The Courage to Change: A Recovery Podcast

Kyle Dean Houston: The 'Patchwork Junkie' Author on Cooking Meth, Losing It All and Realizing His Ultimate Purpose In Life Through Spirituality and Recovery

Episode Summary

Kyle Dean Houston is a speaker, author and coach who is committed to bringing hope into the world. In the mid-1990s, Kyle Houston developed a disturbingly poetic love affair with both needles and the alchemy of creating drugs. Far removed from his small-town values, the drug underground of Kansas City was a world that turned him into first a user and then a notorious meth cook. He prayed for an overdose but instead, he got arrested. Confined to a one-man cell for 23 hours a day, he faced the reality of a 30-year sentence. When his sentence was reduced to nine years, he decided to serve his time and finally go home. Or so he thought. Kyle’s book - Patchwork Junkie - comes out this Friday, August 7th. With all the heartache and beauty of a tortured soul, Patchwork Junkie is a compelling, up-close portrait of the interior life of a young man yearning to put faith in something real. This memoir follows Kyle’s path from a powerful addiction to the violent prison world. It explores the fear of hope and the desperate pain of a mother watching her beloved child fall apart. Straddling a unique line between tragedy and humor, Kyle strikes at the core of what unites us all. Insightful and transforming, this harrowing true story is for anyone who has lost a loved one to addiction or incarceration, anyone who has lived through abuse or searched for meaning and simply aches to know they are not alone.

Episode Notes

Kyle Dean Houston is a speaker, author and coach who is committed to bringing hope into the world.

In the mid-1990s, Kyle Houston developed a disturbingly poetic love affair with both needles and the alchemy of creating drugs. Far removed from his small-town values, the drug underground of Kansas City was a world that turned him into first a user and then a notorious meth cook.

He prayed for an overdose but instead, he got arrested. Confined to a one-man cell for 23 hours a day, he faced the reality of a 30-year sentence. When his sentence was reduced to nine years, he decided to serve his time and finally go home. Or so he thought.

Kyle’s book - Patchwork Junkie - comes out this Friday, August 7th. With all the heartache and beauty of a tortured soul, Patchwork Junkie is a compelling, up-close portrait of the interior life of a young man yearning to put faith in something real. This memoir follows Kyle’s path from a powerful addiction to the violent prison world. It explores the fear of hope and the desperate pain of a mother watching her beloved child fall apart. Straddling a unique line between tragedy and humor, Kyle strikes at the core of what unites us all. Insightful and transforming, this harrowing true story is for anyone who has lost a loved one to addiction or incarceration, anyone who has lived through abuse or searched for meaning and simply aches to know they are not alone.

 

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Episode Transcription

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Hello beautiful people. Welcome to The Courage To Change, a recovery podcast. My name is Ashley Loeb Blassingame and I am your host. If you are here for the first time, welcome. If you are not here for the first time, welcome back. I am so happy that you have decided to join us. And particularly on this episode because my friend, Kyle Dean Houston, he dropped the knowledge. All right. Kyle Dean Houston is a speaker, author, and coach who is committed to bringing hope into the world. In the mid 1990s, Kyle Houston developed a disturbingly poetic love affair with both needles and the alchemy of creating drugs. Far removed from his small town values, the drug underground of Kansas City was a world that turned him into, first, a user and then a notorious meth cook.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

He prayed for an overdose, but instead he got arrested, confined to a one man cell for 23 hours a day. He faced the reality of a 30 year sentence. When his sentence was reduced to nine years, he decided to serve his time and finally go home. Or so he thought. Kyle's book, Patchwork Junkie, comes out this Friday, August 7th, with all the heartache and beauty of a tortured soul. Patchwork Junkie is a compelling up-close portrait of the interior life of a young man yearning to put faith in something real. This memoir follows Kyle's path from a powerful addiction to the violent prison world. It explores the fear of hope and the desperate pain of a mother watching her beloved child fall apart. Straddling a unique line between tragedy and humor, Kyle strikes at the core of what unites us all. Insight and transforming, this harrowing true story is for anyone who has lost a loved one to addiction or incarceration, anyone who has lived through abuse or searched for meaning and simply aches to know they're not alone.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Kyle, just amazing. Absolutely amazing. I can't say enough. I got an advanced copy of this book and genuinely I'm not just plugging the book. Seriously, I was in tears just reading the first chapter. It was so just wow. Yeah. Kyle talks about being a meth cook and I had a lot of questions about how that worked. So I definitely asked him inappropriate questions, but had to know how do you do that. And he's just, wow. I don't know. I sound completely flustered, but he was... Kyle's path is one that most people do not come back from and they certainly don't come back from with such an amazing attitude and recovery. I'm just honestly so proud of Kyle. I didn't know him before this interview, but have formed a relationship, friendship with him since... And I'm just so proud of the work that he's done in this just tremendous story. It just gives me so much hope. I hope it gives you hope and it's wildly entertaining. So there's always that. And I just hope you love Kyle as much as I do.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

So buy this book because it's awesome, Patchwork Junkie. You can find it, Amazon, just search Patchwork Junkie, Kyle Dean Houston. You can find it. Follow him on all the medias of social and enjoy this ride because it's quite the roller coaster. All right. Without further ado, episode 60. Let's do this. Thank you for reaching out with awesome. I'm sorry that I found it the way I did, but whatever, we found it.

Kyle Dean Houston:

No, I think you should be glad that you found it when you did. So I'm just happy to be here, honestly.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Me too. I'm really happy. I have so many questions for you.

Kyle Dean Houston:

Here's the thing I love about you and I've listened to a couple of your podcasts, is that you have this phenomenal sense of humor. It doesn't seem like there's a whole lot of things that are off limits. So I love that. So do me a huge favor and do not pull any of that back because we're talking about serious stuff.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Oh, don't worry. I have a hard time if I have to pull that stuff back. So that's why.

Kyle Dean Houston:

You can't control that stuff. I got it.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

I keep thinking, like this whole cancel culture thing is happening, right, and people from 20 years ago, stuff that they said or did, and I'm so panicked. I was [inaudible 00:04:54] I don't know how... I'm not capable of not saying something that will definitely get me in trouble in 10 years. I just found out that you can't say master bedroom because that used to be the master. That's a slave reference. I'm like, "Oh my God. I don't know what I meant. This is just..." So anyway, I've given up. I've let it go. I'm just going to be me. And if I get in trouble in 10 years, I'll deal with it then.

Kyle Dean Houston:

Yeah, good luck. Good luck with all that. Because you could lose a lot of sleep over that stuff for sure. Not that it's not worth acknowledging, but full time job.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Exactly. Well, that's where my head goes. My head is a full time job. [crosstalk 00:05:40]

Kyle Dean Houston:

I love it.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah. So first of all, I just want to say that your story is incredible and what's actually incredible about it to me is not the stuff that normal people would think is incredible because I get it, having been through crazy story, traumatic stuff. What I think is actually incredible, what I really appreciate is that your recovery, you went to prison, you came out, you were very successful, beat all the odds. But what's amazing to me is actually that your recovery started after the success, after coming out of prison, after all of those things. Because it takes so long to get out of the mental jail that we put ourselves in and you can be incarcerated, like you were in. It's in solitary and you can do all those things.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

But the prison in your mind is the scariest place there will ever be and you're the only person that can let yourself out. And so that's the key. It doesn't all happen just because if I get out of here, then it'll be okay. If I get the job, then it'll be okay. If I get the wife or the husband, then it'll be okay. And your story is all about that. So I just totally, I dig that. Yeah, I want to hear about your childhood because you grew up in an alcoholic home in Missouri. Oh, wait, Missoura.

Kyle Dean Houston:

It depends on which side of the tracks you're from, but I'd say Missouri.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Okay.

Kyle Dean Houston:

Yeah.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Missoura.

Kyle Dean Houston:

Hey, there's a couple of comments I wanted to make really quickly. So you specifically said, it's amazing that you started with... What you loved about my story was that I started recovery later on after I got sober, potentially. What I would say to all that is it depends on how you define recovery. Certainly I think that everybody's job, whether you've been addicted to a substance or not is to gain clarity, is to conquer self, is to do all these things throughout life. And in the process of doing that, I just happened to become a raging methoholic, whatever you want to call it, right. I prefer junkie.

Kyle Dean Houston:

I happened to go to prison, I happened to face life twice. I happened to do all those things. But you are right, it never really made sense to me that I wasn't in control because I was succeeding, I was achieving. I was piling up all of this stuff that I can put in a scorecard and say, Hey, what do you mean? I'm recovered. But the truth is I was living in fear, shame, and doubt. And you're absolutely right. I wouldn't necessarily articulate it in the way of recovery, but that's exactly what it is. It didn't start until two and a half years ago. And it's ongoing until I'm six feet under. That's for sure.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

You know what it is. It's like there's so many different... Right. You have to start with physical recovery, right? You have to start with rather physical sobriety, just getting the substances out of your system. But that's just like step 1.1. And then what you did was you got to that deep recovery and I dig that. Having done this a long time, the deep stuff is where it's at because, I don't know. And we'll talk about this. Just having physical recovery sucks. Just being physically clean and sober without any of the tools, without any of the recovery, that is painful because now my substance is gone, my tool is gone and I'm left with me. And that was why I started doing it in the first place. So that deep recovery is just where, like I'm so passionate about that.

Kyle Dean Houston:

Yeah. Now I'm out on a high wire with no net and I have to look down, that sucks. What was I thinking?

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah. Who said to you it was this?

Kyle Dean Houston:

Yeah, what's this sober business all about? I certainly hope you read my book, but I think you're going to get real kick, especially your personality. You're going to get a real kick out of the tongue and cheek philosophical side of the book. There's parts in it that talk about that and there's parts in it that talk about why you wouldn't want to get sober. It's an up and down rollercoaster that I really enjoyed writing. But I'm doing my best not to steer this conversation and be a good boy.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Oh no, you do you. Okay. Let's start. So you grew up in Missouri and alcoholic home, what was the home like?

Kyle Dean Houston:

I think it's important to understand I had an alcoholic stepfather. So I certainly had the classic case of a fractured, broken home. Everybody played their role really well, now that we know what they are. We had the enablers, we had the alcoholic, we had the scapegoat, we had the family hero, which was my older sister. We had all of those things. But my mom didn't drink a lick. She didn't drink at all. So it wasn't necessarily an alcoholic home in the sense that everybody was just over there drinking all the time, it was an alcoholic upbringing. The entire town of Higginsville.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Oh, the town.

Kyle Dean Houston:

The flag was planted many, many, many years ago by Germans. We weaved in it, a couple of Irish people here and there, and that's what you get, right? This melting pot of a drinking culture. And I love them to death. I'm not saying everybody's an alcoholic, but I'm certainly saying that I wasn't unique in that being my upbringing. But what I had specifically was I had a stepfather who found out early in the game that I was the package deal that he didn't really sign up for. And he and I had a very difficult relationship throughout my childhood where I loved him, I admired him. I get a lump in my throat talking about this. In his way, and I know this now, he loved me as well, but he wasn't good with children and patience. So there was a lot of, nowadays, it certainly is abuse. There was a lot of that stuff. And my mother was an angeraholic, if that's a term we can throw out there.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Rageaholic.

Kyle Dean Houston:

There we go. Why not? And all of these terms are-

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

They have meanings for.

Kyle Dean Houston:

... Yeah, I know. I certainly, I might be the candidate for some of that stuff. But my mother's way of coping with anything, what she was most comfortable with was dominating and getting mad. And so yelling was a common occurrence, blah, blah, blah. So that was my upbringing. The funny thing about it is I have two siblings. I have a younger brother who's six years younger than me and a sister that's two years older. Completely different childhoods.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Right.

Kyle Dean Houston:

I'm the middle kid that looks exactly like the son of a bitch my mom married before my stepdad came into the picture and like to break bones. I'm talking about my own. I liked to jump things with bikes and have stitches every day and all that stuff. So I was a handful for sure.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

You were a young boy.

Kyle Dean Houston:

I was a boy. That's true. But in my small town you did drink, it wasn't frowned upon. And I started drinking and smoking weed at the same age of 13. In my class I was the athletes, football, track, wrestling, all of that stuff. Letter jacket, four year letterman. School seemed to come easy. Everything that I wanted to do really seemed to come easy. So I didn't understand weakness. And when I got into my mid 20s and really started getting addicted to drugs, when it went from recreational and fun to something life threatening, I had no tools in my toolbox to understand any of that. Because now something wasn't easy, now I was weak. But here I am in my head and I'm like, "Holy, I do not understand weakness." I wasn't prepared for this. And certainly now looking back on it, 25, 30 years later, because I believe in purpose, because I believe in a higher power, because I believe in all of those things, it was my purpose to get a crash course in humility, and forgiveness, and empathy, and understanding. Oh boy, did I get it?

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah. I relate so much to what you're saying because I experienced one of the hard... One of the things that I really struggled with getting sober was that I had always used my brain, like you're talking to my brain or my skills to overcome or figure things out, right? It always works for me to use my brain to logically think something through and achieve. With sobriety, you can't do that. You don't use that. And so I had no other skills. Something that had always worked for me in school in getting those achievements didn't work in recovery and didn't work. Nobody cared. Recovery, doesn't care how smart I am or what I know or any of that. That was such a huge challenge. And you come across it, you come face to face with these things in yourself that you don't have the tools for. And it's terrifying.

Kyle Dean Houston:

Yeah. Well, I mean, it certainly is terrifying. I don't know that those are the terms I would use, but I'm at this point just simply talking about the throes of addiction. I'm not even talking about recovery. I don't even have the tools to understand what's going on because I'm introspective, because I'm constantly diving in, and putting labels, and compartmentalizing. That's the way all of our brains work, but mine's overtime. No reference for what was going on. And it literally, in a very short period of time, became hopeless. It was hopeless. It was like every single day I continue to go further. And as I reflect on the things that I'm putting off, and the hearts that I'm breaking, and the fact that my mom hasn't spoken to me for six months and thinks I'm dead and I'm not doing anything about it, I think that my only exit strategy is going to be to have an overdose or commit suicide. And this happened in a year to a year and a half period of time. And-

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

How did you make that transition from... Walk me through the transition from four year letterman to when you started using meth. What happened? How did it go from recreation to necessity?

Kyle Dean Houston:

... Sure. So to abbreviate all of that, I graduated from high school, was certainly expected to go to college. I think a lot of friends completely thought that I would be highly successful at something. And I went through four or five years of literally quitting everything because it just wasn't fun. Right. That became my IMO. So I quit college, I joined the Navy, I got out of the Navy in 10 months. I just did all these things and finally decided I'm successful at making money, I'm going to become an entrepreneur. And so I started a carpet store in Kansas City. I had eight employees. In between that period of graduating from high school, having adventures, doing recreational drugs, everything from LSD to meth and crack cocaine. I mean, I tried it all. I loved it all. I get to this point where I'm highly responsible for eight people's lives and everything looks really good.

Kyle Dean Houston:

One of my carpet installers, that actually puts the carpet in the house, his ex wife was a meth cooks girlfriend, and this is ish. I'd always had something that wasn't pure and it was really hard to get and I couldn't get endless supplies of it. Now that I look back on, that was my saving grace. So when I met her and she decided I was a lot of fun, and she could never run out and therefore by extension, I could never run out, it was a perfect storm for addiction. And so that's essentially what changed, but there was a lot of other circumstantial things that happened in life that made me continue to run back to the pipe.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

How old were you at the point where you meet the cook's girlfriend?

Kyle Dean Houston:

I was somewhere between 25 and 26.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Okay. So you meet this woman and things have been, like increasing use. Before that, would you consider it recreational or just heavy drug use?

Kyle Dean Houston:

Recreational.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Okay. So before that it was recreational?

Kyle Dean Houston:

Overnight I went from recreational to habitual. Overnight.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

And so you get in with this woman and what are you telling yourself as things are increasing, as things are probably falling apart, I'm assuming?

Kyle Dean Houston:

They're falling apart. They certainly are. So in the beginning, let's just talk first two weeks for a second. First two weeks I'm telling myself this is a party, right? First two weeks, I'm like, "Wow, this is awesome. Look." We're all high and we don't have to go look for it and it's free. It seemed like a lot of fun. You get on the other end of that first two weeks and it's like, "These aren't really my people, the fun friends that I love to death aren't coming around as much. And really I'm not growing my business. So I want to stop." I call her up and I tell her, "Don't come over tonight. I don't really want to do this anymore. I think you're a great person, but that's it." And she breaks into my house with two or three people. I go out to a bar, and I have a meal, and a couple of beers. I see some old friends and I tell them what I've been up to. And it's a joke. It's just all of an adventurous story.

Kyle Dean Houston:

I come home, walk into my house and there's three people and she's one of them. I'm mad and I'm like, "What are you doing breaking into my house?" And instantly, I hate admitting that I'm this weak, she lights the pipe and she hands it to me and immediately I'm okay with it. Now from that moment, I start to realize, Oh my God, this is deeper than just a funny story. This is deeper than just an ordinary thing that can be a little trouble. And we go from that to graduating to an addict. That's not very fun to her anymore. She decides she's going to cut me off. And I'm the ambitious person that again decide, nobody's going to cut me off. I'm going to teach myself how to cook it. So I'd met enough people, I got the chemicals together and I taught myself how to make meth.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Okay. So let's stop there. I have some questions. Okay.

Kyle Dean Houston:

Go ahead.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

All right. I'm just curious because I smoked a lot... So this is the kind of addict I-

Kyle Dean Houston:

I love it.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

... I've smoked a lot of meth, but I really don't like it.

Kyle Dean Houston:

Okay. All right.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

I kept feeling like every time I would do it, something different would happen. Nothing different ever happened. So the chemicals that you use to cook meth, it felt like I was maybe ingesting Drano. I don't know. I probably was. What's actually in it?

Kyle Dean Houston:

Well, I mean, what's actually in it depends on the cook. So there's lots of different recipes and I don't get methamphetamine quarterly anymore, so I don't keep up on what they're doing. Yeah, I know. I'm...

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Unsubscribed.

Kyle Dean Houston:

But the rest of we used, we had three main ingredients, which was phosphorus... You had red phosphorus, you had black iodine, and you had ephedrine. And ephedrines never changed. In the process of extracting, so you put those together, you create this endothermic reaction and a hydrocarbon attaches itself to this thing and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Then the Drano that nobody used, but I know what you're talking about. The household chemicals that you use or what you use to extract from the oils and start to filter and blah, blah, blah. So to make this really simple to understand, if somebody doesn't take their time and care about that last process, then you are going to get those household chemicals in your system and in your meth.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Got it. Oh so they're not actually supposed to be in there, but they're used as the extraction, like crack. What are they?

Kyle Dean Houston:

Yeah, it's like crack. I imagine. I've never cooked crack. I've never done that.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

I've watched it. I used to go to this guy, he would get this big load of cocaine and I would try to get there before, because I wanted the cocaine and I would try to get there before they made it into crack.

PART 1 OF 4 ENDS [00:23:04]

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Because I wanted the cocaine and I would try to get there before they made it into crack. And so I'd go and watch and just kind of watch these- You know how it's surreal. People are like, "A crack house, Ashley, how could you?" You just end up in these situations and you're like, I guess we're cooking here. I don't know how this just happened. I guess I'm here.

Kyle Dean Houston:

Well, there's that. Yeah. Let's see how high we can get off of that. What the heck?

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

So you wrote your own-

Kyle Dean Houston:

You are so funny. I have to tell you, normally I tell people, I usually don't talk about this and we're talking about spiritual things, but I got to tell you, I usually don't go into this much depth about my fun stuff. So maybe I'll do my best not to relapse during this conversation, but...

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

... Yeah, don't do that. No relapsing. It's the perfect example of where you focus your attention, if you focus on the problem, the problem grows, if you focus on the solution, the solution grows. That works in recovery, and that same idea is applicable to using. And when we are in the throes of our addiction, we're going to focus on getting whatever that situation, whatever the setup is that we need. And if we have entrepreneurial skills, whatever it is, those things come into play because we're, again, focused on creating something to survive in this addiction. So, a lot of the skills, it does not surprise me that your entrepreneurial skills that have helped you grow and be successful, were useful back then. It's just the goal was different. We changed our goals.

Kyle Dean Houston:

I would take it a step further, and this is really, really important. And something that I talk about, and that is that yes, the entrepreneur skills, the ability to meet and talk and do all those other things, helped me infiltrate the drug game. There's no doubt about it, but inside the drug game, I saw things about myself and possibility and what I'm capable of achieving if I'm hyper-focused on something that absolutely lends itself to the success side of my story. There's no doubt about it and what I want everybody to understand, because typically you get on the other side of drug addiction, raging drug addiction, and it's all about guilt and shame, and you're not worth a crap. And what skills do I have? And I got news for you. You have the competitive advantage because you have literally woken up every day and made miracles happen. You woke up with no money, no place to sleep, and you still managed to get high on a really expensive and I mean, come on. It's [crosstalk 00:26:02]

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

No it's so... Oh my gosh. I was thinking about this the other day. It's so true. I was at a teenager, no real income. I managed to have an eight ball a day cocaine habit at a certain point. That was before dating the dealer kind of deal and [crosstalk 00:03:22]. Yeah, exactly. It was my favorite date. Date the dealer, why are we not dating the dealer? Let's just date the dealer. No, we figure out... Sometimes it's interesting, I'll see people, homeless people or whatever, and I'll think to myself, how do they get high? And I forget how, we find we are so resourceful, and again, it's like, what is it focused on? And you take the skills that you had becoming a meth cook and you put those into good, positive mainstream society. And they're wonderful skills.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

It's about having that internal shift obviously, and that, I think that at the point where you are as deep into the drug game as you are, what's interesting that I've seen and I'm curious if this resonates for you, the people that I know that were really into dealing, selling, making drugs, that became a high in and of itself, that process, that fast life, the being the It Guy, that kind of stuff, that was actually a part of the addiction. Did that happen for you at all?

Kyle Dean Houston:

It certainly resonates. Let me qualify that. And this is all a part of the book, and I'm so glad you brought it up because the addiction to making methamphetamine became the thing I couldn't pull away from. And for most people, they think, Oh, making meth as a means to get high, and for me, it literally was getting high became the means to make meth, it reverts itself. And I was not addicted to the power, because I'm introspective, I never confused. I don't know, you don't have self-esteem if you're on drugs, but I had enough self-worth to say this isn't real power. I didn't get addicted to the money because it just was the thing that floated in and out of my life, by the piles. And I didn't care.

Kyle Dean Houston:

What I got addicted to was being alone in the lab, making it better, watching it, you would create this universe inside this flask and watching it and experimenting and doing all those things and realizing that, it's crazy to say it this way now, but these are your subjects. You're creating life. And I started to tell myself that this is art. This is spiritual. This is something God's okay with. Forget the destruction that happens after I make this, because that's separate from what I'm doing right now. What I'm doing right now is this insane God complex, and I'm creating life. And that was an addiction that haunted me forever. I dream about it.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Interesting. Okay.

Kyle Dean Houston:

Yeah. I just got to say this, never thought much about it after I walked out of prison. I was busy. I had a career to build, until I started writing the book. And when I started writing the book, I started to watch myself and I started to pay attention to what my mind was traveling, how it was traveling and what it was thinking about. And I wrote these poetic chapters of cooking meth and what I was lost in. And I did the same thing with shooting with needles, the first and second time I did it, because it's magic or you wouldn't do it. Right? I mean [crosstalk 00:30:06] let's face it. He didn't like [crosstalk 00:30:08]

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

I would say the big problem with the DARE campaign, just say no is... Drugs are bad, is that we don't acknowledge that they do something for people that they like. We can acknowledge that there's something that comes out of it that people like, which is why they do that.

Kyle Dean Houston:

Well, there's the interior world and there's the exterior world. And don't confuse the two just because I look like Skeletor and I have zits all in my face and tracks up my arm, don't think for one second that's my self image inside, because inside, I'm invincible. And I got this, as long as I'm high.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Got this. Right. And also meth makes, meth, my experience, at least, I came up with even crazier... When I was shooting heroin, I wasn't exactly with it and coming up with ideas and thinking through things, it was just kind of, there was a lot of drooling involved. When you're doing meth, there's a lot of thinking, of ideas, and having introspection and that wasn't my jam. So I'm sure that it didn't hurt that you were on uppers when this is happening.

Kyle Dean Houston:

Did you ever see Orange County with Jack Black, did you ever see Orange County, the movie? Oh, you got to see it. Jack Black's a drug addict and he's talking about all these ideas. It would be so much funnier if you would have seen it, but that's exactly what meth's like.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

All of the ideas. Yeah, exactly. It's lots of ideas and lots of unfinished projects.

Kyle Dean Houston:

I just want you to know that that's not all it is. Certainly isn't all it is. You can get to a point where it doesn't matter how much meth you do, you're not drowning out the voices and the noise and the shame and the guilt. You can do it for a little while, while you're super high, but, the worst thing that could ever happen is running out. The minute you run out, when you're at that point, suicide is the only thing you think about. And that, I want to make sure it's clear, is what the book talks about, is that phenomenon. We talk about the mystical awareness and this beautiful thing that happens when I'm cooking. And you know what happens inside my head, but that's very short lived because the majority of my life, for that two years, was walking around thinking, how am I going to die? And being really, really disappointed that meth wasn't going to kill me. That was a damn shame.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yes. That was actually... You know how people talk about, I was going to die and that's why I got sober. And one of the thoughts I had was, I'm not dying. It's just getting worse. I felt like I was going to live in this purgatory that the drugs weren't killing me quickly, it was just going on and on and bad things and bad things, bad things. And I was living through them all. And that felt worse, the idea that I would have to live in that purgatory felt worse, felt scarier than just dropping dead because dropping dead was, I don't know about for you, but dropping dead from you is a real consideration. It was not like, "Oh my gosh, I could drop dead here." I was well aware that that was a high probability, but that wasn't scary. It was staying alive and having all the chaos and the things go wrong and not dying that really scared me.

Kyle Dean Houston:

It was more than a consideration, it was my goal. It was what I was trying to do. All the way to a point to where I literally almost hung myself and you don't know much about Kansas city, but the hood is Northeast. And I was in Northeast and I was looking up the rafters. I had what I thought I was going to hang myself with. It was all going to happen. And I had this moment of, I wouldn't call it clarity, but this moment of, just right at the end, who's going to find me? What's this going to do? Am I going to be forgotten? Is this the best thing? And then I got scared of myself because I was so close to doing it. Then luckily I ran upstairs and somebody got me super high and we got through that, but that was the plan.

Kyle Dean Houston:

I want to say something just because it's really important to me, I'm so glad that you're here. I'm so glad that you're sober and that you have the insight that you do. Your energy is very touching to me and your compassion is, it's special. So I'm glad that you didn't die. Okay? That's the way I was feeling a second ago.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Thank you. That's... You're going to make me cry. I feel the same way. I feel the same way. And what I thought when you said that you ran upstairs and someone got you high was, Oh yeah, drugs saved my life for a long time.

Kyle Dean Houston:

It allows you to kick the can down the road until you can't. Lucky for me, very lucky for me, the universe had a whole new plan and I got arrested, because I wouldn't be here, there's no doubt about it. You mentioned something a second ago where people have the wherewithal to realize if I don't get sober, I'm going to die, that's a conversation you have when you're trying to get sober. That's not the conversation you get to have when you're in the throes and when you're a junkie, because it's either you die or you keep using like this till you die. That's your conversation, that's it. [crosstalk 00:35:40] the same way. You talk yourself into believing it's better for everybody. I think that's suicide in general. Right? But that was my mindset. This is better for my family. This is better for my child. This is better clearly for me.

Kyle Dean Houston:

What am I going to do? Hang out for another 20 years and run this reputation into the ground? I'm Kyle Houston. I'm the football player. I can't keep doing this. Let's die. I'm also glad I didn't do that. And I'm also glad I went through it. Very glad, because I don't think I would be the guy that's able to tell you how important it is that you're alive and that you care and that you're loving. I don't think I would be the guy to understand people's hardships and weakness. And maybe I would have gotten there another way, but I certainly got there this way. And it's important to me. And it's such a big part of who I am, to be that empathetic, loving guy that will also kick you in the ass and tell you to get your (beep) together. That's a big part of my personality, but the loving side and the caring side and the understanding side, I wouldn't trade for the world for the world. I do want my seven years back.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

I'm sure. So you get arrested and what's the charge?

Kyle Dean Houston:

It's many things, but the night that I got arrested, where it counted, it was trafficking in the first degree and it was a [crosstalk 00:37:13] ton of chemicals, not a whole lot of finished product, but it didn't matter. Missouri had created all these new laws and you might as well have been standing there over a dead body with a murder- No, actually that's better. You get less time for murder. So I was facing 30 years with no parole, which means you're doing every day. And it was a real thing. It wasn't one of those situations where they're like, "Ah, let's throw the A felony at him and then we'll negotiate a C felony and he'll get..." It wasn't like that. So I went through that. I went through the entire process. You look like you have a question, sorry.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

No, no, no.

Kyle Dean Houston:

You make these great faces. I'm like, Oh.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

You're arrested. You go to your arraignment. The first time you realized that you're looking at 30 years, every single day, what does it feel like to hear that?

Kyle Dean Houston:

At the time I heard it, none of it... Reality didn't exist yet. I'm coming off the streets, I'm shooting. You have to remember, I have a bottomless bag, I make the dope and I'm doing seven to eight shots a day, 50CCs. I'm blowing my brains out, enough to kill a mule, seven, eight times a day, every day. I took the responsibility of having an overdose pretty serious. And so when I get arrested, I can't pick my head up off the pillow, let alone think. I'm not conscious. When I finally get the energy to walk across the street to the courthouse, cuffed and shackled and everything else, I'm still trying to figure out, "How do I make bail? How do I get out of here? How do I control and manipulate and lie my way through this thing, because I'm not going down without swinging." So none of it registered. It will later on in my story, but at this point, now, I got this. Worst case scenario, I make a bunch of meth, I make bail and I go to Europe and live, there's all kinds of ideas.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Right, right, right. Okay. Okay. So were you're still... What did you actually get convicted of?

Kyle Dean Houston:

So we're going to leapfrog a whole bunch of the cool stuff, but about a month or so before I get... I spend 18 months waiting to get sentenced. And during that 18 months, there's a lot more to the story. I spend six months, five months getting sober. I start to recognize my own thoughts. I start to see the value system that I was raised with start to come back into my considerations. And I tell myself if I can get a change of venue, which means I go to another county, they've got a better judge there, I can probably make bail. I can get out and I can fix this. So, that's exactly what I do. And I get the change of venue. It took me five months to get it. I'm there for a week.

Kyle Dean Houston:

He gives me bail, my mom and dad scrape up the money, I get out. It wasn't a small amount of money. And within 24 hours, I've got a needle in my arm and I'm arrested again for possession of a 16th. And I make bail there because they don't know I- It's a different county. They don't know that I've got this other case and I get out and I just go right back, just jump right back in, but worse. And just start making meth and shooting and doing all the other stuff, trying to make enough money to get a really great lawyer. And one night, because I just wasn't thinking, I shot a bunch of air into my arm and I couldn't figure out if I was going to die or not because I'm high. And so the girl that I'm with at the time... It kind of sounds so horrible.

Kyle Dean Houston:

I'm really a good guy, but the friend that I'm with at the time runs me up to a payphone and I tell her, "Call the hospital and see if this is okay." I can't tell if it was 20CCs or 40 worth of air that I shot in there, because I didn't pay any attention. And it's just knucklehead stuff, right? And she calls the cops and they come and pick me up. I've got a warrant out for my arrest. I go right back to that county that gave me bail, that I was there for five months or that I got the change of venue? And I end up in a single cell by myself for the next year or less. 23 hours a day in a cell by myself and in county jail. And that's when everything hit. That's when there wasn't a single person that was ever going to come to see me, that's where my mom, I had finally burned a bridge I didn't think it was possible to burn.

Kyle Dean Houston:

That's when I was alone. That's when it all set in that I was going to be insignificant, never get to contribute. I had a six year old son at the time, I was never going to get to be his dad. That was the lowest of lows that I could ever wish on anybody or imagine in my life. And I spend all of that time and I have this incredible spiritual awakening because I'm there, I'm stripped of all distractions, anything that has to do with status or girls or money or cars, none of that matters. I'm in a cell, I'm wearing the same clothes every day. And so I turned to God and I want to know why, how can this happen? I'm smarter than this. I'm more important than this. You can use me better than this.

Kyle Dean Houston:

Why does this happen? And I decide I'm not going to get lost in what religions write. I'm not going to get lost in anybody else's philosophy. I'm going to approach God with what I truly believe. And I broke it down to three things. One, I truly believe that there's a God. I truly believe that there is order in the universe and that there's a consciousness that overlooks this. Two, I believe that if I asked that being for truth, with the purest of hearts and I listened and didn't inject any expectations, that I would get it. And three, if either one of those two things were wrong, we're (beep) any anyway, so what's it matter? That was my spiritual beliefs. And that's what I went with. Jesus, Hare Krishna, Buddha, Mohammed, all of that stuff, let's put that on a shelf because it doesn't matter right now, because that doesn't feel like truth.

Kyle Dean Houston:

That feels like a steering wheel for a bunch of other people. And what ended up coming to me was two books. One was the Edgar Cayce Primer and the other was The 12 Steps. And still to this day, I could not tell you, maybe it's not in my memory, but it certainly didn't fall from the sky, but I can't tell you how they ended up in my cell, but they did. And I devoured both of them. And The 12 Steps for me, became this... It wasn't about sobriety, it wasn't about drugs or substances. It was this new blueprint for spirituality and how we should all live our lives. And I had this complete shift that everything that mattered, there's two, things love and oneness. And that we're all in this thing together. And I'm telling you, if there's a definition for reborn, I had it, in that cell and completely dedicated my life to something I don't know that I could ever dedicate my life to without this experience, which is why I hold it so dearly in my heart.

Kyle Dean Houston:

But it all became about love and oneness. I got some new definitions and a new relationship with God and my divinity within, which is far more important than dogma and theology and resurrections and all that other stuff. This was about the thing inside myself that knows the best, that loves the most, that has purpose and gifts to give the world. And I got in tune with that. And then now we're back to your question. A month or two before my sentencing, the case went weak and my lawyer comes to me and says, "Hey, cop didn't have any reason to pull you over. You didn't have any busted tail lights, there was nothing in your car. They didn't have any business walking over to the trucks you were heading to and start pulling fruits of the poisonous vine, we can beat the case."

Kyle Dean Houston:

And I'm like, "Oh, we can beat the case. That sounds pretty cool. Thank you, God." I'm into this. This is like, you can't imagine how I feel. Now I feel like God does... My life is important, but if I'm going to honor this thing that I just went through, if I'm going to honor taking responsibility, which is a huge part of The 12 Steps-

PART 2 OF 4 ENDS [00:46:04]

Kyle Dean Houston:

... taking responsibility, which is a huge part of the 12 steps. Then I want to know what they're offering me because A, I can't walk away from this because I'm culpable and B, I can't walk away from this because I saw what happened last time. It took me 24 stinking hours to have a needle back in my arm. So I've got some (beep) to work on.

Kyle Dean Houston:

And so, I took a nine-year sentence in the state of Missouri. It wasn't going to be every day, the first time down, I was going to do a third of that. Since I'd already done 18 months, in my mind, I'm going to prison and do 18 months, walk out, be the father I was meant to be with this newfound Zen and I'm going to live happily ever after. Well, here's where it gets really crazy.

Kyle Dean Houston:

I tell my son, I'm coming out. I tell him to get a football, right? He's eight and a half, nine at this point and about, I don't know, it's hard to say because you never know when you're going to get paroled out, but a month or two before I was eligible for parole the feds came in and indicted me and I was facing life.

Kyle Dean Houston:

They shipped me off to Leavenworth, Kansas. This is something that not even a whole lot of people in the legal community understand, but they tried me for the exact same evidence. But instead of calling it trafficking, they called it conspiracy, and they grouped in all these other people. Now I'm facing life and I spend the next two years of my life thinking I'm going to do life in prison again, and I go through that experience twice. It gets crazy after that. It was violent. I got jumped by three guys in a cell. I mean, there's just all these ups and downs and it really tested that Zen and those beliefs like you wouldn't believe.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

So you were in some of the most violent prisons in the [crosstalk 00:47:50]

Kyle Dean Houston:

I have to be really careful about that because I know your listeners probably understand violent prisons. I was not in Sing Sing. Right now, I can't remember California's. I was in a level 5 holding facility, which houses everybody, right? So it's as violent as it can get, but it's different. But yes, it was violent enough, trust me.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Stay tuned to hear more in just a moment.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Hi, it's Ashley, your host. I'm so excited to announce a brand new support group at Lion Rock called Community. Community is a recovery support group where all people in the pursuit of peace in mind and body may find hope and healing through connections with each other.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Community is open to everyone and meetings are available online daily, Monday through Saturday. For more information, please visit our website, www.lionrockrecovery.com, and click on Meetings tab. Come and join us.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

So okay, let me just tell you a little bit about Community. Community is awesome in part because I helped write it. So I just want to tell you a little bit about the belief. So this is a place where people can come. It doesn't matter what you're recovering from. Doesn't matter how you define your recovery, your sobriety your abstinence, what have you?

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

I just want to give you a little snapshot. Here are the beliefs of the program. We believe that finding peace and recovery requires a personal path and that recovery looks different for different people. We celebrate the diversity of paths and traditions. We believe that our lives can be different from what they are today and we can get there with the support of community when we ask for help.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

We believe that we can change our lives if we can conquer our fears by doing the work. We believe that recovery requires renewal and depends on personal growth. Like many people before us, we believe you get what you give. We give positive energy. We believe that our inner pain must be released for us to find freedom, and the pain is often a signal there's more work to do. The work may include repairing the damage we caused.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Our common bond began with our desire to relieve our pain at all costs and continues with the cultivation of our healing through our connections to each other. Our common goal is the pursuit of peace and mind, body and spirit. Yeah. Yeah.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

So it's awesome. The people are awesome. The meetings are awesome. I highly recommend you go and check that out. Please, again, go to www.linerock recovery.com. Hit Meetings tab, and you will see an exhaustive list of community recovery support group meetings, including ones for LGBTQ, and upcoming ones for the podcast book club. Stay tuned.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Why do you think that the violence is so intense, particularly in the holding prisons versus the prisons where people are doing life?

Kyle Dean Houston:

Well, the one thing that's going to curb the propensity towards violence for a convict is thinking that if they mind their Ps and Qs, it's going to look good on their case. So sometimes it helps when you're in a holding facility and everybody's getting sentenced, but sometimes people, they can see the roadmap, they can read the tea leaves. Why are we going to be nice? Right?

Kyle Dean Houston:

I know what's going to happen. They're going to lock me up and throw me away forever and they misconstrue what other people are doing as being soft. So there might be some more violent experiences, but the reason it was violent where I was is because it was full of convicts, and it's that simple.

Kyle Dean Houston:

Now, I'm telling you, I'm not a violent guy. At that point in my life, I will fight because I don't want my stuff to get taken. I don't want to be picked on, but I'm certainly not the guy that's going to walk around and start it. But I will tell you not every convict is like that. Not everybody is and I want to make sure everybody knows good people go to prison and really nice, kind people end up in prison. I had some incredible relationships that I built that are lifelong with people from prison.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah. So two years, you think you're doing life, then you get the seven-year sentence, or I'm sorry, the nine-year sentence. Did they drop the life charge and then just give you the nine years?

Kyle Dean Houston:

I got nine years. So it gets convoluted. I got nine years in the state. Then when I was about to get out of the state after doing my three years, right? because I was going to do three of the nine, I got indicted federally and I was facing life.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Right.

Kyle Dean Houston:

There's a turn of events that happened. There was the grace of God and there was a lot of things that happened towards the end of my sentencing, again, where I ended up with a seven-year sentence, and I did seven years behind bars.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Right. Okay. So doing seven years behind bars, how does that change a person?

Kyle Dean Houston:

Well, I can tell you how it changed me, right? I mean, I'll say this there's zero chance you're going to go into prison, especially your first time, and not come out changed. Whether that's for the worst or the better, that's up to you, but you're not going to come out the same person, no stinking way. Why?

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Why?

Kyle Dean Houston:

Well, I mean, it falls along the same lines as, you lie around with dogs, you're going to get fleas, right? I mean, you're submerged. First of all, it's a combination of a lot of variables, right? But you're submerged in a world where almost every conversation is how you're going to do your next crime better or how you're victimized, or what the system's about. I mean, you don't have a lot of Anthony Robbins type people hanging out in prison ready to build your spirits, right?

Kyle Dean Houston:

So you're hanging out with a lot of people that are disgruntled already. They feel like they've been victimized. They're mad about the time they're doing. On the outside, you've got people forgetting about you. On the inside, you're getting older. You're realizing that your life is passing you by.

Kyle Dean Houston:

You also have guards and case managers and all the people there that automatically assume the minute you show up that you're manipulating them and that you're bad, and that you are trying to get one over. So they treat you like (beep) because they don't want to be the sucker.

Kyle Dean Houston:

So you have this perfect storm of lowering your self-worth inside an environment where everybody just hates and angry, and can't wait to get out and do this thing better. Oh, by the way, let's face it, most of the people that go aren't necessarily the upper echelon of the pecking order out on the outside.

Kyle Dean Houston:

A lot of them had really traumatic childhoods. You know what I mean? It's all of those things. So you're not going to live in that environment being locked up and come out the same. It takes a really, really strong person to hold on to the boy their parents raised them to be, or the girl their parents raised them to be, and that's the challenge, right?

Kyle Dean Houston:

Now, for me, since I faced two life sentences, I'm not impervious to how that makes me feel. The state and federal government wanted to lock me up and throw me away. Sorry, lock me up and throw away the key, and whether you outwardly articulate that or not, it affects how you feel about yourself. Like, "I'm that bad?" Or, "Everybody sees me as that bad?"

Kyle Dean Houston:

And so, when I walked out, I was so insecure. I was so scared. I had this situation where day one at the halfway house, "Go get your soap, Kyle. Go get your shampoo." I walk over to a convenience store, gather it all up, thinking nothing. I'm not scared. I'm not thinking anything about it. I am certainly thinking, "Oh, I can do this. I'm doing all that."

Kyle Dean Houston:

But I gather everything up. Soap, shampoo, toothpaste, get ready to walk to the counter and I freeze, palms go sweaty. There is a girl that's not even five feet tall, probably not a hundred pounds sitting there and I'm so scared. I have a panic attack that I'm doing everything wrong, that she can see right through me, that she knows what I am and I can't do this, and I almost don't buy the stuff. That's day one. That's the way I walked out. You can't see that when you're on the inside. It's crazy.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah. I mean, it makes complete sense. It's interesting, I didn't think about the self-esteem aspect of it in terms of how you feel in the system because I think about it from the trauma perspective. But yeah, the self-esteem perspective of like your value, period, end of story, and that wears on a person [crosstalk 00:56:39]

Kyle Dean Houston:

It does more than wear on a person. With me, again with me, I went from not really dealing with being a junkie. Like, let's not mince words. I wasn't an addict. I was a junkie. Okay? I didn't deal with that. I didn't deal with the suicide stuff. I was white-knuckling my way through that seven years of prison.

Kyle Dean Houston:

So now I've got all that pent up, plus the self-worth issues. Plus I'm 35 years old and holy (beep) I should have been so much more at this point and I know I was expected to be by everybody. So now there's that pressure.

Kyle Dean Houston:

I walk out of prison, scared to death, scared to death and nobody understands, right? In my environment, like there was nobody to share this with, certainly my mother and my sister would listen, but what point of reference do they have for what I'm going through?

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

What about the other people coming out?

Kyle Dean Houston:

My philosophy was I wasn't going to have a thing to do with any of them until I had my (beep) together. There was no way I was ever going back to prison. I wouldn't even Facebook friend three years later, anybody that I had done time with for the simple fact that I didn't know where it would lead. I was committed. I was committed.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah. So how do you get to the first day you have this panic attack, then you get a job as a telemarketer. How do you go from there to being an executive at a company?

Kyle Dean Houston:

Yeah. So I mean, the end result of it all is a decade later from being that scared guy walking out of prison, I'm the vice president inside a $2 billion publicly-traded company. From one end to the other, it was a series of micro decisions. It was a series of continual self-education.

Kyle Dean Houston:

I mean, I felt really lucky in the sense that Google existed and that I surrounded myself with people that would allow me to learn, right? I mean, I gravitated towards people that would teach me things and I met my wife. Look, I know that that's a trite thing to say, but my wife is, she's an angel. She's the opposite of me. She's smart and she cares deeply and oh my God, that's all I needed.

Kyle Dean Houston:

So there's a big difference between walking out scared to death and being insecure and not having any confidence. I still had confidence that I was going to get it together. I still had a bulletproof belief that I was going to find a way to climb back up on top. I just had no idea how it was going to happen and I was scared of everybody that was around me. So I just worked through all of that stuff every single day.

Kyle Dean Houston:

When you're doing it, like I went from that moment to two and a half years later, I was already the director of North American sales for a startup company. That two and a half years to me when I was living it seemed like 20. All these achievements that I got through, they seemed like they took forever and I was impatient, but he was two and a half stinking years, right?

Kyle Dean Houston:

So to me living it, my head was on a swivel. I was humble enough to do work most people wouldn't do and I was committed to work 18 hours a day, to fall asleep with a laptop in my lap and wake up with it there too. That's what I did to catch up.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

So one of the things that's so hard for people coming out of prison, aside from all the things that you said is the reentry in terms of getting a job. And so even, let's say that you have someone give you a job. They give you a chance, they see your record, fine, but then you apply to the next job, they're going to look at your record, and it goes on. How did that, or did that have any effect on you in terms of [crosstalk 01:00:30]?

Kyle Dean Houston:

It had a huge effect on me because I hid it because I not only had to work twice as hard as everybody and learn, become a student of the game and learn it as I went, I also had to hide my past from everybody. It became every day I'm juggling all of this stuff.

Kyle Dean Houston:

When I was first promoted to director North American sales, part of my territory was Canada. And so I couldn't get into Canada because I was on parole. And so I went from five minutes of being, "Yeah, look at me. It comes with a raise and I'm important and I've earned this and somebody sees it all, to 'Holy (beep), they're going to find out.'"

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

How didn't people find out?

Kyle Dean Houston:

I hired somebody to manage that and I never went up there, but I made sure that we were making our numbers. I made sure that I created a way. I became more resourceful than I was as a drug addict because I was now driven by the shame and fear that I was going to get caught and it became my superpower.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

How did you evade them finding out that you were on parole in terms of [crosstalk 01:01:43]?

Kyle Dean Houston:

They didn't do the checks? I went to startup. I had to take jobs that didn't have an HR department that was robust. So my options were limited.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Got it.

Kyle Dean Houston:

But turns out it's the best thing that ever happened to me as far as a career.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah. And so, I would imagine you'd be in situations where people are having conversations and they have no idea your background or any of that. I've had this situation where people are saying derogatory things about people in prison or people who use drugs, and my favorite thing to say is, "Yes, I know when I was a drug addict." I love to make people super uncomfortable with that. It's kind of my favorite, but you didn't do that, right? You just probably [crosstalk 01:02:32]

Kyle Dean Houston:

Oh, I grabbed mu pitchfork and my fire and I'd say, "Kill them all." No, I would do a nice little soft shoe into another conversation, but in my body, the minute I heard it, I would get scared. Fear would surface and I'd be like, "Oh, my God."

Kyle Dean Houston:

But look, you go through that 15 times over a five-year period, and then you get really good at realizing, "Oh, they don't even suspect it. Don't worry." I mean, I didn't have a college degree. I'm 35-years-old, walking out of prison with no college degree, a huge gap in my work history and I've never even sent an email, right, with these panic attacks?

Kyle Dean Houston:

So look, I don't know, I had a lot of stuff to get over. My options were very limited. I stayed focused and I was always hiding something. Here's something you don't know, I also had stage IV cancer in that 10 years and I think it's because of the concern and worry of hiding my story.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Oh, I bet. I bet. I bet. Did you end up doing the chemo? [crosstalk 01:03:41]

Kyle Dean Houston:

Yeah, with the chemo and radiation. It's a great story for another time, but I grew another startup. This is important for me to say, I didn't just get these positions, right? The way I got the vice president inside a $2 billion publicly-traded company is I took a company from $1 million to $20 million, and then took it to acquisition for the $2 billion company and came in through the back door, right?

Kyle Dean Houston:

So there's no way I could walk in the front door, give my application and get that job. So I found a way every single time, I put two companies in Inc. magazine's fastest 500, and the reason I did is because I needed them to point at, I needed them on my resume.

Kyle Dean Houston:

If anybody ever said, "Oh, why should we hire you?" "Are you kidding me? Right here." It drove me to do all that, but I positioned myself in Silicon Valley to where if I walked into a job or an opening, I already had the job, it was my choice. I didn't even bring a resume, and that's the reputation I was forced to set up.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Right. Right. That makes total sense. So what do you think would have happened, I don't know when you came out with everything, but what do you think would have happened after a little bit of success or midway through, let's say, had you come out with that, but still had the value that you had? Do you think people would have kicked their moneymaker away, aside because of that?

Kyle Dean Houston:

I totally think a lot of people wouldn't be as rich as they are today. I totally think the world ...there would be some startup companies that didn't make the list Inc. magazine's fastest 500 because I wouldn't have gotten my shot. Now, I would love to believe that all of that's changed now in the last 15 years, I've been out for 15 years.

Kyle Dean Houston:

I would love to think that all of that's changed now and that people are more accepting and want to give people a chance, but I'm not sure Kyle Houston before he ever went to prison would take that chance. I think I would and I'm going to sit here and tell you I would, but that's horseshit because I'm not faced with that consciousness and that decision.

Kyle Dean Houston:

So here's what I will tell you. The first job I had knew I was a convict, knew that I was on parole. There was no getting around that because they wanted to come visit me at work, right?

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Okay. Yeah. Yeah. So some of those details are important as well.

Kyle Dean Houston:

But this is an important part of your question. Since the first one knew that, I felt like I got extorted. I felt like the ceiling was very low and this was a company that I worked my way up by just overachieving, over-performing, doing all the stuff nobody else wanted to do, inserting myself in meetings where nobody asked me to be, taking on jobs. I mean, everything, "Can anybody do this?" My hand's the first one up, I had no idea how to move a boat from South Africa to Miami, but I'm the guy.

Kyle Dean Houston:

So I'm doing all that and I found a way to get a position in the marketing department, but I wasn't getting paid very much and I know it's because I was like lucky to be there. That would have continued to happen every place I would have told them. So for me, I didn't want him to know, because I didn't want to be extorted. I wanted to be paid as the guy that I was the one, the one that was performing. That was critical to me.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Right. No, that's also an interesting [crosstalk 01:07:12]

Kyle Dean Houston:

Oh, I said two interesting things. I'm so glad we did that. Yay.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

I know I use that word way too often. What led you to say, "I can't do this anymore, this is [crosstalk 01:07:20] for me?

Kyle Dean Houston:

This was a perfect moment. So I pulled out, as soon as we took the company into acquisition, I put in my notice and I left my really hard-earned career. Just walked away and created a partnership with some baseball agents. I'm really good at networking if anybody wanted to know what the heck Kyle Houston knew. So we create this partnership and we've got a business put together and the partnership fails. It does a lot.

Kyle Dean Houston:

Then I started to realize that I had set up my life. And so my wife and I take over the business. Everything that we're doing is based on fear. I can't walk away, reputation. What am I going to do? We don't have enough money to do ... I mean, it's all these things that aren't even true.

Kyle Dean Houston:

One day, this is July of 2017, my wife and I were waking up every day with fear and we don't want to answer the phone because it's just crazy. I tell myself, "This is all because I'm hiding everything. This is all because I'm making a mountain out of a molehill. If I'm going to take back my life and I'm going to be the guy that I thought I was before the drugs, the guy that was ready to take on the world and strong and live fulfilled, and do what I want and be proud, man, I'm going to have to tell people in a big way." I started writing my book that day and my friends didn't even know. When I tell you nobody knew, nobody knew. Yeah, these are people.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Oh my gosh, your friends did ... I mean, I guess you have to if [crosstalk 01:08:50] you can't-

Kyle Dean Houston:

My friends from high school had heard rumors, but now I'm out in San Francisco and I've got new friends and we're raising kids together, and we're at the PTA meetings and everything, and none of them knew, I tell myself, "I'm going to have to tell them."

PART 3 OF 4 ENDS [01:09:04]

Kyle Dean Houston:

None of them knew. And I tell myself, I'm going to have to tell them. So, I start telling them one by one. One of the scariest things I've ever done. And everything just starts getting lighter and happier. And my love, there's nothing in between me and the people I love now. There's no secret. And the relationships get stronger and more open, and I start to get addicted to telling my story.

Kyle Dean Houston:

And it's really funny. It's really funny because the way I created my success is leaning into fear. Following fear. Fear's the trail to success. And so, I always did that, but the fear of telling was the one thing was the [inaudible 00:01:09:48]. That was the bomb that was going to kill me. Now, I'm leaning into that fear. And it's funny, that I go from creating a career, where I hid all of that. I hid it to the death. To now creating a career where I tell all of that.

Kyle Dean Houston:

And that was a shift that happened overnight. And it's one of the best things that ever happened to me. I mean, between that moment in the cell by myself, and telling the world about my past. Those are the two biggest leaps in transformation for me. It's only been two and a half years. The book's coming out August 7th, and I still entertain what that's going to do to my ability to raise funds with the VCs [inaudible 01:10:33]. You know what I mean? My ability to represent somebody's brand.

Kyle Dean Houston:

But every time I think that way, I tell myself, Kyle, you're taking back your life. This is the only way to do it. And, the reason you wrote the book, is to help people. And the only way to do it, is to go this deep and make sure that they hear everything.

Kyle Dean Houston:

This book is as raw and honest, as I think anybody's ever written about drug addiction and prison. And me, I don't make myself look good. It's not going to help anybody.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah. What were the responses with your friends and your-

Kyle Dean Houston:

[crosstalk 01:11:10] professional, I didn't bother, right? I guess I've been employed since then, but when we took the company to acquisition, I had a big pile of money given to me and life was for a while right. But the friends actually they picked their jaw up off the floor, just didn't care. They cared in the sense that I had to go through it, and they understood why I didn't tell them. But they were all appreciative and they just protected me. That's what they wanted to do.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah. My experience has been that when you show people who you are authentically, as scary as it is, that people respond pretty well. I can't think of very many circumstances where the response has been negative, especially people who got to know me before knowing any of that about me. I think that's actually a really big gift, that you gave to a lot of those people, even in corporate America, in your community, because the opportunity to know somebody before they have that critical information, allows them, the grace to be able to let that judgment go. To change all the ideas in a way that they may not have been able to do that had they known it upfront. And by getting to know you, and then adding that information in, you gave them a gift of not wanting to judge for that. Which maybe that's something they've never experienced of not wanting to judge someone for having [crosstalk 01:12:49].

Kyle Dean Houston:

You know you're right. They showed up with the preconceived notion that I'm a good guy that they love. That's a great place to start. And these aren't just acquaintances. These are friends. These are people I loved. Right? So, I mean, I think that's important to understand, but it's still scary, nonetheless.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

I think about it regularly. About having the podcast and telling my story. Having my story be out there. And it's super, super scary. And I've been doing it a long time and it's very scary.

Kyle Dean Houston:

Well, you do a great job of hiding all that fear. You get to mingle with some recovering addicts and it's like, "Ah, yeah, this guy gets it." Let's talk about something I want to pull back later.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah, yeah. Right, right. It's actually one of those things where, and you'll appreciate this, which is I have committed myself to living authentically. So much so, that I'm not really capable of not doing it. I don't really have that fake it piece of me anymore, that I used to be able to hide things. It's just not really there.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

So, I also know, I'm the friend where people call me and they ask me advice, and I say to them, "Do you really want to know what I think? Because don't ask me what I think, unless you really... I will tell you." And part of that is this, I spent so many years trying to figure out who I was, trying to be someone else, somewhere else, doing something else. And in order to love who I am, I have to really embrace it. And doing that forces you to be yourself whether... That was the idea around The Courage to Change, right?

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

It's like courage is based on scary shit that you do anyway. Right? It's not courageous to do something that isn't scary. Right? It's courageous to do something that is terrifying and do it anyway. And so, if we're doing that, then we got to show up and do it, and the fear that someone will judge us or not, it's funny, I have a similar fears around career stuff. What if I wanted to do something else? Here's this pile of information about me and can I go work in corporate America without that being an issue? And can I go, and I feel like the most important piece that we can do, is to de-stigmatize and say like, "You can have a past like this and still be valuable in all these arenas. And it's okay." And to push the world and push maybe America in this case, to see us as people and not as substance use problem.

Kyle Dean Houston:

That's the driving force of the next phase of my life. And you just described it to a T, because when I got out, there's a lot of things that drove me, right? We talked about the fear and shame and all the bad stuff, right? The whip, but the carrots, I felt responsible to become wildly successful for the people that needed to see it, and the people that aren't addicts, that need to understand, nobody is disposable. Right? And so I took all of that really, really seriously. And now it's time to find the people that need to hear this message on both sides of the coin. Right?

Kyle Dean Houston:

I need to find the people that feel hopeless or too old or lacking experience, or nobody's going to give them the shot, and I need to show them, "Hey, look, it gets better." And then I need all the people that are judgmental that say, "I'm not going to hire a convict." Who say, "They're going to steal everything that I have. How do I trust them?" I'm going to say, "Hey, you need to understand I was a junkie. Did seven years. I'm a five time convicted felon. But Oh, by the way, good luck finding somebody that's done what I've done, as a sales executive."

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Right. It's true. It's true. And I think it's so important for the world to see these stories, to hear about these stories. And I really do think that by infiltrating, which is what you did.

Kyle Dean Houston:

I didn't [inaudible 01:17:01].

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Infiltrating and having people see you, for what you were offering them at that period of time, without the other things involved. And then adding that back in. I think that's a huge, I think that's so valuable. I think that trying to come in with it would have had a different experience, and you allowed people the opportunity to see something that they wouldn't otherwise have seen.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

What has the pandemic, and COVID been like for you in terms of triggers, did it bring up anything for you having been forced to stay home? Or any of that stuff. Did that...

Kyle Dean Houston:

The short answer is, no. Didn't trigger anything. And I have to be really, really careful when I answer this, because I don't want to minimize what people are going through, but to me, I couldn't be happier. I don't know that I want to apologize for that, but I have an eight-year-old and a 10-year-old. They're both girls and I have a wife that I adore, and we are together every single day, all day. And you may get a completely different response from them. But to me it's a blessing and yeah, I want to go out and I want to do stuff, and my 50th birthday is July 7th. And we were supposed to go to Europe and blah, blah, blah. And it's not going to happen, but I wouldn't trade that crap, which I can do later for all this time.

Kyle Dean Houston:

I just slept with my eight-year-old in my bed last night. Right? Like it's a big bunking party. It just feels really, really good. But I know people are going broke. I know people are getting triggered. I know people are sitting at home by themselves. They don't have the daughters and all of that stuff. And I think that it needs to be over. It certainly needs to be over, but there's so much you can gain by what is going on right now. There's so many things that you're going to find out about yourself or your family or your partner that you would never get the chance to slow down and look at without this. There's so many things you're going to find out about. Your beliefs in power structure, your beliefs in which political side are you really going to buy into and does it matter?

Kyle Dean Houston:

We're going to come out and we, I'm talking about the world. We're going to come out on the other side of COVID and quarantine. And we're going to be so much smarter, so much stronger, so much harder to control, because we're going to be woke in a way that's important.

Kyle Dean Houston:

My biggest hope for everybody, is that we can quit fighting over liberals and conservatives and get lost in all this shit that doesn't matter, and really have a legitimate conversation about what's important. And I think this is going to happen. I really do. It's my biggest hope. And I mean, the most advice I can give to anybody right now, is to embrace the idea that you were never in charge anyway. Embrace that. Because it's important to understand, and we as drug addicts, we got a leg up on you in that department. But the truth is, your health, your finances, the world. I mean, none of that stuff was under your control anyway. Turn to something that's important and start to figure yourself out. Okay? That's the biggest advice I can give you because you're not going to get a better chance.

Kyle Dean Houston:

The only better chance you're ever going to get is become a meth addict, a meth cook, and face 30 years with no parole and get put in a single cell by yourself. But don't do that. I don't suggest it. This is like, [inaudible 00:11:45]. Yeah, I will pick COVID, too.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

I will pick Covid. Yeah. I mean, it's funny. It feels to me, like we got put in a big timeout and the world's got put in timeout, like you're not listening. You're not listening to each other. You're not paying attention. You're moving too fast. All the things. All the different, the chaos and it was like, everybody's in timeout, go to your room. And it woke people up as like you said, and I too hope that we can stop arguing over those things and start...

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

It's funny. I find myself, I have these liberal beliefs. I have these conservative beliefs. I'm just like all over the map. And I find myself seeking, but I'm neither. And feeling left out and wanting to feel passionately about one side or the other. And I, like you, I'm like, "Can we just have a conversation? Can everybody just stop?" And I do. I think that this is giving, if you're open to it, this is a huge opportunity to... And I think that's really with anything like prison. That it didn't have to be an opportunity for you to do that work. It didn't have to be. You could have used that solitary time to go completely insane.

Kyle Dean Houston:

Or kill myself. Right. I had options.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Or kill yourself. Right. So it didn't. You had options. It didn't have to be, but it's really about what you want and I think anybody listening to this podcast is interested in those things and interested in, "How can I look at this from a different perspective to make my life better?" And that's where that mental incarceration comes from and you know all about that.

Kyle Dean Houston:

No, it's certainly not and I'll just say this [crosstalk 01:22:38] I promise. But for me, I think the thing that gets overlooked is how stressful was your drive in the morning and how stressful was it to have to get ready and get up at a certain time? How stressful was it to need to be somewhere, to need, to travel, to be away from the family? That stuff just went to a halt. You should be thankful.

Kyle Dean Houston:

And again, I don't want to minimize because I'm not in everybody's situation and I'm not suggesting that it's all as good as mine, but I don't have to be anywhere. To get super personal, I don't have to wear my pants almost all day. Right? So I don't have to be anywhere. And yeah, I want to go some places and we can go out with our mask and do all that stuff. But the stress for me is at the lowest it's ever been. And I feel fortunate to be going through what I'm going through personally with COVID. But I love my family.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah. It's perspective too. It's perspective. It's funny. I have three-year-old twin boys, and one of them, I put on jeans and a t-shirt that was like a college t-shirt and my kid goes, "Mommy, why are you so dressed up?" And I was like, "Oh, no." I was like, "Okay, COVID." But it's true. It's really about what we come back to is like, do you want to live... I find that I have much more choice today, than I ever imagined about how I live. And when I choose to be happy and I choose to be positive and I choose to make a conscious decision to look in that direction, that my life changes.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

I feel like I'm in a different world, and I can't even explain that, but it changes my sobriety, it changes my recovery and my relationships with everyone. And it sounds like that's something that you have worked really hard to get in your life. And I'd imagine that this is small potatoes compared to [crosstalk 01:24:50].

Kyle Dean Houston:

Yeah. It's hard to say that. In the beginning, I was thinking about a recession. I was thinking about the economy. I was thinking about all those things, but it is small potatoes. I mean, if I can get a hold of myself and say, "Are you kidding me? Are you kidding me?" I mean, the thing with me is you're not the only one. Right? This is the most obvious situation where you're not the only one. You're not alone. Okay, maybe you are going broke, or maybe your finances aren't getting better, but guess what? 7.6 billion people on the planet, almost all of them have the same problem.

Kyle Dean Houston:

So this is life, right? And in some crazy way, that's comforting to know that I'm not the only one and you're right. For me, I'm on the verge of actually getting to a point to realize that it's all small potatoes, right? There was a book out there. I'm going to screw up the name, but at one time, Oh, what was it called? It was, Don't Sweat the Small Stuff. And by the way, it's all small stuff.

Kyle Dean Houston:

And that's where I'm getting through this COVID experience. But I know that's not everybody's experience. I want to make sure I say that. And by the way, I also want to make sure I... I do wear pants. I just want to make sure that [inaudible 01:26:09]. It's important. [inaudible 01:26:11], that's the point.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

The point is, that you don't have to.

Kyle Dean Houston:

Yeah, that's it.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Well, what is the name of your book?

Kyle Dean Houston:

Patchwork Junkie. Ta-da.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Patchwork Junkie. I love it. Okay. Patchwork Junkie.

Kyle Dean Houston:

August 7th. That's right.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

It comes out August 7th and I'm keeping my eye on Amazon, or [crosstalk 01:26:33].

Kyle Dean Houston:

They can buy on Amazon. They can also go to patchforjunkie.com and that's the best way to buy it. And that'll route you to Amazon. So, that is something that I... Look just to put a little plug in there. I surrounded myself with very talented people. I wrote the book. I wrote every word but I surrounded myself with talented people when it came to arranging it, making sure the story is told in an eloquent way. And I could not be prouder, of not only the way it's written, but what the message is all about. And it's exciting. It's exciting. As long as you don't mind cussing. This is the real world in this book. I got to tell you.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

I love it. I need a swear jar in my house. I'm the one who's always in trouble.

Kyle Dean Houston:

Well, you've disappointed me on this podcast. Okay? I expected better out of you. Okay?

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

I know, I know. We go back and forth because you get more coverage if your podcast is not explicit. And so, what makes a podcast explicit is saying, f. Which I don't understand because the content of the content of this podcast, is explicit. But you can make it not explicit just by the words you use. So we go back and forth and we'll just make an episode explicit and then not another one. And so maybe I just need to go with it authentically and make it explicit [crosstalk 01:28:02].

Kyle Dean Houston:

You still [inaudible 01:28:02] me on this thing, man. Hey, you can sit here and talk about suicide and needles and sex and all sorts of stuff. But then you turn around and say the [inaudible 01:28:13] Bible, and that makes it explicit.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yep. That makes it explicit. That makes it explicit. It cracks me up. I'm like anybody listening to this podcast, we are talking about how to make meth. I want to know. I want to know what are the ingredients you're using for math? But that's not explicit.

Kyle Dean Houston:

That's not explicit. I probably just got another seven year bid by talking about it. Thank you. Thank you for that.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Oh, no. Oh, you're welcome. I feel like everybody wants to know, but no one will ask. It's one of those things [crosstalk 01:28:50].

Kyle Dean Houston:

It's been a long time. It's been a long time, I'm really glad that I remembered.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah. I bet it's not daunting [crosstalk 01:28:57].

Kyle Dean Houston:

No, not the way I told you I did it. Me, God and the flesh.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah.

Kyle Dean Houston:

I know.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Oh my gosh. Well, I adore you, Kyle. Thank you so much for coming on here and telling your truth and infiltrating Silicon Valley and showing them that people who cook meth can also [crosstalk 00:20:19].

Kyle Dean Houston:

Thank you for having me on it. I really mean that. And look, thank you for creating a platform where you help people get through what they're getting through. That's the most important thing. And I will tell you, and this is not lip service, what you do inspires me to push and do more because my plan is to just continue to give with what I understand. And when I see you doing a podcast and I see you being so bubbly and intelligent and fun. It makes me want to go do the same thing. So, great example. And I love what you do. I mean that. And I adore you. Okay, there you have it.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Thank you, Kyle. I appreciate that. I appreciate that. Well, we're going to put all the information for your book into the show notes, and we'll put it out on social media. So everybody go to patchworkjunkie.com. And then I want to talk to you next year and see what you're doing and see what it's been like with people finding out. I'm sure it'll be a whole new world of experiences.

Kyle Dean Houston:

[crosstalk 01:30:18] rich and famous. I'll be.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah, honestly, [crosstalk 01:30:18] rich and famous.

Kyle Dean Houston:

There's one other thing I want to throw out there. If anybody wants to follow me, everything is Kyle Dean Houston. So on Facebook, it's @kyledeanhouston and Instagram, it's @kyledeanhouston. We're working on a YouTube channel, but it'll be Kyle Dean Houston. Everything's Kyle Dean Houston. So my website www.kyledeanhouston.com.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Perfect. Kyle Dean Houston. You heard it here. You also have three names. So there you go. Okay. So, kyledeanhouston.com. We will put that in the show notes as well. Awesome. Well thank you so much. And we look forward to your book. I will absolutely buy it and read it.

Kyle Dean Houston:

Take care of yourself.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

And we will talk to you soon.

Automated:

This podcast is sponsored by Lionrock Recovery. Lionrock provides online substance abuse counseling, where clients can get help from the privacy of their own home. They're accredited by The Joint Commission and sessions are private, affordable, and user-friendly. Call their free helpline at (800) 258-6550 or visit www.lionrockrecovery.com for more information.

PART 4 OF 4 ENDS [01:31:39]