033 - Brianna Nowlan
Updated: Jun 2, 2021
Brianna Nowlan joins us from Taste Recovery, the online directory for sober living homes nationwide. She talks about her treatment process and recovery and how it led her to creating Taste Recovery. “Taste Recovery was founded to support those seeking a safe refuge and a new start. The definition of taste is to discover through experience. With knowledge of what sober living homes are out there, they hope to give you the best options to rediscover yourself.” 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): brianna nolan joins us from taste recovery the online directory for sober living homes nationwide she talks about her treatment process and recovery and how it led her to creating taste recovery taste recovery was founded to support those seeking a safe refuge and a new start the definition of taste is discovered through experience with her knowledge of what sober living homes are out there they hope to give you the best options to rediscover yourself 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 ask the dumb questions i fill in the gaps the illuminate recovery podcast is brought to you by illuminate billing advocates make billing and collections simple with leader in substance abuse and mental health billing services verification and analysis of benefits pre-authorizations utilization management accurate claim submission and management denial and appeal management and industry leading reporting improve your practice's cash flow and your ability to help your clients with eliminate billing advocates today kurt and i are privileged to be talking with brianna nolan brianna is the ceo uh taste recovery um in los angeles taste recovery is a sober living directory platform which is a little um different than our normal guest that we have it is the number one free sober living platform out there an app out there right now and they launched back in 2020 they've got a lot of really exciting things going on brianna and and you can talk about that a little bit but thanks for being on today and and taking time with kurt and i of course thank you so much for asking me i really appreciate it so the the sober living space is an absolutely vital essential part of recovery as as i think everybody's starting to learn and and see and not everybody takes advantage of it but there's so many that that need it and and i i look back i think back to my time when when i was working at a halfway house for women how hard it was for them to get approved for any kind of housing because they had records you know and because of the kind of you know crimes that they had um been serving time for and and so i think sober living feels a really important uh transition for them but but i'm curious how does one end up in the sober living world and and with a directory like you're doing and all of this energy how did you how did you where'd you come from and how did you get there um so i have been sober for five and a half years um and i went to a phenomenal treatment center and even with how many resources they have um my case manager handed me three outdated very very outdated brochures that looked like they were created in the 90s um and they said you know here's here's the three sober livings that we have offered to you and um you can you know get a sober companion and drive down there and check them out i got sober in florida and so i went down to del rey and i checked out these three houses and i immediately was just like there's no way i i you know it was definitely um out of my comfort zone and it wasn't necessarily the houses it was more the area um i was just at that point you know five years ago delray was really getting that name for the delray shuffle and all of that and i heard so much negative about it it quite honestly scared me and so um i went back to treatment and i got on the computers there and i started looking for a sober living by myself and i found one on the internet and the pictures were beautiful and i called the house manager i talked to the owner you know they had said everything that i wanted to hear they told us that they take us out on outings and go jet skiing you know all sorts of stuff that sounded like fun and that's kind of what i was looking for i didn't know necessarily by the time i got out of treatment if i really wanted to be sober um and i got to this house and my first two weeks there i had um already several friends from treatment who had passed away from an overdose and i you know gotten a lot of fear and i started to do what i was supposed to do and i got a sponsor and i did all these things and i slowly realized that the house that i was at was not anything that they said they were um our house manager was using um she would drive us in the van to meetings hi um and our house owner he lived in new york and he did not listen to us when we told him that she was getting high and that we were kind of pretty much in danger um and because he didn't listen uh it kind of was this ripple effect of other people in the house not really caring about their sobriety anymore and so um you know i luckily at that point had already experienced a great deal of fear in my own um sobriety and and so i really stuck to you know my meetings i was going to 90 and 90 and um the other you know i'm not going to say all the women in my house but you know there was a significant amount of women in in my sober living that just kind of stopped caring because of um who was managing the house and eventually i ended up leaving and i went to i went back home to california and my parents found me a sober living out in san clemente and uh you know i talked to that house owner for probably a couple of hours before i decided on this house and she you know now now i actually have experience in sober living and so i know what questions to ask and what's important to me you know such as how long do the women in the sober living have sober you know what what is the house manager like how long does she have sober does she work a good program um you know how do you decide who you want to be in your sober living all of these questions that i didn't know i needed to ask at the first place and um you know she she had a phenomenal house and i ended up staying there until i was 13 months over so i like to tell that story because it really um for me it showed that if you go to a house that doesn't care um about your sobriety and you know if there's no oversight and no accountability the other women in the house are usually going to also start relapsing and when they're you know from my other experience you know the house owner was there every single week we did house meetings with her she did check-ins with us constantly we were you know held accountable we did chores you know all of these things um that taught us so many good habits in our early year of sobriety and you know most of the women in that house are still sober today and so um you know just as i kept growing in my sobriety i really realized um you know there was nothing like taste recovery out there there was nothing um where i could shine light on the good house that i went to and also kind of exposed the bat house i went to i had a lot of guilt that i left that sober living and that there were still women going there and um you know i i was the first person that went there from my treatment center and then my treatment center kept sending women there and i you know i called them and i told them what happened and what was going on and eventually they stopped sending people there and that house ended up getting shut down um but i just felt like there was so much more that i could do um and so that's kind of you know where my own personal experience started this idea um as well as i had a friend who owned two silver livings out here in orange county california and um you know we we constantly were talking about you know why is there not a place where people can go and and find houses not just in california but all over the country and you know in these small little towns where people don't have resources they don't know anybody who's get who's you know gotten sober before um and you know and i think for myself especially you know i i come from a family who is well versed in aaa and and they knew who to ask um you know where to help send me to and all this but you know in places like arkansas or you know oklahoma where you know it's a small little town and they're the first person in their family to finally get sober they don't have resources they don't know who to call they don't know where to go um and i think that's that's really what we're trying to do here i'm trying to get houses all over the country in you know cities in towns whatever um so that way everyone has a fair chance of getting sober finding a place that is within their budget you know there's they're so reality cost 150 dollars a week most living's out there that's ten thousand dollars a month you know there's there's all sorts of houses out there but there is something out there for everyone um it's just a matter of how to find them right so um you know people people can log on to taste recovery they can find you know lgbtq houses they can find houses that are um you know if you have a child you can find a house that you know will take you and your child um if you have a pet you know whatever it is like there is a filter for all of it and it we just we just want to help people find a house that best suits them and um yeah that's that's really that's really where it came from we're just you know personally i'm sick and tired of of hearing the horror stories and not being able to do anything about it um obviously there's a lot of incredible houses out there um but the bad houses are giving sober livings a bad name and i i want the good houses to be on taste recovery and to get those good reviews um and have have the opportunity you know to to shine light on them and to to give them good exposure so that families of these addicts you know are like hey let's send our child here you know people are saying that it's phenomenal and and they're still sober three years later you know what i mean stuff like that where it's just um that's that's really at the core of taste recovery yeah those sober living it's it's i i'm not super familiar with them you know the same way that you are but that's such a critical kind of time as far as you put in a ton of money a ton of effort into this you know the start the front end of recovery and this is such a kind of pivotal period where you either really solidify and turn your recovery you know kind of transition your recovery back into your regular life and what a disservice to go to a place where there's drugs right i mean like what a shame so to be able to avoid that entirely obviously seems essential as obviously you're highlighting kind of some of the better ones how do you how do you really protect people from those bad ones i mean essentially you just need somebody on the system right somebody that's on the platform has some type has a type of a rating anybody who's not is just up in the air right correct so um what i like to tell people is i i hope that eventually this platform gets to be um incredibly big to where if someone mentions sober living it's synonymous with taste recovery um and therefore if a sober living isn't on taste recovery it's probably because they don't like the transparency that we offer and therefore they're probably doing something shady and you wouldn't want to go to that house anyways you know i i've talked to hundreds if not thousands of sober livings at this point and i can usually tell their intentions um the second i mentioned that we offer uh people to leave reviews um you know the second they say you know oh oh no no there's reviews i i don't want to be on something like that it's it's very clear that they don't want people to know what's going on and um you know i it's it is what it is if if people don't put their sober living on the platform you know i i there's nothing we can do to you know help people know whether or not it's a good or bad place but um so far we've gotten pretty much all positive reviews from the houses that we do have on our platform um and that that i think speaks volumes to the houses that we do have um you know they they want to be transparent to improve this industry um and they don't mind if someone leaves a bad review because they know they're gonna have 20 good reviews because they're doing something right so that's powerful i think i think those reviews are are vital right for people to be able to come in and say what their experience was and and what you've what you've said these kind of filters that you've set in place the screening process um really helps to at least improve your odds of recovery when you're you know you're coming into an environment you're fresh out of recovery that's a pretty vulnerable place and if you can't feel safe in your living environment that that just puts you at so much risk so i think it's your power super powerful what you do i'm wondering how you integrate with the treatment centers that are you know residential treatment centers or outpatient treatment centers how do you connect with them so that they know how to refer clients to safe places so a majority of treatment centers already have their own lists of sober livings that they do work with because they've built relationships they know that they are doing the right things um so we're just trying to promote ourselves in the sense of hey you have you know these three great houses right next to you but what if somebody wants to go home um you know because a lot of times people go to treatment in a different state and then they want to go back home and they don't know where to send them so that's kind of where um we're leveraging something a little bit different to them you know if they if they don't know now they have a platform where they can go on and you know i spoke to um i spoke to someone in treatment and they said this is a phenomenal tool especially for treatment centers because people who are people who are going to these treatment centers they go to their case managers and they kind of expect their case managers to tell them where to go next and this platform she said go she was like wow this is such a great opportunity to empower addicts and alcoholics right when they're you know about to leave treatment and say you make the decision you go through these lists of house aids see what you feel resonates best with you you know we have an about section for the sober livings to kind of you know they can say as little or as much as they possibly want about their house and you know so it is a sense of empowering these addicts and alcoholics that are newly sober and they and they get to make a choice they get to they get to figure out um you know what they really want what work what do they truly feel is going to give them the best opportunity to stay sober so um that's kind of the direction that we're going to towards with treatment centers and and they definitely love that they want to anything they can do to help empower addicts and alcoholics because you know when we first get sober our self-esteem is so low we don't know how to make a choice we don't know how to make decisions you know we're we're just starting to learn all of these tools and um you know it's it's a the site is so user friendly and it kind of makes it fun and it makes it exciting and like you know right when we're getting sober the world is kind of our oyster we can go anywhere we can start over you know and and what a cool place to do that you can go on you can click on any of the top seven u.s states and be like okay maybe i'll maybe i'll end up in texas or maybe i'll go to california you know i don't know what do i want to do and um it's just it's exciting it's it's really exciting it is exciting and it's like you said when you come out of recovery a lot of the times you don't know those questions anyways right or sorry when you come out of treatment you're still in recovery hopefully but yeah um you don't necessarily know those questions to even ask right like you said they're marketing jet skiing and hiking and whatever which you know really is kind of a distraction from what you're really trying to accomplish right exactly exactly and and also you know so the sober living houses um it's the website is very similar to yelp in the fact that they can go on create their profile and then add their sober living so they go into house rules house requirements you know they they post all of these details that aren't usually out there for the public so now they can see you know what am i actually signing up for because like you just said people don't even know what they expect that the expectations of them are when they go into these houses and i think that's why there is this turnover rate because people don't know they just go okay i guess i have to go to sober living i don't even know what that is but here i go and now they get to see okay this this house is expecting me to go to five meetings a week this house is expecting me to be home every night by 10 p.m this house is expecting me to do chores every single day you know and so then they're making that decision themselves to be like okay am i willing to do all of this to stay sober yes or no and i think um you know that just that goes into more of that empowerment and i think um i i hope that it will help people um you know actually stay sober because they are the ones making the decision no one's forcing them into it that's very cool brianna i have a question about this process so it sounds like any silver living can sign up on your website put in their information put in their rules and fill out this whole demographic and and information about what they do and and how they do it and what's the expectations do you ever um do you do you allow the um ratings to simply be the ratings be the way that you filter and somebody filters through and says yes that's a good one and that's a bad one or do you remove sober livings from your website if you find out that they're neglectful um absolutely not i i okay so this is a great example i was on a sober living coalition meeting the other night and they have this process where people can you know email them or whatever i'm not exactly sure how they do it but they get information where someone has complained about the sober living and they do their due diligence to figure out if that claim is true or if the claim is false and if the claim is true and it's something that goes against their guidelines they just remove the sober living and i told them you know as great as that is that still doesn't promote transparency there's people that are still going to go to that sober living and they're not going to know that there was this file filed complaint against them they're not gonna know that they're doing something shady you know i i'm sure if there are you know a handful of bad reviews the sober living will probably take their house off of taste recovery because they don't want people to see that um but if not that stuff is going to be out there for the public i want people to know that that house is doing something bad i want you know as much as like the reviews you know i always want places that are doing something bad to be up on there and to be exposed for what they're doing you know i think that's just as important because family members have a right to know that they're sending their child or their loved one or whatever to somewhere that has a reputation for you know body brokering or having the house manager using and not doing anything about it you know yeah i think you're i think you're spot on on that um and and i think it even goes to another level in that like i think on yelp and some of those other platforms they're pretty diligent about keeping everybody on there right like you don't have to have a if i'm a restaurant i don't have to get a yelp account to have a have reviews you know and so i actually think there's a lot of value to that you know not letting somebody be able to take their facility off of your app right or we're going to the extent where you're going through and you're putting on everyone that you can find you know whether or not they have information or not you know i'm sure there's you know some some relationship there with the facilities that you do have because obviously you got to make figure out how to make money as a business but you know i think the way they do that is there's just different levels of exposure right the ones who are the ones who are on the platform that are working hard to get good good reviews and all that kind of stuff obviously they're going to get better exposure naturally right because they have too good reviews so um i think the transparency thing is super powerful so where did where do you go from here you know as taste recovery what is the you you mentioned you're in seven states what's kind of the the goals from here and how do you move forward so uh currently we have about 300 sober livings on the platform in 32 states um and tomorrow we are launching our crowdfunding campaign so that way we can raise awareness at a national level um you know our crowdfunding campaign is it exposes a lot of the of the bad side of sober living homes um you know if you're not in this industry or you don't have a loved one who has gone through it most people have absolutely no idea what is going on and why this resource is so incredibly powerful and needed um and you know how lucky they are that they don't have to go through this and so we're just trying to kind of share you know what's going on because most people are not willing to do that most people you know this has been going on for a long time and a lot of people don't want to share about it they don't want to open their mouths at the risk of people you know saying something about them or you know whatever it may be but you know we're the the pages it exposes like i was saying you know the fact that sober livings are you know bribing their clients there's fraud people are using in these houses people are dying in these houses um and and this this industry is desperately needing transparency and it's desperately needing choice um and by choice i just mean you know the house the the platform has 300 sober livings on there and therefore you know they're not just being handed three brochures they have 300 houses to look at and see where they can go and um so it's just we're trying really really hard to get it out into the media and get exposure so that people know what is going on and and hopefully raise money to help us with marketing help us with creating you know an even better platform and really getting this out to treatment centers to detoxes to iops um to hospitals you know all of these places that you know need need these resources and then and then from there you know it just depends on if we if we raise the funds or not but um you know we're not we're not going to stop regardless you know we we know now after doing this for you know almost a year that pretty much every single person i speak to in this industry says this is so needed this is exactly what this industry has been waiting for you know um if anything you know i hope that the sober living owners that are doing something bad they can see that you know if they if they want to change they can and you know we're going to hold them accountable to it you know this platform is it's going to push people to do better and that's that's that is powerful super very powerful i love that concept and what you're doing how how does um how does taste recovery you kind of talked about this a little bit but how do you fund this platform and and the work that you're doing i know that you you get donations do you have other funding sources so currently um i just have been i have one investor um that has helped fund everything um our business model is exactly like yelp where you know a business can promote their business on yelp it's the same thing as on taste recovery sober livings if they want to have more exposure throughout the site they can promote their house to be at the top of the list um currently you know we're we're building the value behind that so that you know when someone does decide to pay um they're getting people who genuinely want to be in their sober living um at that at this time that is that is our only source of income which is really why we're doing the crowdfunding campaign um and in hopes that people do want to be a part of this and want to give back and help other people you know um i've spoken to a lot of family members who have lost their children to addiction and they wish something like this was out there and they want to help and they just don't know how and so that's kind of why we're doing the campaign as well giving them the opportunity to be a part of this this change too so yeah that's awesome so what do you this and the the campaign is through indiegogo yes and there's is there gear on there what it what are the options that you have or they're usually i mean don't you usually have like swag and that kind of stuff on there for sale how do you do your fundraising so um indiegogo allows us to do like a rewards type base so um i have chosen the heart foundation to donate a portion of funds to um it depends on what option they choose but 10 of whatever they donate will go to the heart foundation and the heart foundation scholarships people into treatment centers as well as sober livings so that's you know that's i think is the best form of giving back that anybody can do because we don't scholarship people into houses we can't help people in that way so we want to give money to pla a place that is doing something so wonderful that's fantastic very fantastic um i imagine that there's going to be you know as you guys spread the word and as you continue your efforts this is going to be huge in the industry because of your transparency and what you're offering out there that that just hasn't been around if people need to get a hold of you want to get a hold of you want to get involved what's the best way for them to do that yeah of course so uh we have a we have an instagram uh under taste recovery as well as a facebook a twitter and then um our website is tasterecovery.com and then our app is on ios and google play uh taste recovery and then um anyone can email me at brianna taste recovery.com as well i'm constantly in contact with many many people on on email so i'm on it pretty much every second of every day um but yeah any any any of those forms there there is a way to get a hold of us at least someone on the team will get back to somebody absolutely well and i think it's pretty incredible that you you've taken your own recovery experience um and the needs that you had and found a void right found a void in the industry that really needed to be filled and now you you're spending your passion and your energy and and really probably finding continued recovery in what you're doing and providing the service to others so i think that's super cool i love hearing those stories thank you i appreciate it and and i think by the time this episode comes out our our campaign will already be live so um if people do want to check that out they can go to save soberlivings.com um it will direct you to the indiegogo page as well wonderful safesilverlivings.com that's good to know yeah well kudos on what you're doing a lot a lot easier to remember than just like indiegogo try to search it and find it yeah absolutely absolutely i think you're spot on that one well thanks for taking time for us kudos on the on kind of the quest and and this business it's pretty awesome what you're doing thank you thank you so much i appreciate it hopefully a year from now you know everyone knows what taste recovery is and we're not you know having to explain all of it and people just know the good work that's being you know that's coming out of it yeah you never you never get past telling the story right just part of the deal okay awesome that's true thank you brianna thank you so much thank you been fantastic