005 Justin McCoy from Moonlight Mountain Recovery
“Maybe it will be different this time…”
Justin McCoy joins us today from Moonlight Mountain Recovery. He talks about the importance of self care in recovery, and differentiating between your healthy thoughts and the addict mind. He believes connection is the opposite of addiction, but discusses protecting your story. He says some people are ready for recovery and some people aren’t and highlights the power of daily rituals and acts of service. Enjoy.
The Illuminate Recovery Podcast is about Mental Health, Mental Illness, and Addiction Recovery. Shining light on ways to cope, manage, and inspire. Beyond the self care we discuss, you may need the help of a licensed professional. Curt Neider and Shelley Mangum are a part of Illuminate Billing Advocates. They are committed to helping better the industry and adding value to the lives of listeners by sharing tools, insights, and success stories of those who are working on their mental health.
Transcript (no grammar): maybe it will be different this time justin mccoy joins us today from moonlight mountain recovery he talks about the importance of self-care and recovery and differentiating between your healthy thoughts and the addict mind he believes connection is the opposite of addiction but discusses protecting your story he says some people are ready for recovery and some people aren't and highlights the power of daily rituals and acts of service enjoy welcome to the illuminate recovery podcast we shed light on mental health issues mental illness and addiction recovery ways to cope manage and inspire beyond the self-care we will discuss you may need the help of a licensed professional my name is kurt neider i'm a husband father entrepreneur a handyman and a student of life i avoid conflict i deflect with humor and i'm fascinated by the human experience and i'm shelley mangum i am a clinical mental health counselor and my favorite role of all times is grandma i am a seeker of truth and i feel like life should be approached with tremendous curiosity i asked the dumb questions i fill in the gaps all right we are here today and super excited to have justin mccoy with us justin is with moonlight mountain recovery um that's an organization a facility that does substance abuse and and um do you do quite a bit of mental health up there justin we do actually dual diagnosis in idaho and they're growing justin will talk about that a little bit um justin and i have known each other and worked together here for a few years now and um he's got a fantastic story but he also has a lot of experience in the industry and some wisdom to share there as well and so super excited to have you on justin thank you shelly i appreciate the opportunity it's it's very nice um okay so let's start out with something a little fun and a little bit light tell us something that most people don't know about you uh so i present myself as an extrovert because i need to and and kind of the executive position that i hold and just you know as as a mentor to others in recovery but i'm i'm actually deep down an introvert and i i have to force myself to to do those things like networking and reaching out to others instead of letting them come to me and so it's it's been great for my recovery because you know that those connections that i'm that i'm building uh i would have lost out on otherwise if i had continued to stay what initially i feel like doing so i got to get out of myself quite a bit well isn't it as an introvert or as a you know is that your predominant way of being do you need you got to kind of have some alone time and some some i don't know uh regroup time yeah definitely i think uh for me self-care is essential you know i i work in recovery and you know i have to remember that i've got to have my my self-care and whether it's going to the gym in the morning or it's giving myself a cap on the weekends for you know time worked uh going to to you know personal recovery meetings or just decompressing it's definitely something like i will turn my cell phone off um and you know it's it's kept me sane i think yeah definitely and well and i kind of relate to that i'm a you know introvert by nature extrovert by initiative by choice right because it's important and i love relationships it's the funniest kind of dynamic but it's like that quiet time which i don't know if i allow myself enough self-care for years and years i was like what is self-care like what does that what you say it's self-care but what does that really mean and how do i apply that you know and i don't think i fully understand it yet completely because i will uh i will become a workaholic at times and i will give more of myself than i probably should you know there's there's always that constant progression to be a better version of me um and so i definitely don't have the self-care thing down right well and there's also something about staying busy i find a great deal of of happiness and being busy you know and helping other people and not always taking care of myself but those things bring me a lot of happiness so is that self-care isn't that self-care it's hard to know i think it is yeah i think it is too but but there can be too much too you know and then the workaholic thing i remember i swore right because um i swore i wasn't going to give so much of myself to work right i was going to have this great balance and it is challenging it's challenging yeah it's definitely challenging and especially when i have um you know so many goals right now with what i want to be doing in the industry um it's very challenging because i will definitely work more than you know what i what i tell myself i should be working and it's hard to know my limits uh but yet on other times like you have to know your limits and you know sometimes my limits are are actually pointed out to me by others um you know taking that feedback from you know some of my supportive peers of like hey you've been working quite a bit you know or you know what are you doing for you lately have you been to a meeting lately have you you know i got i got um invited to a retreat actually tomorrow and it's a big book retreat over in lava hot springs and it's a friend of mine in recovery and he says you know what are you doing for you you know uh he's an owner of a facility and he says what are you what are you doing for you man like you've got a lot going on and i said this week not much and he said okay let's go to let's go to this big book retreat i got going on and i said for sure wow that's cool and it's you've got to have a lot of people in the community in the recovery community that are you know checking in with you yes which is part of part of recovery right yeah and i think early on in my recovery i distanced myself from those peoples for those people for sure because i i really struggled with reaching out you know to others for help i i spent my childhood you know being taught to you know not reach out for help to you know be self-sufficient to not um you know just just present myself is as a at a certain way and and so those learned behaviors are really hard to get out of yeah for sure well i i don't know if you're alone in that because that would seem to be a message for even for me and and i will say i didn't i didn't necessarily experience a ton of abuse or you know a lot of neglect but still the message that was sent is you can depend on yourself and and you can't really trust anyone else and that seems to be even accentuated you know loud when you become you know when you have an addiction or you know you have some of those other patterns mental health or whatever that seems to be loud and clear yeah i think the other part of that too is the emotional piece of like don't show your true emotions you know don't be vulnerable that was that was how i was raised was to not cry not talk about your emotions you know my father used to say i'll give you something to cry about you know those types of you know generational mentalities um and they really affected me and you know it's something that i have to continually recognize that i'm still doing and then take that time to kind of step back and and think okay that's an old way of thinking like that's a that's a previous pattern that i've done before that doesn't really get me anywhere um and so i kind of have to shift my you know way of thinking and try something new this time yeah there's lots of challenges lots of skills that we learn along the way and i don't think we're ever done on the journey definitely not i but i do find that when i am continually learning i'm happier you know when i'm challenging myself to learn new things i'm happier and you know there's i i'm a i'm a big 12-step person and so you know like they they teach the back to the basics meetings like there's certain basics that i don't stray from anymore but on the other hand like i have to continually evolve and learn and just challenge myself because that's what keeps me happy yep that makes sense and super important you know we probably ought to talk something we haven't shared or talked about is your story how did you you know what were you doing before recovery have you always been in recovery and then you know how did you end up in recovery yeah definitely so you know my my story is is uh definitely one of struggle um i started using drugs and alcohol at a very young age i was 12 years old when i first started you know using cannabis and you know drinking and i i did those things because i didn't like who i was i always wanted to be like that guy you know i was always the person that felt that i was at the outcast and awkward um i i was having just this struggle forming you know connections uh with others and so using drugs and alcohol gave me those false connections with with others with the world and then you know along the way it became a you know an addiction and a habit and you know a pattern and a behavior and um you know i i spent um you know i got married at a young age i jumped from relationship to relationship just trying to seek out you know those connections uh but they were unhealthy um and i was never truly at a point where i loved myself i i got married at a young age i have two wonderful children um i got divorced at a young age you know i started to really just lash out um behaviorally and and in my addiction i started using a lot of heavier drugs you know meth and heroin and um i went from smoking to and thinking like oh i'll never be that guy that that shoots up drugs you know i'm i'm a better drug addict than those other ones you know right right like like i've got my job still like i haven't lost my job i haven't lost my car like i'm i'm a functional drug addict but like those things left too like i lost my job you know i lost my car um in fact i lost several cars and several jobs and several relationships and you know one of my very early defining moments for me was when my ex-wife would would play these messages she would call when i wouldn't come home and she'd put my daughter on the phone and i hear my daughter say daddy please come home i miss you whoa and in my addiction i'd say screw her and i'd hang it up and i'd get so angry and i'd stay out for another few days without coming home and it wasn't until that i'd have those those small moments of sobriety and i'd re-listen to that message and it would hit me you know deep down in my heart but that was very short-lived like it got me to to reach out for help uh for moments but then you know the the lack of connection the lack of support the lack of additional treatment and um you know caused me to well not cause me i chose you know to to relapse again and i i i did that pattern shelly for i don't know 15 15 years or so um you know i would get months clean um everything would be great kids be like daddy's home you know families back together and then i would disappear again you know and i i had these moments where i did not reach out for help like i told myself i'm gonna go use and then i didn't tell on myself to anybody and then i just got it stuck in my head and so i'd go use um but i kind of went through that pattern you know and i i was arrested several times i you know had some pretty severe charges i was homeless i was in and out of work but getting out of jail i would get a year or so into my recovery into my well i should say sobriety um and then i would relapse again and i looking back now i see that it was those those little connections those the vulnerability the honesty and the connection those three things were missing and then that overall just willingness um to work on my myself you know that true healing so do you do you believe that the opposite of addiction is connection 100 yeah like no doubt in your mind no doubt in my mind like i am a full testament that like when i when i build and you know connections in my life when i can be vulnerable and authentic with people it fills that hole that need for any for anything and everything else i mean hands down i think there's some very strong mental health you know aspects of it as well like i've got you know i have tons of shame that i had to work through you know those those deep down filling unlovable unwanted um you know and i i have to go through a process of feeling those emotions to heal and for so many years of my life i just didn't want to i built up uh you know a very strong ego defense of you know all these little you know ego defenses that that we have you know avoidance and denial and um well they're there to protect us right and so we use them in harmful ways to protect ourselves but it sounds like that was true for you even at a super young age yeah you know to where you just did not like who you were and you needed a way to to change that i did i felt i felt like i was like i like i said before i felt like i wanted to be like that guy like i was never happy with who i was um you know i and i don't remember like i can't pinpoint a certain like embarrassing moment where somebody made fun of me and i you know thought oh i can't be my true self but i always felt that way of that i could never be who i wanted to be because i felt i wouldn't be accepted and so i always held back yeah and so now you've been how long into sobriety so nine years that's pretty incredible yeah that's really incredible yeah it's been a bumpy road and i have had slips and you know it's been um but you know i i like to talk about true recovery like there's a difference between they call it white knuckling it in the rooms like i i'm on a recovery journey and you know that is the true the true place to be because it's a lifestyle change it's a paradigm shift of thinking um and and just not using drugs and alcohol doesn't achieve happiness unless you do those other things with it so yeah so it's not just about the white knuckling and not using it's about truly changing everything about what's going on inside the way you think the way you feel and the way you connect with other people 100 and what where did you get where do you get that connection where do you like what made the difference right because you struggled with sobriety for years and years and then you were able to make that shift do you have things you can pinpoint yeah i've got quite a few actually you know i i have a few defining moments you know i just got plain old sick and tired of being sick and tired you know i i picked myself up and i relapsed and i picked myself up and i relapsed so many times and i i just had so much shame and guilt for things that i had done and you know the the crying of the kids and the disappointed family and you know people just wanting to wash their hands you know of me because i did some very hurtful things that i just realized that there was it was easier to work on recovery than it was to go back to relapsing like the pain of staying the same was was worse than the pain of change like that was a huge defining moment for me the pain of staying the same was worse than the pain of change and so i chose the pain of change and granted there's a lot of pain there's a lot of pain yeah a lot of pain with the change but you know that was a huge defining moment for me you know and i i had that defining moment in of 2009 and you know it wasn't until 2012 or so when i when i really had that long term when i entered what i call recovery you know and at that point like you know you have these moments of they call it the pink cloud you know in the 12-step rooms you know you get super gung-ho for your recovery and you go to a lot of meetings and you read the book and you you know and then all of a sudden the pink cloud disappears and you know life smacks you again and you're like oh like maybe i could use again um maybe this time will be different nobody's ever thought that before right it's not different and you know that's the vulnerability and the honesty that's where that kicks in like you know i i fully believe in sponsors you know and and sponsoring people and going to meetings do you have a sponsor now i do yeah do you have more than one i have one sponsor and he has a sponsor and i sponsor two people and and what is the what do those relationships do for you so i think they keep me accountable you know um they hold me accountable i hold the other people accountable i i have a connection that i've been continually building a relationship you know with somebody who i consider to be a very dear friend um somebody who i can trust and tell anything to you know when i have those creep in thoughts of that i could i could use again like i can reach out to him and be honest and be like i i'm thinking about using today and he won't just say like well why would you do that after everything you've been through that's a comment i would get from a family member if i told him right but not from a sponsor yeah he'd be like wow like what else you got going on in your life like what why do you think you want to use like are you stressed like yeah you know how's that going to work out like let's play the tape through a little bit you know well i think there's something at least wise i've noticed this in my relationships that um that when i can be with people that accept me no matter how i show up whether it's whether it's happy or sad or angry or ugly or you know messy and they'll love me no matter what when i realized there were people in my life that didn't care i mean they just loved me for who i was that was a huge shift for me do you get the same thing out of um your sponsors and those those close relationships i do and you know for me i have some pretty deep trust issues um that i'm still working through and so i i have two people that you know i have that level of trust with um out of all the people i know and all the relationships i have um but but that's enough for me right now you know that that helps me and i'll and i'll be able to build more as long as i'm continuing to you know to reach out and be honest and vulnerable and have these connections with people yeah and i don't think you have to have a whole bunch of them i think you have to have at least one and you know two or three is great but yeah but i agree you got to start somewhere and and recognizing that that relationships are hard um would you say that relationships contributed to your relapses and your struggle or or i guess maybe a better question is how do relationships intimate relationships sexual um you know partnership relationships how do those play into your recovery yeah yeah i think relationships for me is um probably high if not number one on the list for contributing to you know struggles in my life relapses that i had you know i i went through unhealthy relationships whether they were friends or spouses or sexual partners and you know i think you know it boils down to like i was seeking someone else for my own internal happiness um and you know it it took some very hard feedback from counselors from you know peers you know other people in recovery listening to stories in the rooms and you know arguments and you know failed attempts at marriages um i've been married twice and you know it's uh it was definitely a struggle um but i think uh key relationships like having you know positive relationships have really helped me and so you know trying to find the balance of like because of course everybody has relationships and some are some are positive some are negative but like do i have to buy into the negative ones yeah well yeah and and that can get you right back into that cycle of you know if they send if you get a message that you're not worthy and you're not good enough then it can send you back into that cycle yeah the the negative self-talk is something that i've struggled with most my life you know i i constantly told myself that i wasn't good enough you know that i couldn't do it um that nobody would ever love me you know that i was unlovable um and and that's that's a long battle that i still go through today you know as is you know trying to change that way of thinking but the more i am in recovery and the more i help others in recovery like there's a scale you know the the negative self-talk and the negative beliefs are starting to you know you know outweigh or not outweigh sorry the positives are starting to outweigh those negatives um and and those are you know by the actions that i have because my thoughts come and go but when i can actually refute them with you know actions that i've taken i can say no that's not true like you've done this this and this like you are doing this you know you are a good person because you've gotta i mean you really have to pay attention to those thought processes and the negative feedback the negative thoughts and messages that are in there and say and refute them and say yeah no that's not even true because of this and this and this yeah yeah and and but yet be careful not to get caught up in into intellectualizing it and to really think like how am i feeling about this you know because the emotional stuff is what has saved me like you know getting into into my heart and out of my head is has been the most you know grueling and beautiful process it's hard because i like my head i like that logical place right yes it's like it's safe i know i had to think through it right and i don't have to feel at all yeah exactly but there is something beautiful that happens when you can get vulnerable like that and connect with those feelings and let them let them have an expression right yeah because isn't that what depression is isn't that what anxiety is is all of those emotions and feelings being held in and not expressed yeah yeah and you know me not having um an outlet for that for so many years um whether it was my choice or not like that helped me stay you know sick i'm curious and you know the therapist in me wants to ask are were those you know at 12 years old were those negative thoughts about yourself were those yours or do those come from somewhere else i'd say both you know or all of the above like uh environmental um you know family uh and you know school i i was bullied in school um i you know from a very young age you know first grade second grade third grade i i remember very strongly you know getting in a fight you know being beat up um you know being told you know that i was different and being teased um you know i i grew up in in in la area and i got my ear pierced when i was really young third grade um and then i got it ripped out of my ear in fourth grade like you know when i moved up to a smaller town you know i was i was the queer because of the ear piercings it wasn't society hadn't accepted it at that point you know um and then my parents you know telling me you know those some of those shaming conversations of like i raised you better than this um you know they mean well i think i know so but for me they hurt you know uh and so you know i i have that struggle for perfectionism because of how i was raised you know and i had to be perfect and when i didn't meet that level of expectation then i was less than and you can never achieve perfection correct and you could never be enough right you could never satisfy because as soon as you did something good it would just be followed with well what about the next thing well and that's exactly what it was as i you know i never really stopped to enjoy and revel in that moment it was just the expectation oh yeah i i achieved what i was supposed to like no big sweat so no value to you it's just i have to do what i have you know what's expected of me yeah yeah definitely so here you are in recovery for nine years and and working in the industry you work in the recovery industry talk about um kind of how long have you been working in the recovery industry and what is that like for you yeah so you know i i got very motivated fresh out of treatment to work in the industry i went through originally a very intensive inpatient program it was 90 days of a residential treatment where i lived on site and then it was 90 days of an outpatient treatment that i went to every single day and after that six month process i was allowed an opportunity to start working in the industry and i i went back to school and i decided you know hey i'm going to do this and i got about four and a half five years into you know working in the industry and i had a i had a breakdown you know i realized that emotionally i was not as healthy as i thought i was and i wasn't doing working my own program i was relying on the job you know for my recovery i stopped going to meetings you know i stopped talking to my sponsor i i wouldn't sponsor other people um and i thought that i could have both you know as one and you know i stopped working in the industry after that actually i spent about two years thinking i'm never gonna go back to working in in recovery um it's just not for me and you know i i went and did some other you know i sold cars professionally for a little while i realized i didn't like that and um you know really took a long hard look at you know [Music] what enriches and empowers my life you know helping others really gives me purpose and drive and i i said okay i'm gonna i'm gonna go back into working in the industry uh but i've gotta have some very strong boundaries in place shelly i really do because it is harder for me and this isn't the case for everyone but it is harder for me to work in recovery and to be in recovery at the same time you know simple little things like you know you have a client who who brings in drugs when they get checked in and you know that's availability to me like that's scary you know as much as i want to say like that doesn't affect me oh it does like and i've got to put accountabilities in place you know with with other staff members and so i don't handle that stuff anymore it's just not for me you know i i have to know my limits i i have to have my own separate 12-step meetings than the ones that you know people that i work with go to because otherwise i don't um i don't feel like i can be 100 vulnerable and honest in in in a meeting in an environment you know where a client has come into treatment and been in you know and is there currently trying to recover themselves and so i have to separate you know and it takes extra effort for me that um you know i i'm hearing what you're saying and and some of it feels it feels contradictory to what healing and recovery is that you can't show up and i get i get the the fine line right because it makes sense that here you are in a professional role you're you're running a facility you know you have to present yourself professionally and yet you have a recovery story and you don't feel like you can be totally authentic with that recovery story in that professional role yeah yeah i think you know for me uh and someday i might be able to i know that it has has it has bitten me in the butt in the ass you know i guess you could say like i have been a hundred percent authentic before and then i've had you know it hurt someone else's recovery um because they were you know offended or you know they felt like they couldn't trust me and that's that's something i can't control like i can't control how much someone else trusts me um and and i've got to maintain trust with what i do and so in order for me to maintain that trust i have to be guarded at times um but but outside of that i i can be completely vulnerable and honest with my support system you know you can have both yeah and i and i can share my story with people in recovery um i just you know i think for me like the the difference is like am i sharing my story for my recovery or am i sharing my story for their recovery is there a purpose behind why i'm talking about these certain things and and if they're if it's for me then it's wrong you know um because i work in the industry and so i have to do what's what's right for the client and what's for you know the person in recovery so talk a little bit now about where you work and how you ended up there and your vision for where you're going yeah definitely so i work for moonlight mountain recovery we are idaho's premier treatment center we've got three facilities currently one in pocatello well two in pocatello there's a residential an outpatient facility and then we have a silver living house and you know i i got that opportunity actually through you [Laughter] you you introduced me to the owners thank you very much it was a very good uh melding of a relationship because the owners are very passionate you know they're i think you know so many different facilities can get caught up in the money that can be made and they lose track of you know providing a genuinely helpful program um and then you know offering good resources to the community and you know i feel that i have that with this company you know the goals that we have together is to be a resource to you know all of idaho and and you know surrounding states like and i just get a different feel um you know working with everyone here uh everybody enjoys what they do you know there's not one employee uh that that doesn't have passion for you know recovery and what they do and it just makes the days go by so much easier silly like i don't i don't feel like i'm working at times so you can really focus on helping people and and putting a program together that makes a difference and that you see change lives yeah definitely and and the program that we have designed i feel is a really good program you know we've got accountabilities in place we've got you know a very a very strong peer accountability culture you know we we will work a 12-step program or a holistic program you know if somebody is a non-12 step if you know and that's the hard part like i think in my recovery i got into points where i thought hey there's only one way to reach recovery you know you have to go through you know the 12-step program um but that's not that's not the truth you know there's many people achieve recovery many different ways and we we allow that you know we've got some very different you know minded therapists and and you know caseworkers and support staff um and you know some of them are in recovery and some of them aren't um but we allow you know individualized needs and we can provide that which i think is super important because we all come from different perspectives and different walks of life and so we have to be able to find our path to recovery or their path to recovery right yeah yeah and i think there's a balance too like if you just allow a client to dictate their own recovery it's not going to work because what what what we do what they do wasn't working so right they thought it was yeah yeah like so there's got to be some intervention in there you know you got to steer them in the right direction but well a lot of education right a lot of skill training and learning and you know and being vulnerable right making those connections that that are can be really hard to make yeah yeah yeah 100 i mean we've mentioned it a couple of times you know the opposite of addiction is connection and you know it doesn't matter how you're achieving that connection as long as you're building connection you know being honest and vulnerable and willing you know a level of willingness goes a long way yeah well and healthy connection right because there's a lot of connection that's not healthy but you're looking for that solid connection that allows you to ex you know be vulnerable in a safe place that allows you to share whatever's coming up like you talked about with your sponsor you'd be able to say you know i'm thinking about using today and not be shamed for that right yeah because they know how to respond and they understand right where you're at yeah i think the worst thing you know that has happened in my life is when i can feel like being vulnerable and honest to people and then i feel like that was the wrong thing to do because of something they've said or the way i feel judged they might not have been judging me but i took it that way you know so having the right connections with those individuals is is essential it's definitely 100 yeah i think the message that goes through my head it's something bernay brown said is that not