Recently, Lionrock co-founders Peter Loeb and Ashley Loeb Blassingame, had the opportunity to host an “Ask Me Anything” on Reddit, the popular social news aggregation and discussion website. The questions they received were thoughtful and thought-provoking, and we want to share some of the same information with you here.

Q. What motivated you to start Lionrock and what is one sentence you would say to a person who is addicted to any substance?

A. (from Peter) My dear sister, Karen, died 10 years ago this summer from the accumulated damage of her lifelong struggle with substances. She was a year younger than I am, and we are/were children of the 70’s. We partied together plenty, but it was always different for her than it was for me. She took it to another level. When she was 24 and I was 25, I helped her find recovery from her addiction to heroin. I thought she was “cured”. I didn’t understand at the time that substance use disorders are generally self-medication of underlying anxiety. That anxiety can be caused by a range of issues, some organic, some experiential. When Ashley, my co-host here and oldest daughter, experienced the same kind of problems, I had no choice but to become better educated about substance use disorders and their treatment. In the summer of 2010 before she died, my sister was back in rehab again, and I was driving 90 minutes each way weekly to attend a 60 minute family session. I’d worked in Silicon Valley in technology for two decades and was using video conferencing every day. I wondered why video conferencing wasn’t being employed in SUD treatment. I asked about it and was told “it won’t work”. When my sister died later that summer, we decided to join the fight and bring help to people struggling with SUDs online. What would be my one sentence? Substance problems are health problems, not moral problems, and recovery works if you choose it.

Q. As someone who has children and who also has alcoholism/substance abuse issues that run in my family, were there any red flags you saw early on in Ashley’s childhood that you now know were indicative of future substance abuser characteristics?

A. (from Peter) In retrospect, one critical thing we missed was not seeing how Ashley’s anxiety was developing. She was a very high achiever (still is), but none of her achievements ever satisfied her. She had trouble calming herself, and found life’s uncertainty very difficult. I’d advise watching children for these traits. A child who is “wound super tight” is fighting an internal engine that might possibly lead to self-medication at an older age to relieve the stress s/he feels.

Q. How can I help support and encourage someone who has a loved one suffering from addiction?

A. (from Peter) Having a loved one who struggles with substances is so difficult. I know this personally. My first recommendation is to educate yourself about substance use disorders (what we now call addiction). The hardest part is understanding that your loved one is struggling with a mental health problem. For a lot of people, that’s hard to accept. It’s easier to think that your loved one should “just stop”, or be more disciplined and less lazy. But that’s not what’s going on. You can get started learning about substance use disorders by reading our free e-book. Although it’s written for people who are struggling with substance use, it’s helpful for anyone. And perhaps you’ll be able to persuade your struggling loved one to read it too.

Q. Who was your favorite podcast guest on The Courage to Change?

A. (from Ashley) First of all, thanks for listening to the podcast. I hope it provides as much enjoyment for you as it does for me. I am going to set aside the episodes with my father and husband because I am very biased towards those two episodes. Out of the other ones, I really was moved by Sean Nichols (Episode 31, Season 1). Sean was in the podcast booth and he used the opportunity to tell me about a sexual assault that happened to him when he was 8 years old that he, as a man in his 40’s, had NEVER told anyone about. I was floored. He was raw and deeply connected to me the entire time and I felt his trust in that moment so clearly. The episode was akin to a breakthrough therapy session, honestly. I was SO proud of him. The other episode that is in that same vein is Mike McAllister who also used the opportunity to come into the booth and do some growth work. He ended up having a realization during the podcast and making amends to someone who he had been afraid to contact for years. That type of stuff really moves me. I get so much out of hearing these stories and am truly grateful to be trusted by my guests.

Q. For someone looking to get sober (or knows they need to but is scared) where do they start and what are the biggest challenges?

A. (from Ashley) For the person looking to get sober (or knows they need to) I say, congratulations!! You may have found (or be close to finding) the “gift of desperation”. My experience is that desperation is truly a gift. Without it, none of us are willing to make the changes necessary for a new life.

That being said, the first thing to do is pick up the phone and call someone to tell them you want help. That person should be someone who knows something about recovery – best of all someone in recovery – and can point you in the right direction while supporting your efforts along the way.

If you call Lionrock’s 800.258.6550 number, you can speak with an admissions counselor (who knows a whole LOT about recovery and getting sober) about what the next steps need to be. Even if you do not join our professional programs, we have free resources on our website and a Resources Specialist who works with people who do not have the funds for treatment to find other options. We are committed to helping any person who calls us.

Q. How quickly can someone start a program?

A. Right away, if it makes sense for you. Because we’re all telehealth, we never have a waiting list. If you call us at 800.258.6550, you can speak to a counselor at no cost about what’s going on with you and how we can help. There are a range of options.

Q.  Do you accept insurance? 

A.  Most of our clients use their health insurance, but we also offer affordable private pay packages and payment plans. In addition, we offer free workshops and support group meetings because we really don’t feel right turning people away. Most of us at Lionrock are in recovery or are family members of people who have struggled with substances. We know the pain and the importance of getting help.

A good treatment program doesn’t have a set time in treatment. That’s because people come with their own individual sets of circumstances and struggles. That said, most people stay in IOP/OP level treatment with Lionrock for about three months. Many choose to continue through our Continuing Recovery program and/or our support meetings, which include 12 Step and alternatives like CommUnity.

Q.  How has the pandemic affected your business? 

A. The pandemic has affected us in two ways: not at all and enormously. Not at all because we have been a virtual company since the beginning. We manage our company using the same video conferencing and information systems which we use to help our clients. So, sheltering in place was no change because we’re already spread out across the U.S. It changed it enormously because, quite suddenly, after ten years of struggling to persuade people that telehealth is a great way to get help – even better than in person in many circumstances – telehealth was the only way to get help with brick and mortar facilities closed. The number of people we have in treatment today is more than double the number we had in February.

Q. When will you add support for programs like Al Anon? Self-sufficient groups need more centralized places to meet.

A. The value of support for families cannot be overstated. This is why we currently have an Al Anon meeting on our platform on Mondays at 5pm PDT, in addition to support groups for anyone who is struggling called CommUnity. If you go to our website and click on the Meetings tab, you will see all the options. We also have a professional program for family members called Family Matters. As a family member to alcoholics, I know how important that support is and want to assure you that it is a high priority for us.