Podcast Series: RecoverMe Counseling

Gina Thorne: Hi, everyone. Welcome to the Harmony Foundation podcast series, and I’m pleased today to be joined with Melissa Barbash with RecoverMe Counseling, out of Denver.

Melissa Barbash: Yes. Thank you for having me.

Gina Thorne: So good to have you here today. We’re gonna learn a little bit about you and a little bit about your practice today. So some of our questions might seem a little unorthodox, so … But I think you’ll be able to handle them pretty well.

So my first question is … So I noticed that you’re a big animal lover. I saw on your website that you have a picture of your dog, and is it one cat or two cats?

Melissa Barbash: Two cats.

Gina Thorne: Two cats. Yep.

Melissa Barbash: Yes.

Gina Thorne: You highlight them on your website. They clearly are important to you. Why do your animals bring you so much joy?

Melissa Barbash: I think it’s very funny that you ask that, actually, because, initially, I put them there because I thought that you were supposed to put something there with your animals. That would help people kind of know a little bit more about you.

Gina Thorne: Yes. Uh-huh.

Melissa Barbash:But I was going back and forth. “Should I put them? Should I not put them?”

So they’re my cats that I brought into the relationship. So I’ve had them for 16 years.
So why do my cats bring me so much joy? So they’re like my children, and I don’t have children. So I love that they’re independent. So I love that about cats. I specifically got cats because they can do what they need to do, they love you when they need to love you, and they’re very curious and fun-natured. But they … I just love their independence.

That sounds bad, like that I got animals so that they’ll stay away from me. But I did not do that. That’s what I appreciate about animals, is that they have their own personalities, and they don’t necessarily need all the time, but they love all the time at the same time.

Gina Thorne: So, secretly, is that describing a little bit about your personality, do you think?

Melissa Barbash: Yes, I thought that might be …

Gina Thorne: Yes.

Melissa Barbash: … something that you might see.

Gina Thorne: I think there’s something to that. There are probably some people that are leaning more towards that, so …

Melissa Barbash:Yeah.

Gina Thorne: I totally get it …

Melissa Barbash:Yeah.

Gina Thorne: … ’cause I have one, too, and she’s opinionated and independent and … but comes to you only when she wants to come to you, and I think there’s a lot of truth to that.

Melissa Barbash: Yeah.

Gina Thorne: So that’s interesting.

Melissa Barbash: It’s just like they need their own space. They need their own time. They’re individuals. They’re not the same. They’re two different cats.
The dog is wonderful. The dog was brought in by my partner. So I’ve never owned a dog. So that was a little different for me, because he’s completely attached.

Gina Thorne: Yes.

Melissa Barbash:So …

Gina Thorne: And very needy.

Melissa Barbash: And very needy, and very … His tongue is gigantic. He’s a Rottweiler.

Gina Thorne: Uh-huh.

Melissa Barbash:So he’s gigantic, too. So he has no boundaries. So I have to …

Gina Thorne: There’s so much that can be done in this conversation …

Melissa Barbash: Yes, right?

Gina Thorne: … around personalities.

Melissa Barbash: Yes.

Gina Thorne: That’s funny.

Melissa Barbash: Yes.

Gina Thorne: A lot of metaphors going on right now.

Melissa Barbash: I know. He has some boundaries …

Gina Thorne: Uh-huh.

Melissa Barbash: … but then he’s just always so lovely. He is … You can really count on them for that, and he’s also independent. I didn’t know that dogs slept as much as they do. I thought there was something wrong and he was depressed. But he’s not.

Gina Thorne:Yeah.

Melissa Barbash: He’s fine.

Gina Thorne: That’s good.

Melissa Barbash: So …

Gina Thorne: They get along, too, I’m sure?

Melissa Barbash:The cats … He’s afraid of the cats.

Gina Thorne: Oh, okay.

Melissa Barbash: So maybe that’s why I like the cats better, too. They put a little fear in the attached …

Gina Thorne: Yes.

Melissa Barbash: … the dog.

Gina Thorne: Yeah.

Melissa Barbash: But I guess I highlighted them because I want people to know a little bit about me. I don’t know if it’ll resonate, but I’m a person, and I’m a person that has just a regular life.

Gina Thorne: Which helps when working with clients.

Melissa Barbash: Yeah.

Gina Thorne: They don’t wanna think about people being, “Well, she’s got it all together.”

Melissa Barbash: Yeah.

Gina Thorne: “She knows everything.” That makes a huge difference.

Melissa Barbash: Yeah.

Gina Thorne: Well, that’s a great segue into talking about recoverme Counseling.

Melissa Barbash: Okay.

Gina Thorne: So it’s a private practice that focuses specifically on addressing addiction and codependency. So why did you decide to pursue this career in addiction treatment, and specifically around issues around codependency?

Melissa Barbash: So this is a vulnerable issue for me, ’cause I don’t usually talk about this too much. I talk about it a little bit in educational moments with people or in groups or in my practice. It’s not mostly about me, but I give a little bit of information to people.

But I actually think most people that got into this field have some sort of affiliation with addiction or somebody that’s been involved with addiction. But, for me, I was involved with a partner that was an alcoholic.
So that’s not why I got into counseling, though. But that’s why I did the specialization, because I could just see so much pain in people and so much help that was needed.
Then I started … I never wanted to be a person that focused on what I had needed out of that experience, which was the codependency and my own personal therapy. But, as it turns out, I really love working with that population, because they’re a forgotten population, I think.
When someone comes to treatment, the partners are encouraged to seek their own help. But they’re also used to doing everything on their own, so they don’t often take that help.
So I saw this population as people that really need someone to be there for them. So …

Gina Thorne: It’s so important, because I think you’re right, as far as the issue around codependency can often be a precursor to addiction continuing, in many cases.

Melissa Barbash: Yeah.

Gina Thorne: They have to be looked at.

Melissa Barbash:Yeah. Yeah, and it’s a lonely process. When your partner starts getting better after treatment, too, or starts in recovery, people don’t really know how to deal with that, the spouses that are watching their partner kind of continue in recovery, because it’s …

We think that that’s what we wanted, that our partner go to treatment and get better, but when that actually starts happening, it’s a rough change. So I think that I help people to be prepared for that change that’s coming and how they can change alongside that person, to help themselves and help their relationship, too.

Gina Thorne: That’s great. In the last five years, what have you become better at saying no to?

Melissa Barbash: Let’s see. That’s a work in progress, all the time. I’ve become a lot better at saying no to always having to be the person who does everything. I think that’s …
A lot of people are saying that now, that women are do-it-all, and it’s a very kind of new niche, I guess, for people, and it’s transcended time. It’s kind of just true all the time. But I’ve become better at just knowing that I don’t have to be there all the time for everybody else.
What else have I said no to? I’ve said no to, specifically, even with my own partner, taking on what they need to do for themself. I’ve also become better at saying no to kind of a life that I thought that I should have, where it’s filled with all these things that I’m doing all the time and all these friends that I’m hanging out with all the time, and just really looking at who makes me feel whole and concentrating on those people.
I got out of the shoulds, like I should be helping everybody, or I want to be … I wanna look like this as a success, and I just started, I guess, maybe saying yes to myself instead of saying yes to everything else.

Gina Thorne:That’s great.

Melissa Barbash: Yeah.

Gina Thorne: Thank you for that. That’s a great response.

Melissa Barbash: Yeah.

Gina Thorne:I really like that.

Melissa Barbash: Thank you.

Gina Thorne: So playing up the idea of the word “harmony,” what do you think it means to live a life in harmony?

Melissa Barbash: So it’s really funny. I thought about harmony yesterday, and I think, maybe, the response most people think of is balance. So I think that’s probably where most people go. But I used to play the violin, and then I looked up the exact definition of harmony, and it said “simultaneously playing two notes.”
I think of it as kind of two personalities sharing as one, like it’s okay for you to be this way, and it’s okay for you to be this way. It’s just how do they coexist together? What do you say yes to? What do you say no to?
So I liked the idea of the two notes simultaneously, so it wasn’t … I do like the word “balance,” but I just, more so, liked the, “How do I live in conjunction with my different sides and be okay with that?”

Gina Thorne: Harmoniously.

Melissa Barbash: Yeah, exactly.

Gina Thorne: I like that.

Melissa Barbash: Yeah.

Gina Thorne: I’ve not heard that response before.

Melissa Barbash: Oh.

Gina Thorne:That’s great, and that’s great that you play the violin.

Melissa Barbash: Yeah.

Gina Thorne: Secretly, I’ve wanted to learn how to play the fiddle.

Melissa Barbash: Oh.

Gina Thorne: I have.

Melissa Barbash:I love the fiddle.

Gina Thorne: But I just think I would sound so terrible that I would hate the fiddle. So I decided I wasn’t gonna do it.

Melissa Barbash: Well, I have a dream of sounding like the Dixie Chicks.

Gina Thorne: Oh, that would be great.

Melissa Barbash: But that’s not gonna happen.

Gina Thorne: Yes. That would be so great.
If someone wanted to access services at recoverme Counseling, how could they get in touch with you?

Melissa Barbash: So the best way is to email me, quite honestly, because if I’m in session and my phone goes off, I’ll miss the call. I have a great app, though, that sends a text message back to ask if it’s okay to call them back. So that actually works pretty well. So phone or email.

Gina Thorne: What’s the email address?

Melissa Barbash: Yeah.

Gina Thorne: Okay.

Melissa Barbash:It’s melissa@recovermecounseling.com.

Gina Thorne: Great.

Melissa Barbash: The phone number’s on my website, which is just recovermecounseling.com, also.

Gina Thorne: That’s great.

Melissa Barbash: Yeah.

Gina Thorne: Thank you so much for taking the time to visit …

Melissa Barbash: Yeah.

Gina Thorne: … with us here at Harmony, and we look forward to partnering with you more frequently.

Melissa Barbash: So do I. Thank you so much. I can’t say enough.