Jam Alker, Caroline Dehnert Moyer: “Love & Addiction” | Talks at Google

of people know what AA is. Just a moment about what
Al-Anon is because I don’t think that’s as well-known. Al-Anon is– I call it
the sister program to AA. It’s where if you have
a family member that’s struggling with alcoholism,
you join Al-Anon. We get together. We talk about our struggles
as family members. It was actually
founded by the wife of the guy that founded
AA, which I think is kind of fitting because I
think these really go together. When they go together
well, it actually addresses the disease
better because it truly is a family addiction, and we’ll
talk about what that means. But so here we are
talking about addiction. I’m going to tell a story about
my brother, who growing up he became a crack cocaine addict. And then Jam’s going
to talk about his road to recovery from
heroin addiction. But just one other
little minute before we get into the stories about how
we landed on this stage, which is kind of a couple of things
happened together, sort of like the perfect storm. The first was that
I actually started going to therapy myself. And I started going to therapy
a couple years ago because I was just having, honestly,
a really hard time dealing with my brother and his needs
and what he was going through. I also have two
little kids and a mom. And I was like, I can’t– this is mercy. Please, somebody. My friend, who’s in
the audience today, referred me to a
therapist, and it was one of the best
things I think that I did. So that happened a
couple of years ago. And she said, you need
to talk about this stuff. So that was one thing. The second thing–
I’m getting a little shout out to Sharon
if you’re out there, my manager on
Livestream in New York. Sharon, thank you for nudging me
with the appropriate force to– she said, Caroline, you’ve been
here a long time at Google. You need to find
your voice again. And I was like, well, what does
that mean, find my voice again? Find something you really care
about outside of your core work responsibility. And probably everybody’s
manager says that at some point. So you go on to our internal
systems, and you’re like, I’ll become a coach or I’m
going to take this one on one class on allyship or whatever. So I did that, and I was like,
this is not what Sharon means. And the third thing
that happened was I got an email from Ann, who
is one of the co-organizers of the conference today. And she sent out a call
for speakers last December or November saying hey, we want
to put on this mental health conference in Chicago. Who wants to talk? And I was like, mmm, no. But then I was like,
OK, find my voice. Sharon wants me
to find my voice. So I reached out to Ann,
and I was like, Ann, what do people talk about
at these conferences? And so she shared
some of the talks that people were going to give. And I read some of these things,
and I was like, holy shit, these are some brave
people to get up and talk about– if anybody was here
yesterday, it was amazing, the stories that people
were talking about, and the stories afterwards in
the micro kitchens and stuff. So I already know that
we’re touching people with this conference. The second thought,
though, that I had after reading
that was oh my god, nobody’s going to
talk about addiction. And we cannot have a mental
health conference in Chicago without somebody
talking about addiction. And I was like shit,
I think I just found the voice that I need to find. It’s there. It’s gotta come out. And I was like, OK, Ann, I
think I can talk about this. And as soon as I did that,
I sent a text to this man, and I said hey,
Jam, you don’t even know me at all because the rock
concert happened much later. I said you don’t
even know me at all. But I’ve seen the talks you’ve
done at high schools to kids, and it’s powerful stuff. And people need to
hear your message. And I said this is a different
audience than a high school gym, I said, but I know I’m
not the only one with family members here at Google. Somebody came up to me in the
micro kitchen this morning and she said, I’m going to
be very touched by your talk because I have a brother that’s
dealing with a heroin addiction right now. So thank you for
validating that I’m not the only one with
a family member. I said, I’m also not the
only parent here at Google that worries about our kids. And I’m certainly not
the only one that– I know there are
people that struggle with their own
addictions at Google. So I said please come do
this talk with me, Jam. In five seconds he’s
like, I don’t even know who you are, but yeah,
I’m going to come to your talk with you. It’s like thank you. Thank you, you know? So that is how we got
on this stage today. And with that, I’m going
to go into my story which starts with this picture here. This is going back
a long time ago. This is me, cute
little Caroline. This is my oldest brother
holding me, my twin brother, and my brother Carl
that we’re going to be talking about today some. So this is what a
typical Sunday morning looked like in our household. I grew up in Evanston, happy,
sort of middle class family. My parents were both musicians. You’ll see there’s a little
music theme going on today. And we would wake up
often on a Sunday morning. My dad played the trombone. And we were all required to
get our instruments out and jam Sunday morning style. So this is kind of
what it looked like. And it was a very happy
household for a lot of years. We would do this Sunday morning. Then WWF would come on. We would do the “Hulk Hogan”,
“Andre the Giant” thing, and then we would
watch the Chicago Bears lose at 12:00 Central. JAM ALKER: Got a lot
of nodding heads here. CAROLINE DEHNERT MOYER: Yeah,
babies of the ’70s here. And this was a very happy home. And I say that because
I think a lot of times, people think addicts come
out of unhappy homes. And we’ll hear a little bit
of a story about difficulty in early years. But we had a very
happy home growing up. But then comes high school. And if chapter one is like
happy home, chapter two it’s called the diagnosis. And the diagnosis was my dad
being diagnosed with cancer. And I remember how it went. We’re all the four of
us in the basement, you know, typical basement,
just junkyard toys, and we had a pool table. My mom and dad come down to the
basement, and they sit us down. And my mom, it was, says kids,
we have something to tell you. Your father has been
diagnosed with cancer. And we were like OK, we
know that word is terrible. And my brother Carl says– I remember this– can’t
they just cut it out, like surgically remove it? And of course, that was not
the kind of cancer he had. So he started chemotherapy
the next week, and the chemotherapy on and
off for the next decade. And in that decade
you have hope, right? And then you lose your hope. And you’re looking
for remission, and remission doesn’t happen. And on and on. And we’re going on and on,
too, because life has to go on and on. And so on and on, for my
brother, looked like– this is high school prom,
Sweet Carl in the white– did everybody wear white
tuxedos in these years? I don’t know. He was trying to
learn how to be a man, and my dad was dying in front
of him, a very slow death. And life went on for me, too. I turned to my violin as,
frankly, a source of coping. It was a way to escape. And my parents had their
25th wedding anniversary some here in here too. And I want to talk a little
bit about the different coping mechanisms because I
think that’s where it started originally going wrong. So coping for me,
yes, it was music. But I want to tell
a little story. And if anybody sat in
her coaching session with Sally Anderson and she asks
you what your superpower is, I know my superpower
is my ability to compartmentalize things. And a story just to illustrate
that is I wake up one morning. I’m in high school. My dad is sprawled out on
the floor in what turns out to be a diabetic coma, which
is a pretty common side effect of chemotherapy. We call 911. The ambulances come,
the paramedics come in, and they’re trying
to talk to him, and he can’t talk because he’s
basically just completely out of it. And they’re asking
me what his name is, and I’m like Edmund
Dehnert, D-E-H-N-E-R-T. And I’m spelling. I always have to
spell my goddamn name. Thank god I married a Moyer. That’s easier to
spell these days. But it was
D-E-H-N-E-R-T. Thank you. And they put him
on the stretcher and they took him off
to Evanston Hospital. And I remember then thinking OK,
I’m going to go catch the bus and go to high school now. And that’s what I did. I got on the bus and
went to high school. I took the physics
test and I aced it. And since that day, this
ability to put tragedy over on this side in
its place for when it can have time to be
addressed was very useful. And then I could go on with
the rest of my life over here. And so I find that I’m
able to really do that quite effectively. Unfortunately, my
brother was not able to cope in that same way. And he started turning to
alcohol in high school. By the time he went
off to college, it started to be
cocaine, and eventually he turned to crack
cocaine, and he really spiraled pretty far down. So at this point, the one
time Jam and I rehearsed this, he said tell me more about
what Carl’s relationship was like with your dad
during those years. And this image
flashed into my mind, which I shared with him the
first time, which was there was a day– he was probably out of
college at this point, living in the men’s
residence at the YMCA in Evanston, which is not
the place you want to end up. But that’s where he
was because he couldn’t hold a job and pay rent. So he’s at the men’s residence. And he comes home and
he’s ringing the doorbell, and he’s ringing the
doorbell, and he’s calling the house phone, and
he’s ringing the doorbell. And me and my twin brother,
who were still living at home are looking at each other like
anybody gonna answer the door? And my dad’s on the couch,
and he’s looking sicker through the years
here, and he’s starting to look like a cancer patient. And my dad goes and
answers the doorbell. And Carl’s like, I can’t
stay at the men’s residence. I can’t do it. It’s cold. And just let me come
in the living room. I swear I’ll leave
at know 9:00, just like in a mania kind of a
thing, like with a desperation. And my dad gets a blanket
and throws it on the porch and says, you can
come home when you’re sober, and closes the door. And me and my twin brother
were like, mmm, that was bad. And I thought of another
story, Jam, in these years. My twin brother is a DJ. And in that basement
where we all used to play, he would keep these
crates of albums. One day Carl goes down there,
takes the crates of albums, goes to Howard and Western,
pawns them at the thing and sells them and goes
and gets some drugs. So my father found
out about this. He called us together because
of course my twin brother was like furious, and just
all kinds of anger coming out. And my dad took it
upon himself to tell us this Biblical story, which I’m
going to completely get wrong. But it was the Cain
and Abel story. One brother kills
the other brother. And God says, I am still going
to protect this first brother. And he’s telling us the story. In essence he’s saying, I don’t
care what Carl did to you guys. He is a Dehnert, and we’re
going to love each other. I was like, OK. And as I think about
those two stories together, where you
sparked my thought there, I think what I
learned from this, and why those
stories stand out, is that he was trying to explain
to us you can unconditionally love somebody at the
same time you put up very strong boundaries. Those two things have to
exist at the same time if we’re going to make
it as a family here. So eventually my dad
dies from cancer. And I remember at the funeral,
my oldest brother saying thank god, Dad, you’re not in
Room 3951 at Evanston Hospital anymore. Thank god, Dad, you’re not in
Room 3951 at Evanston Hospital anymore. In other words, I am so
relieved this is over. This is over. It’s been a decade of awful. And Carl, I think, had a
completely different response when my dad died, which was
falling into utter despair. Because Dad’s gone,
he can no longer change that the last days and
years that my dad was around, he was an addict
in active addiction and with all kinds of crazy– he could no longer change
that in my dad’s brain. So what that started to look
like over time comes down to– this is kind of what it all
added up to over the years. And this is something he wrote
when he was in recovery at one of the places, his lifetime
treatments for alcohol and drug. And my dad died in ’94, this
little break right here. So he was trying
to deal with some of this stuff in the last
years of my dad’s life. And then my dad
died, and you’ll see there’s a 10-year gap there. And I think that’s when
he was in active addiction and just wasn’t trying to
deal with any of this stuff. And I have been in many
of those places myself, dragging him, checking him
in, going to the one week ceremonies where you celebrate
the sobriety at one week. And I did that many times. But also through those years,
there was a lot of anger because I think when you
love somebody so much, but you haven’t done the work
on yourself to be able to put up the right boundaries, what comes
out is a lot of fucking anger, right? A lot of anger
through those years. And so one of the things I was
talking about Al-Anon helping family members, one of
the things we talk about is you need to own
your own stuff. You need to deal with
yourself because this really is your dealing with your own
behaviors can help this person. So I want to talk a
little bit about what I was feeling and going
through in these years and stop trying to
put it on my brother. So one of the things
you do when you’re a family member of somebody
that you love that’s struggling in this way is you enable them. And enabling them looks
like, in this example here, my brother coming
to me one year– I think it was 2003, which
was the year I joined Google– and saying hey, Caroline,
I need some money. And I knew he needed money. I knew what he
needed the money for. But I actually needed a car. So he’s like, I got this car. I’m going to sell you
this car at $5,000. I’m like, actually, OK. And you justify your
enabling behavior to yourself by saying, well, I’m getting
something out of this, too. I sort of know what you’re
going to do with this money, but maybe you’ll also pay the
rent with that money, too. So in the car is this CD. JAM ALKER: Haven’t
seen that in awhile. CAROLINE DEHNERT MOYER: This
CD was produced by this man’s record label right here. And that’s how we became
friends because my $5,000 check basically went to pay for this
CD and my connection to Jam, and it was worth every penny
for getting me up on this stage. Thank you. [APPLAUSE] So it’s a great album. And that’s what
enabling looks like. And the other
behavior, I think– I want to say you,
but I’ll just speak for myself, I did a lot
through these years, is what I want to call thinking
I’m all powerful and almighty. And what that looks like
is you take your brother and you make an appointment
with his doctor. And you then go in with
your brother, and you go, Hi, Dr. [? Ebehara. ?]
I’m Carl’s sister. And Carl is strung out, and this
doctor is looking at me like, why are you here? And Carl signs the
HIPAA paperwork. And I go, I’m here to discuss
how you’ve been treating him. Please print out
his medical records. So Dr. [? Ebehara ?]
is like, OK. And he prints out 63
pages double-sided, and I go, please take me through
how you’ve been treating him. This doctor was like, I
don’t know what woman just walked into this room. But I was like, oh,
so he has back issues. OK. And you referred him for an MRI. OK, I don’t see
that he got the MRI. OK. Another year later,
he’s got neck issues. OK. OxyContin. How many years, Dr.
[? Ebehara, ?] are you going to prescribe
this OxyContin here? And here I see it on here
twice in the same damn visit. OK. So that’s what you do when
you think you can actually save this person. You think you have
enough power that I am bigger than
his disease, and I am going to go fix this
for him because he’s not capable of doing it himself. And by the way,
this doesn’t really work because clearly this
was only one source of where he was getting these pills
because you could go down to Howard and Western and get
them today if you wanted to. But I felt victorious. I was on my own high. I was like, yeah, I saved him. And clearly that
did not save him. OK, so behavior number
two is I can do this. Behavior number three is when
you realize I actually cannot save. I actually don’t have the
power over this disease to save this person. And what that looks like is
you get a text like this. It says, I think I
need to go to the ER or I’m not going
to make it tonight. And you write back,
you will make it. The ER is a good idea
if you need real help. Love you and talk tomorrow. Yes. And you put the phone
down, and you go, holy god, please let him make
it through the night tonight. Please let him make it
through the night tonight. And he made it
through the night. And when I was telling
Jam this story he goes, you might have saved
him that night. And I was like, thank you
for saying that because it’s a really scary
place to be, to go I am powerless over this disease. And I gotta let
you do it yourself. So he made it that night. And if you’re also
really lucky, you get a text like
this someday that says thank you for helping
make me a strong man. And if you were here– he’s here. He’s at work– I would say thank you for
helping make me a strong woman because I know I am much
stronger for having been in this family addiction
with you and doing the work that I need to do to help you. So that’s the end of my story. JAM ALKER: This
is making me cry. CAROLINE DEHNERT MOYER: I know. You’re supposed to cry. [APPLAUSE] So before Jam gets
into his story, there are a lot of
resources we have at Google. We have an Al-Anon group. There are only 37
people globally that are a part of
this Al-Anon group, and I know there are
more than 37 people that have family members. There are also groups
for sober living. I think there’s a lot of
groups for sober living. So people that don’t want to
drink alcohol, or alcoholics, we love you guys, too. Please partake of some of the
Google resources, if you can. Shall we go back in time
with you and your story? JAM ALKER: Yes, let’s do it. All right. I’m going to stand up. CAROLINE DEHNERT MOYER: Do it. JAM ALKER: Easier
for me this way. Thank you, Caroline, for that. Was amazing, making
me cry a little bit, exposing my softiness. All right. So as Caroline has mentioned,
my name is Jam Alker. And I do these things, and
when you do talks like this, you’re asked to start with
talking about who you are. So who am I? I am a national recovery
advocate, national recovery speaker. I am a national recording
and touring artist, musician. I have a documentary that’s
being filmed about my story. Some of the guys
are here right now. I have an album that
is out right now that you could
download on iTunes, you could stream it on Spotify. You could buy this
album anywhere music is sold these days. And so I was taught
that that’s who I am. When I started to think
about my first intro, those are the first
things that I put down. Society teaches us that
that is who we are. But for me, what I have to
remember, first and foremost– this might not make
sense to everybody– but for me, what I
have to remember first and foremost is that I am a
person in long-term recovery, that I am a grateful
recovering addict. I have to keep that first
because all of the things that I listed before– the accolades, the titles,
any of those things– those are all just gifts
of my recovery, just gifts of keeping this recovery first. And if I get this
twisted and I put any of those things
ahead of my recovery, I know what will happen. When I speak in front of a
group of people in recovery and I say that, anything I
put ahead of my recovery, what will happen? They’ll all say in
unison, you’ll lose it. And I will say no,
that’s not true. I don’t believe that. I will not lose it. I will give it away. I will not lose it. I will give it away. I’ve seen it. I’ve done it. I didn’t lose half a million
dollars in a couch cushion somewhere. I didn’t absentmindedly leave
that record label that Caroline was talking about,
the recording studio where that album was recorded– I didn’t absentmindedly
leave those things in the back of the cab one
day when I was in a hurry. And I didn’t misplace some
of my dearest relationships. I didn’t lose those things. I gave them away. I gave them away in bars. I gave them away in
basements, in bathrooms, and on the back streets of
the west side of Chicago. I said that I am a person
in long-term recovery. I also said that another
way of saying that is a grateful recovering addict. When I was sitting in treatment
four and 1/2 years ago, I heard for the first
time someone come in and refer to themselves as a
grateful recovering addict. Now some people,
when they say that, they just mean they’re living
with an attitude of gratitude. Other people say
that, and they truly mean that they are
grateful for this disease. They’re grateful
for this affliction. And I am now one
of those people. Couldn’t have imagined it
four and 1/2 years ago, but I could stand
before you today and say that I am actually
truly grateful that I am an addict in recovery, that
I have this affliction, that I have this disease,
because for me, it took getting to those depths. For me, it took getting to
that bottom, not being saved. It took getting there,
to my own personal hell, for me to finally
have the strength and the courage to actually,
truly change my life. I do a lot of this now. I talk to a lot of
people, and I see that most, if not all people
are addicted to something. And some of it’s maybe
better than others. But it could be
something like Facebook, or should I say Google? CAROLINE DEHNERT
MOYER: Technology. JAM ALKER: It could
be– yeah, technology. It could be porn. It could be what’s in your
pantry or in your refrigerator. Could be work. There might be a few workaholics
in this room right now. Now my disease of
addiction, as we’ll talk about a little bit
further, came from some of the underlying trauma. I was miserable. I grew up miserable. There was something inside
of me that just never, ever, ever felt right. The reason why I
say I’m grateful is that if I wasn’t
one of those people, if I was instead one
of the people who came home at the end
of the day miserable, and just flipped
on the television and zoned out until
I went to bed, and did it the next
day and the next day, I would have gone through my
whole life being miserable, But not quite miserable
enough to actually change. So I’m grateful. I’m grateful that this
thing took me to that place where I truly changed my life. And I have truly
changed my life. So talking about this
journey of recovery, it started for me four
and 1/2 years ago, curled up on a plastic
mattress in a detox facility. I was shaking. I was puking. My bones were aching. Dehydrated . This is what feeling dope sick
is, withdrawing from heroin. Numb. And I was shitting
myself, not figuratively, literally shitting myself
laying on this plastic mattress. And I remind myself of
that, and I talk about it in front of people all the time. It’s important that
I talk about it. It’s important that I
remind myself of that because the way this disease
of addiction works is it makes me want to believe that
I could go back out one more time. Just– I’m sure that four and
1/2 years, that’s a long time. I could probably be all right. Just one night of partying. How bad could that be? But I work a program
of recovery now. And because of that, I know that
if I were to do that, at best, at absolute best, I would end
up back on that plastic mattress in a detox facility. More likely, I
would end up dead. I would end up dead leaving
a beautiful, six-year-old daughter without a father. And my daughter, she
not only deserves to have a clean
and sober father. She deserves to have a
father that is above ground. But coming to terms with
that when I was out there was not easy. It was not easy to
concede this battle. Coming to terms with
that fact that I couldn’t battle my disease
into submission was not easy. So the way I had
to look at it was like a nation that went to war. If a nation goes
to war, and they are fighting against
a superior opponent, they can fight, they can
fight, they can fight. No matter how hard they
fight, they cannot win. Superior opponent. Fight and fight, cannot win. They’re left with two options. One is to die. Two is to surrender. And that’s what finally
had to happen with me. Understanding the
disease of addiction, understanding that it
was a superior opponent that I could not beat. Die or surrender. Once I finally
surrendered to that, things finally started
to change for me. When I was 30 years old,
I had the record label. I had the recording studio. I had toured the
country, played in front of thousands of screaming fans. I had a lot of money. Wasn’t quite a millionaire,
but I was well on my way. Had all of these things, these
things that people would say make you very successful. You’re living your dreams. That’s what I always wanted. I wanted to be a rock star,
I wanted to have money, I wanted to have
all of these things. And at 30 years old, I
became a heroin addict. At 30 years old,
I became a junkie having all of those things. How does that happen? All of this material success
and becoming a heroin addict, it happened because I
was miserable inside. I don’t want to get into
a lot of the details, but there was a lot
of family trauma, the horribly
explosive upbringing. One of my first memories
in life is my dad walking towards me wide-eyed,
blood gushing down his face. Memory I can place
chronologically directly before
that, one of my mom smashing a whiskey
bottle over his head to stop his violent advances. The first time I got blackout
drunk I was seven years old. The first time I
smoked weed was also the first time I did cocaine. I was nine years old. By the time I was
in ninth grade, I had done everything
except for crack and heroin, by ninth grade. Why did I do these things? I was numbing myself to
that underlying pain, a pain that I didn’t know
how to deal with. And I’d been told by
society that these things, these successes on
the outside world, were going to be the
things that fixed them. And they didn’t. But at this point, I
didn’t understand it. And I dropped deep into
a heroin addiction, and over the course of the next
five years, I lost everything. I lost all the money,
the recording studio, the record label. I lost all of these things. And at the point
where I was just about to pawn my guitar, which
was my last worldly possession, I decided I needed some help. I went to my doctor. He put me on some medication. He told me I needed
to go to treatment. I said no thank you, Dr. Cook. I’m not an addict. I don’t need to go to treatment. I can figure this out. What are my other options? He said Jam, if you’re not
going to go to treatment, at least you need to start
going to these 12 step meetings that you’ve heard of. To please him and to
please my loved ones, I went to a 12 step meeting at
a place called the Mustard Seed here in Chicago, a very famous
place where they hold these 12 step fellowship meetings. I walked in, sat in
the back of the room, stayed away from everybody,
looked around the room. No, I’m not one of these people. There’s no way. I’m not an addict, no. I just need to get
my shit together. I’ll figure this out. I sat through the meeting
looking for all the differences rather than the similarities. By the end of the meeting,
I convinced myself I wasn’t one of those people. I left the meeting
and I went back out for another seven years, the
worst seven years of my life, the worst seven years
of active addiction, the worst seven years
of being a junkie. Lost everything. Did horrible things. Lied to people, cheated,
stole, manipulated, whatever I needed to do
to get that next one. When I finally
did surrender four and 1/2 years ago, checked
myself into a treatment center, I still had this
ego inside of me. And I sat down
with my counselor. Her name was Nanette. I said, Nanette, I need you
to bottom line this for me. I know I’m in a unit
with 30 other guys, but I’m a lot smarter than them. I’m a lot more
successful than them. So I just need you to
sit here and bottom line it for me so I can
get out of here. I need you to give
me the secret. And she kind of laughed
at me, and she said, OK, what’s the secret that
you’re looking for? I was like, Nanette,
I need the secret. You just need to tell me
how to stop doing drugs and I’ll be on my way. And she laughed at
me, and she said, Jam, drugs are not your problem. Drugs are not your problem. And I said Nanette, I have just
checked myself into a rehab. I’ve just checked
myself into a treatment center for drug addiction. Of course drugs are my problem. That is why I’m here. And she said, Jam, drugs
are not your problem. Drugs are your solution
to your problem. Drugs are not my problem. Drugs were my solution
to my problem. And thinking back on it, it’s
horrible fucking solution to the problem. It didn’t work. All evidence was
to the contrary. But this disease makes
you keep going back there. Now I hear this
all the time now, being surrounded by recovery,
the drugs are not your problem. Drugs are your solution
to your problem. But at that time, it was
the first time I heard it. And it was mind-blowing. It was an epiphany
kind of moment. Yes. Drugs are not my problem. They are the solution
to my problem. My problem was me. My problem was
that I kept trying to solve what was
going on inside of me with things in
the outside world, whether it was fame, ego,
money, girls, relationships. I had this empty
hole inside of me. No matter what I did
to try to fill it with, those outside things, I
always woke up the next day with that empty hole. And I think about it. You know, this is something
we’re conditioned towards, right, from the
moment as kids we turn our attention to the television,
to the internet, to anything, we are told to buy, buy our
way out of our problems. We become consumers. We’re told when we’re
kids to buy this toy and life’s going to be good. Buy this game, things
will be good as teenagers. Buy these shoes
or these clothes, you’re going to fit in. As adults, you buy this
house, you get this job, you’re going to be happy. This is what we’re taught. And for someone like me, I
feel like I never had a chance. Being as miserable
inside as I was, I don’t think there’s some kind
of big conspiracy out there. But companies need to
sell their products, so they need to tell you
that you’re miserable, and if you buy their stuff,
you’re going to be happy. And I was miserable. And I bought into that
time and time again. And again, this is
one of the reasons why I’m so grateful that I
was taken to these depths because it was in a
place like treatment where Nanette said to me
that the problem was me, not the drugs. So when I was
there, and I started to listen to the people
who had what I wanted, people who were far
smarter than me, finally did surrender, and
turned that light inward rather than shining
it outward for the answers, my life truly started to change. I started to heal some of
those underlying traumas. Recovery is not about
abstaining from drugs, abstaining from alcohol. Recovery is about rebuilding
your life, your inner world, in a way that you
are happy enough that you don’t need
to numb yourself through drugs, through alcohol,
through porn, through food, through work, through gambling,
through any of these things. That is what recovery is about,
healing that underlying trauma, whatever it might be, so we
can stop that numbing behavior. I’m going to end with this. As I said, my life is surrounded
by recovery these days, so I spend a lot of
time hearing stories from my brothers and sisters in
recovery of their backgrounds, their upbringings,
their stories that brought them to their knees. And I see or hear about some
horrible, horrible, tragic things that they’ve done,
that they’ve been through, that they’ve used to cope with
the hand they’ve been dealt. Now my story does not
include any jail time. My story does not
include any homelessness. That is the way in which my
story may be a little different than some of the other
stories you might hear told by folks who have been
through similar experiences to me and are now in recovery. So those are the
ways that my story might be a little different
than the other ones you’ll hear. But I have a friend
of mine who is also in this 12 step
fellowship who taught me to find the similarities
and to stay away from the differences. And the way that I am the
same as every other person in recovery, the way that I am
the same as every person who is still in their
active addiction– the way that we’re are the same
is that we have a disease that wants to kill us. I have a disease that
wants to kill me. But because of the
recovery program that I work, because I come
and do things like this, because I keep myself
involved, because I am of service to others, giving
of myself, asking nothing in return, I get what we
refer to as a daily reprieve from the disease of addiction. And because of that,
I can confidently say to you and to my disease,
it will not kill me today. Thanks. [APPLAUSE] CAROLINE DEHNERT
MOYER: All right. I don’t know if we have any
questions on the Dory, Lauren, if you want to
put that up there. But I could certainly
talk to Jam all day, so I got a lot of questions myself. If you do have
questions in the room, if you could go up
to the mics, that would be helpful
just for the folks that are on the Livestream that
wouldn’t be able to hear you. Come on. Yesterday there were
a million people. All right. AUDIENCE: I’ll give you one. My name’s Peter. JAM ALKER: Hi, Peter. AUDIENCE: And I work a
lot with the mentally ill. My brother has schizophrenia. And as you said, we
all find ourselves in addictions of different
things, be it caffeine, give it exercise,
whatever it is. And the world and language likes
to compartmentalize things. And you were saved by
this wisdom of this woman. So my question is,
I still struggle with helping explain
people addiction, substance abuse, mental illness,
all of these taglines, disease. And I started this
path in the late ’80s. And it’s changed a lot with
mental illness, schizophrenia, bipolar, depression. I think it’s more talked about. But maybe you could shed
some light on– both of you– can shed some light on
the words people put to these different things
that we all struggle with. That would be helpful for me. Thank you. CAROLINE DEHNERT MOYER: Peter
is a good friend of mine. Peter, my first reaction is– and I don’t know
if this is right– but my first reaction is it
doesn’t matter what anybody else wants to put a label on. It matters for you
and your brother how you guys live in
the family together and the words that
you use with him. I’m going to tell
you something, Peter. At your wedding, your brother
stood up and spoke for you at your wedding. And you said to him, thank you
for making me a gentler man. And that relationship you have
with your brother, the words that anybody else wants to
put on his disease, that doesn’t matter. So that’s my first
reaction, and I love you, and you’re a very
good brother to him. The second thing is– and I’m actually
curious your thought on this– we were talking
about this yesterday. Folks were saying,
I am not bipolar. I am not an addict. I am somebody who struggles
with this disease. You called yourself a junkie. What do the words mean
for you, and how would you want somebody to talk to you? JAM ALKER: So I think
underlying that, and underlying
what you’re talking about with the weight that’s
put on certain words, what we’re really getting at
here is stigma, right, because the words
don’t necessarily matter unless there’s a
negative connotation behind some of the words. So in that sense, I think it’s
very important to do everything that we can to
reduce the stigma. And we do that by
doing things like this, coming and putting ourselves out
there, ripping ourselves open and being the ones
who are willing to be vulnerable to show people
we’re all essentially the same. We’ve all got our damage. We’ve all got our
trauma underneath. It’s manifested differently
for each person. Some people, maybe,
are a little bit better at hiding it than others. But we all have that pain
to one degree or another. So yeah, you are correct. Saying I am a person
in long-term recovery, I am a person who struggles
with issues of addiction, I am a person with a
substance use disorder are the politically
correct ways of saying it. For me, I don’t know. Maybe because I like to be a
dramatic storyteller, to say I was a junkie. I was. But that– like
anything, my underlying belief in all of this is that
none of us are bad people. We are people who make
bad decisions at times. And people who are in an
addiction make bad decisions. They’re not bad people. In active addiction, did I
make a lot of bad decisions? Fuck yeah. A lot. But I know I’m not a bad person. So the semantics are less
important to me than maybe to some other people. It’s the same thing
with your brother who’s struggling with the issue. You know, these are all
behavioral health issues, whether it’s straight up mental
illness or addiction, which is a form of behavioral or
mental disease, whatever wording you want
to put behind it. But because it’s
behavioral, where there are certain times
of people act out, it’s looked at differently. There are people who are
like, it’s the same as cancer. It should be treated
as the same as cancer. It’s true to a degree. But if you had
cancer, you wouldn’t go out and rob somebody for your
chemotherapy medicine, right? You wouldn’t act
like a fool to be able to go out and get your
insulin if you’re a diabetic. So yes, it’s the
same in the sense that they’re all diseases. But because this is behavioral,
we can act like assholes. We could do bad things. So I just think
that it’s important that what’s talked about
is that underlying it, we’re all good people,
we’re human beings, and we need to be treated
with respect and understanding and empathy for what
we’re going through. CAROLINE DEHNERT MOYER: Gregory? AUDIENCE: Hey there. Thanks for being here. Stories are amazing. I’ve learned a lot. Two-part question. First part’s really simple. Are you touring? You’re a touring musician now. How on earth do you do
that with your disease because shows, the
grind of being on tour and what you’re around. JAM ALKER: Yeah, it’s
a great question. AUDIENCE: OK. So please help me understand
how you manage that. JAM ALKER: So what
you’re taught in recovery is if you are truly working
a program of recovery, that the obsession to
use should be lifted. The compulsion to
use will be lifted. It’s one of the things
that’s called the promises within certain fellowships. Would I have toured in the
first year of my recovery? Absolutely not. But I am at the
point in my recovery where I am comfortable being
in a bar, being around alcohol. Do I allow myself to be
surrounded with drugs? No, absolutely not. But people who are doing
drugs or using drugs can pretty quickly get a vibe. When they know
you’re in recovery, they’re not about to try to do
those things in front of you. But as far as being around
weed or being around alcohol, I’m around it quite a
bit when out on the road. But I work a program. I really, truly have done
the work to understand. One of the simple CBT,
cognitive behavioral therapy things they teach you early
on is play the tape forward. It’s like what I talked
about, how I would end up on that plastic mattress in
a detox facility, or more likely, dead. I know where that will lead me. And I have this
amazing life now. And I don’t mean that– I have a lot of amazing
outside things happening. Financially, with my music
career, with my speaking, these are amazing things. But I have this
amazing life because of what’s happened inside of me,
this psychic, spiritual change that has occurred inside of
me, turning that light inside. I don’t want to lose this. This is the most important– I’m happy for the
first time in my life. And I know where that will
lead me, and it’s just– it’s not appealing. It’s not an answer, right? It was not the problem. It was my shitty
solution to the problem. And I know that now. I know that at my core. Does that make sense? CAROLINE DEHNERT
MOYER: I would chime in with one little thought here. I know in my household,
my husband and I, we drink a lot of wine. We host Thanksgiving every year. My brother comes, and
we go around the table and we talk about what
we’re thankful for. And his thing that he’s
thankful for that day is that he’s sober. And I often think
with my husband, should we be putting
this wine out? And I know if he’s going to do– he could go to
Howard and Western. I mean, he could
go anywhere, right? If he wants to do it,
he’s going to do it. It doesn’t matter if I got a
wine bottle on my table or not. So he’s going to make the choice
that day whether he’s doing it or not. AUDIENCE: Thank you both. JAM ALKER: And that’s
beautiful that you say that because that speaks
a lot to the family recovery. You are no longer trying to
fix, manage, and control. That idea that
you could save him by not having the
wine out that day is just feeding into the
disease, the co-dependency, all of those things that you
learn about in the fellowship that you’re a part of. I think that’s amazing. AUDIENCE: Thank you guys
both for your stories. Ooh, my heart’s beating so fast. CAROLINE DEHNERT MOYER: Our
hearts are beating fast, too. So you’re in good company. JAM ALKER: Yes. AUDIENCE: I have two
individuals in my life that are both alcoholics, and
I am expecting my first child. Oh, I’m so sorry. CAROLINE DEHNERT
MOYER: Please, cry. I promised my husband
that I was going to cry. So you can do it. AUDIENCE: Oh, good,
I’m glad I’m not alone. And they very much want to
be a part of our baby’s life. And we’ve tried to
help in the past, and I think we just feel
a bit at a loss of how to help them at this
point because they are– I think they don’t accept the
fact that they have a disease, and we recognize
that it’s a disease. And we’ve lost other friends
and family to alcoholism. But I think– I would love any sort of advice
with family members or friends who are suffering
from addiction, how to be the most
helpful when I want them to be a part
of the baby’s life and our life in the future. But I don’t want the negative
effects of their alcoholism to be a part of
the child’s life. So it’s something we’re
thinking a lot about right now, and I’d love any advice you
have on how to be supportive. CAROLINE DEHNERT MOYER:
Come Wednesdays at 2:00. We do an Al-Anon
meeting here at Google. There’s only 37. AUDIENCE: I will be there. CAROLINE DEHNERT
MOYER: You could be 38. Part of it is you setting
up your own boundaries. One of the things I
struggle with with Al-Anon is we talk about you can’t
change this other person. You are powerless
over their disease. And I can’t totally get with
that 100% because I do think some of the things I’ve done
have certainly enabled him and prolonged it. Some of the other things I’ve
done, like say I love you, but I’m not coming to
take you to the ER today have also helped him. So I think boundaries,
It’s really hard. I feel like if
somebody is not ready, you can’t be like, why don’t
you go to an AA meeting? I mean, I can tell you how
many times I tried that. I would go to an AA
meeting with you, brother. And I would. Actually, if he
asked me, I would go. But I’m not going
to drag you there. I don’t know. What other advice do you have? It’s tough when the
person is not ready. JAM ALKER: OK. This is a great
topic, and each person is going to have their
different point of view. And I look at it, like I do
with addiction, as a spectrum. There’s this idea of tough love
and this idea of soft love, and there are
consequences to either, right, that if you
engage in tough love, you still have these boundaries. I love you. Come back when you’re ready. All right? So the potential
consequence to that is that they could end up
getting lost to their disease. They could end up dying
as a result of that. The other side of the
soft love is you keep providing them with things. The consequence of that is
it’s enabling them, which could end up killing them. So the common
denominator here is they could end up
dying as a result of it because it’s their problem. So this is about self-care,
you taking care of yourself, you deciding what you can live
with, what’s best for you, and taking care of yourself and
that baby that’s inside of you. Now my point of view, I
lean– and most addicts and alcoholics who
are in recovery lean to the tough
love side of things. I wish that I had been
given less enabling. And the point is, you
tell them, I’m sorry. I love you. I’d love you to be a part
of this child’s life. When you’re done, and you’re
ready to be sober in recovery, come be a part of their life. That could possibly be the thing
that makes them like, shit, I do want to be a part
of this child’s life. I need to do this. Maybe not. The other side of
it, in your case, kind of, from what
I’m hearing from you, is you make concessions. You let them be a
part of their life. What’s the downside for them? Why would they need to
change their behavior at all? They’re getting
everything they want. Consequence of the tough love,
they might say forget it, and they are not involved
in your life from that point forward. There’s no easy answer. CAROLINE DEHNERT
MOYER: My brother would tell me the worst
thing you could ever do for an addict
is give them money. In other words, don’t enable me. I’m going to ask you for money. Just don’t give it to me. So that tough love is so hard
as the person that loves them because when I sent
that text and I said, ER sounds like a good
idea if you need to. I love you. JAM ALKER: So good. CAROLINE DEHNERT MOYER: I
mean, I was dying inside. It’s like, I hope he makes
it through the night. And you don’t own whether
that person makes it through the night. AUDIENCE: This has
been super helpful. Thank you guys. CAROLINE DEHNERT
MOYER: All right. Hi. AUDIENCE: Hi. My name is Gabby. Thank you for
sharing your stories. Really, thank you. My brother has been addicted
to heroin for about 16 years, so half of his life. And there’s been a lot
of hatred between us and throughout the siblings
in the larger family. And it’s been really
hard for not only me to show him that I love him,
but to feel any sense of love from him. So I just wanted to ask,
while you were struggling with your addiction, underneath
all of that addiction and disease, did you still
feel that love for your family? And in what ways were you hoping
that they could show you love? JAM ALKER: The love, I
don’t think, goes away. But it is absolutely
overridden by shame. I felt, and I’m sure your
brother feels, so much shame for what he’s doing
to himself and what he’s doing to his family. I’m sure that the
love is not gone. I don’t believe that it
has the ability to be gone. Love is eternal. Love is infinite. It’s there. It’s just buried so
deep behind the shame, and oftentimes it’s
that shame that keeps the cycle of addiction
going because there so much pain that goes with that. And here’s the thing
with, with opiates. Opiates are physical
painkillers, but they’re also
emotional painkillers. So we start to use opiates,
and that pain goes away. Not forever, temporarily. And it becomes less
and less as we go on. But I can’t imagine
that it’s not there. But the conflict, obviously,
from your side of things comes from the fact that
you love him so much and you want what’s
best for him. And I can’t be sure, but
I’d be willing to bet that from his side of things,
there is a lot of guilt, shame, remorse, self-loathing. And so that, I’m sure,
manifests in ways that appear as though
the love is gone. But I don’t I don’t think it is. So he’s in active addiction now? AUDIENCE: Yes. JAM ALKER: And is he
interested in getting help? AUDIENCE: No. JAM ALKER: OK. Is he in Chicago? AUDIENCE: No. We’re from the Philadelphia
region originally. JAM ALKER: OK. Is he out by Kensington? AUDIENCE: No. JAM ALKER: Thank God. AUDIENCE: Trenton, New Jersey. JAM ALKER: OK. Not much better, but yeah. That’s a lot of opiate
addiction happening out there. CAROLINE DEHNERT MOYER:
But Gabby, for you, as the sister, what
I would say is– I do this– I think I did it
with my brother even this week. I go hey, Carl. I know you don’t work Mondays. You want to come
over for dinner? And I actually got a
response, but usually I don’t get a response. But I call it trickling love. And I don’t expect much
back, but I just trickle it out there, like I’m still here. I still love you. But you have to be able to know
you might not get stuff back. But it feels good to do it
because it feels good for you to express and reach out. AUDIENCE: Thank you. CAROLINE DEHNERT MOYER:
There’s a question on the Dory here from Becky
in San Francisco. I’m going to read the
bottom one here, Jam. My heart breaks to
hear about the abuse you witnessed and suffered. Do you still have relation
with your parents? Feel free to answer
or not answer. I’m mostly interested
in the second question here, which is how has this
experience changed or affected you as a parent? JAM ALKER: That’s great. Unfortunately,
both of my parents passed away when I was in
my active addiction, which thank god I have a
program of recovery now, including therapy. When I start talking about
this program of recovery, what does that look like? I’m part of the 12
step fellowship. I also do therapy. I do meditation. I make sure that I
work out, do yoga, all of the different things. Of service to others as much
as possible to have some sort of spiritual connection. Because of that, I’ve
been able to deal with the issues of my
parents both passing while I was in active addiction. As far as how it’s changed
or affected me as a parent, I make sure that my daughter– she’s very sensitive as it
is, anyway, but I’ve never raised my voice at her. I mean, luckily she’s
a real sensitive kid. So I can give her a
certain look and she knows that she’s
making bad decisions. That’s the other I was
talking about before. No bad people,
just bad decisions. Talking with my daughter,
one of the things that I’ve taught her with
all this work that I’ve done, is when we’re watching
a show, and there’s a show where there’s a bad
guy, it’s not a bad guy. He’s a guy who
makes bad decisions. So we’ll be watching
a movie or something, and that’s the bad guy in the
cartoon, and she’ll be like, is that the bad decision guy? CAROLINE DEHNERT MOYER: Do
you remember we were talking– because I fear the same
thing with my kids. And my husband and I
talk fairly openly. My husband has a niece who’s
recovering from a heroin addiction, is in jail right now. And we talk about Aunt
Ashley is in jail, and she made some bad decisions
and she punched a police officer, and now she has
a felony on her record and she’s serving her time. And we’re going to go
visit Ashley in jail. And I kind of have
this mode of like, I put a little bit too
much information out there because I believe
they need to have it. I don’t put it all out there,
but I put just a little bit out there. I was walking with my daughter
in downtown Evanston recently, and I go, do you smell that? And she’s like– I go, that’s marijuana. She’s like, what’s marijuana? It’s a drug. And I mean, I’m pretty– and then you have
the conversation. But the thing you said
to me that I remember when we talked about
this was my kids will be drug tested
fairly early on. And I was like, really? How old? How old would you get
your daughter drug tested? JAM ALKER: I think
we’ll probably start once she starts
high school, possibly a little earlier. I think it depends,
to a certain degree, on the behavior of the kids. But what we talked
about, my friend Jennifer Flory who’s here– we’ve talked about this a lot– is things that parents
can actually literally do with their kids to
help in this situation where I’m worried about my kids. What can I actually do? And one of the things we suggest
is to, when your child just– early teens, OK, we
drug test in this house. Sometime over the
next six months and sometime in
the next six months after that, you’ll
get a drug test. It’s just like going
to the dentist. I’m not accusing
you of anything. It’s just something
we do in this family. We drug test, right? And they have to
remain accountable. Then if behavior does start
to happen that’s questionable, it’s not that you’re starting
to drug test them then. It’s like, well, why are you
doing this now, mom, dad? What’s up? Well, you don’t trust me? No, this is just
something that we do. So yeah. There are a lot of
different things that my addiction, and
more so my recovery, has done to sort of
inform me of the decisions that I’m making now with
my child at six and will moving forward. CAROLINE DEHNERT MOYER:
Any other questions? I don’t think there’s
anything on the Dory. If someone’s coming– yeah. Please. AUDIENCE: So you talked a lot
about accepting the addict. And I’m pretty
comfortable around that. My brother’s an addict. He’s pretty active. Can you give advice for
talking to family members who perhaps enable? He’s in and out of jail, and my
parents can’t let go, you know? And they can’t move
forward or accept. They’re very much
in denial about what’s really going on despite
the overwhelming evidence. How do you bridge
that conversation with other family
members who can’t seem to let go of what’s happening? CAROLINE DEHNERT MOYER:
It’s really hard. I mean, my mom is
enabler number one. And I think I probably took
the last 20 years to figure out how to be a sister. And I saw something
pop up on my phone. It was like, your Porsche
is ready for payment. I’m like, I don’t
have a Porsche. I’m like, oh, that’s his car. OK. Why am I on the thing for– and I was like, maybe
I should just pay it. He needs a car. So I still struggle with that. And as a parent, I think it’s
probably exacerbated 10X. This is your child. So I don’t know. Al-Anon, talking about it,
hearing from other parents how they accept. I mean, think the thing that
really blows my mind as I think about it is if we can– getting back to that
unconditional love, we’re not saying, mom,
don’t love your son. You will always love
that kid no matter what. But you have to set
some boundaries so that they can hit that bottom. And hopefully they make
it through the night. It’s tough. JAM ALKER: Yeah, I think
it’s really common, what you’re talking about, to
be a family member who sees it and then see the parents. And I can imagine. And my daughter– like you’re
saying, how much harder it must be for a parent. I would echo what you said. Is there any way that you
could get your parents to go to an Al-Anon meeting
or anything like that to start talking about it? AUDIENCE: It’s strange
because his behaviors are obvious to me. But for them, it’s denial. They make excuses after excuse. He got arrested
because the cops are– CAROLINE DEHNERT MOYER:
After him or whatever. AUDIENCE: Right, yeah, and
all of that kind of stuff. And I see it firsthand. He doesn’t hide
it as much for me. He hides it from them. And I also struggle
with telling them what I see firsthand because
they’re elderly parents. I don’t want them–
and I also don’t want my brother to
start hiding it from me because for some
reason, I feel like me knowing what’s really going on
is almost useful in many ways. And there was a long period
where he did hide it from me, and steal and all
of those things. And I have this conflict of
sharing information with them while also trying
to protect them while also trying
to get them to stop paying for lawyers to get him
out of jail and all of that. So they’re really,
really in denial about what’s really going on. And I don’t know
whether you have advice on whether I
should start sharing more of what he’s really doing. You know what I mean? I don’t want to shock them. But at the same time, they’re
so oblivious to what’s really going on and continue to do
things that are probably not that helpful to his recovery. JAM ALKER: Do you think
they’re open to hearing it? AUDIENCE: I’ve brought
it up many times. JAM ALKER: You
have brought it up. AUDIENCE: Yeah, oh yeah. Absolutely. JAM ALKER: And they
just see denial. So maybe they don’t want
to hear it from you, which is why I was asking. There are family
groups, parents’ groups. Like I said, my friend
Jennifer who’s here runs a parents’ and a family group. You talk to her about potential
resources of other people because maybe it’s not
best they hear it from you. But do they need to hear it? For sure. But maybe from a peer, somebody
who’s going through it. So oh, I used to
think my kid was– the cops were out for him. But then I saw this
and I realized this. And they’re like, oh
yeah, I’ve seen that. I’ve realized that. You know what I mean? There might be defenses
that come up if you say it, whereas if they were able to
hear from another parent who’s going through what
they’re going through, would they be open to that? AUDIENCE: You know, they’re very
old school in the sense that they don’t– especially outside people. And there’s the stigma of it. I don’t think
they’ve even talked to anyone outside of
our immediate family about the situation. And that’s part of why
I’ve tried to talk to– and we’ve all caught
him red-handed. And that’s where they
constantly give him the benefit of the doubt. And then he gets in
trouble with the law. And it’s very much I’ve
had this conversation of I understand you’re the parent. But it’s not helping him to
get out of jail right now. But then the flip
side is I can’t go to sleep at night
knowing he’s in there and I have some way of
helping him to get out. And all those thoughts
go through their head of what is happening to him
in jail and all of that. So the next day they
call the lawyer. You know what I Mean
And I don’t know. I feel like I’m in
an endless loop. CAROLINE DEHNERT
MOYER: This is why they call it a family addiction
because so many people are brought in. I think it was my therapist
that said to me once, it is possible for one person
in the system of the family to so radically
put up boundaries that you can help change
other people in the family. But it’s– I feel you, man. I feel you. Gabby and me and you, we can
get together, and Jennifer here if you want to talk to her
about her family program. AUDIENCE: Sure. Thanks. JAM ALKER: Thank you. CAROLINE DEHNERT
MOYER: Come on up. AUDIENCE: I have two questions. One, once the addiction
and everything that you’ve masked to cope
with your past trauma, once that’s gone, you
can you talk a little bit about the things that you
do to recover from trauma? I know you talked about– CAROLINE DEHNERT MOYER: It’s OK. Jam and I have talked about
trauma and that being part of the underlying– talking about trauma and
talk therapy, I think, is part of the solution. AUDIENCE: And then
another question. What do you do when– JAM ALKER: Can you
go back to the mic? AUDIENCE: Yeah. CAROLINE DEHNERT
MOYER: You got it. AUDIENCE: What do
you do when your– we hear about families who
are a little bit too involved. But what do you do when
you have family members who don’t acknowledge,
and kind of ignore? CAROLINE DEHNERT MOYER:
My eldest brother is like, peace out. And I have to respect that, too. My husband I were talking about
this on the way in the car. I’m like, goddamn it, why can’t
he just– he is a brother, too. Can’t he be part
of the solution? And that’s my own
anger, and it’s my own why can’t he do this? And you know, they’re
going to do it or they’re not going to do it. And they may have their own
reasons for peace-ing out. I find for me,
it’s just a matter of accepting that that’s
what they have chosen to do for whatever their reasons are. JAM ALKER: Yeah. The question that you
asked about trauma and the way in which you
asked the question, and then your sort of visceral
reaction to it, makes me want to respond
by saying in 12 minutes, could you and I maybe talk
off to the side about it a little bit further? Would you be OK with that? OK. Thanks. I CAROLINE DEHNERT MOYER: I
think that’s a good place to– oh, Jenny. JAM ALKER: No, one more. Come on, Jenny. AUDIENCE: 11 minutes. [INAUDIBLE] any more. I’m so short. I’m wondering and curious,
just on a broader, I guess, point of view on the
legalization of marijuana and how that could
potentially increase the likelihood of
addiction, especially I have kids, 13- and 14-year-old. All of their
friends are smoking. They’re smoking on the bus. They’re smoking
waiting for the bus. Some of them have never
had a sip of alcohol. They’re just smoking. So just the sense of that,
certainly from a parenting perspective, but
also your journey and whether or not marijuana
played a part in that. And also just the
correlation between, I guess, the illegality of drugs and the
draw, and whether legalization takes some of it away in terms
of it being fun and exciting. JAM ALKER: So this is something
that I’m really, really passionate about. Caroline mentioned
that I go and speak at high schools and
middle schools about drug and alcohol education. There’s a lot in
what you just said. Trying to pull it
apart a little bit, yes, this is very common
that you’re seeing kids these days with the vapes. And this is not the weed
that we grew up with. I know I’m probably the only
one in this room who ever smoked a joint back in the day. I know it’s just me. But if you’d heard
stories about it, that joint that you smoked
versus what’s in these vapes is very different. The THC content is
so concentrated, it’s insane, the stuff
that’s out there these days. But regardless of
that, let’s just say that it’s the
old school ditch weed that used to be out
there, or drinking beer. The idea in high school
is it’s not a big deal. It’s just weed. It’s just alcohol. It’s not a big deal. The fact of the matter is this. The younger you
are when you begin experimenting with drugs
and alcohol, the more likely you are to become an addict. The younger you
are when you begin experimenting with drugs
and alcohol, the more likely you are to become an addict. This is fact. This is science. I talked about first time I
got blackout drunk I was seven. First time I smoked
weed when I was nine. Combination of that
and all the trauma– everyone’s different,
but this is my story. OK. So should kids be smoking
weed or drinking alcohol? Absolutely not. Their brains are
not fully developed. This is a critical
time, and in that time and in those teenage years, the
areas of the brain that develop are the areas that
include the consequence centers of the brain,
things that lead towards addictive behavior. Some of the ways that you
process these emotions, process traumas,
all of these things, they’re finding more and
more, lead towards addiction and are stunted by the use of
drugs and alcohol early on. So that speaks to that, right? Done. Now the issue of
legalizing weed or not, legalizing any drug or not. If you are 18, you
are 21, you are not an addict or an alcoholic,
do whatever you want. Have fun. If you can go out there and
smoke crack on the weekend and come back and be a
beautiful, loving, supporting human being that is involved
in society, I don’t care. I don’t have a
problem with that. Same with weed
being legal or not. I prefer it being legal. It’s regulated, it’s
taxed, it pays some bills, all the rest of that. For people who are not
like me, who are not addicts, who have
the ability to handle it just like a glass of
wine every once in a while. Look, addiction is
defined as the inability to stop a behavior despite
negative consequences. A negative behavior that
you cannot stop that you are compulsively continuing to
engage in despite negative behaviors. If you’re engaging in a
behavior and there are not the negative consequences,
it’s not an addiction. So cool. That’s my answer. CAROLINE DEHNERT
MOYER: All right. Like all good joint
Al-Anon AA meetings, we’re going to end with
the serenity prayer, which I actually had to write down. JAM ALKER: I got it memorized. CAROLINE DEHNERT MOYER:
He’s got it memorized. If anybody knows it,
please speak it with us. So God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to
change the things I can, and the wisdom to
know the difference. Thanks [APPLAUSE] JAM ALKER: Thanks, you guys. Thank you.

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