Interesting things are happening, and Crystal and Tom O’Keefe have got you covered in this jam-packed episode. First, they talk about Flywheel’s fight for survival, as it’s been taken over by its lender and now looking for a buyer. They also got a visit from the Peloton Prophet who gives out his predictions about the next product along with some instructor news. Lastly, they get into the Gen 1 monitors, tackling some issues with its new features. Topping it all off, they talk with Executive Director of Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers of Pennsylvania, Inc. and Peloton member, Laurie Besden, about finding Peloton and how it has changed her life since. Opening up, she shares her addiction journey—from how she had it to recovering and where she is at nowadays. Get insights, wisdom, and a whole lot of inspiration in this conversation.
Listen to the podcast here:
Flywheel Fights For Survival Plus Our Interview With Laurie Besden
What do you have in store for people?
We got to talk about Flywheel because there are all kinds of things happening with that. We have a visit from the Prophet. We want to talk about what the Prophet has to say and we have some instructor news. We have a new idea for the future shows that I want to see if we get any response. We have a new Peloton sighting. We have some Peloton in the news and there are new features and we’re going to talk about some issues people are having with the bike as well.
Before we get to all that, shameless plugs, don’t forget we’re available on Apple Podcasts. You can go there to rate, review and subscribe. It helps us tremendously. It lets Apple know we’re alive. Maybe one day, they’ll even put us on one of their main pages. We have a new review.
I would like to hear about it.
It is from Doublelle. It says, “It is a great listen. I love listening to Crystal and Tom every week. It is great info and banter. I can’t follow a lot of the Peloton world, so it’s good to know that I’ll be kept up-to-date on the important news going on. Keep up the good work.” Linda also known as DocMomTiredAF.
Linda Hodges, that’s who that is. We had her on the show. Thank you, Linda.
If you would like to leave a review, Apple Podcast is there waiting for you. You can like us on Facebook at Facebook.com/theclipout and while you’re there, join the group and stay up-to-date on things, The Clip Out and Peloton-related throughout the week.
Flywheel is not doing so hot. It’s one way to put it.
An article came out that Flywheel has been taken over by one of their lenders. They are looking for a buyer, which is going to be tough considering they tried to find a buyer last fall and took themselves off the market because nobody wanted them.
Everybody kept swiping left or swiping right, which means no.
I don’t know because I never was on that app. We’re too old for that. The person, the lender that took over, they also are going to be selling them on Amazon and they are out there now. You can go to the Amazon website. They don’t come with screens, so you have to bring your own or you can buy their medium-sized screen, which is a piece of crap. I know we joked around a lot in the past, but seriously, why would you buy this bike? There is a huge cloud of doom hanging over them.
Everything about this says that this company is in its death throes. It’s not even that cheap.
It’s the same price as Peloton and don’t forget, Peloton sued them because they took their technology and used it for their distribution system. Now, they’re like, “It’s out there.” They have more music issues than Peloton even thought about having. It’s a piece of crap that they’re selling on Amazon and Best Buy is coming, apparently.
That’s so offensive though, your sensibility?
I shop on Amazon all the time. What’s offensive about it is that we don’t know what to do with it. We’re selling it out like rock bottom, like, “Get it out of here. Whatever method it takes. We’re going to put it on Amazon because there are many people out there that have never heard of any of these other things. They don’t watch TV and stuff.”
They might even see it and be like, “That’s that bike I heard about.” They’ll be like, “It’s not the bike you heard about.”
Basically, it reeks of desperation. That’s the yuck.
I would agree with that.
It’s like when that guy comes up to you and you can already tell he’s needy, maybe you haven’t had that experience.
I hadn’t had a lot of needy guys come in.
Women who are out there or men who like men who are out there, they know what I’m talking about. It’s the guy that approaches you and he already reeks of desperation.
It is the guy at the party with the acoustic guitar.
That can be a good thing.With addiction, you don't realize that you can't stop. Click To Tweet
It might work sometimes.
It should be a good thing.
That dude is needy.
There can be parties that have a guy playing guitar and that’s okay. That’s not what this is. This is about a desperation thing and it’s icky.
I can’t imagine why you would want to go down that road at this point. If you do any degree of research on the product.
I hate to bring it up, but I’m going to. What does this mean for Steven Little? He’s now back at Flywheel. It hasn’t been that long. He’s working in an actual store, not a studio.
It sounds like the studio end of things is still doing okay.
The article said most of their studios will still profit.
My guess is he can always land at a studio somewhere, but it’s certainly not.
I hope that that does not affect him. I don’t want the whole company to go out of business, but I don’t like that they’ve completely tried to rip off Peloton. At the same time, I have sympathy for the people that work there. I don’t have empathy for the people who ran the company into the ground.
Speaking of knockoffs.
This is at Equinox. I see a product but it’s new. We even talked about this a while back. There was an article about it. It’s a new thing that they’re doing. They have studios where it’s all about treadmills. You go in and they started offering treadmill classes. They call them Tread Labs or Treadmill Labs. It cracked me up though. These labs are supposedly special because they offer more oxygen in the air and the lighting moves from your warm-up to your cool down. It has the lighting cues and I’m like, “I don’t see how that is.” If I need more oxygen to run with the exclusion of people that legit don’t have the lung capacity and health issues, I don’t think that I should be going to a studio to pay money to run, if I need a special studio that provides oxygen to me. Maybe I shouldn’t be running.
Or run at the level you’re capable of, so you don’t need oxygen when you run.
It seems like they’re going to a lot of trouble to be fancy and distinguish themselves. Maybe it will work, I have no idea.
The Prophet has returned.
We have two predictions. One, the next clothing line, probably is not that far away, but that’s my personal prediction. The Prophet says that there’s going to be a lot of purple and pink as the main colors of this particular line. You have that to look forward to. Also, the Prophet has come to the conclusion that the Rower is happening.
Is there any indication as to why?
There is no time frame. I can’t say, but I will continue to say it is not from anyone that works at Peloton and it’s not an employee. This is not somebody telling us things or telling The Prophet.
We don’t have someone on the inside.
No, this is from clues that are out there. That’s all I’m going to say.
They are predicting a rower, fair enough. Do we have some instructor news?
We sure do. Robin was on CBS. It was the morning show. If you want to find it, the link is on my Instagram @ClipOutCrystal or you can go to the Facebook page. You can find it there. She had a whole little segment that she was talking about Peloton. She was talking about all of the awesome things that she does as an amazing athlete because she is amazing. Also, Cody Rigsby celebrated five years of Peloton in 2018. Congrats to Cody and Robin.
Speaking of Peloton in the news, Brad.
Brad was in his local paper. He was on the front page The Wall Street Journal. He was on Good Morning America. He was also on The Clip Out and we interviewed him. I’m going to give you guys a little spoiler. It doesn’t get ugly. He’s a nice guy. I enjoyed the conversation.
He seemed harmless.
I will say, there are two sides to every story and I think that this might help some of you who are very frustrated at Brad.
I think that the people that have already liked completely dug in and made up their minds probably won’t move the needle for them, but a lot of people are like, “What’s this guy up to?” You might feel a little different by the time it’s all said and done.
I’ll let Brad tell you in his words, but that is coming up.
We’ve been kicking around some show ideas and ways to maybe incorporate the readers more.
I have to say, this was one of our readers’ thoughts that threw this out there.
We were thinking that maybe we could have a number of people call in or if you want to get fancy, you could record it on your phone and email it to us.
Even Facebook Messenger, it has a voice clip. It needs to be recorded into some MP3 or WAV files.
It should be audio so that we can include it on the show of maybe people talking about their favorite ride or run or yoga class of the week and why. We can pick a couple of quick hits of you can say your name, leaderboard, where you’re from maybe and talk about what class you took that spoke to you or you enjoyed or what have you.
We want to keep it between 60 seconds and no more than 90 seconds. If you submit something longer than 90 seconds, it’s not going to happen so don’t even bother. Anything around that time frame and if it’s shorter, that’s okay. You don’t have to be long-winded. I know we have a lot of Peloton people that are. We thought it’d be fun to hear other people’s opinions. There are so many classes now. There’s so much content that you can’t get to it all. What are the must take classes that occurred that week? We want to hear from you.
If that sounds interesting, put a message on the Facebook page, maybe under the show post to say if you think that’s something you would partake in.
Maybe I should put a poll up and if we get positive feedback, you guys can go ahead and start sending it over and maybe we’ll include them next.
I love to watch you work the poll.
It’s not Peloton in the news, but Peloton on TV.
This is huge. It’s huge in all the female groups. There’s the Peloton Mom Group. There’s the Fit Fabulous Forty Group. There are a lot of groups I’m seeing this be huge and, including The Clip Out Group. It was a very huge conversation. There was a Peloton sighting in the new Netflix show called Dead To Me.
The Christina Applegate one.
Yes, it is that one. It has eleven episodes. I’ve already watched all of them.
It must be very good because you’re like, “I’m going to watch this first one. Tom, this is good. I think we should wait so we can watch it together.” When I got home from work, you were like, “I watched them all.”
They were good. It’s good for us to have a little time where you can watch your shows and I watch my shows and you were gone a lot, no offense.
I did not get to watch Dead To Me. Normally, we watch these things as a loving married couple.
One of us goes rogue.
She wants a hall pass to watch Netflix by herself. This is what happened.The insidious nature of addiction is that we believe the nonsense that we tell ourselves. Click To Tweet
It’s a great show. There are lots of twists and turns. I thought I wasn’t going to like it because I thought I was going to be like, “Mom-com,” and it wasn’t at all. I’m not going to ruin any plot points because I cannot stand when people do that to me, but I will tell you that it has a lot of twists and turns. You will enjoy it.
How does Peloton feature into it?
The main character, Christina Applegate, part of her character is she rides the Peloton bike. There are only two Peloton sightings throughout the entire series of eleven episodes.
The Dead To Me refers to her friend who has a Flywheel at home.
It does not.
That would have been good though.
It would have, but no. She works out her emotions on the Peloton a couple of times. You get to see it. She apparently only rides with Ally Love. That’s all we ever see. We see two clips and that’s it. I will give this because it’s not a spoiler. It does not affect the story in any way, shape or form. She also works in her very real mastectomy. I thought that was nice that she managed to put that in.
Not to be creepy, but that was a big story when that happened.
It is huge. It’s nice to see people having that conversation and she’s still having that conversation socially like, “This happened so what are you’re going to do?”
I’m old enough to remember when Mary Tyler Moore had one. It was a huge deal and she was in a TV movie about it. It was a whole thing.
I don’t know that. That must be that age difference. Again, Dead To Me on Netflix.
CNBC had an interesting story about Disruptors.
They did. Annually, they post 50 companies that are the top of the top Disruptors and Peloton has moved up that chart. They are now number nine.
Do you remember what other things were on the list?
I don’t remember all of them because to be honest, I didn’t look at all of them. I might’ve been at work while I was doing this. I didn’t have time to aggregate, but I did see that the Purple Mattress that’s out there, I can’t remember the name of it, is number eight.
The one that they shipped to you?
There have been some issues with the first generation of monitors that have been coming to light.
Backing up a little bit, when we were at homecoming and during the homecoming episode, we included the clips of all the new features that were coming out, but in case you didn’t read, a recap of that is there were going to be two that came out. They’re already out. You could change the audio to have more instructors, more music or keep it at the original mix. You could also see the advanced metrics, which would be the instructor and what numbers they’re calling out. If they’re saying you should be at 75 cadences for example, 75 cadences would be on the screen. You could see that. Those were the two things that went right away. Further out, there was going to be a marathon plan. That’s going to be all outdoor running and it’s going to include strength for runners. That’s coming. They also said that the app is going to be redone so that you’re going to have GPS. You’re going to have all of your advanced metrics all included. Finally, there was also a collaboration with four different artists. I don’t remember all of them, but I know one of them was Cher. Madonna was one of them.
I think three out of four is pretty good. It was Maroon 5. That’s happening. The last three that I said, none of that is in play yet. The reason we’re bringing this up in the context of this episode is they released a video that showed what the outdoor running on the app is going to look like. You could see your metrics on the screen. You can see where you’re going with that GPS. It looks cool. The other reason we’re bringing it up in the context of this episode is that the first two releases that are already out, which is the audio mix and the advanced metrics on your bike, if you have a Generation 1 monitor, which a lot of our readers, who are new, have no idea what I’m talking about. There are a total of three different generations of the screen. The very first one is the oldest one. The second one started shipping in September of 2016. I know that because I bought my Bike in July of 2016 so I was past the cutoff. I don’t know when Generation 3 started shipping. Generation 1 had a lot of issues with these last two updates. It’s going slow. It’s sluggish. They completely freeze and they cannot ride the bike at all. There’s nothing happening on the screen. It’s just a black screen. They can move the pedals, but nothing that’s not effective. After lots of back and forth, Peloton decided that for those people, they’re rolling those updates back to reset where their Bikes were beforehand.
People that have done that are reporting that it is better, but it’s not great. It’s still not like back where it was, where it’s super functional and smooth. It’s usable so that they’re happy with that. It’s important to mention that there are people that are in a lot of different places with us. If you have a warranty and still covered and you have a Generation 1 monitor and you’re having these issues, you should call and get a new one sent to you because it’s covered under warranty.
If you have a Generation 1, that was so long ago. Are there still people with warranties that are functioning?
It started shipping in September of 2016. If you had a year warranty and then you got a two year extended warranty, you could still be within that window. If you are and you’re having those issues, then I recommend reaching out to customer service to get that corrected because it’s only going to get worse with the more updates that they have.
You might as well strike while the iron is hot if you paid for the extra warranty.
I’m hearing a lot of mixed results if you don’t have a warranty. I am hearing that when they call, some people are being told $750 for a new monitor. I’m being told some people are negotiating and getting them for $450. I’m not exactly sure. I think it depends on who you talk to, quite honestly. Let’s see if Peloton does something more wide-reaching that affects everybody in the same way. It’s certainly something that is concerning, but I believe that Peloton will do the right thing at the end of the day. If you have a warranty and you have a Generation 1 monitor, do yourself a favor, check it out and call. One thing you can do though, is completely get rid of the software on your monitor and reinstall it. That can help. If it doesn’t help it, they’re going to tell you to do that when you call support anyway. You might as well try it.
That’s good to know. One last quick tip for the Tread.
I saw this and it’s probably pretty obvious, but I had not thought of it. In case other people have not thought of it, you should raise the incline up on your Tread when you are on the floor doing workouts so that you can see the screen easier. It would be above the rails and so then you can see what’s going on on the screen without having to look around the rails. I hadn’t thought of it. Somebody randomly puts that out there that they said like, “Shout-out to whoever posted that.” I have no idea who it came from. I’m not trying to not give credit where credit’s due. It was on the tread group.
Finally, there was an interesting article on Glossy.co.
Elizabeth Hewitt Reid sent this to us. I found this super fascinating. It’s all about how fitness brands, Peloton, SoulCycle and Equinox are cashing in on clothes. I’m not going to go through the whole thing because it’s long. You can find the article on Facebook.com/theclipout. It is super interesting to read because it talks about their collaborations, what they decided, what their ongoing partnerships, how Peloton compares to SoulCycle, etc. It also mentions their revenue. You will enjoy this and you should check it out.
It’s interesting to see the different brands that they’ve chosen to work with.
It definitely is. We all know that Peloton paired up with Fila in 2018, but what’s one of the other ones that stood out to you?
SoulCycle is working with Barneys and Victoria’s Secret.
Equinox said that they have an in the house design team of people that worked at Barneys and Victoria’s Secret.
It was an interesting choice. Who does Equinox use or work with?
Apparently, they have a year-round rotating supply at the Equinox of brands like Nike and Lululemon, but then they also have some special ones too. It’s all over the place.
Ever the innovator Flywheel has been working with Bugle Boy.
They did not make the list. They are not on the list, neither is Echelon.
Nobody’s ever wanted to buy something that had Echelon on it.
You’re absolutely right.
Joining us is Laurie Besden. Laurie, how’s it going?
It is going well. It is such an honor and a privilege to be doing this with you two.
We feel the same way. Thank you so much for taking the time to be on the show.
It’s very early in the interview. I don’t know that I feel that way, yet. I want to put words in my mouth.
Where’s my hangup button?When you are willing to stay with a complete stranger to ride their bike, that's dedication. Click To Tweet
She’s like, “I’m a lawyer. This is $400 an hour. My time is valuable. You would show respect.”
I think I like you already.
If you like sarcasm, you’ll like Tom. You have so many different things to share, but we’re going to start with Peloton. I’m curious how you found Peloton, how you came across it.
First of all, before I even launch into that, on behalf of the Peloton community, I want to thank both of you for the service that you provide to all of us. A wealth of information, your banter, your example of unconditional love. Honestly, of all the episodes I’ve read, I’m like, “They have what we all search for.” Thank you so much for being that to all of us, sincerely.
She’s all teary.
You got me all choked up at the moment.
I sincerely mean that. How did I come across Peloton? I was raised with one sister and she’s pretty even keel, which we’ll find out, I’m not really and I’m hurt. I’ve always been a gym, healthy-ish person and all I ever heard her talk about with any intensity is this Peloton that she has at her house. She’s like, “You need to try it.” I was there for Mother’s day and she said, “Go ahead. Go upstairs. Bring some clothes that you can sweat in.” I’m like, “I’m going to do a 45-minute ride. I’m not going to sweat.” It was the whole enchilada of the spread of food for Mother’s day. I’m like, “It is totally good.” I did an Alex ride and I’m like, “He’s looking right at me. He’s talking to me. He’s totally encouraging me. He must know I’m the one on this ride with him.”
As pompous as I am. I was riding under her leaderboard. I said, “I’m going to definitely increase your stats. I’m good at this. I’d taken a spinning class at my gym on crap machines.” She was like, “Okay.” I did the literally dripping sweat to the point my mom came up, took a video of me, I couldn’t even breathe. Afterward, I’m thinking like, “I might need one of these.” Before dinner was even over, we were talking referral codes. My mom was like, “What is your leaderboard name going to be?” I emailed Peloton, the customer supporter, whatever it was the next day. Then, June 12th is the day that my life changed when my magical machine arrived at my home. I shouldn’t admit this, but it’s the last day I was at the gym. I do a lot of the Peloton classes. I did my 592nd ride. That’s a little insight into my personality. It is a little bit intense.
Hopefully, you were able to cancel your gym membership. I know what a Herculean task that could be.
What’s funny is I was like, “It doesn’t expire until April.” They called me about and they said, “We’re calling you a special rate renewal.” I thought, “What if maybe I might want to go and use the pool or something?” I’m such a sucker. I renewed it and I bartered with them. I said, “How about we put it in a freeze so all the unused time I can then bank onto the end?” That is what we did. I shouldn’t even admit that publicly, but I did. I am a sucker.
It might be cheaper if you wanted to go to the pool and get a hotel room.
You’re absolutely correct. Perhaps next time when they make the same call and I think, “Maybe I’ll remember that and say, ‘It would be cheaper to swim in my bathtub,’” quite frankly.
Whenever that day comes, if it does that you cancel your membership, I want to know how it goes. I want to know if it’s as hard for an attorney to cancel a gym membership as it is for regular people. You have a 31-hour window, you have to deliver it, notarize and certified on horseback. When you tried to cancel here, it was insane.
It was a journey.
They’re like, “Are you standing on your left foot? You don’t want to cancel.” I was like, “I’ll take another year.” Here we go, another year of that.
Here’s the thing, you can take a tablet to the gym and you can do all of the Bootcamp classes at the gym.
Here’s what you do. I’ve got to figure it out. You take your tablet to the gym and then you pay for your gym membership by the referral codes you will get by convincing other people to quit the gym and sign up for Peloton.
I even have one better for you. How would I charge people to take a class under my leaderboard using my tablet at the gym?
What if they mess up your stats?
I delete it. As I was saying, I wrote the initial ride under my sister’s leaderboard name. It’s very funny. She’s an OB-GYN, so her leaderboard name is Gynomite. I am riding as Gynomite and feeling very mighty and I’m like, “I’m going to improve your stats.” After the class, we looked at the stats and I was so proud of myself. There was a light coming out of my ears and she’s like, “Okay.” I later looked at her stats when I realized how I could do that. I’m like, “I did not help her.” She’s on the top 10% and I was around 50% maybe. She was like, “That’s great for your first ride.”
She’s like, “That’s adorable.”
She’s like, “That is cute. Do you know how to delete the ride? Please go ahead and do that.”
Let me show you. You’ll need to know.
This was June of 2018 when this occurred?
You already have 600 rides in a year.
Intense is usually how people describe me.
You were not joking. I was doing the math and I was like, “That’s a lie.” I am almost to 600 rides.
The real question is how many rides do you have, Tom?
Zero, everyone knows the answer to that.
I know. I was trying to make a joke here. You’ve been making fun of me the whole time. At least, I can get one. When did you get your Bike?
It was July 15th, 2016.
There’s something to be said for moderation.
The time you put into each episode should count as two rides.
You should get at least triple credit. I absolutely agree with that. Tom, you should even get a couple of sympathy boats in there.
You said you were riding at the gym, you were taking spin classes at the gym, you were going to the gym, so you consider yourself fit. Has your fitness level changed since you’ve had the Peloton?
I used to be and we’ll go into the backstory of my sobriety and my life. Basically, my whole life, I’ve been about 150 pounds and I’m using numbers to give you a gauge because I’m about 5’9”. In my addiction, at the end of the day, I was 110 pounds. I was extremely strung out. In my first year of sobriety, which I was in confinement, I left there 253 pounds. In 2005, that’s how much I weighed. All I could do at that point was water aerobics because my body weight was almost too much for my legs and ankles. I worked my way up and eventually through not having weight loss surgery, but basically my personality, as we’ve already caught onto a little bit. I’m back to 150 to 155 pounds that I’ve been since consistently since high school except for that period of time. Fitness has always been important to me, but the plus side of the Peloton in my experience and I do all of the classes. I do core.
As far as arms, core, meditation, I do many different programs that Peloton offers like walking. I would go to the gym and I’d be like, “I am that crazy StairMaster person.” You see someone jogging on the StairMaster, that was me. I fractured my ankle when I did it. I was the person that you’re like, “That person is definitely going to fall off a StairMaster.” It did happen to me, but without weight loss surgery gotten, a couple of years, I got back to that weight. Once I found the Peloton, I saved so much time because instead of it being a 3.5-hour ordeal from getting up in the morning, go to the gym, shower then get back to work, it’s literally wake up, take care of my dogs, get on the Peloton, do my thing for 1.5 hours and then I’m done. It’s almost having daylight savings time every single day. It’s fantastic.
I like that analogy.
I save time every single day and I’m like, “It’s almost getting later or earlier or is it just the Peloton?” I would say that it’s condensed my workout abilities and allowed me to spend more time doing other things that I enjoy, honestly.
You have a good way of looking at that. Since you brought it up, that was my next question, but originally, I had found you through a post that you had done. You were going to be speaking about your addiction and your journey to how you had the addiction, you recovered and where you’re at now. I would love to hear your journey if you’re comfortable sharing that with us.
I share my story and I’m sure my sister, who as we’ve already determined is a Peloton community member will know this. Perhaps her perception of us growing up may be different than mine, but it is my perception and I set the stage the family that I grew up in, it was important. They knew they were going to have a lawyer and a doctor before we were born. They went to extremes to have us. We’re both products of artificial insemination and it’s factually how I see things. We had a very privileged upbringing and I thought everybody had a beach house at the shore. I thought everybody went to overnight camp. It was important to my family.
Our education, they paid for everything. We’ve never had to take loans out. I say that because of those factors, I truly believed that I could not “catch an addiction,” that it was those other people. That myth or illusion almost killed me. The first time I ever had anything outside of myself, I was age eight. I was given nitrous at the dentist. I can’t even explain why. It was a routine dental cleaning. I remember the second the nitrous went over my nose and that hit me. I chased that feeling until it landed me in jail at age 29. The second it happened and I said to the dentist like, “I did everything I could to move my foot.”
He would say, “Are you not relaxed enough?” I said, “No, I can still feel everything you’re doing.” It was only a dental cleaning and then you turn the nitrous up. I was literally paralyzed in the chair for 45 minutes. The joke is now on me. I can’t have nitrous at the dentist. I have a mouthful of dental work. I was like, “That’s not good.” My sister that I grew up with, doesn’t have one cavity at the age of 46. Sometimes the cards are not there. That is when I was age eight. Then age twelve, my best friend and I waited for my parents at the time. I thought they were very happily married. They’re very happily divorced now. We waited for them to go to sleep. A friend of ours dropped off two six-packs of beer.
We ended up drunk walking around our neighborhood and we were half-dressed. Police picked us up. We ended up at the police station. The first of many calls to my parents, “We have Laurie here.” My mom is like, “That is not Laurie. She’s in bed sleeping.” “She was not in bed sleeping.” All four parents come to the police station and I still remember this day. I said to my parents, “Shelby was a bad influence. This was her idea.” Shelby is now a pharmacist. Clearly, the problem was not Shelby. All of my life, everybody else matured out of this except for me.
I will point out Shelby is still giving people drugs to this day.Don't give up five minutes before the miracle. Click To Tweet
She does legally under the FDA. She’s an awesome person. I’m not completely jealous of her career or anything. In high school, I went on and in our family, appearances and outcomes mattered and how you did in school. I often say growing up, “I feel like I grew up in a two-story house, one story on the inside and one story on the outside.” At this point, high school was basically uneventful. I smoked pot. I drank. I did what my friends did. I was not yet on the sideline by myself, at least I didn’t see it. Then again, five arrests in. I still didn’t see it on the sideline by myself. I was the last one to get the memo that I had the problem.
I have a question. I’m curious when you went to school, it sounds like you must have done well because you got advanced degrees. You’re an attorney and obviously, it was a priority in your household. If you hadn’t done well, that would have raised a red flag. How did you manage both an addiction and schoolwork?
Part of this story is I went to college. I graduated in 3.5 years at 3.97. At the time in college, I was with someone that’s my best friend. We would start drinking in the shower on Thursday nights. I thought it was time management, but again, I wasn’t the only one doing it. My best friend now works for Homeland Security and she’s not in recovery. She doesn’t need to be. My measure and my illusion was, “I absolutely can’t have a problem because look how successful I am.” Every time my family would say, “How are your grades? How’s school?” I would say, “4.0.” In the end, when I was all strung out and I can talk about this. There was no cocaine involved and my mom and she’ll readily admit this, brought me to an eating disorder facility because she thought there is no way that there could be a child in mind that has a drug problem.
She automatically diagnosed and assumed because I was so thin that I had an eating disorder and brought me somewhere. I showed up with a luggage of Dunkin’ Donuts because I had been on a cocaine vendor. I’m not kidding, Dunkin’ Donuts, 45 munchkins, watch me eat every morsel of food that I brought, refuse to admit me after observing me for hours. My mom’s like, “You’re manipulating the professionals.” I’m like, “I don’t have an eating disorder.” I graduated from college, top of my class and then at this point, my sister was already through college and into medical school, which is great because Botany was my strongest science. I was certainly not going for medical school.
Thank you for her. At this point, we had a family meeting and later those family meetings turned into interventions about my addiction. My grandparents were very involved in our lives and funded all of our education. They asked me, “What are you going to do with the rest of your life?” I said, “I would like to go to cosmetology school.” They said, “That’s great. How about after law school?” It’s interesting because I’m like, “That is on my bucket list,” but because I am a convicted felon, I needed a governor’s pardon in order to get a state-issued license, which is pending. I’m like, “You watch me, it will happen one day. It’s on my bucket list.” This is completely a tangent. It’s how my mind works. I officiated a wedding. They contacted me and they said, “How did you get reinstated to the practice of law in two states? You’re officiating weddings, but you’re unable to cut hair.” I’m like, “That’s crazy.”
That’s a mind-bender. I’m not going to lie.
I said, “If you come to my house, I can cut your hair.” That’s all I got. That’s it.
You can’t charge money for it.
Don’t tell anybody. After that, I ended up in law school and everyone there is like, “I want to be a trial attorney.” They were gung ho and I’m like, “I literally want to cut hair.” I was never comfortable in my own skin, honestly. I say that, but it’s God’s honest truth. Looking back, I can see the flags. Nitrous gave me the confidence to feel important and feel full and level the playing field and I chased that. Here I am, in law school and through a series of events, I was in a car accident. I have absolutely no disrespect to Metallica, but my perception of a drug addict growing up was the guy with long hair in a Metallica shirt. Little did I know, I was the burnout.
I went to a Pearl Jam concert, not a Metallica concert, in the third year of law school. I was the passenger and we ended up in a car accident. Alcohol was involved. In the emergency room, they gave me 20 to 30 pain pills. It wasn’t the first time that I had pain medication, but it was the first time I had it that I didn’t need it. It’s heading towards finals for third-year, we have bar exams coming up. Some people take pain pills and they physically can’t tolerate them. Other people take them, they go to sleep and it makes the pain go away. Somebody like me, with my chemical composition, takes these pain pills, literally puts on a cape.
I can see the world simultaneously missing the invisible memo saying, “You will need these pills like oxygen.” That is exactly what happened to me. I went 100 miles an hour straight into a drug addiction that I did not believe I could “catch.” These pills gave me the ability to sit, study and focus, and obviously, treating untreated ADHD. I decided, “I’m crafty. Me and my brilliance. I am going to start going into emergency rooms in the area where the law school is that I went and my leg injury.” I would bring my law books and get hours of studying done. I was living with someone. They had no idea what was going on. They didn’t even suspect anything. That’s how I started fueling the addiction until right before finals. There was a gentleman that said, “If you call this doctor in Texas, he’ll prescribe 100 of this Vicodin for refills, overnight delivery, DHL.”
It’s like when I went from the gym to the Peloton. Talk about daylight savings, I had to call this guy and then the next day DHL is here. Needless to say, I graduated from law school, the top 15% of my class. My family is there. They’re so proud. They have a doctor and a lawyer. Things are going great. Little did they know I was already in the bathroom counting pills and I hate to even admit this, but I’m like, “My family is going to be around me. I’m going to need extra pills to tolerate them.” I didn’t even realize the addiction was already in full bloom. I had no idea. By the time, I sat for the Pennsylvania and New Jersey Bar Exams in 1999, I had 3 to 4 identities going to the same doctor. I was calling the same doctor under allegedly different identities. All these drugs are coming to the same address. He was obviously treating half of America.
This is a pill mill. He wants plausible deniability, but he doesn’t care.
I was basically taking through the bar exams, three of ten-milligram pain pills an hour to get through an eight-hour exam, three days in a row. I got much worse, believe it or not. My plan and honestly was after the bar exams, I’m done. I’m going to stop. I’m going to use this as a crutch. You don’t realize that you can’t stop. I have five arrests and I still thought I had a law enforcement and pharmacy problem and not a drug problem. I was the one at the end of the day, calling in my own drugs, and I’m not a doctor and I’m not a pharmacist. I thought there was no problem with that. It was obviously a law enforcement problem.
The insidious nature of addiction is that we believe the nonsense that we tell ourselves. In the rooms of recovery, we say denial means, I don’t even know I am lying. I literally believed the lies that came out of my mouth. I did pass, I always feel bad when I speak professionally in the legal community in Pennsylvania. I’m like, “Board of law examiners, please cover your ears. I did pass the bar exam, but I don’t ever recommend that to be the way in which it happens.” After that, I was dating the same guy for a year and a half. He had no idea this was going on or the deliveries. We had a trip planned for Spain and Africa. I thought, “I’m done. I’ll take whatever pills I have with me.” On the second day in Spain, I called in a refill from a payphone in Spain. I’m still thinking, “I already paid the initial consult, why would I not get the refills?” I ended up flying back solo. I am excited that clerkship had started. The only time I ever ran out of the drugs was Paris to JFK. I honestly thought I caught something overseas like heart palpitations. I was so sick.
As soon as you said that you were going on a trip overseas, that was my first thought is like, “How are you going to get your drugs?”
It was only a week-long trip. I took what I have with me and then literally run out as I was going to the airport. I did not understand why I was sweating profusely. My parents picked me up at the airport and brought me home. My mom said, “This package came for you and gave it to me on the mark.” It didn’t say from the center or anything. I went upstairs and opened the package. It was the pills. I took three of them and I was 100% fine. Addiction, I thought, “Whatever it is, I’m home now. I caught something overseas. I’m fine now that I’m home. This is good.” I didn’t, for a second think, it was the drugs or the drug problem. Not at all. It didn’t even dawn on me. In my brilliance, I thought, “These are a good thing and I could stop them at any time.” I wish in a way I could say my addiction stopped there, but it didn’t.
I had a clerkship lined up on the Superior Court of Pennsylvania for a former Supreme Court Justice. I put this out there, this has all been in print before anyway. My addiction followed me straight to chambers. Here I was, drafting appellate opinions on a prestigious court in my state. When I started in August, I was dealing with this doctor and then by December, it’s not an exaggeration, it’s the way we don’t want to stay on this forever. I had nine identities going to the same doctor. I was calling the doctor impersonating a male and all of these drugs were being delivered to the Superior Court in Center City, Philadelphia, signature required, DHL overnight delivery. It’s interesting because somebody said to me, “You had other people working there. Didn’t anybody ask questions?”
The easiest way to respond to that is everyone I worked with trusted me. When I say, “I needed these pills like you need oxygen, I appeared completely normal under 40 pain pills a day.” That’s what I was taking in December of that clerkship. The deliveries would come and I would tell them, my family, we’re all in these vitamins. My reunion with all of these people, they were like, “We thought it was weird, but you are always very talkative and kind.” I’m like, “It was the Vicodin mouth.” When I called in the pharmacy in December of that year and they said, “Your doctor is suspended. We’re no longer going to honor any of these.” I remember hanging up the phone on the Superior Court still thinking I could stop if I wanted to stop counting the number of pills I had. At that point, I thought, “I’m probably, maybe a little smarter than this. Maybe I can start calling in my drugs.” Obviously, I miss medical school. That was not part of my education. That’s what I started doing. I started calling in quantity of 100 with four refills, unheard of for a controlled medication. That’s what I did to fuel the rest of that one-year clerkship.
You didn’t have a medical degree.
I don’t want to give many details that people could replicate it, but how does that work?
To be honest with you, I don’t think you can’t call drugs and you could then. They’re all electronics. I may even be sharing anything, it’s not going to give anybody ideas to do anything because trust me, they’re out there. As far as calling in a prescription, you need a DEA number and an MD number. It was honestly as simple as if I had a prescription, even for an antibiotic, or I saw somebody else did. If I called the doctor’s office and said, “I’m this pharmacy and I’m calling to verify the information. We don’t have your DEA number on file.” That’s how I got it. I used any identity that was open. I’m not proud to say this. Down to when I would resort to having to go to an emergency room, if I heard somebody sign in and give their name and birthday, there are times I’ve used that and then I’ve called pharmacies and they’d be like, “Your insurance, your copay is only going to be $2.”
I’m like, “Not only is it prescription fraud, it’s insurance fraud.” These were people I didn’t even know. That’s where addiction took me. My tolerance skyrocketed because my access skyrocketed. One-year clerkship had ended and that was the term period of it. Unfortunately, for the court system in Pennsylvania, I had another clerkship lined up on the Philadelphia Municipal Court for three judges. At this point, I got together with a friend of mine from college. I knew we were going to “party” as if the 50 pain pills a day I was calling myself was not a problem. Still to this day, when I talk about it, it’s almost baffling to me. The cocaine was such a huge part of my life for many years. I talk about it now and I’m like, “My life is so different now.”
She pulled out the cocaine and I looked at it and I thought, “That’s a serious drug.” What I was doing was not a problem, but that raises the stakes here. I thought about it for about five seconds and then I did it. I literally did not put that drug down until my freedom was taken from me. Within two days, I was going into the Criminal Justice Center, Philadelphia, cocaine and a straw in my stockings, passing drug dogs, and passing the security. I didn’t once think to myself, “What am I doing?” I’m driving under the influence. Never did I think of anything. Within a couple of months of the cocaine starting is when the weight loss was incredible. It happened overnight. I couldn’t eat. With my personality, even telling you the number of Peloton rides, you can imagine how intense I was with cocaine. I had to stay awake.
I would see neighbors getting up, going to work and I’m like, “I’m still awake.” I still believed in this delusion that if I wanted to stop, that I could have if I wanted to. I would convince myself, “I don’t have kids. I’m not married. It’s fine.” It is totally crazy. That was at the point that my mom contacted the one judge and said, “Laurie needs help.” I thought, “My mom finally figured it out.” My nose is always bleeding. I’m literally four pounds.” I looked like a homeless person. I was bulking up wearing sweaters in the summer to meet the judges and chambers because it was drastic, my appearance, and my weight loss.
She took me where she took me. I talked and walked my way right out of there. At that point, my mom exited my life. She’s like, “I don’t know what to do. You’re denying everything.” Like a good addict, I am like, “This is all about you. This is not me. I don’t have a problem. You’re my problem.” I was pointing fingers, not realizing every time I point a finger at a family member, somebody, three fingers point back at me. Ultimately, that was my last job before I got sober. From 2002 to 2004, there were five arrests for felony prescription fraud. One was for DUI and in the meantime, I did absolutely nothing with either of my law licenses. I did know continuing legal education credits, nothing.
My parents were separated. I was a junkie living in my dad’s basement. That was what was going on. At this point, I was pitting my parents against each other. My dad was my greatest enabler and would have given me the oxygen out of his lungs if it would have saved my life. My mom was the tough loved one. Ultimately, January 29th, 2004 is my sobriety date. I would say in no uncertain terms, it was consequences and the gift of desperation, which is why I’m alive. On my day of sobriety, it’s my last day of arrest. It would turn into my sobriety day. One of the volunteers for the organization that I’m now the director of, reached out to me, an attorney that was 31 years clean and sober at the time.
I called my houses that I was being arrested and then called me at the police station. They came to the jail to see me. For the first time in my life, it wasn’t my family saying, “You’re embarrassing us.” Every time I got arrested, my family told people I was backpacking Europe. That’s the kind of family I came from. Finally, somebody was telling me my story and he said, “There’s a way out of this, will you let me help you?” I’m like, “Am I going to have to work for you? Who are you? Who sent you here?” I remember in the room when I went to jail, I was coming off 55 Vicodin a day, $2,000 of cocaine a week, Ambien and Xanax. I was pretty sick.
He said, “Hopefully one day, you’ll be able to help some people.” I thought to myself, “I’m not helping anybody. I can’t get out of here fast enough to do my own thing.” He stuck with me. His name is Dave. Between him showing up in my life and he’s a huge person in my life still, we presented at Harvard Law together and the sentencing judge, who I consider one of my closest friends. However, when I was in front of him as a defendant, not so much. At first arrest, I’m like, “Judge Carpenter, you’ll never see me again.” Then he sees me again and I was like, “I’m back.” He did not think that was funny. At the end of the day, my family was there. What can we do basically? I don’t want to say they tried to buy me out of jail, but ultimately they did. They said, “We’ll pay for her to go to any treatment center in the country.” He gave me the one gift that my family couldn’t buy and that was time.
We re-enacted my sentencing for a CLE program. He said, “That’s great that your family is supportive. Eleven and a half months, Montgomery County Correctional Facility. No good time. No work release. After that, your family can send you wherever they want to send you.” He led me out at 8.5 months when we put my sentencing off. I was in custody the whole time. I don’t know what would have happened. I say those two factors of meeting somebody that’s walked in my shoes, that I couldn’t BS anymore. My whole defense to my family was always, “You don’t know. You’re not in my shoes. You have no idea what this is like.” I say all the time, “The greatest prison I’ve ever been in was the prison of active addiction. It was not physical confinement. Physical confinement was the first taste of freedom I had in years.”
My question is about being incarcerated. I’ve always gotten the impression that drugs are easy to get. I don’t understand how that was not your experience or is that what you hear and what you see on TV? People perpetuate that. Is that a myth or was there something else going on there that kept the drugs away from you?
All of the earth people that find out my story asked me the same question. They’re always like, “I have questions about jail. I want to hear about jail.” I’m like, “Before I went to jail, I was always curious about what a jail cell looks like.” I was like, “Be careful what you ask for. I spent a whole year there.” As far as the drug situation in jail, I was in a County Jail, but anyone that goes to a state facility, everyone starts in the county. In my entire 11.5 months there, I was only ever offered one Valium from one of the inmates that was prescribed it and given him from the medication cart and she offered it to me if I would write a legal brief for her. I remember, at the time thinking, I was six months already into the jail sentence and they would randomly pull your ends on an entire unit.
If you were caught with drugs in your system, you had a whole new possession charge. My thought process was, “I never even liked that drug, so I’m not interested.” What if somebody had offered me cocaine or Vicodin? I don’t know, but it never happened. Sometimes, on the intake unit, people would come in and they would bring things in through hidden orifices. You would hear about that because the second one person in jail hears, then they would lock down the unit and rip apart cells. I can say, in my entire time there, they brought drug dogs twice and found something once. Then the incident, I was offered Valium once. That’s my experience. I love the ID channel, but it wasn’t my experience. They walk in and they’re like, “Here’s your blue uniform and a bag of crap. Have a good day.” That wasn’t my experience.
It’s where more Orange Is The New Black.
I watched Oz or Sean Penn movie Bad Boys.
What was that like? Did they start you in a medical unit? You obviously have to detox.
Tom, I felt the same way when I was checking myself into this nice gated community for a year. They were doing the intake and I said, “I need to see the medication nurse. I’m detoxing.” Their response was, “You picked the wrong rehab. Put your mattress on the floor and we’ll take your vitals twice a day.” I’m like, “Do you know how many drugs I’m on?” They’re like, “That’s what we’re going to do.” That’s exactly what they did. When I tell you, I have never in my life been that sick. They call it a mattress. I call it a pool float. It’s all about perspective. I literally took the pool float off the metal bed unit and put it on the floor. I was shaking. I would say it was a good three weeks before I was able to even get up and take a shower and eat food. They would come in, open the cell door, take my vitals and then come back twelve hours later and do the same thing. It was not pretty.
All I know is what I see on TV. I thought that they wouldn’t let you lay in your cell all day.
How do you think I gained 140 pounds? It’s crazy because my life now is so rich, rewarding and busy. I shouldn’t make jail jokes because there’s nothing funny about it. I’m grateful that I survived this. If I realized how busy my life would be after I get out of jail, I probably would have more gratitude for being able to sit on a bed and do nothing all day. It got to the point, honestly, my family bought me a TV. I had a Walkman. I know that sounds so old school and makes it sound like I’m 200 years old, but they were clear like Walkmans with your name engraved on it so you couldn’t loan them to other people. I would sleep as much as I could during the day because it was easier to stay up at night. I would read Ann Rule’s true crime books. I was like, “I’m in jail. I should probably not be reading true crimes. What am I doing?”
I did and I honestly read more books than I’ve ever read in my entire life, including law school and I watched TV. It got to the point and I say this, “I have the disease of more.” At one point, it was cocaine. At one point, it was pain pills. At one point, it was nitrous. Now, it’s the Peloton. When I was in jail, it was food. I would sit down. Every time I pass the Little Debbie aisle in the grocery store, I laugh and I’m like, “Little Debbie was my little bitch in jail.” I am not kidding, commissary. Other people are like, “You can buy tuna fish.” No, I was able to spend $50 a week on food. I bought 40 boxes of Little Debbies and I would sit down. I remember because Will & Grace were on at 7:30 at night. We would be in lockdown for headcount. I would go through an entire box of Swiss rolls, twelve of them. It was the six individual packets with two in each. That was a 30-minute show.
It’s so good though.
You lick and take the chocolate off and unroll them.
You freeze them and then you peel it.
I didn’t have a freezer. Don’t make me feel bad.
I wouldn’t think that being in prison, you would be able to get that many calories to gain weight.
I am happy to share pictures with you. I have my picture that they took when I went in and I have the picture when I came out. When I show it to people, some people don’t say anything and others are like, “Your face is still pretty. Your lips look smaller.” I’m like, “That’s because my face was huge.” It’s crazy, in less than a year, that could happen. I was the only person. I shouldn’t make food, jail jokes, but I’m like, “I’m the only person who went to jail and thought that food was great.” If you have the disease of more with food when you go to jail and you’re excited about the dinner trays to come. On Sundays, they had donuts and I would say to somebody like, “I’ll give you a Swiss roll, can I have your donut?” I’m bartering for frat food in jail. As if it’s not bad enough and Little Debbie is not in my cell with me.People are dying because they don't want to reach out for help. Click To Tweet
When you finally got out, now what?
I rolled out. When I finally got out, Dave Farrell, the attorney, brought me the message and told me to start going to recovery meetings in jail. I went to the drug and alcohol meetings there. I had no intention of staying sober because I honestly didn’t think I could. Afterward, he said, “I know an attorney and they’re looking for a paralegal.” I’m not kidding, my response to him was, “I have to get all new clothes. I need time to clean out my closet.” He’s like, “You sat on your ass for a year. It’s time to get a job.”
None of those clothes are going to fit you anyway.
I could have stitched everything together and it may have covered my foot. I saved some of the clothes because I’m like, “I cannot even believe.” At the end of the day, my chest gained so much weight. It was the only area I could not lose weight on my own. I had to get a breast reduction two years after my release from jail. Then they’re prescribing pain pills. This is crazy, full circle for all of this. After that, Dave was instrumental in helping me get a job in a law firm. I worked there and then he said, “You need to let the Disciplinary Board in Pennsylvania know what happened. Write them a letter.”
Not an attorney, I write them a letter. “Sorry, I missed the 30-day reporting requirement by four years. I’ve been arrested five times. I went to jail three times, three rehabs.” They called me and they were like, “Did you write this?” Ultimately, I ended up entering a three-year joint petition for suspension in Pennsylvania and New Jersey followed suit and did the exact same thing. I continued to work in the law firm. I got very involved with the Twelve-Step Fellowship For Alcohol and Drugs in my community. I became a volunteer with the organization that I’m now the director of.
I started attending the lawyers’ recovery meeting in the county where I was living. In 2008, the three years had passed and Dave said, “We should file for reinstatement.” My response was like anybody else, “I’m a convicted felon. Who’s going to think that this is a good idea?” He’s like, “Let’s file it and see what happens.” We filed for reinstatement and it’s funny because the arresting officer, he spoke on my behalf in a side note after we reconvened a couple of years. After I get out of jail, we ended up dating for five years. It was crazy. It was not quite as a lifetime as I was hoping.
I bet the handcuffs were a lot more fun at that time.
I found out he was in recovery and I’m like, “This is meant to be. I was meant to be arrested by you and date you.” I’m like, “How are you going to tell your kids I’m an inspiration to you?” That I should be an inspiration to them. I’m like, “This is such a convoluted story.” He spoke on my behalf. The partner in the firm, Dave spoke on my behalf. My sponsor spoke on my behalf. My mom spoke on my behalf. I say this jokingly, “Everyone’s supposed to say how wonderful and rehabilitated and all these wonderful things I’m doing.” My mom completely threw me under the bus. She was like, “She opened credit cards in my name,” and I’m like, “It was not the time to talk about it. I’m trying to get the Supreme Court, the Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania to reinstate me. We don’t talk about Bank of America now. It is not the right time.”
I was like, “You put that on your gratitude list, I’m sober. Remember, we did forgive these things.” In 2009, I was reinstated to the practice of law in Pennsylvania. I point up and say, “By a power much greater than myself.” In 2010, I was reinstated in New Jersey and it’s funny because it’s New Jersey. I said, “How am I going to deal with this?” They said, “You’re a convicted felon. You’re not going to be able to. You would have to retake the bar and then you can.” I’m like, “Somebody told me I can’t, watch me.” I filed a petition to vacate the revocation. I asked Dave to read it. It was 176 pages on my own behalf. He’s like, “I’m not reading that.” I highly doubt anybody’s going to read that, just file it. I made the petition name up. I wanted to remove the revocation of my license and then go for reinstatement. Eventually, that was granted. I filed a petition for reinstatement in New Jersey on my own behalf. That was also granted. Fully, I came back to life in both states. No problem, I can handle your estate and all your matters, but I can’t cut your hair.
If the governor’s pardon goes through, I can own a gun in Pennsylvania either. Maybe it’s a cousin to the gun. It’s for the protection of society. In 2011, I came on board with the organization where Dave was a volunteer. I was a volunteer because I’m the product we sell like, “I came from a great family. This can’t happen to me, but it happened to me. I’m going to have to die to get out of this. No one’s going to understand. What do you mean you’re going to help me? Who are you? I’m alive. I’m sober. I woke up. I can see the colors and see the seasons. How can I help somebody else because I’m thrilled to be alive?” Professionally, that’s what I do now. I’m the director of the organization, the Lawyers Assistance Program for the State of Pennsylvania.
I educate and speak as often as possible to let people know that there’s hope. I could go on for hours about the rewards of recovery. Speaking about the board of law examiners and I always tell them again, cover your ears. I’m not suggesting people take drugs and take the bar exam under the influence. In 2012, part of what I do, I speak at all nine law schools in Pennsylvania. I present to the judge, I teach to the judges and the attorneys as well. I was speaking on a panel for orientation at Penn State and I met the former character and fitness director. We became Facebook friends and later saw a post that she needed a kidney. With my intensity, you can probably see where the story is going. I did not donate the kidney.
I ended up contacting the Hershey Medical Center and ended up going through nine months of testing. It was a match. We went as far as preadmission testing for June 3rd, 2013 surgery date. You can imagine what they put me through as far as my addiction. A sponsor, 40 people lined up for supports and recovery meetings coming to my house. She got a call from UPMC. Somebody had passed away on life support during those two weeks and went there and got the kidney for them. I share that because I was so strung out. I was snorting cocaine off the chamber’s floor of the judge I was clerking for to being deemed healthy enough by the Hershey Medical team to donate a kidney and save a life. That’s not me. That’s Judge Carpenter. That’s Dave Farrell. That’s the organization I worked for where all of these people paid forward. Left to my own devices, I was lucky to get to jail. I’m one of the lucky ones. Many people don’t make it there.
That is quite a journey. Well done. I’m still ruminating in all the different things that you’ve gone through. That’s so much. Do you ever worry that something’s going to happen that’s going to send you down that same road again? Do you think that that’s because you’ve built your life so differently at this point, that’s not even a thought?
The truth is, it’s only one day at a time. I speak professionally for a living. I say this almost every time I’m at a microphone, if you ask my family with fifteen years sober that I have, they would probably almost tell you I was cured. That is adorable that they think that’s cute. The truth is, every time I speak, anyone in the recovery of drugs and alcohol is an arm’s length away from a relapse. It’s what do you do every single day to ensure that you’re going to get another day clean and sober? Besides what I do for a living, my job is to assist the legal profession with substance use and mental health disorders and their family members.
I’m on the front lines of this day in and day out, taking calls 24/7. I also stay in the service. I have a service position with my home group for my Twelve-Step Fellowship For Alcohol. I am the grapevine rep. I also take alcohol recovery meetings. I’m trying to respect the traditions of the program and not tell them by name. In the prisons here, I’m also the Treasurer of the International Lawyers of the Twelve-Step Fellowship For Alcohol. It’s ironic, they had a conference in Canada and because of my felon status, I was unable to go. Part of my governor’s pardon and I said, “I need to be able to travel for events like this.” I’m like, “That’s great that I’m the Treasurer and they trust me with the checkbook.”
Unfortunately, I can’t even get to Canada. We’re working on that. Anytime I go through a stressful situation, I make sure I surround myself with my Tribe. I have a sponsor, fifteen years in. A neighbor said to me, “Why do you still need a sponsor? Do you still go to those meetings.” I’m like, “That is my oxygen. This is how my mind gets right. These ideas that come up in my head are scary.” The mental chatter that can go on between my two years, I need other people to cross-check that and my Tribe or people that are sober. We even have a sober Peloton community.
I did not know that.
There are Sober Peloton Riders and we not only celebrate milestones together, but we also celebrate sobriety dates.
I am about to ask if Peloton was helpful to your sobriety, your treatment, do you feel like it is?
I feel it if you wake up, you take a shower before you go to work. It’s not negotiable for me. It’s my time. It’s my space. It’s necessary. It’s more for even my mental stability than it is even for my physical stability. It’s part of what I do in the morning. It’s part of my routine. I shouldn’t even admit this, but I’ve been saying that the whole time. When I travel for work and I travel all over the country, ironically, I was unable to find a Pittsburgh Hotel that had a Peloton. I’m all over every group. “Does anybody know?” Now, I found a hotel, but before I did, about six months ago and I posted it in the Official Peloton Group. Somebody said, “I’m an attorney also.” I invited this person to come to one of my presentations so they could at least meet me. I don’t know if that’s good to let them know my whole story. “I’m a felon.” Then ask them if I can stay at their house.
She’s like, “I have the Tread. I have a Peloton.” I’m like, “This is going to be an overnight camp for an adult.” I ended up staying at her house. She did not know anything more than listening to me speak for one hour or a couple of weeks prior to that. I thought to myself like, “This is to the extreme.” I was in Boston and as soon as they told me the hotel I’m going to, I’m like, “Before I say yes, I need to call to see if they have a Peloton.” I’m like, “When you are willing to stay with a complete stranger to ride their bike, that’s dedication.” It’s part of my routine. As long as I keep doing everything one day at a time, I have no reason to believe tomorrow I won’t stay sober as I did now.
That’s wonderful. That is very inspiring.
I feel like I should at least give the person a shout-out since they’d let me stay at their house. She’s awesome.It may seem like the darkness will never come to light but everything now that people are going through is temporary. Click To Tweet
What is your leaderboard? I don’t think you’ve said it.
I don’t think I have. My leaderboard name is AmazingGraceK9 and that is because I am hopelessly devoted to the animal world. I’ve rescued. I have been a dog walker at the Humane Society of Harrisburg since 2013. I do that every Sunday. I volunteer there. I adopted two rescues, Staffordshire Terrier, otherwise known as Pitbulls. One is Amazing and the other one is Grace. I take Amazing to all the law schools with me. She volunteers with dementia residents at the local memory care. Number one on my governor’s pardon list and compelling reasons I needed, should have probably been the treasurer position in Canada, but it’s not. It was that I want to have my dog turn into a certified therapy dog so I can bring her into the law school and not worry about liability issues. They’re like, “You’re going to go in.” I’m like, “She’s well-behaved.”
It’s AmazingGraceK9 and I’m absolutely in love with my dogs. It’s interesting, we just filmed a program, the CLE program, Breaking the Stigma of Addiction and Mental Health and Pitbulls. All your platforms have come together when an opportunity comes like that. They are like, “I get this substance addiction, mental health, what’s with the Pitbulls?” I’m like, “I have them. I have to go get them into the leash and my dogs are so amazing.” My dogs come to work with me and not everybody loves dogs or loves that my dogs gallivant around, but I love them. I’m devoted to the animal cause.
Does Grace ever get her feelings hurt that you’re always calling the other dog, Amazing? Is she like, “What about me?”
I have to because it’s funny and we’re talking about recovery. Obviously, I’m very open. I feel like I have a whole team of pharmacists. No, I don’t. I’m on no medication, but my dog on the other hand, Amazing is no medication, no fear, very friendly. Grace, on the other hand, she’s like a nervous Nellie. She left the shelter and she was on Ativan and I’m like, “Am I going to the pharmacy and filling scripts for Ativan?” You go to the pharmacy and I’m like, “It’s for my dog.” They’re like, “Two milligrams of Ativan every day?” I’m like, “Do you want me to bring the dog into the pharmacy? It’s definitely for the dog.” My dog is on Ativan. I’m a person in long-term recovery. It’s a very interesting situation at our house. I’ve taken Grace with us to Memory Care and the wheelchair scare her. Any noises scare her. Amazing is jumping on people’s laps as they’re wheeling by her. Grace was like on all nails in the corner. I’m like, “You poor thing.” The residents are like, “What kind of dogs do you have?” I look at them and I’m like, “Staffordshire Terriers.” They’re like, “I’ve never heard of them.” I know. If I said Pitbulls, they would all run out there.
Do you have any advice for people that have to come to the Peloton community or do you want to switch it up? Is there anything that you would like to make sure people know about addiction and recovery? Whatever advice you would like to give.
First of all, to the people who are entering the Peloton world, we always joke around and say, “To the bike that goes nowhere.” This Bike has given a platform through you to reach people that inevitably, I know this because I was one of these people. I was at home, hiding behind a screen reading a blog, but stuck in the depths and darkness of addiction. To the bike that goes nowhere, cheers. You are providing a lifeline of hope to people that are struggling. The prevalence rates are astounding. My ultimate message is and I picked this slogan up from the Twelve-Step Fellowship For Drugs. Don’t give up five minutes before the miracle.
I got five arrests in and at the end of the day, my family, I’m not sure that they care. I don’t want to say they didn’t care if I lived or not, but every time the phone call came, they were not sure if it was going to be the final call that I finally overdosed and died or that I was arrested again. Had we given up, the platform I have in the legal profession to help people, all of this never would’ve happened. All the people that helped me and everyone that’s painted forward, there’s always hope and help. If somebody is struggling, you can find me on social media easily. My Facebook is under my name, reach out to me. I don’t care what state you’re in, I will help you get resources. You don’t need to struggle. It’s not only just famous people, people everywhere, people are dying because they don’t want to reach out for help. They would rather die than ask for help.
Everything now that people are going through, it’s temporary. It may seem like the darkness will never come to light, but my story is an example. I sat in jail and now I have the platform and credibility to help the legal profession, not only in my state but nationwide. I’m not unique at all. The 10% of the United States is in recovery, but reach out to somebody that’s walked in your shoes. If you can find somebody in your own state, contact me anytime, 24/7. I’m not in recovery from 9:00 to 5:00. I’m in recovery 24/7 and I consider it an honor when somebody you know reaches out and says, “I had somebody.” My story was featured in the New York Times. Somebody in California reached out to me and said, “I don’t even know how to go about finding a recovery meeting.” I literally walked them through it and then two years later, I met them at the World Convention for that fellowship in Philadelphia. It’s not me, Dave Farrell showed up for me. I do what I can to pay that forward.
You’re that person’s, Dave Farrell.
I’ll be that person to anybody that’s willing to reach out because as long as somebody is breathing, there is hope. I sincerely mean that.
Thank you for being that person and thank you for offering that help out to people. I have no doubt somebody will take you up on that.
Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us. That’s a hell of a story.
Thank you, guys. Thank you for everything you do for the community. Thank you for inviting me to participate in the show. I can’t even think I went from stuck in an addiction thinking the only way out was death, to being invited to share hope with such a large community and reach people. It is amazing and the thanks go to you for making that option available. Thank you both so much.
You’re welcome and thank you.
There are lots to be grateful for.
Please stay in touch. I would like to continue to hear all of the wonderful milestones from the people you’re reaching. I’d like to keep hearing what’s going on, so I will keep in contact with you if that’s okay.
I hope to meet both of you in person. When I first heard your voices, as you guys know, when we contacted each other, I’m like, “Oh my God.” I don’t want to say it’s a small thing, but I’ve realized, I’m like, “They are coming through my echo, they’re on my phone.” You couldn’t see me. Thank God. We weren’t working the video, but I was like, “This is totally amazing.” You are like celebrities to the people and I know you’re very humble, but to the people in this community, you are a huge resource. Your banter, it’s very encouraging to all of us. It’s a huge service you’re providing to all of us and sincerely on behalf of everybody, thank you so much.
You got me all tearing up again.
You brought it full circle.
I’m jealous that you guys are going to homecoming.
I wish you were going to be there. I think there are still tickets available for Sunday.
Gynomite and I purchased event tickets for my mom for her birthday, which is over a homecoming weekend. I said to my mom in advance, “Do you want us both to be there?” She said, “I want you both to be there.” I’m like, “Okay, that’s great.” My sister said, “I have tickets.” I’m like, “Can you get me a ticket?” She’s like, “I can. We have to go to the warehouse.” I’m like, “I need to be there.” How can we gracefully give my mom these tickets and not have to be present? We love her, but it’s the homecoming. You need to have a bite to understand what that means.As long as somebody is breathing, there is hope. Click To Tweet
I don’t even know how Gynomite pulled this off, but she said, “I’m going to let her take her significant other. You can go with them and I’m going to go to homecoming.” I’m like, “I don’t want to go to this concert. This is so unfair.” She’s like, “I’ll get you a sweatshirt. The warehouse is free.” I now have to drive four hours and go to this concert that I don’t want to go to. My mom was like, “That’s fine. We’ll have fun, you and Dave.” I’m like, “I almost feel like I need to relapse. This is not good.” Meanwhile, she will be with all of her favorite instructors and I am at this concert in Philadelphia, wishing I was there.
We’ll get to meet your sister.
She gets into a selfie of herself with us.
I would have to disown her. I am like, “You better bring me so much swag back because I am so taking one for the team here.
You are. She owes you big time.
I can’t complain. I did my 550th ride in the studio with Robin Arzon. I was starstruck that they let us in and I requested bike five. I’m right there. She was like, “AmazingGraceK9, where are you?” You can see in the camera, I’m like, “That’s me.” She was probably like, “Security check bike five, please.” I was like, “I’m in the oxygen zone that you’re in.” I’m like, “You could have homecoming, it’s all good.” That was my experience. That was wonderful.
It does sound wonderful. The plus side is, it’s better to go when there are not so many people there for your initial visit. It’s great to see the people, but it’s also great to enjoy the instructors whenever you can. Both are great experiences. Next year, you’ll go.
There is always next year.
I can’t wait. I already have it on my calendar. Gynomite is not allowed to come, put that out there.
That seems fair.
I take it this year. You will take it next year, that’s how we’re going to do it. Thank you again so much.
Does Laurie have a recipe for us?
She does. It’s a granola recipe and it’s created by her friend, Rebekah Gillette. The name of her company is Spices By Rebekah. She has a great little recipe here with very few ingredients. You need some coconut oil that’s been melted, Bahamen Baker, nutmeg, coconut nectar, maple syrup, Chia seeds, and Himalayan salt. You toss it all together and basically, you mix in the coconut oil and then you bake it. I’m leaving out the complicated steps, but those will be on the website when we get it up. It’s all going to be out there, but it looks great. It looks like a fabulous recipe.
What do you have in store for people next?
Next episode, we are going to have our interview with Brad. I’m going to go ahead and tell you guys that the episode after that is going to be Paul Erickson because we promised him. We have not done that.
He was very kind as other things came up. Let us have some flexibility. We do appreciate that. Fear not, you will be up the following week. Until then, where can people find you?
You can find me on Twitter @RogerQBert or on Facebook at Facebook.com/tomokeefe. You can find the show online at Facebook.com/theclipout. While you’re there, you can also join the group and stay up-to-date on things throughout the week. Don’t forget, we are on Apple Podcasts, where you can go rate, review and subscribe. That’s it for this one. Thanks for reading and until next time. Keep pedaling.
- Apple Podcasts – The Clip Out Podcast
- Facebook group – The Clip Out
- Linda Hodges – past episode
- Laurie Besden
- Sober Peloton Riders – Facebook Group
- Humane Society of Harrisburg
- Facebook – Laurie Besden
- Spices By Rebekah
- Instagram – Crystal O’Keefe
- @ClipOutCrystal – Crystal O’Keefe’s Twitter page
- @RogerQBert – Tom O’Keefe’s Twitter page
- Facebook.com/tomokeefe – Tom O’Keefe’s Facebook page
- Facebook.com/theclipout – The Clip Out Facebook page
About Laurie Besden
Laurie Besden is the Executive Director of Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers of Pennsylvania, Inc. (LCL PA). She served as its Deputy Executive Director, overseeing its Helpline operations, serving as primary contact for intervention requests, expanding its law school outreach, and increasing LCL PA’s presence within the organized bench and bar, from 2011-2015. After becoming LCL PA’s Executive Director in 2015, Laurie continued to serve in most these and also assumed responsibility for the organization’s administrative and financial operations and Judges Concerned for Judges (judges’ assistance program).
She received her B.A. in Criminology and Criminal Justice from the University of Maryland, College Park, MD (1995) and her J.D. from The Dickinson School of Law of the Pennsylvania State University (1999).
Laurie was the 2015 recipient of the Montgomery Bar Association’s Henry Stuckert Miller Award for her dedication to public service in the legal profession and the 2019 recipient of Caron’s Legal Professional/Uniformed Public Service Award for the Greater Philadelphia Region.