** 50th Episode of the Beyond The Bars Radio Podcast : How Does a Client Become a Director of a Treatment Center? Dustin Frei of Covenant Hills **

Dustin is Director of Marketing and Business Development for Pacific Hills. Dustin has worked in the field of addiction treatment for 14 years and has been a member of the Pacific Hills’ team for nine years. Prior to joining Pacific Hills, Dustin served as a counselor, then Program Director of a 75-bed treatment facility. He joined Recovery Options in 2005 as a Crisis Response Counselor and became Director of Crisis Response 4 years later. Dustin has brought with him extensive experience working with individuals and families in crisis, including those dealing with addiction, mental health issues and trauma. Dustin remains very active in his own recovery and has served as a member of the board of directors for Mended Hearts, a non-profit organization. When asked how he was able to identify his passion for career, he said, “…I think that is really more of a testament to the counselors and treatment professionals that I came across in my own recovery. They changed the course of my life forever.’’

To learn more, visit http://www.covenanthillstreatment.com

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Gratefully,

Rob Lohman

rob@LiftedFromTheRut.com


Transcript:

File Name: Dustin Frei final

File Length: 43:41

Rob Lohman: Hey everybody, thank you for tuning in to another episode of Beyond the Bars radio podcast. I’m your host, Rob Lohman, and today I get the privilege of interviewing Dustin Frei from Covenant Hills. I’m excited because there’s a lot of just connections on life journeys and things that we get to bring into the story today. So, Dustin, why don’t you go ahead and kind of introduce yourself, what’s your position? How’d you get connected to Covenant Hills? And we’re going to dive into some of your story, and then what do you guys do at this amazing treatment program?

Dustin Frei: Sure. My name is Dustin Frei, I’m the chief development officer here at Covenant Hills. And actually, I’m a former client here. I mean, that’s really how I found or met the people here at Covenant Hills, it was through my own story of just, you know, finding help, and my family’s story of finding help. And that was about 15 years ago now. And so, I’ve been serving the company pretty much since then, in one capacity or another. I’m super proud of it. 

Rob Lohman: That’s cool. A lot of people’s stories are going through programs and stuff, they end up working for a lot of programs because they believe in it so much. And I like to throw this out in the beginning in case people want to connect with you or the treatment centre as they hear this, so really quick, like what’s a website, or how can people connect with you guys? And then we’ll move on.

Dustin Frei: Sure. It’s Covenant Hills, and our phone number is 1-800- No abuse, it’s easy to remember. It’s 800-662-2873 and our website is covenanthillstreatment.com  

Rob Lohman: There you go. So, you guys tap into that if you hear some things you want, which I know you will, you know Covenant Hills, it’s a great program that– can you tell people kind of what the focus of it is? 

Dustin Frei: Sure. So, we’re a Christ cantered company to start, from top to bottom. And that’s always been the mission here, is to have a company that really serves God. He’s our employer, he’s the one that gives us purpose and an ability to do what we do. And we just get to be witnesses to God’s handiwork. And it’s such a privilege, and so our focus is on substance abuse treatment, that’s our main focus, that’s primarily what we treat. Sometimes we have people come in to our program that are, have a primary issue with substance use disorder, and then a secondary issue of any sort of co-occurring mental health issue that may be contributing to the addiction problem. So, things like bipolar, clinical depression, generalized anxiety, those sorts of things, we have the capacity to help people who have those issues, in addition to the addiction problem.

Rob Lohman: That’s great too. And I want to say this to people listening, if you don’t believe in Christ, or you have a problem with Christ and God, just continue to listen through the program today because there might be some things you can pick up on that can at least help you in your own recovery, that’s the emphasis of Covenant Hills, and that’s emphasis I come from in my own life too. But why– so, you hear programs out there that say, “Hey, we’re a treatment program, and we have a Christian track to it”, what would separate you guys, like differentiate you guys from the Christian track to having a Christian program?

Dustin Frei: So, we’re sort of the exact opposite of that. We have a Christian program, first and foremost, and then we have a secondary track called the traditional track. And really the difference is, is that let me just say, why we have the traditional track, you know, I’ll give you that first is, you know, I’m a perfect example that somebody that came in on the traditional track, I did not want any sort of Christianity associated with my treatment, when I first came here. Because I just was, I was angry with God and I was frustrated with the church and frustrated with my family and all the things that were, I felt, were a part of me, you know, because I didn’t like myself very much at the time and they had that traditional track. So, I chose it and one of the things that was really cool about that is, it allowed me to kind of come in on my own terms, just like you would if you were going to go to church, not like they stop you at the door when you go to church on Sunday and say, “Hey, are you a Christian or not”, you know, they just let you in and you can hear the message and come to your own conclusions. And that’s sort of was my experience here was that, you know, I came in on the traditional track, there’s absolutely zero pressure in either direction, the only pressure I felt was that, “Hey, you need to get sober, you need to work on yourself, you need to come to terms with your addiction problem”. And I just sort of started to watch the guys down in the facility who were on the Christian track, and I was allowed to go in and out of their groups and just sort of listen in and participate when I felt comfortable. And sure enough, by the time I was done, I was baptized, and I was a Christian. And so, you know, go figure, but I think that the main difference, honestly, Rob, is that, you know, we don’t have any sort of qualms about having Bibles in our program and scripture on our website or telling people that we are a Christian company, the impact that that has on our company and our treatment centre is, it creates a culture of believers and it creates a culture of that God can exist in. Whereas, you know, a company that just has a track, not that that’s bad, I’m glad I mean, the more people that are talking about Jesus, the better, I’m not judging them, but it’s just a different culture all together. It’s just something that’s sort of in the background, and you have to really search for it. Whereas at Covenant Hills, it’s sort of everywhere, it emanates through our groups and our people in HR, you know, all the way to our drivers, you know.

Rob Lohman: That’s great too, because it’s the core piece of it, and as a guy, like most people that come into treatment, they’re not on a winning streak, you know and they’re pissed at God, they’re pissed at people, pissed at society, upset about this, that, the other, and you know that’s the reality they’ve painted for themselves is the victim is kind of a victim mentality per se, to the addiction substance, whatever. But for a guy that came in that way and you saw something in the other guys, people in the program, what do you think that was? Like, what was the attraction to them and what they were going through versus people that weren’t in the Christian program? 

Dustin Frei: I think it was– I just, I felt God, you know, it’s hard to explain, it’s supernatural, you know. And so, I just saw something and felt something in that room. I’ll never forget, I mean, what happened. Here’s exactly what happened, so, we have an apologetic pastor that comes here once a week, his name is Don Barclay, and Don is one of those incredible guys, that will go overseas and preach the gospel in areas where it’s, you know, probably not very safe to do that. No probably about it, it’s just not safe to do that, but he does it because he’s just a prayer warrior. And on his spare time, he comes down to our program and works with, you know, snivelling little, entitled guys like me, you know, who want to sort of question the Bible. And so, I heard that he was coming and I was super excited to come into the group and correct him and tell him that, you know, Jesus was a fraud, and that, you know, my experience was this and that, you know, if you just would read a couple science books, then you’ll realize that you should be just as miserable as I because that’s really what I wanted, everyone to be miserable like me. And so, I went into that group and I started to listen to him talk, and it wasn’t anything that he said in particular, it was his energy, just the way he went about himself. And I watched him calmly talk about his faith in a way that was so powerful to me because, it just felt to me for the first time, in a long time that I was talking or listening to somebody that had the answers I’ve been looking for my whole life with drugs and alcohol. And so, needless to say, I never asked a question or raise my hand or anything like that, I just listened to him the whole time and felt his energy and felt God in the room and I ended up following him out to the parking lot like a little puppy and asking him what I needed to do to become a Christian. So, it was very much a spiritual experience, or, like, you know, it was incredible.

Rob Lohman: Goosebumps moment right there. Right now, it’s just, you go in with your agenda, right? Of like, “I’m going to show you”, and then it’s kind of like, okay, there’s something different about this guy. And you just kind of settled in and I know some people listening that you are believers, hear this word apologetic pastor. Well, how would you describe what an apologetic pastor is?

Dustin Frei: So, apologetic pastors are people that go in– they’re basically historians, and they know the Bible, not just the written word, but the sort of they’ve gotten into the history books and learned about the cultures of those communities and really the current day activities going on at the time and they’re able to explain a lot of the things in the Bible that people question, you know, and give you the full history of what was behind the actual written word. And so, what Don does is, he’ll go, and he’ll preach the gospel to Muslim communities and listen to what the Muslims have to say about God and then he’ll basically explain in great detail what the scripture really says and why you should believe it. And it’s a really, it’s a really important calling. It’s something that I have ultimate respect for, I don’t know if I could ever do it. Because it takes a certain amount of courage that is certainly God given. And it takes a special person to have that sort of patience and faith. 

Rob Lohman: And that’s why we have scholars in any field, right? Those are the experts. And– because it is hard to explain, and it’s hard to understand a lot. Christian faith, and a lot of us take it on faith, right? And it’s just like, “Hey, it makes sense, it’s a good place for me to be and then this is my navigation in my life”. And it’s not for everybody, and especially with addiction, we’ve been hurt, we’ve got trauma, we’ve got pain, we have people that have sexually abused people, and a catalyst to addiction and trauma. And so, I say like, you know, “why in the world would someone go to a treatment centre, when they could just like, go read a Bible or have an experience”, right? But the benefit of that is– tell people a little bit about like, what is the Covenant Hills program. Because I know you have, you know, you don’t have men and women in the same dorm? I’s like, you know, I mean, just tell– what is the Covenant Hills program?

Dustin Frei: So, Covenant Hills is a 60-day program, initially. It really is a program where you’re going to basically have a very structured environment that allows you to recover from addiction, and that means a lot of different things. Because addiction attacks every part of your body and your life. It’s not just, “I got to go work on being a better employee, I got to go work on being a better husband or father or wife or mother or friend. I got to go get better physically, I got to go get more spiritually focused”. I mean, you basically have to do, you have to change your entire life. So, what Covenant Hills is, is basically a 60-day program that’s designed to do that. And so, when you come in and you work with a– we have a psychiatrist on staff Doctor. Alva, he’s there to really focus on your mental state of mind. You have a psychologist there; his name is Doctor. Gallus, he’s really there to focus on your emotions. Then you have a therapist there, and the therapist, whether you’re working with you know, there’s a number of them, but the therapist there is really going to focus in on your family of origin stuff, helping you with your marriage, helping you with your kids, that sort of thing. The chemical dependency counsellor is going to focus on just what recovery is, you know, the nuts and bolts, triggers, relapse prevention, all those sorts of things. And then you have a pastoral counsellor who’s there to really incorporate all of it into your faith. And so, you go through– a typical day is where you get up at, you know, seven o’clock in the morning, you have breakfast with the guys, you do a prayer meditation group, you do some exercise, then you go on into your education group and ;earn about what addiction is doing to your body. Or maybe it’s a group on nutrition or something like that, and then you break for lunch, and then you come back and really do your group therapy and your individual therapy in the afternoon. And then you’ll come back and break for dinner, and I’m going fast. But I mean, I could spend hours talking about this stuff. And then you know, you can in the evenings, you go either to church or to a meeting in the area, we have panellists come in and meet with the guys. So, it’s really again, you’re going to be doing that for 30 days, and then once you kind of graduate to the next level, then you’re going to what’s called transitions and in transitions, you’re going to have a little bit more say on what your day looks like so that you can prepare yourself for that next phase in your life, which is, you know, a lot of cases it’s going home or going into a sober living environment. So, you start to look for a job or you start to enrol yourself back into school or you’re starting to, you know, spend a little bit more time with your family or if you already are working, maybe you spend a couple hours at work, so, we help facilitate all that stuff for you. And so, the whole focus of the program is to try and, again, create this structured environment that’s going to engage community, recovery, your faith, and allow you to have sort of a new strength or focus in your life that didn’t exist before you got there.

Rob Lohman: Pretty well rounded, I would say. When you get your psychiatrist, your therapist, your addiction, I mean, you’re getting a really good systematic kind of approach to understanding all the different areas that affect addiction that got us here and it’s not like it’s done, like you come to the program and now your life is completely different and I mean, it will be different. I mean, it’s not– the work isn’t finished. There’s aftercare and I want people to understand that too, I think when they think of going to a treatment centre, you know, and I would assume that, because I see this during interventions and things with clients I work with, is that when people leave, some of them might stay in the area, maybe rebuild their life locally and start a whole new beginning.

Dustin Frei: Yeah, a lot of people do that, especially the community that we’re in. I mean, it’s– you can do a lot worse. We’re in San Clemente, that’s where the men’s facility is, which is, you know, Southern California. We’re right next to the San Clemente Pier, Pacific Ocean. And our women’s program is in Dana Point, which is just a beautiful little Harbour Town, just north of San Clemente. And so, a lot of the people that come out to our program, do end up relocating out here and spending their lives here and building their lives here, which is fantastic for us, because one of the things that’s so important in recovery is community. I think that addiction, just the nature of it isolates you, and that’s certainly what the enemy wants as well. And so, one of the things that we try and incorporate into the program is, you know, exposing you to community, to new friends, to people who have gone through what you’ve gone through. One of the things that we require while you’re here is that you get a sponsor in the community that’s going to help you, again, grow your roots in the community, help you work through your steps, you know, help show you where meetings are in the community that are going to be beneficial to you, introduce you to people that, again, you can create some accountability with, and some lasting friendships with. So, you’re not so isolated from all the people who love you, which is what addiction does, you know.

Rob Lohman: Yup, isolation versus connection. And so, people are hearing this right now and they hear, “Oh, 12-steps”. And that’s a positive-negative thing in our world, right? For people that are 12-step resistant, how do you work with them?

Dustin Frei: You know, one of the things that I think is important to realize, especially for believers coming in who may have a resistance of the 12-steps is that, the 12-steps, they actually started with a conservative Christian group called the Oxford group, you know, over 100 years ago, that group came together and with a goal to set out to change the world and make it a better place and bring more people to Jesus, and they ended up, you know, complicating things and getting into politics and those sorts of things that sort of meant the end of them. But before they did that, they came up with something called the six absolutes, and the six absolutes sort of morphed into the 12 steps. And the 12 steps are really simply an outlined proposal of actions that are designed to get you closer to God. Get you closer to Jesus Christ. If you’re coming to Covenant Hills, if you’re on the traditional track it’s a power of your own understanding, and that’s it. It’s really nothing designed to steer you in any different direction or you know, turn you into some sort of cult member I mean, it’s really, you know, the focus is, is that, you know, step one is, I admit that I was powerless over drugs or alcohol, my life was getting unmanageable. You know, and then the 12th step kind of ends with having had a spiritual awakening as a result of the steps, we continue to carry to the message to other alcoholics. And so, the point of it is, is that you’re having that, you show up with no power, or no higher power, and you leave with a higher power. And you know, that becomes problematic for people I understand, but it’s certainly something that’s transformed my life personally, it’s transformed millions of lives around the world. And it’s also, one of the reasons we stick with it, is it’s just one of the biggest, most effective, free aftercare programs in the world. It doesn’t– you can find yourself in Alaska, the middle of a blizzard, and if you have a phone, you can easily find a 12-step meeting probably within a day or two, and that’s a pretty cool deal too.

Rob Lohman: Yeah, it’s everywhere. I mean, I got clean and sober after, in 2001, after I attempted suicide attempt, you know, which I call successful because it opened my eyes, total divine moment that we can talk about offline sometime too. But it was like, in that experience and since in the last 18 years of my own recovery, everywhere I go, there is an outlet to a 12-step meeting somewhere. And again, it could be a Celebrate Recovery, it could be, you know, Alcoholics Anonymous is one that’s out there, there’s narcotics, I mean, there’s all these different things, but like in Denver, there’s almost 1400 or something meetings a week that people could tap into. So, from a community aspect, which is a lot of what addiction does, it takes us out of community, maybe puts us in the wrong type of community for healthy living, some people, they just can’t unplug and go to a 60-days of treatment. How do you work with people like that, with like day treatment, or what does that look like?

Dustin Frei: So, we do have outpatient programming, you know, some people you know, maybe they have kids at home, and they can’t come and stay with us. So, what we do is we have something called day treatment where they can come during the day from eight to five and basically do all the treatment and then go home in the evenings to be with their families. Some people have jobs and so for those individuals that can’t leave work, we have intensive outpatient which is a three hour a day, Monday through Friday group that they participate in and you know, it allows them to stay working. And you know, a lot of people don’t realize it too but you know, you can, you know, addiction is considered a certainly a health issue and you can go on disability and receive treatment and get reimbursed for your disability benefits as well and you know, you, generally speaking, can’t lose your job for getting treatment for a medical condition.

Rob Lohman: Is that something you guys help walk people through, and explain to them when they make the call in?

Dustin Frei: Absolutely, you know, we have case managers here that work with our clients to activate their disability benefits while they’re in treatment and we send letters to employers. And that is if clients want us to, of course, we don’t send letters without–

Rob Lohman: That’s good, don’t blow the anonymity like right off the bat. So–

Dustin Frei: Yeah, but I mean, if clients need, we’ve advocated with employers, we’ve advocated with the courts, to let clients come to treatment here as opposed to jail. You know, we’re sending our drivers and case managers all over the place to fight for our clients rights, you know, because we truly believe this is, that this addiction problem that our clients deal with is not necessarily as much of a clear case, as a lot of people want to make it as is, you know, you’ve got a choice and you did this to yourself, there’s some truth to that, but the reality is, is that there’s so much more that goes into Addiction and Mental Health that people don’t quite understand. And so, we’re certainly more than willing to advocate for those people that need our help. 

Rob Lohman: That’s great, families need that, and along the way, you just you know, there’s a ton of treatment centers out there, right?

Dustin Frei: Yeah.

Rob Lohman: They’re all over the place and finding ones that are good and reputable and obviously you wouldn’t be on the show if I didn’t know that. But people talk about, you know, credit, a credit nation, what is it like, what does that really mean? And to like show like, hey, these guys have kind of been through the wringer to make sure they’re a good place to go.

Dustin Frei: So, we’ve been around for 27 years, and I think that in and of itself is a pretty good authority badge. You know, we Korf accredited here, and Korf is an organization that basically we hire to come in and audit us and they audit our staffing. They audit our charts, they audit our hiring practices, they audit our payment structures to our employees, they audit our, I mean, you name it. I mean, they audit our kitchen, they make sure our food is nutritious enough, and it tastes good, that our facilities are nice enough and well managed. And, you know, we’ve been Korf accredited for I think 21 years now. And so, it just means that we have the focus and the dedication to providing good ethical treatment to the people that come to need our help. It’s very much liked the Joint Commission and hospitals and things like that. So, we’re very proud of our Korf accreditation and proud of our 27 years of business.

Rob Lohman: So, does I think the program sounds great covenant hills, it’s well rounded and what do you do for like the families, the family members that have been affected by this and also played a role in the journey of, you know, the loved one. 

Dustin Frei: You know, one of the things that we offered all our families is to participate in the treatment process. It’s so important, I mean, it is absolutely crucial that the family participate in the treatment, because bringing an addict home, who’s got 30 days of sobriety, or 60 days of sobriety, or 90 days sobriety is difficult. There are so many complexities to it. I tell parents all the time, you’re not the reason that your son or daughter is an addict, okay, but you can be part of the solution of them getting into recovery. And what that means is that we want them to come on Saturday and meet with other parents and do groups and therapy with other parents. And then we want them to come on Sunday again, come back and do groups and therapy with their loved one. So, it’s husbands, wives, parents, you name it, we want them to come, we want you to experience our program with them because we want to educate them on what addiction is, we want to educate them on what codependency is, we want to educate them on what enabling is, and we really want to make sure that they have the support that they need in order to get through this thing. One of the things I talked about that was so important for the addict and alcoholic is to have that connection in that community, with people that are going through the same issues, well, it’s the same exact benefit for the families, for them to have connection and community with other parents who are dealing with, you know, or other husbands and wives that are dealing with having their level one treatment, you know, they’re not alone. You know, it’s so terrifying to have a loved one go through an addiction because they almost morph into somebody that you don’t even know, and then there’s a lot of shame surrounding it. There’s a lot of fear surrounding it, it’s difficult to go to church and go to your Bible study and talk about that, because what are people going to say? What are they going to think, you know? And so, we want to make sure that they can come here and have that place where they can feel safe, where they can talk about those feelings and talk about those issues. Then we have alumni groups that are available to all of our clients for the rest of their lives, they’re certain and it’s free, there’s no charge to it. We really just again, we have once a month we will get food for them and they come and they eat they have bonfire and they just you know get into community and connect with each other and we’d love for parents to come to that as well, parents but husbands and wives and all that too, brothers, sisters, you name it.

Rob Lohman: Yeah, it’s definitely systematic and family disease. So cool, guys, hey, we’re talking with Dustin Frei over Covenant Hills and the phone number again is what?

Dustin Frei: 1-800-no abuse. And to spell that out it’s 1-800-662-2873.

Rob Lohman: Nice and that’s covenanthillstreatment.com So, cool program, great program. And you’ve been there since you got your program. What’s a little bit more of like, kind of your story?

Dustin Frei: Gosh, my story. So, I actually, I come from a family of addicts and alcoholics, you know, I say that because my parents were both addicts, both of them. My father died with eight years sober, which I’m proud he was very proud of, and I’m prouder of and my mother, she’s okay with me sharing this, she’s six years sober now. And so, you know, my family was very much a family of partiers and, you know, my mother’s Irish and my dad’s Italian and Puerto Rican, and so we have a lot of raucous Thanksgivings. And we just had you know, I promise you that. And so, you know, drinking and using drugs was just always something that I was around, and I didn’t necessarily know how lot different, but I think in addition to that there was a lot of pain and neglect that came from having addiction in our family and different types of, you know, abuse that that brought in to our family and it was certainly something that left a mark on me, that made it difficult for me to relate to people and connect with people. And, you know, there’s a lot of shame that I carried around with me when I would go to my friends’ houses and see what their families were like, I just couldn’t relate to them. And one of the things I tell people all the time is, is that I used to ask my parents if they would give me chores, you know, and it sounds weird, but I just wanted to know that they cared, you know, that they would kind of follow me and make sure I did those types of things. And so, one of the things that happened to me is that you know, I kind of made it through high school because I was good at sports and that sort of kept me on the straight and narrow as far as getting that two points grade average that I need to have in order to play. And so, I made sure I had that, but sort of my senior year once all that stopped, I kind of barely graduated and my addiction took over back then, you know, I was addicted to meth and opiates. And it just sorts of, you know, when I found those drugs, I found a solution that I’d always been looking for. I didn’t feel ashamed anymore, I didn’t feel alone anymore. I couldn’t care less what you thought or what your family was like, as opposed to mine, I just had my higher power, and I was not ever going to let it go. And so, that really caused a lot of problems, obviously, because those two drugs happened to be illegal. And, they’re dangerous and so I got into a lot of trouble and actually went to jail a couple times. And fortunately for me, I got sober when I was 19 years old, for a little while and I got sober in Alcoholics Anonymous. My parents kicked me out of their house, I had nowhere to go, and I called this guy, this treatment center and I didn’t have any money or any way to pay for treatment. And so, the guy was nice enough to help me find a free program to get into like a free sober living. And what was even more extraordinary is that he offered to take me to a meeting that night, and he didn’t know me from Adam. He was just somebody answering an 800 number that I found, and he met me and took me to a meeting, and we became fast friends. And he helped me get sober and when I got sober, I really fell in love with recovery. And I got myself into school and got a job working in the treatment industry and this is back in 1999 when that wasn’t a very common thing. And so, I became a case manager and started working with addicts and helping them. My first job was helping addicts in recovery, find jobs and giving them tools to build a resume and just basic things like hey, you know, maybe wear a tie to this interview as opposed to your Bon Jovi T-shirt.

Rob Lohman: Yeah, right, yeah, for sure. 

Dustin Frei: Yeah, and your Budweiser T-shirt. And so, that was really fun and really rewarding, and I sort of worked my way up into what was a least calm back then was a primary counselor. And so, I worked at a treatment center and helped people get you know, they were just coming into treatment, sort of work on their recovery, work on their step work, their relapse prevention work, a little bit of family work, things like that. And then eventually, I worked myself into a program, director role where I was sort of running the treatment team at that facility and right around, I guess, six years of sobriety, I started to sort of disconnect and I didn’t have God in my life really and I have my 12 step program, but I stopped going to meetings as much as I used to. And I started to sort of think that hey, you know what, you know, maybe I’m not an addict, maybe I’m not an alcoholic. I’ve been sobering a long time, I got sober really young, I was in a pretty dysfunctional home growing up and I was probably just a troubled teen and I might be able to, you know, drink like a gentleman. And so, I ended up quitting that job and moving up north and relaxing. I’ll never forget the day I relapsed, it was almost as if I knew it was going to happen. But I was so disconnected with the world and with God that I didn’t necessarily care because I didn’t have any, we talked about that higher power of any sort. I had no power to overcome the first drink and so I relapsed with almost eight years of sobriety, it took a couple years for me to in that mode to finally make the decision to drink, and I finally did. And fortunately for me, I didn’t last long, I got into a lot of trouble, it took about four months, I got arrested up in the Bay Area in Northern California and, you know, for stealing a bunch of money that I didn’t have because I needed to pay for my drugs and end up getting extradited from Northern California because I had some charges down in Southern California too. And I have to tell you, it was horrible, and I spent the first month of my sobriety in jail. And yeah, you know, they let me out to go to treatment with the understanding that I still had some court issues. And I’ll never forget, you know, the guy that I called way back when I was 19 years old on that 800 number, his name was Kirby Dean and he was a friend of mine still, he had opened a treatment center called covenant hills. And my mother called him and said, “hey Dustin’s in trouble and we need your help again”. And sure enough, just like he always had, he was there for me and he let me come to Covenant Hills and I was a full scholarship because I obviously didn’t have any money and his scholarship helped me through the program and once I got done with the program he said, “okay, so I want you to come up and work up here at the corporate office and, you know, basically pay me back for treatment by working and that’s what I did, and I just sort of never left.

Rob Lohman: Wow. 

Dustin Frei: In that treatment at Covenant Hope Hills, obviously I became a Christian and really, you know, just hit my stride as a human and so, today I’ve been sober almost 15 years now and you know, I’m married, I have three kids and I have just an incredible life that God’s blessed me with and you know, I really think that like, you know, when I look back at all my experiences, whether they’re good or bad, whether going to jail or having a tough childhood or you know, relapsing with some pretty significant sobriety time, you know, I look at all those things, and I really truly believe that God, put those things in my life so that I would have the ability to, you know, talk to people like you and really share and relate to men who have, you know, maybe had a tough childhood or maybe have gone to jail and had to deal with the shame of, you know, going back to jail. You know, I had to go back to jail when I was 11 months sober to finish my sentence, and I end up getting my one-year chip in jail. And, man, that was something, that was tough, it was hard, and you know, I’ll never forget, the men that used to come into that jail and put on meetings in there and give up their time. I mean, it’s not like just going to a regular meeting where you get in your car, you get there 10 minutes before the meeting, hang out with the guys and then go home.  These guys you know, it’s like a full on half day, where they’re sacrificing to, you know, drive all the way up to the jail and go through booking and make sure that they’re not, you know, one of us dirty criminals, and then they finally get put into the jail system, and then they show up and, but they kind of put us all in there. And most of the guys, were just there for the coffee, you know, the free coffee and they didn’t care at all what these guys had to say. And so, the sacrifice of men like that in my life, they’re the people I just really look up to. And you know, I do my very best to try and give back and make people know that man, I’m just a child of God, and I’m so fortunate to be where I am and everything, I have in my life is a direct result of my sobriety and my relationship with God.

Rob Lohman: So much open, that was a great message for people to hear, it doesn’t really matter how long you have in your sobriety journey. It’s like what are you doing with it today? That eight years, 11 years, 10 years, whatever, but in the comfort of your own recovery, it’s like I got this. 

Dustin Frei: Yep. 

Rob Lohman: You know, and some people out there, they can’t drink like a normal person later on in their life. 

Dustin Frei: Yeah.

Rob Lohman: You know, and a majority cannot. 

Dustin Frei: Yeah, cool. 

Rob Lohman: You’re one of those guys. Right? You’ve heard it out there making drugs. So, what do you do like, and thanks for sharing that, you know, being vulnerable with your story to listeners, just gives them that hope? And a lot of people are in different stages of their addiction and their recovery and the family system and stuff like that. So, what do you do today? Because you’ve been sober a while now again. So, what do you do today to keep that alive?

Dustin Frei: That’s great. It’s a great question. So, I still go to two meetings a week, I go to church twice a week, I sponsor men, I got three guys I sponsor right now. And you know, obviously one of the big mistakes that people in our industry make is that they say, “well, I work in the industry, so I’ll talk about recovery all day. So, that must mean I’m working my program to recovery, so it’s just the exact opposite. You know, working in this industry is stressful, and you see a lot of struggles that people have, and it can be taxing and so, I still see a therapist, I think that’s a huge part of my recovery that is really important, especially if you work in the field. It’s that you have a therapist that you work with, that you can really be regular with, when you do have a client that sort of reminds you of yourself and it’s kind of, you don’t know quite how to feel about that. Or they remind you of, you know, your sister or your mother, your brother, some guy you used to party with, your drug dealer, you know, you really need to go somewhere and process all those things so that you can show up for these clients day in and day out at 100% and really be ready to work for them and give them what they need in order to get sober. You know, and I do things like this, these podcasts, you know, and I share my story quite a bit and I do some speaking around the county and around California just to kind of educate people on addiction or go to churches and educate them on the 12 steps. We did something cool with mariner’s church out here about five or six years ago as you know, we help mariners church, which is a big church out here in Orange County, they were interested in learning more about how they can show up for their parishioners for their mental health issues and addiction issues. And so, we spent a lot of time with Jack West there, who’s there caring recovering minister, and we helped organize this Monday night, caring recovery night where you know, they have 10 or 12 different types of 12 step meetings. They have Bible studies, they have volunteers waiting, standing by to talk to people who are members of their church who may think they have an addiction problem or a mental health issue that they’re too ashamed to talk to, and then they’re kind of directed in the right direction to go get seek help for that. So, Just little things like that I think are really important because, you know, I think that God gives all of us purpose each and every day and it’s up to us whether or not we’re going to actually work towards God’s purpose for us or not, you know, because my purpose a lot of times is very different Yesterday my purpose was to watch football and eat too much right? I’m not too sure that was God’s purpose for me. But you know, so I’m not perfect every day, you know, but if I can show up and do my best to really remember that everybody here at Covenant Hills and out there in the world, even you know, our employers, not maybe our boss that we think of our employers, God, my kids are not my kids, they’re God’s kids. God doesn’t have any grandkids and so my job is to really help facilitate him to take care of them and be they’re father as well and to be a steward of what God has given me for the betterment of his kingdom.

Rob Lohman: I thank you for taking the story of your life, which is his story, and, you know, pushing it out to other people and doing what you do, because it is hard work, but there’s so much gratitude in the work to see how it will change their lives. And well, thank you for sharing about your story and about Covenant Hills, and I’m excited for our listeners to tap into this as well. I would say any, like kind of parting words, let’s say someone’s listening, and they’re on that bubble of like, oh, gosh, I know there’s a problem I need to call. What would you do encourage them to take that leap of faith, if you will?

Dustin Frei: You know, I would say that we have people standing by to answer the phones. Basically, from seven o’clock in the morning all the way to 11 o’clock at night Pacific Standard Time. And there is absolutely no commitment that needs to be made from a phone call. I would just encourage you to get on the phone and talk to somebody about what’s going on. The people that work for me that answer the phones, their number one priority is to make sure that you get the help that you need, the priority of you whether or not you come into Covenant Hills is way down on their priority list. You know, their job is to connect with you, to support you, to encourage you to seek help, whether it’s here or at another program, or through an interventionist or through a therapist or through your pastor at church, a lot of times it’s just about saying, and putting it out there to the universe that hey, you have a problem, you’re not sure what to do. Well, a lot of people that call here, they don’t have addiction problems, you know, they have problems with maybe it’s an eating disorder, or maybe it’s a mental health issue. Maybe they’re gambling too much, or you know, all sorts of different things. Maybe they have a pornography addiction. And so, we just want to make sure that we are a resource to you that can help with no judgment, total anonymity, an opportunity for you at the very minimum. Maybe say for the first time in your life, I don’t know what to do and I need help, and somebody will be there that really cares and will want to help you. So, make the call.

Rob Lohman: There you go. So, we’re going to make the call. Are you going to give the number one more time?

Dustin Frei: 1-800-no abuse, that’s 1-800-662-2873.

Rob Lohman: That’s great, so thanks a bunch, everyone. Hey, it’s a great program to reach out to and like I said, you’re a resource for other people too. So, you’re definitely on my list of reputable treatment centers, I will send my intervention clients to and other people. So, thanks for your time today.

Dustin Frei: Thank you. Thanks for having me, and thanks for doing what you do, I really appreciate it. Keep fighting the good fight.

Rob Lohman: I love it will do.

Dustin Frei: All right man.

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