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Welcome to the Atheists in Recovery Podcast, where we talk about finding hope in recovery. And now your host, Dr. Adina Silvestri
Hola Atheists in Recovery land, and welcome to Episode 79 of the Atheists in Recovery podcast. And today, we have a guest episode for you. I haven't recorded one of these in a while and, and I was excited to have Derek on. And so today we are talking about how to reset your recovery in the new year. And I know what you're thinking, you're thinking, Okay, Adina, I don't need another resolutions, podcast and a goal setting podcast. But I think that Derek and I were pretty clear from the get go that this is not a new year, new you kind of episode. This really is maybe going through the tools that are working for you, and continuing with them or refreshing them. Or maybe it's just accepting where you are and your recovery. And knowing that whatever journey you decide to go on, whether it's, you know, you put down the bottle, or maybe you picked it up recently, and now you're starting a new to make sure that that you are giving yourself some grace, that everything that you do is a continuation of where you want to go. Well, that's the goal anyway is to is to line up with your morals and your values and make sure that you're being kind to yourself as you go through this journey. And so
Adina Silvestri 1:54
Derek, and I talk about routines. Yes, we definitely do. But we also talk about connection, and we talk about how to position yourself to make positive changes every day. And Derek gets a little bit
granular when talking about his family. And, you know, he says that many of them, many of his immediate family members died from complications from alcohol abuse. And people always ask him, Well, didn't that drive you into recovery? And he says no, if anything that made him go even deeper into his addiction, and so hearing him talk about that, hopefully will help a lot of individuals who are in the depths of depression. And knowing that there are always people there that want to help. And so before we get to Derek story, I also want to let you know that there is a trigger warning with this episode. And so I want to give you again, the National Suicide Prevention hotline number which is 1-800-273-8255. And you'll find that number in the show notes, but again, please know that there is always help available it's just a phone call away. Okay. And to derek Derek Thatcher. Through a myriad of jobs and life experiences, Derek found that the commonality between all of these was that he enjoys helping people his current role as an alumni program lead for Newport Academy grants and the ability to help and support teens and their recovery everyday. After graduating from the University of California, Santa Barbara in 2013, with a bachelor's in psychology and a minor in black studies, he spent two years traveling in New Zealand and Argentina. Derek is in the last semester of his substance abuse counseling certification program at Northern Virginia Community College and he intends to pursue his master's in counseling. Alright guys, to the show. Derek Thatcher, welcome to the show.
Derek Thatcher 4:06
Thank you so much for having me.
Adina Silvestri 4:08
Yeah, I'm excited to be here and talk about our recovery journey at the start of the new year. But before we get to resetting our recovery, I was wondering if you could tell the listeners a little bit more about maybe your deepest roots from childhood?
Derek Thatcher 4:28
Sure, absolutely. My grandfather was a Methodist minister. So you know, on that side of my family, there was some heavy religious influences. My father, he fought in Vietnam, and after that, he held some disdain for for religion. So it was this kind of interesting dynamic where I would go to church on Sundays with my mom and my dad would stay home. I grew up On a 40 acre farm in West Virginia, and wow, yeah, it was a wonderful childhood. And I never really thought about church. In that spiritual sense. It was just someplace, I went and saw my friends, the, you know, the woods, the creek, the pond, the wildlife, that was my church, you know, that was my spiritual place of belonging. And I think that's really what I've carried with me into my adulthood.
Adina Silvestri 5:34
Yeah, so just that connection with nature has really helped you spiritually, or, or otherwise, it sounds like,
Derek Thatcher 5:41
Yeah, absolutely. You know, my morning routine, and I'll talk about this a little more in depth as we proceed. But, you know, I set out in the night in nature, when I walk my dog, you know, I find a quiet spot in the woods and I sit down. And, you know, I do a little bit of reflection and meditation before I go and start my day and everything gets crazy. And that's my safe space.
Adina Silvestri 6:09
Yeah. I can't wait to get to learn more about your routine. I think that this podcast partly was started because I wanted to know more about people's routines that were successful in recovery. And so this episode is right up my alley. So I wonder if we can switch gears for a minute. And you could tell me a little bit about your recovery journey? Sure,
Derek Thatcher 6:33
absolutely. I like to leave out the most of the gory details, but I was in active addiction for 10 years around there. I started using and all sorts of types of things when I was 17. And that continued until I was 29. So you know, a little over 10 years. And I did well, I made it through for a while. I made it through college with a good GPA. And I traveled abroad. I lived in New Zealand for a year, I lived in Argentina for a year. And my addiction followed me wherever I went, it was always my my go to coping mechanism. And, you know, in my mid 20s, it was no longer sustainable things began to fall apart. In my life, I was losing jobs, I was losing friends, I was losing my own mental capacity. I wasn't the person that I strive to be. And it created a lot of cognitive dissonance, you know, this feeling where my actions didn't align with my beliefs. And a little bit after that, my oldest brother passed away from korsakoff syndrome, which is alcohol induced dementia.
Adina Silvestri 8:01
Derek Thatcher 8:03
Which is pretty rare for someone who is his age?
Adina Silvestri 8:06
How old was he
Derek Thatcher 8:07
was 45. And yes, it was two years after that. My father passed away from cirrhosis of the liver. And I was in active addiction, but I put him through hospice help take care of them. And the year after that, a month later, my mother passed away from cirrhosis of the liver. Wow. So this runs really heavy in my blood. And you know, it's difficult to separate the environmental and the genetic factors. But I went through some heavy, heavy grief. You know, a lot of people asked me, did you get sober because all these people passed away? And I said, No, you know, through into a deeper state of depression, more isolation, and my addiction got worse. And right around Christmas of 2019. I tried to take my own life. I woke up the next day, and I called rehab center. And it was the first time wasn't the first time I'd been to rehab. It was the first time that I put myself there.
Adina Silvestri 9:20
Right. makes a difference.
Derek Thatcher 9:22
Yeah, it absolutely does. I was ready to change. And I put the work in stop. haven't stopped doing it since. And so this, you know, this last Christmas Eve, I celebrated my one year.
Adina Silvestri 9:40
Derek Thatcher 9:40
Thank you. And you know, and I'm still what most would refer to as early in recovery. So I think that gives me a unique perspective. The pain is not so far away. Mm hmm.
Adina Silvestri 9:57
Thanks for sharing that. If you could pull out maybe one or two tools that really helped you to get and stay sober, what would those things be? What would those tools be?
Derek Thatcher 10:12
I think, routine. I'll talk about it over and over again. It's something that's added structure to my life. So you know, having my day scheduled, there's no no surprises. I mean, there's no surprises. But I always have something to do. I don't have a lot of that down board time where my mind gets to wander. And yeah, so I think that that's, that's been a huge part of my recovery is keeping busy. And then I think my, my other tool would be reaching out. Mm hmm. I learned how to ask for help.
Adina Silvestri 11:03
And I think that's, I think that's so important, Derek. And I wonder if you could even talk a little bit about this feeling of when you're low and you're in, you're so down, sort of like in this sort of hole I picture. It's really hard to ask for help. It's almost like you feel like, well, well, there's, obviously there's this shame component to it. How do you kind of overcome that?
Derek Thatcher 11:30
It's a great question. You know, I remember being in that hole. It's not just the shame, it's also you feel like you're a burden on other people. And that's a really tough hurdle to get over. And I've been in and out of programs, and I really don't align with anyone specifically. But through either sponsorship, or the people in my life that I look up to I consider my mentors. I don't know. But I have mentors. Talking with them right here locally. I think that was the biggest thing. Because when I was okay, I can talk to them. And it was getting into the habit of creating this habit of speaking to them on a sometimes daily basis. Where, when I wasn't okay, it was hard to pick up that phone anymore. Mm hmm.
Adina Silvestri 12:28
So making it part of your routine, like you'd said earlier, was really helpful.
Derek Thatcher 12:32
Yeah, I think every everything goes back to that. Yeah, I mean, forming a habit. And they say it takes 66 days to create a habit and asking for help reaching out for help, can fall right in, in line with becoming your habit. Mm hmm.
Unknown Speaker 12:53
Yeah. Tell me a little bit about this idea of mentors. And how did you decide to go this route versus some of the more traditional routes,
Derek Thatcher 13:02
I'm still in counseling, you know, I see therapists, less regularly than, than I used to. But I consider him a mentor. And I got one of the very first things I did after I got out of inpatient was I found a grief counseling service, nice here in Virginia called Haven, they're, they're free. It's, you know, their grief support specialists. It's all a free service they offer and mentor from there has been an enormous help in conflict confronting and, you know, moving on that grief spectrum towards. And as far as straying from the traditional, you know, 12 step program, I had a really hard time with the dogma, and the G word, you know, God, I just, it never resonated with me. And, you know, there are lots of people in those programs, who, you know, that God is whatever they want it to be. But I just, I wanted something tangible. I wanted, that I could feel and touch and have a conversation with. And I found that in mentors and people.
Adina Silvestri 14:28
Yeah, yeah. I love that idea of mentors, because I mean, they could be, you know, any shape, size color, you know, they don't have to be in the addiction community. And you can gain a lot from just different perspectives. So I really liked that. When you first told me about that. I was like, Oh, this is interesting. I need to ask him more about this. Yeah. So perhaps now we can talk a little bit more about resetting here recovery. And so we're recording this in January, and there's a lot of focus and resets, a lot of I get a lot of emails about resetting. And it can be sort of tied to resolutions, which I know is sort of a dirty word. But it doesn't have to be, you know, and I thought maybe you could come on, and talk a little bit about how you sort of reset your recovery, what that looks like. And not only the tools that you're utilizing, but also the state of mind. Right. So like, I was thinking about this, before we hit record, and I was thinking that it doesn't have to be, you know, just, I slipped up. And so now I have to reset, you know, sort of like this punishment aspect, it could be like a while I'm on this, I'm on this new journey now. You know, and it should, to me, it needs to be less demoralizing and punishing. So I was just wondering what your thoughts were on that?
Derek Thatcher 16:00
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, taking shame out of the game is, is the biggest thing, and I think we do that through being vulnerable. And on the concept of, of the new year, I don't look at it so much as you know, New Year new you or new me, I look at it as how do we position ourselves to make positive changes in our life on any given day. And, you know, some of the ways that we can go about doing that change usually happens gradually, it doesn't happen all at once. You know, how do we bring in these healthy new behaviors, to the point where they become automatic, and they become a part of our routine and a part of who we are? And how do we start trading out those unhealthy, maladaptive behaviors for these new positive ones. And I think a lot of those things come down to, and this is some recovery language, for sure. And it's gratitude, acceptance. And then a big one for me is is reasserting control in my life. Here is where I have control and accepting the things that I don't necessarily have control over. And maybe working to a place where I can assert some change on these things that were out of my control beforehand.
Adina Silvestri 17:47
Yeah, and what might some of those things be? If you're okay with sharing that?
Derek Thatcher 17:53
Sure, some of the things that are out of my control,
Adina Silvestri 17:56
yeah, that maybe you just had to accept,
Derek Thatcher 18:00
I'll just use examples that are fresh in my mind, we just went through the holiday season. Yeah, that's a tough time. For me, I lost a lot of my family. And, you know, in a time where this family group is so heavily talked about, and so heavily present in the culture and the holiday spirit, I had to find a way to accept, that wasn't my life.
Adina Silvestri 18:29
Derek Thatcher 18:30
And the ways that I went about doing that is I started doing little gestures to give back. And, you know, to, to brighten other people's days. I'm a potter, you know, a pottery instructor for a couple years. And so I made a bunch of pieces, and I sent them to my friends all over the country. Nice. And in this way, I started, some of that holiday spirit started, started to come back. The traditional programs, and the less traditional ones, I'll talk about service, and, you know, a sense of community. And I think that it's so important to, to Step Take a step out of yourself away from your ego, and, you know, bring some compassion and empathy into your life. And it's, you know, it's a giving thing, but it also flows back into you, you know, we get this sense of fulfillment and purpose. help other people. And I think that's so important in recovery is having, you know, purpose, or reason for being a reason for sticking around through the really, really hard times. Mm hmm.
Adina Silvestri 19:50
Yeah. So, we have learning to accept what we can't have control over. We don't have control over reasserting control service. Are there any, any routines? Maybe that that you utilize? I know you've mentioned that a couple times. Yeah. So far. So yeah,
Derek Thatcher 20:11
I'd love to get into that.
Adina Silvestri 20:13
Okay, all right, let's do it, I
Derek Thatcher 20:14
think I'll preface routines with this, it's a bit of an oxymoron. but bear with me, it's slowing down to speed up. And the whole philosophy behind this is we take a little more time, out of our day to engage in some of these, you know, routines, like, I'll run you through mine. Okay, so I get up in the morning, I drink a glass of water, I throw coffee in the pot, and then I take my dog out on a walk. And this is generally, you know, five 530 in the morning, whoo. It's cold in Virginia. And it's, and that's made it you know, a little bit more difficult. But I get up and I do it. And on the really cold mornings, you know, I talked about sitting out in nature, and sitting down and meditating on really cold mornings, I'm guilty of, of doing this routine of mine in my head, where, instead of actually sitting down, I'm on the walk with my dog. But I go through a gratitude list. Some days, I start from the little things, you know, I'm grateful for having food, I'm grateful for, you know, some financial stability, I'm grateful for how, like a roof over my head.
Adina Silvestri 21:47
Derek Thatcher 21:48
living out in these cold conditions. And other mornings, I start, I start with the people, you know, I'm so grateful for my sister, and my nephew and my nieces and my friends and my support system, you know, a new chance of life, I'm grateful for my recovery.
Adina Silvestri 22:09
Derek Thatcher 22:11
you know, I finished my walk with my dog. And I come back, and I generally do some exercises. So either pick up some weights, or, you know, I do some push ups, or I do some stretching. And this is just like, you know, 510 minutes, it's, this is before work. Something to get, you know, my blood pumped in and get my brain moving. And that that's it, you know, this is maybe in all a 3040 minute routine in the morning.
Adina Silvestri 22:51
Derek Thatcher 22:52
it's not a ton of time out of your day. But it's something that sets me off on the right foot every single morning. Mm hmm.
Adina Silvestri 23:01
And how do you think that that routine is making a positive change in your recovery and in your life? What is it doing for you,
Derek Thatcher 23:11
it's really hard to have a bad day. All of the things that you have to be grateful for are in the forefront. Brain of my brain, it's, you know, I something bad happens or, you know, something goes wrong at work. And I still have these things from my morning routine floating around in my head. I'm like, Yeah, but I, you know, I still have a comfortable place to live. I still have, you know, my dog, I still have the supportive people in my life. And it's gonna be okay.
Adina Silvestri 23:51
It's gonna be okay.
Derek Thatcher 23:52
Adina Silvestri 23:54
So good. So I think I think that the routine part we covered. Anything else you could think of? That would be helpful for someone that wanted to reset the recovery or maybe freshen it up a bit?
Derek Thatcher 24:12
Adina Silvestri 24:13
maybe it's maybe it's feeling dull? I don't know. Yeah.
Derek Thatcher 24:16
I mean, I think one of the biggest things right now is connection or living, you know, pandemic, year years. And connection is tough right now. And my heart really goes out to people who are new in recovery or who are struggling or who are still in active addiction, because this is a tough time for that. You know, there's there's the TED Talk, where they say, the opposite of addiction is not sobriety, the opposite of addiction is connection. Yeah. And I think that that holds really true and So I'll just talk about some of the things that I try and do you know, once once a week, yeah, please connection. I try and call a friend that I maybe haven't talked to in a while. And, you know, if I don't, if I don't get ahold of them, I go down to the next one. And I leave a voicemail cuz a general
Adina Silvestri 25:27
voicemail people do that still.
Derek Thatcher 25:33
Maybe not, maybe. But I still, I still leave voicemails. And let's see, I participate in a weekly trivia game. And you know, I'll leave my contact info at the end of this. And if anybody wants to join in our weekly trivia game, they're more than nice. You know, it's my friend out in California who hosts this. And really, it's not something that I would have had the chance to be involved with, if not for the pandemic of this, because they weren't able to, to run a trivia game in person. And so I get to see friends from all over the country every week. This virtual game and join the meetup app. meetup is awesome.It's
Adina Silvestri 26:26
Derek Thatcher 26:27
Yeah, I mean, I just have the app on my phone. Okay. And, you know, whatever you're interested in, if it's ping pong, if it's badminton, I played tennis, and I play soccer. And this gives me an avenue to find like minded people. And, you know, for no cost, it's a free thing. You just go meet up with a group of people and engage in an activity. And there's a lot of social distance friendly ones.
Adina Silvestri 26:58
Derek Thatcher 26:59
And then the other one, and this kind of ties into all of these, that I'd like to talk about is a lot of the program's talk about, they have steps devoted to it, and it's making your amends. And that seems like a daunting thing to me. I really couldn't get behind it. And one day, someone told me, well, you are you're living your amends, you're doing it every day, or by working on bettering yourself. You are proving you know, to these people that you may have wronged in the past that you're not that person anymore. That you found compassion and empathy and a purpose and a sense of making the world better. And just by walking through life and recovery, you're living your amends. And
that helped me be more forgiving of myself and a little more gentle with myself, to think of it in terms of that. Yeah, I
Adina Silvestri 28:09
love that. You're right. And the amends work is very daunting. So that I think that'll be really helpful for the listeners to hear that. So thank you, Derek. So anything else that you want to share today for the air community? We've covered a lot in a short period of time. So yeah,
Derek Thatcher 28:30
it may sound cliche, but don't give up. Find a community, find your niche. And it can be weird. It can be, you know, creative. It doesn't have to fit into a 12 step model for it to work. And I know that there's a lot of a lot of dogma out there. And a lot of people who say, if you don't do it our way, you're doomed. And for me, that has not been the case. I found my, you know, my own way through this with the help of other people. So reach out and ask for help. I think you'll find that people are very willing to put out an open hand.
Adina Silvestri 29:14
Hmm, that sounds like a great place to end. So Derek, how can people best find you and connect with you?
Derek Thatcher 29:22
Yeah, I would love for that to happen. please reach out to me. My email is Derek d e re k j Thatcher T h a t c h e r, @ gmail.com.
Adina Silvestri 29:44
Great. All right. Well, thank you so much, Derek, for being on and sharing your wisdom with us. I really, I really appreciate it.
Derek Thatcher 29:52
Thank you so much for having me. It was a wonderful opportunity.
Adina Silvestri 29:55
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