What Men Should Know About Addiction for Men's Health Month

Several True Recovery staff members, including our CEO Joel Edwards, share their own personal stories of overcoming addiction and answer questions that are specifically aimed at helping men who need treatment. We can understand how you feel — because we have been there.

True Recovery was founded in 2014 because we saw something missing in traditional treatment programs. Today, our professional and caring staff provides individualized care and cutting-edge treatments to help True Recovery clients achieve long-term recovery. To celebrate Men’s Health Month in June, we created this video that explains the unique needs of men who are facing addiction and mental health issues.

Watch this video now to learn:

  • What are common roadblocks for men who seek recovery?
  • Why do men have greater difficulty asking for help?
  • What risk factors are specifically related to men?
  • Do addiction and health issues affect men differently than women?
  • How do men stay committed after treatment?

Matthew: Welcome, everybody! So, in honor of Men’s Health Month, we’ve collected a number of people from our team to talk through some of the issues that men may be facing with addiction. My name is Mathew Kinoshita, I’m Clinical Director here at True Behavioral Health and assembled here are Devin O’Dey –you can maybe raise your hands we all know who you are– Director of Business Development for our First Responder Wellness program… got Michael O’Mahony our Executive Director… William Walker, Director of Court Services…Colin Maher, Director of Clinical Outreach, and our fearless leader, Joel Edwards our CEO and I will be asking a number of different questions of our team and hopefully, this is all helpful and something that we can all connect with on some different levels so I wanted to ask first of all Colin and maybe Michael if you could chime in on this question here at what point did you feel that you probably have a problem with drugs or alcohol what was the biggest inhibitor in seeking treatment more immediately

Michael: Colin, do you want to step into that one first?

Colin: Yeah, I’ll go ahead Thank You, Matthew…um when I first started to realize that I had a problem with drugs and alcohol and was reticent to get help for it I think some of the biggest factors contributing to that early on was I had a career at that time a different career than now that I was afraid in my mind afraid of losing I was married at that time you know and I thought that getting help or going away would damage my marriage even though my own choices and drug and alcohol use were doing enough of that on their own you know I had these conceptions in my mind of what treatment entailed that were that were based off of what I saw on TV and movie and weren’t grounded in fact you know, and I was afraid to I was afraid to change you know I was afraid of how would I life and have fun with that like I didn’t know how to do any of that stuff uh you know the the things I was afraid of were based off of fabrications in my mind but not on any actual real experience you know and that the truth couldn’t have been more different

Matthew: Thank You, Collin…Michael is there anything that comes to mind for you and when that questions posed like what was presenting or preventing you from maybe seeking treatment earlier than you did?

Michael: I think I started to realize that I had an issue with alcohol probably as early as 11 or 12 when I hit middle school you know hanging out with friends that had older brothers and being introduced to alcohol and just seeing how I was using it as a coping mechanism to deal with underlying anxiety social anxiety and fears that nature and then as I grew a little bit older and I was around 15 I remember you know moving to harder alcohol vodka gin things like that and that was the first time that it really scared me where I was having blackouts and personality changes anger management issues and I realized like this is this is significant because it was such an important part of my life that I used for coping mechanisms I–I just figured there was no way to navigate life without it I had to figure out a way to keep alcohol in my life while minimizing the damage and if that was at 15 I got sober at 37 so I spent 22 years trying to manage alcohol and minimize wreckage throughout my throughout my existence and I think the biggest inhibitor in seeking treatment earlier again comes back to that fear like I clung to the alcohol as like a necessary part of my coping mechanisms of my existence that there was no way to imagine living life without it and it wasn’t until things became so unmanageable and I became so unhappy and other instances introduce themselves in my life that I was kind of forced to look at the change so I think it was just the my internal feelings of that this was a necessary thing that I needed in order to to make it through life.

Matthew: Wow! Great thank you for that! You know the next question I wanted to ask, is I wanted to pose to William this is I was really curious about what event or idea or concept made it possible for you to finally get to the point that asking for help made it okay or was okay where you as a man?

William: That’s a great question, I believe that there was that moment in my life that there were no more plays, no more outs, no more options for me this is a place I think that every addict will eventually get to and it was something that it was the thought of living my life without my addiction it was unthinkable to me I didn’t know what that looked like because I had lived that life for so long and even worse was the thought of living with it because I knew I was that soon are helpless hopeless drug addict that was going to die and I had this I had multiple events in my life that brought me to a place that was a bottom and I had nowhere else to turn I didn’t have any other options for me. I had been in trouble with the law several times I was losing everything around me I lost my lost custody of my son I went through a divorce and eventually I was incarcerated and that’s where my addiction took me and it wasn’t I guess it wasn’t so much that I just knew this if I didn’t get sober I was going to die now.

Matthew: I wanted to invite Colin and a little bit of the same question but I was kind of interested in if you had any different aspects of your experience that made any possible for you to reach that handout for help?

Colin: Thank You, Matthew, I mean honestly my experience was very similar to William’s…I mean I …you know what situationally what the environment I was in when I finally got sever was I was also I was incarcerated for did a little while and it took away my ability to kind of come and go as I could please to, but I had tried everything you know I had tried everything that had my mind could come up with every shortcut every I’ll do this but I’m not gonna do that I had tried everything but what had been suggested to me in either previous treatment episodes or you know by people who had been sober for much longer for longer periods of time and uh I mean honestly that kind of me that that that ego being stripped away that bottom I mean I hit a bottom essentially asking for help seemed okay because I didn’t know what else to do you know I realized that my self-sufficiency was insufficient I had no other options.

Matthew: Thank you for that. Okay, Micheal, if you could be so kind as soon as to talk a little bit about this next question I was really interested in trying to understand how admitting and acknowledging the need for help affected some of the relationships people are really important to you what were some of the things that how did they respond as you were reaching out and asking for that help we finally got to that point?

Michael: I think you know my family was an integral part in helping me get into treatment I had done some family therapy with my brothers and my mother at the time and I think admitting and acknowledging the need for help initially makes you feel made me feel less than right? Nobody really wants to admit that they can’t navigate life or be successful in whatever shape that takes on their own right? they like building off of what Colin said that that that bottoming out where you’re just struggling and you’re grinding it out in your bottom-feeding and you’re just trying to make it work day-to-day and you continue to struggle it’s difficult to admit to the people that you care about that you can’t do it and it’s difficult is to admit to others I think it’s harder to admit to yourself right? you have that ego you have that self-confidence that you should be able to navigate this on your own so to admit that you can’t it’s that initial feeling of fear or feeling of failure which I think is difficult and I think that a lot of times that’s intrinsic that’s something that we project onto ourselves because I don’t think that my family who was supporting me that way looked at me as a failure right they kind of flipped it around and said you know you’re you’re doing the right thing by asking for help and being open to and accepting help right? and there’s it takes a lot of courage to kind of walk through those doors and walk into that unknown and accept what that help looks like right? so initially I think what are our internal feelings what are our internal projections of how it looks are very different from those that are trying to to help us.

Matthew: Thank you, thank you Michael… next question I wanted to ask Joel for some of your input on this… what are some of the lesser-known risk factors that might be unique or in your experience at least more common in working with men in addiction?

Joel: Well thank you, Matthew, thank you for that I appreciate that that question I think for men, in general, a lot of those lesser-known risk factors have to do with the mental health component of what goes on behind the scenes. I think for a lot of us to get into treatment and what ultimately gets us into treatment is you know we have not taken care of those underlying mental health issues, whether it be depression anxiety trauma, that we then use drugs and alcohol to cope with as a way to check out not feel, feel differently, etc., and so as I think about those risk factors for men, in particular, you know growing up in a culture where men are really encouraged to not share their feelings and to be quiet and suck it up and “be a man” and everything else that has you know the last 30-40 years for some age demographic been presented to drugs and alcohol wound up working to help with that so I really think at the end of the day there’s that trauma piece and there’s the undiagnosed or a kind of untreated anxiety and depression where we feel like we can do it all to Michael’s point but then at the end the day it comes crashing down around us.

Matthew: Thank you …Devin, I think I got the next one for you

Devin: Alright!

Matthew: Alright, so Devin, if you could talk a little bit about once you’re in treatment did you have any of these breakthrough moments that made you feel like wow I mean every other man in the same position needs to know this they need to understand like any those “A-ha!” moments that you experienced?

Devin: You know first of all Matthew, thank you for the question… great question …appreciate taking all the time to put that together! so I think that for me it was important when I first got to treatment because I thought I was so unique and I thought I was so special and I thought my circumstances were so you know I was so oppressed but when I got to treatment I looked around the room and I hear every other guy there whining about the same stuff and for me that was kind of eye-opening because I didn’t look at myself I looked at myself as like a victim right when I look around the room I didn’t see a bunch of other victims right that was very eye-opening for me to think am I one of these whiny guys right now that is acting like the world’s against them you know and so that was kind of helping me and made me realize that maybe I need to look inward rather than blame everybody else and although you know those those is insightful and maybe as that was I didn’t last long right it seems like the further away I got from treatment the more I get back into that victim mentality or that I’m special mentality but yeah so I think the identification where I’m not unique and maybe I’m full of sh*t is uh…I shouldn’t have said that huh? but it’s important for me yeah I’ll leave it at that.

Matthew: I’m kind of interested in if anybody else had any other experiences that they would share I think that many of us have been through a treatment experience… were there any other really big important points or “A-ha!” moments that you had in your experience?

Joel: I’ll jump in on that one if I can, Matthew…I think for me one of the biggest “A-ha!” moments was to kind of piggyback off Devin his feeling of uniqueness was that what I was doing was really affecting a lot of others around me specifically my family and being so up in my own stuff and being so self-centered and selfish and what I was doing looking out for number one that I’ve totally forgot about mom dad sister brother spouse cousins friends and all these people that I basically pushed to the wayside so going into treatment and learning more about the impacts of my decisions in my addiction on my family and going through a family program and really hearing my family had the opportunity for the first time to come forward and tell me how my life and lifestyle is affecting them was extremely eye-opening and it kind of laid bare where those relationships were and as uncomfortable as that was in the moment also gave us a great foundation to kind of build from so I really think the family component was my biggest “A-ha!” moment while in treatment.

Matthew: Okay, yeah thank you for sharing that! I wanted to move to the next question and the next question is this do you feel that addiction and mental health effect may be men or women differently or do you think there are there are some things that you felt in your experience are unique maybe to the men’s experience and dealing with some of these aspects of getting healthy and getting into recovery?

Joel: I can jump in on that one. As far as differences I’m not comfortable going one way or the other I can from my own personal experience my insight is that our society treats men and women differently when it comes to substance abuse and mental health and feelings that we have kind of talked about what touched on earlier at least when I grew up you know I’m 41 now so growing up in the eighties and nineties it was very much women were encouraged to share their feelings and women were encouraged to emote and cry and at least in my family and my neighborhood and things that I was involved in for men now is definitely not encouraged it was I came from a military family, so it’s very much like you do X,Y, and Z and you provide for your family and your feelings are secondary and how dare you cry and you know share emotion I think over the last several years we as a site realized there of our ways and boys and teenagers and young adults and men are now being more encouraged to share what’s going on but I think because of that it has had a very dramatic effect on the men in our society with not knowing what to do with these emotions that they’re having and experiencing when then often times I’m able to identify what those feelings and emotions are let alone how to deal with and cope and if you’re anything like me you know the one thing that does help is drinking alcohol and using drugs so I’ll be interesting to see you know pose this question to us again ten years from now how we’ve kind of evolved and yeah…

Matthew: Yeah thank you I wanted to throw this question at William and Colin if you guys might be able to respond to this question but I was really interested in what you guys do you now, post-treatment, in order to stay really committed to your own health and well-being I mean I always describe to the clients that I work with is recovery being like a practice you know you gotta you gotta have things in your life that is fulfilling but if you guys could talk a little bit about what kind of keeps you going and really committed to your ongoing recovery?

William: Sure…I’ll go first you know I am I’m coming up on 12 years in November of this year and I can honestly tell you Matthew I haven’t changed much but I’ve incorporated a lot of things not only do I practice and work the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous I work with a sponsor and I have a fellowship and I work with other alcoholics but I go to some of the same meetings I’ve also incorporated the gym to help with that, mind, body and soul that I believe is the pillars of any recovery and I also do therapy weekly I go to therapy even on good weeks you know because I want to continue the process of just bettering myself and and having that space to be able to work out the things that are going on inside of me because I found a long time ago that drugs in out are not my problem but it’s a self problem that I have a lot going on and the things that I do and that I’ve incorporated into my recovery are the things that I need to be able to live out this blessed life that I have so and that’s what I do on a daily weekly and monthly basis.

Matthew: Yeah, that’s awesome yeah did you have any thoughts about that Colin, or what are the things that some of the unique things that you do that may be unique to you?

Colin: Similar to William I mean I I have a similar routine. I’m also a member of a 12-step program and you know so that includes regular meetings and you know working with a sponsor and working with newcomers you know my own personal spiritual growth that you know is attached to that that recovery program I’m not a religious guy by any means but I had my own higher powered beliefs that I am constantly trying to explore and expand and with that you know that accountability that comes with that and that the purpose it gives me in my life, it’s important. I’ve become pretty physically active in sobriety I mean I was a pretty physically active guy when I was younger and then in my addiction that didn’t really have much of a purpose I definitely have time for that kind of stuff so taking care of myself physically I try to eat better – I try, I don’t always succeed – I do look um you know and then I think a big one for me is really the two biggest ones would be that the people I surround myself with you know my fellowship whether that’s other people that are sober that I’ve met in sobriety that are walking the same path as well or just or people that I’ve just met through daily living you know I try to surround myself with positive like-minded people who are trying to get the most out of life when I was a younger guy especially in addiction I generally surrounded myself with people who were living the same kind of life I was maybe they feel better about myself because I you know they were doing the same kind of dirt you know so I try to surround myself with inspiring and positive people you know and in hobbies and interest you know positive hobbies interests and pursuits things that make me feel fulfilled and inspired you know?

Matthew: Thank you, thank you! well, the next question I wanted to ask Joel and actually Michael if you might want to chime in on this I wanted to know if you have experienced any unexpected health benefits or just you know feelings of wellness as you are in your recovery and sobriety? anything that maybe you didn’t expect that that has been really positive

Joel: Sure I’ll step in on this one I got sober at 29 when I was 29 I had luscious brown hair and as soon as I got sober, I started getting gray hair and it’s a been coming ever since I’m not sure if that’s an unexpected benefit or what but a definite was unexpected but in all seriousness I think for me kind of piggybacking off William and Colin was this kind of reintroduction into my physical wellness and health and because I spent so much time drinking and using to avoid I had to fill that time with more healthy endeavors and so working out running exercise and taking time for self-care started to fulfill those needs then unbeknownst at the time but now I’ve learned it also helps me to process through my day it helps me to relieve anxiety it helps me to work out problems in my head it helps me to do stress relief and you know I’m able to carve out time for myself to do those things literally by myself which is nice relaxing but also from a fellowship standpoint being able to go for a bike ride with some friends or go for a hike or do something out in nature is very rewarding and those are things that you know work for me as a young child but once I started using you know junior high high school college 20s like all that stuff went by the wayside was no longer important and being reengaged and that was a huge part of my recovery now.

Michael: Yeah I think the unexpected health benefits permeate through all aspects of of life like when I went into treatment I was physically and spiritually mentally just rundown it was so exhausting trying to maintain the life that I was living and I was just so tired all the time and all my energy was focused into trying to keep the facade going alright it’s kind of like a duck paddling on the water look calm on the top, underneath just trying to keep the illusion going and the physical health benefits came back quickly because all that time I spent trying to exist I could target into replacing poor habits with healthy new habits so physically the the health benefits were manifested quickly and then mental health benefits I mean the unexpected benefits are through all aspects of my life I was completely alone even though I was surrounded by family and friends that wanted to help but I felt completely alone I wasn’t open to having those types of relationships and you know getting sober at 37 now twelve years later you know I have a beautiful wife I have two beautiful sons that are 2 years old and 6 months old and the life that I have now is not something I would have dared to imagine for 12 years ago when I just couldn’t figure out how to make it through to the next day. so I think physically mentally you know the difference in your physical mental health is just it’s immeasurable

Matthew: Wow, that’s awesome thank you both thank you for sharing that well you know the next question I have I really wanted to ask Devin because I think you probably have a really good response to this but as a man what’s the first thing you say to other men that might need help but just might not be ready to acknowledge it yet what would you say to that guy?

Devin: I would say that “I get it, I… understand, I too felt the need to burn it all down and not take anyone’s help and put everything I own in a backpack and walk down to Newport Boulevard as well so I can relate to that… my hope for you would be that maybe you can take some help before you lose it all you know and I talk to people I often tell them I’d lose everything doesn’t mean you necessarily have to I certainly understand need to figure it out on your own but the help is here if you want it so I would say hey we’re here when you’re ready you know and it works if you work it

Matthew: Awesome, and you know where the last question I have and I really would love to hear you know if any of you guys want to jump in on this one but you know what is really the best advice or the wisdom you could share another man who may not need help yet but are still somewhat at risk you know some of you might be thinking about or worried is is really you know needing to take that step?

Joel: I’ll go ahead and jump in the biggest piece advice for that person or man out there that’s almost a pre contemplative state of do I have a problem or not as if you’re even questioning it there’s something going on and it’s completely okay to ask for support you know support is not a sign of weakness as Devin said you don’t have to get to the point that any of us got to and there’s plenty of people out there that are able to change your life around without treatment and all that but on the flip side of that, you also can’t continue doing what you’re doing expect things to change so I know for a lot of us is difficult cuz we get in this rut and we just continue and continue but seeking some type of outside support whether it’s a trusted mentor friend family member or someone removed from your situation that just can kind of be that listening ear that goes a long way so my suggestion or advice as Matthew said is you know set some boundaries for yourself…if you crossed over those boundaries and it’s kind of probably time to take a look at that but you can make it work and I encourage you to do so just don’t not do anything

Matthew: Yeah, thank you!

Colin: Matthew, I’ll say and I love what Joel just said I would add to that you know just because somebody drinks alcohol or maybe uses drugs recreationally that obviously doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re an alcoholic or a drug addict that they have problems the problems start when you’re functioning begins to be impacted…functions within your life and once that starts whether it’s trouble at work, trouble at home, trouble with friends, once that stuff starts it rarely just –it’s rarely an outlier it’s rarely yeah everybody has that rough night where they might get to a fight but if it’s becoming a pattern there people may be starting to notice things or saying stuff to you it’s hard for that stuff to just stop right? now unfortunately once that stuff starts it rarely stops it’s like it has a snowball effect you know and people that wake up you know people that wake up, you know, every day that are struggling with addiction they didn’t just wake up one day you know burdened with addiction it was the process that began here’s it earlier and slowly developed over time you know so just keep an eye on this stuff and if you start to question whether you may have a problem at night probably have your answer.

Matthew: Alright yeah well said! okay, well I think we’re about up against it… I really appreciate you gentlemen’s time. Hopefully for anybody to check this out, hopefully some of this feedback or some of these ideas are really helpful and like always you know stay safe everybody, try to take care of each other and we’ll see everybody later. Any other last word from any of you gentlemen?

Colin: Thank You Matthew, appreciate it!

Michael: Yeah, thank You Matthew!

Joel: Matthew, thank you for doing that yes!

William: Thank you, Matthew!

Devin: Matthew, should we have worn our masks for this?

Matthew: Yes!

Joel: I’m socially distanced!

Matthew: [laughing] Okay, see you guys!

In a culture that encourages men to “suck it up” and not share their emotions, drugs and alcohol often become their coping mechanisms. Mental health issues such as anxiety and depression can make addiction worse, and vice versa. We want all men to know that there’s nothing wrong with asking for help — and we are here to guide you every step of the way. Call us today at (866) 399-6528.