For many people who finally decide to seek addiction treatment, their physical and mental well-being comes first. But what happens when you feel like something deeper is missing? In this candid and revealing conversation, BlueCrest CEO Richie Hession and BlueCrest VPs of Business Development Mark Bonanni and Stas Botsaris discuss their own spiritual journeys during recovery and how trying to get sober without including spirituality is like “switching seats on the spiritual Titanic.”

Transcript

Mark Bonanni

No pressure. What is some of the…

Richie

Have you ever switched seats on the spiritual Titanic? Have you ever…

Mark Bonanni

Nope.

Richie

Never?

Mark Bonanni

No, no, of course.

Richie

Yeah, okay. So…

Mark Bonanni

I think we kind of touched on it in other podcasts too. I think what comes to mind to me is automatically just filling the void with anything, whether it’s problematic or not. A lot of times, for guys anyway, it’s women.

Richie

And with girls, it’s boys. We just happen to be three men.

Mark Bonanni

Is it though as much you think?

Richie

Absolutely.

Mark Bonanni

You think it is as much?

Richie

I sponsor some women and they have pretty much the same issues we do. They show up a little different, but sure.

Mark Bonanni

Yeah. I heard a speaker on Friday night talking about it and I’ve been kind of going through that stuff for years into recovery. It’s just that, there’s a void. Am I switching seats in the Titanic? I don’t know if it’s even switching seats, I’d say it’s just that spiritual void that I felt when I put the stuff down and I still had no insight to what drove me and why I had these behaviors.

Mark Bonanni

I still suffer from obsessive compulsive thoughts today. Things to fill the void. I’ve gone through phases in recovery where it’s like, all right, I want to get a new apartment, and it’s not something that’s going to sink my ship, but it’s going to affect other areas of my life in the sense that I spend, not at BlueCrest, just so you know Richie, but ordinate amounts of time on Hot Pads, for example. Looking for apartments. Hot Pads is a website to find an apartment. I’m months, searching for the right apartments. It’s screwing up my life because I’m not effective at work. I’m spending all the time looking for an apartment.

Mark Bonanni

Get the apartment, move in, car’s not good enough, right? Just as an example. Now I’m spending inordinate amount of time, waking up in the morning, instead of hitting my knees and praying and going through my routine, I’m on Cars.com looking at cars, and I’ve done this stuff over the years.

Richie

I’m not saying that’s not relevant…

Mark Bonanni

I know it’s not. It is not relevant.

Richie

But it’s not exactly on topic.

Mark Bonanni

I know what you’re saying.

Richie

That’s one of the first things that we’ll tell people when they come in. People will come in, and when they first get sober they go usually one of two ways. Number one, they pour themselves into helping others and working with other people. At the expense of everything else. Where they overdo it. Where they’re working with 18 people they’re sponsoring. Their meetings. They take on six commitments, and they’re totally engaged where everything else is suffering as a result of it. Then you’ve got people who go the other way. They’re finally sober and they’re playing catch-up and they’re saying to themselves, all my friends have graduated college, everyone’s gotten married. Who’s got a car? Who’s got a house? And I’ve got nothing, and I’ve got debt, and they throw themselves into work like banshees, and they don’t help anybody else. Meetings suffering, whatever.

Richie

If you’re going to do one of those bad things, the imbalance is always better working with people and helping others than going after the money.

Mark Bonanni

To ensure staying sober.

Richie

To ensure staying sober, but it’s still a form of sickness as well. Not that this is not a relevant topic because it is, and we could do a whole podcast just on that stuff. Having said that, it’s not really switching seats on the spiritual Titanic? You started off by saying women so I’ll throw one out there and it’s not a personal experience, if it was I would say it because I don’t care. I’m an open book, but I have a lot of sponsees, a lot of people that I’ve talked to in my circles and sobriety circles, where guys come in and they engage, when you say with women, they go to massage parlors, and the massage parlors becomes their new high-risk behavior. It becomes their new form of release where they’re not hurting anyone and blah, blah, blah.

Richie

I’ve seen it happen where it takes on unbelievable forms where guys are now, they’re going four times a week. They’re spending money that they can’t afford to spend. That’s their new drug dealer. Right now they’re short on their rent, they’re short on their car payment. Why? Because they’re doing that. They don’t feel good about it, and they’re now chasing that, and that becomes them switching seats on the spiritual Titanic, meaning that you took one unhealthy practice of drug addiction and alcoholism or whatever you were doing, now you’ve gotten sober, and you’re hopefully trying to grow along spiritual lines and a spiritual pathway, now you start engaging in another set of unhealthy behaviors on top of this new spiritual lifestyle that you’re supposed to be living. All you did was switch seats on the spiritual Titanic, meaning that spirituality is good for what it is and all your practices, but now you’re engaging in something that’s going to take you down that road that you just got off.

Mark Bonanni

Totally jarred my memory. I’m thinking about it, and it wasn’t in early recovery. It was, I had long-term…

Richie

Oh wait. Hold on. I want to throw this out there. Somebody just said, “Did he just vape?” And that was a little while ago, and they were probably talking about you. I don’t think I’ve hit it up yet.

Mark Bonanni

Mine’s in my pocket.

Richie

Maybe it was me. I’m just not even thinking, but I’ll throw it out there because we’ve actually had some legit, and I get it, like complaints, not complaints but people who kind of had something to say like, “I think it’s disgraceful that you guys are vaping while you’re doing a…” Listen this isn’t channel two and we don’t, you know what I mean, it’s not like I’m on a network channel and the kids are watching. This is a recovery thing and we’re all a bunch of recovered addicts. What I would say is if I still smoked two packs of Marlboro Red a day I’d probably be smoking a wrap, which is terrible.

Stas Botsaris

Spiritual titanic.

Richie

But I’d have an ashtray here, and I would be… Yeah. I don’t know. But for me, I switched off of the Marlboro’s, and I went to the vape, and look, I’m not saying one way or the other whether it’s good, bad or indifferent. It’s not good for you. There’s very few things that’s a vice in nature that’s actually good for you in any way. I don’t subscribe to vapes. I don’t suggest that kids start vaping. I think it’s stupid.

Mark Bonanni

You should all quit.

Richie

I’m glad I’m not smoking.

Mark Bonanni

Quite frankly.

Richie

Inevitably, my 10 year old’s, they’re being taught in school, I don’t know if anybody has any 10 year old’s, but man, do they, and good stuff, but they educate them in a way I was never. My kids look at people smoking cigarettes and they’re like, “Dad, why would he be ingesting that poison into his lungs? Do you know what that does to you?” I’m like wow, they’ve been indoctrinated that death is knocking on that person’s door, and they’re right to teach them that because it’s all true. Now they’ve seen me vaping and they’re like, “That’s not much better, Dad. We’re hearing a lot of things about the vape.” That’s probably true. Yes, the answer is, and to go back to Mark’s answer is yes, you did see us vape. You probably will because we are not saints. It’s as good of a justification as anyway, but I’m not going to go an hour without vaping because this is my podcast.

Richie

When you do your podcast, you should do one where no one is allowed to vape. Guests are allowed to vape too. I’m not the only one.

Mark Bonanni

I’m debating…

Stas Botsaris

I was going to say, I was like…

Richie

Just so you know, this, where we do this podcast is actually in my personal basement so I can vape here if I want to. There’s no rule against that.

Mark Bonanni

I’m like debating whether I even tell my, main experience, memory you just jogged with switching seats on the spiritual Titanic, but I wasn’t new in recovery. I was actually long-term recovered, but I had left. I had pretty much slowly, but surely, stopped having any accountability to anybody, like a sponsor. I no longer was taking inventory. I was already kind of living life a little dirty and gambling was a part of that. I was surrounding myself with like-minded people doing like-minded things, and it wasn’t about recovery. It was about gambling and women. It was about 10 years sober, I approached a friend of mine one night, and I said, “What’s the number to that massage parlor that you go to?” I had that inkling inside that this stuff probably wasn’t a good idea. And the guy even said to me, and he wasn’t in recovery. He was probably the antithesis of recovery, and he was like, “But you don’t do that stuff.” I was like, “Yeah, I know, but I’m going to now.”

Mark Bonanni

Because what I didn’t understand and didn’t know in the moment is that the void was already coming, the void was there. The lack of helping others, the lack of being involved in any sort of real recovery left the void. The void came back. It always does. I was looking to fill it with something. So I said, “Just give me the damn number. Give me the place.” So he gave me the name of the place, and the number of the place and it was late at night. It was probably about 10:30 at the time. Not that late, but late enough. I called them up and they said, “All right. We’ll open til 11:00, come.” I was here, nearby in like Totowa, and the place was down in Secaucus. I was going to go to this massage parlor and get whatever, happy ending, the whole deal.

Mark Bonanni

So I’m driving down, and I’m racing down because I want to get there before they close, right? This is a true story.

Stas Botsaris

No, I’m into it. We’re hanging on the edge of our seats.

Mark Bonanni

I’m driving down…

Mark Bonanni

It’s crazy, man, and it’s not that much of a curve ball. I’m driving down the highway and I hit a traffic jam on Route 3 going to, down the thing, and in the moment I said…

Richie

Dude, hold on a second. What is that?

Mark Bonanni

It’s your call. Someone’s on a phone call. It’s like speaker phone.

Richie

No. I think it’s us reverberating back on a delay.

Stas Botsaris

I think it is too, because we’re on a delay here because I’m watching it. Go ahead.

Mark Bonanni

So I’m driving down Route 3, I hit this traffic jam, and in the moment I still have enough recovery in me to think to myself, I think this is God’s way of putting the barrier between me and getting to this place, and they’re going to close and I’m not going to make it in time. But of course, like a good alcoholic, addict that I am, I power through, race through, get down, get to the place. Go into the massage parlor, whatever. Get a massage, the whole deal. What did it do for a guy like me? It became exactly what you just talked about. It became a thing where I’m not using drugs, but I’m now doing that shit, right? It’s sick for a million different reasons. Excuse me, stuff. It’s sick for a million different reasons, but then it became the type of thing where it became the thrill, almost like using.

Mark Bonanni

You don’t know what’s going to happen. You don’t know if the cops are going to bust the door down. You don’t know. It’s just a million things. And the thrill of that, high-risk…I go to the place where it was high-risk behavior, secretive and lying, I’m not talking to, clearly, I’m telling no one about this stuff. Then it’s to the point where, and I forget about this part of the actual relapsing in substances. Because there was a couple times I was like I’m so hopped up like let me get a Klonopin before I go so I can stay a little more relaxed and stuff, and it just became this whole thing.

Mark Bonanni

Eventually for a guy like me, that seat on the spiritual Titanic is not the seat that I’m looking to go down on. So when someone put a Percocet in my hand, I took it. You know what I mean? That was my biggest experience of all. It was the beginning of the end for me.

Richie

That was what? Like 11 years ago or 12 years ago?

Mark Bonanni

It was like 10. 10 years ago.

Richie

And you were sober at that point for 10 years.

Mark Bonanni

10 years. 10 years away. And anyone that I would’ve talked to, if I had talked to anybody, you had already told me three years prior that if I kept doing what I was doing, I was going to use, and I was like, F this guy, and I hung up the phone and cut you off. Nobody used that type of negativity.

Richie

Of course, which is interesting. When you do switch seats on the spiritual Titanic, and you are engaging in a behavior that’s going to lead you down that road again, sober minded people that are around you are going to be like, “Hey bro.” None of us, like look I’m not going to be somebody’s nag. Like who am I to say, right? There’s no…I get that, and nobody lives that perfect, chaste, Buddhist lifestyle. Maybe some do, but none of us here that I’m aware of have done it. But we engage in what we engage in, but then there’s some stuff that goes beyond, you know there’s that fringe, right?

Richie

I never want to lose, like there’s some vices that I still enjoy engaging in, that I don’t want to cross over that line so I make sure I keep myself, if I still have that power to do it, is a different story. When you lose the power, you lose the power, but it’s our job as, if you have a sober friend, it’s the friendship idea. Back in the day friendship I would never bring that up because I don’t want him to…

Mark Bonanni

You always called it what? Spiritual consent.

Richie

Spiritual law of consent. Which means that you have a responsibility…

Mark Bonanni

Call me out.

Richie

Not just the permission, that’s an assumed permission because we’re friends, and if you’re really a friend of mine I have not only the permission, but I have the responsibility to say, “What you’re doing is bullshit, and it’s going to lead you down a road that you don’t want to, bull stuff, it’s going to lead you down a road that you don’t want to go down. Just be mindful.” Invariably when we’re in that position, and we’re in that mindset, our answer is, “I hear you, bro.” Disconnect. And that’s somebody…

Mark Bonanni

Don’t need that in your life. I don’t need it.

Richie

Exactly. But talking about switching seats on the spiritual Titanic and where that can take you, you were talking about that’s the end of your story, but really where you first switched seats is you started an illegal gambling operation in your basement, right? And you were doing the card games. Nick is laughing because Nick knows the story well, but that’s really where it started for you. Engaging in that high-risk, unhealthy behavior. And that one was weird because it wasn’t like most of the behaviors that we engage in, where there’s usually little consequences. That one, there was actually a lot of reward behind it financially. The consequences came later. There was really just benefit for you that you were able to make all this money and blah, blah, blah.

Mark Bonanni

Started great and innocently enough, right? But again, like I don’t do anything in moderation really. That whole thing was going to be one night a week, we’re just going to play cards and I’ll make a little money. Then it was two, then it was three. That immediately took precedence over recovery. At that point I still made a couple meetings here and there, but then the keyest night of all to have a card game was the night that I would go to a meeting so that became, I don’t need to go to meetings. I was dragged to my 10 year celebration. That’s part of my story. I didn’t want to go. I was the guy that nobody’s ever seen before. Who’s this guy getting a 10 year coin? Who is he? I was that guy I hated today when I see that.

Mark Bonanni

It started then. I mean it started long before that. The real seat switch happened a little later. This actually goes further back if you think about. We have a long history, right?

Richie

It always does, man.

Mark Bonanni

It got weird for a minute there. Even amongst our whole crew of people in recovery, it was centered around poker games, right?

Richie

It’s true. When no limit, hold ’em became like the thing. The move arounders, everyone was like bah, bah, bah, but…

Mark Bonanni

It starts out all innocent. Like here and there, once in a while.

Richie

Yeah. We were all playing and loving the tournaments and this. It was so much fun to all do together. Then that activity became like once a week, twice a week, three times a week, the whole weekend, playing 24 hour game.

Mark Bonanni

Once in there was a fight, right? Once in a while. I remember Danny, rest his soul.

Richie

God rest his soul, Danny.

Mark Bonanni

Being like, on a Wednesday, “There’s a poker tournament today. I want you to play.” I was like, “Dude, it’s a Wednesday night. You’re playing cards on a Wednesday? No way. Like what are you talking about. I’ll go on a Friday or a Saturday. I’m not going on a Wednesday? Poker?” That was like drinking in the morning. I don’t do that. I was like, “I’ll come one time.” That was that. Game over. Thankfully all this stuff has pretty much lifted. I can’t remember the last time I’ve been inclined to even play a poker game.

Richie

By and large. What about you, Stas? The Philly crew down there, what do you guys, especially the Greek Philly people, any switching seats or are you a saint?

Stas Botsaris

Nah, definitely not a saint. I wouldn’t be amongst the round table if I was a saint. It’s crazy. There’s certain things that I actually did never like really, really engage with. I was around it, but I’m not actually participating I mean. Like for instance, like gambling and prostitution, stuff like that. I was too busy getting high. I was too busy literally…

Mark Bonanni

What about clean?

Richie

That’s really what we’re talking about.

Mark Bonanni

Nobody’s got time for prostitutes when you’re high. At least I hear those stories, I’m like what!

Stas Botsaris

My story’s a little bit, and maybe it’s not different in any stretch of the imagination. When I first got clean I was still promoting. I was still doing the nightclub thing. I was still getting that fast cash. I was getting adored, this and that. I was still, whatever you can imagine someone like me would do, that’s what I did. Then my story is that I did have a relapse. Then when I came back right away I said I was going to do it differently, and I promised myself I was going to do it differently because I never wanted to use again.

Stas Botsaris

But the obsession to use drugs was lifted again, miraculously, but then the obsession to live clean was just like, it was unfathomable to me. To not go do what the F I wanted whenever the F I wanted, and who are you and who are you to tell me that? For years, I just, listen, when you live in a rap song and you’re the product of the last gangster movie that you just watched, that’s who you are. That’s what I was. My spiritual guidelines were revolved around that, and I walked around, I carried a gun, I did this.

Stas Botsaris

I was a disaster. If you could kick one person out of your fellowship, like I was him. Do you know what I mean? If you guys all had a meeting and you were like, “Look, I know it’s against the principles…”

Stas Botsaris

When you look over the traditions there’s, that gray area…

Stas Botsaris

Again, with shopping, especially. People, places and things, but it was more money, property and prestige. The inability to just womanizing, just barbaric, that type of stuff. There was never, and it was obviously a lack of self-esteem. It was pure insecurity, but there was never anything I couldn’t buy. I had to fill it. There was a while there, and this is strictly ego coming out, but it’s an invitation so people can understand the switching the seats. There’s a time when I couldn’t go without buying myself a new car. You know what I mean? Like you said, the individual that thrusts himself into meetings and into service, and then literally everything else falls apart. I couldn’t let Richie be more successful than me. I couldn’t let Mark be more successful, but it was all financially driven.

Stas Botsaris

There was a time when I couldn’t leave my house without a certain amount of money, cash. I didn’t care if I was late on the mortgage. The idea of you seeing how much money I had on me was a representation of literally who I was. We’re not talking about a lot of money. We’re talking about, I mean it’s a lot of money, 1000 bucks is 1000 bucks, but that was the idea of pure success for me. Maybe to get a shock out of you or something like that. But clean, there’s a natural attraction that I have to destruction.

Stas Botsaris

There’s a natural attraction that I have to organized chaos. If I can manipulate it in the right way…

Richie

You know, and usually it sneaks up on you. In other words, it doesn’t seem like a bad idea at the time. Do you ever hear that old story. It’s from an old movie. But it reminds me of the guy who once climbed to the top of a 10 story building and jumped off the roof, and people standing at the open windows the whole way down heard the man saying, “So far, so good. So far, so good.” Inevitably, we know how it’s going to end, but it usually sneaks up on you, and I’ll jump in because I want to know. We all have individual, this is what I value, experience, and we can talk about switching seats and like how did you switch seats, what did that look like, how did you get out the other side of it, what’s the lesson learned? That’s the stuff that I consider to be valuable.

Richie

Now I come in and I get sober, sober. Again, I differentiate, not just abstinent, I get sober. I meet with a sponsor, I go through steps, I have an amazing experience, spiritual awakening. I’ve never had that connection before in my life. I start sponsoring people and I’m working with people. Now all of a sudden, life beyond your wildest dreams. Like stuff starts happening. I get offered a dream job that I have no business even having. Life is just taking on, it’s become amazing. Life’s become absolutely amazing. All the cash and prizes.

Richie

I’m spiritually fit, I end up, AA girl meets AA boy. We get married. We get pregnant. Have twin babies. Now I’ve got twin babies. I’m living in a mansion in Wyckoff, New Jersey. I’m a kid from Staten Island. Five years earlier I was stealing change out of my families’ pockets and off of, picking cigarettes off of parking lots, grounds to smoke, and now all of a sudden I’ve got like a mansion in Wyckoff, New Jersey in the period of five years because when you get sober, amazing things can happen.

Richie

Now I’ve got the cash and prizes. Everything is going really, really well, and Mark was talking about the poker thing, gambling, right? This is an interesting one too because now I start playing online poker. Now I don’t even have to go. Like I was going to people’s houses, but I didn’t get it, like you ran the game so you were, but me, I would go, but then I wouldn’t go again until it was a big process to go and be there all night and blah, blah, blah. But once you get introduced to online poker, man. Online you can do a lot of bad shit.

Richie

I’m no millennial, but I get hooked in pretty good. Now I start playing on PokerStars.com, and I’m playing tournaments. Keep in mind, I’ve got a lot of money at this point so I was doing really, really well. It wasn’t a matter of the money. I wasn’t losing money. It’s interesting, people automatically associate you would think the story is…

Mark Bonanni

You’re losing time.

Richie

It’s the time. Now I’ll tell you what actually happened with me. This never, I’ll ruin the end of the story. It never became about money. I never really lost any real money. I once won three online tournaments in a row.

Mark Bonanni

I remember that!

Richie

In 36 hours. Do you remember that?

Mark Bonanni

I do. You were like home sick or something.

Richie

Well I stayed home sick. Well you’re right, I was legit sick, but then I stayed home because I got involved in a tournament. These are like $10 tournaments, it’s not even like I was, but I’m on this thing for hours. I won like almost $6000 in 36 hours. I won three tournaments, back-to-back-to-back, first place, which is unheard of. You’re talking people like 2000-3000 people joining these tournaments.

Richie

Yeah, Richmond Park was the time, no, that was a home group. I was living in Wyckoff at the time actually. Now I’m doing this and I’m engaged in this, and I’m not going to work. I’m calling in sick to an amazing job, for a $10 tournament. Like $5000 is really not, when you have a kind of job that I have working on a trading desk on Wall Street. But it wasn’t a matter for the money for me. It was that…

Mark Bonanni

The thrill!

Richie

The win, the thrill, the gamble. It releases endorphins. It’s a high, in and of itself. Gambling addiction can be even more brutal than the rest of the people that cross that line. Having said that, now this is the part that’s fucked up, messed up. Apologize to SoundCloud, Spotify and YouTube. Hopefully we can block that out.

Mark Bonanni

Will they boot us?

Richie

Yeah. But I mean one accident, little thing, but we’ve got to be careful. I haven’t done it, in the whole podcast that we’ve done, I’ve been very good.

Stas Botsaris

It’s a soft F.

Richie

Anyway, I will say that I, just envision this right now, I’m sponsoring eight people. I’m Home Group. I’m sober, sober, sober, sober, but now all of a sudden I’m playing in these tournaments. Now I’m playing in the tournaments at night, I’m playing on the weekends, I’m playing during the day on the weekends. My wife, at the time, is like, “Richie! Josh and Eda need to be changed.” Or whatever. “I’m playing in a tournament.” And I’m screaming at her, like, “Leave me alone. You take care of it. I’m in the middle of something.” I’m like, I don’t even hear myself doing it because I’m like is she kidding me. I’m in the middle of a tournament, this real important tournament. Never mind my one-and-a-half-year-old twins that need to be changed. I’m in it now. I’m doing like doesn’t she realize that I’m going to be a poker maven. I need to wait to take this down.

Richie

That’s the mindset. I’m sponsoring people. I’m doing amazing stuff in other areas of my life, but not in this area of my life. Like I’m switching seats on the spiritual Titanic. I found myself there. And she said, I don’t remember what she said, she said something to me, and she said, but she didn’t come at me. She was like, “It’s a little scary that blah, blah, blah.” I heard her. I don’t know why. Maybe because I was sponsoring people. Maybe I was just in a position where I was able to hear it, but I heard her. You know what I mean? I went to my sponsor and I was like, “I think maybe blah, blah, blah.” He’s like, “Dude, what’s wrong with you?” Because I wasn’t telling him any of this stuff, right? Because it was nobody is getting hurt. I’m not spending, what’s the problem? I’m not spending money. If anything I’m even up money. What’s the issue? That’s not a gambling addiction. Did it ever cross the line to addiction? No. I was able to stop because I realized what I was doing was unhealthy, but it could easily had gone there.

Richie

Just because I didn’t lose a whole bunch of money, doesn’t mean…

Stas Botsaris

That it wasn’t a problem.

Richie

It was a big problem for me! I’m shirking other responsibilities, as a sober man. That’s insane.

Stas Botsaris

Like just to circle back on it, that’s I think one of the biggest misconceptions with people, especially when they’re not sharing where they are with their sponsor or even their sponsees, it doesn’t matter. Anyone can pull you up on it. You mentioned it before, like we have a saying, “I love you enough to hurt your feelings.” You know what I mean?

Mark Bonanni

Yeah, we have it too.

Stas Botsaris

We’re in each other’s lives for a reason. I have a responsibility to call you out. Maybe not in public, but one-on-one at least. When people are successful at maybe doing something wrong, you know what I mean, it’s hard. When I was in the restaurant business, all I wanted to do was work. Everything else was a hassle. Relationships, whatever because the money was the main focus, and if I was making money that means I was being rewarded. Like the cash and prizes. And I get to go buy stuff, and I get to go feel good, and I get to show exactly how I want to be perceived. That takes a lot of effort when you’re not paying attention to anything else. When you’re locked in obsession and compulsion of this is the image, whatever it is.

Stas Botsaris

But like you said, your wife said something and you’re like, “What? Are you kidding me? Do you know how busy I am right now? This is life or death.” And your one and a half year old. Luckily you were in a position to hear something. It’s hard, especially, when you get clean young, I mean, again, not having role models and just deciding who your role models are is dangerous as well. Whether it was some gangster that I saw on TV or some rapper that I wanted to be like, but I think sometimes, at least for me, I can’t tell you what’s necessarily spiritual. I can tell you what’s unspiritual now because I feel it. It’s a gut thing.

Richie

It’s a guiding principle that I don’t always know what God’s will for me is but I usually know what it ain’t. That’s a guiding principle.

Stas Botsaris

Usually when we have acquired some clean time, our F-ups, when we slip up, it’s catastrophic sometimes. Luckily, and we’re aware of it now, but the way I used to live does no longer fit. That outfit is too small for me right now, and I remember making that spiritual switch, whether it’s a seat on the Titanic or whatever. Maybe I just jumped in the lifeboat and there was room.

Mark Bonanni

Lucky you, dude. Lucky you too. I didn’t.

Richie

Fair enough.

Stas Botsaris

But I mean I could tell you when I made that transition over with a few years clean to get with a sponsor, like actually get involved, looking back and I can remember having that feeling probably just like a month of people’s perceptions of me in the room was like yo man, you really changed. Like they saw it, and looking back…

Mark Bonanni

For the worst or…

Stas Botsaris

For the better. When I actually committed because that persona was just… literally I unzipped and got into a new one. Looking back I said to myself, I was like how did I ever make it this far living like that? That’s not to say, I’m far from perfect.

Mark Bonanni

Your looks, bro, that’s how.

Richie

I’m going to say to you that there are varying degrees of stuff as well because you guys are like oh, you’re lucky, but not me. We justify nothing, but you’ve got to be careful. I’m not talking to young people, well I am probably so don’t, you hand that football off to someone and they run it right into the end zone, but understanding context of what I’m saying, there are varying degrees, right?

Richie

Think of the differences. You said you were very lucky because I paid the ultimate price with the relapse after 10 years, whereas I didn’t. Think about the differences. At that point you weren’t going to any meetings, you weren’t sponsoring anybody.

Mark Bonanni

Yeah, I was much further gone.

Richie

But the activity you were engaged in too, you were around gambling addiction all day, every day with that kind of people. There’s a certain thing about that kind of lifestyle. That people were into that borrowing money, who owes, big pots, little pots, people angry. You were in that emotional sea of insanity day in and day out, and you were profiting off to it, and you weren’t going to meetings and you weren’t sponsoring people.

Mark Bonanni

And there’s drinking and drug use.

Richie

But eventually it led you to you go to a massage parlor, then someone gave you a Klonopin. Then it’s like…

Mark Bonanni

But I was going to say, if you didn’t, there was a time where maybe I could’ve hopped off the train. Maybe if I had been doing some other stuff, but I think at the end of…

Richie

The point I’m making is that when you and I, back then, when I said to you like, “Hey Mark.” And you were like forget that guy, I don’t want to talk to him anymore. When my wife brought something up to me, I was able to hear her. Why? I’m as sick as you are, in every way imaginable.

Mark Bonanni

No, no doubt.

Richie

But at that time I was sponsoring people. I was going to meetings. I was able to hear her. I was able to see, I got engaged, I switched seats. I was on the spiritual Titanic, it was sinking. I was engaged in sickness and that was pervasive, but I was able to still pause. I was able to stop. I was able to hear. I was able to see. Why? Not because I’m not as bad as you. I’m in some ways, worse. In addiction, addictive personality, with gambling and all of that. I have the propensity for that, for sure, but I was engaged in a different way and I was able to hear it, and thank God for that.

Richie

I guess that’s the kind of moral of the…whack a mole is going to happen. I don’t know anybody who becomes a saint, and never has any kind of life problem or something they struggle with. And when something comes up where you start engaging in some way in an activity or in something that’s not healthy to you and your recovery.

Mark Bonanni

Doing something you shouldn’t be doing.

Richie

Absolutely. Which puts you in a bad position. I will say, and I tell my, I’ve told sponsees over the years, the people I’ve sponsored, the people I’ve helped they’re always like, “Thank you so much. You have no idea. You saved my life.” I just laugh. “No, no, you saved my life.” It’s my sponsees, it’s the work I’ve done, it’s the fellowship, that stuff is what saved me many times when I’ve been engaged in unhealthy behaviors. That’s the, that’s my truth, but in that case I was able to be pulled back from, I didn’t even go to the brink. You went to the brink and then broke. Then you had to go down a whole other road and hit a whole other…

Stas Botsaris

Like a level of pain.

Richie

Second surrender out there. Like not even a sober surrender, but a using surrender. Like a second bottom. If you believe in bottoms.

Mark Bonanni

I guess the moral of it all is if we switch seats in this spiritual Titanic, and keep going and going and going, not heeding the warnings, right, from those around us, not listening because even when you said it, I heard it. I just thought it was impossible. He’s wrong. I’ve done all this stuff. It’s impossible that it will end in disaster.

Stas Botsaris

I think that, listen when you’re living, when you’re doing that obviously you’re just living in a form of insanity. Whether it’s a controlled insanity, right? That’s the lie, the denial that we put ourselves in that position where we’re like dude, this is all manageable. I’ve got this. When you’re not sharing with other people. Whatever that may be. Cheating, and I’m not just talking about on your spouse or a loved one, I’m talking about just in life. You’re just cheating and cheating. When you grow up with a code that it’s not a crime if you don’t get caught. That type of broken thinking. It’s not until I get introduced to men that have that and say, “You know that that’s okay? That’s a broken… You know that it’s okay to admit to yourself that that’s a broken logic so it doesn’t apply.”

Stas Botsaris

You can’t apply a broken logic to logic. It’s not going to work. What’s your guy’s sayings? Circle peg, square hole, whatever, something like that.

Richie

Yeah. I also believe you can’t fix your broken brain with your broken brain. I believe that as well and that’s another one.

Stas Botsaris

I need to be around people, especially me particularly because I can tend to get a little sensitive, that are not going to humiliate me for that. That, or going, if I tell you something and you humiliate me over it, and you belittle me because I’m already in a sensitive and vulnerable position to talk about it, and if I feel like you’re embarrassing me over it, now I’ve got a resentment. Now I’m going to keep doing it just out of spite, but the only person it’s still going to affect is me.

Stas Botsaris

My experience is when men have helped me or showed me or almost laughed with me joyously, like, “Yeah, I did the same thing, and this is what happened, you’re going to lose your house and your business over it. I did. You don’t have to do that if you do x, y, and z you might be successful.”

Richie

Unfortunately most of us…Benefiting from other people’s negative experiences, while extremely potentially beneficial and a good idea, generally I have to…

Stas Botsaris

You spiritually disagree. Yeah, right. Again, it was always the same, like my sponsor and the guys in the fellowship would always be like, “But go out and get your own pain. Go get it.” When I’ve had close members of friends and family, when it’s that close to you it’s hard to think logically. I remember my sponsor said, “You’re going to have to let him hit bottom.” Because he was so close to me. He’s like, “Dude, don’t rob him of his bottom.” Because I kept on trying to fix it and catch it and stuff like that, and I was sick over it. What I gave up to be the bearer of that pain, willingly of course, but again, I did the step work over it, but it was just like I was able to surrender all just so I could keep robbing that individual of his bottom. And it’s dark, it can get dark.

Richie

I’ll tell you that this, okay, first of all we’re, the Other Side is the name of the podcast I’m supposed to be…For anybody who signed in this is the Other Side, and this is our live podcast, and we’re talking about switching seats on the spiritual Titanic. I’m here with Mark Bonanni and Stas Botsaris, and me, Richie Hession, and we’re just blabbing on about some of the insane things that we’ve done in our recovery, and going down that dark road, and engaging in unhealthy behaviors. Switching seats on the spiritual Titanic. Getting through the other side of it or not, depending on what goes on. There’s so much that can be benefited from other people’s experiences.

Richie

Now again, we’re not saints and we’re not driven white as snow. I, myself, have engaged in a lot of behavior in recovery over 23 years. I’m vaping. People will say, “You’re vaping on the thing.” Like yeah, I’m a nicotine addict. We don’t refer to it that way, but that’s the reality of it.

Mark Bonanni

How much unmanageability has come up from that?

Richie

Which is the question. Maybe this is a little bit…

Mark Bonanni

Can’t make it through a podcast without it.

Richie

Yeah, I know. But it’s longer-term unmanageability. There is unmanageability there when I’m 64 and I’m having problems breathing and I get, what do they call it?

Mark Bonanni

COPD.

Richie

COPD. That kind of stuff. Maybe there will be unmanageability but guess who pays the price for that? Not just me, my kids, my grandkids, whatever, later on in life. I don’t know. Whatever, but we’ll worry about that later. Right? Like 20 more years. Look at eating. Like I’ll tell you for food for me. You two pretty kids don’t have that problem, right? I always hope that one or both of you guys either lose your hair or get really big.

Mark Bonanni

It’s happening.

Richie

I wish that on both of you.

Mark Bonanni

What if you lose your hair and you’re like one of those good-looking bald guys, you know?

Richie

I’d hate you for that too probably.

Mark Bonanni

They’ve got surgery for that stuff.

Richie

But the food thing, we could have a whole thing on food and eating, but that’s switching seats as well. Talk about developing an unhealthy behavior. That is something that happens slowly over time. The long-term effects of that. You think about self-esteem. I’m not somebody who looks in the mirror and says, “I feel bad for myself or whatever.” It is, what it is. I’m a cool slice of bread, there’s no question, but it’s definitely becomes such an unhealthy thing, and I’ll throw it out there just because we’re having these kinds of conversations, I will say for anyone who struggles along those lines, there are certain things that you can struggle with. Spending, some people go on crazy spending sprees where they have to go to like Debtor’s Anonymous. Then there’s…

Mark Bonanni

Stealing, right?

Richie

Well yeah, absolutely. Again, all the high-risk behaviors. The men or the women, depending girls or boys. Porn. Massage parlors. The whole sex avenue which could go in 50 different directions. The gambling stuff which can go where it goes. The sometimes high-risk other activities that people engage in. Food is one of the ones that people can engage in in recovery. Soda, Coca Cola Classic became my beer basically right? I’m told the way sugar and the way it manufactures it’s very similar and blah, blah, blah so that can become an addiction in recovery.

Richie

It’s hard, the hardest thing for me, that I’ve dealt with in my recovery, and I’ll throw it out there, everything else I can, I go to God, I write inventory, I work with a sponsor, I engage in spiritual activity and you cut that thing out of your life. I don’t do drugs, I don’t drink alcohol, I don’t smoke marijuana. I don’t do any of that stuff. That stuff is all gone. That’s out of my life, 23 years. You cannot play poker online. Gone, cut it out of my life. You can’t stop eating. You know what I mean? Because you’ll die. Now you’re asking someone like me, who’s clearly addictive in everything that I have do or has the capacity for that, now you’re asking me to do something in moderation, and I don’t do moderation. That’s a problem.

Mark Bonanni

It’s why the fellowship for that particular problem is like hardcore. They are about as hardcore.

Richie

It’s unbelievable hardcore. I went to see, I went to check it out.

Mark Bonanni

Oh, you did? Maybe I heard it from you. I don’t know.

Richie

Oh my God. I could tell you some crazy, crazy, I won’t for the sake of… I’m not talking about that, I’m talking about like qualifications that you’re hearing, and I’m like oh my God, this is not me at all. I sought an outside solution to an inside problem. I went and got the lap band and I lost like 85 pounds at one point or whatever. Then like anything else, I know some people that have even gotten the sleeve done that have gained weight, put a bunch of weight back on eventually.

Mark Bonanni

Or the stomach completely…

Richie

Yeah, the stomach thing. You figure out ways, if you’re one of us you figure out ways around it. But anyway, that’s a perfect example of engaging in an unhealthy behavior and unhealthy lifestyle. Once you find yourself there, as with any of these things, it leads you down a road, but what you pointed out is the most interesting thing, which is there’s no immediate, it’s not like I’m going to leave here and then go try and break into a deli to steal a ham. There’s no like, I’m not going to go and steal money out of my mom’s purse to go buy Twinkies. There’s not that immediate problem other than the long-term health. I’m not downplaying anything. It’s horrendous, right? The long-term health effects.

Mark Bonanni

Just like alcohol.

Richie

Yeah, exactly right. Except alcohol you can see the negative effects right up front. Thankfully it has that built-in…

Mark Bonanni

But not always right away.

Richie

Yeah, I know. It sneaks up on you too.

Stas Botsaris

Being, again like you said, Coca Cola, we already know what soda really does.

Mark Bonanni

It’s good for you.

Stas Botsaris

Nah, dude, it’s trash work, and it will literally… Hold on. Did you see the YouTubes where they show you how to clean your house with Coca Cola? It does a spectacular job.

Mark Bonanni

Dude, check this out. I was in a rehab in upstate New York, one of the many episodes of treatment that I had the pleasure of being on. There was a heavy beer drinker, right? Because you just made me think of it. This guy literally drank a case of beer a day. He was in the rehab. He drank a case of soda, regular soda, a day. I don’t know what happened to him, but I’m imagining.

Stas Botsaris

It ain’t good.

Mark Bonanni

He had Diabetes, but…

Richie

The amount of sugar is absolutely…

Mark Bonanni

Like how are you even letting this guy do this?

Stas Botsaris

Well it’s the same thing with like coffee with me. Literally when I wake up in the morning I need coffee like immediately. I’m not a good person in the morning. When I get done, here’s how I know, right? Because I look at the iced coffee that I get from wherever I get it from, and by like the second sip I’m like I’m going to need another. I’m going to run out. You know what I mean? This isn’t enough.

Richie

Here’s the thing. I want to throw it out there, right? Because we’re going to get ready to wrap it up. We don’t have a particular time thing but we tell a few stories, we talk about, it’s very relevant to people, and anybody’s who’s in recovery lifestyle or even if somebody who is watching this isn’t in recovery lifestyle, every human being engages in some behavior. It’s kind of like the old, whenever I tell my men stories that I’ll tell and one of the things, there’s always a reason and a moral to the stuff that we talk about, and that is, do you have unfinished amends that are sitting in your nightstand, next to your bed, under a book, under your keys, under a bunch of stuff, that you need to go open. So you tell a story to point that out, and then you point that out to people and they get uncomfortable.

Richie

After the thing they go out and maybe they make a couple of those amends. They see you next time and they say, “You told that amends story, and I went and made a bunch of…” We have this kind of a conversation, right? We do a podcast about switching seats on the spiritual Titanic, engaging in unhealthy behaviors in recovery and how they can lead you down the road that inevitably could end up in relapse, and even if it doesn’t it can cause a lot of pain and a lot of grief.

Richie

Anybody who’s watching, what a great time to stop, beginning of the year, and do one of those kind of self-assessments, and ask yourself if anything we’re saying is hitting close to home or you’re kind of like, oh God, I guess I’m doing that a little too much. What a great conversation to have with your sponsor. What a cool thing to put pen to paper and ask yourself like I wonder and maybe stop and think. It’s always that self-assessment, that kind of gut check to say, am I spending too much in an unhealthy way? Am I…

Mark Bonanni

What needs changing?

Richie

What needs changing? What behavior am I engaged in in recovery or in my life that is not healthy and not good for me that could use some changing, probably could use some…

Mark Bonanni

Where am I lying to myself that this no big deal?

Richie

Exactly. You could end up with paying little prices, you could end up big prices. I was about to say ultimate, that ain’t the ultimate price. The ultimate price for you would’ve been, ultimate one would’ve been going to jail, jail. Which was entirely possibly.

Mark Bonanni

I don’t know how I didn’t.

Richie

Which it’s shocking in and of itself, and you’re talking state prison too, which is not the federal boys’ club. I’m talking going to a real state prison for three years can change somebody. Or what if you ended up killing somebody?

Richie

What if you ended up killing somebody in your car, you know what I’m saying?

Mark Bonanni

Yeah.

Richie

Driving home from scoring. So many things that could happen as a result, but you could pay the ultimate price, you could pay the little prices, you pay personal relationship prices in between, but that’s the whole point of this kind of stuff, right? Having these conversations. A reminder to go back, take it to a spiritual advisor, a sponsor, a loved one, someone that, a confidant. Have that conversation, consider it, think on that, pray on it, and maybe it comes to you that some action needs to be taken to change or detail or to stop doing something altogether. What the hell. You guys have any other final comments or anything specific?

Stas Botsaris

Tell on yourself.

Richie

I found you both a little more on the boring side than I have before.

Mark Bonanni

I felt boring.

Stas Botsaris

I was quiet.

Richie

I was a little disappointed. Yeah, you were very quiet. To the point where I started thinking, is this an NA thing? Can you not admit that you’ve had a spiritual Titanic?

Mark Bonanni

Kevin G is a rockstar.

Richie

Kevin G is a rockstar.

Mark Bonanni

You don’t know the Kevin G I am talking about.

Richie

Oh, I thought you were talking about, oh, that’s Kevin M.

Mark Bonanni

That was a text I got. Someone offered me money to give them a shout out.

Richie

Shout out to Kevin, and also to Anthony and SeriouslyDrucker and to Stella P.

Richie

No, we didn’t see any engagement. I don’t know if that’s because people don’t really care or they’re just listening to us blabber on. I think it’s more likely because we had a bunch of people on. I personally think that our Kevin is not a rockstar, and I think that the chat thing is just not working and people are probably like I can’t imagine people that I can, I can see a bunch of people are signed on. I can’t imagine people don’t have something to say about this. This is a bunch of sickos signed onto here.

Mark Bonanni

Is there any issues?

Richie

You know how many of these folks probably had some personal stuff going on or at least want to be abusive towards us?

Speaker 4

I’m not seeing anything wrong.

Stas Botsaris

Not even getting made fun of? Like nothing?

Mark Bonanni

Well you go the smoking comment, didn’t you?

Stas Botsaris

You go the vape…

Richie

Well we had a few. We had a few, but little stuff. No real, you know what I mean, but listen the nature, I see how many people are signed on and with the nature of what we’re talking about, people at the very least are going to be abusive towards you guys, probably not me because I’m so cool, but you guys, definitely they’re going to say some… Even the stuff I’m saying now.

Mark Bonanni

They’re on the edge of their seats.

Richie

Exactly. The total number today it was 2836 people and no one had a comment.

Mark Bonanni

No one.

Richie

That is…it’s got to be a technical thing. Thanks for nothing, Kevin. Anyway thanks for joining Stas, Mark and Richie on the Other Side. We’ll check the chat stuff because I know you guys had stuff that you wanted to say and Kevin ruined it and ruined the podcast for all of us.

Richie

Save that channel. We’re going to do another live podcast, and hopefully then it will be effective. Other than that, this is Richie, Mark and Stas signing off and saying see you on the other side.

Share This

12-Step Recovery Focus

12-Step
Recovery Focus

12-step programs are the path to maintaining long-term, meaningful sobriety.

Consistent Communication

Consistent Communication

Clients and families are kept informed of all treatment components from initial contact to discharge.

Evidence-Based Treatment

Evidence-Based Treatment

Our therapeutic approach is grounded in the most reliable clinical practices for substance abuse recovery.

Multiple Treatment Modalities

Multiple Treatment Modalities

Our program integrates numerous treatment modalities from yoga and meditation to individual and group services.

Highly-Trained Clinical Staff

Highly-Trained Clinical Staff

Our staff is carefully selected not only for their skills and experience but for their passion in helping others, as well.

Post-Treatment Services

Post-Treatment Services

Our case management and aftercare services will make all necessary referrals for sober housing and treatment when completing our program.

Holistic Approach

Holistic Approach

Our integrated treatment model addresses the spiritual, physical and mental components of addiction.

Long-Term Support

Long-Term Support

We ensure every client has a long-term plan for ongoing recovery and a sober network in place before they discharge.

Mind, Body, Spirit Focus

Mind, Body, Spirit Focus

The spiritual, physical and mental components of our treatment promote a healthy mind, body and spirit.

Personalized Plan of Care

Personalized Plan of Care

Each treatment plan is individualized to meet the unique needs of each client.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment

Dual Diagnosis Treatment

BlueCrest has an on-staff psychiatrist, psychiatric APN and licensed clinical team to assist those with a dual diagnosis.

Solution-Oriented Programs

Solution-Oriented Programs

Our focus at BlueCrest is on solutions to addiction and mental health challenges, not living in the problem.

You guys care, you really do. This isn’t just a machine.

I feel like I’ve found somebody that was long lost and I’m still finding that person, and it’s a journey that I’m welcoming. I’ve gotten my life back and I’ve gotten my soul back.

Jason

The longest I stayed sober before I came here?

I think I had 54 days once. Now I have a year. I can't believe it.

Sean

Speak to an addiction specialist now

No commitment or obligation. All calls are kept 100% confidential.

We can help. Give us a call today.(973) 298-5776