So good to have you both here and I’m excited to talk with you a little bit more about Roots and what you all do. Let me start with you first, Julie. You have an extensive background in brand strategy and marketing, which is a little different than what you’re doing now, so I’m just curious what got you into working with Roots Collaborative from where you started in doing like what appears to be a pretty extensive background in marketing and brand strategy?
Well, thank you for asking. I could speak for an hour about that, but the short answer is I had the opportunity to get sober young and I got introduced to this woman Nancy Hill in a Dare to Dream workshop. She was the first person who introduced me to that idea of dreaming really big and setting goals to achieve your dreams.
That led me to entrepreneurship and brand marketing was sort of my first real business experience within that, but all the while going to meetings, staying really involved in the community, and helping out with recovery. Then when I met Clay, we did some dreaming together and some vision board work, and he always had a passion, as we both did, for young people in recovery and the certain vulnerabilities and sensitivities that they have because they’re still part of a family unit, so that sort of loss of control that you can’t create an atmosphere that might be appropriate for your recovery because you’re going home to a family system. We started dreaming about what Roots Collaborative could be almost 11 years ago and have done, not fits and starts, but the brand has evolved. Then about, what, a year ago we knew our youngest child was getting ready to go to college and so we started to really put our minds together and think about what we could bring to the table with our resources, our knowledge, our passion and Roots Collaborative as we know it today kind of was born then and we went and got certified as ARISE interventionists, which really speaks to our hearts and there you go.
It’s been fantastic and I think a lot of the my skillsets from brand strategy are very applicable because when working with families it’s like thinking about like, well, what do you want your families to look like, and what do you want your life to look like, and then how are we going to get there? That’s a very parallel process to what we do with working with our clients.
I think it’s great. You’re right, it’s like everything that you do and like there’s a direction that it takes you towards and that clearly was what got you to where you are today. Honestly, I don’t think I could work with my day to day, so that alone is pretty remarkable that you both have that kind of partnership that you can do this kind of work is fantastic. I want to talk a little bit more about the nature of Roots. When I spent some time on your website, you really do have, it and you mentioned this Julie, this really strong focus on family and really looking at how to heal the family. Even some of the workshops that you do, I think you do retreats, don’t you? Where you’re working with families specifically. Can you talk a little bit more clay about number one, why the ARISE model? There’s so many different versions of intervention work, why did you choose that one? And what is it about the family system piece that you think is so important in addressing addiction?
Well, thank you for having us here. I’ve had a great experience up here at the Harmony Foundation. Yeah, for me at least, and Julia as well, that the ARISE model really addresses the family as a whole, and looks at the family systems, and what’s helped that family survive trauma loss, utilizing substance abuse, alcohol through the generations, disorders with food, self-harm. It really addresses all those things. Those are all things that Julie and myself both experience, getting sober young, having had family systems that weren’t working for us anymore. Being a young person in recovery in a family network, it was somewhat isolating that I was going to meetings, getting therapy, trying to address some of the challenges. It’s hard when you’re younger, not to put expectations on your family. Like, “Hey, well, why aren’t you getting this? I’m getting it. Why don’t you?” But they didn’t have any way to articulate what their experience was. I did. I was just a straight up junkie, and alcoholic, and you know, basically left home at a pretty young age. So for me, this really speaks to that, that it invites the entire family and to their own path to healing the family network, which also evidence-based, that if that family starts to heal themselves, whether that’s going to Al-Anon Meetings. They self-diagnosing themselves, that’s what the whole dynamic is about. Like, “Oh, maybe I should check out some Al-Anon meetings. Maybe I should plug into some other support, some resources, some therapy, some psychiatry, whatever those things are.” It really sets everybody on their own journey to healing, and so that allows for a sustainable recovery for the individual that was struggling with the substance or the disorder.
Yeah, and it’s interesting because even here you have cases, and I’ve seen this over the years where families, they walk into a facility when they’re dropping their loved one off a treatment, just saying, “Just fix them.” You know, “I don’t have a role to play other than you just need to fix them,” and it really, over the years, has been a disservice in the industry that there hasn’t been more effort placed around the family system and recognizing that it’s a family disease, and recognizing that the family is sometimes a bigger part of the problem, and putting that individual whose has created some foundation of early recovery back into a system that isn’t supportive of that early recovery just sets that person up for failure, and so I’m happy to hear that you all are taking the approach that you’re taking. I think we need to do more of that, and hopefully maybe we can actually see the whole intergenerational cycle break if we’re building more of that holistic approach around family system care versus it just being about the individual. You said you felt very isolated cause you were getting it, but they weren’t getting it and sometimes it’s their recovery as well. Right? They have to work the recovery program, too.
I think one of the things that you had also asked is like some of the retreats and the work that we do with family. We do a lot of vision work in terms of what is our family want to look like, and part of that starts in the ARISE process where we’ll say, “What’s the family recovery message?” It doesn’t have one person’s specific name in it like Jim, or Suzy, or Joe, or Bobby, it’s got the family, so that intergenerationally we can start to heal, so that our children and our children’s children can be free of the addiction cycle. From there, once you start to get on a trajectory of health and we’ve worked with a family for six months or longer depending on the circumstances, then the retreat comes in when it’s like, “Okay, now we’re all feeling better. What kinds of exciting goals do we want to reach for?” Especially when we start thinking about, you know, Clay talked a little bit about himself feeling isolated and I felt that same way, because as I started to get in touch with myself at a younger age and who I wanted to be in the world, that was much different than my family’s plan for me. The same with Clay. As a young person, they’re like, “Oh well great, you’re going to go to a four year university, and you’re going to work, and get a 401k, and you’re going to be these things.” To them, that’s safety, security, success, and for me it looks totally different. Then that creates I mean, each family has its own story, but it’s hard to escape from that. Whereas if you sit down with a family and you start to kind of dream and what does the vision look like, and I start to recognize that you’re a totally different person than me. We might have the same values and ethics, but how I’m going to go and express them in life might be 100% different than going and being a doctor and I’m going to be an artist, and they’re both valid. When we’re talking, about, I mean all ages, I think we like to work with young people A, because we’ve been there, but plus if you come into treatment when you’re 40, 50 you might already be married. You have to unwind a lot in order to maybe self-actualize. Whereas when you’re younger ,the playing ground is very level.
Right. Right. You’re actually not really talking about just the families who struggle with addiction, you’re talking about all families.
I mean, we’re talking about a system that’s really kind of applicable to every family whether there’s addiction in the family or not that could benefit from something like this.
You’ve all both talked and I can already feel a little bit of your why factor, you know that whole Simon Sinek concept of what is it that motivates you, what is it that kind of gets you up in the morning and gets you going? I’m going to ask actually both of you what that looks like, only because before I kind of got a little bit of that. We’ll start with you first, Clay. What is your why factor? What is it that kind of gets you spurred up in the day?
Well, I’d say I’m passionate about people. I’m very passionate about everybody having an opportunity. Male, female, regardless, I’m just, yeah. I think that I have a real aversion towards roadblocks produced for others. Right? Depending on where they grew up, or the color of their skin, or anything that is being imposed upon somebody that has nothing to do with that person. That could be within a family system, that can be in a professional system. I just really like to be the ambassador of goodwill. I try to live that, and so that is my why factor because for me, that gets me fired up and then it totally lends itself to exactly the direction that Julie and I are going and that I have a lot of empathy for a young person that is acting out on all things that happened generations prior to them showing up. I’m not saying they’re a victim, because I did live in that and that’s a hard place to move forward from. You know, if you’re always a victim, it’s hard to be grateful. It’s hard to just be accountable. There are a lot of things. I’m not saying that about people, but there’s some very real challenges that are imposed upon people and they don’t even know how to articulate it and so they might act out in a way that’s not acceptable socially, but it’s totally understandable.
I certainly like that. That’s great. We need more people doing the goodwill thing, which is important. How about you Julie? What’s your why factor?
That’s a good question. I think part of it, well, if you didn’t know, couldn’t sense this already, I’m a big dreamer, so I think being able to visualize what kind of life you want to have and have the opportunity to get there. Usually when there’s a dream, there’s roadblocks that come into play. I feel like that motivates people. If you have a dream, you’re more likely to work through roadblocks. Right? It’s not that much fun to work through issues, whether it’s trauma loss, grieve, addiction, eating disorders, I mean fill in the blank. But when there’s this larger sense of a dream and something to live for, it makes working through those things much more palatable and especially as the Roots Collaborative, when you have a family that really appreciates who you are and who you want to become and where you’re going and supports it. I think at least in western culture, there’s still a lot of judgment around the right way to live, and although that might be breaking down a little bit more based on where we are with the economy and young people being more kind of the gig economy, et cetera, I still think comfort in your family unit and acceptance, I mean that is the tightest nucleus and social structure there is. I think it’s really exciting that we can take both of our skillsets, and melt them together, and really help people who have a serious obstacle, but work with families from that point of view, but then also starting to paint this picture of like what inspires you to keep going. Especially I feel like the younger you are when you get sober, I mean, I can remember thinking, and this dates me, I was going to watch Blockbuster for the rest of my fricking life, and why go on? Flash forward a year later and I’m in college, I’m making movies, I’m doing all these fun things I would never have ever imagined myself doing a year prior.
I guess if I were to ask, I’m going to ask you also, Julie. We like to get to know the people behind the program sometimes, so we ask some interesting questions. How has a failure or an apparent failure set you up for success? And do you have a favorite failure?
Well, so as a visionary and an early entrepreneur, I’ve had tons of them. Actually when we were living in Santa Monica, there was a series that looked at art, science, and something else, and talking about failure. In science, I mean failure is an every day process, right? You don’t get to success until you’ve had thousands of failures. In other applications, we don’t look at it that way, right? People try something, they fail publicly, and then you want to crawl back into a hole. I think my most favorite failure and probably the most impactful in my own life, and this has happened in the last 10 years, is because I’ve always done a lot of vision work and done vision workshops over the course of my sobriety. I decided to do a tech startup around a vision board platform, so I think Pinterest with the purpose, but for young women, and to be able to dream big and then set milestones.
We raised capital. I realized that I was a female without an MBA. I didn’t have a Wall Street background. I had no idea how hard it was to have a startup for anybody, but let alone a female. I had been used to winning pretty big jobs in my marketing agency. We ended up failing in the sense of the goals that we set out to achieve. Instead of being more of a small startup, we had goals like Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest.
You know, yeah. I mean, like a unicorn.
Shoot for the stars. Exactly. Right.
Exactly. That’s where we started from. Then I think what happened is of course I have this dream about dreaming, supporting other people in dreams, and then I fail, and then having to really rethink about what is possible, and what is the value of dreaming, and what is the value if the dream doesn’t come true the way you want it to. It’s been sobering, but at the same time, I think that’s where when we started to look at like there’s an idea of the work that you want to do and then there’s the actual work every day, and to be a tech startup founder and CEO, you’re raising money every day. That’s what that job looks like and that was not the job that was for me. I like working with people, being engaged, having conversations, supporting dreams one-to-one,
Which you would not have known unless you gone through this experience.
Unless I had done it. It’s not a failure at all. The other thing is that I think, depending on what one’s perspective is in life, kind of that go big or go home philosophy, is that my life has been, although it was interesting before that, now just having the respect and having been a player at a table, even if I didn’t raise $10 million and go bananas in Silicon Valley. It’s like still that I did it.
Well good for you, because a lot of people don’t even step foot into that world at all for fear, for fact of fear, So that’s great. Failure is scary, but it’s necessary. I make that my slogan.
Clay, if I were to play off the word harmony, what do you think it means to live a life in harmony?
What’s the word? It’s Julie’s word. It’s actually-
So, Kokoro, it’s a Japanese word, and it’s a single word for the idea of mind, body, spirit. Even though they can’t remember the word, I really like the idea of it being single because for me, mind, body, spirit is the ultimate harmony. You know? That there’s a rhythm there and when it’s in balance, it’s easy to just keep on keeping on. When it’s off balance, it turns into a struggle. I don’t like struggle. I prefer just to be in sync with all of it. You know, some days I seem to really be in the flow and then other days I’m looking in my rear view mirror or judging somebody that passed me a minute ago, like, “That bugger.” And so if I can stay in my own lane, if I can be just taking care of myself and present, then I feel like I’m in harmony.
It’s true, too. He’s the most consistent personality I’ve ever met in terms of what he just said, and in our house, because we have two kids, if Clay’s off, it’s weird, because you’re so consistent.
I know somebody like that too and it throws me off when they’re off, and I get mad when they’re thrown off, and it doesn’t have permission to be thrown off. We’ve had lots of conversations about that.
Yes. Yes. He’s like, “You knew it is okay me to be angry.” I’m like, “Nope.” That takes away my entire equilibrium. But that being said, I just want to thank both of you for taking the time to speak with us today and to learn about Roots. I’m curious if someone were listening to the podcast today and wanted to access services at Roots Collaborative, how can they get in touch with you, Julie?
We have a website, rootscollaborative.com. They can call me, (310) 625-2369, and Clay’s phone number is (310) 936-1223. We also can be emailed, Julie@rootscollaborative.com, and the same thing, Clay@rootscollaborative.com. But you know, we make ourselves accessible. We get back to people right away. We’ll text, we’ll email. Our first order of business is always to see if we can be of service and if we’re not a direct fit or for some other reason there’s not good synchronicity to work together, we always try.
Which I value in your team is who is the next right person to call that’s trustworthy that can be a resource, because when people are in crisis, as you well know, we would be remiss if we were a one size fits all, so being able to refer out is important to us and we really appreciate that about your team.
Thank you. Well, we look forward to building our relationship with you all. Again, it’s been a pleasure getting you up here to visit us. We invite people who are listening today to check you out. So thank you so much.