-

Mark Bonanni

[crosstalk 00:18:49] it happens, every time.

Richie Hession

It’s crazy what opens up for us. Now, at this time, keep in mind like I’m getting ready to leave my job no matter what. And I was at the point where and I’ll be honest I’ll tell you right now, my sponsor was like, “Oh, maybe you should just go get a job driving a cab or whatever.” and I’m like, “Yeah, I think that’s probably what I’m going to do.” It’s not an ego thing. My sponsors like, “That’s actually good for you, deflation of ego. Forget about like, oh, I’m a stockbroker. Yeah, you’re not really, and you need to go out and do honest work.” I’m like, “You know what I am and I was in a sober mind frame, like I am going to do that.” but all of a sudden this sponsee calls me up one day. And we’d become very, very friendly over the year and a half or whatever that we were working together in my early recovery.

Richie Hession

And he calls me up one day and he’s like, “Hey, listen man, I wanted to throw something out there to you. There’s a position opening up on the FX desk at this bank at Merrill.

Mark Bonanni

Foreign Exchange.

Richie Hession

Yeah, foreign exchange desk at Merrill. And he said, “And I think you would be amazing at it. I’ve got all these Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Cornell. We got all the Ivy League school kids and they’re amazing, talented people but I don’t know man. I’m the manager. I’m a hiring manager and I’ve got an eye for talent. I think you, alongside them, I think you would outdo all them. I don’t know why but I just think that you would just catch on to this thing and you’d be amazing.”

Richie Hession

And I was like, it was a very nice thing for him to say and meanwhile I’m like, “No way. You’re talking about people like Harvard graduates. I’m going to go on a desk with those people? That is nuts. He’s a mental case.”

Mark Bonanni

Staten Island Community College?

Richie Hession

Yeah, exactly. CSI, good old college in Staten Island. So I said, “Well, that’s very nice. That’s very thoughtful and I appreciate it but to be honest with you, it wasn’t even a matter of that, it was a matter of sponsor/sponsee relationship. There’s no way, dude. I’m really thoughtful but you’re my sponsee. I wouldn’t use you for that in that way. It’s a conflict of interest almost. While I appreciate it, I wouldn’t feel right. It doesn’t seem like something I should really do but thank you for the offer. So he’s like, All right. Well, I mean I’d really like to help. I know you were looking for something and I think it would be a great match. I don’t understand why you’d be … I’m not going to be your direct boss. I would be your boss’s boss’s boss’s boss.” He’s in charge globally of like-

Mark Bonanni

[crosstalk 00:21:07] opportunity, opening the door.

Richie Hession

Yeah, he’s just opening the door for me that wouldn’t be open otherwise and so I politely declined it. And then that night, I went to my home group and my sponsors there and his sponsor and his sponsor and like all the whole home group people into world talking about life and before the meaning. And so I brought it up as like a point of like, “Well, look at the good decision I made today.” I said that this dude offered me a thing and of course, I said no.

Richie Hession

And then [Tattoo 00:21:34] Larry said, “You turned him down.” And I said, “Yeah.” He said, “Are you a fucking idiot?” I said, “Excuse me? It would be a conflict of interest. He said, “Conflict of interest? Are you kidding me? So let me get this straight, you’ve worked a lot with this guy, have developed a friendship. You’ve given time, effort, energy and love. You guys have walked this path together, hand in hand. We help each other. That’s part of what the fellowship does. Now, he wants to open a door for you that you could never open yourself because it would make him feel good to do a good turn for you and you told him to go fuck himself.”

Richie Hession

And I said, “No. I figured it was a conflict of interest. I didn’t want to …” And he was like, “Richie, you’re looking at it the wrong way, man. That’s what we do for each other and if he can do that for you, I think you’re crazy. You should really rethink that. And I think you should talk to your girl about that and you guys should think about what makes sense for your future and you should consider going back and talking to him.” So I was like, “All right.” I thought about it and I’m like, “These guys are pretty, you know. Well, maybe I made a mistake.”

Mark Bonanni

You think you’re being noble.

Richie Hession

Yeah.

Mark Bonanni

[crosstalk 00:22:40] early recovery, we’re still out of our minds.

Richie Hession

Yeah, I’m not there. So I called him back and I said, “Hey, do you think that that would still be open or whatever? Because I think I might be interested.” He was like, “Absolutely.” So now I got to go. He said, “I make the final decision but you still got to technically come and interview with the head of the desk and blah, blah, blah. I’ll set it up and you’ll come in.” And I go into fucking Merrill Lynch, dude. A year before this I was like stealing money from my parents and rolling pennies that I found in my closet floor.

Mark Bonanni

[crosstalk 00:23:10]

Richie Hession

You know what I mean? And now-

Mark Bonanni

Top five firm.

Richie Hession

And now I’m in a top five firm in Wall Street, going in for like a job. Now, I don’t even know the specs of the job. I just told him sure and now I go in and I sit down with this guy and the guy was like, “Well listen, to be honest with you, someone really wants you to have the gig. This is more a formality but tell me a little bit about yourself.” And I’m honest I just was like … And this guy was pretty cool because he was very friendly with … because he’s his boss’ boss’ boss. He’s very open to whatever but he was cool as hell and he was like, “I don’t we’ll have a problem so. I’d love to have you. You seem to have a great personality. You seem fast on your feet. You’ve certainly got the gift of gab. Let’s see if you do it. Our friend said you’ve not really been …”

Richie Hession

Dude, my worst subject in school was always math, economics and now I’m going to take a job in a foreign exchange, it’s a joke when you think about it but I don’t know, man. I was always good at like probabilities and this and that. And I couldn’t tell you like, when they hired me and I’ll never forget this. It’s so funny. My first real job in recovery, when I was a broker, my best year I maybe made like $45,000, my best year. Keep in mind, that was working like maybe I don’t know, 40 days a year, you know what I mean? I only show-

Mark Bonanni

[crosstalk 00:24:20] the money.

Richie Hession

Exactly, exactly and so now I go in and I interview and after we’re done, they’re like, “Okay, so we want to offer you the job. The starting salary is $55,000.” and I was like, “55,000 like starting base salary.” And they were like, “Plus you’ll get an incentive bonus. It’s not going to be a lot the first year just so you know. I mean we’re already halfway through the year anyway and so you’re probably not going to get more than $20,000.” And I’m like, “Holy shit! 75 grand. Oh my god, plus medical insurance and this and that.” Now, I’m sitting and listening to them, like, “Well, that’s understandable.” Meanwhile I’m thinking like-

Mark Bonanni

It’s more than you’ve ever gotten.

Richie Hession

I remember calling my ex after the meeting and after I signed the contract. I called her and I’m like, “We’re rich! We’re rich!” You know what I mean? We’re going to guarantee we’re going to get that kind of money. So I took the gig and dude, holy cow and I’ll speak to this part of it just for all the people that are out there. I wasn’t worried about making money. I wasn’t worried about getting a job. I was worried about helping people staying sober, doing the next right thing. I was literally just focused on 12-step recovery. I didn’t go looking for that job. It came looking for me.

Mark Bonanni

But it happens time and time and time again.

Richie Hession

Time and time again.

Mark Bonanni

Every person that does it, it’s the hardest thing to understand or have any faith and belief in, in the beginning, that if you just concentrate on getting sober, really truly sober, all the opportunities will come. They always come. I’ve seen it happen to every person that’s ever done it.

Richie Hession

Now, I’m going to tell another story too just because I’m moved to do it and we might even edit this out later on, like kind of think about it. But it is an interesting thing because once you take that initial job and it does speak to what I’m talking about for the we use our powers of evil for good. Now here I am. By the way when they did hire me, I remember that I got called into the hiring. The lady, the administrator who’d like processes all new hires for Merrill and I got called in to her office and she’s like, “We have a couple of problems that we need to clear up on.” I said, “Sure, what?” She goes, “Do you have an arrest record?” And I was like, “Yeah.” I told them I had an arrest record.

Richie Hession

She goes, “Oh, he didn’t tell me.” and so my buddy who was the guy who my sponsee was like, “Yeah, it’s fine. It was only a marijuana charge. It’s not like, you know what I mean? It’s fine. Just write it down, I’ll sign it off as an exception or whatever.” And she was like, “Oh, okay. But there’s a couple of issues. You don’t have a college degree.” And I said, “No, I dropped out of school.” and so she was like, “Oh.” And he knew that and he was like, “Yeah, it’s fine.” And he signed off on that too.

Mark Bonanni

Meanwhile, it’s probably policy, a place like Merrill.

Richie Hession

Well, yeah, but their hiring managers were able to make certain exceptions. I probably was the only person working on that desk without a college degree. I’m probably one of the few that worked without a master’s degree but whatever. And then she said, “And then the last thing was I tried to get you the company American Express Corporate card and you were declined. You don’t have any credit.” I was like, “Yeah, yeah, that’s a problem too.” So he co-signed my cards so I can actually get an expense card, so I can go out with clients and do the thing, which is kind of funny.

Richie Hession

So I take the job and I didn’t know if I was even going to understand the job. I mean euro, yen, Swiss sterling, all these different names for British pound and there’s eight ways to say one thing and decimals and how do you do current exchange and you’re doing this one trades against this one and which is the base currency. And I don’t know any of this stuff and I’m like, “Oh my god.” I’m like literally teaching myself, asking a thousand questions, learning. I took to it like that.

Richie Hession

In six months, I was absolutely ro- like they wouldn’t even let me pick the phone up at first because I’m a trainee. By the end, man, I was two phones, doing a Reuters machine, out and open outcry. It’s like an open outcry where you screaming 59 and you’re screaming, buying, selling. It was madness and I mean it suited me well. And I went in and I went into this thing full [inaudible 00:28:12] to the point where … and this is what I’m talking about, to the point where one of the guys that I worked with, that was on the desk that was a senior salesman across the room, I never even talked to the guy. It’s a huge trading floor. I never even talked to him. I was a very junior guy, brand new. He was very senior. He covered the best accounts that Merrill had and he resigned and he left and it was a big thing. They were like, “Oh, someone left and went Credit Suisse and oh my god.”

Richie Hession

So they’re trying to get him. His accounts were huge and so I’m like, “Oh yeah, that sucks.” I don’t even know the guy, so it didn’t change anything for me. I was working on the government desk, so I was like, “Yeah, whatever.” So now the guy leaves and 10 days later, I get a Bloomberg message with his name on it and it says, “Call me on the outside.” with his cell phone number. And I was like, “Oh, that’s weird. I wonder what he wants. I don’t even know him but I knew his name because he was a big sales guy.

Richie Hession

So I’m like, “Oh.” I call him up and I’m like, “Hey dude, I got a Bloomberg message that you wanted me to call you.” And he goes, “Dude, listen, I’ve been watching you from across the room for six months. I saw when you first came in. You’re a street guy. I’m born in Brooklyn.” He was college grad and all that kind of stuff but he was like, “I’m a Brooklyn kid. You’re a Staten Island kid. I heard you. You’re loud. You’re fast. You’re efficient. You got a good personality. My clients would love you. I don’t like people backing up my accounts when I’m not there but I have to have somebody to pick up the phones. I’m at a point now where I’m so busy. I need somebody. I want you to resign from Merrill. I want you to come over and work with me at Credit Suisse.”

Richie Hession

And I was like, “Really?” But now, I’d lose my rabbi but as it turned out, the guy who got me hired to Merrill, literally the week before, hadn’t told me that he’s going to be in the next coming months leaving there and going somewhere else. So I was going to be left on my own anyway and I remember being scared and telling him, “What am I going to do?” He’s like, “You don’t have to do anything. You’re rock star. They love you now. You’re already in. Doors open, now it’s always been it’s up to you.” So I said, “Do I take this job?”

Richie Hession

And so I go to my guy and I’m like, “Dude, this kid just called me.” He goes, “That’s what I’m talking about. I told you they’re going to love you! You should take it. You should go and talk to him and interview.” And I’m like, “Yeah, but I mean I’m here-

Mark Bonanni

This one I remember.

Richie Hession

… I’m in here at Merrill and I don’t think I should leave. They’re really being good to me.” And he’s like, “Dude, that guy can take you to a whole another spot. You should go interview.” I said, “I will but I’m going to be honest with them. My recovery is my recovery. They’re not going to be as understanding of an arrest record, no college degree. I’m not going to lie. I’m not going to bullshit.”

Mark Bonanni

None of that stuff has ever been a barrier for me.

Richie Hession

Well, I didn’t realize that once somebody else had already hired you and you’re coming from Merrill, that’s what they care about and all the other stuff is at that point becomes kind of less concerning but I don’t know this. And so he’s like, “Dude when you go on the interview, ask him for a ridiculous amount of money.” I mean I’m making 75 grand a year at this point and thrilled with it, you know what I mean? And so he’s like, “You should ask him for something crazy. Start out really high, you know what I mean because you never know man.” Banks and they really don’t … and Wall Street, they look at things different.

Richie Hession

Those people man, they don’t look at money like … For me, that way they look at money is like Monopoly. It’s crazy at least back then, back in the day. So I’m like, “All right.” So I go on the interview and he’s like, “You have to still interview.” The guy Stevie who was hiring me, he goes, “You have to interview. It’s going to be a lengthy interview. They’re probably going to make you meet everyone on the desk. I’m going to be the one saying I want you as my backup.” He was a big hire for them, so there’s no way they’re going to turn me down but I do still have to go through protocols and process.

Richie Hession

And I said, “No problem.” “You have to meet 20 different people on several interviews.” I’m like, “Okay.” So I’m nervous dude. At that point, I just bought my first two suits to go to work at Merrill, wearing a suit every other day, you know what I mean? I need to work at Merrill.

Mark Bonanni

Been there, done that too.

Richie Hession

And so now I got to go-

Mark Bonanni

[crosstalk 00:32:04] Five years at that point, six years?

Richie Hession

No, I mean at that point, I’m sober for not even three years.

Mark Bonanni

It was that early.

Richie Hession

Yeah, it was ’99. Less than three years I was sober at that point.

Mark Bonanni

Still early recovery.

Richie Hession

Very early recovery. So I said, “Okay, I’ll go on the interview.” And so they call me morning of interview and I’m so scared and I see the phone, oh my god, what’s going … And they’re like, “Listen man, we had a change in interview plans. The guy who you were going to meet last as the final hurdle actually happens to be in town and he’s going to be in New York and he said that since he’s going to be here anyway, they might have even flown me out to London to meet this guy.” Like, this is such a different world I’m in now all of a sudden and I’m like, “Well, he’s going to be there and he wants to meet with you while he’s here in New York, so you’re going to meet with him instead of all the other people.”

Richie Hession

I was like, “Okay.” and now I’m thinking about what my boy said about ask him for a lot of money and then put a big number out there and blah, blah, blah and I’m like, “I don’t know how do you … like yeah, I don’t know.” And so then finally, I had gone and consulted him again. He goes, “Dude, it doesn’t matter. You’re going on the first interview. You don’t have to worry about what your salary is going to be, any of the details, they’re never going to go into that with you on your first ever interview. So don’t worry about that. Right now, just worry about being yourself and just tell them the truth and be honest and be sober and just go talk to the guy. Just be you. They’re going to love you.”

Richie Hession

I’m like, “All right.” Now I’m scared. I walk into Credit Suisse and it is an opulent rich European institution. Like dude, everything was marble and fucking like gold and sconces and you walk into the room and everything is plush velvet. I’ve never been in a place that was like a castle for kings and queens. I was so unnerved and I’m sitting in this room and at the head of this huge conference table that probably cost $500,000. They’re crazy and I’m sitting there like this and I’m so scared. My heart’s beating. My hands are shaking because this is like-

Mark Bonanni

You’re out of your league!

Richie Hession

I’m way out of my depth, way out of my depth. I’m newly sober. I’m just way out of my depth. And now I know this guy’s coming in and I hear the door open and I look over and I see the guy come through and my whole deportment change because the guy had on the craziest Paisley fucking pants, an orange shirt, a green hat that it looked like he bought with a bowl of soup. Dude, I couldn’t believe … He looked like a cartoon character. And I’m like, “Oh my god.” I almost started laughing because he looked so odd. He was an English guy. He’s a Brit and he has this like curly hair. And I’m like, “Oh my god!” I almost started laughing.

Richie Hession

Right away, I lost all my fear and he walks over and he said, “Yeah, Richard, I’m John Smith.” I don’t want to use his name because … “I’m John Smith.” and I’m like, “Hey John, how are you? It’s good to meet you.” He’s like, “It’s good to meet you. Sit down. Sit down.” “He’s like this flamboyant English guy. “Sit down please, please.” And I’m like, “Okay.” And he’s like, “So tell me about yourself. I want to know everything.” And I’m like, “All right.” He goes, “We’ve got about 20 minutes. Tell me about yourself. Why do you want to come here? Why should we hire you? Tell me who’s Richard Hession.”

Richie Hession

And I’m like, “Okay.” And I told him my story. I got into it about my childhood, about dropping out of school. I didn’t go heavy into the drug stuff because there was no need to really go there but I did tell him that I had some issues, which derailed me from college. I didn’t get in depth about the crazy stuff I’d done but I told him about me. I don’t know why. I just was honest with the guy and I told him that I just, I gave him the down-low and I told him about my family and I told him about just stuff growing up, like I don’t know. It just all came out. He asked the question and then before you know it, we’re talking.

Richie Hession

And I mean I went on dude and he went on and then he was talking and he was asking me stuff and I was asking him stuff and before you know it, we’re in a conversation. He looks down at his watch and he goes, “Oh my god!.” It was an hour and 10 minutes went by for a 20-minute meeting. And he’s like, “I can’t believe that it went this long. Richard, you are so interesting. I absolutely love you. We need to have you. We need to hire you. And I’ll tell you right now, we’re going to forgo the formalities. No, no other interviews. I’m not going to put you through 30 people. You’re hired. I want to hire you absolutely. What’s it going to take for you to leave Merrill Lynch and come to Credit Suisse First Boston right now?”

Richie Hession

Can you believe that? I’m like, “He didn’t just ask me that question.” You know what I mean? I know I asked for more than 55,000 because that’s what my base is now. [inaudible 00:36:29] said throw a … and I have no idea what to say. What the hell do you say? so I’m like, “What do I do? What do I do?” And I don’t know what made me even dare to say something like this. I have no idea. I couldn’t tell you where. I [inaudible 00:36:42] heard a number like this in my life and I said, “$250,000.” And he said, “Done!”

Richie Hession

And I reached out and shook his hand and my hand is shaking and he’s like, “Congratulations. We’re so excited to have you working. My girl is going to send you a FedEx package and you’re going to get it in the mail and it’ll be your employment agreement and everything is going to be great. You can wait until you get that and sign it and then you go resign and we’ll figure everything out. And he was like, “I’m so glad I met you. You’re such a wonderful person. I look forward to you coming.” and he leaves the room. I’m standing there dude and I’m like, “Holy shit! Dude, wow!”

Mark Bonanni

And maybe everyone, not everyone is going to have that experience.

Richie Hession

No, of course. I mean that is rare to the extreme but wow. I look back on that even now and I’m like, “Wow.”

Mark Bonanni

I don’t know if everybody appreciate but if you’re watching this thing, I mean there’s a different gift that this guy has that some people may not have. But there’s always [crosstalk 00:37:39]-

Richie Hession

Yes, absolutely, scale something.

Mark Bonanni

You essentially had hit the lottery.

Richie Hession

Dude, the lottery.

Mark Bonanni

You don’t always hit the lottery. I mean I have-

Richie Hession

And let me tell you something else too. I mean what I say about people like us having the ability to be a rock star because I rocked that job. And I mean I rocked that job.

Mark Bonanni

When I met you, and you were just starting-

Richie Hession

I went to that place as it turned out, and I didn’t know this at the time, they made a good hire because I took to that business. I built a huge little business within their business and turned it into something absolutely rock star.

Mark Bonanni

And if you bring it back to recovery, how did it all happen? By taking a different attitude towards everything that you do in your life.

Richie Hession

Everything. Steps first. Sponsorship first.

Mark Bonanni

It’s not just-

Richie Hession

Helping others. Do the next right thing. I literally followed a guideline of recovery and my sponsor and my people told me, “You do this, all that other stuff is going to fall in place the way it’s supposed to because sometimes money doesn’t come.” And I have a sponsee who’s like, “But I don’t understand. You had that experience and I don’t have any money.” Maybe you’re not supposed to, because some people when they get the girl back too soon, it causes relapse. Sometimes you get money back in soon and it creates sickness. You’re going to get exactly what you need to go along for the ride.

Mark Bonanni

And it’s not just about just not drinking or you [crosstalk 00:38:57]. This is a lifestyle.

Richie Hession

No.

Mark Bonanni

This is a lifestyle.

Richie Hession

Assuming recovery.

Mark Bonanni

It’s a way of living.

Richie Hession

Yeah.

Mark Bonanni

On a much smaller scale, I mean in this last time because I relapsed up for a long-term sobriety and I had to start over because when it ended for me, it ended with a host of felonies. I went to bed with zero and woke up with nine the next day. And that kind of changes things because I was in finance too and I have a similar story nowhere near the scale with not as big of a deal but even that and kind of getting sober. I just got in the advertising world and I got a job and-

Richie Hession

And you also ran illegal card games.

Mark Bonanni

Yeah.

Richie Hession

Wonderful games, dude [crosstalk 00:39:34]. I visited those games. You ran great illegal card games. [crosstalk 00:39:36]

Mark Bonanni

Yeah, there’s a skill to it, I guess but I’m on this job. I’m working in York City for the first time my life and I’m selling advertising and I have a decent job but it’s paying the bills. It’s paying the bills. I’m covering my halfway house. I’m living in a halfway house. That’s what it took for me to get sober. And I got another job and I fought for the interview and I had four interviews. It’s kind of a funny story. So they offered me the job and this is where I love the fact that I had good men in my life and good people and good guidance at this point in time because I get the offer. And in the offer letter, it says, “We’re going to pay you X and this is your offer of employment and it’s pending a drug test.” Check, easy, I’ve been sober at 90 days.

Richie Hession

A test you can pass.

Mark Bonanni

A test I can pass, I’m good to go there.

Richie Hession

Nice.

Mark Bonanni

And a background check. I’m like, “Motherfucker.”

Richie Hession

That’s [crosstalk 00:40:23]. That’s going to be a problem.

Mark Bonanni

Because I’m on felony probation and I pled guilty to three felonies to second-degree and they’re pretty serious charge. Felonies come up. They’re serious.

Richie Hession

Not good.

Mark Bonanni

Oh my god, what do I do? So I’m going … One of the things about relapse is I think it starts you completely over again and I was just as insane as I was prior to ever getting sober, even a couple months being separated from the drug. So my first thought is, “Well, working for someone advertising for a newspaper, they’re probably not going to do a background check. Those things have to be expensive. Maybe I’ll just lie about it.” And the other thing is I’m looking at my … There’s also a lateral move. They’re going to give me the same money and they got to give me more or else I’m just going to stay where I’m at. This doesn’t make any sense. Opportunity, I get it, whatever. I’m like, “What do I do man?”

Mark Bonanni

So I call my sponsor. I’m like, “What do I do? What do I do in this situation? They’re going to do a background check. Do I tell them the truth or do I lie and roll the dice that three weeks in, this background checks going to come back and they’re going to fire me? And also they’re not giving me the money.” He’s like, “Dude, tell them the truth on every work-

Richie Hession

What a crazy idea just become really honest with the [crosstalk 00:41:34].

Mark Bonanni

So I call the HR guy and it’s funny and I’m in like a, I don’t even know, like one of those rest area. What do they call the … In the city, they’re all around. There’s like the building will be open and there’s people milling around. They might have food.

Richie Hession

Yeah. Like a food court.

Mark Bonanni

Right. So I make the call and I’m like, “I’m having the same thing.” I’m petrified because this guy Andre, he’s like, “So how did it look?” I was like, “Yeah, it looked good. There’s just a couple things I wanted to address.” And I’m like, “I can’t believe I’m doing this.” I prayed. I took all the [inaudible 00:42:05]. He’s like, “What is it? What’s up?” and I said, “Well, the first thing is like I know this is about opportunity but it would be a lateral move. I really was looking …” It wasn’t that much money. I was like, “I’m making 50 now, that’s what you’re offering me and I know this a much greater thing for commission and so on and so forth but really I was looking to be in the neighborhood of like at least 60. And then I got … It’s just a lateral move.”

Mark Bonanni

He’s like, “Okay, let me talk to them and I’ll get back to you. What was the other thing?” I was like, “The background check, I actually have a few felonies.”

Richie Hession

Just a few.

Mark Bonanni

He goes, “What?” And I’m like, “Yeah, I was running poker games and there’s was like a thing, somebody had drugs. I was slightly dishonest. I minimized a little because I didn’t want to say I was-

Richie Hession

It was somebody else’s drugs. You didn’t tell them that you were arrested for heroin possession twice in 24 hours.

Mark Bonanni

I didn’t want to get into the whole story.

Richie Hession

And stayed in jail two times in 24 hours.

Mark Bonanni

Within a four-hour period. I didn’t want to tell them that part of the story but I generalized it and he’s like, “So tell me, these card games, did you provide food for them?” And started asking these questions that I thought were odd. I’m like, “Do you play cards?” He’s like, “Ha-ha-ha, no but it’s just interesting.” So it ends and he’s like, “All right, let me get back to you.” And 10 minutes later he comes back, he’s like, “Are there any other charges?” I said, “No, that’s basically it.”

Richie Hession

Pretty much it.

Mark Bonanni

He’s like, “Well, we’ll give you 55. We’ll meet in the middle and we’re okay as long as those are the only charges.”

Richie Hession

I’ll tell you now they would have given you 60 if it wasn’t for the felonies, so it caused you the extra five. I’m just saying.

Mark Bonanni

And it turned out and so this goes on further, there’s more to this story. So I take the job, I start and again, I’m crazy and I want everything that I had back and more. And I was making a lot of money and I want my cars back and I want all the stuff because I’m doing the same thing that everybody else does in early recovery, which is it’s got to be fixed now. And I’m having a hard time humbling myself, barely able to afford cigarettes after paying rent and mortgage and stuff.

Mark Bonanni

And I’m in this job and I’m looking around, I’m like, “I’m selling $200 quarter page ads in a newspaper. I’m never going to make any money here. So now I’m out and I’m looking already. I’m in there two weeks and I’m still putting resumes out and I’m talking to people and I go on an interview and again, I’m going crazy because I’m convinced that this is going to be … and I’m freaking out though. It’s the kind of thing where I have a mind that’s the obsession is this is not going to be good enough and I’m not really … I call my sponsor. I’m like, “Dude, I’m just going on another interview.” He’s like, “Hold on a second, Mark. What the fuck are you doing? You’ve been there for three weeks. You don’t know anything about what any of the plans are for any of this stuff, why don’t you just relax and stop looking? You just got there.”

Mark Bonanni

I was like, “This guy, man, what the fuck?” Again, my [inaudible 00:44:53] hit me. All right, but you know what, it relieved the moment. I said, “Let me just give it a shot.” And four months later, I had my first big month in that job and six months later, I mean I never had a bad month again and I made more and more and more to the point where I made more money doing that job than I’ve ever made in my entire life, and for me, it was a lot of money. It was all because I just took again, direction from somebody else and again, continued to concentrate on this stuff on recovery. It blew up.

Mark Bonanni

When I left the company, they were fucking pissed. They were like, “You’re doing what for what?” I was like, “Yeah, man. It’s time to make a move.” But it’s equally incredible.

Richie Hession

And again, that’s another thing. See, that comes with some maturity too in recovery and it’s interesting because money cannot be … If money is your primary guiding force, not that it won’t end well but it’s just not as like you left a job where you came somewhere else to make less money but to do something that you have a passion for, which is kind of cool too, you know what I mean? And then who knows where that goes once you go and I mean once you make that switch but actually now, you love coming to work every day.

Mark Bonanni

I never once thought like, “Ah, I got to go to work today.” I mean I’ve never been that way.

Richie Hession

That’s a career instead of a job.

Mark Bonanni

Yeah.

Richie Hession

Right, and that’s the thing. Can I earn a living? I mean, yeah, I can earn a living but do I love what I do? You know what I mean? Now, what a blessing that is in life and not everybody gets that. Some people, they have a job. Some people, they have a career.

Mark Bonanni

But in the beginning, in the early, early, early sobriety first job, it’s going to be a job.

Richie Hession

Yeah, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

Mark Bonanni

It’s going to suck [crosstalk 00:46:36].

Richie Hession

It should probably be a job, absolutely.

Mark Bonanni

I have a guy now that I’m working with, sponsee and I’m like, “Dude, I know you hate your job but I’m telling you, you have to continue to have faith. Finish your fucking four-step in months. You’re dragging your feet. And you’re [inaudible 00:46:49] with your job. There’s a world, a life waiting for you that you’re not going to ever see until you kind of get through and have some awakenings and see things from a different angle.

Richie Hession

The most important thing to get out of any of this stuff when you tell these kinds of stories is it came to me when I wasn’t looking to be successful. I wasn’t looking for money. I wasn’t looking for any of that. I was looking to do the next right thing and I was keeping myself open to whatever was going to pop up. I would have been comfortable making just enough where I could pay my bills and I could have money for cigarettes because I still smoked Marlboro Reds back then.

Mark Bonanni

Yeah, and I was in the same boat.

Richie Hession

Just if I could buy some cigarettes and if I could just have enough money just to kind of get by, I’m happy because I’m not dying anymore. I’m living the right and I’m living honest and I’m actually developing real friendships and my family are starting to trust me again. These little things that just make you feel good. The other stuff will come in time if you do the next right thing and if you focus on what’s important.

Mark Bonanni

And if it’s in your plan, but the beautiful thing about recovery is we can be happy with what we have in any given moment.

Richie Hession

Yeah, there you go.

Mark Bonanni

You know you’re in a good spot when you’re fine with it.

Richie Hession

But the truth is-

Mark Bonanni

Life’s going to be [inaudible 00:47:57]-

Richie Hession

But the truth is that over time beyond your wildest dreams is no bullshit. It’s no bullshit.

Mark Bonanni

It’s no bullshit.

Richie Hession

I can go over. I can just pick 20 people randomly that I’ve worked with over the last 20 years and I could just pick 20 random names out of my phone of people I’ve worked with the last 20 years and I guarantee you, every single one of them has some career that is beyond anything they would have imagined for themselves. I mean I literally can go through and just pick random names and I guarantee you because I know, I still keep in touch with everybody. I don’t know of any cases of people who’ve done this recovery program that were not taking way beyond where they were when they came in.

Mark Bonanni

Another cliché too, right?

Richie Hession

Incredible.

Mark Bonanni

We sell ourselves short. If I could have everything I wanted when I first got sober, I would have sold myself way short.

Richie Hession

Way short, absolutely.

Mark Bonanni

I have a life, ordinary life beyond my wildest dreams. No, I’m not rich but I’m good.

Richie Hession

True story, a little subtopic and then we can wrap it up and it is a cool one. It’s something like food for thought stuff and it all goes into when you’re in early recovery, the job and the girl and we’ll talk about that next time and the friends. People that you hang out with. This is one of those things where the topic would be hanging out with friends who still drink and use. Hanging out with the old friends. It’s an interesting thing when you come in and you’re getting sober.

Richie Hession

One of the big fellowship things that they tell you in every fellowship is people, places and things but they also tell you interestingly enough and this is where some of the bullshit that I could never kind of understand gets along. They also tell you, don’t make any major changes in the first year other than not hanging out with anybody, not hanging out in place, things, everything don’t change it.

Richie Hession

Change your job, change everything, you change the way you think, don’t hang out with anybody anymore but no major changes. Those are all major changes. So it is kind of-

Mark Bonanni

Stick with the winner but don’t judge.

Richie Hession

Yeah, there you go. Stick with the winners but don’t take people’s inventory but how do you do that? So there are two major changes that go on in early recovery. The whole thing is one major ass change. I think they just mean don’t make any big decisions that-

Mark Bonanni

Don’t get married.

Richie Hession

Yeah, big decisions that don’t need to be made right away but people, places and things are something that does need to happen right away. And some of the literature, when you hear advice from people and the thing and they say, “If you go into the barber shop, often enough you’re going to come out with a haircut, right?” You go into the lion’s den, at some point, you’re going to get bit. They use all these different analogies to describe the danger. And they say that what your motive in going to a place, stopping by the pool hall where you used to play pool, where everyone has the drinks. And you go in and you saddle up and you sit in one of the chairs at the table and order a club soda with lime. And you’re there and they describe that as stealing some vicarious pleasure from the atmosphere of the place.

Richie Hession

Meaning, what are you doing there? Why are you going to go to that spot yeah? And we justify it with ourselves. Going to a pool hall, well, I’m going to play pool, go into the bar that I used to play competitive darts in in a competitive dart league. Well, I’m going to play darts. I want to see the guys. They’re still my friends and I want to see those guys and show them how good I’m doing. I want to see, “Oh, I heard you’re sober. That’s great. Oh, let me get your water. Let me get you some …” And now I’m hanging out and everybody else is doing what we do with impunity. They’re drinking and having fun. I don’t see any of the horror show. I don’t see what happened-

Mark Bonanni

Even though some of them have the same horror show.

Richie Hession

Of course, they do but you don’t see that in the bar at the time. All you see at the time is music and fun and the bead falling off the cold glass of beer, that bead of water.

Mark Bonanni

Sure, I remember what that feels like.

Richie Hession

Yeah, it’s like a Budweiser commercial and you’re like, “Ah, this is great.”

Mark Bonanni

You’re seeing that one guy freaks out a little bit.

Richie Hession

Yeah, he’s got the little white things but he’s having fun in his own little insane sick way.

Mark Bonanni

For the moment.

Richie Hession

For the moment but what happens after? What goes on? Where does that lead? And I know where it leads but when you’re in those kinds of places, do we have any right to go people, places, things? How do we put ourselves into that? And hanging out with people that we used to hang out with often times is a tremendous mistake and it can be very, very dangerous. Did you have any experiences with that early on?

Mark Bonanni

I think early experiences, a little bit different experience for me is that by the time I ended up in recovery even in my early 20s, my friends had all been gone. Lone wolf type of thing. I went in a path that most of those guys didn’t go. I guess a couple times early on but I’ve done some work in here and one of the things I had to hear in recovery from 12-step fellowships was that it wasn’t about avoiding that stuff. It was some of those later promises after having had an experience with the stuff that I could go anywhere and do anything that a person can do as long as I had a certain simple attitude and my motives were right and I wasn’t going to steer vicarious pleasures.

Mark Bonanni

In the beginning, I mean I lived in a halfway house for six months. We didn’t go to bars. It was just against the rules. We didn’t do. We had a lot of fun. Was I around people? My whole family drinks. I’ve never had anybody that was in recovery that I’ve dated. My girlfriend drank and it had to be okay because me and sober doesn’t mean you can’t do something that’s not bad for you. But in the beginning, I mean even if I had to do a 12-step call or I had to bring someone in detox because those people are high and they might be on my absolute drug of choice.

Mark Bonanni

It’s easy to avoid heroin addicts when you’re trying to get clean from heroin. I mean if you’re having with people that are an active crack smoking addiction, you’re really setting yourself up for failure. But it doesn’t mean I have to. This isn’t about hiding out in the church basement. The deal is that I have to meet life and everything that comes with it successfully.

Mark Bonanni

In the beginning, it’s, of course, people, places and things. There were a couple people still floating around out there. I had lost a desire hanging out with those people though. Why would I want to hang out with the people that are doing the things that I did? I wanted-

Richie Hession

But so many of them do. So many people come into early recovery and they want to go by the old neighborhood. They want to go by and see the old … I mean that’s a reality. You’re lucky if you lost complete desire to go by and see everybody and you would just be happy to disassociate-

Mark Bonanni

I was also separated. It was only by a couple of different counties in northern New Jersey, arriving from Morris to Bergen-

Richie Hession

Which is helpful too. So geographical in that sense actually played a positive role.

Mark Bonanni

In a lot of ways but I was involved but then I went back. It was probably a year in and there was a place called Johnnies Tavern in Boonton, which is a pretty famous bar and they had like a golf outing. So I went but I was sober at the time. I went in and played golf with my uncle. We went back to the bar for a little while afterwards but I was really in this stuff. I was completely safe.

Richie Hession

Sure, recovery.

Mark Bonanni

Went and ate and I went home. I had no desire to drink of anyway. It had be long since been removed.

Richie Hession

Which is a totally different thing than when you’re in early recovery before you’ve had an experience, before you even reached that position of safety where it can be a little dicey to put yourself in that circumstance. And that goes across the board. People like, “Oh, if you’re in recovery then you shouldn’t have a problem going to a wedding of your family.” Not necessarily. If you’re just coming first time, you’re just in your fourth-step stuff. Use a little common sense.

Richie Hession

I tell all my sponsees like, “Now, you might be uncomfortable going to this wedding. Have a plan. When you go to the wedding, you’re in the middle of your fourth step, first time trying to get sober. I want you to call me at least once while you’re at the wedding today because you seem uncomfortable and nervous. And I want you to have an exit plan. Who’s taking you there? I’ll come pick your ass up myself. You call me. I’ll be there in 15 minutes, dude and I’ll come pick you up and we’ll go hit a meeting instead and leave the wedding. I mean, that’s it.”

Mark Bonanni

The idea I think for all of us is in the beginning, lean heavily on your sponsor in your network.

Richie Hession

Yeah, no doubt.

Mark Bonanni

Don’t think that I’m going to be okay going here because you don’t know. This thing is the type of thing where before you’re at a certain point, it’ll come out of nowhere.

Richie Hession

Sure.

Mark Bonanni

You might be okay and go in with the proper motive and then it’s like, “Well, I’ll just have one.” You’re suddenly-

Richie Hession

I’ll tell the story. Sometimes I get even out and my bit with the whole people, places and things but my first time I came, I’m not a first-time winner because the first time I came in and tried to get to a fellowship and tried to get sober, I told you the guys, the Wall Street guys introduced me to this. That was earlier earlier on. It was only later on that I actually came in and actually got sober. I am doing what some of them describe, I’m white knuckling it. I’m thinking about it all the time but I’m not acting on it. I want a drink. Let me go to a meeting and that kind of stuff and it was just a constant back and forth.

Richie Hession

But people, places and things and it is important and so for me, I ignored that because dart season was starting. I can’t very well disappoint the guys on the team in the bar, you know what I mean? The Legends pub, they need me. I’m one of the good dart players and I can’t not go. So I went to Legends pub and I joined up the dart season and I’m sober, right, not really but I’m abstinent. I’m going into the fellowship and I’m going to meetings.

Richie Hession

And so I show up for the dart season and I can’t comfortably be in a bar and not drink. And that’s where I was at back then and I’m sitting in there and they’re all drinking and I see the beers and I love Budweiser and I love Jack Daniels as a chaser and I want a drink. I want a rock glass full of Jack and I want to drink Buds all night and I want to play darts but I’m not going to because I know where it leads me and the cocaine. I know if I drink I’m going to get high on coke and I know if I do coke, I’m going to … I can’t do it. I’m not going to do it. I’m not going to do it but now I go in and I’m playing darts and I realize I can’t be in here but I’m not going to not be in here.

Richie Hession

I’m not sober enough to make a decision to say, “You know what, this isn’t for me. I’m too uncomfortable. I got no business here. So I came up with my own little sober plan and so what I did, this is insane and I did this for maybe I don’t know a month of darts season. And then eventually, I just started drinking. Yeah, I’ll tell you the end of the story, I started drinking and getting high again but for about a month, I would go to my dart league and I would go in and I would always ask them to put me as the first player when the match starts at night because I know what time it starts and I’d come two minutes before start. I’d warm up a little bit and then I’d play the first game.

Richie Hession

When my game was over, I’d look on the schedule and I’m up like in about probably 25 minutes-ish, I know around there and I would leave the bar and I would jog. I ran. I would run down Victory Boulevard to Jewett. Make a right on Jewett, go up Chandler, go make a right on Crown and I would go back down Victory Boulevard and I would just do a box, a big rectangle up around my local neighborhood and stand out. I was in good shape back then and I’m just running. And I would go run for 15 minutes and I’d say, “Okay, it’s been about 18 minutes.” and I’d go to the bar door and I’d open it up and I’d go, “Am I up?” and they would be like, “10 more minutes!” and I’m like, “All right!” and I would go and I’d run again.

Richie Hession

That’s what I did for four weeks of darts. I literally couldn’t be in that bar. So my solution was not to stop playing darts. My solution was to jog and that I just wouldn’t be there in the middle and I would just show up to play darts because I didn’t want to give that up. And it worked for four weeks. And then eventually I was going to go out and start running and I’m like, “This is stupid. I don’t need to go out and run.” And before you know it, I was like, “I’m just going to have one beer. I’m not doing any of the bullshit again. I’m not going to have the Jack. I’m not going to have any … I’m just going to have a beer and I’m going to be chill and I’m not going to let it get out of hand again.” And you know what happened.

Mark Bonanni

And this is the best plan-

Richie Hession

That I could come up with.

Mark Bonanni

This is your best thinking on a role, which again, goes to the point of lean heavily on others because I have a lot of good ideas still today.

Richie Hession

Yeah.

Mark Bonanni

Almost eight years back with 19 years of experience in recovery and you have them too.

Richie Hession

Sure.

Mark Bonanni

I need other people sometimes. A lot of times, things get a lot better, thinking gets a lot clearer but there’s a lot of decisions I’m still capable of making some poor ones. It doesn’t just end with relapse. There’s a lot more than just-

Richie Hession

Yeah, I’m maybe make one of those decisions on Saturday. All right, so anyway so let’s …

Mark Bonanni

[crosstalk 00:59:28]

Richie Hession

It’s happening again. So we’ll wrap it up there and again, we could talk about all this stuff in 80 million different ways and forever. I’m glad we didn’t get into the dating because we’ll do a full thing on dating in-

Mark Bonanni

Yeah, we could easily do it.

Richie Hession

We’re going to do a thing in the next podcast. We’ll do if we have one in between when we do the patient brokering and all the scumbags in this field. Before we do that, if we do dating, we’re not just going to do dating in early recovery, we’re going to do dating in early recovery and we’re going to do backslash dating in recovery for people who’ve got some time because dating and recovery is a very interesting thing. And if you talk to Chitty, who’s the clinical director in this joint, from the treatment perspective, he’ll tell you the main two things that people go out and relapse on are surgeries and girls or boys depending.

Mark Bonanni

Surgery?

Richie Hession

Surgeries, yeah. Either dental or medical procedures where you get pain killers. We lose more people to that than almost anything. It’s that and-

Mark Bonanni

Relationships.

Richie Hession

Relationships. Those are the two things that kill more people like us than anything else.

Mark Bonanni

Money’s got to be up there too.

Richie Hession

No, not causal for immediate relapse. I’m not saying it doesn’t have effect of life and maybe break down so when you give in to one of those other things but typically speaking, those are the two biggest … Everything can have an effect on you but those are the two biggest reasons for going back out and relapsing. So having a full podcast on relationships, dating in early recovery or dating in recovery is definitely relevant. And I have some crazy-ass stories that I can tell along those lines, which are kind of cool. So we’ll do that and so remember, if you want to subscribe to the podcast, we’re available on major streaming platforms, iTunes, Spotify, SoundCloud and YouTube and other than that, stay the path.

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