Episode 9: What We Seem To Have Forgotten: Candid with World Traveler and Spiritual Guide, Drew Assini, MA
Episode 9: What We Seem To Have Forgotten: Candid with World Traveler and Spiritual Guide, Drew Assini, MA
Join Alyssa and Drew for some good laughs and great nuggets of wisdom. In this episode, Drew opens up about his deeply powerful journey to recovery from addiction as well as his mantra that everything we’ve been searching for in life is already within us.
Learn more about world traveler and spiritual guide, Drew Assini, MA at his website: helpingfolksremember.org and be sure to check the Driveabout podcast to hear more from him.
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Alyssa Scolari [00:23]:
All right. What’s up, everybody? Hope you are having a good week so far. I am stoked for this episode. We have got my man, Drew Assini, here today. I have been so excited to do this episode. You guys will fucking love it. I know Drew personally. I met Drew in grad school, and this episode is going to be a little less structured than the normal episodes because that’s Drew. Drew and I just love, love to talk. So we’re going to be candid with Drew today, and I don’t have a bio because the man can speak for himself. So I’m going to turn it over to you. Thank you so much for coming on the show. You want to tell everybody where the hell you’re at right now? I’m so jealous.
Drew Assini [01:27]:
Well, it’s an honor to be here. Thanks for having me. Yeah. I’m hanging out on an extended meditation. Well, I’m hanging out on an island here in Thailand on an extended meditation retreat vacation kind of vibe. Yeah, it’s not a bad place to spend the apocalypse. Doing all right.
Alyssa Scolari [01:54]:
Yeah, the apocalypse. My god. Do you want to just tell everybody what you do, what you’ve done, your experience, your history? Give them the [spiel 00:02:07].
Drew Assini [02:07]:
Do you think I am… Well, yeah.
Alyssa Scolari [02:09]:
Drew Assini [02:11]:
Yes. So my name is Drew. Last name is Assini. I got a lot of formers in my bio now. So I’m like a former therapist/counselor guy, drug and alcohol. I spent a decade working in mental health, and then recently have let go of my letters, so I have a… I’m moving into whatever comes after the therapist role or identity for me. So 10 years working predominantly with addiction. Yeah, lots of experiences, lots of fun stories. Also, former college professor, college instructor. I spent some time at a couple different institutions teaching undergrad and graduate programs, teaching in those programs. It’s where we met when I was trying to fit in to being a college professor, which was… Yeah, it’s quite the experience and…
Alyssa Scolari [03:04]:
Quite the experience. Yeah, so I met Drew in… God, what year was it? It was 2014 when I started grad school, and I was in a research lab, and Drew was… What technically was your position?
Drew Assini [03:26]:
That was fall of 2014, right?
Alyssa Scolari [03:29]:
Fall of 2014. Yeah.
Drew Assini [03:31]:
Yeah. Oh, dude, I was coming back for spending that summer in the jungle, drinking Ayahuasca, and… Yeah, I was barely… My feet were barely touching the ground that whole year.
Alyssa Scolari [03:43]:
Wait. What is Ayahuasca?
Drew Assini [03:46]:
Oh, oh, yeah. That’s a whole another episode. It’s a plant medicine from the Amazon, from South America.
Alyssa Scolari [03:54]:
Is that where you were, South America?
Drew Assini [03:55]:
Yeah, yeah. I spent six weeks in Peru that summer. Yeah. It was amazing, amazing experience. Yeah, Ayahuasca is the natural plant version of exposure therapy, but on fast-forward and like volume 12, right? You puke, and you see weird shit, but anywho.
Alyssa Scolari [04:17]:
Oh, is it… It’s like trippy?
Drew Assini [04:21]:
Oh, yeah, yeah. It’s like one of the strongest psychoactive substances on the planet easily. Yeah, yeah.
Alyssa Scolari [04:26]:
But it’s legal?
Drew Assini [04:30]:
There, it is. You can’t go and buy them in the corner store in the States nowhere.
Alyssa Scolari [04:37]:
What’s the purpose of it? What does it do for you?
Drew Assini [04:41]:
So in the South American culture, it’s used as a rite of passage and also as a… One dude I spoke to down there said every year or every other year, he would come, and he would participate in the ceremony that had a lot of intention and… Yeah, a lot of intention, and the purpose was to show up for healing for your own growth, your own awakening, your own healing. So you drink this medicine, and then you have a four to six-hour ceremony where you’re under the influence or opened up to different states of awareness or consciousness and that… Yeah. So it’s used in their culture as a rite of passage and as a cleansing.
It’s become more popular for White folks and Americans as a psychospiritual adventuring, but also, it’s gaining a lot more attention and rightly so for the work it can do with people with trauma like deep shit, whether it’s addiction or mental health stuff because it… Yeah, the medicine really cracks you open. You know how MDMA therapy now? It helps people do years’ worth of therapy in an eight-hour session potentially.
Alyssa Scolari [05:55]:
Drew Assini [05:55]:
It’s a lot like similarly like that.
Alyssa Scolari [05:57]:
It’s like that?
Drew Assini [05:58]:
Yeah, except MDMA is… It’s a chemical. It’s produced, whereas this is a… It’s a tea that’s made out of plants from the Amazon, so.
Alyssa Scolari [06:08]:
Damn, that’s amazing.
Drew Assini [06:09]:
Super cool shit, man.
Alyssa Scolari [06:10]:
Yeah, that’s so cool, especially… I mean, for healing, just to open you up to another realm. I’m assuming people with repressed memories of trauma like myself, that’d be perfect for because it just opens you up.
Drew Assini [06:29]:
Yeah. It can definitely accelerate the healing process and get to places that you might not be able to access through talk therapy alone.
Alyssa Scolari [06:39]:
Woo, I might be down in the Amazon this fall.
Drew Assini [06:45]:
Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Alyssa Scolari [06:46]:
I might be taking a break from this podcast.
Drew Assini [06:50]:
It’s cool. Just be ready to puke your guts off and stuff because it’s…
Alyssa Scolari [06:54]:
Why do you puke? Just because…
Drew Assini [06:57]:
It’s called a purgative. So the idea on some level is that if you’re drinking the medicine, it’s in your body, and then you throw out all the shit.
Alyssa Scolari [06:57]:
Ah, you’re like purging out the…
Drew Assini [07:05]:
Yes, you got it.
Alyssa Scolari [07:08]:
Ah, that’s not as fascinating.
Drew Assini [07:10]:
Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Alyssa Scolari [07:10]:
Okay. We got off track already.
Drew Assini [07:14]:
So yeah. We literally were like five minutes in and totally left you out. So good.
Alyssa Scolari [07:20]:
Yup, and right before we started recording, we were like, “All right. How are we going to stay on track?” Then, we started recording, and here we are. All right. Reeling it back in.
Drew Assini [07:20]:
Alyssa Scolari [07:32]:
So 2014, I started grad school, and you were the… Were you the assistant professor in the research lab? Who were you? I didn’t know. I thought you were just some cool guy that just…
Drew Assini [07:50]:
Say it out.
Alyssa Scolari [07:51]:
Drew Assini [07:55]:
They just didn’t throw me out, so I stayed. So I was an instructor, and I think I was a three-quarter-time instructor, right? So I was like super adjunct, but they gave me an office, and I thought three classes a semester. Then, I had gone to school there, right? So I’ve gone through the same grad program and was an undergrad there. So I had a relationship with the department and our research lab coordinator, research lab… the faculty that ran it.
Alyssa Scolari [08:23]:
Drew Assini [08:24]:
So it’s just a natural fit for me to keep being around. It was just now I had a different official role, but I was still… Yeah, I was still just showing up as me and bringing that to the table, so.
Alyssa Scolari [08:37]:
Yeah. Grad school was, for me, one of the toughest times of my life not because of grad school, but when I first started… So grad school started in August, late August of 2014, and then that October, I went into a partial hospitalization program at Renfrew for an eating disorder. So I was in treatment from 8:00, 8:00 to 3:30, Monday to Friday. I would leave treatment, go to grad school, and be in school all night. When I joined the lab and you were there, you were the perfect comedic relief because everything in grad school, especially when you first start, they try to weed out the weak ones. I mean, they really do.
Drew Assini [09:35]:
Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Alyssa Scolari [09:36]:
It’s like survival of the fittest when you start.
Drew Assini [09:38]:
Alyssa Scolari [09:38]:
So every day, every professor, I think they rehearse a speech. It’s like, “If you’re in this profession to make money, get out now because you won’t make money, and you shouldn’t be working full-time, and you shouldn’t be working at all because your whole life needs to revolve around this.” They do everything sort of threatening you to see if you’ll stay.
Drew Assini [10:01]:
Yeah, and they give you like a hundred articles to read, like an impossible amount of literature to get through between now and the next class. Yeah.
Alyssa Scolari [10:12]:
Drew Assini [10:12]:
Alyssa Scolari [10:13]:
It is. It’s like fucking Survivor. They’re like, “God speed. Here you go, a thousand pages. Good luck.”
Drew Assini [10:23]:
Alyssa Scolari [10:23]:
“See you next week.”
Drew Assini [10:23]:
Alyssa Scolari [10:23]:
Or, “Hope I don’t see you.” “Hope you drop out of the race between now and then.”
Drew Assini [10:29]:
Alyssa Scolari [10:30]:
Dude, and the thing is, is that so many people dropped out of the race. When I graduated, I think there were five people in my cohort. Five of us graduated, and I think there were 15 of us who started.
Drew Assini [10:45]:
Yeah. For me, I think we started with 12, and then we finished with three. But that was also a semester where the school was like… I don’t know. There was a question around the accreditation. So you had to take a leap of faith at that point. I remember that’s September.
Alyssa Scolari [11:02]:
Drew Assini [11:03]:
Yeah, yeah, yeah. I just leaned in to the experience.
Alyssa Scolari [11:05]:
Drew Assini [11:06]:
For me, I love grad school because there were three of us by the end of it, and so every class was like three of us and some seasoned psychologists. I mean, we just picked their brain. Yeah. It was cool, but definitely, it’s easy to get sucked up in the seriousness and how loud everything is. For sure.
Alyssa Scolari [11:30]:
Absolutely, and you were one of the people who made things feel a lot more manageable. You also had your own… It was a meditation yoga studio, right?
Drew Assini [11:46]:
Yeah. Yeah, across the street from the school.
Alyssa Scolari [11:50]:
When did you open that?
Drew Assini [11:52]:
That fall because I came back… Yeah. At that point, I’ve been working in the field for only three or four years, and I was already over it. I went to the jungle and had my experiences, and I came back. It was very clear that I wanted to do my thing my way, which was more healing and incorporating lots more alternative approaches, embodied approaches to healing, and recovery, and all that. So yeah, I opened the spot across the street from the school. We had regular classes. We had a school, and I ran my private practice out of there. That was a fun time, man. I had the center, and I had a bike. I would ride my bicycle from the center to my office on campus, and then teach, and hang out with the students, and do lab. That was really… Yeah. My heart is feeling… good feeling, I see.
Alyssa Scolari [12:44]:
All the nostalgia? Yup.
Drew Assini [12:45]:
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
Alyssa Scolari [12:46]:
It was so fun, and it would be the best when you’re on campus, and you just see Drew on his bike. It’s the best. He waves, and you wave, and people who don’t know Drew were like, “Oh, who’s that? You know that guy?” You’re like, “Yeah, dude. That’s my professor on his bike.”
Drew Assini [13:08]:
Alyssa Scolari [13:11]:
I came to your studio quite a few times.
Drew Assini [13:11]:
Alyssa Scolari [13:15]:
You would have like that one… So your studio is when I first learned about the bliss that is restorative yoga.
Drew Assini [13:23]:
Alyssa Scolari [13:24]:
Holy shit, guys. If you have never tried restorative yoga, you have no idea what you’re missing. It’s the best experience in the world.
Drew Assini [13:33]:
Alyssa Scolari [13:33]:
Well, probably second to Ayuasaca. Is that how you say it?
Drew Assini [13:38]:
No. Ayuas? No. Restorative yoga is probably much more pleasurable than Ayahuasca to your health. Yeah.
Alyssa Scolari [13:49]:
Did I say that right?
Drew Assini [13:51]:
I thought you were going to say like… I thought you were going to say next to orgasm, but I’m like… Anyway. Yeah.
Alyssa Scolari [13:57]:
I mean, maybe that too.
Drew Assini [13:59]:
Alyssa Scolari [13:59]:
Restorative yoga is probably better than that.
Drew Assini [13:59]:
Alyssa Scolari [14:01]:
But that’s when I first learned meditation. I had never meditated before, and I remember my friend, Kate. So Kate and I used to… We would show up at your studio. How early? Jesus, it was like 6:00 AM. I mean, it was dark out when we would come for meditation in the morning, and I don’t get out of bed for anything. I don’t do mornings, but I would drive, and I would… We would sit in your studio, and it was the first time in my life where I learned how to sit with myself. That meditation practice helped me more than anything to get through grad school because so much of what I had been doing up until really I started meditating is running from myself, running from who I really am, running from my experiences, which was part of the purpose of the eating disorder served. Yeah. I just remember sitting in… I remember the butt cushions. Is that what they’re called? That’s probably not an appropriate term.
Drew Assini [15:20]:
That’s perfect. That’s exactly what they’re called.
Alyssa Scolari [15:20]:
Drew Assini [15:20]:
That was so good.
Alyssa Scolari [15:27]:
Boy, and I’m just…
Drew Assini [15:27]:
Alyssa Scolari [15:29]:
I remember sitting with just all of this comfort or this peace and discomfort at the same time. It’s the first time that I realized that you can have bad experiences, and you can have discomfort, and you can still be at peace.
Drew Assini [15:45]:
Mm-hmm [affirmative]. Yeah.
Alyssa Scolari [15:48]:
That helped me get through grad school, and I… I don’t know. I’ve just been such a huge fan of all the stuff that you’ve done since. So could you just touch a little bit on how meditation has helped you and your personal background because I know you have quite a fascinating story?
Drew Assini [16:11]:
All right. Sometimes, I think it’s fascinating. Other times, I’m over it, and it’s like…
Alyssa Scolari [16:18]:
You’re sick of talking about it?
Drew Assini [16:19]:
Well, it’s just I’m sick of what happens when I believe what I think, yeah, which is why meditation is great.
Alyssa Scolari [16:30]:
Drew Assini [16:30]:
Yes, so… Yeah, and I guess this is cool too because it almost doubles back earlier. So former therapist, former counselor, former college professor person, but the other thing I would identify is as a person in longterm recovery. So meditation really started to show up in my life at the beginning of my own recovery process, specifically from addiction, and then later, also gambling. Yeah, smoking cigarettes and stuff too. Yeah. I mean, I always thought meditation was cool. I remember reading Siddhartha in sixth grade and thinking like, “Oh man, this is cool.” But the actual practice of meditation, I didn’t really start to play with until I was in early into my recovery process and I needed help figuring out how to not do the same old dumb shit over and over again, how not to just go with the impulses and the thoughts, and [inaudible 00:17:23] the thoughts. It gave me something to do that wasn’t believing the thought. Yeah, and that was an immense freedom that opened up.
Then, I think I got two years in change clean or two years into the recovery process, and then I went and spent a summer at this holistic retreat center where I was part of a community really for a couple months. That’s when I was introduced to more formal practices in meditation, then led to me starting to go on retreats, and attending retreats, and all that. I feel like meditation has gone from a useful tool to help me navigate the ups and downs of being me, and life, and feelings, and all of this, whatever this is that keeps happening in this lifetime.
Alyssa Scolari [18:11]:
Drew Assini [18:12]:
Now, 10-plus years later where I’ve finally been able to cultivate and develop a daily practice, and having the time here on the island to myself. I’m sitting a couple times a day for a couple hours a day. Yeah. It just feels like the peace and ease that meditation makes available or moving from a meditative space, that peace and ease is just way cooler than anything I was getting from the achieving, grasping approach to life. So now, I feel like what used to help me navigate life is now revealing a totally different way of living. I don’t know if I’m saying it right. Yeah. It used to be all about life, and achieving, and getting things. Meditation helped me deal with all that. Now, it feels like life is about sitting in peace and in ease, and allowing life to just happen.
Alyssa Scolari [19:06]:
Drew Assini [19:08]:
Then, I have to do enough life work things to support my ability to sit there and just, yeah, enjoy the experience, which is cool and a long way from not being able to sit in my own skin for even a second at a time.
Alyssa Scolari [19:23]:
Yeah, so… Right. Basically, what you’re saying is, and this is the same experience that I had that meditation helped you to not act on the impulses. It helped you to just sit with it, and then transformed into the space where you’re not just sitting with it, but you’re going places with your meditation. It’s become more active as… Instead of a coping skill, it’s now integrated to becoming an integral part of your life.
Drew Assini [19:54]:
It fundamentally changes the experience of life if you commit to a practice.
Alyssa Scolari [19:59]:
Drew Assini [20:00]:
Whether it’s formal meditation, or yoga, or anything mindfulness-oriented, yeah. I mean, to sit on a cushion and practice focusing on one thing for as long as you can, and then you wander somewhere, you just come back, and to do that with a certain sense of acceptance and patience then cultivates the ability in our day-to-day living to focus on one thing at a time with some patience and some acceptance, and so it’s… Yeah, it’s magical, but it’s actually very simple, and it’s like, “Oh, yeah. Duh. Of course, if I practice this, then this will show up more.” So for me, that’s… I like magical shit, but I need a practical. I got to see it in action. I got to know that it works, and then I’m all about it.
Alyssa Scolari [20:45]:
Yeah, and you… Shit. What was I going to say?
Drew Assini [20:53]:
It will come back. The good stuff always does.
Alyssa Scolari [20:55]:
Shit. That train of thought has left the station. Oh. No.
Drew Assini [21:04]:
No, different train.
Alyssa Scolari [21:07]:
Drew Assini [21:08]:
Here’s the cool thing. It will come back to you while I’m talking too. So the cool thing is essentially, the train metaphor is something I use all the time too is that the goal of meditation is to learn how to rest in the station and not get on every freaking train that runs through it.
Alyssa Scolari [21:24]:
Drew Assini [21:25]:
Alyssa Scolari [21:25]:
Drew Assini [21:25]:
So if we understand ourselves to be more of the train station, and then there’s lots of different trains. There’s the “worry about money” train. There’s the “worry about your significant other” train. There’s the “plan your future” train. There’s the “oh shit don’t talk about what happened when I was 12” train. They’re all coming and going through the station all the time, and what we do is we cultivate the ability to rest in the station, and when we get on a train, we can recognize it sooner, and then get back instead of riding that train till whatever particular pain we find or whatever consequences.
Alyssa Scolari [22:02]:
Right, and then what happens is usually, you’re right on the train, and then you want to get off of it so goddamn badly, and you don’t know how. You end up self-destructing, right?
Drew Assini [22:02]:
Yeah. Yeah, yeah.
Alyssa Scolari [22:12]:
You’re like, “All right. Well, let me just get high, or let me go binge eat, or let me cut myself, or…” Whereas meditation helps you to stay on the platform like you said.
Drew Assini [22:27]:
Yeah. Yeah. The other thing too with meditation I think it’s important to throw out there, especially for folks with trauma in their background, or that’s recent, or just coming to the surface is that like bare-bones, just focus on your breath. Meditation can be actually really difficult and not yield awesome results for folks who have really loud intense trauma.
Alyssa Scolari [22:27]:
Drew Assini [22:48]:
So if somebody wants to experiment with this stuff because they’re intrigued or they can see the benefit, I would just recommend that it’s a more active meditation for someone who has a more active system because it may be a trauma or something that’s going on in there. So maybe it’s while you’re walking, or yoga practice, or a particular, “I’m walking on the beach, and my toes are in the sand,” like a guided meditation.
Alyssa Scolari [23:15]:
Right, as opposed to just stillness because it’s to ask somebody with a history of… and that was a lot of the stuff that came up for me when I started going to your studio to meditate is somebody with a nervous system who has endured trauma that’s really never been regulated, like I never had a regulated nervous system, so it’s almost damn near impossible to get somebody to just sit in stillness, in silence. I think that that’s why so many… a lot of trauma survivors, we do this thing, and I say we because I was this person too where I would be like, “Meditation? Fuck that. I can’t sit there. I’ve got shit to do. I can’t sit there,” and the thing… I had no patience. I mean, listen, I still don’t have patience, but that’s neither here nor there.
I just remember the thing that you did that helped me so much is that everything was just okay with you. You would always remind me that it doesn’t matter like, “Okay. Yeah. You probably sat there for three seconds before your mind started to drift off to how many papers you have to write today, but it’s okay.” Everything was like laughable, so you never gave me a chance to get pissed off at myself and give up on it. Everything was like, “Huh, yeah. It’s fine. Regroup and do it again.” It gives you the opportunity to have patience with yourself, which I think is important and crucial, especially for folks with trauma.
Drew Assini [25:08]:
Alyssa Scolari [25:10]:
So you’ve been in recovery for how many years?
Drew Assini [25:14]:
14 in change now. Yeah, 14.
Alyssa Scolari [25:18]:
Okay, and how many years were you living in addiction?
Drew Assini [25:26]:
Which version of that story do you want, the one that impresses people, or the truth, or the…
Alyssa Scolari [25:32]:
Give me the truth. Give me the authentic version.
Drew Assini [25:37]:
I think i was 15-ish when alcohol and beer started showing up in social stuff, and so there were a couple years where I would get drunk here or smoke a joint there, whatever. So it wasn’t a lot, but I guess after the first couple years, I’d say maybe 17, substances started to become a regular part of my experience. Then, about 18, I’d probably say that without knowing it, I was then into a full-blown addiction where I was no longer the boss. Then, that lasted until I was about 23, 24. I turned 24 like 90 days clean or something, so probably like four to five years in addiction, and maybe two or three more where it was like dark and I would probably have rather died than continue to waking up not wanting to get high, and then couldn’t not get high, and then would just continue the cycle.
Alyssa Scolari [26:43]:
Drew Assini [26:43]:
So yeah. So I mean, I could say probably six years of substance use that was disordered. But then, the darkness of the grip of addiction is probably a four, five-year window maybe.
Alyssa Scolari [26:58]:
What was that like, or was there a specific turning point for you where you were like, “I don’t want this for myself?”
Drew Assini [27:06]:
The bottom and the story that’s been written, right? Not the first bottom, but like…
Alyssa Scolari [27:12]:
The rock bottom? Yeah, the rock.
Drew Assini [27:13]:
The last bottom. Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Alyssa Scolari [27:15]:
Drew Assini [27:17]:
Right? Because what do they say? Like, “Every bottom has a trapdoor, and then there’s another one, and another one, and another one.”
Alyssa Scolari [27:22]:
Drew Assini [27:22]:
Then, also, this is the bottom for me that came with the drugs and alcohol specifically. I have, within the last five years, hit bottoms relative to some adult children and family dysfunction stuff. Recovery is a hell of a ride.
Alyssa Scolari [27:43]:
Oh, yeah. It’s that roller coaster that you really can’t get off of. You’re on it, but…
Drew Assini [27:43]:
Alyssa Scolari [27:49]:
It’s a hell of a ride, but it’s also so beautiful because I think you reach different heights.
Drew Assini [27:55]:
Yeah. Oh, tremendously. Well, the cool part too is that the height that’s reached is it doesn’t matter how high or how low anymore, more like…
Alyssa Scolari [28:04]:
Yes. It is what it is.
Drew Assini [28:05]:
So then, like you said, you said it beautifully. There was a piece that was present with a certain level of chaos or dysfunction, and that was okay.
Alyssa Scolari [28:14]:
Drew Assini [28:14]:
Then, it’s supposed to be a beautiful space. Yeah. So yeah. The short version is essentially, I moved away because everybody else was the problem like I knew what I was doing. Blame everybody else. Run away. I got arrested for DUI, and I had to detox on the floor of the booking holding area of the jail. There were just moments of like, “This is my fucking life.” I was the kid with all the potential and everybody liked, and if he could only get his shit together and go. Then, here I was in an orange jumpsuit just drooling on the floor. Then, shortly after that, I made the phone call to my parents to try to bail me out for the gazillionth time. It was like the middle of the night, and so my mom’s story… Her story always was like, “I’m going to get a call in the middle of the night that you’re dead.” That was her guilt trip every time I’d do something stupid. I’ve come to figure out later. It’s like, “Maybe, mom, if guilting is one of your top parenting techniques, that’s not fucking helpful,” but anyway.
Alyssa Scolari [29:22]:
Drew Assini [29:26]:
I mean, she’s a mom, and she worried about her kid, and she was always worried. The nightmare scenario for her was the phone call in the middle of the night that her kid was dead. So here I was making the phone call, and I remember the phone wasn’t working. So I had to go… They coordinated it, so like a guard call, and then you spoke to whoever. So I told the guard. I’m like, “Look.” I explained all this to the guard, and I’m like, “Look, just immediately say that I’m alive and okay, and then tell her whatever you want. Then, I’ll talk to her.” The guard just blew me off. It didn’t matter. So the guard answered the phone with like, “Hello, this is such and such from blah, blah, blah county. Blah, blah, blah.”
So I heard my mom answer like, “Hello.” This was like 4:00 in the morning or something, and then the guard launched into that whole intro. He’s like, “Is this Cathy? Blah, blah, blah.” I heard my mom’s voice like, “Yes?” I felt it in her voice because I’m empathic or I can feel shit from just tones of voice, and I literally felt her prepping herself to hear that her son was dead. It split right through me. It hit me in my heart, in my gut. It blew me wide open, and I think that was the final blow. I didn’t get clean right away after that, but that was the final blow where it was like, “Okay. I’ll do something different because this sucks.”
Alyssa Scolari [30:46]:
Drew Assini [30:48]:
About six months later, I got clean with some help and a counselor support. Yeah, so that was the… That was probably the bottom, the broken-open moment.
Alyssa Scolari [30:59]:
Drew Assini [31:01]:
Alyssa Scolari [31:02]:
I really appreciate you saying that you didn’t get clean in that moment because I think that there’s this idea that people have this rock bottom moment, and then it’s like, “Well, and after that, everything was rainbows, and puppies, and ice cream, and butterflies.” It’s like, “No.” Actually, that’s where it gets really ugly is the moment when you realize you need to change is when it really gets hard.
Drew Assini [31:39]:
That moment cracked me open. I knew I wanted something to be different, but I didn’t know what to do.
Alyssa Scolari [31:45]:
Drew Assini [31:45]:
I think that that’s like… We can come to a place where it’s like, “Okay. I don’t want this anymore,” but I had no clue how to do anything else. Otherwise, I would have done some other shit by then instead of just riding that horse all the way to Pain Town.
Alyssa Scolari [32:01]:
Drew Assini [32:01]:
So it took a little while to get connected with people who could offer things that I could hear and make suggestions that I was willing to take. I feel really blessed because… and you’ll hear this from some folks in recovery that if it gets dark enough, you come out of hell on fire to do something different, and I was willing to do anything because I was shattered at that point. So when these weird, old men were telling me to do shit that I thought was dumb, I still was judging it. But also, I was like freshly toasted from the hells of addiction, and I’m like, “All right. Fuck it. Sure, I’ll try. Let’s do the weird thing. Cool.” It turned out that this weird shit they suggested actually provided me with a different experience that was better.
Alyssa Scolari [32:47]:
What do you mean by weird shit?
Drew Assini [32:51]:
Well, just stuff I would’ve judged because in active addiction, part of what kept me there was my mindset, right, was being super critical, super judgmental.
Alyssa Scolari [33:00]:
Yes, all the judgment.
Drew Assini [33:00]:
Yeah, yeah. Then, I had some brain cells, right? So there’s some intelligence here, but that had been so warped that then now, I was like, “Oh, nobody understands. Nobody knows. I know better than them. I’m smarter than them.” I had that whole thing. So no matter what anybody told me, I could poke holes in it, and then tell them why they didn’t know what they were talking about. I was a real pain in the ass, and so when I got into recovery, I was finally willing to be like, “Okay. You’re telling me to…” like I remember… Here’s a good example. I was early on, and I was hanging out with a particular guy. There was a dude I had asked to be my sponsor, and he told me… He initially said no. He’s like, “No, you need to be around here a little bit. You just got here.” He was an oldhead, so.
Alyssa Scolari [33:44]:
He said no?
Drew Assini [33:45]:
Alyssa Scolari [33:47]:
I didn’t know you could say no.
Drew Assini [33:48]:
Oh, yeah. Essentially, he was like, “Look. Are you going to listen to what I have to say, and are you actually going to stick around? Otherwise, I’m not going to waste my time with you.”
Alyssa Scolari [33:48]:
Yeah. I mean, that makes sense.
Drew Assini [33:59]:
I don’t know that… Yeah, that old-school 12-step. Yeah. That’s not like, “Oh, sure. I hope you stay clean today.” You know? It wasn’t like that, but that guy, I remember a diner, like this dude I was hanging out with that I felt was like… We were like in it together and we were going to stay clean forever. He pulled me aside, and he’s like, “Look, ditch that guy.” I’m like, “What?” He’s like, “Yeah.” He’s like, “He’s not about this.” I’m like, “No, he’s my partner.” He’s like, “Dude, do you want to trust what I have to say based on my 20-something years of being around here, or do you want to tell me what you think you know?” I was like, “All right.” Literally, that dude got high two days later.
Alyssa Scolari [34:37]:
Oh my god.
Drew Assini [34:38]:
If I had been hanging out with him, I probably would have… It was like a read on a situation that I thought was dumb that I was willing to suspend my judgment for a moment and trust new perspective that opened me up to a whole new experience, and it was shit like that.
Alyssa Scolari [34:55]:
And potentially saved your life.
Drew Assini [34:57]:
Oh, totally. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah. I’m not sitting here and talking with you because of anything I figured out. I figured out how to get into a lot of pain, and then that broke me open and had me malleable and suggestible, and then other people shared their wisdom, and their love, and their support. That’s what saved my life. That’s what has me here. So yeah.
Alyssa Scolari [35:20]:
In turn, I mean, to this day, you’re still using that to help other people. So you have this website, Helping Folks Remember, which I love. I love the name of it. It’s classic Drew. What does that mean? Tell me what that means because… Well, you explained it a little bit on… So Drew also has his own podcast, The Driveabout Podcast. You guys should definitely go listen to it because he’s very candid, and the thoughts that he has are extremely original and fascinating, but I love this concept, and I know you talk about this on your podcast, which was helping people to remember. So what does that mean?
Drew Assini [36:10]:
For me, it’s just a really cool framework that’s way less heavy than a lot of the judgment, stigma, clinical diagnosis, right, because I’m coming from years of personal experience and professional experience in addiction treatment, mental health, teaching in colleges, teaching mental health, working in treatment centers. There’s a lot of weight that comes with a lot of the labels. Really, any concept that has been around for a minute gets heavy because we just constantly project our own meanings and understandings on the stuff. So it just felt like, yeah, this framework was fresh. It’s like, “Okay. Cool. It’s just forgetting and remembering.” There’s not really a clinical bias to forgetting. Nobody is trying to DSM you with forgetting.
Alyssa Scolari [37:01]:
Drew Assini [37:02]:
So yeah. Coming from a world where there was heavy labels, there was definitely a wish for something that was lighter, and easier, and fresher. Yeah. I don’t even know how. It was just like… I was in Oregon at the time and hanging out, and it just… It was like a flash download. It was just like, “Oh, holy shit. This makes so much sense, like we’re just…” The other thing we’re guilty of is just forgetting how fucking awesome we are. That’s it. We’re already whole and complete. We’re already awesome. We’re already amazing. Right? That’s in place, has always been there, will potentially always be there, depending upon how we see things. So the name of the game now is not to become something else, or fix ourselves, or whatever. It’s just to relearn, or remember, or unlearn, right? We unlearn the dumb shit. Then, we’re able to remember back to a time in our own life when things were easier or into an understanding of ourselves that is lighter and freer. So it’s beautiful too because the fundamental assumption is that we’re already cool.
Alyssa Scolari [38:08]:
Drew Assini [38:09]:
Instead of working from a place of deficit or lack, we’re actually working from a place of… I want to say abundance, but it’s the other end. So the remembering and forgetting thing, it’s just a framework. What are we guilty of, or what’s the actual problem? Well, it’s just that you’ve forgotten that you’re awesome. So you don’t act like you’re awesome, and most of us don’t act like we’re awesome. We act like we’re missing something that we need to get in order to be awesome. So if we can unlearn all that forgetting stuff, then we’re able to remember ourselves in a clearer, lighter, simpler way, and then we just continue to enjoy life and do whatever the fuck we want.
Then, the words break down too, which I love because I’m a little bit of a word nerd. I like breaking down words and looking at them differently. I feel like we should just generally be more conscious of the language we use, but forgetting breaks down into “for” and “getting.” So if someone is forgetting, they’re also for getting things, right, or pro acquiring stuff, and a lot of what we do with our life is spend it in pursuit of acquiring a thing, or a person, or a title, or an achievement because then that will make us better, or lovable, or okay, or complete. Right?
So we’re always operating from a place of deficit, trying to chase something. That’s the carrot you can never grab. So it’s cool. It’s like really, the forgetfulness is all about this seeking outside of ourselves, and then remembering is about remembering that we’re already whole. Nothing is going to complete us because we’re already complete. That’s why nothing ever scratches the itch the way we want it to.
Then, remember broken down is just becoming a member again or becoming a part of something bigger, and I feel like that’s huge because… I would say that more so than like… or before addiction and mental health stuff, whether it’s depression, or PTSD, or whatever might show up. Before that shows up, we actually distinguish ourselves as something separate, and I feel like that’s actually one of the fundamental fallacies of how we understand experience. We’re really interconnected. Everything is connected. We’re all impacting each other all the time. But when we believe we’re alone or we’re separate, then we become susceptible to shit like anxiety and depression.
Alyssa Scolari [40:27]:
Drew Assini [40:28]:
It’s like the little… What is it? The little antilope that can then get eaten by the lion when you’re separate or you believe you’re separate from the pact.
Alyssa Scolari [40:37]:
I love the simplicity of that because I think there’s so much jargon around trauma and PTSD. I so agree that what makes us susceptible is that we forget. We forget that we didn’t do anything wrong. We forget that we’re amazing. When we forget that, then we are susceptible to PTSD and a whole host of issues. I love the simplicity.
Drew Assini [41:08]:
It felt like a really nice, light, practical, accessible kind of framework to then understand the path of remembering, or healing, or whatever.
Alyssa Scolari [41:17]:
Drew Assini [41:18]:
Not to make light of any of the shit that goes on in our experience. It’s just like if we understand that like, “Oh, I need to fix my trauma,” or, “I need to heal my broken spot,” and it’s like, “Okay. Yes, but also, let’s take a step back first and recognize that you already are awesome and that now, we’re just trying to work our way back into remembering that,” which could be… Well, you can’t really go backwards, right? That’s the cool part about trauma is that it actually is an upgrade. We just got to learn how to work with it.
Alyssa Scolari [41:45]:
Exactly, exactly. So I know you’re doing your own personal work. What are you doing in terms of… Are you seeing people right now? So you’re not doing any sort of counseling, or are you?
Drew Assini [42:04]:
So I’ve officially left behind the psychotherapist, psychotherapy, Western psychology, counseling, clinical… That paradigm, I’m leaving behind. Obviously, I can’t leave all of its impact in my life, right?
Alyssa Scolari [42:24]:
Drew Assini [42:26]:
So I’m still talking with people. I’m still working with folks individually and in group settings, but it’s much more with this frame of reference. When I talk to people, I’m like, “Look, I’m no longer a formal therapist guy. This is not therapy. If you have some acute shit that is up, you should be talking to a therapist.” Right?
Alyssa Scolari [42:46]:
Drew Assini [42:48]:
But then, also, I feel like to a certain degree, the therapeutic paradigm is just about symptom relief, and then really kicks you in the ass out the door once you no longer are in a certain crisis mentality. So what I’m trying to do is then be that next thing where it’s like, “All right. Cool. Shit used to be on fire. Now, it’s not on fire, but you like this new approach to life. How do you ground in it? How do you really move forward in it?” It’s like, “Okay. I can take you there. Now, we can really start to ground it to some practical, maybe spiritual living or practical living. Just conscious living.”
Alyssa Scolari [43:28]:
Okay. So what you’re saying is people who are out of that crisis stage, and they want to access that deeper level of healing?
Drew Assini [43:36]:
Alyssa Scolari [43:37]:
Drew Assini [43:39]:
Alyssa Scolari [43:40]:
If people want to contact you, they just go to your website, right?
Drew Assini [43:45]:
Yup, yup. Www.helpingfolksremember.org. Yeah. You can get in touch with me there, and I’m on the Facebooks, and the Instagrams, and the inner webs, and all that stuff. I’m not good. I’m a little too old to be messing with that shit, but I know it’s… I’m just trying to make myself be available, so people know I’m a thing. I’m out there. Sometimes I’ve gone…
Alyssa Scolari [44:10]:
You’re an important thing. People need to know you’re out there because you have a very unconventional way of dealing with trauma, and I tend to be a believer that the traditional talk therapy isn’t everything. It’s one thing, and it’s one step, but there’s much more that happens in the healing process.
Drew Assini [44:39]:
We’re a multifaceted being, so it would be silly to try to heal us with one facet.
Alyssa Scolari [44:45]:
Drew Assini [44:47]:
Like when I was working with people at the center, they would come, and I’m like, “All right. We’ll talk. But also, you’re going to come to yoga, and you’re going to come to meditation, and you’re going to go get massages, and you’re going to do float tank, and you’re going to talk with my fucking nutrition friend.”
Alyssa Scolari [45:01]:
Drew Assini [45:02]:
If you’re about healing, let’s not bullshit. Let’s do it.
Alyssa Scolari [45:02]:
Drew Assini [45:06]:
If we put the energy into the healing process, it changes everything.
Alyssa Scolari [45:11]:
Yup. You’ve got to be all-in.
Drew Assini [45:14]:
Yeah. Yeah, like my first… Really, my first exposure to sustained therapy, right, because I had a bunch of therapists that wanted to tell me shit before I was ready to hear it when I was younger. But then, once my ass is on fire and I was willing to listen, my first therapist experience, he was a somatic psychotherapist. So we were listening to my body as much as I was battling about what I thought I knew. That was really profound. For me, there was a lot of opportunity, a lot of metaphoric healing we did, a lot of symbols. Yeah, but I don’t know that just talking would’ve sufficed for me. Again, super helpful to be able to articulate something with someone present that’s holding space, and it’s supportive, and loving, and caring. Yeah.
Alyssa Scolari [46:00]:
Also, can call you out on your own shit and tell you that you don’t know as much as you think you do. I mean, that’s something that I know I need because I don’t like to be told what to do.
Drew Assini [46:09]:
I feel like that’s more accessible now because when I was in the psychotherapeutic framework, I felt like I couldn’t do that as much, like it just wasn’t… I don’t know. I just felt like I… In that position, in that role, I was more inclined to just actively listen. Whereas now, I’m me. So I can just be like, “Yeah. Dude, what are you doing?”
Alyssa Scolari [46:30]:
Drew Assini [46:33]:
Alyssa Scolari [46:34]:
Yeah. You have done the brave work of accessing alternative methods to healing that I think can really help a lot of people and I think that people aren’t really aware of. I think people hear things like meditation, and they’re just like… like what I said earlier. It’s just like, “Oh, I don’t have time to sit there,” but it’s not like that. It’s just not like that. I think you attest to a lot of it, and you’ve done some really cool shit, so.
Drew Assini [47:10]:
Alyssa Scolari [47:10]:
Drew Assini [47:11]:
Alyssa Scolari [47:13]:
Thanks for listening. I hope you enjoyed this episode. For more information about today’s episode and to sign up for the Light After Trauma newsletter, head over to my website at alyssascolari.com. I’m also on Twitter, and I’d love to chat with you guys. Be sure to follow me. My Twitter handle is AlyssaScolari. Thanks again for listening and take good care.