Overcoming Addiction and Supporting Others in Their Healing Journey

Hosted by

Steve Boese

Co-Founder of H3 HR Advisors and Program Chair, HR Technology Conference

Trish Steed

CEO and Principal Analyst, H3 HR Advisors

About this episode

Overcoming Addiction and Supporting Others in Their Healing Journey

Hosts: Steve Boese & Trish Steed

Guest: Bryan Wempen, Author, F**K My Demons

Today, we met with author Bryan Wempen to talk about addiction, mental health, and self-exploration. In this episode, we explored Bryan’s transformative experience of overcoming addiction and the profound impact it had on both personal and professional growth. The conversation explored the intricate web of addiction, the powerful force of denial, and the ripple effect on families. Additionally, Bryan shed light on the prevalent issues of mental health stigma and addiction within the workplace, highlighting the need for compassion and understanding. Ultimately, the episode provides insights into the process of healing and the potential for positive change, offering hope for those navigating similar challenges in their own lives or with a loved one.



Thank you for joining the show today!  Remember to subscribe wherever you get your podcasts!

This episode of At Work in America is sponsored by Paychex, one of the leading providers of HR, payroll, retirement, and insurance solutions for businesses of all sizes. We’ve worked together with Paychex and 9 of our HR insider friends to assemble a comprehensive guide to HR tech in 2024.  With so many new technologies hitting the market and what’s quickly becoming an AI- obsessed work culture, it can be hard to find a starting point. This toolkit is the first step in cutting through all that noise. Grab your free copy today at paychex.com/awia. 

Transcript follows:

Announcer 0:00
Welcome to At Work in America, sponsored by Paychex. At Work in America digs in behind the headlines and trends to the stories of real people making a difference in the world of work. And now here are your hosts, Steve Boese and Trish Steed.

Steve 0:28
Everyone, welcome to the At Work in America show. My name is Steve Boese. I’m joined by Trish Steed, how are you?

Trish 0:33
I’m good. Steve, how are you today?

Steve 0:35
I am well. And Trish, we have a fantastic show today, kind of a different show. Bryan Wempen will join us to talk about mental health, addiction, overcoming addiction. He’s written three different books on the subject, including one that’s just come out in January. So we’re gonna get into that stuff with Bryan. It’s a great conversation, Bryan, super interesting guy. And really deep conversation coming up.

Trish 1:00
Yeah, and it’s such a good resource. So I encourage everyone, please listen, but also share this because so many people are dealing with different addictions of all types. And not only is the book a good resource, but the conversation with Bryan is as well.

Steve 1:13
It really is. So before we welcome Bryan, let’s thank our friends at Paychex. Of course, this episode of At Work in America is sponsored by Paychex, one of the leading providers of HR, payroll, retirement and insurance solutions for businesses of all sizes. Trish 2024 is going to be a great an amazing year for HR tech, AI and automation can finally offer significant time savings on daily HR management tasks, transform things like hiring and reporting and managing the workforce. But you might be wondering, Where do I even begin with selecting and upgrading my HR tech? Well, Trish, you and me have worked together with our friends at Paychex and nine more of our HR friends to assemble a comprehensive guide to HR tech in 2024. It features insights to help people assess shop for and onboard new software that can save you time, resources and money. With so many new technologies hitting the market. And what’s quickly becoming an AI obsessed work culture. It might be hard to find the starting point, this toolkit is the first step and cutting through all that noise. So if you’re ready to streamline your processes, save time, make strategic investments in HR tech this year. Don’t wait another minute, you can get your free copy today of our new guide at paychex.com/awia. This is a great report to by the way, so go check that out. Please do the link is in the show notes. And with that said Trish, let’s get on the show and welcome Bryan.

Steve 2:51
We are excited to welcome our guest today Bryan Wempen. Bryan is an accomplished author and passionate storyteller based in Santa Fe, New Mexico. That’s a lovely part of the world. His journey began with Note to Self: A Collection of 99 Life Lessons in 2015 followed by Sober is Better in 2019. Drawing from his experiences with addiction, adoption and mental health. Bryan explores often overlooked themes like adventure, healing and self exploration. His latest book, I don’t know how to say this exactly. F my demons. It’s coming out in 2024. It is a fearless exploration of these topics, redefining normalcy along the way. Bryan, welcome to the show. How are you?

Bryan Wempen 3:41
Good. It’s so great to see you. No one see both your faces and your your voices and absolutely spend a little bit of time talking about talking about the book and getting caught up and you know the world in general, if we encroach on that, and you’re right, everybody should go to Santa Fe and try it out. It is a beautiful, you know, it’s a beautiful place. I feel very, a lot of gratitude. Every time I get to come back here when I’ve been traveling, I really enjoy rolling up into high desert. And it’s a it’s a wonderful, wonderful place.

Trish 4:18
You know, that’s one of the few places I’ve not been so I need to come for a visit for him because I always wanted to see Santa Fe and I just never have so yeah.

Bryan Wempen 4:28
We would welcome you with open arms.

Steve 4:32
It’s a beautiful part of the country, beautiful part of the world. And yeah, it’s one of those places where you think boy, I took me a long time to get to New Mexico like it was. I just happen to be passing through there. And I’m like, wait a minute. This is like the prettiest place I’ve ever been. And so I was I was lucky enough to spend a couple of days there a few years ago so great stuff. So Brian, great to see you. listeners may not know that we had not sort of seen or talked to you quite some time, we used to do a lot of stuff together back back in the old days, right? With early days of HR evolution, the old, the old days of this podcast, your podcast, it was, it’s been a long time, but it’s great to see you get caught up and also learn more about the latest book and maybe even some of the the ideas in the first couple of books as well, for folks who may not be familiar. So maybe let’s start from there. What are you up to these days? And then we’ll get into some of the books stuff?

Bryan Wempen 5:27
And again, I really appreciate the conversation spending a little bit of time and, you know, I love you know, I love what you all do, I have it was the inspiration of when I first did a podcast almost 15 years ago, you know, your podcast was, was the inspiration for, so it goes back a long time. So yeah, it’s about almost nine years ago, now, I left out of anything HR related and got into healthcare, and just to do something kind of different, different challenge, you know, I knew that my time and HR had had kind of run its course, and I was just ready for something different. And kind of jumped in there and learned kind of ground up the real basics to kind of moving into have kind of progressed over time to like, you know, working with like small providers and practices on the technology side, and really progressing over the years into managing public health initiatives for states inpatient hospitals, for specifically mental health and addiction recovery, and then kind of expanded that to community health and then more into tribal health. So I kind of run a lot of continuum around different types of health care, and the technology behind it. And so and then, three years ago, progressed into digital health, because I thought, you know, that’s kind of the way we’re going right access and equality, you know, the great equalizer, once we get, you know, once we get cell signal or, you know, bandwidth, like connect connectivity in places, you all of a sudden can correct a care deserts, no matter where you are in the world, if you have one of those things with, you know, with digital health. And I thought that’s really the progression of where we’re going AI and some of the other really modern technologies. I’m like, I think I want to be there. And so I jumped into that about three years ago and was was, was very successful, and then took a role as Chief Revenue Officer, with a two year old startup called rumble rumble who’s now rumbled health about seven months ago, and I have not worked, I will always work fairly hard that I’m not this hard. Startup mood is very different. But it’s awesome. And it’s an incredible opportunity to get people connected with getting help. Right? So that’s ultimately what really drives the fact that we’re building something that actually does help people. And so I’m super excited to be able to do that. So. So yeah, that’s kind of the professional side. And we moved to my wife and I moved to Santa Fe, about three and a half years ago, during COVID. We actually built a house and moved all during COVID. Not intentionally, but it just worked out that way. And so, but yeah, and so yeah, kind of based out of here, and travel all over the country for different for different things, and still do a lot of that. And so, which is good. And so I criss cross occasionally, with, you know, some of the folks that we all know, not too much, unfortunately. But whenever I can.

Trish 9:02
Well, thank you for sharing all of that. It’s interesting. We we recently recorded with an executive from LinkedIn, and we were talking about skills. And the one thing that strikes me as you’re kind of talking about, you know, working in the human resource realm, and now you’ve sort of morphed that into healthcare more generally. And now even more specifically, in some of those specialty areas of digital and tribal support. It it really strikes me that that’s truly what someone who who looks at their skill set, and you can apply it in so many different areas, right, because a lot of people we’re talking about how that people sometimes have a difficult time making a connection on how their skills might be very valuable, right in another format, and another industry and so I just want to at least acknowledge that you’ve you’ve actually it sounds like seamlessly done that because the skills you had from your sort of life in HR, and caring about people and when you started talking about mental health like to me that just such a natural progression, did you think of it like that? Or was it just something that sort of morphed over time?

Bryan Wempen 10:06
Well, I wish I could say that I had really piece the puzzle together. You know, obviously, I really do truly enjoy supporting and helping people supporting people in what they want to do and living a very fulfilled life, or that’s kind of core to my personal mission and life and for my myself and the people around me. But I was literally I had a sky at a very small startup software startup that was HR centric around screening, and it was, you know, made several mistakes, partly because I was kind of kind of burned out on the that part of the that market or that sector and, and really got to the point that I was, you know, it was my company, and I was really unhappy. And my wife actually pointed out one day, she’s like, you are miserable every day. And I can see it on your face, and you’re still just trying, and maybe, maybe you just shut it down and go do something completely different. And I was at that point where I’m like, okay, like, you’re right. Like, I can’t continue to do this, I’m, I’m, I’m not going in the right direction. And it doesn’t feel good, it I’m not motivated, like, I’m just kind of going through the motions, because it’s my own company. And so I had to let that go. And that was a very humbling exercise, it was very healthy, because there’s a lot to just admitting your your failures, right, calling it what it was, and trying to figure out, how do I never repeat that again. And so I kind of went from kind of running everything. And I just jumped in at kind of a sort of a kind of an entry level kind of inside role to start learning. I knew nothing about healthcare, completely healthcare illiterate. I mean, 100%, didn’t know anything about insurance never did the benefit side of thing just really had no, I mean, technology, I understand technology. And there’s, when it comes to clinical workflows, technology really has nothing to do with it, I learned that very quickly, it’s not the technology stack, if that’s still a term. It’s truly clinical workflows, and talking about outcomes and talking about efficiency and quality, and the continuum of care. Right.

Bryan Wempen 12:32
And so that’s where it all started, I had some incredible mentors who were very patient, I mean, I worked hard force. And I was a big learner, like I did for the first year, keep my mouth shut and volunteer for anything, didn’t take any, like, I don’t want any kind of any, any leadership role whatsoever. I just want to do my job and make sure I learn as much as I can. And they had an the environment was really set up to do that. And so I’m super grateful for how it started. And then, you know, once once kind of I was more fluent in what I was doing, things move pretty quickly, like I was able to kind of navigate I like complex, I like big and complex, and stuff that other people don’t want to do. So I started working with states and public sector. And so those are big and complex. And so with, you know, Medicaid populations and all those things, and legislators and all that stuff. So it’s been, it’s been really fun, actually and challenging, because it’s using a different part of my, like skill set. And like you said, and I’ve been able to really kind of dig into that. And at the end of the day, we’re helping people like it’s the same. That’s where that’s where the connection starts to come into play. Now that I’ve had a bit of time out of the industry, I kind of see where it does connect a lot more. And I’ve kind of decompressed from the experience. And so I always have the best I just had a conversation with the HR and HR director and a county, who we’re getting a lot of interest from, for Ramble for employees, because within the EAP the two most underutilized area of EAP are mental health services and, and substance use disorder services or addiction recovery. Because people are it’s the stigma they don’t want it to impact their you know, their their work status, or what people think about it, and they’re sure it’s gonna get back. Whether that’s true or not. The fear is real that they don’t want to do anything with it because it’ll get back to their supervisors or their company. So they’re using are they’re putting setting our platform, which is 24/7 non clinical support to our digital solution right beside the EAP so that they can anonymously and privately I start to help themselves and get help without it being any notification back to the EAP. And trackable. So there’s a lot of interest, we just are getting a lot of interest around that, which is really interesting. So I can act with the HR managers like really, really, really well. Which is, which is kind of fun to have it converging all kind of kind of all together there.

Steve 15:26
Meanwhile, Bryan, while you’re you’re making this significant professional change, learning a new industry, learning new processes, workflows, technologies, the actors at play, right, in a very complex industry. Meanwhile, you’re you’re all of a sudden became I shouldn’t say all of a sudden, but you’ve become now a three time author and gone on your own personal kind of journey itself, right, and transformation and self discovery and all of that, and seems like a lot to do at the same time, or within even that same chunk of 10 1215 years. But let’s talk a little bit about that side of it, like mean, why you’re doing all this professionally, you’re kind of healing rediscovering maybe I’ll let you explain it better about what’s going on with you personally.

Bryan Wempen 16:14
Yeah, it’s a great question, because it has been, you know, there’s definitely some chapters and phases. So when I first met both of you, I was still actively, you know, using substances. And there’s not a whole ton of people that I can actually say that that are on both sides of the equation, oddly enough, and so, you know, and that was 20, you know, 2009, kind of progressing into 2010. And so that’s really where it all started. Right? So actually got got, you know, got last drink, you know, is is in a book it’s, and, Trish, I know, I know, you were there, but I’m not and Steve, I can’t remember if you were in Chicago at one of the one of the unconference things and so, but, you know, was May was made 2010, like I did, I have a very specific, you know, timeline and framework around that. And so, and that’s where it started, because at that point, then I started once I got, you know, because kind of the thing is, you know, you remove, like, from, from an addiction recovery standpoint, you remove the behavior, the negative behavior, or you remove the substance, which is your coping mechanism or part of a coping mechanism. And then once you remove that, then you really get into the good stuff and start unpacking all the reasons that you’re using that coping skill, and you got to find new coping skills. And so, you know, it was interesting to do it in parallel, and, you know, just kind of, you know, it started down that path. And so, once I got kind of into a couple, a few years of doing the work, and the thing about the always hearing recovery is, you know, you just learn how to live life with more tools, because life doesn’t continue, and good things and bad things are going to happen in life that for everybody, that’s the human experience. And so and they, they don’t happen typically on your timeline the way you want them, and then maybe the things you don’t what you want, or not the things you need. And so and so I just kind of went down that path and about 2020 13. You know, I’ve always wanted to write a book, I thought that would be awesome. It was, you know, one of our, you know, one of our long, you know, all of our long term friend and William Tincup used to give me a really hard time because I was always talking about wanting to write a book, and or write books and do these things. And he had written or been part of writing on and so he kind of doesn’t let me forget that because I was like, We got to write a book. He’s like, Oh, you know, I don’t want to write an effing book like I’ve done. You do it. And so I started writing the first one, you know, which was the, you know, 99 life lessons.

Bryan Wempen 19:34
And so I really wanted to start writing. I wasn’t completely comfortable in telling my story from in the professional setting completely. So I eased into it. And I had to want to learn how to write a book. First of all, like, ways to explore that because I’m not a natural writer. I have to work extra hard on that. My lack of skills and that area, I must, I think I skipped those classes years ago. And so I’ve had to kind of really work hard to figure that out and kind of just just, you know, learn, right, and so I started and so that first one, you know, was started writing that into 2013. And just kind of outline and stuff and, and progress, wrote it through, you know, kind of played with it. And then 2014 got a little more serious about it. And in the summer, and then it got released in 2015. Right, and it was kind of my first efforts. And, and so, that one, you know, that one, it felt good. And I felt kind of understood that. And then it was interesting. So it was almost four years to the month, almost the day that I wrote the second one, which so it kind of went first one was like a general, like just little bits and pieces. The second one was like my first 18 years really is what I talked about, and then just being in recovery was the second half of kind of the, the thesis of that. And then this the last one, the last one that just came out in January, you know, I suppose I can say it. So you know, but my demons you know, it really was it really was talking about like, there’s, you know, we’re in a period of our, our world. That there, I heard that I heard this saying, there’s a you know, there’s a pandemic of certainty, where everybody knows they’re right, and somebody else is wrong. So we have such a divisive, polite discourse is a very unusual thing. Unfortunately, at the moment, it’s really, there’s just a lot of divisiveness. And so I just wanted to kind of talk about from my perspective, and I really wasn’t gonna write another book, because I’m, like, I’ve said enough, and then I finally, post pandemic, and then just, just things going on, I decided, like, I’ve just got a little bit more to say that I just want to get out and get done and kind of talk about from 18 years today to current days, what the next book is about. And so, in, you know, in navigating professional and personal and, you know, in that timeframe, you know, I’ve had, you know, we’ve had divorce and marriage, head loss, change of careers had, you know, there’s a lot going on in there. And so a lot that everybody deals with, right? Those are not, I’m not unique and saying that I have those things to deal with. And so, but yeah, so this one was, and it’s interesting, I’ve tried writing in different ways, right? There’s like writing books is I really enjoy it, like I’m working on to two additional ones right now, one, my first fiction, which is very, very different, like it uses such a different side of the brain and how you do it. So I’m kind of I’m learning that I don’t really understand it yet. But I’m fun playing with that, and then another nonfiction one that will come out next year. That doesn’t have to doesn’t have to do with me talking about myself and recovery, I can’t do that. This is the last one that’ll upright for a while and that. And so but, but it was a really enjoyable process, because I took a lot longer to write it. And I just took my time and didn’t put a it’s I really did put a it’s got to be done then and I listened to Luckily, my smarter half and my, my wife was like, you know, there’s who’s putting the pressure on who hear about your book. And I’m like, nobody, like I’m putting the pressure on me. And she’s like, well don’t do that. See if you could stop doing that. And you might enjoy the process a little more. And she’s right, I did. And I just let it take more time. And let it be a bit more organic and that cadence of doing that. And so but I did, I wrote it a little bit differently. This one was different than the last two, I did use different techniques of like, taking audio notes when I’m driving and then transcribing them. And I did it every way you can think about it writing every day. Like I’ve tried all these different types of techniques and trying to figure out what works and so yeah, so it was a fun process.

Trish 24:36
You know, I’m really excited that it’s it’s sort of the third and maybe final chapter of this particular series for now anyway, but what I what I like about it, Brian is you know, you mentioned we have known you for a very long time. And as you were even just describing your journey, I’m thinking back to the fact that I guess maybe the soul to sort of lead my question, when I met you, I had a very positive interaction with you, I found you very warm and great conversationalist, and just there was something really sincere about you. And that would have like looking back now I know that would have been at the height of where you were maybe struggling and in this, you know, addiction that you were really battling. But yet I saw, like, I formed such a wonderful opinion of you. And then and knowing you then that next year, right as you were still kind of like getting to the point where you were going to have that that last drink and Chicago. Fast forward to your mentioning even you called it your failure, right with your company. But yeah, I was a customer. And I can really say that the solution you gave my company at the time was absolutely so positive, and monumentally changed the way that we were hiring for the good. So I guess my question in all of this is, you know, for people that might be struggling with things, right, we all have struggles, but whether it’s addiction, or you know, I definitely think you don’t have to have this specific type of addiction, right? Could be a gambling addiction, it could be a shopping addiction, it could be all sorts of food addiction, right? In reading your story, do you ever reflect back on the fact that it was still possible to make some really positive things happening? But maybe you just weren’t able to see yourself in that light? I don’t know, does that ever come up as you’re sort of writing through these thoughts and feelings? Because like, to me, knowing now you had these challenges, it’s horrible, right? But you were still a very positive light. And I just have to think other people are probably struggling similarly.

Bryan Wempen 27:03
I definitely appreciate the, you know, the kind words, we’ve been able to been in proximity and being able to, you know, spend different chapters together, specifically. And so, you know, it’s interesting, so, just addiction, and I’m glad you pointed out. So addiction is a very broad term, right? It doesn’t have to be substances, it could be, it could be gambling, and could be gaming, it could be, you know, your mobile device, screen time, it could be shopping, there’s, there’s a variety, there’s an arc of, of what addiction, you know, falls under. And so, I think what, like, for me, I was very lucky to have a foundational, you know, upbringing that was around being a good person, right? Like, my, my mother was always about doing the next right thing. And it was super, you know, nice and polite, and, and, you know, and my dad kind of, you know, battled his own stuff, but at the end of the day, he was about helping people. And he was always and I’ve reflected on this, you know, since he passed away, and especially in the last year or two, and I just finished up the book. He was never ever, ever disrespectful to my mother, at her expense, right? They used to, they used to argue, because he was because of undiagnosed PTSD, which I after he passed, I actually kind of figured out that was always the problem from Vietnam, like they would he was volatile in that sense, and how to really, you know, zero to 100 temper and things like that, but he was at he never occurred expense ever, you know, made a joke or was disrespectful. So I had a really good foundation around what that look like. And I think that’s helped me my entire life, right to not be that person. The complexity of and this is this is kind of to get to your question is what happens is addiction, you know, forces you into having all these different masks, right?

Bryan Wempen 29:29
So, you know, you can like there’s people that navigate they go from you know, they go from doctor, CEO, lawyer to literally homeless, nobody talks to him because they’ve they rode that the whole way, you know, down and just, it hasn’t clicked to what help where help fits into that yet. And then you have other people who are holding it together on the facade and are doing the other part arts and are just, you know, just cringe worthy, miserable and hopeless. And, you know, thinking about, you know, thinking about all that, you know, just swimming in that shame and guilt cycle of what the facade is causing, right? Like, there’s this, there’s no one size fits all. And I, you know, and it’s amazing because I, you know, it’s it ends up being a mix and toward the end, I think what was lucky for me is something clicked, right, something clicked on the last, the, you know, the very last day, in the very last drink the very last bar and all those things, something clicked where I something’s got to change, or I don’t think I’m going to survive, and I don’t want to hurt anybody. And I want to try and give this a shot. And so my willingness, my willingness outpaced my, my misery and my hopelessness enough that I asked for help. Right, I called somebody that I knew was in recovery that I had had been, you know, we own own the company together in the past, you know, I called him and I’m like, Man, I need, I really do need some help. Like, I’m, I’m kind of at the end of the line here. And I know, it’s gonna get much, much worse, because it was really escalating quickly, where I didn’t care, right, I didn’t care about the facade anymore. That’s the full grown crossover, the not caring about the facade anymore, you are now like sitting on the launch pad of the space shuttle toward the end. Like, in some respect, and I luckily, again, you know, higher power, whatever it was, just said, you know, call and try and figure this out, give it a shot. And so and I, you know, that’s really kind of how that started. But I was really good at the facade, most people, most people with some form of addiction, you know, that they’re battling or mental health are really good at the facade, right? Which makes it even worse, right? Because you’re, you put on the you suit up with the armor of this is what it’s going to be and we all know people that you’re like, Oh, my God, I would have had no idea. And that’s part of the viciousness of the both mental health and you know, addiction is, you get really good at that, because that’s your, it’s part of your coping mechanism is putting on the front. And then the front comes down. And it is, you know, you’re an emotional, you know, dumpster fire. And you don’t, you know, you don’t know how to communicate that or, you know, you’re just you’re so embarrassed and urine, urine, this cycle where you just, you want it to get better, but you have, you know, you don’t have a pathway to do that. So it just it gets, it just gets worse and worse and worse and worse until you know, something happens.

Trish 33:06
I circled back to that because I think that’s the point, right? It’s that we all know, people that are struggling, that we are not aware of, or to or to the degree, right, and I think that’s what really connects on this book, is that, wow, someone can really be going through it. And you don’t even know, you don’t even know to offer an extended hand of help, or, or a resource. Right. Steve, I know you wanted to ask some things specifically.

Steve 33:34
I was really just really sort of taken by your story and your observations there. And one thing really resonated to me is the idea of the facade, right. And once you stop caring that sort of begins that could begin right, a spiral into some really poor, even worse outcomes. And I think the other thing I would add at least and everyone’s different, right, everybody’s experience in their life is different, including folks who have addiction issues, is I think, many are really good at that facade. Right? And then after a while, they stopped being so good at it, but they don’t realize it yet, but the people around them are now realizing it. Right? And that’s when you certainly and I I’d say this is something I is definitely did something I’ve experienced to where you are like, Oh no, that’s not me or I’m fine, right? You’re playing that game a little bit. And once people around you start to sense not even sense or they’re finally able or tired of your antics and have to be honest with you, right. That tension starts to happen because I think often the addict thinks they’re still doing that functional part showing up there, they did go to work, they did go to school, and they did, you know, take the take their kid to soccer practice, whatever it is you’re doing right to be functional. And you think you’re fooling people much. I guess I’ll say it this way, the addict often thinks they’re fooling people for much longer than they’re actually fooling people. Right. And that can be a really challenging thing to navigate. I don’t know if Bryan, you felt like that happened to you at all, in your, in your journey or not. But I think that that’s happened a lot.

Bryan Wempen 35:31
I hear that I just just finished a book called an addiction, which had, its MD that actually wrote it in her depiction, because she really added more of the clinical framework right from, from literally, she was able to translate it, and she’s such a good speaker, I’ve met her in person. And she’s one of the cofounders of Eleanor health. And anyway, she gives a really good, like, clinical parallel to putting it into, you know, just everyday terms, right. Like, here’s kind of the deal. And, you know, she was talking about specifically kids, right, she’s like, kids will see the addictive nature and the problem way before, way before anybody admits that what’s going on, like, they’re very perceptive. And because they don’t have all the they don’t have all the, you know, the societal, like, constructs that limit our perception, right? We ration like adults, as adults, you learn to rationalize a whole bunch to get through your day in a way that’s more like straight line from A to be right be to see, like, that’s part of just the way kind of way we’re wired. And but she says like, don’t, absolutely don’t hesitate to talk to your children about it, because they already know don’t know, do with it in a healthy way. Right? Question, but they already know. Like, they see things way more perceptively because they don’t have all the other stuff. Right? So their lens is very clear their filters very direct and specific. And so I thought that was, you know, to Steve, to your kind of your comment. That’s, that’s 100% The case is it works until it doesn’t work, right. Because at some point, like I couldn’t remember, like, I was a daily drinker at by the time I was 16. And nobody, like no teachers, like my, my peers knew it. But my teachers, my parents, I was very good at hiding that as my coping mechanism. And then just dealing with the, you know, the outline issues that they came up, like, I got caught or whatever, it was just dismissed, and I was really good at, like, it’s a one time thing. And, you know, whatever the excuse was, and so, you know, you get really good at, you know, rationalizing and positioning to the truth, you know, aka lying about things. And, but you get really good at that, because you’re protecting yourself, and it becomes part of your personality. And so when you get in recovery, there’s a couple things I just want to point out, like when you get in recovery, your audit, like my automatic default, and I’ve been in recovery, not quite 14 years, is I still have the gene where I don’t want to completely tell, like directly just address what’s going on and tell just tell the truth. Like I have to put it like I go through, I don’t need to share all that or I don’t, you know, it’s easier not to say that. And I just my tools now kind of stopped that. And I’m like, that doesn’t really do me any good.

Bryan Wempen 39:08
So I just like here it is, and we just figure it out. And so, so it becomes part of your personality, right? It’s one of your skill sets that is not positive. And so you take that into, like you have to just rewire that muscle memory and you don’t really rewire it, you just have tools to manage your muscle memory a little bit better. In those situations like you don’t not tell the truth you you very quickly, you know, you make amends for something if you like don’t have a good day and you like you know, lose it a little bit and you go fix that right away because you don’t want to carry around that baggage anymore. So you write the ship very quickly. And this is just the everyday living stuff, right and you put things on the table and talk about it because that way you’re not hearing yourself and it gets bigger than it deserves, right? There’s a lot of things in life that are, they get way more space and energy than they deserve. Because you’re not, it’s not being talked about, it’s not being dealt with. And so I’m really, really big on that. The last thing I’ll share is, again, it’s, you know, mental health is a very complex scenario and topic in general. And I was three, almost three years into being sober and, and, you know, doing, you know, doing all the work and unpacking all the bags, they say and stuff. And I actually, the very first time that I had suicidal ideation was in sobriety. It wasn’t, it was after the fact and it scared the shit out, like, I really truly, like, I surprised myself and I had to go, where did that come from? Like, it truly was one of those transcendent experiences that I had to be like, I don’t really know where that came from, that really surprised me that this thought popped into my head that was so such a poignant and salient thought it just was so weird. I remember it. And so, you know, I kind of freaked out a little bit. And I’m like, Okay, why I gotta, I gotta figure out what’s going on. Because I don’t know what what’s happening. And I’m, like, you know, did I get enough sleep? What’s going, you know, I literally started unpacking all this stuff, the checklist of like, environmental stuff, and I’m like, I don’t know what’s going on. So I went and talked to my sponsor, I’m, I’m in a 12 step, you know, it’s kind of my path. And I went and talked to him. And he was, he’s very chill, and very analytical. And he’s, like, look, and he’s been sober for, like, 35 years. And he’s like, you know, he goes, first of all, you’re gonna be fine. He goes, you’re talking about it, you’re telling somebody right away, you’re acknowledging your awareness level, is already dissipating, whatever is going on, he goes, but you know, bottom line is, you know, if you’re not talking to, you know, a therapist, then that’s a good subject to, you know, kind of connect with and talk on he goes, but bottom line is, you know, we’re talking about it. So it’s not, you’re not, you’re not in this yourself, right? The aloneness is the part that everybody struggles with. Because as your as your addiction rages and gets more complex, you’re, you get more and more alone. And whether it’s true, you create that aloneness where your isolation becomes the killer, right? And I have known, you know, in the last 14 years, I have, I can probably count on both hands, the number of people that I know, that didn’t survive the disease. And we’re good, and then not good, and then good, and they’re not good. And, and ultimately, you know, they just they couldn’t, they couldn’t put it to they couldn’t put the solution together, unfortunately, and very tragically, and so but it’s interesting, the complexities because it’s, you know, it’s a mental health issue that you then start treating with whatever addictive behavior or substance you’re using, right? So it’s, once you unpack that you got a lot more work to do, because you got to figure out what the mental health you know, the behavioral health elements of what you’re dealing with, whether it’s depression, anxiety, untreated, you know, trauma, like I mean, that’s really the path ology for all of this, right? It’s trauma, anxiety, depression, and then everything else kind of stress and substances and addictive behaviors. All of that is just a coping mechanism for everything else. That’s untreated, undiagnosed.

Trish 44:05
I’m thrilled that you mentioned that Bryan, because you’re right. And I’m glad it kind of came to that. It’s, the addiction isn’t the problem, right. That’s what you’re doing in response to a problem. But you’re right. It’s unpacking all of that. And one thing you said early on, I have a quick question about as you use two words, right, talked about the stigma of having addiction or mental health issues. Right. And then also, you talked just a moment ago about normalizing, being able to open up about that. What would you recommend whether you’re an HR leader listening to this or practitioner listeners, or whether you’re someone who’s struggling with an addiction of your own, right, who’s thinking about I’m going to read this book, like, how have you seen sort of Hope enter the picture as someone who’s now been so over 14 years, how has has this normalized? Or is the stigma less in our society? Or is that still really a huge problem for people?

Bryan Wempen 45:14
The good thing is, we have we’ve made a little bit of headway, not a ton, because there’s a lot of very, there’s a lot of cultural issues of class issues, there’s a lot of economic issues, there’s a lot of things that systemically people have to figure you’d like their, their misery pushes them through the stigma that doesn’t kill them. Right. Like, that’s, that’s the reality of it is, you know, we can talk about this all day long. But the reality is, there’s there’s different professions, that people will go to great lengths to not let anybody know, they’re struggling, because they know for a fact it will impact their career, like their career path. And I don’t care if you’re an athlete, like, you know, say you’re, you know, you’re an athlete at a college, and you’re really struggling, then you’re like, I don’t want to tell anybody, because they’re not going to, you know, they’re not going to start me because they’re gonna think they can’t rely on me and I got problems, right. And so it, it cuts across so many different areas, that it’s still a gigantic issue, we have to, you know, we just have to continue to normalize that. This is, you know, you don’t want to deal with it. Because it’s like, not you, of course, but you as a society don’t want to deal with it, because it’s difficult. It’s not, you know, you I can’t put a bandaid on it. And I can’t control how to fix it. Right. So that ugliness of that, you know, the variability, people don’t want to deal with it. Because it doesn’t matter what community, it doesn’t matter what level of income, it doesn’t matter, what you know, what race or ethnicity or gender you are, it is everywhere, like we haven’t, it’s really we’ve moved into an endemic mental health crisis in this country. And unfortunately, it is, it is getting exponentially worse, like the two highest areas of acuity are our youth. And seniors. There basically it was, it usually stayed in the middle of the bell curve, right is really where the majority of it was. Now it’s on both ends, right, so we just have this huge tsunami of just like Genet, like across anxiety, depression, suicide, and, you know, addiction in many, many, you know, various forms that everybody’s trying to sort this out. And it just, unfortunately, again, I don’t see, I don’t see a time that it’s, it’s getting better anytime soon, right? We’re doing some incremental things, and some states are doing better than others in some communities. But unfortunately, it is we have much bigger problems. And so but yeah, so that’s, again, people just don’t want to deal with it. Because it’s scary. And it’s not a quick fix, right? And people don’t I mean, they just don’t want to deal with like, do their actual work. I mean, we can unpack from like a performance review workforce management, we can unpack that. And it’s very, it’s just a different form of they don’t actually want to deal with really what fixes the problem, right? Like, it’s everybody’s working off of a Industrial Revolution framework. And unfortunately, the healthcare world is kind of in that, like in the US is working off of a is working off of a hospital system framework, right where it’s intended encounter base not to go not to get too deep into this. But encounter base means you come in, there’s diagnosis, there’s a fix, you get the you get the fix. And then you go home and it works out and you move on with the rest of your life. Right, put a cast on it, put a bandaid on it, take this pill and two weeks, it’ll all be better. Mental Health and Addiction. That is that doesn’t work. And so you have that you have you just can’t reconcile, like doctors don’t know what to do with it. Right. The provider world doesn’t know what to do with mental health and addiction. And so, you know, you just you have these huge gray areas that people just don’t want to They don’t know how to fix. And so when you don’t know how to do something, then you just you tend not to do anything. And that’s the worst thing that we could do.

Steve 50:11
Bryan, it’s such a important and complex topic as you allude to here. And I think, you know, to get back to Fisher’s point, the stigma around mental health, I think is getting a little better, certainly in the workplace. I know, just from our vantage point of the industry in the space over the last several years, the number of conversations we’ve had, and providers that we’ve talked to, and in just initiatives around helping folks in the workplace specifically manage their mental health better as improve, I think less so around some of these issues. Brian, be quite frank with you around addiction and the fallout of addiction and what it means at work, what it means at home, what it means in our, in our communities. And I hope that it’s something Trish that we can maybe take on this year, as we sort of head down into 2020 fours, look at that a little bit more, maybe a here on this show, and some other things that we’re doing too, because right now, I do feel like it’s individuals, brave people, quite frankly, like Brian, and others like him who are out there talking about these issues and being very forthcoming about his own experience and writing about them. Right and publishing about them. And that’s kind of driving the conversation. We’re not seeing CEO of big company XYZ talking about this, right. I’m not maybe it’s happening, and I haven’t seen it, but I don’t think we’re seeing it just yet.

Trish 51:32
Right? Well, I think to though Steve,, I mean, you’ve got the right point. I think it’s a little bit the push from the younger generation, they’re more willing to openly talk about just their mental health needs from a very positive perspective, too. So I’ll tell you like I recently, I was someone who thought like, you don’t go to a therapist, unless you really troubled or something like, and I don’t know why I had that stigma, like it would be bad to go. But I recently, just a few months ago, started seeking therapy. And it was after a mutual friend of ours, Laurie Ruettimann, actually encouraged me to do that. And I thought about it, and I thought, you know, what I did I started going for I was having horrible migraines. So pain management specifically was the thing. And what I’ve learned is, it’s really, it just helps all aspects of my life. And so again, whether you’re not dealing with whether it’s things in your childhood or traumatic events, you mentioned, PTSD can be a thing, whatever the thing is, we all have some thing we struggle with, whether or not we admit it is one thing, if you do admit it, and I’m hoping that’s what the show, if you’ve if you’ve not reached out to read a book like this to begin your journey on your own, or if you’ve not reached out and sought therapy. Gosh, Steve, I hope we can just take away some of that stigma, because you will experience help beyond belief and relief. And I’ve learned that, you know, my therapist even says, Everyone is depressed and anxious. It’s just to different degrees. And so we are all using different mechanisms to hide from that to mask that we all want to show up and be our best selves at work, right? But you can’t expect Brian, you mentioned performance reviews, you can’t expect to throw training at someone if their work performance is poor, because they’re struggling with something like this. Okay, work training isn’t going to cut it right. So there has to be and maybe we come back on another show, right and have like more of a talk around the legislation because I know that’s part of it too. But, but there has to be other steps in place. You can’t just throw sort of HR Solutions at something when it’s something we might not even be able to talk about in the workplace to help our employees.

Bryan Wempen 53:56
No, and you know, I just want a quick point because I don’t think I actually answered your question when you started talking about like what are pathways to to hope and relief to figure out like when you’re when you’re kind of wandering and figuring out I know I feel bad and I don’t know how to even begin trying to find a solution to help myself right or or you see somebody else that you kind of maybe think is doing that or you know bottom line is start looking for people who are talking about it right and then you’re gonna just take that that little step of faith to communicate and I get messages I love especially within like when you know when you know rumens podcast came out. I got several messages from the HR world saying we don’t know each other but I heard your show like I heard your you know your interview with you know, with Laurie and I just wanted to ask you a couple questions and share some things and it really Yeah, like, that’s the way that it should work, right? Like, you look for lived experience, if you if you don’t have the means or you just can’t get yourself enough, you know, kind of not confidence but the willingness to go to talk to a therapist and get that scheduled, because sometimes there’s a process that goes along with it, your examples great. And so, but if that’s fine people with lived experience that from all intents and purposes, see, you know, look like they might be somebody to talk to write. And the next thing I’m going to say, probably sounds a little, you know, weird to some, but bottom line is, you know, if it’s not always true, but just, I’m going to say it, if you’re a female, reach out to a female, right, and if you’re a male reach out to a male, because it just takes out a variable that, you know, I have learned over the years can be, you know, you can’t, you can’t predict, like this weirdness, right, you can’t predict what you don’t see and know from somebody. And this is really, from a guy’s perspective, like a female reaches out, let’s be honest, like, if a female reaches out to a guy, that that vulnerability has an element of, it’s very intimate that you’re sharing something that’s so key to where you’re at that vulnerability has, you know, has an element to it, that you got to protect yourself, right. And so I’m always super thankful, because I’m, you know, I’m, I think I’m about as safe as it gets for people to reach out. So it doesn’t matter, that’s awesome. They don’t have any worries there. But that’s not always the case. And I hear those stories, and it breaks my heart that somebody trusts like that. And then somebody violates that trust, right? That just that puts, breaks my heart and puts me a little bit extra level of kind of just anger, that somebody would take advantage of that. So it’s just another thought, right? Just to protect yourself. Just keep that in mind that, especially if you have you might have trauma from your background, that that’s even more important not to exacerbate that trauma. You know, just think about that as you do things. And just be very aware of that. That’s all I would say.

Trish 57:37
I agree. All good points. I think you’re right, too. I think, you know, whether it’s a podcast like this, or just, yeah, there are people who have a platform of some sort. If they can share their own journeys, you’ll help so many other people, you do help normalize it. So Brian, thank you for sharing your story. For the last I know, it’s come out and more and more over the last, you know, more than a decade. But it really, you’ve probably helped so many people you’ve never even known you’ve helped, honestly. So I appreciate it. I do hope there are more books coming. Because I think that you’re very perceptive, and you’re very, just very sincere. It comes from a place of love. And I appreciate it. I’ve learned so much from you and your writings and your sharing.

Bryan Wempen 58:27
Definitely, I definitely appreciate the opportunity. I’d say you all we’ve been in each other’s lives for a lot of years. Now. I was surprised when I started thinking about our back that goes and so yeah.

Steve 58:41
Awesome, Bryan. This is Bryan Wempen and the book is F my Demons. We’ll put some links in the show notes where you can find it as well as the other books as well. This has been so interesting, Brian from me and hopeful to which I think it’s great. And it’s a great story. And thank you so much for being so honest and open and brave. And sharing not only in your books, but sharing here with us too. We it’s great to see you and really appreciate it.

Bryan Wempen 59:12
Yeah, good. Good to see both of you. That’s like I was probably as most excited about that as anything. I always love talking about it. Because last thing is I agree the more people are talking about it, the more that people don’t feel so alone and weird and strange and like there there’s something broken that can’t be fixed. And we just have to continue to let people know that that’s you know, that’s absolutely not the case and just find that find that one pathway to try and get some help and life can get life can get maybe not less complex, but it sure can get better. Yeah, there’s no doubt so and you all this is a huge component of right your voice is really important these Congress sessions are really important for folks because they, every single one, there’s something that comes through that is, you know, Uber authentic and something that people are like, Oh my gosh, I didn’t know that about that person. Right. And we’re all just people we might levels of success are all over the board and titles. But your your what you do is really, really important. And so I really appreciate that always a 15 year fan.

Steve 1:00:28
Thank you so much, Bryan. Trish, great, great stuff. Thank you. You are the impetus for wanting to get this show on the books. I’m glad you did it. So thank you. We could probably could do a whole nother hour with Bryan, maybe

Trish 1:00:40
We should let’s come back in like six months later this year.

Steve 1:00:42
I wrote down a bunch of notes. A couple of one last takeaway for me was you don’t have to carry it all yourself. Bryan, you said that earlier in the competition. I wrote that down and I’m taking that one with me too. So Bryan Wempen thank you so much. Trish thank you. Thanks to our friends at Paychex of course for all their support. Remember all the show archives HRHappyHour.net. We will see you next time and bye for now.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

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