Adi Jaffe, Ph.D. is a nationally recognized expert on mental health, addiction, relationships and shame. He was a UCLA lecturer in the Psychology department at UCLA for the better part of a decade and was the Executive-Director and Co-Founder of one of the most progressive mental health treatment facilities in the country – until he started IGNTD.
Dr. Jaffe’s work and research focus on changing the way Americans think about, and deal with mental health issues. He is passionate about the role of shame in destroying lives and aims to greatly reduce the stigma of mental health in this country. In this context, Dr. Jaffe has used his personal experience as an incredibly effective inspirational and motivational tool.
Dr. Jaffe attended UCLA, graduating with a B.A. in psychology. It was during his undergraduate career that Adi began struggling with drug issues himself, eventually leading to a 4 year hiatus from studies and into the Los Angeles drug-dealing world where he became quite successful. During that period of his life, Adi’s days looked more like a re-enactment of a beatnik novel or a Quentin Tarantino film than the life of an upper-middle class suburban kid. Following a SWAT team arrest in his apartment, and extended court case and a year-long jail sentence, Adi began rebuilding his life. This eventually led to his attainment of a Ph.D. from UCLA’s top-rated doctoral program in psychology, where he graduated with honors. Even before he graduated Dr. Jaffe’s name had become known through his online and academic writing. His views on addiction and his research on the topic have been published in dozens of journals and online publications and he has appeared on numerous television shows and documentaries discussing current topics in addiction and the problem of addiction as a whole.
Dr. Jaffe now writes a blog on Psychology Today, and several other online and print sources. His goal is to bring the latest knowledge about addiction to the people who could benefit from it most – those who are suffering because of it. His writing combines personal experience with a decade’s worth of fine-detail research regarding the mechanisms involved in the addictive process.
Check out his new book – www.theabstinencemyth.com
His professional experience is broad and includes:
✅ Speaking – TEDx, professional organizations, public associations, keynotes.
✅ Organizational management – Consulting with startup on staffing needs, culture and mindset.
✅ Professional counseling – Addiction and mental health counseling (group and individual) using CBT, Humanistic principles, Motivational Interviewing and more. Focused on non-judgmental harm-reduction and inclusion.
✅ University-level lecturing – UCLA and California State University teaching everything from addiction to neuroscience to research methods and statistics. He brings engagement and fun to every topic he teaches.
✅ Coaching – Life, executive and mental health coaching, including for some of the world’s biggest names and personalities. I succeed where other coaches fail in driving behavior change and buy-in even from the most resistant and skeptical clients.
✅ Writing – Dr. Jaffe has written for CNN.com, Huffington Post, Psychology Today and dozens of other publications and websites. His focus is on challenging the status quo and bringing about change that improves lives.
✅ Research and project development – Through graduate school and post-doc work, he learned to always look for data to guide his decision making.
Dr. Adi Jaffe’s main focus is on using his skills and connections to reduce the shame experienced by millions and increasing the reach of treatment for mental health issues. Through this work, he improves work conditions, life-experience and general well-being.
To learn more about Dr. Jaffe, visit https://www.igntdrecovery.com/igntd-recovery-opt-in-fshame
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Rob: Hey, everybody, Rob Lohman here. Thanks for tuning in to another episode of Beyond the Bars, radio Podcast part of the global Mental Health News, Radio Network. And today, we get to talk to Dr. Jeff, and he has a pretty unique approach to just addiction and everything, he’s going to talk about mental health. And I’m really excited to hear about it, because it’s a little different spin on things which we like to do on these kind of shows, too. So, Dr. Jaffe, go ahead and introduce yourself and kind of background, and we’ll just kind of dive into some topics.
Jaffe: Thanks, man, thanks, Rob. So, great to
be here with you today. You know, I love the idea, the concept of just
continuing to expand will people know, think and believe is possible around
recovery period, whether it’s addiction, mental health, I think they’re so
intertwined, it’s almost impossible to separate them. A little bit about
myself, ex-meth addict, it was after my meth addiction and spending some time
in jail, I got a year in jail, that I came out and went back to school, a place
that I swore I would never go back into. But I really, I went because of necessity,
for anybody listening, who’s been to jail, or know somebody who’s been in jail,
it’s really hard to get a job after you’ve been to jail. I was a nine time
convicted felon, my records been expunged since, but not you know, nine
felonies and a new record, you can’t get a job at the mall. And so, I went back
to school, literally, by necessity, not realizing that was going to become my
life’s purpose. When I was in school, I said, you know what I’m going to dive
in, I got my B.A in Psychology. So, I was going in for my master’s now, and I
said, you know what, I want to study, what the hell happened to me and how I
got addicted so badly. So, I got my masters in Psychology, and I went all in on
Neuroscience and Social Psychology and everything that I could do when I got
into addiction research, and then eventually from that went to UCLA to get my
PhD. Honestly, when I say all those things together, it sounds so insane to me,
like a guy who, you know, used to smoke and a ball of meth every single day and
then went to jail for a year. And you know, everything that’s entailed, I know,
you have some of that those same experiences. So, everything that entails, that
experience entails, the fact that I even got to have a PhD was amazing. It was,
you know, it was a road, there was a lot of work to do along the way. But
at UCLA, I was so lucky to work with some amazing Neuroscientists and genetics
expert. And again, I was doing everything I could to just figure out what the
hell happened, in addition, I was trying to discover what I call the pathway to
addiction, you know, I’m from an upper middle class family, my dad was a
doctor, my mom was a human resource manager at a well-known bank in Israel,
like, there was nowhere in the original story of my life where meth addict,
meth dealer, convict, was ever supposed to show up. And so, I kind of said to
myself, like, what the hell happened. And then, can I then use this knowledge
to help other people not go down that road. So, I started writing a lot online
and started really gradually changing my own perception of what happened, I was
sober in A, for three years ended up leaving the program, initially, just
leaving the program and staying sober. And then eventually taking kind of an
experiment with which was reintroducing alcohol into my life, it’s I was
learning more and more, I was really challenging my own ideas. And so, got a
PhD, started writing online, eventually opened up a treatment center. And when
I opened up the treatment center, one of the things that was most important to
me, was to overcome the main barriers as to why people don’t go into treatment.
I’m sure you’ve talked about it on here before. But for people who are not
familiar with this concept, there are about 25 to 30 million people who
struggle with addiction in the US on any given year, and only about two and a
half million who get help. That means 88 to 90% of people who need help for
addiction, don’t go get it. And I did research as to why that is, and I
discovered four main things that causes that. And the first one is cost, we all
know treatment can be expensive, and you don’t have money always. The second
one was logistics. So, people had a hard time either taking, imagine taking 30,
60, 90 days off work to go, if you’re going to go residential, but even if not,
even for outpatient you talking about 10 to 15 hours of commitment week, that’s
a lot of time. So, logistics was another one, then shame. Not a big surprise
for anybody who’s struggling with this issue or has in the past. But you know,
when you think to yourself, oh my god, my life is screwed up. I’m broken,
picking up a phone, walking into a room, telling a bunch of people, hey, I
screwed up, my life is a mess, it’s not the easiest thing. So, shame was the
third one. And then the fourth one, which was a big surprise for me, and for a
lot of the people I worked with, people said over 50% of people said, I like
using and drinking too much to quit. And I struggled with that one because
these were specifically people who were looking for help. And yet they were
telling me, I want help, but I like using and drinking too much to stop. And
while everybody else in the field was saying to me, well, those people haven’t
figured out how serious they’re in denial, they haven’t figured out how serious
their problem is. I said, what if we could offer people help, who wanted help,
but weren’t ready to quit? Like, you know, even in A, the first requirement is
desire to stop drinking. Well, what about the people who don’t have that
desire, but still want help. So, I opened up a treatment center with a partner
of mine, you know, seven years ago, where we offered people non abstinence
options for treatment, like if you want help, and you want to come in and sit
in groups and do the work, we don’t know if you want to quit we will still take
you. And man, that was fun, that was a fun experience, mostly because of how
other people reacted. The clients loved it, but other people, like there were
rumors about our treatments that people said, we had a bar in the treatment
center, and that people came to us and drank, like, literally in the treatment
center. People said that, you know, we allowed people to bring their own
alcohol so they could drink in groups. People said that we encouraged others to
drink, it was it was kind of insane what the rest of the world thought about
what we were doing. But all we were doing, was we were allowing people who came
in, regardless of what drug, regardless what behavior, to say, hey, I want
help, but I’m not sure I’m ready to quit. And it was fun, we helped about 200
people in that context. Five years later, the treatment center closed, I ended
up writing a book called “The abstinence myth”. The subtitle is
“a new approach for overcoming addiction without shame, judgment or
rules”. And the point that I’ve been creating in my now ignited hero
program, where I help people who struggle with addiction online. And in my book
is this, addiction is a multi-faceted problem, it’s not biological,
psychological, side environmental, and it’s not spiritual, it’s all of
Rob: Yeah, totally.
Jaffe: Unless we get in and get really clear and really honest, and motivated on addressing those four issues as they come up for every person who’s in front of us. We’re never going to fix it, and then the final goal I make is abstinence is a nice goal, but it doesn’t have to be the goal. And it definitely shouldn’t be the first hurdle that we make people jump through. You know, I think it’s a travesty that we make people say, I’m ready to quit, before we offer them help. And I’ll give the analogy and then I’ll throw it back to you. To me, it’s like a quadriplegic person coming to us in a wheelchair chair, and they’re at the door and they say, hey, can you give me physical therapy? We say absolutely, but you have to leave your wheelchair at the door, we’re not allowed to bring wheelchairs into the office, like, well, I can’t walk and I have no arms. So, I can’t come to you, what do you want from me, like, can I just roll the wheelchair? And then once you help me, I’ll get rid of the wheelchair, and said, no, we have one rule, and the one rule is you have to be willing to leave the wheelchair behind. And my argument is f*** the wheelchair, let them bring it in, let them sit in it for weeks, like if somebody is coming to me asking for help. I want to help them, I don’t want to create rules in terms of what I’m willing to take from them and not. So, that’s the big thesis of the abstinence men and women, and then obviously we get into more details in there but that’s what I’m here to talk about.
Rob: Yeah, that’s awesome. I appreciate that, again, there’s, I think people that are stuck in one way can’t entertain another way. But the reality is the people that hear this say hey, I want to learn more, or I don’t want to hear any more. I’m out you know, and I mean, I can imagine when you open your treatment center, the recovery world, the addiction world of professionals like what are talking about, because it is on the opposite side of things. But really quick how do people find you? Because I want to give them that information then we will dive into some more. So, how can they contact you?
Jaffe: The easiest way is just my name Dr. Jeffery.com, and it has a little bit of everything that I do, but then I started a company called Ignited, “Ignited”, it’s on the app, and on the book. And if you go to ignited, ijtd.com, we also have ignitedrecovery.com. If you look up my name, it’s pretty easy to find me online. And the book is also out there, and it’s cool. And for those that aren’t looking a text or anything, you’re just like in the car, it’s www.adijaffe.com , just some people are just cruising around on the treadmill or whatever, you know.
Rob: Like workout?
Jaffe: Yeah, definitely looking down the treadmill and collapsing. If you’re driving do not look at the video right now. And I’m looking over your right shoulder right now, and you have that, sign your losses, you were born to be real not to be perfect.
Rob: Yeah, there’s a lot of freedom in that, especially from the shame perspective, is like sticking in my head a little bit, too. So, talk more about that, because I know that’s what keeps a lot of people in their struggles, their addictions, kind of addictions can move like whack a mole every now and then it stuff. So, what is shame? What does shame actually mean to you?
Jaffe: Yeah, so I have I have a motto, I have a little bracelet I wear on my wrist that says, f*** shame, on it. It’s one of our primary mottos, and I hope it’s okay to swear I know, and I’ve done it three or four times already.
Rob: That’s it, we’ll just put a little thing that says there are some words in here, maybe don’t watch this with your kids.
Jaffe: Perfect, I think shame is one of the primary barriers to everything good in the world. We grow up with our parents, the world around us, our friends telling us what we’re supposed to be like, and then we go through experiences. I mean, I know you understand this, but so many of the people that I work with, have had some pretty serious negative experiences with children, sexually abused, psychologically abused, physically abused, bullied extensively. And then even if it doesn’t reach those levels, had massive physical tribulations. So like, big, physical difficulties that they had themselves, divorces, multiple moves with their families. I mean, whatever it is, they’ve gone through a lot, and they get the messaging for the world of what you’re supposed to be like. And what you’re supposed to be like is perfect. Perfect is the normal, right? So like, happy all the time, you’re supposed to handle anything that comes at you without difficulties, do well in school, be super popular, look amazing, be fit. That’s what you’re supposed to be like, well, newsflash, almost nobody is like that. I mean, that’s why, you know, that’s why I have this thing, here that says, you are born to be real not to be perfect. There is no perfect, even the definition of what normal is, it’s just like some average that we took of what everybody is, any person listening to this right now is different than normal. And that’s not a bad thing, but when you’re 4,5,6,7,8 years old, we get anxiety about it, we get depression, we get stressed out by it. And so, we developed this really unhealthy self-concept, and that is, I need to hide who I really am. And I need to pretend that I am what other people want me to be. Because that’s how I get the happiness, and that is shame. The definition of shame is that when your internal way you see yourself doesn’t coincide with the way you believe other people need to see you. And so, you feel badly not about the things you do, or where you live, or what you wear, but about who you are. And when you start feeling badly about who you are, that’s when the Jon Kabab Zinn thing, about you know, wherever you go, wherever you are, there are a lot of people that get tattooed on themselves, or one of the most popular sort of mindfulness sayings is, we’re on our own heads all the time. And what I see with a lot of my clients is that shameful voice, you’re a loser, you’re too fat, you’re too ugly or too stupid, you’re unmotivated, whatever the thing is, you’re unreliable. Those negative messages, they become the loudest voice in our head. And we spend the rest of our lives trying to run away from it. And how do we run away? We run away initially, by putting on a mask and pretending when we’re kids, but then we find alcohol, and then we find drugs, and we find porn, and then we find gambling, we find whatever food, we find sugar, right? Like, I feel like shit about myself. But when I stuffed myself with donuts, I feel good for 45 minutes. Yeah, my stomach hurts after that, and I gained a bunch of weight, but like, for 45 minutes, I feel safe. So, everything that people come to me with is really the way I see it and escape from shame.
Rob: Yeah, I get that. I mean, even in your level of my own, like recovery journey, right? From drugs and alcohol, I had a major, you know, just breakdown full of, you know, shame, guilt, all those things, too. And that was a constant thing run through my head before that. So, when I think of shame, I think of this kind of cousin guilt.
Rob: How do you talk about shame and guilt, maybe connected to each other?
Jaffe: Sure. And I’d love to hear maybe a little bit about what was going on for you in year 11. I mean, we all have guilt. Guilt is a pretty healthy emotion to have, right? You should feel badly for doing things that hurt others, or doing things that are inappropriate, morality is a good thing, it’s not a bad thing. Like, if you took somebody’s iPhone charger yesterday, you should feel guilty about it, like guilty enough to bring it back to them. By the way, that’s where shame can help, right? If you don’t feel shame, and you did something bad, you walk up to the person and said, hey, no, man, I’m sorry, I grabbed this from your house yesterday. I didn’t mean to, or I did mean to, and I feel like an asshole about it, and here it is back. But if you feel shame, you say, well, I don’t want to bring it back to them, because it’s going to prove that I’m a liar and a thief. And other people already see me as a liar and a thief. And if I bring it to them, it’s going to prove to them that I am. So, I’ll just keep it. Yeah, so not in a steal in order to protect yourself from shame, but that just reinforces the idea that you’re a thief. And so, we get into these really, we pretzel ourselves and these ways of being, because we don’t feel confident enough in who we are, to just put it on the line. And that’s where the second concept that I talked about in my book, and a lot of the work that I do with people and with my wife or couples, is the second concept. And that’s radical transparency, you know, people talk about honesty in the program. It’s not as easy as everybody makes it sound. Because you have to overcome shame, in order to be able to be radically transparent, because I have to be able to tell you, even the things that suck about me a little bit, right, even the things that I’m not very proud of. By putting them out there, I become radically transparent, I have nothing to hide, shame just leaves, right. One of my favorite sayings is, sunlight is the best disinfectant, you shine a light on something, and it just clears up the shadow. So, guilt and shame are related, because a lot of guilt can sometimes lead to shame and transformed to shame. But the way to get rid of shame is actually to be transparent and honest about the things we feel guilty about.
Rob: That’s most definitely, and I think people get stuck in a lot, because you talk about like, even on your website, you have kind of was it transformation, leadership and inspiration? Obviously, that’s kind of what you’re doing. So, like the evidence of a transformed life is kind of what we’re looking at, what we get out of our struggles and addictions that, you know, especially like you talked about you, I mean, big, you know, you’re a meth addict, all this stuff, you’re stuck in, and you look at you now, and obviously you can’t see the resemblance of probably a picture of you from those days, but what is like a transformed life. What do your kind of think of that? Because I think people don’t, I think in like recovery, how people look at it, it’s we got the addiction, right? We got this recovery piece, think we’ll just stay there. Yeah, the transformed part is I think what this in a lot of treatment centers, a lot of like, you know, sober living has a lot of a lot of recovery stuff. So, what does that mean? Like a transformed life?
Jaffe: Oh, such a good question, man. Let me give you an example. Right, so that we can just end it, I was with my family, you know, I was just talking to my wife about it. Yesterday, I went with my kids to this new children’s museum that opened up, my wife and I are in the process of buying our first home, really exciting, it’s going to tap us out financially, like there’s no tomorrow, but we’re really excited about it. I’ve got three children, they love me, I love them. It’s challenging, but it’s also the most incredible thing ever. I have a relationship with my wife that started after my drug addiction. But we dealt with some sex addiction, related intimacy, related issues later on in life. Because what I didn’t realize when I kicked meth, was that porn and sex were actually deeply interwoven into my addiction. And nobody ever really confronted that with me, because sex addiction, or intimacy issues, are still one of the most shameful things in our society, because we don’t talk about sex. And so, now I have this amazing relationship with my wife, like, it’s one of the most incredible, people tell us that we somehow cracked the code to happy relationship, which is insane, because my wife took off her ring nine years ago, and was about ready to leave me. So, I looked at my wife and I, you know, we have an amazing life. It’s amazing, and the fact that I get to say that coming from where I came before, that’s transformation, right? Because what people need to realize, is we chase the outside stuff, we chase the money or the car, we say to ourselves, I have a book I want to write, which is I’ll be happy when. And we say to ourselves that all the time, you know, I’ll be happy when I have the car, I’ll be happy when I have the house, I’ll be happy when I have the wife, the kids, the whatever the stripper, the whatever it is in your head that you think you’ll be happy when it’s all false. Because you become happy, when you are no longer running away from yourself. When you wake up in the morning, pretty content with where your life is right now, that’s happiness, all the other stuff. It’s like, it’s the cherries, it’s the nuts on top of your sundae. You know, it’s all the it’s all the extras. But I’ll tell you, I’ve worked with people who are literally billionaires, people who are world famous, have every single thing that you would check on your list of what they want, and they’re miserable. The stuff doesn’t get you the happiness, it’s really nice to have it, don’t get me wrong. Like, if you can afford a Bentley and a private jet and all that stuff, and you’ve dealt with your internal shame. Life can be amazing, but you better deal with the internal shame and the internal conflict. Because otherwise, what you’re going to find is there is no top, you can reach billions and billions of dollars, and still be miserable. And that’s a really sad place to be in.
Rob: Contentment is a hard thing for people to
settle into, it’s kind of like you’re not giving up, right? You’re just happy
with the way that you are, and you got goals and things you’re going for.
Right? But it’s like just being okay with here, instead of fooling yourself
that, like you said, If I had this, then I will, and that’s it, the chip never
Jaffe: And again, always have goals, I have goals, I still want to move forward. But moving forward will be good, because now I’m good. Right? And I tell this to all my clients, like don’t fool yourself into thinking that if you lose five pounds, you’ll be happy. Right? If you become happy, you’ll have an easier time losing the five pounds also.
Rob: Yeah, because you want more like you’re settling more in with like, the comfort of who you are. So, how long have you and wife and married?
Jaffe: We’re about to do our, we will hit 10 years in October this year, and we’re going to take our vows again. Like when we–
Rob: You will be renewing your vows?
Jaffe: Yeah, so I’m really excited about that.
Rob: That’s cool. So, she knows you after addiction?
Jaffe: Well, she knows me after drug addiction, but
like this intimacy.
Jaffe: Was pretty treacherous man, I was, you know, it’s, well, it’s fine. It’s, we can talk about that here too. But I was like, I’ve cheated on her, I was sexting behind her back, and then the thing that was really intense, which started way before her was there, through the entire drug period, and continued, even my sobriety was like porn and online sex. And I’m writing a whole series of articles right now. And they’ll probably become a book to at some point, about the way a lot of us learn how to be men, is not really conducive to having a great relationship with a woman. And that’s something nobody talks about, because we don’t talk about sex, we don’t talk about shame, etcetera. And so, I was living in that world well into our relationship, and it almost broke us up. So, she saw me not as a drug addict, but still really struggling with compulsivity around sex.
Rob: Which can almost be harder to swallow, because then there’s the object of your affection, is something over here instead of like, what’s right in front of you.
Jaffe: Or even in your head, right? Because it’s fantasy becomes part of the problem, and you can fantasize anytime you want, at least to get high on meth, I need some meth, but to get high on sex escape, you can do wherever in the shower, when nobody’s looking like you can do it all the time. So, yeah, that was a journey, it was probably like, three to four years to get our heads around it well enough. Now we help a lot of couples, we’re actually starting a coaching program for couples, we’re calling “save your marriage”, because a lot of couples struggle with this, right. Infidelity, intimacy issues, and there’s not a lot of help, unless you want to go to like us, you know, 50, $60,000 a month for rehab.
Rob: And that’s the same tie in with like
gambling, food and sex addictions, is it’s all we got this internal chemical
release, right? And it’s this dopamine issue, the serotonin issue, all that.
And you, I want to talk about Neuroscience here in a minute, because that ties
a lot into it with our transmitters and all these things going on in our
Jaffe: Yeah. One thing I want to throw out to people is, you know, like, when I got sober, and quit using drugs and alcohol in 2001, you know, I got married, you know, six, you know, I was not a husband, when I got sober. I wasn’t a father, when I got sober. I wasn’t a business owner when I got sober. Right. So, all these other pressures or roles, or he’s, I guess we’re there. And, and not really, I guess, a developing the skills of intimacy, not sexual intimacy, but just emotional relational intimacy, weren’t really there in the beginning. And that caused a lot of struggles in my marriage, right. So, just going out to people like no matter what your life was, like, when life changed, you bringing another person into your life, and then little people in your life, a lot of stuff can come up. So, what being a father, what stuff has come up for you at an insecurity standpoint of being a dad based on, I don’t know, your childhood, drink, and drug, whatever. I think one of the biggest things that you realize, if you’re willing to look behind the curtain of your own mind, is you repeat the way you were raised, unless you become really actively involved in changing it. And that’s because your brain knows how to be a parent, your parents showed you how to do it. And so you know, you might not like it, you may wish that it was different. But it’s really difficult to change habits. Some of the biggest example I give people is like, you know, you know how to tie your shoelaces, if I tell you, okay, now I want you to tie your shoelaces with the opposite hand first. So, like flip everything, unless you practice it is really hard, right, you hold the bunny year with your left hand or your right hand, whichever one you do, and to hold it with the other one is weird, you don’t know where to put the thing. That’s kind of what life is like when you say to yourself, I’m going to bring in a wife or husband, I’m going to bring in a you know, a child. And I want to be different than the way my parents were, well, your brain through learning, learn how to be a parent, learn how to be a husband and wife from past experiences. And, you know, in case people don’t understand this, the way your brain learns is through literal physical structures in your brain. So, memory gets created not by some magic, it’s literally defining it is a little magical, but like, it’s literally different neurons in your brain connecting, literally reaching out to one another and holding on to one another and signaling in a network. And so, the way you know how to tie your shoes, there’s a network for that and your brain, the way you know how to discipline your child, there’s a network for that in your brain. And if you want to do something about it, you actually have to actively change it, you have to have some conscientious thought into I’m going to change the pattern, the habit that I engage in. And, you know, that’s really challenging, my dad was not around at all when I was growing up. And so, I learned from my mom, but I never had the male role model piece in there. And so, I’m learning how to be a parent, and I screw up the one thing that my wife and I are pretty consistent about is at least periodically saying to our kids, when we screw up, hey, you know, I shouldn’t have yelled that was, that was my mistake, you still did something we’re not happy about and the consequences are still there, but I shouldn’t have yelled at you, that doesn’t serve a purpose. I don’t need you to be scared of my yelling, but it’s hard. It’s hard, because I always see my dad in the back, and I always even if I don’t want to, I keep replicating what he would have done.
Rob: And there’s one instance I think of a lot in a conversation with some friends of mine over the years is my dad was a user, he was a great guy. He was just one of those distance but distant dads, because that’s kind of what he learned, right? And so all these just silly things that you easy to blame people with. But there was a time when I was talking with a mentor of mine, I was like, you know, I just don’t want to be like that. Or you hear people say, I don’t want to be like my mom, I don’t want to be like my dad, I don’t want to be like whatever. And then it’s the same concept of I don’t want to you know, I want to get out of debt. If you focus on getting out of debt. What do you focus on? Debt. So, if I want to build wealth, what do you focus on? wealth, love, if you say I don’t want to be like my dad, not me personally, but I don’t want to be like my dad or mom. Then if you focus on like, I want to be like, in this case, it was like Jesus Christ. It was like, I want to be like Christ he lived or whatever life and focus on what you want to become instead of what you don’t want to become. And then you’re set neurotransmitter pathway. So–
Jaffe: I love it. There’s a piece I want to read. Do you mind if I read a little something?
Rob: Oh, go ahead. Yeah,
Jaffe: I think it’s great reading a book, about redefining your goals. And it specifically talks about the fact that as you work through to ignite a recovery process, you move from what you don’t want, to what you do want, by the way, people come to AA, or people come to me, or people go to treatment, because they want to stop drinking, will stopping drinking is not doing anything, you don’t stop drinking, you replace it in your life with other things. And that is the magic thing for people to learn. So, I say it’s a switch from what I call it a small version of ourselves to a more open and bigger one. And so, clients change their goal like this, I want to start fighting with friends when I’m drunk, because I want to get along better with my wife, I want to stop using and driving. So, irresponsibly becomes, I want to go to more places and do more things with friends, and in the community, I want to be in a place where I can give back, I want to stop feel like my whole life is a trigger from the moment I wake up and just try to get through the day, because I want to finally pursue my college degree, right? If you keep focusing on the things you don’t want, your entire life becomes about everything you don’t want. We wonder why it becomes so small and so difficult to get out of it. When it’s like, I compare it to you looking down at the ground of where you are all the time and you say to yourself, man, it’s really hard to move forward. It’s like it because you look into the damn ground. Look up, look at what you want, and start setting goals that are based on that. And I’m lucky because I married a woman who was really amazing at that and I learned every day from her when it comes to that. But also, I’ve had to change the way I relate to myself because I was loaded up with shame. So, I have practices, I always like leaving people with tips, I have a something called the “Five Minute Journal”. It’s an everyday practice for me, it makes me write about things. I’m grateful for what I’m hopeful for in that day, what went really well yesterday, while also identifying things that I can do better, but it’s really quick, which I like. I mean, obviously I know in the program, people do gratitude lists, etcetera. But those things are there so you can keep paying attention to what is working well, versus always paying attention to what is not, which creates a bias in your head of always focusing on the negative. For a lot of it has been as I said, even the neurotransmitters piece that you talked about, man, you know, yes, drugs activate dopamine. And yes, they activate dopamine and higher levels of natural rewards. But like, you know, when I was addicted to sex porn, it doesn’t interfere in my head in a different way, it doesn’t release extra dopamine, it releases just as much dopamine as regular sex, it releases just about as much serotonin and orgasm as a regular orgasm in sex with my wife. The problem wasn’t that; the problem was that I was using it as a coping strategy. So yes, the neurotransmitters matter, but why did I need it as a coping strategy, because I saw myself as lacking. I needed attention from women or these pretend fantasy women sometimes, to make me feel good enough. Because my relationship with my then fiancé was struggling, and I didn’t think I was a good enough person to be able to do that. I didn’t know that I could practice rap transparency, I didn’t know, and she didn’t know either at the time, that I can be honest about my needs, and actually have a woman meet them. Right, say to me, not all of them, but say to me, hey, okay, I appreciate that you said that, to me, let’s have a conversation about what that means in our relationship. I wasn’t taught that, that was a way to be, right, my parents did not live that kind of relationship. So, there’s a lot of room for growth for all of us.
Rob: It’s a weird thing to be vulnerable and transparent, especially as a guy, like, you know, like, one of my wife’s old counselors, always you say intimacy is, you know, it can be all says, in to me see?
Rob: Like, I get to know my heart, get to know who I am, you know, and all those things, too. So, outside of, like working with people and being married, and being a dad, a husband, like, how do you ground yourself? Like what, like, where do you find your identity?
Jaffe: Man, it’s a good question. I mean, to be honest, my purpose and helping people is probably where I find most of my identity, the rest of it is, as a husband, and I father. And when it comes to that, what I realized a while ago, and I’m still, you know, this is one of my battles, for sure. I come from the work hard mindset. So, like taking vacations, and doing stuff like that doesn’t always feel supernatural. But I also have seen, I preach and I talk so much to people around my work about self-care, making sure that you are having fun, making sure you have recreation, making sure you leave time to expand your mind that are not work focused, and then taking time off. And so, I work hard on the days that I work, but I take more time off than I’ve ever taken in my life. And that’s less of a money thing, right? Because I realized, I don’t really care that much about how much money I make. That’s not the goal, I want to keep my kids safe later on. So, I want to leave them with some security when I’m gone. But other than that, I’d rather be with them. And I’d rather so like we went, we just took a month off we from Israel, recently, we took a month, three and a half weeks, I’ve never taken a month off since my wife and I were actually, even our honeymoon wasn’t that long. So, since before we were engaged, when we were dating, we did one vacation, where I took a month and a half, she took something like that. And we traveled around Europe, and we met in the middle every once in a while, that’s 15 years ago. So, it’s been 15 years since I’ve taken a month off. And I guarantee there are people listening right now that have never done it. They’ve never taken a month off since maybe their parents took them on vacation. You know, years ago, it was the most releasing, enlightening stress reducing experience, I’ve had. And normally, I would freak out the whole time. But I did a little work from there, because my work is important for me, but so is taking care of myself and my family. So, I build a lot more of that into my life now than I ever did before. Because the goal is to have a good life, not to say in the end that I work my ass off. You look at people in the world who are successful, and they work their asses off, it’s just what is. But even Steve Job, says in the end, we are saying, you know, everybody sees the success. I’m paraphrasing the quote, but on his deathbed as he was dying from cancer, he said, “everybody sees my life with apple and everything that we changed in the world and see my success there”. Which is true, but my personal life is a nightmare, my relationships are non-existent. There’s essentially nobody around me right now that I’m close to for my life. And that’s something that I wish I would have changed, that can change the world. And I think what he was sad about in the end, was not having people close to him because he didn’t foster relationships, right? So, you’ve talked before about paying attention to what you want, I want to have close relationships in my life. What does that mean? I need to pay attention and put work into my relationships, not only into this, and so that’s a work in progress for me because I have that perfectionist voice speaking in the back all the time. So, even like, two weekends from now, I’m taking a Thursday and Friday off so I can go be with my family, like things I never would have done in the past. I’m doing now because if I’m going to talk the talk, I better walk the walk.
Rob: Yeah. And how many days did it take you into that month and a half off to actually settle into the fact of unplugging from everyday life?
Jaffe: I’m so much better now. But it’s still three to four days was the thing you know, before we would take a 14-day vacation. And so, four days, five days into that vacation, I finally start relaxing, I’d have six, seven days of relaxing, and then I start thinking already about the work I have to do three days before I came back from vacation. So, half the vacation would go away on work, and so this time, what I did is I said, look I’m going to put four to six hours of work every week, which I did the entire time, some weeks, it was a little more some weeks, it was less. But I was at the beach all day, I was with my family all day, I was hanging out and even a few things that fell through which would have destroyed me back in the day, I just had to say to myself repeatedly, like, “hey, you need this time, this time is for you and for your family”. And, you know, we had a blast, man, it was amazing.
Rob: There’s a colleague of mine, and he puts an auto response on his email says, if you email me during this time period, I’ll delete it. So, email me after this date, if you really want to get a hold of me, maybe it’s like what a great thing you did. Because then people would be like, well, you never said, “well, did you read the auto response”? You know, and he set himself up for success says, “hey, I need some personal time off”, you know, or whatever he said, I don’t know exactly, but those things are just saying, “hey, world, you will get along without me for a little bit time”. By the way, if you can’t, here’s a couple people you can call while I’m gone.
Jaffe: And here’s the thing right there two pieces of that. One is the fear, the fear that if you don’t get back to people right away, they’ll leave you. And then the second piece is the shame, the shame about I, need to say yes to everybody all the time. Because the only reason they like me is because I give them something. And so, if somebody emails me and I don’t respond for three days, they’re not going to like me anymore. The only reason people like me is because I’m there for them. I better step off my vacation, whatever that is, and serve again, without the recognition that you yourself need the same care. You’re giving other people in the same sense.
Rob: That’s like such a narcissistic, like egotistical way of thinking, right? Like, I mean, people don’t see it that way. Yeah, it’s all about me, like if I can do this, but you’re obviously doing great work, you help a lot of people along the way. And so, what’s like the, when you think about helping a client, and talk about what that looks like, like people don’t know, like maybe what you exactly do. But let’s say you have a client, what is the most exciting thing about like when that call comes in and says, “hey, I want it I want to do this”. But what does it mean when you work with people?
Jaffe: Well, let me actually answer that in reverse a little bit, because I got an email this morning from a client, who’s not a stereotypical client, but I’ll explain a little bit. Struggles with bipolar disorder, and alcohol and drug addiction earlier in life, then her daughter had a drug addiction and died of a heroin addiction. And she came to me really partially to understand what happened to her daughter, and partially to deal with mental health issues, which was bipolar. And again, bipolar disorder is one of those things, they tell you, you’ll never get over. And so, she just sent me an email this morning, she said, “hey, I just want to thank you for changing the way I see myself”. That’s been about two years that I’ve worked with her, but I’ll explain how, I don’t see myself the same way anymore, and that’s because of working with you, and I’m so much more hopeful for what is happening in my life now and where my life is going in the future. I just want to thank you, right. That’s the gift.
I sat down with a client, right where my home office is right now and so, I sat down with a client was sitting on my couch, I treated her in my own treatment center, six years ago, six years ago, this woman came to me with borderline personality disorder, bipolar, generalized anxiety disorder, marijuana addiction, alcohol addiction and drug addiction, now otherwise specified for nitric oxide. All six of those conditions according to the DSM are conditions you will never get rid of, you will always have, and the best you can do is keep them in remission. For borderline, not really with anything, maybe BBT, and then you can kind of handle it. And for bipolar was medication, this woman had graduated from Ivy League University, came to me broken after Ivy League University, she started having panic attacks, went deep into drug and alcohol use, try to go into graduate school, couldn’t function anymore. By the time I’d seen her, she went to four different rehabs, she was in her second, sober living, and somebody mentioned me to her. But she was so anxious, ashamed, and just destroyed internally, she was like 80 pounds’ overweight, couldn’t talk for 30 minutes, because she’d start crying in five minutes. Her life was destroyed, her family didn’t think that she could do anything anymore, except for maybe just keep it together. And not, you know, not be destructive. We worked with her for about a year and a half, did a lot of different things, and about a year after she was done with me. And by the way, she didn’t, wasn’t able to follow complete abstinence. She asked if she could get a letter of recommendation for graduate school. Long story short, this woman is sitting here, six and a half years after I initially work with her, no borderline symptoms anymore, no bipolar symptoms anymore. She still has anxiety, she’s an anxious person, but I wouldn’t even call it generalized anxiety. She just finished a master’s program and an internship her boyfriend broke up with her before graduation, and she’s here and functional, didn’t run back to alcohol and drugs. And she’s talking to me about job searching, and she just wanted some guidance, the thing that I get, I’ll answer your question, the thing that I get from sitting in front of a client always is being the mirror of what is possible for them in their life, that they stopped imagining was possible for them, right? People come to me broken, they come to me believing that life is essentially over. And then what they need to do is just figure out how to hold on without killing anybody else or killing themselves. And that’s just as good as it’s going to get, because that’s what everybody told them. Once an addict, always an addict. You know, you can’t fix your life with the brain, you were given like all these all this bullshit about you’re broken forever. And I’ll tell you, I’ve worked individually now with a few hundred people, maybe 3, 400 people, the book has sold about 5000 copies, and I get emails from people about that. But I want everybody here to pay attention to the following sentence. “I don’t care what you’ve been through in life, period, I’ve seen it all, I don’t care what you’ve been through in life and where you are right now, everything is still possible for you. There’s not a single thing that is out of the realm of possibility for you”. I’ve seen people who were sexually abused by family members repeatedly and couldn’t hold the relationship, couldn’t stop using it, were throwing up every day, because they just had to get everything out of their body, because they felt so uncomfortable. Go back to work, live normal lives and start relationships. I’ve seen people who have been meth addict, injection drug users, been in prison and have lost everything, get her ship back together, like there is nothing in your past, that means that you can’t have everything you want in your future. And I want you to let that sink in. Because the fear that there’s nothing there for you, creates the behavior patterns that we have, the shame, the guilt, everything that keeps us back, from living the life that we want. And so, when I sit with somebody, my favorite thing is looking at them, and making them start to believe they’re actually good people, and that they can get wherever they want.
Rob: That’s a great way to end this, it’s like a great walk away for people to take, just believe the unthinkable is possible.
Jaffe: It happens all the time.
Rob: Yeah. And that phrase, you know that our past does not define us, it only shapes us into the person we’re becoming. There’s a lot of freedom from shame in that too, that that is really cool. So, tell people how they get a hold of you again, and just kind of spell out your website.
Jaffe: Perfect. So, adIjff.com, adijffe.com, the book is called “The Abstinence Myth”, you can go to the, abstinencemyth.com, as well, and then you know, ignited have a podcast, we do a lot of social media, you can find me on Instagram, Facebook, all those different places, all social media. I’m Dr. D. Jaffe, Dr. D. Jaffe.
Rob: Very cool. There you guys have it, this was a great interview today. And I just hope people tap into that and walk away. And I remember reading a Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, it says, “when you learn something, if you share it with someone within 24 to 48 hours, you’re more likely not only to remember it, but to implement it”.
Jaffe: Oh, I love it.
Rob: So sure. Yeah, I love that part, too. It’s like this is great information. But if I don’t share it with people, which obviously we get to do through the podcast realm of things, all over social media, share this interview with people because someone in your circle of influence listening right now needs to hear this. And that happens all the time with stuff I do. I’m sure the same with you, too. So God bless you, man. Thanks for your time today and I appreciate it.
Jaffe: Thanks for having me, man.