Light Hustler: Looking for Light in All the Dark Places

Stephanie Wittels Wachs has endured something a sister should never have to experience.

In February of 2015, she lost her brother Harris to a heroin overdose.

Her brother wasn’t some low-bottom, down-and-out guy. Quite the opposite. He was actually nothing short of a legend in the comedy business, having been hired as a writer on The Sarah Silverman Show a year after graduating from college. From there, his career was on fire—he wrote on numerous MTV Movie Awards and was a writer and actor on Parks and Rec. When he died, he was on the verge of moving to New York to write on and star in Master of None with his friend Aziz Ansari. (In his spare time, he invented the word #humblebrag and wrote a book about it.)

In order to process her grief, Stephanie turned to the page…specifically to Medium.com, where she wrote a piece called “The End of Empathy,” about a stranger’s reaction to their family’s grief. The post struck a cord and next thing Stephanie knew, she was writing a book. Well, that book, Everything is Horrible and Wonderful: A Tragicomic Memoir of Genius, Heroin, Love and Loss, is out now. And it is brilliant and juicy and wonderful and horrible and basically tells such a gripping tale of what it’s like to be the sister of a genius who just happens to be a drug addict that you will feel confident you actually knew Harris Wittels when you’ve put the book down.

In this episode, we talked about the surreality of talking about a book that only exists because your brother is gone, if there’s anything she would have done differently and the strange and even hopeful places her mourning has taken her, among many other topics.

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

We live in a world where everyone is diagnosing our president as narcissistic. So what, exactly, are we saying and are we allowed to diagnose someone we don't know based solely on their symptoms?

Dr. Josh Lichtman provides some answers.

Direct download: narcissism_josh_Done.mp3
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You surely know about Ryan Hampton by now. Not only has he become one of the world's leading recovery advocates, fighting to take down nefarious treatment centers and shady players but he's also the author of the upcoming book American Fix: Inside the American Opioid Addiction Crisis—And How to End It.

He's also one of my closer friends.

We work on a lot of things together but the one we're most excited about right now is our upcoming Light Switch: Turning on Your Inner Hustle retreat. It's happening the last weekend in April and will be a medley of workshops, treatments, bonding, laughter, panels and plenty of LA woo woo stuff. In this episode, we talk about the retreat (and our EARLY BIRD SPECIAL pricing which ends, alas, on March 8th) but also about the gifts that can come from bonding with our fellows in recovery (among many other topics).

 

Direct download: ryan_retreat_episode.mp3
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In this episode, I talk to addiction psychiatrist Dr. Josh Lichtman about how depression and anxiety manifest—and overlap.

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

I've long admired Laura McKowen.

The sober mama is a prolific writer (you can see her many posts over at LauraMcKowen.com), podcaster (for years she co-hosted HOME, now she's co-hosting Spiritualish) and all-around honest person living in recovery.

What do I mean by honest? Well, follow her on Instagram and you'll see more than just Ghandi quotes and hot photos. The woman spills it out there—and people love her for it.

While we met at the Unite to Face Addiction rally in the fall of 2015, this is the first time we were able to chat one-on-one. And what a chat it was! Tune in to hear us get into losing our virginity, the stories we tell ourselves and developing healthy relationships with other women, among many other topics.

NOTE: This episode is from a Facebook Live interview that we did, which means that the audio isn’t as sharp as it is on regular episodes. Please bear with that! And please tune into my regular Facebook Live interviews. Make sure you Like my page so stay up on the info!

It's better with the lights on. So go out there and hustle your light, Light Hustler...

Direct download: laura_mckowen_Done_1.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00am PDT

AA is a controversial topic within recovery circles. Some are all for it, some violently opposed.

So where does a prominent addiction psychiatrist stand? Does he tell all his patients who are addicts to go there?

The answer may surprise you.

Direct download: josh_aa_final_Done.mp3
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Bucky Sinister is a poet, self-help author and comedian, he has published four books of poetry and two self-help books, including Get Up: A 12-Step Guide to Recovery for Misfists, Freaks, and Weirdos. His journalism, film reviews, and short stories have appeared on The Rumpus, The Bold Italic, and a number of other online and print publications. His novel, Black Hole, is flat out the funniest novel I've ever read about addiction.

He's been something of a regular in my world—a repeated podcast guest and performer at my live show. This episode is from one of those live shows and in this story, he talks about being terrified of small talk but not remotely scared to score drugs from strangers or get in fights.

This episode is from my live storytelling show, which happens on the last Friday of every month at Open Space Cafe (457 N. Fairfax Ave) in LA. Sign up for the newsletter to make sure you’re notified when shows are coming up and/or stay up to date on the schedule here. For more about the workshops I lead where I teach people to take their most disturbing or interesting experiences and make them into stories, click here. For more information about my online writing classes and coaching programs, click here.

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

Jen Matesa is a recovery powerhouse.

Unafraid and unapologetic, she speaks out about two "s"'s that scare some others—namely, Suboxone and sex.

She's written extensively about both—Suboxone in blog posts like this one and the sex in two of her four books...especially her most recent one, Sex in Recovery: A Meeting between the Covers (her previous book for Hazelden, The Recovering Body: Physical and Spiritual Fitness for Living Clean and Sober, also got into meditation, exercise, nutrition and more).

She has spoken and written widely, teaches writing at the University of Pittsburgh, is a psychotherapist in training and is currently working on her second master’s degree.

Sober since 2010, she was one of the first sober bloggers and she's been dedicated in that time to giving the public reliable information about addiction and recovery without advertising or paywalls. Her commitment to removing social stigma from addiction and recovery earned her a fellowship at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

Plus, she talks sex...here we got into best vibrators, losing your sex drive when you're taking opiates and what constitutes good sex. Get some great sex (info) and more in this episode—just in time for Hallmark's favorite holiday.

NOTE: This episode is from a Facebook Live interview that we did, which means that the audio isn’t as sharp as it is on regular episodes. Please bear with that! And please tune into my regular Facebook Live interviews. Make sure you Like my page so stay up on the info!

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

If there’s anyone who can make a ridiculous drinking story hilarious, it’s Laura House. A headlining comedian who has performed on HBO, Comedy Central, NBC, she is originally from Texas and moved to LA after starring in MTV’s cult-favorite Austin Stories. She’s written on the Emmy-winning shows Mom and Samantha Who, BAFTA-winning Secret Lives of Boys, as well as Nicole Byer’s Loosely, Exactly, NicoleThe George Lopez Show, Mad Love, Blue Collar TV and more.

This story is about how she went from being a girl who knocked on doors trying to talk to strangers about Jesus to vomiting Pina Coladas all over a bus to peeing her name in the hallway outside of a teacher’s hotel room. Did she end up suffering consequences for being a host family’s worst nightmare? Well, no—and yes. It all makes sense if you listen.

This episode is from my live storytelling show, which happens on the last Friday of every month at Open Space Cafe (457 N. Fairfax Ave) in LA.

Direct download: Laura_Done_2.mp3
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I first met Drew Grant through friends, when we both lived in New York. She was a young, dynamic, cool, talented writer who'd worked at Salon and The New York Observer, among many other publications.

While I'd always found her somewhat fascinating, that feeling was only enhanced when, during a causal conversation, she mentioned that she had a brief addiction to Fentanyl. I was working at The Fix website at the time and so I did what I did whenever anyone mentioned drugs...promptly assigned her a story. While she wrote that piece under a pen name, a few years later—in the wake of the Philip Seymour Hoffman overdose—she came out under her own name.

Drew and I recently got in touch again, when she spoke to the students in my coaching program. She told me that her story with drugs had only gotten more Byzantine since we'd last spoken and so I did what I do whenever someone tells me that...promptly invited her to come on the podcast.

I knew it would be such a different story than the one my guests usually tell. This one didn't involve a bottom, a resurgence, church basements (well, there are some church basements in her story but not many) and eventual sobriety.

Instead it started with childhood chronic masturbation and ADD meds, Xanax tapering and much, much more. In this episode, we discuss what it was like to be on so many medications that you thought loved ones were out to get you, being intervened on by heroin addicts and how to handle doctor shopping across three states, among many other topics.

NOTE: This episode is from a Facebook Live interview that we did, which means that the audio isn’t as sharp as it is on regular episodes. Please bear with that! And please tune into my regular Facebook Live interviews. Make sure you Like my page so stay up on the info!

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