The Courage to Change: A Recovery Podcast

Leo Martinez: Choosing Recovery Above All: Taking Back the Life That Addiction Stole

Episode Summary

We are so very excited to introduce one of our amazing Lionrock Clinical Supervisors as our esteemed guest for Episode 16! Leo Martinez has 7 years experience working as a Substance Abuse Counselor and Social Worker working with very diverse populations. He has delivered counseling services internationally with specializations in Gorski Relapse Prevention, CBT, Dual Disorders, ACT, and Multicultural Interventions. Leo earned a Masters in Social Work from California State University, East Bay, and a CADAAC Certificate in Addiction Counseling. Leo's story of taking back everything that addiction stole from him is nothing short of amazing. Tune in as Leo discusses some very difficult topics including substance abuse, sexual assault and the gut-wrenching effects of extreme trauma. **Our Sponsor:** Lionrock Recovery (http://www.lionrockrecovery.com) **Follow us here:** Podcast Website: (http://www.lionrockrecovery.com/podcast) Facebook: (https://www.facebook.com/LionrockRecovery/) Twitter: (https://twitter.com/lionrockrecovry) Instagram: (https://www.instagram.com/lionrockrecovery/) Questions, comments or feedback? We want to hear from you! Email us at podcast@lionrockrecovery.com

Episode Notes

#16: We are so very excited to introduce one of our amazing Lionrock Clinical Supervisors as our esteemed guest for Episode 16! Leo Martinez has 7 years experience working as a Substance Abuse Counselor and Social Worker working with very diverse populations. He has delivered counseling services internationally with specializations in Gorski Relapse Prevention, CBT, Dual Disorders, ACT, and Multicultural Interventions. Leo earned a Masters in Social Work from California State University, East Bay, and a CADAAC Certificate in Addiction Counseling.

Leo's story of taking back everything that addiction stole from him is nothing short of amazing. Tune in as Leo discusses some very difficult topics including substance abuse, sexual assault and the gut-wrenching effects of extreme trauma.

Our Sponsor:
Lionrock Recovery (http://www.lionrockrecovery.com)

Follow us here:
Podcast Website: (http://www.lionrockrecovery.com/podcast)Facebook: (https://www.facebook.com/LionrockRecovery/)Twitter: (https://twitter.com/lionrockrecovry)Instagram: (https://www.instagram.com/lionrockrecovery/)

Questions, comments or feedback? We want to hear from you! Email us at podcast@lionrockrecovery.com

Show Notes:

3:49 - Leo’s background and how he grew up

7:56 - Struggling with food relationship and weight gain

9:41 - The decision to join the marine corp, and the reasons behind it

10:39 - When he first starting drinking and doing drugs, and why

13:58 - Joining the marines and the life changes that happened

17:31 - Leaving the marine corp and finding new drugs and friends

20:08 - An incredibly traumatic situation that was a turning point in his life

29:12 - The second trauma

35:00 - The physical and mental effects of Leo’s using

39:00 - Being stuck in the cycle - starting over again with a job selling cars - success on the outside, but throwing it away on drugs

43:05 - Burglarizing a former employer and the situation that ended it all

50:13 - Making the decision to end his life, and the decision that changed it all around

1:01:50 - Working with populations as a social worker in places where people don’t have good resources

1:11:00 - Recovery, what it looks like and feels like

1:24:30 - Vulnerability

The Courage to Change: A Recovery Podcast would like to thank our sponsor, Lionrock Recovery, for their support. Lionrock Recovery is an online substance abuse counseling program where you can get help for drinking or drug use from the privacy of your own home. For more information, visit http://www.lionrockrecovery.com.

Episode Transcription

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Hello beautiful people, welcome to the Courage to Change, a recovery podcast. My name is Ashley Loeb Blassingame.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Today we are interviewing Leo Martinez. Leo has seven years experience working as a substance abuse counselor and social worker with very diverse populations. He has delivered counseling services internationally with specializations in Gorski Relapse Prevention, CBT, Dual Disorders, ACT, and Multicultural Interventions. Leo earned a masters degree in social work from California State University-East Bay, and a CADAAC Certificate in Addiction Counseling. And he's just a badass dude. So Leo is a Lionrock Recovery clinician. He's actually a clinical supervisor with us, and interviewing him was so intense. He has a really inspiring story of overcoming a lot of different scenarios, including some real trauma. And I just loved how open he was about his feelings, how open he was about his experiences, and I think it's really important for us to be talking about male on male sexual violence.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

I think that's an important piece that is so often not talking about when it comes to... We talk a lot about sexual violence against women as well, and I just think that there are a lot of men out there who have a lot of shame around violence or things that have happened to them. And they feel that that's something they need to take with them to their grave. And I personally know many men who have dealt with this, and by telling someone and being open and dealing with whatever that circumstance that happened was the key to their freedom. And I really, really hope that the experience that you have as the listener is to see that there is courage in talking about the things that you feel most ashamed about. That the truth is that we all can relate to various emotions that happen in life, and that it's okay to talk about our trauma and our feelings and even when it's scary.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

So with that being said, I'm very excited for you to listen. I hope you get a lot out of it, and episode 16, let's do this.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

All right. Leo Martinez, thank you so much for being here.

Leo Martinez:

Thank you, Ashley, for having me. I'm excited.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

It's my pleasure. So let's jump in. We have a debate going because you're seven years sober.

Leo Martinez:

I think.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

But you're actually two years sober because you got sober on a leap year.

Leo Martinez:

I got sober on a non-existent day from most of the years I guess, which I think we were just joking on how fitting it is. It's like a day I wish would show up, and then it gets here and it's like, "Am I really here?" I'm not. Every four years though. So I'm really one in maybe seven tenths. But technically seven.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Technically seven. So seven years walking on the sunny side of the street.

Leo Martinez:

Yes.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

That's awesome.

Leo Martinez:

Absolutely, very sunny.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

That's awesome. You are a therapist and a father and a husband.

Leo Martinez:

Yes, I am. New father. I have a beautiful one year old little daughter, and I just celebrated my third year of marriage, anniversary.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Congratulations. That's really cool.

Leo Martinez:

Thank you.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

That's really awesome. So I want to get into what kind of your background. You have a Latin heritage. Tell us about that and what that was like.

Leo Martinez:

So I was just having this long conversation with my parents. I'm very fortunate. I have parents that have been together almost 50 years. They are two people who grew up in some of the worst environments that you could possibly imagine in El Salvador. They met. They bonded at a very young age, and they've been married since. And two people that have faced tragedy, hurt, loss. I can't get into how much they have been through, especially, not especially but my father in particular had shared some things recently to me about his childhood that I'm shocked and amazed that he turned out to be such a good father because someone with his traumatic background should not be that good of a father based on his history.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

So your first generation American.

Leo Martinez:

I am. I'm the first generation American born in my family. I was born in San Francisco, California in 1975. Started my life in the Mission District, and eventually my father in his infinite wisdom and being a muni bus driver, he saw the streets and said, "Nope. My son is not growing up here because I want to keep him away from gangs and drugs and dope and everything else." And he moved me to a suburb of San Francisco where I found-

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Gangs, drugs, and dope.

Leo Martinez:

I didn't find the gangs, but I found the dope. I found the drugs and the alcohol and all that. So he tried, but it ended up being kind of the same.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Did he drink a lot or did you grow up around a lot of drinking?

Leo Martinez:

No. Interestingly enough I think the answer is yes and no. So my father, he wasn't much of a drinker and neither was my mother. But there was just drinking all around because of parties. I work from a traditional Latin background. We're all about eating pupusas and dancing salsa and cumbia in the living room for anybody's event, birthday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, whatever.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

[foreign language 00:05:58]

Leo Martinez:

That's right. That's right. Yeah. So I think I was dancing salsa the day I was born. It was a wonderful part of my life, but at the same time, it was kind of a snapshot into a world that really doesn't exist outside of my house. But I was constantly searching for because it was like what we did. We had a good time.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Right. And when you say good time-

Leo Martinez:

Well, for me, I mean what was a good time was seeing everybody smile, laugh, and dance. And it just happened to be that everybody would have a beer or drinking [crosstalk 00:06:27]

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Right. Right.

Leo Martinez:

I can remember the days that-

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

But you didn't associate those two things-

Leo Martinez:

I didn't at the time. I was a kid. So we would have Leo's birthday party, and everybody would show up and the music would start. And then it became a party. It wasn't Leo's birthday party anymore. It was just a party and like all the festivities would kind of happen. But at the end of the day, I'd go to sleep and wake up. And everybody's passed out around my house, and my cake's kind of just sitting on the table. And I would just go in the fridge and get a piece of cake and wonder why everybody was passed out around me.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Right.

Leo Martinez:

My mom will deny it to this day it wasn't that way, but it was. It was totally that way. No, they didn't happen that way. Yeah, it did, mom. And my brother totally concurs so I know it happened. I wasn't just making that up. But I love them.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

I know. Doing this podcast and telling our stories, I've had the same experience. Parents are like, "Oh, for the love... Why'd you have to say that?" Oh, sorry.

Leo Martinez:

I think it's based on the fact that they know how my life has been, and I don't know. I think they're just more like hurt and scared. I don't know.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah. That makes sense. So there are a couple of big things that happened in your life. You shared with me that you were very overweight in high school. I know that's been a common thread for you, and then joining the Marines.

Leo Martinez:

Yeah. So I've struggled with my weight as far back as I can remember. I think it really stood out for me when I moved out to that suburb. I was in a house that my grandmother, she was always feeding me, always sneaking food, always kind of like saying, "Shh. Don't tell anybody." And handing me something. I associated that a lot with love and care for my grandma. I mean, she used to make a drink called an [foreign language 00:08:22], and what that is is a glass of water with a bunch of sugar just poured into it. And she would spin it and I'd see the crystals. She'd hand it to me and I'd like drink it. I'd be like, "I love it." Now I know why. But I guess what happened was when I went to this place, I was the only brown kid in this whole school. Everybody was white.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah, trying to get you to that really good school, but that also required this assimilation.

Leo Martinez:

Yeah. So I show up there, and not only do I have a different look but I'm overweight. And so I got made fun of a lot. I got all this real bad memories from it. So I did what I do best I kind of joked around about it. I learned how to find a solution to the pain, which was become the joke before they made me the joke. So I always joking about it, but I was hurting pretty bad. But I was able to make it through that grade school. But still, totally, totally commit... Well, not committed but wishing I could commit to losing the weight. Later on in high school of course when I noticed that girls were not interested in me at all and I was interested in them, I definitely associated my weight to that fact.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Talk to us about joining the Marine Corps and you were 300 pounds when you joined the Marine Corps.

Leo Martinez:

No. Actually, I was 310 pounds recently. But when I joined the Marine Corps, I was 238 pounds, around there.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

And how tall are you?

Leo Martinez:

Back then I was 5'10", just about 5'10", 5'9". I was still growing. I was 17. But I basically joined the Marines for one reason was to lose weight. That was it. That's why I went. The recruiters came out there and told me that... First of all, they laughed at me when I walked in. They said, "No, no, no." And then I took their test, and they're like, "Oh, man. He can fit into this category." So all of a sudden I became like a project for them. So they had someone running with me all the time to help me lose a little bit of weight, and I had to lose eight pounds to qualify. And I did. And then that's what the driver was. They promised me I was going to be physically fit. So all the people that say I'm going to get a scholarship or I'm going to defend the country, I was like, "Dude, just help me lose this weight, please." And really during that time, again, I was 17. But between 14, I would say between 12 when I had my first beer around 12 years old, it wasn't until... I mean, during that whole window of time between 12 and 17 was really when I started my drinking and my drugging.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

What did that look like?

Leo Martinez:

I was part of the rave scene back in the '90s.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

JNCO pants?

Leo Martinez:

I wasn't doing the JNCO pants. I don't remember what the heck I was wearing. I was so out of it. But a lot of people around me were wearing the JNCO pants. I think I was wearing cross colors at the time or something like that. Something weird. But yeah, I just said that.

Leo Martinez:

So what ended up happening is it was wild. They would come around our school and drop fliers. They would throw fliers on the campus of our high school, and they had all these interesting painted figures, clowns, Wally World was the name of one of them. They were just making this environment seem like the most-

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Wait, raves or military?

Leo Martinez:

Raves.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Okay.

Leo Martinez:

That's how it started. They had all these things that they would send out, and we would go. And so during that time, we started experimenting. And I used to be terrified of drugs and alcohol. It wasn't until the high school party that I finally gave in. I actually used to cry when I watched my friends smoke weed or do something like that. I'd be like, "Don't do it." Because my family and everybody had told me how terrible this was, even though they were drinking all around me. They're like, "Don't do this because it's bad. It's bad."

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

It's bad. But didn't tell you why.

Leo Martinez:

No. Didn't tell me why. They had DARE, drugs are really expensive I think. [crosstalk 00:12:13] Who knows.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

I don't even know.

Leo Martinez:

That even tells you the power of that. But they were really scaring us. Drug and alcohol education I think it was. But what I'm getting at is that during that time because of my beliefs about drugs and the fact that finally a friend of mine convinced me to smoke weed, I think I was 13 years old. And I remember smoking weed and being terrified at the experience. And everybody was around me and looking at me. And everything kind of echoed and just turned really weird. And my buddies go, "Hey, hey. Look at Leo. He's tripping." And I just kind of looked up at them, and I was terrified. And then my buddy reached out his hand. He said, "Leo, it's okay. You're high." He reached out his hand and I grabbed his hand and said, "Yeah." And every single fear, every single story that I had heard to that moment I instantly said these people lied to me. This is the most at peace, the most comfortable, the happiest I felt ever. And I feel accepted, and everybody just kind of wrapped around me and we celebrated that day.

Leo Martinez:

And that was the beginning of this venture into drugs and alcohol that really went all the way up to the time I went to the Marines where before that was ectasy, LSD, mushrooms, party drugs, all these nitrous oxide rooms. They exposed me to this world that I didn't know, and I found myself sneaking out of my house, going to different parties that were in the middle of the week. And thing going to high school the next day and acting like nothing had happened. And just talking about how we're going to do it the next night. That's just the life we lived for almost all of high school without anybody, no one knew, not one of our family caregivers knew because we would hide it so well.

Leo Martinez:

And then the Marines came. The Marines came and everything changed there.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

So you joined the Marines, lose the weight, and you did, in fact, lose the weight.

Leo Martinez:

Oh yeah. I guess I left there terrified of course. When I say left there, I left home terrified because I didn't know what was coming. And I was told that everything was going to be scary. I was never going to make it. This and that.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Not exactly supportive.

Leo Martinez:

Not supportive at all. Actually my friends laughed at me when I told them I was going, and that actually fueled me. I was committed to going and getting it done, and I lost about 72 pounds in 13 weeks.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Wow. So what you're saying is that Weight Watchers should invest in a bootcamp.

Leo Martinez:

I think that the way that they did it to me... I say did it to me. I wouldn't suggest that to anyone, but it works.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah. It's one way to do it.

Leo Martinez:

Yeah. But with that came an incredible amount of stress and incredible amount of pain and hurt and doubt, manipulation, just a lot of humiliation, shame. Things that I think I carried with me, even though I left that place looking like a poster Marine, my mind was... The weight gain is just around the corner, and it was about keeping that image because that was what was most important to me. I had finally made it. I had gotten the attention of people again. Not again, for the first time people were noticing me. People were treating me different. I mean, people treat people different when they're overweight.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah, they do.

Leo Martinez:

They've very mean. And for the first time, people were nice to me. I was getting attention from women. I actually went on a date. I had a girlfriend. I had all these things that I longed for that I really dove into drugs to kind of make me forget because there was peace in that for me at that time when I was hurting. But it was just a terrible way to walk into the world and then come back and the people who I thought cared and loved me didn't really give me the praise I thought they were going to give me. It was more like, "Oh, you think you made it now? Oh, look at you. You went to basic training and you think you're a badass," or this and that. And I was just trying to fit in somewhere.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah. That must have been very painful.

Leo Martinez:

Yeah. I was hurt that my friends didn't accept me the way that I thought they would.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

So you got out at 23.

Leo Martinez:

I got out the Marine Corps at 23. I actually went in originally as a reservist, and then I went into active duty because I didn't want to do it part-time. My parents wouldn't sign for me unless I did part-time because I was 17. So I came back and I said, "I want to be an active duty Marine. This is where I'm comfortable because nobody out here really..." Whatever. And it was really hard to get back into active duty. So they actually found a position for me as a recruiter. So I did almost all my time in the Marine Corps as a recruiter.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Wow. And it sounds like there was a lot of always looking to belong and always looking to feel better. That's what I'm hearing at least. When you get out and suddenly you're out of the club that you belonged to, which was the Marines, what did you do from there?

Leo Martinez:

Well, I think that the interesting part is is that, again, I left the rave scene and all these drug parties and everything where I felt super connected and bonded. And when I got out of the Marine Corps, the first thing I did was go to a rave. I went-

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Because you were seeking that connection again.

Leo Martinez:

Yeah. I went there and I saw my old friends, and they were doing dope again. And somebody handed me a bag of mushrooms, and I took them the day after the Marines, the basic training. But then I noticed that people weren't really feeling me. They just I'm different. I've changed. So as time went on while I was doing my service and I found other friends that did things like me. So were able to kind of live a double life. I was living this perfect life as a Marine, but again metaphorically like sneaking away at night and finding these places where I would find people that used like me, that partied like me, that would forget like me. And I was always trying to get back to my friends, but quite frankly I had always burned bridges. They were users too. They were drug users too. People when they use drugs, they do things to one another. They pinch bags or they hide things or they betray one another.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

No honor among thieves.

Leo Martinez:

There was a lot of that pain that was going on there too. So they kind of went on. They moved on, and I went into this like really lost space where the drug use just got worse. But it wasn't until I picked up cocaine that it really took off with the cocaine and alcohol combination.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

What happened?

Leo Martinez:

Well, I think what happened was is that I found a combination that made me feel a way that I was always chasing, that I experience when I was... Maybe when I found that group in high school or when I found the Marine Corps.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

That feeling of belonging and ease and comfort, sense of ease and comfort.

Leo Martinez:

Sense of ease and comfort. The thing is is that it was not acceptable. So I couldn't share that with my mother or my father or my partner. So I ended up doing a lot of secretive use.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

So you were still trying to be functional.

Leo Martinez:

I was absolutely functional. I was doing well as a recruiter while I was in the Marines because I was using in the Marines. So I was able to cheat tests and do all those things to keep this going because I needed, in my mind, I needed the substances to be part of something. But again, when I got out of the Marine Corps, there was a moment in time where I didn't know what I was going to do with myself. But there was always alcohol there, and there was always cocaine. Of course, my parents were always there. They'd let me stay on their couch. They let me do whatever. It was like I was like a lost person that didn't know what to do next. But was looking.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Right. And then you experienced some tremendous trauma that just fueled that.

Leo Martinez:

I think before I mention the trauma, it's important to point out that I was also looking for partnership and relationships. And I thought I found somebody. And my drug use actually went down when I found my first fiancee. I was going to marry her. But my drinking never stopped. And so I actually found kind of a pathway into another job. So I ended up becoming an aircraft mechanic. I went to school to become an aircraft mechanic. And during that time, I started dating a woman and basically when I graduated, showed up at her door and said, "We're moving." She said, "What are you talking about?" I said, "Look, I got a U-haul out front, grab your stuff. We're moving to Oregon. I got a job." She said, "Okay." She grabbed her stuff, put it in the U-haul, moved to Oregon with me. It was like this storybook romance thing, and she had a little boy. I was super excited.

Leo Martinez:

But what I didn't realize, what I know today is that alcoholism is progressive. And I went there both of us drinking like we thought normally. She wasn't an alcoholic, I was. And my drinking progressed and progressed and progressed. And my behaviors also got erratic. I would black out. I would probably raise my voice. I don't remember a lot of it. I was never violent towards her, but I definitely wasn't a pleasant person to be with. And my fiancee ended up becoming pregnant. And when she found out she was pregnant, she made a decision to not keep this child. I had been raising her son with her. She had a little boy, and I didn't find out from her that she was pregnant. I actually found the sonogram on a bed when I came home one day. And I was like, "Oh my gosh." And what ended up happening when I saw that, she also had a pregnancy test I saw that was thrown into the trash and all these messages that I'm getting from what I'm seeing was not really exciting. And I said, "Hey, what's going on here?" And she said, "It's over. I took care of it." I ended up losing it. She actually made a decision, and I don't fault her today for that decision. She probably made the right decision. But I marched out of that house, and I drank.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Right. Because that's your solution.

Leo Martinez:

That's my solution. And I drank to the point where I absolutely don't remember a thing. All I remember is waking up and I was face down with my hands behind my back. I felt all this cold, wet sensations all over my legs. I was dizzy. I didn't know... I just saw boots on the left side of my face and the right side of my face. I heard people yelling at me, screaming. I was being spit on. And I got thrown into the back of a vehicle, in which was an ambulance. And the first thing I said because I didn't remember anything was, "My god. Did I kill anybody?" And the nurse was attending to me said or the paramedic, "No. You didn't kill anybody." And I was just relieved. And then I saw my little boy riding his bike behind the vehicle. I go, "Hey, wait a minute. That's my son." And the cop that was there reached into his mic, "He says that's his son." I'm like, "What's going on?" I had no idea.

Leo Martinez:

Well, what happened is-

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Because you were coming from a black out.

Leo Martinez:

I was coming from a black out. I went out to drown away my sorrows for what happened and my anger, and I came home in a full black out. Drove home, parked, got out, went into the wrong apartment at my apartment building. I walked into the apartment. I took my keys out, I put them on the counter with my wallet. I went and threw myself on the couch and fell asleep. It turns out that someone had just moved in to that apartment, and they saw some man sitting on the couch. Well, she was startled, and I got startled as well. And I was told that I ran into a closet that I thought was my bathroom because I'm in the opposite apartment next door. And I wouldn't get out. So she called the police. The police came in. I was terrified because I can imagine I was terrified. They came in blasting. They kicked the door down. They forced open the door, and they had shotgun with less than lethal rounds on it. I had reached for the shotgun because I was scared, and they shot me in my left leg twice. And shot two beanbag pellets that embedded themselves about two inches in my left leg. And I bled terribly all over the place and that's when I woke up.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Oh god. So you wake up and those of us who have battled drug addiction and alcoholism, many of us know what it's like to come to. There are times where you've come to to a very traumatic situation. You have no idea what's going on, and you have to look around to try to figure out. That's a pretty gnarly one to come to.

Leo Martinez:

There's no information-

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah. It's just panic.

Leo Martinez:

To what's happening, and I can remember my rib cage was spreading. I can still feel it right at this moment. My rib cage was wide open, and I couldn't breathe. And I was just thinking to myself, "What's happening?" And I couldn't remember. I woke up after that, I think I went out again. I don't really remember. But I just remember that afterwards, I woke up in a hospital bed. I was handcuffed to the rail, and my fiancee when I opened my eyes was sitting right over me. And she said, "You see why you can't be a dad right now?" And I'll never forget that. It pierced my heart, and I got furious. I was like, "Whatever." And she said, "Fix it." And I did the best I could, but at the end of the day, my attempt to fix it was fruitless. I was able to fix the situation, but she left.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

You were able to fix your alcoholism?

Leo Martinez:

No. I'm talking the situation I got us in. I got us a new place. I had to go through the humiliation of telling everybody at the place what had happened. I had to write all these letters. So I did what I could to fix it, but she had already made her decision. I mean, her son had to testify in front of a grand jury. Her eight year old son about what kind of a person I was, and he went up there, I mean, an eight year old boy saying, "Leo is a good guy. That he wasn't trying to burglarize," which they tried to say I was doing. That I was in there to harm the woman that lived there, which was a lie. I was drunk.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

You were asleep.

Leo Martinez:

I was asleep. So she ended up going, and that's really the first trauma that I experienced with that. I mean, the one that was severe, and I walked away from that injured. I still have the scars. I was emotionally hurt. My family was terrified. They tried to charge my mother an ungodly amount of money to protect me, even though the grand jury threw the case out. I was angry at the police. And I drank more because of it because I was trying to just get that picture out of my... That spread rib cage and that breathing and the spit on me. I was just trying to get it out of my mind because that's what my brain does. It plays pictures. It flashes. Just perfect. I can see it right now. Bam, clear as day. Alcohol was the only thing that could turn it off.

Leo Martinez:

And what ended up happening is that relationship ended, and it took me about 10 years to forget about that. It's like there's a common theme in my story is 10 years, 10 years. After that happened, I was angry at women for probably 10 years because I couldn't get over what had happened. I blamed her. But I wasn't aware enough yet to realize that what I was dealing with was severe alcoholism. There's no one to blame.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

How did you handle the breakup?

Leo Martinez:

So the breakup, like I said, I was angry. So my solution was to really just be out of control, drink more, use more, and be involved with random women more. It what I felt made me feel important. It made me feel wanted and cared for, and that was full and peppered with all kinds of shameful experiences because, again, during this time I was gaining weight again. I put my weight back on. That was one of the reasons why my partner or this person that I was with, why there was some distance going between us is she was like, "You know, when I met you, you were losing weight. You were in shape, and then you started putting weight back on." I remember being really shamed by that and scared. So I was going out trying to get some I guess validation, and it wasn't really working. And I would put myself in situations that normally I wouldn't do because I was either drunk or high. And I was trying to have sex with whoever I could. It was what I would fall back on and say that's where my worth is. It made me feel important. And that led to my second trauma.

Leo Martinez:

I was at a party, and a friend of mine invited me to go. And this is a friend of mine who was very... Maybe we had just known each other for a little bit of time, but I considered her my friend. And she told me that we were going to have a good time. We were going to go drink and do drugs, and we were going to go to her house and have sex. That's the truth. And so I went. And when I got to the party, everything was happening the way she had described it. And then I blacked out. I don't remember what happened. I come to find out later that I was given something, and when I woke up from what was going on, actually what had woke me up was an electrical sensation through my entire body. That was I compare it to fire, heat, burning pain. And I was being held down forcefully and I was being sexually assaulted. And I couldn't move, couldn't move at all.

Leo Martinez:

But I was definitely... Just in full disclosure and vulnerability. I was being penetrated by somebody. And I tried to fight to get out, but I couldn't. And when I finally did get some wherewithal and broke away from what was going on, I turned around and there was somebody looking at me. And he just kind of shrugged his shoulders and smiled at me. I wasn't wearing any clothes, and I ran out of the house. And I hid behind a bush outside because I didn't know... It was like three or four o'clock in the morning. As a matter of fact, when I ran away from the situation, there were two elderly people sitting on a couch at the end of a hallway looking at me without clothes on. And I just remember...

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Like in the apartment.

Leo Martinez:

They were in the apartment, and I freaked out. And I ran the other direction. And I heard the person that I was with, the woman that-

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

So she was in the apartment.

Leo Martinez:

She was in the room, and she slapped whoever it was. And she said by their name and basically cussed them out.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Wait, she was in the bedroom where this was happening?

Leo Martinez:

She was in the bedroom when this was happening.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

So she was-

Leo Martinez:

That's why I think that I was given something because she was there with me.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

And she was an accessory.

Leo Martinez:

I don't know enough. I don't remember. But again, from what I understand, from what I remember, she hit this person and said by his name and said kind of like, "How could you?" Kind of like that. And I went and hid. And she came out and got me. And I went back inside. It was like the sensation was one thing, but it was the track that was playing in my mind. It was this complete why didn't I do something? Here I am a Marine, here I am this person who's supposed to be strong and powerful, and I'm a grown man, and I'm a man. And I just got raped. And the perpetrator of this on me is standing right there, and I'm not doing anything about it. Why?

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

When you go back into the house.

Leo Martinez:

When I go back in and I couldn't figure out why. I didn't know why. So my mind went into these really, really dark places, and I was afraid and started to doubt who I was, started to doubt my sexuality, started to doubt everything. Again, the only thing that could turn that off was the alcohol.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah. Wow. Thank you for sharing that. I think it's incredibly powerful. We talk about the Me Too movement, and I think sadly it's not as uncommon as we'd all like it to be for women to be victims of sexual assault or survivors of sexual assault. But I think it's a really difficult thing for men to come out and talk about it as well. And I appreciate that because I know there are so many men out there who have a similar experience who want to say Me Too, and they're too afraid or ashamed. And I know that there are a lot of questioning of your sexuality that goes on with that, which just adds another layer. It just adds another layer. I can't even imagine. And I can understand why that would fuel your alcoholism. You already have this alcoholism going, and now you really need to numb out.

Leo Martinez:

Yeah. And what it did as well is it fueled a part of me that I wasn't prepared for, which was hatred. I had this absolute guttural hate for homosexuality, for anybody associated with homosexuality, gay people, transgender, LGBTQ basically. I had this-

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Because you-

Leo Martinez:

Because I associated.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

And you had not experienced hate.

Leo Martinez:

I had never experienced it before. And I think that's a big piece of who I was because, again because of my questioning of why I didn't hurt this person, why I didn't do something about it, made me, my thoughts say, "Maybe I am gay. Maybe I am this." And it really confused me. So I became angry, and I used the word hate now because it's changed. That's not who I am today. But in that period of life and I think that's what dove me deeper into the substance use and the alcohol because again, these images, these feelings, this disconnection I felt with people in general to trust the loss of trust, I just was lost completely, which I find ironic now because I am a massive advocate and ally for the LGBT community now. Some of my closest friends are part of the community, and they're my brothers and sisters. I love them. So for me to come full circle after going through that has been just a part of this work that I've been doing on my own, on myself to recover.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

How did you recover?

Leo Martinez:

Well, it still wasn't enough. I mean, the things that happened with the police situation, the rape, again, it locked me into this mind frame, this mindset for 10 additional years. There you go with the 10 years again. And I fought. When I found cocaine, the mixture, that just made me drink more and more intense. And during this time, I accumulated all kinds of legal problems.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

As we do.

Leo Martinez:

Yeah. I was getting DUIs. That was the main one. Multiple DUIs. When I stopped drinking, I had five in my past that I could count, and I'm lucky I wasn't in prison. But they told me, "One more you're going." And again, my family protecting me, helping me get through these things, and I was driving everybody up the wall. They were losing their minds. They didn't know what to do with me. But what they didn't know is that behind the scenes, when I was hiding, I was dancing with death quite often. I was using drugs and alcohol to the point of losing my ability to breath. I turned blue numerous times. I had a-

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

You had a stroke, right?

Leo Martinez:

I had an ischemic stroke. I wrote a goodbye letter to my father who was next door, bless his heart. He was just trying to be a good dad for me, and he's opening his door. He knows I'm suffering, and I'm in there losing the ability to move my face and my head. And I'm writing a note with my non-dominant hand and saying, "Dad, I love you, and I'm sorry. I'm passing out." I'm going to parties, and getting angry at people because they only want the coke that I have on me. I'm leaving the parties upset and having situations like bleeding profusely from my nose on the way home. There was one time where I was living at the house, and I had a really terrible itch in my nose. And I couldn't explain why, and I got angry at a party, left. I sneezed in the car, and my entire windshield turned into just a sheet for blood. And it was like someone turned a facet on in my head and it wouldn't stop pouring out of my face. And I walked into the house, and I was crawling coming in and out of consciousness. I slid all the way down the tile floor, and I tugged on my mom's gown because she was in the bed sleeping. That's the first time she found out that I was addicted to cocaine.

Leo Martinez:

I said, "Mom, I'm sorry. I've been doing coke, and I think I'm dying." She went and she picked me up. She dragged me into a couch. She was mad. I wanted help, she was pissed. And she sat there and watched me, and said, "I'm not calling the ambulance. You're going to make it through this. I'm not calling this. You will not let our family look like this." And that was the behind the scenes came to the front, and then it became more of like not letting anyone know that this was the problem, that this was going on.

Leo Martinez:

My mother would do things like stack bottles of alcohol in front so everybody could see them when they'd come home or friends, and she'd be like, "Look at what my son's doing. Look what I found in his room." And it just kept shrinking me, shrinking me even more and more until unto my own private space.

Leo Martinez:

At the end of really when I hit the end, I had experienced all these health problems. I was back up to 310 pounds.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

While doing cocaine.

Leo Martinez:

While doing coke, which is interesting, right? But I did. I would run out of alcohol, I would drink NyQuil just to fall asleep. I would hold my chest and my heart's beating out of my body, and I didn't know how to stop it. Just terrified. As soon as I came down, it was right back to my dealer. It was just this terrible, terrible thing, and my parents didn't know what to do. I didn't know what to do. I just know that I needed more and more drugs.

Leo Martinez:

The interesting part about everything is that during this time I was actually quite successful. I had left, again, the Marines. I went in and became an aircraft mechanic. I left the aircraft mechanic thing. I actually traveled all over the United States as the aircraft mechanic, came back because I was drinking on the job as an aircraft mechanic. It's not really a good thing to show up drunk fixing airplanes.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

I'm afraid.

Leo Martinez:

So they ended up letting me go. I came back to California and someone said, "You know, you should try selling cars." And I did. And I ended up becoming incredibly successful at selling cars. I was making more money than I ever thought possible. So I had this prestige. I had the money. I had the look good. I had an endless supply of cocaine. I had comradery with everyone around me. I had found my place again, except this time it was money fueled and drug fueled, and the car business pretty much swallowed me whole. So all this incredible success, and then I'm sitting in my room by myself making all kinds of money with all the money going to cocaine.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Making all the money with cocaine.

Leo Martinez:

Yeah. And then it's all just going to that. So it's just this terrible cycle nonstop. Again, the images in my mind never went away. The friends that turned on me. My shooting. The person behind me, his face would play. And every time it was just like I feel good now. I'm making money. And now I'm bringing it home even though I'm getting that prestige, I can't handle it. It's too much for me. So I came up with this great idea that I'm going to start cleaning up my record because I think I'm going to be an attorney. Just kind of thought about it one day, and I remember telling that to somebody and they laughed at me. I was dating this person at the time. They said, "You're going to, what?" I go, "You know, I've been thinking about it. I've got all these things in my background," and I figured out how to get one of them off my record. I did it all through documentation. I used the legal system. And I'm like, "I wouldn't mind being a criminal defense attorney. I can help people get off of this stuff. I kind of know what it's like, and I'm going to help people." And I did.

Leo Martinez:

I went back to school high as hell, drinking, doing everything. And I went, and I got my degree in political science in two years. And after I got my degree in political science, I started applying to law school. During that time, I took the ASVAB high. I was doing everything high. Still having the same health complications, except this time they started to get a little worse. I started coughing blood. I started really deteriorating. I was yellow. I was just trying to make it happen. I was with somebody at that time told me they loved me, told me they cared about me. And I actually started to soften up a little bit with the idea of a relationship that might work. And then the third problem happened where I had applied to all these law schools, and I used my private state, my personal statement I talked about my recovery from drugs and alcohol. Because that's what someone that's not in recovery does is that they say they're in recovery when they're not, at least that's what I did.

Leo Martinez:

So I wrote this, and I sent it out. And my mom said, "Don't do it. Don't do it. No one's going to give you any chance if you do that." Talked about my DUIS, talked about how I got...

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Oh, boy.

Leo Martinez:

Yeah, and I sent them out. And one by one, they started coming home to me turn downs. Turn down, turn down, turn down. 18 straight letters turning me down for law school. So I called my partner at the time, and I said, "I'm really sad getting all these turn down letter. I don't know what I'm doing to do with myself." And I heard a voice in the background, "Who's that?" I said, "Wait a minute, who's that?" And she said to me, "I'm sorry, Leo, but things have changed." And there was somebody else. I was being cheated on. And at that point, all those images came back. All those let downs and situations and that voice and that don't trust anyone, don't do any of this. I really went off the deep end, started drinking even more, started doing even more drugs, except this time I didn't have the money because I had stopped selling cars. And I was back in school. When you're not working, you're just doing school, and you got a cocaine habit, it doesn't last you long.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

No. It does not.

Leo Martinez:

So I stopped selling all the stuff that my parents had lying around, all the little loose gold that I could find, all the little equipment that I could pawn off. Ran out and I had found a couple odd jobs while I was in school. I was working for a chiropractic office at the time before, and they had a little petty cash box in their office. And I remembered that. I wasn't working there anymore, but I went over there. I wrapped a towel around my head because I'm not really a good burglar. I reached over, I grabbed a rock and tried to throw it through... Well, at first I tried to kick the door in, didn't work. Grabbed a rock, I threw it, didn't work. Believe that. So I got really mad. I reached up, I grabbed a light fixture from the hallway, and I ripped it off the wall, that worked. Then I spun around in anger and spun it and a glass shattered, a window shattered and broke completely down. I was like, "Oh my gosh. I wasn't expecting that to happen." I ran into that place and I ransacked it looking for anything. And I found five or six subway cards, gift cards, about $100 in the petty cash drawer.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

You know it's not funny but interesting is you're the second person on this podcast who stole petty cash from a chiropractor while they were using, which [crosstalk 00:44:14]

Leo Martinez:

The moral of the story is don't... Chiropractors, don't hire [crosstalk 00:44:19]

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Oh my gosh, I've heard that. $100.

Leo Martinez:

$100. Went and-

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

You're going to get some sandwiches.

Leo Martinez:

Not really. I wasn't hungry. I was probably going to try and sell them for half price.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

That's true. That's true. What am I talking about?

Leo Martinez:

But no, I was 310, I was hungry. And so I ended up I got away with it.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Always fuel for the fire.

Leo Martinez:

I got away with it, and I remember casing the place afterwards seeing if they knew anything about me.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

You're one of those like want to check out the scene of the crime. [crosstalk 00:44:50]

Leo Martinez:

They had all this police tape. I woke up, I didn't realize it had happened. I was still like kind of in a black out like, "Whoa. Did that really happen?" And it did. So I went back and checked, and the chiropractor that was there, he's like, "Yeah, they said someone came around here and did this. And I really hope that we don't know who that is." And I think he knew who it was, but he kind of like gave me this warning. It was weird. It didn't stop me. A few days past and I went back and did it again.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

At the same chiro?

Leo Martinez:

Yeah. Because I couldn't get into the chiro. I broke another window next to it and then I went where I knew there was still some money. But that time I didn't get away with it. That time I didn't get away with it. They caught me on camera. I went in and got my drugs, I drank, took those pictures out of my head again, and then I went back to the house where my parents had always been protecting me, where I learned how to party and drink, my safe haven. And they came and they broke the door down and dragged me out again handcuffed, face down again. Except this time I was fully conscious. They threw me in the back of the car, took me in, and I turned into this like defiant guy who thought he was a badass. You can't make me do anything and this because I was angry. I just didn't know. When I finally came down from the drugs and came down from everything and I was sitting in that cell, all the reality came back to me. And I was like fighting, "How am I going to get high and drunk again?" Because all the truth showed up again.

Leo Martinez:

So they ended up releasing me from the jail, and I walked barefoot from the jail to my house because they took me out of my bed.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Right. No shoes.

Leo Martinez:

That's how I used to do it by myself in my bed thinking whatever. That's just how I rolled. But when I got home, my mom was sitting at the door, and she said, "I got a call from your old boss. He told me what you did." "Mom, but..." "No, don't do this, Leo." "No, mom. It's okay." "No, it's not okay, Leo. They told me what you did, and you're not going to do this anymore. You're using drugs, and you're not going to do this anymore." And she was serious, but she still let me in. She still let me in, and she made me food and breakfast. About 15 minutes into our reunion, I get this slam on the door. Boom, boom, boom, "Open up. Police." Next thing you know, all these people come rushing into my house, all these cops. My entire block was covered with police cars. They had a battering ram in the front. I had a little basset hound as a dog, and they held that thing down pretty much at gun point because they thought he was going to attack them or something. He was a little basset hound.

Leo Martinez:

But I guess the whole thing is that everybody was terrified. My elderly grandmother was held back. My parents were held back. They handcuffed my mother and my father. They put them down. They put them on their knees on the front of the hallway. I ran straight to the back, to the bedroom. I ran there because I had some dope there. So I went there to make sure it was safe. They came and they got me. The police handcuffed me again.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

For what?

Leo Martinez:

So they pulled me out to the front, and they sat me down in the front. And I didn't know what was going on. They put me on the curb, and I remember this incredible sense of peace come over my body. And my entire neighborhood was out there looking at us. And I just remember just saying, "Everybody knows. Cats out of the bag."

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

No more hiding.

Leo Martinez:

But the hardest part about this was when I walked past my parents when they had me handcuffed, and I just saw my mom and dad with their handcuffs on. And my dad was like, "Leave my boy alone. Don't touch him anymore. Just leave him alone." And they pulled me, and I remember that. And it was the first time in my life that I realized what I was doing.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Seeing your parents handcuffed.

Leo Martinez:

I mean, it's like the metaphoric what I had been doing to them for years, but for me it was my problem. Y'all don't know me. You think you do. It was the first time I saw that my lifestyle and what I was doing and my addiction had leaked into their lives and had been there for years.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

That's profound. I mean, I completely relate to that where you think you're like, "This isn't about you. Get out of my way," to your loved ones and really they're being handcuffed and put on the ground with you every single time.

Leo Martinez:

So I mean, after that happened, they took me in. And what happened was it there had been some local burglaries, and they wanted to make sure I wasn't the burglar. So they came in there with a warrant because they had enough because I was a burglar, right? I had just broken into two places. So they were thinking I was a serial burglar. So they came in there, and they took everything out of the house they could find, which was nothing. I wasn't the serial burglar. I'll never forget this because they wanted to also find evidence to convict me of this crime I had committed. And I, again, I'm not a good burglar. I did the burglary with sandals on, and they were very distinct sandals. As they're putting me in the cop car, I had no shoes on. It's also a thing. I always get pulled out with no shoes on, right? And so I hear my mom, "Mejo. Mejo, they're not going to take you without your shoes." And she comes running out with the same sandals that I wore during the burglary. I'm like, "Mom, no. No. Don't... Those aren't mine."

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Thanks, mom.

Leo Martinez:

But she didn't know any better. So she handed them to me, and I went there and I sat. Again, they released me. I walk home. I got my car. I had a key. Went and got my car, and I went and got a bottle. I slammed the bottle. It was a bottle of vodka. I didn't have any money for drugs anymore. So I only had for the vodka, and I went down on my knees in the car. And I started picking rocks and dust out of there trying... I had this thing full of dirt on a CD case with hair and all kinds of nastiness, and I still snorted it trying to get something. Trying to taste it, trying to lick it up, do whatever I could do. And I just couldn't do it. And I remember that bottle just sitting there dripping on my seat. And it's just like everything's just kind of like just there.

Leo Martinez:

That's all that my life is now, and I said, "Yeah, it's time for me to go. My parents hate me. Everybody hates me. I hate me. This world hates me. It's time to go." So I picked up the phone, and I called my drug dealer. And I said, "Hey man. I need a gun." "Hey, yeah. No problem, man. Where you at?" That simple. And I said, "How much?" He said, "Oh, probably couple hundred. It's all good." He wasn't really smart we were talking like that on the phone. Tells you how really smart we were, right?

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah, seriously. Not making it in The Wire.

Leo Martinez:

I said, "Let me call you back." And I hung up, and I thought about it for a second. So in all this chaos that was going on, I still managed to hit a couple meetings and try to get clean. People were telling me I should go to NA or go to AA. I was like whatever. I think my parents bought the book and sat there and read it to me. It was like they were talking to a wall. Just went in and out, nothing clicked. But I went there, and I remember going there and seeing this one guy who was really nice to me. And he handed me his phone number. So at that moment when I was facing this serious decision, final decision... As someone told me once, "A final solution for a temporary problem."

Leo Martinez:

I called him instead, and I said, "Hey man." I said, "I met you in a group in a room, and I want to know if you can help me. I think I need help." "What do you mean?" I said, "Well, I think it's also time for me to go." "What do you mean?" I said, "I think you know what I mean." "Where you at?" I said, "I'm here. I'm in front of an old Spaghetti Factory, and I'm not going to wait too much longer. So please, if you're close, come because like I said, I think it's time for me to go." "Don't do anything, man. Don't do anything." And he showed up 10 minutes later, and that was February 28, 2012. That was the last day I put anything in my body.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

So your sobriety day is February 29.

Leo Martinez:

That's right. Leap year.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Leap year.

Peter Loeb:

Hi. I'm Peter Loeb, CEO and co founder of Lionrock Recovery. We're proud to sponsor The Courage to Change, and I hope you find that it's an inspiration. I was inspired to start Lionrock after my sister lost her own struggle with drugs and alcohol back in 2010. Because we provide care online by live video, Lionrock clients can get help from the privacy of home. We offer flexible schedules that fit our clients' busy lives. And of course, we're licensed and accredited, and we accept most private health insurance. You can find out more about us at lionrockrecovery.com or call us for a free consultation, no commitment at 800-258-6550. Thank you.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

And now you're a therapist, and you help other people overcome their addictions. How did you make the decision from defense attorney, airplane mechanic, Marine, salesman?

Leo Martinez:

I was also a teacher.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Teacher. I know. You're going to keep uncovering. What brought you to listening to other people's lives every day?

Leo Martinez:

Well, I mean, I was 310 pounds. I was coughing blood. I wasn't doing well. I was facing serious charges. I actually got into a law school. That's the part I forgot. Oh my gosh. They sent me an acceptance letter the day after I committed the burglary.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

No.

Leo Martinez:

Yes. I got my first acceptance letter, and that made things worse. I was like, "Oh, no. What am I going to do?" So that was part of what led to it's time for me to go because I got in. So I through all the legal trials and everything, my attorney actually made it so that I could attend law school. And I went there, and I told them, I said, "Hey..." I didn't confess about what I had done because I was crossing my fingers that they wouldn't find out. So I was actively working a program of AA and all these other things now, and they basically told me that I need to be completely open and honest about everything. So I went there, and I told them, scared as hell. I told them, I said, "This has happened. I want to be an attorney, but this happened." "No problem, Leo. Thank you for taking the hard choice and making the hard choice of letting us know. Thank you. You're in." It was like this total relief.

Leo Martinez:

Well, two days later, I received the letter, an emailed letter that said that they had rescinded my offer. They told me that they had talked about it with the dean and everything and that it was too much. So me, like a good salesman, said, "I would like to speak to you and try to talk about how I can stay in." So I pulled a white board out and went into this whole cost benefit analysis of why it's a good idea to let me into law school. And his exact words were, "Mr. Martinez, there is no doubt that you're going to make a good attorney one day. But you're out committing freaking burglaries." And it wasn't freaking what he used. And he says, "Why don't you go out there, fix your life, and come back?" I thanked him. I went home, I cried. I was worried, I was scared. My sponsor told me, "Hey, this is exactly the way it's supposed to be happening, exactly at this moment. Remember that." I said, "Okay."

Leo Martinez:

So I went home, and got a catalog out. And I looked for the next best thing was to be a paralegal. So I went back to school to be a paralegal. During that time also I woke up and I was actually with one of my best friends who was in a treatment center with me. That's another... Anyways, he was in a treatment center with me, and I looked at him and I said, "I would like to lose weight again, and I think I'm going got start running." So the next morning, I woke up and I started running and I also started school. I went into a program at California State University-East Bay for substance abuse treatment because I wanted to know what this...

Leo Martinez:

Excuse me, it was for paralegalism, but while I was searching for the courses to sign up for, I noticed substance abuse counseling. And I said, "I want to know what's going on with me." So I picked that, and I took both concurrently. I took the paralegal class, and I took the substance abuse class. And I met somebody who's a professor of mine. Can I say his name? Roland Williams. He basically became my professor and started to teach me how to do this thing that we're doing, and he mentioned that he was affiliated with a number of programs. And I just remember being very fascinated by it that I made it halfway through the paralegal program and dropped out, and said I want to do this instead.

Leo Martinez:

And during that time again I was also working on myself. So I had gone from walking around the block a couple times and coughing blood to no more coughing blood, to walking three times, to maybe doing a mile of walking, then to jog a mile. It was just that kind of progression with that health part, and at the same time, I was doing schooling. And about the nine month mark, I had lost a substantial amount of weight, and I was training for my first marathon. And then I was also given an opportunity by Roland to be an intern for a treatment program in Thailand.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

So cool.

Leo Martinez:

He said, "I have an opportunity, and if anybody would like to take it." And I volunteered immediately. Had a little money saved up from other things that I was... Little odd jobs that I was doing again. And he accepted me, and at that point when he accepted me, I completed my first marathon in under four hours in San Francisco.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Wow.

Leo Martinez:

So I took those victories, and I made a decision to dedicate my life to the work. And that's how I got into it. And that has sense taken me from Asia to where I met my wife. I've also been able to travel to different parts of the country, different parts of the world now, places I never thought I would see. As I was just mentioning to you, I was running on the coast of Thailand with monkeys and dogs as well. Dogs running with me, and just hitting the tops of roofs. I mean, not roofs, the top of hilltops. Just kind of standing there and going, "Two years ago I was staring out of blinds saying, 'Why's nobody calling me," having ODing and having strokes. And now I'm running and I'm free." Those pictures stopped.

Leo Martinez:

So the pictures, they turned off, and I was about do a lot of healing through the 12 steps and also through the treatment, stuff I learned, and the people I met. When I met my now wife, I ended up coming back to the Bay Area, and I was working for a number of different programs. And I got the honor and pleasure of working with all types of populations. When I was in Dara over in Asia, in Thailand, I was working some pretty exclusive clientele, and then I came back to San Francisco, Bay Area. And I was working for the forensic population with people that had nothing. One thing I noticed is that it didn't matter if you had a jet airplane that you flew into treatment in or if you were using your feet, just walking aimlessly to the programs, the presentation of the disease of addiction was always the same.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

It's the great equalizer.

Leo Martinez:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

It is the things that transcends all other strata and I've had that experience as well. Just seeing that being in treatment and being in meetings and other places with people who had extraordinary accomplishments and wealth and people who had nothing. And we all felt the same. We all had the same... Our stories, we were all afraid. We were all seeking a group to accept us. We were all looking for freedom from those feelings and that void. And we sought them in substance, and it delivered for a while until it didn't.

Leo Martinez:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). Exactly. And I found that. The only thing for me that's continued to deliver consistently is spiritual connection. The spirituality that I found for me when I went out to Asia was in nature itself.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah, me too.

Leo Martinez:

That's what it took for me initially because I was convinced that spirituality wasn't for me. And slowly but surely with the work with my sponsor and with the people that I met and also through what I found was running, nature, and all that. I was able to make that leap into sustained work and to finding spiritual practices and learning meditation, learning to be in the moment. Again, that's how I recovered and I know that's not how everyone recovers, but I learned a lot there.

Leo Martinez:

Interestingly enough, the work has taken me to further. That's why I'm a social worker now is I started to learn about psychiatric presentations and how it's made worse with dual disorders and how to treat that. That's why I went back to school to get my social work, and I've actually done quite a bit of work in the communities. I've done boots on the ground social work, working with some of the most difficult, most acute psychiatric cases that are struggling with addiction as well. People that are in the streets of Oakland, in the streets of San Francisco, on the streets of wherever, just behind dumpsters. Nobody knows they're even there.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Tell us about that a little bit. What was it like working with that population? We talk a lot about the population that does have access to resources. Minimum have a phone or decent resources. What was it like working with that population?

Leo Martinez:

You mean the population without resources?

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah. I mean, in Oakland and... I mean, what did you take from that? What wisdom did you come back with or maybe not even wisdom?

Leo Martinez:

I think the takeaway here is that when people that have these kind of disorders and they're diagnosed with severe mental illnesses as well as drug addiction, that there's a difference in how we engage with these individuals because many of them do not know that they are mentally ill. So fighting the stigma that this person is "crazy" or they don't have the ability to... Or they're making a decision to be this way or stuff like that. The takeaway for me is that there is a way to engage with them that is effective. And when you effectively engaged them and motivate them to seek treatment, medications, and help, that they're able to recover fully.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

You've seen people recover fully from-

Leo Martinez:

I've seen people with acute schizophrenia, with people that also were addicted to methamphetamine, other substances now are graduating college. They're reunited with their families, and it takes a team to help them to get to that place of self sustainability for themselves, self ethicacy. A psychiatric team, also a substance abuse counselor, a family partner because families such a big part of it. And connecting them to resources, to employment opportunities, to housing opportunities. It's like a whole wraparound thing because I think that people that have these types of disorders, there's a level of ostracization I think. They get kicked out of society. So many of them are using to just fit in, to feel... Not to fit in but to... And I don't like using the word self medicate so much but more of to deal with the feelings of being-

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Why don't you like self medicate?

Leo Martinez:

Because I think that wen someone is experiencing symptoms of something and you medicate something, it's because it takes the symptoms away. In this case, I think they make the symptoms worse. So for me, I think they're more of coping with the feelings of being rejected from society. That's my belief. So whether people agree with it or not, it's just my opinion. But I've noticed that when you engage with people in the community at a level of non-hierarchy because I'm seeing you eye-to-eye, meeting you where you're at and trying to understand what's going on for you mentally and emotionally that I become more connected to people. And they become their own therapist I guess you could say, their own solution to finding out what are the things that they need to repair so they can get their lives back. And I'm simply assisting them by linking them to the different resources to make that happen. And I think the hat's the work that we do is helping people walk on their own.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Absolutely. How did that affect your recovery working with these complete opt from these incredibly VIP clients to people hiding behind dumpster in Oakland, what did that do for your recovery?

Leo Martinez:

I mean, for me, my recovery has always been its own thing. If anything, it made me pray more. But what it did for my recovery is it put into perspective some of the things that maybe I was walking towards. Again, I don't know what would've happened if I would have continued down this path. But it also, to be quite frank and honest, I think that for some point, it really took me away from my recovery for a while because I felt a need to dive into this population so much to help them that I started to forget about the things that I needed to do to take care of me. But it was the stress that came back, the things that started to affect me, the internal struggle, the conflict. Maybe I won't go to a meeting this time, or maybe I won't do this because I've got too much work to do because I have to help these people. I think that it skewed my own vision of what my recovery was. So I struggled for a while.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

That's a really great segue into this practice of recovery that we have, and you and I have talked about this where we really... In 12 step they talk about it being a daily reprieve and I had experienced that. That is my experience. It is a daily reprieve. And the difficulty of consistent self care, consistent just attention to recovery, and having such an extreme, whatever you want to call it. I'm just talking from my perspective where I have an extreme... I have the tendency to have an extreme personality or an obsessive compulsive whatever. Whatever it is, if it's something I like, I drill it into the ground basically. I go to the same restaurant and eat the same thing until I can't even look at it at all anymore and then I eat it again. So when I am into something or I feel stress or I feel responsibility to people, I mean, particularly with parenthood where you're like-

Leo Martinez:

It's a whole new game.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah. It's a whole new game of feeling that. But it's the same thing where you're like, "I'm doing such important work. I have important things to do. There's so much to do, blah, blah, blah." That the intensity that we get around things, it can become very difficult to remember to take care of yourself and remember that your recovery is a daily reprieve even if you are, for me, 13 years away from your last drink.

Leo Martinez:

Yeah. I think for me, and it's a very interesting question, and it made me think just now what did it do for my recovery. It's like I want to be like say, "Oh, it's strengthened it," and this and that. But it challenged it.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

You know what I was expecting you to say?

Leo Martinez:

What's that?

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

I was expecting you to say that you realized that people who had more resources had no idea how close they were able to being able to recover and that you say that how much resources and the ability to tap into that made a difference. Basically that there was this inequality and that despite having the same feelings and having the same disease, that it greatly made you understand what access to treatment is in this world.

Leo Martinez:

Well, I think from that perspective, there's no doubt that people with more resources are much more difficult to work with.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

I didn't want to say that they were more difficult because you are dealing with people who are methamphetamine users how are schizophrenic. So I don't want to step out on that beam. But that was...

Leo Martinez:

I think they're two different populations completely. But what I'm saying is that people that are facing absolutely abject poverty, that don't have anywhere to use a restroom, things like that. They are more... Once you start to... And this is not a blanket statement. This is my experience is that I found that once I treat them with human dignity, that the door opens. That they are able to communicate with me in a way that maybe just for a moment they'll have the wherewithal to listen just for a second so that I can link them to the resource that might get them to that next step. So I think that the pain is so tremendous that any alleviation of that pain is positive movement. So to say it's easier to work with or they respond better to treatment, I think maybe isn't the most accurate thing to say. It's more like the kind of the light bulb that turns on, turns on a little bit quicker.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Right. But I actually love your authentic answer because it's one that's authentic. And two, because you're right. When you are on... I'm a drug and alcohol counselor. I have training and interventionist training. When I've been on the front lines with the family and I care about them, and I really want to see... I am just totally engulfed in what's going on with that case and working with that case and doing everything I can to help these people. And my needs do go out the window. So your authentic answer is actually really great because it is true that as recovering people, we really struggle to stay recovering. When that pain is right around the corner, when it's six months in or whatever, that pain is really close to you. You're like, "I don't want to ever feel that way again." You and I have talked about how we don't even relate to the person. We don't feel like that person anymore that we talk about in our story. It's a story. It's like an HBO Special. I don't know how that girl was, and that's part of how we talk about it when we're in recovery.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

So it's hard to remember and conjure that pain at that level that fueled our desire to change and pray and meditate. So now as we get normal mainstream lives, which we have. We're mainstream people now. We're in the fold. We're in society. And we're doing good in the community, and it gets really... It is tough. What I found is that my alcoholism is not dead. My alcoholism is we'll find work. It'll find a food. It'll latch on to anything it needs to to feed it, and I have to remain vigilant. And it can be so exhausting as a life. You're like, "Oh my gosh. I've done all the things. Leave me alone."

Leo Martinez:

I love what you're saying about different outlets that we find. I mean, at the end of the day, I'm a human being, and the stressors show up. And for me, stress is a trap. And when I over work, over think, over care-

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Over anything.

Leo Martinez:

Over anything, that person that you're talking about. I'm watching that HBO Special kind of like does a guest appearance in my life. It's like, "Hey, remember me?"

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Oh yeah. That's a perfect way. [crosstalk 01:12:35]

Leo Martinez:

Yeah. Exactly.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Featuring my very ill self.

Leo Martinez:

Right. It's like what's going on? Why does my head hurt this way again? Why am I remembering? Why can't I think straight? Why am I snapping at this person? Let me eat that food. Let me order it.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Why am I defensive? Why am I craving this? Why am I... Why am I... I love the over over because it's like we talk about the different programs that you started in Narcotics Anonymous and ended up in Alcoholics Anonymous. And I'm a member of AA as well, and it's funny because we have these different delineations, right? We have the Over Eaters Anonymous. We have-

Leo Martinez:

Been there too.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Me too. But you have Food Addicts Anonymous. You have opioid. I think you have Heroin Anonymous. You have every anonymous program, which is wonderful, which is absolutely fantastic. Codependents Anonymous. But really it's just over over. It's really whatever you're over. We could start a whole group of people, and all of us would fit into most of them over anonymous. I don't gamble because I don't like not receiving something for my money. So I don't know if I can go into that program, but maybe with enough work, with enough things fall out of favor, it's possible. Just that even in the remarkability of... I hope that's a word.

Leo Martinez:

I think it is.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Phew. So even in the remarkability of-

Leo Martinez:

It is a word.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Okay, perfect.

Leo Martinez:

Because you said it twice.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Exactly. I'm going to say it three times. Even in the remarkability of you losing that weight and starting running, walking around the block, and that progression, which is a beautiful metaphor for recovery. You just walk around the block. That's how we do it. We stay sober one day. We stay sober one minute, blah, blah, blah. Those things add up. But even in that time, in that nine months, you went from zero to completing a marathon. And so that's still an extreme and losing over 50 pounds, whatever it was. And still we are people with extreme behaviors, even in our health. And it isn't necessarily a bad thing. It's just something we have to pay attention to.

Leo Martinez:

Right. And for me it was like I'm driven. That's the way I say it. I'm driven.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Me too. I'm ambitious.

Leo Martinez:

People would tell me, "You know, Leo, I'm watching you run. I'm watching you do this. Why don't you take it easy?" I'm like, "Wait a minute, I'm committed. This is important to me. Why are you getting in my way? Why are you doing this?" I mean, this last time that I got into the running and did all that, I lost 100 pounds total. I went from 310 to 210. And so yeah, it was extreme.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

I never lose weight running.

Leo Martinez:

Oh, man.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

I was so hungry.

Leo Martinez:

It was hill sprints. That does it.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Oh, well. Okay. I'll just do that.

Leo Martinez:

Just do hill sprints, it'll do it. Don't over do it.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah. Telling me to don't over do it. Yeah.

Leo Martinez:

My body's definitely paying the price now, and the scary part about everything is that I'm 43 years old. And my body's starting to put pounds back on. And what I've found is that the voice in my head-

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Comes back.

Leo Martinez:

... it comes back. And even though the pictures are gone, there's still wounds there that haven't been healed fully. And I'm aware of them. My wife, she's a somatic therapist. She's super aware of the body, or she's actually a somatic therapist in training. I know you're hearing this. But what ended up happening is that I've decided to seek additional help.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Because you're at that next... We get to that next phase. I think each piece of our recovery, and it kind of depends on how much time it takes us to get to each wave of... But we have to upgrade our... Roland Williams, who has been a mentor to both of us, talks about upgrading, updating your recovery program. And I think you were in that training as well.

Leo Martinez:

Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Man, that cut through all and hit me in the heart. Are you doing the same things that you did when you were a year sober that you are doing when you're 10 years sober? And I thought, "Oh, god. Yes. I am not..." Because it's easier. So as with anything, if we don't grow with the length of time we've been in recovery, then it's stagnant. For us, they say if you're not growing, you're going. So for us, there's no kind of hovering in the neutrality. It's downhill, man. That's it. If you're not doing git, you're going downhill. And it may not feel that way, and everything in your life maybe successful. And everything maybe good, maybe pretty, but on the inside, if you're not moving up, you're moving down. And I think it all... We talk about being in relapse as a process. Relapse is a process.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

I can't tell you how many times I've been in relapse. I haven't relapsed in the last 13 years, but I've been like, "Man, I'm in relapse. I'm doing all the things that person, that old me is making it a special appearance. And why am I doing this? And blah, blah, blah." And that's when we get back on track. And that's the piece of recovery, that's when I reach out and do the things that have worked for me or look at what is this spiritual peace that I need to do in my recovery? And the biggest thing lately for me has been living in an abundant mindset as opposed to scarcity. Like, "It's all going to run out. There's never going to be enough." Whatever it is, I live in this place of like there's not enough food. There's not enough money. There's not enough-

Leo Martinez:

Self fear based.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

It's all there's not enough whatever. I'm terrified. I mean, I'm afraid that my dog's going to be cold at night because there aren't enough blankets. I mean, stuff where you're like, "Ashley, this is..." Just like there's not enough. And that mindset, that's relapse mode.

Leo Martinez:

Yeah, absolutely. I was taught that we're on an escalator that's going the opposite direction and I'm trying to climb it.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

I've done that.

Leo Martinez:

In order for me to get to wherever I'm going, I have to keep moving because if I stop, I'll end up on the floor eventually. Each one of those steps is a day. So I have to be doing some activity for my recovery that day. So that's how I like-

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

I love that.

Leo Martinez:

... conceptualizing what my treatment is. And there's days I stand still.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Totally.

Leo Martinez:

Right. I'm aware of it. I'm totally aware of it. And I think that's what has helped me tremendously is the awareness. The awareness of that. I am actively in recovery. I'm aware of it. I know what happens when I'm not actively in recovery, and I am untreated alcoholic. And I start to act differently. I start to hide things. I start to hide my thoughts, my feelings. I lose my ability to be vulnerable. I become very guarded and protected, and I feel like crap. Next thing you know it's like I haven't got to the place where I'm wanting to use or drink again but might as well because of the way I'm living. And that's happened to me a few times. Unfortunately, I've been able to support myself with people. I mean, the programs that I've been to and also AA, I have brothers there that they're my brothers. I love them. We'll do anything for one another, and we're about each other. And that has been a tremendous key for me. And not everyone in my life is an AA member.

Leo Martinez:

But the people that are the closest to me, for example, my daughter's godfather, my best man, the person who married me and my wife, we're all AA recovering brothers because those are the people that took me in. They supported me. I've lived a life of feeling disconnected, and for the first time, they accepted me how I was. They didn't judge me. The first time I opened up about the sexual assault, it was to an AA brother who I was afraid of to tell him because he was going to judge me or he was going to tell me that... or laugh at me or say, "Why didn't you kill that guy? What's wrong with you?" He said, "What's going on, Leo? You got something you got to tell me." I said, "No, it's nothing." He goes, "Yeah, yeah, you do." I said, "No, no. It's okay." He goes, "No, it's not okay." He says, "Why don't you just give it to God?" He said. And I said, "There is no god. If there is one, he doesn't want me."

Leo Martinez:

And he told me, he said, "Listen, I don't know what you're afraid of. Who is this person that you call a spirituality?" I said, "It's what everybody calls. I was raised this religion and this and that." He goes, "Just imagine this person just kind of sitting there and just kind of smelling flowers." This is what he said, "Just smelling flowers. And you go up to him and you tell him whatever you an tell me. And he turns around, and he says, "Get out of here, man. You're stupid, leave. You're dumb." He insults you. Would he do that?" "Of course not." He says, "Then what are you afraid of?"

Leo Martinez:

And I thought about that for a second. He was right. I had nothing to be afraid of, and I took a risk. I took a chance with one man, which is ironic. And he hugged me. He held me. He told me it was okay. And I was free from it. It's that kind of support that I sought my whole life, and I found the place where it was abundantly given. Like you said, living in abundance. And I'm forever grateful for that. And it's the key to my sobriety. It's the key to know that I always have someone that I can reach to that understands we're like the survivors of the shipwreck.

Leo Martinez:

And to be able to be in that space when I'm out there working with different psychiatric disorders or when I'm online working with people with single disorders or substance abuse or alcoholism or drug addiction is knowing that no matter what happens in those spaces, that I can check out for a second and just pull away from my desk, put down my work, and walk to my recovering brother and say, "Hey, this is how I feel, and I need you right now." And they're there for me. And that's what it's taught me about my recovery now is that I get to do that. Before I didn't know that that was an option for me. I thought it was all about work, work, work, work, work because that's what we do. I've been lucky that way. But I still have my struggles and my challenges.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Oh for sure. For sure. You're human.

Leo Martinez:

Yeah.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

We're having a human experience.

Leo Martinez:

And there's tragedy too in the world we do.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah, there is.

Leo Martinez:

That's been the hardest thing for me, especially coming with the background of tragedy and trauma and all these other things and seeing people go through it, I learned my limitations.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah. Have you been able to use your story to help other survivors?

Leo Martinez:

I have. I'm careful. I think that my story and my recovery is how I did it, and to tell others this is how I did it, this is how you should do it is kind of like a slippery slope, right?

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah.

Leo Martinez:

But when I find that it would benefit them, I say or I hear someone tell me, "I was attacked," or something like that. I'm careful with that information in the clinical setting. But when it comes to AA, I've given my story, and I've been open about it. And people have walked up to me and told me, "I thought I was the only one. Thank you for sharing." And it's clearly not because I want to be like, "Oh, good job, Leo." It's more like I'm saying it because it empowers me. It frees me from that. And it lets people know that this former Marine-

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

That's what I was... It's funny. I was just going to-

Leo Martinez:

This former Marine is just as wounded and able to recover from that. I don't know. I don't want to sound like I'm glorifying something.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

And it doesn't sound like that.

Leo Martinez:

I know. It's more like I just want to let people know that it's okay to be part of a group that I think is bigger than we think than we know.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

The dichotomy of the Marine and yet the toughest, strongest, most macho, amazing thing you've ever done is be vulnerable, is perfect in the sense that it's really what we try to communicate I think in therapy and in recovery, which is that you can do all the pull ups and withstand all the humiliation and torture and whatever, whatever it is. I mean, maybe it's not military, but whatever you're version of intensely masculine lifestyle or actions are. And yet the most strength you'll ever have is in the vulnerability.

Leo Martinez:

Without a doubt.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Strongest you'll ever be, and I think that's really important for people to know and hear.

Leo Martinez:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). Absolutely. I think that I have to continue being that way because the second, at least for me, again I can only speak for myself. But the second that I think that I've got it is when I'm most exposed, is when I'm most vulnerable. But [crosstalk 01:25:40]

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Not in the good way. Right.

Leo Martinez:

It's when I am I think in danger. I'm not really vulnerable with the word I'm trying to communicate. It's more like I'm walking a very, very dangerous line where I start to think that this is all because I got this and nothing can hurt me. And just get over how I'm feeling. If anything, the one thing I've learned in recovery as well is I get to tell people how I actually feel and not be afraid of it. If I'm hurt, I'm going to say I'm hurt. If I'm sad, I'm going to say I'm sad before I wouldn't say a word.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Have you ever burst into flames because you said you were hurt?

Leo Martinez:

I think one time I almost did, but that's a different story. No, I'm kidding. I was playing with matches. No. No. It's never happened. Maybe burst into like sprinklers.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah. Yeah.

Leo Martinez:

Definitely bursting into water works.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah. That comes with the territory. It's a hard thing to adjust to.

Leo Martinez:

I still struggle with that. I'll still pull back a little bit.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Don't do it. Don't do it. Sometimes I've gotten in fights with my husband, and I'll cry. And I'm like all I'm straight faced because I don't cry very often. I'll be straight faced and just a single tear will come down. I'm still angry and a single tear.

Leo Martinez:

It's still fighting.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah, it's still fighting.

Leo Martinez:

It's holding on.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah. Because it's the core beliefs that they come back. We haven't suppressed them. They're not gone. So they come back.

Leo Martinez:

I think that's for the quest for more work. I'm actively looking for... I always get it wrong. EMDR. I'm looking for it because-

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

It's magic.

Leo Martinez:

Because I believe that I have experienced trauma that I have not fully processed yet. I mean, how could I not thinking of the story I just gave and about the things that I remember. And I'm still feeling... Even though the pictures are gone, I still remember. I think my body-

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Body never forgets.

Leo Martinez:

My body is holding onto that because I'll still get little chills or zaps when I hear boots slam on the ground, or I'll watch something on TV, a little bit of that will come in and affect me and bring me back to that place just for a moment. And then I just kind of shake my head and it off. I don't think I need to live that way. But I'm still I'm a work in progress. I'm still looking for that completion. Again, that's the practice that we should do because at least as substance abuse counselors, right? And as therapists, that's what we teach. And if we're not doing that for ourselves, then what are we doing?

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Totally. Last, so its been a year, I was the first responder to my next door neighbor's son who drowned in an empty pool in rain water. And nobody knew how to do CPR, so I was doing CPR. And they're my neighbors. And it was a really... I left my kids alone in our house. They were a year old. So I left my one year old twins. I mean, they were in their playpen and they were safe. But that was my response was to run to towards this. I was just really ashamed that I did that, even though I was going over there... I was helping. I was ashamed that I ran that way and I did CPR on this baby. And hopefully maybe I bought him some time, I don't know. He ended up passing away. And then I walked in... This was Valentine's Day, and I walked in my front door right back. I have so much adrenaline, I'm hysterical. Hysterical. I've never been that hysterical in my life. I can't even. I mean, in any given situations in my life I've never been like that. And I look at the TV and it's the Parkland shooting on the TV.

Leo Martinez:

So it's just all around you.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

You know in those pictures... I walk in and the Parkland shooting is just right on the TV, and my babies are right there. I was not okay. I was not okay. It took me awhile, and I was falling along with the baby. And then he passed. I did EMDR. I actually did it online with a therapist, and I'm telling you, Leo, it was like magic.

Leo Martinez:

It's like magic.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

It was like magic. I used to walk by... They're my freaking neighbors. I used to walk by their house and think about, "Oh, god. I got to hide the kids." Have all the intrusive thoughts or my bedroom is not that far from the pool. The thoughts were constant. I was always afraid that the kids were making too much noise and that they would hear it and get upset because they would hear children and all this stuff. I'm telling you, they went away. I didn't believe it could happen.

Leo Martinez:

I've read that. I've read that there's research that after three sessions or five sessions for single traumatic events that it can help remove the PTSD, and for more severe cases, it's like over 90 days for that or something like that. But it goes, I forget the exact. But yeah, I'm interested. Probably the most... I shouldn't say the most traumatic event, but one of the things that I believe effected me tremendously was actually in the work that we do. I had a young man who he... I met with him and about an hour or two later, he decided to take his life. And we had just started working together, and that remembering that image of him in front of me fully full of life. And then he's just gone. The way he did it. It was in a way that was very sent a message. Videotaped, all this... I don't need to get into all the specifics.

Leo Martinez:

But he sent a message of the reason why he didn't want to be on this earth, and that's something that kind of like stuck with me. And I thought about can I really handle this type of work because this is a reality. I mean, this is a chronic, progressive, fatal disease. Whether it's through overdose, accident, or by self, or by disease connected to it. And just knowing that people that struggle or are not able to get linked to an active recovery program and do the work that sometimes more often... Not more often than not, but sometimes I have to experience loss of life or tragedy is something that I think is why having that-

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Tool.

Leo Martinez:

... that tool, right? Having that work constantly going because I know people that are in this field that don't have that so much and are struggling. And I don't want to do that. I got to take care of myself.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

And there's really no shame in trying to be better.

Leo Martinez:

We're therapists.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

I know. We have this like shame and like trying to be better, trying to be well, trying to take... It's like where does this come from? It's crazy. But you are a remarkable, remarkable man. And I'm so proud of you, and I don't mean that in a patronizing way.

Leo Martinez:

I'm not taking it that way.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

I feel so much joy for the life that you have created for yourself. I see your wife and your daughter and this beautiful life, and I know that your story is going to help a lot of people. So thank you for coming on and sharing it with us.

Leo Martinez:

Yeah, no. Absolutely. I was looking forward to it. I was nervous. But I think that the opportunity to be able to say these things and to share the stories in such an open platform, if it can help one person, then that's enough for me.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah. That's awesome. Thank you so much.

Leo Martinez:

Thank you.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

The Courage to Change, a recovery podcast, would like to thank our sponsor Lionrock Recovery for their support. Lionrock Recovery provides online substance abuse counseling where you can get help from the privacy of your own home. For more information, visit www.lionrockrecovery.com/podcast. Subscribe and join our podcast community to hear amazing stories of courage and transformation. We're so grateful to our listeners and hope you will engage with us. Please email us comments, questions, anything you want to share with us, how this podcast has affected you. Our email address is podcast@lionrockrecovery.com. We want to hear from you.