From the Podcast: Peter Loeb: From Watching a Daughter Struggle With Addiction To Starting Lionrock With Her
On a very special episode of The Courage To Change: A Recovery Podcast, Peter Loeb talked to his daughter, our podcast host, Ashley Loeb Blassingame. We’ve edited and condensed it here for a faster read. You can listen to the entire interview here.
Peter is the CEO and Co-Founder (alongside his daughter and COO, Iain Crabb) of Lionrock Recovery. He worked for four decades in other industries before starting Lionrock 9 years ago to help people recover from substance use disorders. This idea came to him and Ashley after he helped her get sober, now that she has 13 years under her belt, he’s sharing his tips as a parent and an expert.
Although this is his professional field, Peter admits that it’s still difficult to hear about his daughter’s struggles with addiction.
On His Sister’s Battle
Before watching his daughter fight through her addiction battles, Peter watched his younger sister, Karen, struggle.
“My first experience with addiction and treatment was when my sister went off to rehab in 1985, which I was part of the process of getting that to happen. At the time, I really knew very little about it. And, I thought, like most people, that you go to rehab for 30 days and you’re good, right?”
He watched his sister struggle for her whole life, and when his daughter was afflicted with the same disease he felt just as helpless, but even more determined. “When it’s your child, you’ll do anything, just like you would do anything for your child regardless. When it’s your sibling, you’ll go pretty far, but it’s not like when it’s your child.”
Parenting an Addict
Peter notes there are certain things to watch for in children that may be particularly susceptible to alcohol dependency. “I would say to parents out there, if you have a child who has a really hard time calming him or herself down, that is something to look at.” He notes this being a tendency of Ashley’s that was concerning. “I think she was in the moment okay until that moment ended. And then she was completely at loose ends, and I found that very hard.“Looking back to her childhood, not doing well with downtime or transitions or self-soothing well seemed to be signals of a larger underlying issue.
Since Ashley started having substance abuse issues while still living at home, her two other sisters were a factor in how Peter and her mother chose to handle her actions.
“Well, that’s one of the hardest things about being a parent, is that you have to be in charge of where things are going. And you can’t always explain it.” Ultimately, he shared with Ashley, “the decision to gently expel you from the house and send you to treatment was about your sisters. Because while there was certainly one train of thought, which was … this is like having a burn victim at home, we’re not really set up to handle this.”
On Seeing Ashley Through the Recovery Process
He saw bits and pieces of her substance abuse, but the scariest moment for Peter came when she overdosed in her bedroom at age 17. He had to give her mouth-to-mouth. “You were kind of dead. I mean, your skin was blue, your lips were black, your fingernails were black. You weren’t really breathing. There was a hypodermic needle on the ground next to you.” This was understandably, terrifying for Peter as a parent, and motivated him to get her into a treatment center before 18, which has its own difficulties.
Peter and his wife sent Ashley to several rehabilitation and substance abuse centers throughout her high school years. After sending her to the first, he felt such relief, “it was the only day in my entire life so far that I’ve just spent in bed staring at the ceiling, because it was the first time in at least a year that I wasn’t afraid you were going to die that day. That was a relief that is beyond description.”
A common practice was attending ‘family week’ at each facility. For those unfamiliar, “family week occurs midway through treatment where the family shows up. You and five other families sit in a room together in uncomfortable chairs for way too many hours, and to your absolute terror and dismay, share your intimate story with everybody else in the room.”
After numerous family weeks, they realized, “The issue with the family week is, is that when you come in, you still are really angry with your loved one.” When Peter had the opportunity to change that at Lionrock, he shifted the family week concept to include more constant video and telephone conferencing with families, instead of one single event.
Since Ashley began living in recovery over 14 years ago, Peter has spent every day, he tells his daughter, “focusing on helping you, or watching you build a life. Building a life in recovery. Are you working whatever program you should be working? Are you getting the education you need? Do you have friends who seem like they have their act together, and are a positive influence on you? Do you have a job? Are you trustworthy? There was a long period of time you were not trustworthy.”
He hails trust rebuilding as a core part of the rehabilitation process.
Peter and Ashley co-founded Lionrock Recovery with one of Peter’s colleagues, Iain Crabb. Ashley jokes that she is “the sacrificial lamb here because I got this disease, this alcoholism, had to go through this stuff. And then I had to go through all that treatment to be able to get the training that I need to help start our company.”
Lionrock “does intensive outpatient treatment, or outpatient treatment, online through video conference. So it’s telehealth for substance abuse.” They lovingly refer to it as Peter’s ‘revenge on addiction’. Their goal is to provide access to treatment to as many people as possible, since “somewhere between 10 and 20% of the people who struggle with a substance problem get help for it. And somewhere between 80% and 90% don’t. In our field, there’s a lot of talk about why we can’t reach those people? The answer is because we just didn’t have the right product for them.” Peter and Ashley believe that Lionrock can be that solution for people.
Peter has made a career of sticking with his daughter, and all Lionrock clients, since. To any parents struggling with addicted loved ones, he has this to say.
“It’s really simple, just don’t give up. Don’t give up. Try everything you can. Don’t give up. You get a lot of advice from people who know more about addiction and treatment and recovery than you do, but they’re not the parent of the child. And the decisions you make will last a lifetime, good or bad. For the people who are the experts who are giving you advice, you’re just one more person they’re giving that advice to. “
Quotes have been edited for clarity.