Light Hustler: Looking for Light in All the Dark Places

Dr. Adi Jaffe is someone who's well-known in addiction and recovery circles—primarily for his unorthodox approach to recovery. A former meth addict who went to prison for dealing drugs, Jaffe cleaned up his act in rehab and spent three years in 12-step abstaining from drugs and alcohol. And then one day he thought about drinking; he talked it over with the people in his life and gave it a try. It's now 11 years later and his addiction hasn't resurfaced, despite the fact that he's sampled both pot and ecstasy during this past decade and change. During this time, he went to grad school, became a counselor and opened Alternatives Addiction Treatment, a rehab that teaches people to moderate drinking (it also shows those seeking abstinence how to achieve that). A sought-after public speaker (check out his Ted X talk here), Jaffe is the first to admit that he may be wrong about his approach to addiction but is determined to try to spark conversations that show people there are alternatives to 12-step. In this episode, we discuss why you shouldn't ride a motorcycle to make your drug deals, what it's like to stay sober in jail and how he may have just had his first spiritual experience, among many other topics.

Direct download: EPDrJaff_APP.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00pm PDT


Voice actor Maurice LaMarche is someone you've heard more times than you've possibly heard your own parents. He wasn't only the voice of the Brain on Pinky and the Brain but won an Emmy for one of the numerous characters he played on Futurama. Then there were the parts he played on a little show called The Simpsons. Have we mentioned Zootopia, The Powerpuff Girls, Rick and Morty and Team America? Though he started out as a stand-up who did impressions (in this episode alone, you can be privy not only to Orson Welles but also Peter Falk and many others), that all changed when his life took a tragic turn in his late 20s. In short, his father was murdered and Maurice's life was derailed by alcoholism. A few years later, after an intervention arranged by his wife, the younger LaMarche found sobriety. In this episode, we discuss dreaming in color, pretending you're starring in your own TV show as a kid and whether or not it's important to have A-listers at your intervention, among other topics.

Direct download: EPMaurice_APP.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00am PDT

Comedian Joleen Lunzer may hail from Minnesotta but she's carved her way into the LA comedy scene quite nicely. She was one of three finalists in "Loni's Laugh Off" and produced the LA comedy show "Dissecting the Set." The journey to where she is now—happily married and the doyenne of the website PaleGurl—hasn't, however, been without its tribulations. After following a "slutty" boyfriend to Arizona, Lunzer ended up briefly institutionalized in a place where, on her first night, her teenage roommate threatened to kill her (a worker at the institution slept in between them as protection). Managing OCD has made some things challenging—after checking to make sure a door is locked, she has to touch the handle in a certain way to confirm that all is okay—but she's now got the condition under control and and is sitting atop four years of sobriety. In this episode, we discuss how pale skin fares during heat waves, punching a guy over a cab and just what a bad idea it is to drink while taking antidepressants, among many other topics.

Direct download: EPJoleenLunzer_APP.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00am PDT

Entrepreneur Khalil Rafati is arguably the least likely entrepreneur out there. Many years ago, the former heroin and crack addict left Toledo, Ohio after getting into some serious scrapes with the law. He ended up living in a shed in Malibu where he and a roommate shot drugs by the light generated by Fast Times at Ridgemont High (which they played over and over again on a VCR that was powered by electricity they were siphoning from next door). Finally washing ashore at Pasadena Recovery Center, Rafati got sober but still found himself unfulfilled and awash with anxiety and the feeling that his life wasn't happening the way he'd hoped. After filling up on Tony Robbins and getting inspired by Oprah, he set about changing that, opening first a Malibu Sober Living and then SunLife Organics, a juice shop that had lines out the door from day one and has now spread to numerous other locations. Now Rafati is sharing his unlikely success story in his just released memoir, I Forgot to Die (available on Amazon as well as at SunLife). In this episode, we discuss what happens when a combination of ecstasy and pills changes your life, what it feels like to be able to buy your mom a house and how to let go of the sad story you tell yourself, among many other topics.

Direct download: EPKahlil_APP.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00am PDT

Author Sam Polk has had an interesting journey to authorship. The former hedge fund manager had traveled what many would consider the picture perfect upward trajectory journey, escaping the confines of a "Willy Loman-like dad" and landing at Columbia University. But an addiction to drugs and alcohol, among other vices, helped him get kicked out. No matter! He landed on Wall Street, where he quickly rose to the top. But then he realized, as some do, that the top was empty and that his lifelong belief that enough money would cure all that ailed him wasn't true. And so he left Wall Street, began working on a book about it and sent off a blind query to the New York Times about how sick his money obsession had made him. This piece, For the Love of Money, immediately went insanely viral and his book (also called For the Love of Money) snatched up by Scribner. It's no wonder; the book is impossible to put down and takes the reader to when his final Wall Street bonus was $3.6 million and he was, as he wrote in the Times, "angry because it wasn’t big enough." He was 30.

Times have changed for the happily married, LA-dwelling father of two, who's been sober for 14 years and is now the cofounder and CEO of Everytable, a social enterprise that sells fresh, yummy food at reasonable prices and the founder and Executive Director of Groceryships, a nonprofit that helps low-income families struggling with food-related illnesses. In this episode, we talk about our societal obsession with money, how many Wall Street-ers want out but are trapped in gilded cages and the break up that led him to bottom out, among many other topics.

Direct download: EPSamPolk_APP.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00am PDT

Addiction and wellness specialist Erica Spiegelman isn't only the author of the best-selling addiction book Rewired:A Bold New Approach to Addiction & Recovery but also a motivational speaker and counselor. Her focus is on authenticity, in particular how to rewire the brain after substance abuse to become more authentic, and she shares that message not only to her personal clients and in her book but also through newsletters, blogs and her radio show, Rewired Radio, which plays on RadioMD.

But Spiegelman doesn't come at this work from solely a clinical perspective. Yes, she is a certified CADAC but she also struggled with alcoholism for many years herself, as she went from Northern California to Arizona to New York to LA. Eventually, she bottomed out and ended up at Betty Ford, where she actually learned about alcoholism—and what to do about it. That's when she realized that all the approaches to recovery she saw were quite specific—those that, say, followed solely AA or only Buddhism—and so she set out to establish a method to help people who don't relate to one specific path. In this episode, we discuss growing up in the Bay Area, whether or not shoplifting is a rite of passage and what ever ends up happening to those friends who our parents thought were the bad influences (hint: they don't seem to be the ones who end up in rehab), among many other topics.

Direct download: EP_Erica_APP.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00am PDT

Lifestylist Luke Storey is an interesting fellow. A former stylist (he's dressed everyone you can name and plenty you can't), he founded the School of Style, a fashion school for stylists (which teaches everything from the fundamentals of the business and art of styling to experiential, hands-on training) in 2008 but slowly realized that his heart was more in this business called life than it was in styling. Using himself as a "human research lab," Storey has done some, well, out-and-out crazy things in the name of health—from daily ice baths to injecting himself with poisonous frog venom to only drinking spring water. Now he teaches those lessons to the masses, through one-on-one coaching, public speaking and his hit new podcast, The Life Stylist. Storey is also sober nearly 20 years, after a youth that included crack smoking, drug dealing and all the issues that go along with those pastimes. In this episode, we discuss the two sides of humility, how we're really just walking around in meat suits and the mysteriousness of people who are naturally balanced in their relationships, among other issues.

Direct download: EP_Luke_APP.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00am PDT

Comedian Jim Norton may, with apologies to Stern, be a rival for the King of All Media (let's just call him the Prince). The co-host of the immensely popular Opie with Jim Norton radio show (he replaced Anthony), Norton's not only been a regular on Leno but also appeared on Letterman and Kimmel. The host of multiple HBO specials and an eponymously titled VICE show, Norton performs stand-up all over the country, is the author of two New York Times bestselling books and has appeared on numerous TV shows, including regular spots on Inside Amy Schumer. Sober since the age of 18 (he's coming up on his 30th sober-versary), Norton's first drink was a Whiskey Sour at a family wedding and his last a year or so after rehab (where he snuck out and drank). Despite his thriving career and decades of recovery, Norton struggles—very openly—with a sex addiction that causes his life to be unmanageable in all the requisite ways. Though he's had periods of dealing with it, at this point Norton is open about the fact that he experimented regularly with other boys as a kid, does the porn-Tinder merry-go-round and has a predilection for transsexual hookers. In this episode, we explored the many facets of his addictive tendencies while also touching on feeling like a fraud, extreme thinking and self-destructive tendencies that bring an inordinate amount of pleasure, among other topics.

Direct download: APP_Jim_Norton.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00am PDT

Comedian Debra DiGiovanni has had an enviable career: she's been awarded the Canadian Comedy Award for best female comic for the third time in five years, has been called the “Best Comedian to see after a Messy Break Up” and for three years running was named her hometown Toronto’s favorite comedian. Then there's the fact that she was a finalist on the fifth season of Last Comic Standing, performs all over the world and has been featured repeatedly on Comedy Central. But it's not all laughs—oh, no. The lovely lady has a long history with booze, pot, acid and the like (estimated number of times she'd done acid: hundreds). Though she quit drinking years ago, she's a recent full on convert to sobriety, having given up pot this past January. Next on her radar of addictions to deal with: food. In this episode, we talked about the sort of dreams you have when you quit pot, whether or not small towns make people drink more and not being able to watch TV, among many other topics.

Direct download: EPDEBRA_APP.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00am PDT

Podcaster and musician Shane Ramer has a day job but his passion is recovery—sharing about his journey out of addiction in the hope that he can help others share about theirs. And so one day, he got an idea: why not start a recovery podcast? A month later, That Sober Guy was born; on it, he's interviewed everyone from Paul Gilmartin to Rich Roll to Jacoby Shaddix of Papa Roach (to yours truly). The father of two kids, Ramer lives in Northern California where he works in customer service at a company where he also hosts an in-company podcast (who knew there was such a thing?) After a rough childhood ("When I watched the show Cops, I always thought my family was going to be on it," he says), Ramer first found drugs and then recovery. In this episode, we talk about being "one of the 'almost' guys, playing the victim and whether getting or staying sober is more challenging, among other topics.

Direct download: Shane_Ramer_AP.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00am PDT

Herb K is something of a legend in the recovery community, having discovered a specific way of working the 12 steps in 1988 (when he was four years sober) and then sharing that way with the world. The author of Twelve-Step Guide to Using the Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book and Twelve Steps to Spiritual Awakening; Enlightenment for Everyone, Herb didn't know, when he retired from the four-decade career that he'd spent working in human resources, he'd be launched on a path of guiding people through the spiritual path he found. But now the man who spent seven years in seminary and has a graduate education in psychology conducts workshops and teaches courses on 12-step spirituality all over. In this episode, we discussed the misunderstanding of the word meditation, how guiding adolescents means toning down the spiritual language and the way he first came into recovery (spoiler alert: he thought his wife had the problem), among many other topics.

Direct download: APP_-_Herb_K.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:49am PDT


Writer, blogger, Instagram star, adopted mom of the cat that looks like Adam Driver—there are very few media fame boxes Emily McCombs hasn't checked. The 32-year-old is also the gal who pretty much single-handedly put xo jane on the map back when it launched in 2011, with the sort of mind-blowing traffic attracted by brilliantly written stories on such topics as talking to your former rapist on Facebook. McCombs has been equally open about her issues with addiction, whether she's writing from the perspective of seven years of sobriety to people who may have drinking problems or sharing about her struggle with sex addiction—in particular the need to give up meeting strange men on Craigslist for random sex. Happily for me, I met Emily when she was 10 days sober and at her first party that offered alcohol (and I was also someone she called for career advice when she was offered the xojane gig—a fact that I manage to drop into conversations every time one of her stories causes a sensation). Now sober seven years, McCombs can sound off about almost anything. In this episode, we discuss if you have to be a tormented kid to be a cool adult, how it seems like all dreams can come true in early sobriety and why being a mom means you can never again toy with the idea of suicide, among other topics.

 

Direct download: Emily_McCombs_AP.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00am PDT

Writer, actor and stand-up comedian Fielding Edlow may claim she didn't get anywhere in her 20s but she's more than made up for it since: after her solo show Coke-Free J.A.P. killed at the NYC Fringe Festival, it was developed as a half-hour pilot for Showtime. Her plays have been finalists with the O’Neill Playwrights Conference, Actors Theatre of Louisville and City Theatre. She voices the recurring character ‘Roxie’ on BoJack Horseman and just created and starred in her web series Bitter Homes and Gardens. And there's more! She has a monthly stand-up show—Eat, Pray, Fuck—the third Friday of every month (alas, at the same time and date as the AfterParty storytelling show, which means she can never perform in ours).

Now over 18 years sober and a happily married mother, the former New Yorker seems to be something not many people can claim: content. In this episode, we discuss how recovery is like peeling an artichoke and not an onion, the idyllic early years of sobriety and whether or not it's cheesy and awful to talk to your inner child, among many other topics.

 

Direct download: APP_FIELDING.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00am PDT

Filmmaker Christina Beck's looks may be deceiving: a picture perfect blonde, Beck grew up in the San Fernando Valley and quit high school to became a punk rocker scenester after a crazy night out in Hollywood seeing the band The Cramps. An all-girl rap band called Toe Jam followed, as did acting roles in numerous Penelope Spheeris movies, including Suburbia and The Boys Next Door. Now she's acting in something even more personal: Perfection, a movie she also wrote and directed. Perfection deals not only with substance abuse (the mother character imbibes plenty) but also narcissism (the mother character's got that covered) and self-harm (Kristabelle, the character Beck plays, uses self-harm as a way to cope with those other two factors). Now sober, Beck talks about her month of doing heroin in London, blowing off the high school sorority for the punk rock scene, her own experiences with self-harm and the 10-year journey to get Perfection to the screen, among many other topics.

Direct download: APP_CHRISTINA.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00am PDT

Comedian and writer Bill Dixon (who's, by the by, performed in our storytelling show) had a childhood destined to melt the heart of the hardest souls. His parents met in rehab, his dad took off and his mother—after a long struggle with hardcore alcoholism as well as bipolar disorder—killed herself when he was 12. Miraculously, Dixon managed to come out of those formative years and become an incredible Hollywood success story, writing on and producing Hollywood Game Night with Jane Lynch, being featured on HuffPo, The Today  Show and Fox News, among other well-known places, and running a popular LA comedy show. He's also over a decade sober, after alcoholism so severe that he actually came out of a blackout and realized he was dating someone he didn't know (as he jokes, when your parents meet in rehab, you're destined to become a comedian as well as an alcoholic). In this episode, we discuss planning your shares in AA meetings, whether or not peanut butter is a condiment or a food and what happens when the Dad you haven't spoken to since you were little suddenly starts re-posting your Facebook photos, among many other topics.

Direct download: APP_DIXON_v2.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00am PDT

Author, counselor and Buddhist teacher Noah Levine is a legend in the Buddhist community—not to mention the recovery one (not to mention the world). The 45-year-old author of Dharma Punx and Refuge Recovery, among other works, got sober at the ripe old age of 17, after multiple incarcerations and a youth filled with suicidal ideation. While in juvie, his dad—famed Buddhist teacher Stephen Levine—suggested that Noah try meditation. Thus began the younger Levine's journey, which saw him training with Jack Kornfield, establishing the Against the Stream meditation society and crafting a program that combines Buddhist principles with recovery. (Along the way he got a Masters in counseling.) His program, Refuge Recovery, is now a treatment center but all sorts of rehabs and groups use the principles he writes about in their programs. Levine currently travels the globe, speaking, holding retreats and leading groups. In this episode, we talk about how not to attach to outcomes, thinking about death at the age of five and not working too hard, among many other topics.

Direct download: APP_NOAH_LEVINE.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:24am PDT

Writers Nick Reiner and Matt Elisofon, the cowriters of the new addiction and recovery drama Being Charlie, did more than their fair share of research in order to create a compelling, convincing story: the two met when they were roommates at Promises rehab and, after bonding over the usual rehab stuff (that is, making fun of other residents), they started channeling their newfound time and energy into a script. Originally something they wrote for TV (though they confess they truly never thought it go anywhere), Being Charlie eventually got into the hands of Nick’s director dad Rob (When Harry Met Sally and The Princess Bride, among many others). Originally, Rob was just giving the boys notes; eventually, he signed on to helm the project. The story, which focuses on the troubled son of a movie star-turned-politician (played by The Princess Bride star Cary Elwes), was strongly influenced by young Reiner’s own experience (he’s been to 18 rehabs, starting when he was 14 and has had bouts of homelessness you wouldn’t associate with a denizen of Hollywood). In this episode, we discuss the most epic fights the cowriters have had, the ways 12-step has and hasn’t helped them and how the movie isn’t actually The Nick Reiner story, among many other topics.

Direct download: Nick_Reiner__Matt_Elisofon.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:15pm PDT

Author and musician Joe C. is more than a bit of a legend in recovery circles. Sure, he's been sober for over four decades but that's not why he's known. He's known because he manages to question 12-step without ever attacking it—and he does it in a way that speaks to many. The author of the daily reflection book, Beyond Belief: Agnostic Musings for 12 Step Life, Joe also runs Rebellion Dogs, a site which includes his radio show, blog posts and information about his various conferences across the globe where he shares his wisdom. In this episode, we discuss coming to AA at the age of 14, New York vs. LA vs. San Francisco recovery and how the word "yellow" (not to mention the word "agnostic") means different things to different people, among many other topics.

Direct download: APP_JOE_C_031016_100.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:23am PDT

Author and musician Rob Roberge has been prolific for quite a while (five books, guitarist and singer in the band The Urinals, teaching at various universities) but it's his newest work that's got people seriously buzzing. Liar: A Memoir chronicles his journey not just through addiction but also through rapid cycling bipolar disorder. Written in the second person in a non-linear fashion, Roberge says he wrote the book this way because it's how he could best show how his mind works. In this episode, we discuss opiate addiction, manic writing jags and whether or not some books are meant to be written but not released, among many other topics.

 

Direct download: Rob_Roberge_Podcast_1_.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:49pm PDT

Actor Danny Nucci may have played characters who were killed off in three major movies of the 90s (Eraser, The Rock, Titanic) but in real life he's surviving and thriving. Now starring on the ABC Family drama The Fosters (playing Mike Foster, a character who happens to be in recovery), the Italian-Austrian is also 26 years sober. Over the years, he's acted in a bunch of TV movies, a slew of movies and most every TV show on the planet (Growing Pains, Family Ties, Snoops and Just Shoot Me, to name a few). In this episode, we talk about the way recovery is like The Karate Kid, avoiding road rage and how to deal with customer service people without having to later make amends, among other topics.

Direct download: APP_Danny_Nucci.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:03am PDT

Screenwriter Jeff Roda is not someone who's going to be bragging about his accomplishments. You will, in fact, have to attempt to drag them out of him—and you still won't be successful at learning much. Everything about what he's done career wise must be gleaned through Google. And here it is: he's written screenplays for DreamWorks, Paramount Pictures and New Regency Films, and television pilots for the WB, CBS and Media Rights Capital. He was a producer on Love Liza starring Philip Seymour Hoffman and Kathy Bates, has written three Black List scripts and he is currently developing his pilot When I'm Sixty-Four for HBO. He's also either 12 or 13 years sober, according to him (it was determined that it was 13) and has a lot to say about developing emotional maturity, becoming invisible as you age and isolating (the conversation is a lot more hilarious and uplifting than it sounds, swear). In this episode, we talked about reminding your hairdresser of her uncle, Eve Plumb (that's Jan Brady to you and me), long-term sobriety and whether or not his friend Andrew is a figment of his imagination, among other topics.

 

Direct download: APP_Jeff_Roda.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:29pm PDT

Musician, writer and political activist Jack Grisham is a man of many names and even more lives. Perhaps you know him as Alex Morgan or James DeLauge? Maybe you're familiar with him because he's the lead singer for the punk band T.S.O.L. or perhaps it's through his book A Principle of Recovery: An Unconventional Journey Through the Twelve Steps? Or could it be that you know his name from when he ran for governor in 2003? Okay so we've established it: he's an interesting guy. He's also over 27 years sober after a, well, disturbing youth well documented in his book American Demon. In this episode, we discuss why his favorite review called his book "mean-spirited," how only unpeaceful people talk about peace and whether or not he was hypnotizing me during the interview, among other topics.

Direct download: APP_-_Jack_Grisham.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:00am PDT

Sobriety coach and interventionist Bob Marier has suddenly became the face of sober coachery (a word we just made up). See, coming to represent a fake word is what can happen when you're hired to work with Toronto mayor Rob Ford, especially when you're accused of kicking a Ford heckler. But Marier had been working behind the scenes long before he ended up on the cover of every Canadian paper and his journey to top sober dog was hard-earned: after destroying three noses and grinding his teeth down from snorting more coke than can possibly be imagined, he had a fairly dramatic OD, smashing into a glass table and spending weeks in a coma. It was only after seeing a video from his hospital bed of his mom begging him to get help that the then 39 year-old sought help; now he's over 12 years sober and the subject of a Vice doc. In this episode, we discuss people who talk in platitudes in meetings, boiling Fentanyl patches into pills and how Ford is one of the best people Marier's ever met, among many other topics.

Direct download: APP_-_Bob_Maier.mp3
Category:Health -- posted at: 2:40pm PDT

Writer, actress and performer Cindy Caponera launched her career at Chicago's Second City and wrote for Saturday Night Live from 1995 to 1998, which is to say that she came up with just about everyone, from Stephen Colbert to Will Ferrell to many more in between. She's also written for Shameless and Nurse Jackie and by the way appeared in the pilot for a funny little show you may have heard of called Curb Your Enthusiasm.

On the personal front, she's been sober over 20 years and has made her way from Chi Town to NYC to LA, where she's happily married and has a small pool where she likes to do stationary swimming. If you clicked on that link, you know that she's also written a best-selling Kindle Single, I Triggered Her Bully, which very humorously touches on such topics as food, alcohol, meditation, medication, dating guys who live in halfway houses and moving back in with your parents as an adult. In this episode, we discussed how alcoholism is different for women, coming to sobriety through Alanon and how sober people on SNL helped her find her way, among many other topics.

Direct download: APP_CINDY.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:27pm PDT

1