Treating The Pain Behind Addiction with Joe Polish, Founder of Genius Recovery


Alan Olsen

Hi, this is Alan Olsen and welcome to American Dreams. My guest today is Joe Polish. He Joe’s done a lot of things today we’re going to talk about his book, The Miracle Morning for addiction recovery. And, Joe, welcome to today’s show.

Joe Polish

Thank you, Alan. So good to be here with you that appreciate.

Alan Olsen

So Joe you’ve had a tremendous success in the marketing area. And the success is primarily because it’s not about you, but it’s about how you can lift and build into the lives of others. And in you done a tremendous job in relationship building. So I want to I want to start though, in today’s segment, though, is to learn more about the story behind genius recovery. What does that mean?

Joe Polish

Well, genius recovery is something I started back in 2015. And it came about because I believe like, you know, I borrow a lot of insights and awareness from all the years I’ve spent in recovery, you know, 12 step meetings that I’ve sat in literally hundreds, maybe in the 1000 range been to more therapy than most people have done inpatient, outpatient treatments have done plant medicines, and all kinds of somatic therapy have pursued healthy and unhealthy ways of getting more whoo and less ah, in my life.

And so that’s what I think humans are pursuing, you know, who and verses are, but a lot of the things that we pursue is Whoo, can produce a lot of awe in our lives and a lot of angst and a lot of pain. And so genius recovery was born out of my desire to not only help my own recovery, but see if I can share anything that I’ve learned along the way with other people. So genius. is, you know, a website for our foundation, which is a 501 C three.

And it is an educational platform and the tagline the goal that I have is to help change the global conversation about how people view and treat addicts with compassion instead of judgment, and find the best forms of treatment that have efficacy and share that with the world. And I think we’re in the greatest.

Not I think I know we’re in the greatest time in history where there’s more addiction than ever before in human history, in terms of the amount of people throughout the globe that are struggling and suffering and addiction is real human suffering.

And so I understand it quite well, from my perspective, there’s different levels of addiction addiction is doing something that you want to do or that you do not want to do that has compulsivity attached to it and negative consequences. And you can’t stop it. It’s beyond choice. And so there are things that lot of recovery resources that are available. And there’s a lot of things that people can do.

So I’ve written two books on addiction recovery, the miracle morning for addiction recovery, which you mentioned was done with Hal Elrod, who’s the guy that created this miracle morning series. And he came, he’s a friend and he came to me a few years ago, and he’s like, so many people are using the miracle morning in recovery, can you you know, help me write a book on this?

And I said, yeah, let me recruit Anna David, who’s written many books on addiction recovery, a dear friend, she’s been, you know, I think 23 years now, she’s been in recovery.

And she’s awesome. And so she’s a great writer. And so I collaborated with with Anna, she did a lot of interviews with me. And together, we put together the book, The Miracle Morning for addiction recovery. And it just goes over using, you know, the morning as one way of doing your recovery. However, it doesn’t matter if someone’s a night owl, I honestly don’t really care.

What I care about is if their life is working, or if their life is not working, and what are the things that can cause you, you know, cause your life to work and what are the things that can cause it to go off the rails? And so, you know, Alan, one of the you know, and I’ll say this too, so I believe addiction is a response to trauma. I’ve done.

You know, Gabor Ma Tei is a great trauma guy. He’s written many books, including his latest book, you know, the myth of normal, which really kind of exists because I brought our friend because you know, Ben Hardy, I brought Ben over to gab wars home in Vancouver. I don’t know how long ago this was few years ago. And Ben introduced him to his current agent and that ended up the being the latest book that Gabbard did.

But I had brought Gabor to one of my Genius Network annual events, which is my big event for entrepreneurs, and I think is the first time many people ever saw something like that a discussion about addiction in a big business conference. Because, as you know, workaholics are everywhere. And it’s really easy to hide addiction under, you know, performance or making money or status because there’s a book on workaholism. And the subtitle is workaholism, the respectable addiction.

And so you know, workaholism is rapid throughout many of the seminars and business groups and entrepreneurial groups and lots of people that go to seminars, and they pursue, you know, constant growth and scaling their businesses. If you get underneath the surface, though, there are some people that is awesome, and they’re living great lives, and they’re feeling very connected. And there’s, if you, if you look at other people there, it’s a way to hide, it’s a way to take the pain and direct it into continual consumption.

Because all forms of addiction include binging and purging, it’s either excess, or it’s deprivation. So you can binge on food. You can binge on cocaine, you can binge on sex, or porn or internet or gambling, there’s many different forms of consumption, but you could also deprive yourself of nutrition or real true connection, or food or anything that is that is really, you know, deeply nourishing to the, to the human soul. So I look at not just the process, addictions of behavior addictions, but also you know, drugs and alcohol and sugar and caffeine.

And my, you know, my core addictions, really have to do with sucks in intimacy, and drugs, and work. You know, those are, if I had to categorize the addictions that have caused the most pain and the most angst in my life. It was definitely sexual addiction, which is a very misunderstood addiction. Because when someone hears that, it conjures up pose, I mean, they want to have a lot of sex.

There’s a lot of people that are sexual anorexics, they, they cannot allow themselves to feel connected sexually, or there’s such deep shame associated that came from whatever sort of exposure, be it abuse or something, they saw something they witnessed models from their parents or not having parents, or, you know, rape molestation, which happened to me in all kinds of things that could cause someone to have a maladaptive relationship with a substance or behavior. And a lot of that becomes addiction.

So I started genius recovery, because I wanted to help people, I wanted to reduce human suffering. And I think it’s the greatest global crisis that we’re dealing with, I actually have a viewpoint that much of the pandemic, can be explained to the lens of addiction and so much of the tyranny and so much of the propaganda in the fear porn that is put out in the world right now, a lot of that’s coming from people that are deeply hurt addicted people, and they’re hurting others, and not all addicts hurt other people.

Sometimes it’s just hurting yourself. Other times, it will result in abusive behavior that lends itself to other things. So that’s a lot. I know.

Alan Olsen

I want to jump into your foundation. Yeah, oftentimes, you know, we do things but doing things for the right reason, doing things with our inner strength, really become more meaningful. And so moving from addiction into trying to break this habit. What I find interesting, Joe, is you’re like, well, as I’m going through this, why don’t I help a lot of other people? How did you first come to know the change inside of you the foundation that that led you to do the things that you’re doing now?

Joe Polish

You know, it’s a good question. I mean, what is it that causes some person to have empathy for others and other people? Don’t? That that’s something I’ve often just grappled with, because they’re, I think, if you’re disconnected yourself, because Johann Hari has this line where the opposite of addiction is connection. I don’t know if he said it exactly that way, but it’s along those lines. And so connection is important and addiction is a connection disorder.

And in 12 steps, let’s use 12 steps and there’s whatever someone’s perspectives are of 12 steps.

12 Steps has done more to help people that struggle with addictions than every inpatient outpatient book core seminar Doctor therapist by a factor of magnitude more. And it’s available in many parts of the world, online, there’s meetings in person, there’s a meetings, there are literally millions of people every day all over the globe, that have benefited from a 12 step recovery. And one of the premises is, you know, make amends, do an inventory admit you’re powerless.

That’s a word that a lot of people have issues with. And I’m happy to speak to that.

And also, you know, share with others, right, and make amends whenever possible, except when to do so would injure yourself or others. So there’s, there’s this whole culture of you can’t keep it if you don’t give it away. So one of the best ways to help yourself is by helping other people, which is even a promise I apply to business.

I mean, my last, my latest book, what’s in it for them is all about, you know, you can get what you want by helping other people get what they want, but selecting the right type of people, aligning yourself with the right type of people well, to take that to recovery.

The more if I’m in pain, or struggling or hurting, and I feel like my life sucks, or I feel hopeless. One of the ways to infuse encouragement and inspiration is to go find someone else who’s struggling. And sometimes it’s just been a companion, you know, right before this. Before we started here, I got a text earlier today, from a friend, I won’t mention his name, he’s well known person. And he shared with me the name of his wife said, her name passed holding my hand at 10:11am. And that was, you know, that was sent over to me.

Wow, it’s really interesting. Like, right at this exact moment that we’re recording, that was one hour, to the minute. That was that text was sent to me. Very strange. And I was thinking about that as, as I was driving to my office today to, to, to, you know, give this to do this, have this conversation with you, Alan.

And this person has just gone through just the deepest pain and struggle with his his wife who had cancer, and I know her and just over the last few years, just everything that could that a person could do, to try to help someone in this condition.

And the importance of that connection, and the you know, and when someone’s dying, sometimes the only thing you could do is is just be with them be a companion, you know, and a lot of people will be like, you know, I’ve I’m someone that’s really struggling in some addicts are so deeply hurt. And some people are that with whatever disease not not, I’m not talking about just addiction. And we’re not in let me not confuse addiction as a disease.

Some people think it’s a disease, I believe it’s a response to trauma, there’s certainly dis ease in every form of addiction.

The thing is, though, you can always help someone, even if it’s just being present with them. And if you cannot be present with yourself, if your brain is in a constant seeking craving mode, you’re very much about yourself in your in, it’s very hard to care and be concerned about others and be empathetic, when there’s something inside of you this deep hunger that needs to be fed or that your nervous system is overwritten. So I started talking about addiction, because you’re sick as your secrets.

And it had been bothered me I would talk about being a drug addict, because in my worst state when I was a drug addict when I was 18 years old, and I was snorting cocaine freebasing cocaine, which is smoking it. I was snorting crystal meth. I was taking LSD many times before the age of 18. I was smoking pot every day. I was drinking alcohol. I was smoking cigarettes, I was taking speed. I mean, I was doing a lot of different drugs. My drug of choice, though, was cocaine. And there was one one point in time where I weighed 105 pounds.

And when you’re 18 years old, you’re male, you’re 510 which is you know, my height, and you weigh 105 pounds, you can imagine how skinny and how much of a rail I was and I would look in the mirror and I looked like a frickin skeleton and there were you know, I blow my nose most days and there was blood because my membranes my nose were just really just so damaged from the continual drug use and there was one week where I just was not eating hardly anything. And I’d gotten down to 105 pounds.

My average weight at that time was about 120 pounds, but there was this one week like I mentioned while I just was on a binge, and I was hardly eating, and I was just, I mean, I look like, you know, I look like someone that is, you know, in a concentration camp, I mean, just ribs and just sunk in does everything. And the fact that I even survived, that was able to get out of that sort of situation I found to be quite miraculous, lucky, someone or something looking over me.

And I understand as much as I can still relate, even though it seems like a surreal differ, part of, you know, existence, I can still resonate with the pain of that, you know, young version of me, because I’m 55 years old now. And I got sober from alcohol, but I never dealt with the core trauma that caused the addiction in the first place.

So, you know, there’s stage, stage one and stage two recovery stage one is stopping the, the drugs, the drinking, the consumption, the behaviors, that is making your life, you know, a total wreck, and not only your own life, but addicts in an inactive state addicts lie, they cheat, they steal, they live double lives, they hide it from themselves, their closest family members at times, everyone, and there’s, it’s all based on this deep sense of shame, if you are not a sociopath, or a psychopath.

I mean, there are some people I think that are, you know, deeply narcissistic, and they, they don’t have the ability, they’re mirror neurons cannot relate to other people. So they’re very much about themselves. However, if you’re in I’ll tell you, like a person like that, and there are there are many people in the world like that. They would never listen to an interview like this.

They would maybe to size people up and figure out how to, you know, the they wouldn’t, they would usually not pick up a book or go into a 12 step meeting except for, you know, maybe, you know, there’s, they’re targeting people, but for the most part, you know, if you have the ability to have empathy and stuff, then you have hope. And so

when I, when I heard the line, you’re sick as your secrets years ago, it took hearing that about 1000 times before I really got to the point where I was like, Huh, you know, that there’s so much wisdom in that, that saying, and understanding that silent battles, the hardest battles to fight. And when you talk about it, that’s the first step is admitting that you have this issue and you’re seeking help. And so after in I will constantly advise people, there’s a big difference between secrecy and privacy. How somebody does disclosure is critical.

I think it’s a mistake. For some people to not have someone very close to them a human some of that they can talk to someone that they can trust, preferably meet with in person together, or a group. It doesn’t need to be 12 steps.  Because a lot of people are anti 12 steps, and I can 12 steps is only one piece of recovery.

There’s food, there’s nutrition, there’s biochemical, there’s therapy, there’s somatic treatments, there’s breathing, there’s meditation, there’s things that get you into the flow state, there’s the environment in with in which somebody existed, all these things factor into, you know, having a healthy life. So stage one recovery is basically stopping, you know, being abstinent from the behavior, the drugs, stage two recovery is dealing with all of the relationship and emotional and physical issues that cause you to be addicted in the first place.

A guy named Ernie Larson wrote books on stage to recovery years ago, he was actually 12 Step guy, but it’s really good way to make a distinction. And so just because someone stops drinking, that was an alcoholic, you’ve heard of the term dry drunk, they’ve just not dealt with the emotional issues. So they’re not drinking, but they’re still assholes. They’re still raging, they’re still hurting people. So there’s a lot of there’s a lot of people that have stopped doing the behavior, but they’ve just redirected it into something else.

But they, you know, a lot of my male friends, which I think you’ll find this funny and female friends to a lot of them. I know a lot of very famous people that are because I talk to a lot of famous people and it’s all volunteer work. I don’t, I don’t charge for any of the stuff that I do even genius recovery is free education. I mean, we have a blog that is written twice a week from Ken wells, who’s one of the most brilliant addiction therapists that I’ve ever met.

And so we’re constantly just putting out free content into the world, right? And, but you’re not going to get sober from a book.

You’re not going Gonna get sober from a blog, you’re not going to get into recovery, just from hearing something that will hopefully be the seed that will hopefully give you the direction on where to go. So that’s the best hope for any of the the information I put out there as it starts the journey of someone, you know, getting into recovery, but there’s, you know, there’s there’s many different things that one could do. And I’m happy to kind of break that down and piece it out as best I can.

But the I don’t think people should do Facebook confessionals, just because if there’s something deep inside that there’s shameful, like, do that first with someone that you trust, that’s not going to shame you because I will often see people go out and they’ll just spill their soul to on social media, but they have no real close support around them. And oftentimes that could backfire.

Alan Olsen

So Joe, as I listened to you, very inspiring, I see the that you’re more about giving back and into the lives of others lifting, building. You you develop the mantra around addiction recovery, because you’ve lived that life and you say, Hey, guys, I went through it. I understand. I have empathy. When everything’s said and done, when you look into your crystal ball in the future, how do you want to be known?

Joe Polish

Yeah, that’s a good question.I help I’m known as someone that encouraged others. When I was a dobro, carpet cleaner living off credit cards after I got sober from doing drugs, I went to New Mexico State University never got a degree in anything. But I really went left Arizona, which is where I live now.

And I’ve lived almost my entire adult life, except for two years when I went to New Mexico, Las Cruces, New Mexico. And I lived in a trailer with my father for almost two years, while I was, you know, having different jobs, including getting a job at a gym selling gym memberships.

And then I ended up getting a job at a mental health facility. And one of my roles was to drive the people that were in the facility for addiction to AAA meetings, Alcoholics Anonymous, NA meetings, Narcotics Anonymous and CA meetings, cocaine anonymous.

And I would sit in on those meetings as an employee never realizing how much impact that would have in my life later in life with my own addiction recovery, even though so it was weird how I ended up, you know, I didn’t go to a 12 step meeting for myself, I went there as part of a job and little did I know, that was maybe, you know, whatever, however, someone wants to interpret God or higher power, that was whatever force put me in that situation really, really for me, and I learned a tremendous amount.

And but it took me years, though, Alan to, you know, to deal with my other core addictions, which I can speak to. But why am I saying all that? So after I came back from that, that, you know, two years of of living in New Mexico and getting sober and starting to exercise, I came back and ended up starting a carpet cleaning business.

And I lived off credit cards for two years really struggled, didn’t know how to run a business, but I was driven. And I ended up building the largest training organization in the world at the time in the 90s for professional carpet and upholstery cleaners, teaching them how to market and build their businesses. And I was a long hair guy with a ponytail. And now of course, I shaved my head. So I was out teaching people how to build and grow their businesses.

And I was not getting a lot of support with people that were twice my age, because when you’re in your, you know, mid 20s, and you’re out there trying to advise business owners most that are, you know, twice my age, how to grow their businesses, and there’s entrenched people within an industry that are, you know, see this young, up and comer doing, you know, making money be becoming well known.

I’d literally became the most well known person in the world in the carpet upholstery cleaning industry at that in the 90s, which is really funny.

So there was one guy named Ralph blas, who owned a company called steam way. He he ended up passing away many years ago. But he was one of the biggest supporters for me. And he would, you know, he would tell other, his distributors around the world, you know, you should look at what this guy’s teaching people and you should recommend it to your clients and he was a big endorser of me.

And he was when so many other people were just like, judging the book by its cover, you know, young guy out, you know, making claims of how you can help him build the business.

And so I ended up when he passed away. I went to his funeral, and there were hundreds of people there. And the number one thing that people said was, you know, he encouraged me And he would help people that were really struggling. Immediately. He didn’t. He didn’t have a criteria he like people, the people that become my inner circle friends, as I look at people that are more powerful, how do they treat people that are less powerful than them?

Do they say thank you, when someone opens the door, they kind to to a server in a restaurant, they just have common human courtesy and this guy lived the in breed that constantly. And that was always a great reminder to me, it’s like this, this line I heard early on in my 20s, which is Be nice to the people you meet on the way up to the same people you want to meet on the way down.

So I have a philosophy that it’s kind of like there’s different ways to frame it, like the rental car, philosophy of life, or the rental home, or Airbnb philosophy, meaning if you rent something, don’t damage it, leave it better off than it was before you showed up. You know, don’t drive a car that you’re renting over curbs, don’t throw trash in this, leave it there. I mean, don’t make a mess of other people’s stuff, treat it with respect. Well, humans are the same way.

Leave someone better off as a result of your existence. So I love to banter. I love to be sarcastic of a smartass.

I mean, there’s, I have a weird personality I beat I will insult and make fun of my friends, including the Genius Network, it’s the funniest thing because there will be new people that will come to it, I’ll be battery, it just kind of busting on people that are clients. But I do that with people that I care about. Most of the time. I mean, I’ll also call out people that I think are being real shits, but for the most part underneath all of it, I don’t want to be cruel. There’s a big difference between, you know, bantering with someone versus being cruel.

And I also really want to inspire people, I want to encourage people, and I want to help. So what I want to do in other way I know I’m saying this about me, but I’m really Alan, trying to hope that whoever’s listening to this is more thoughtful about everyone, they interact with leaving them better off than they were before. You know, they showed up. I mean, I’d love to ask you, like, I’d love to hear what you’d like to be remembered for. Because here we are talking and you’ve got a lot of people that listen and watch what it is that you produce.

And you can certainly say well, because I you know, I build business around it. But it’s deeper than that. You know, you’re not doing this just because you want to make money. I mean, you want to inspire people, you want to help people you like teaching people you like sharing ideas. And I think that’s a very good thing. A good way to live your life is where, you know, one way to learn is you learn through the school of hard knocks.

Another way that you learn is you learn to the experience of others, you read their books, you listen to their podcasts, you go to their seminars, you you consume whatever it is they do, and that’s a very effective way to learn. The third most of the way to accelerate even that type of learning is you teach it to other people. And so when you become a teacher, it really allows you to integrate it. So you’re not just reading someone else’s book, you’re writing a book, you’re not just listening to a podcast, you’re actually recording a podcast.

And so those but there’s many ways to encourage people. And there’s also people that are real assholes that have podcasts. There’s people that are real assholes that write books, there’s there in you know, we know a lot of them. I mean, I know a lot of billionaires. I know a lot of very famous people, I know some of the top influencers. And there’s some people that are amazing. And there’s other people that are the biggest con artists frauds you’d ever imagine. And it’s a whole mixed bag.

But I just want to encourage other people and I want to encourage others to be encouragers because I think the world needs givers right now more than anything, because there’s way too many taker energy that’s really messing up the world right now. So I want to be known as a giver and someone that hopefully made a difference and help bring some sunshine to the lives of some people in again, I said I’d love to hear your motivations.

Alan Olsen

But it’s very well said, I think we’re lying to you know, my Senshi were in in my life. I as I do the podcast, I do it on two gifts. You know, number one, I asked the person coming on to give a portion of their time, you’re and in exchange for that we put you into a community, which is a return reciprocal give no money changes hands and said she is all about lifting and building and using their stories to inspire people into the lives of others. And then with the podcasts.

What I also do is I invite people that have come on the show that if they ever want to meet anybody, the alumni have done this over 2500 times that I will take your interview and show it to them and then with their permission, I make the introduction I step away so you’ve heard you know they give me a half hour that Time from there on. It’s all about building and lifting the lives of others. And I think, as it’s something that you’ve learned a while, a long time ago, Joe about, it’s about how we impact the lives of other people, that it’s not about us.

So oftentimes people come in and it’s about them, what do they get out of the transaction, you know, and usually it’s a financial tie. But one thing that you did share is that you give of your time you give of your resources, you’re there to help and build. And I think we’re, we’re aligned on that basis, I have a mantra that I have enough for my needs, I can cover my costs.

And and this is all about the lives of others and putting a community gathered that that lifts with this what we need today, we need a collaborative community that lifts and builds others.

Joe Polish

No, I totally agree. You know, Ron, Das has that line where he says, you know, we’re all just trying to walk each other home. And I think there’s a lot to be said about that. Yeah. If there’s one word that would encapsulate what my goal is, is to is connection, I want to connect others with other people with ideas with things that expand them and don’t contract them. I want to help the givers the world protect themselves from the takers, because there’s a lot of narcissists that really are wolves in sheep’s clothing that you don’t often know.

I know what it’s like to be betrayed, to be abused, to be raped to be manipulated. My mother was a former nun, she left the convent, you know, because she had gotten ill she met my father, in church, they ended up getting married. Because I’ve heard all the jokes, you know, nuns get get prayed, all that sort of stuff. So it’s, my mother died when I was four from ovarian cancer. And I, you know, watched my father who lost the love of his life never recovered from it.

And we every year, every two years, my entire childhood, we would move to a different place because my father was just trying to find any sort of, you know, meaning and he was in such mental pain and anguish, and it was really sad to witness and he never remarried. So I never had a model of a loving relationship, I was raped and molested as a kid, I was paid money, not to say anything about it.

And what I, you know, what I witnessed and interacted with was sex was never an intimate act of love and oneness, it was something that you know, you do to get off it, it was very shame based. And so it took just years to, you know, there’s still a lot of scar tissue.

I mean, I’m, I would never say that I am enlightened, and I’m evolved enough to where I’ve, you know, pulled myself out of that pain, what I will say is doing genius recovery, and working with people with addiction has been one of the most helpful things because the people constantly because we do help a lot of people and we put a lot of information out there. I know, we’ve saved a few lives through the help of people like Andre Norman, who has been working with me for five years now.

And you know, we deal with some pretty heavy situations, we put a lot of information out there help a lot of people to even under understand stuff. You know, I get a lot of compliments, and people say nice things. And you know, Joe Yes, it’s amazing and so helpful, what you’re doing. And, you know, that’s all nice and stuff. But I always want to caution people and say it’s not because I’m some philanthropic angel. I mean, this is very helpful to my own recovery.

And I think, you know, if you just go out and find something, or you know, our friend Dan Sullivan, has that question, you know, who do you want to be a hero to, and I want to be a hero to entrepreneurs, and I want to be a hero to people that struggle with addiction. And if I can be helpful to them, you know, I’ve benefited greatly from it.

I have had the longest stretch of recovery under my belt now since I’ve started doing the recovery work than ever before, because even throughout my 20s 30s and mid 40s I had enormous struggles with sexual addiction and let me let me define that too.

I think it’s important and I don’t like talking about this stuff because I get some sort of thrill out of it. And I also don’t like wound ology there’s a lot of people that tell their you know, horrible stories that happen to them. And they use it as a way to try to build rapport with people so that they feel sorry for that.

I want to preface and saying every person listening to this you, me, you know there have been people that everyone has their their pain and their struggles and some things that other human every day I hear something that has happened to somebody and it just is like, it is amazing.

Some of the shit that the people that happened and how some people it just destroys them and other people, it becomes their cross to bear it becomes their, you know, their journey through the dark night of the soul. And they become these amazing caring, empathetic, helpful, inspirational human beings.

So, I tried to look at, you know, how do you turn the pain into, into progress and not get wrapped up with it being your identity, because someone, you know, if your identity becomes that of a helpless addict, you’re going to live into that identity, if your identity becomes you know, you’re so confident you’re such a rock star, and everything about us amazing, you often can become and entitled, in arrogance. So the the thing with Pain is pain as a messenger, and you want to pay attention to it.

And so I’ve, with me, the, let me give you my definition of intimacy that I heard from an 80 year old gay man, that I never met in person. But I had a friend that I had 12 steps, meaning I walked him through his first 12 Step meeting back in 2003. And he 20 years ago, and he had, you know, several years ago said, you should really talk to this guy. He’s a really bright guy, and this is a man who had spoken isn’t it was Wharton, actually, he’s spoken to, you know, very big groups about recovery.

And he said, intimacy is a mutual exploration of a shared safe place.

Abuse is anything that takes away the safe place. And addictions are what we do to make ourselves feel good when we don’t have a safe place. And I thought that was a pretty profound statement. So intimacy is a mutual exploration of a shared safe place. Well, if you’ve not been able to feel safe in the world, because of something that happened to you traumatically as a child, or you were abused.

You know, abuse is anything that takes away the safe place, and addictions are what we do to make ourselves feel good when we don’t have a safe place.

I believe addiction is a solution. In that sounds weird, it’s, it’s, it’s a solution to pain. It’s a solution to loneliness, if you’re depressed, or lonely or anxious or hurting.

You know, if you have an itch, you want the itch to go away, there’s nothing wrong with wanting those negative feelings to not be there because those feelings hurt. However, it’s how you scratch the itch. And oftentimes, we’re scratching the itch with razor blades, not waste, you know, soothing it. And so addiction is a solution to pain. It’s not a good solution. It’s a solution that could destroy your life, it could destroy the lives of other people, it could kill you, it could kill others. However, it is a solution.

And, you know, if you treat an addict as a moral degenerate, is this making bad choices, instead of looking at that person and understanding that they’re in pain or they’re disconnected, then you’re gonna approach it differently and you cannot punish pain out of people. You know, the criminal justice system has been treating addiction for a long time, as matter of fact, it creates it. And so you can’t punish yourself and think your addiction is gonna go too wet, gonna go away.

So if you’re, you’re hurting, and you’re doing things that are quote unquote, bad, you know, guilt is you don’t, you know, you regret something that you have done or are doing it. Shame is, you know, guilt is feeling that shame is you are bad shame is this internal belief that I am at my core, not lovable. I’m not kidding, you know, I’m not worthy. And so when I’ve touched myself here and point to myself, so much of my life was your piece of shit, you’re worthless.

And that was embedded to me at a time when I was a kid on a subconscious level that I didn’t even understand it.

But it became this whole identity. And addiction became the way that I sued that horrible, empty feeling. And it took years for me to not think that way. Now, knowing what I know. Now, had I known any of the things that I tried to introduce to other people, it would have probably saved a couple of decades of struggle and pain in my life. Because as an adult, I became a millionaire before the age of 30. Because I was redirecting all of this angst and pain into business. And money’s great, I love money.

You know, people that say the money can’t buy happiness, they haven’t given enough of it away. I mean, you know, I buy happiness all the time, you can really help other people that are struggling with financial resources. However, if you give money to a person that has not dealt with their addiction, they can buy anything their twisted mind can come up with in order to self soothe. So I view addiction now as a response to trauma. So you got to deal with the underlying trauma, the environment that you’re in. And also it’s biochemical.

It’s dopamine, it’s serotonin.

And so one of my dear friends that I’ve gotten to become, you know, recently in the last year and a half is Dr. Ana Lemke, who’s a doctor of addictive Medicine at Stanford. And she wrote a really great book called dopamine nation, I’m actually helping her with a dopamine nation workbook right now, and I have her come into my, you know, Genius Network, annual event ish this year in December.

And I try to bring these addiction specialists into business conferences, because my whole goal is sell people what they want, give them what they need, you know, they want to make more money, they want to have better clients. So I have all my marketing skills, and my business skills, but I, you know, I smuggle in all of this stuff related to work, work addiction, and in all of these things, because my goal is to, you know, build a better human being.

And so, you know, so for me, anyone that’s listening, you know, what, it First off, if if you’ve resonated with this conversation, either you are struggling with a behavior or a substance that is making your life unmanageable, and oftentimes, it’s it’s addiction is very seductive, it could in addicts become pleasure, Duff.

So if you can’t go to a movie, or sit by yourself, or read a book, or take a walk, without having to look at a screen, or having to, you know, look at porn or have an affair or smoke a joint or, you know, eat sugar, or consume caffeine, or, you know, smoke tobacco, or do any sort of stimulating pursuing activity, if you literally cannot function, without going into like a white knuckling jumping out of your skin, you may be dealing with addiction. And if you’re not in those situations, because people say, isn’t everybody addicted to something?

And I’ve heard that 1000 times.

I mean, some people are not, I mean, there are people that their lives are not drawn with a an uncontrollable craving, that causes them to just do things they don’t want to do. And that’s different than, you know, like, Vegas as an example. I mean, Vegas is a perfect model for addiction. It’s addiction by design, there was even a book called addiction by design about, you know, how Vegas is created.

But you know, you take slogans like, you know, what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, it’s a great line for an addict mind to say, well, except guilt, debt, STDs, honesty, that shit doesn’t stay in, stay in Vegas. And then you have like, the alcohol industry has their marketing slogan, which is drink responsibly, as if they give a shit about anyone drinking responsibly, the first word of drink responsibly is the command it’s to drink. And like something like 80, to 90% of, of alcohol consumed, is consumed by 10, or 20% of drinkers.

So like, the vast majority of money that’s made in the alcohol industry is not spread out with everyone, it’s people that are really alcoholics and people that are really obsessive, and, and there’s all these organizations that sell addiction and vices that want to try to give the illusion that they care about people. And you know, it’s so we’re so disconnected.

We’re more connected electronically than ever before, in human history, but we’re more disconnected as humans and so real, genuine human connection in the things that can connect you with yourself first, like my book, you know, it’s in the background here, what’s in it for them.

It’s kind of a trick, what it’s a whole book on how to meet other people, how to connect with other people how to be a giver, how to, you know, how to position yourself with the right people, the right opportunities, but it’s, you know, in all the connection capabilities that I have learned over the years, because it was so funny that I was such a disconnected person growing up and then my life today is running, you know, one of the top connection, you know, networks in the world.

And the funny thing about it is it’s a book on capabilities on connection, but it’s really a character book, underneath it all is like in order for you to connect with other people, you got to be connected with yourself you actually, you know, you want to give to other people. But if you’re you can’t fix a world with broken hands.

You have to be the million dollar racehorse and that means you have to have the best training the best coaches the best food you can’t be hanging out with losers you got to run the right races you got to really think of yourself as the million dollar racehorse.

Because if you if you do if you treat yourself as a million dollar racehorse, you’re gonna win races and if you don’t, you’re gonna lose them and so you never win a race you don’t want to be in some games life the only way you win is you don’t play and you got to determine what games you’re playing that you’re you’re not winning and so, you know, all of this stuff.

You know, I just so badly Want to share what I what I can with people just to plant a seed? I mean, recovery. The journey of recovery is not easy. It is work. But I’ll tell you, the not doing the work is 10 times more work than doing the work meaning. You know, there is a life is I had a friend named Dave cat could choose spent half his life paralyzed in a wheelchair. And he, I mean, he’s such a brilliant man and he said that he had one credo. He had 100 credos, but one of his package credos was,

life is easy if you live it the hard way, and hard if you live it the easy way. So it’s oftentimes easy to have that drink, eat that crappy food, look at porn, stand the internet, be tight, tight and all that stuff, but your life is so much harder. If you don’t set up the rituals, and I’ve never seen an addict Allen recover alone. You can’t do it in isolation. If you’re a true addict, you have to connect. So there’s four things you need in order to get sober and stay sober.

You need community that’s where 12 Steps come in. If someone who is anti 12 steps, find other groups find other close relationships that that you trust that you can confide in. You can do that in a therapeutic setting if you have the ability to do that. But there’s many support groups out there we tried to list so many options that genius gets people just want to go find groups but you know, you’re you’re sick as your secrets in silent battles are the hardest battles to fight.

I said that earlier I’ll say to get so no one recovered. That’s true attic recovers in isolation.

Secondly, it’s biochemical. It’s serotonin, it’s dopamine. 70 to 90% of serotonin is made in the gut. I don’t know the exact number. I’m not a doctor, but my partner and my girlfriend’s a doctor. And I have about 20% of my Genius Network members are in the health field doctor, some arounds very smart doctors all the time. So it’s what you eat, what you put in your body, water, sleep, exposure, all of that. The third is the trauma work, the underlying trauma work.

That’s where breathing meditation, saunas, cold plunges somatic therapy EMDR, the proper and I emphasize the proper use of plant medicines. You know, the drugs that kill people are legal, the drugs that save people’s lives are illegal. You know, Ayahuasca journeys, Ibogaine for opiate addictions, MDMA guided, you know, trauma therapy. There’s all kinds of amazing plant medicines, psilocybin things for depression and stuff.

But again, the proper use, because there’s a lot of people that are addicted to nootropics, in supplements and plant medicines, but they’re all doing it under this umbrella of health, and expansion and consciousness. And I have a lot of my colleagues and friends that go to Burning Man, they get high in a camper, and they call it a spiritual experience. And then there’s other people that do go to Burning Man and have a spiritual experience. So I’m not It’s all how you interact with it. So dealing with the underlying trauma work.

And then the fourth is the environment based on the rat Park studies that Dr. Bruce Alexander did, and I write about all these in the Miracle Morning for addiction recovery. And we write about it on genius, recovery and interviews that are readily available, you know, all over the place. But you know, those are, the fact is there’s help. And every person listening to this is either going to struggle with this, either themselves, or with a family member or with an employee or friends. Addiction is everywhere.

We are, you know, the number one killer of substances of people in America has sugar first, tobacco, second, alcohol, third, opiates, fourth, drugs are the number three cause of death in the United States outside of heart disease and cancer. You know, New Zealand and America are the only countries that allow pharmaceutical advertising on television. And that’s why, you know, three times more people are addicted to legal drugs in America than almost any other country in the in the world. So and we’re just talking drugs. I

mean, if you just take Internet, and what screens do and so, you know, good, good, good to read dopamine nation. So you can understand that because there are some people that have addictions that are not severely traumatized, but it is a it’s a dopamine pursuit. And so I am constantly trying to find who has genius, genius recovery is what are the things that have efficacy that work? And how do I share that with the world, and anything I come across that will add a whole other layer of it, I will do my best to put it on genius recovery.

do interviews with the people that are experts in this area, share their work with the people and hopefully do as much of it as we can for free right now. We’re funding a study at Stanford on addiction in connection with young people with my friend, Dr. Dr. BJ Fogg is one of the top professors that, you know in the world and one of his students is the founder of Instagram. And so he’s been in the social dilemma, the guy that did the social dilemmas one of BJ Fogg students.

And so we’re looking at all kinds of aspects of what connects and what disconnects people.

And we’re also putting together a recovery kit that we want to make available to people. And we want to distribute as many of these things for free. And we have people that fund genius recovery, and contributors, many of them come from Genius Network. And, you know, my whole thing is changed the global conversation about how people view and treat addicts with compassion instead of judgment, and find the best forms of treatment and efficacy and share with the world.

And so for anyone listening there that feels like they’re struggling, I will often tell people go to a 12 step meeting, even if you don’t identify as an addict. And even if you’ve heard negative things about 12 steps, and the reason that I say that is 12 steps are not there step meetings, people that go to the meetings, and don’t ever do the steps.

Is the and then say 12 steps don’t work is like someone going into a gym, they want to lift weights and get stronger, they sit on the bench, they don’t lift any weights, and they walk out of the gym and say gyms don’t work.

I mean, no one would ever say that, because that would be a preposterous thing. But people do that with 12 steps all the time. And if I dig into people that are anti 12 steps, for one, they never get a sponsor. They rarely do the steps and some people do. So it’s 12 steps is not everything. 12 steps is one part of the four areas that I’ve identified, you know, and so the fact is, your life is not a dress rehearsal, it is you got to go and do the work.

You know, you don’t build a great reputation by talking about what you’re going to do you build a great reputation by actually doing it.

You don’t get recovery, because you just want it you you have to do you have to have a program for living. And I yeah, I hope that anything that I’ve shared here would be insightful, and if anyone needs any more help and stuff we have read the blog that we put out every two weeks.

Alan Olsen

How did they find the blog? We’ll put it up on the screen?

Joe Polish

Genius. Yeah, genius. And here’s the thing, like I have an open letter. So there’s a tab at the top of the genius recovery. And it’s a you know what, maybe I should read it without the Okay, I’ve never actually asked psych Yeah, yeah, let me let me go to genius And I’m going to look for the open letter. So when someone you know, someone can, can just go to the top and we have our we have our blog at the top and it says, Open Letter, an open letter to anyone struggling with addiction.

So here’s the letter I wrote, and people tend to like this.

First, I want to say how sorry I am that you or someone you love is struggling with addiction. I know firsthand how painful it is addiction nearly killed me when I was 18 years old. What I’ve learned since then, is that almost all addiction stems from trauma. This can be difficult for some people to understand they assume trauma has to mean a person was beaten, molested or in a life threatening accident. But we all have different levels of sensitivity.

Addiction is something you’re driven to do anything that you crave that gives you temporary pleasure or relief and then causes negative consequences. Addiction is something that you are unable to give up despite the suffering it causes. The challenging thing for people that don’t have this craving is to understand is that how someone can have that craving in the first place? They wonder why the addict can’t just make a better choice.

I’m of the belief that addiction is not a choice. Once the addict goes into a craving state, it’s beyond willpower or intelligence, intelligence can actually be a detriment. Because the smarter people are, the more they believe they can think their way out of the problem. That’s that’s a key point too. I almost want to stop and do a whole little riff on that. But it’s, it’s hard for very smart, intelligent people because they can they think they can out intellectualize the addiction, okay?

What many people don’t understand is that addiction isn’t a problem. It’s actually a solution.

If you’re in pain, angst, anger, fear, rage, depression, sadness, loneliness, or experiencing any other form of suffering. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be out of pain. It’s how we go about scratching the itch that causes the issue. Ultimately, addiction is a connection disorder. It’s really It’s feeling incredibly disconnected and uncomfortable in your own skin.

You just want to numb out or escape you want to feel something anything except the dread that comes with that craving state, a state that always has compulsivity or impulsivity attached to it.

Looking at addiction from a state of compassion as opposed to judgment is critical. We cannot punish or beat addiction out of somebody. Sure, we can throw people in prison, scold them or run away From them, but that doesn’t help make the craving go away. Love and compassion are critical though of course, those can be difficult emotions to embrace when dealing with addicts, the symptoms of addiction can be ugly. They often involve activities like cheating, disrupting line stealing and other egregious acts.

That’s because addicts will do anything to get out of the pain they’re in.

The addict brain has an appetite for destruction, and is fueled more by chaos than harmony. In other words, it’s hard for addicts to feel okay, it’s not easy to feel compassion for someone who’s leaving shrapnel in their wake. But the more you can understand that the attic is in pain and just trying to get out of it, the easier it can be to deal with the recklessness and chaos that comes with it.

Addiction is also biochemical, you are dealing with serotonin and dopamine, once you quit the drug or behavior, you may have to fix and repair the gut, you have to get the body back to a state where it produces feel good chemicals. In order to cope with the uncomfortable feelings. That means exercise, yoga, meditation, flow pots, the right nutrition and more. The issues are in the tissues. And if you can incorporate movement and communities, it can help. building rapport by being around other addicts is critical. It doesn’t have to be a 12 step meeting.

You just need a community and ongoing consistent community. It’s a lot of work, but not nearly as much work as active addiction. And if you’re willing to do the work, there’s freedom on the other side that most addicts and their families probably haven’t ever experienced before the bottom line help is available. There are many people and resources available at little or no cost. Genius recovery.

Alan Olsen

As beautiful in that, you know, we’ll have that up on the screen for you know, the program as people go through that. But Joe, this has been an absolute pleasure having you here on the show today.

Joe Polish

Thank you, Alan, I really appreciate it. Because most people like always want to talk to me about business stuff. And they want to talk about how to get clients and all that and I love talking about this because this is the most important thing for me. And you know how, how much it helps to it’s one thing to have someone make money and do good and businesses and other walks someone like I have a painting on the wall that a woman that I helped with recovery.

It said a recovery didn’t open up the gates of heaven to let me in but it did open up the gates of hell to let me out. And I think that’s what we’re trying to do here. So thank you


Curtesy of Alan Olsen‘s

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    Joe Polish on Alan Olsen's American Dreams Radio
    Joe Polish

    Joe Polish is the Founder of Genius Network®, one of the highest level groups in the world for Entrepreneurs. He also curates the Annual Genius Network Event and the 100k Group ($100,000). Genius Network and 100K is home to some of the most successful Entrepreneurs alive.

    Joe has also helped build thousands of businesses and generated hundreds of millions of dollars for his clients. He has been featured in INC, Fortune, Forbes, Success, U.S News & World Report, among others, and has spoken at Stanford University. Joe also hosts three of the top ranked marketing and business podcasts, including, and

    Recent projects include: GeniusX – a VR company he co-founded helping to bring healing and educational learning through the platform, Retreat; and purchased a 40-acre ghost town with Jason Campbell called Cleator (

    His documentary “CONNECTED: The Joe Polish Story,” premiered at the historic TCL Chinese Theater (formerly Mann’s Chinese Theater), and his documentary “Black Star” won the Audience Choice Award at the Sedona Film Festival.

    Joe’s mission with Entrepreneurs and Genius Network® is “to build a better Entrepreneur,” and his mission with Genius Recovery is “to change the global conversation of how people view and treat addicts with compassion, instead of judgment and to find the best forms of treatment that has efficacy and share those with the world.

    Read his book, “Life Gives To The Giver” at His newest book, What’s In It For Them, published by Hay House, released Nov 1, 2022.

    Alan Olsen on Alan Olsen's American Dreams Radio
    Alan Olsen

    Alan is managing partner at Greenstein, Rogoff, Olsen & Co., LLP, (GROCO) and is a respected leader in his field. He is also the radio show host to American Dreams. Alan’s CPA firm resides in the San Francisco Bay Area and serves some of the most influential Venture Capitalist in the world. GROCO’s affluent CPA core competency is advising High Net Worth individual clients in tax and financial strategies. Alan is a current member of the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research (S.I.E.P.R.) SIEPR’s goal is to improve long-term economic policy. Alan has more than 25 years of experience in public accounting and develops innovative financial strategies for business enterprises. Alan also serves on President Kim Clark’s BYU-Idaho Advancement council. (President Clark lead the Harvard Business School programs for 30 years prior to joining BYU-idaho. As a specialist in income tax, Alan frequently lectures and writes articles about tax issues for professional organizations and community groups. He also teaches accounting as a member of the adjunct faculty at Ohlone College.

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