Get to know Amy Dresner and Joe Schrank from the podcast Rehab Confidential and find out what inspired them to be advocates in the recovery space.
1. For those who may not know you, can you intro yourselves and give us a little background about yourselves?
Joe Schrank: I’m a clinical social worker and recovery advocate. I’ve done a bunch of things in the space, some of which I am proud, others not so much but I’ve worked in various areas of addiction and recovery for many years. I’ve been sober for 23 years
Amy Dresner: I’m a freelance writer and the author of the addiction memoir “My Fair Junkie”. I also do some speaking gigs. I’m sober for about 7 and a half years.
2. How did you two meet? What made you want to start a podcast together?
Joe: We met through my older baby’s mom, Laurie Dhue. She and Amy spoke at the 2018 She Recovers conference together. Laurie and Amy became friends after that and she thought we should collaborate, mostly, I guess because Amy has such a big mouth.
Amy: Ummm, you also have a big mouth, Joe. She said to me that we were two of the smartest people she knew (she must not know very many people) and that we had a lot of similar ideas. She was adamant we should do some type of project together. We had both wanted to do a podcast for a very long time and Joe was like “Let’s do this. I’m sick of talking about it” and so we jumped in.
3. Who has been the best guest on the show so far, and if you had to pick your dream guest or guests who would it be? Why?
Joe: So far, my favorite guest had been Ryan O’ Callaghan, the NFL player who came out as gay. He was really honest and articulate about how shame fueled his drug abuse which I think is a universal theme among many people. He also showed that there are many roads to better living, sometimes that means 12 step life but not always. People need to know that if they don’t want to spend their life with weird people in a musty church basement drinking horrible coffee that that doesn’t have to be their only option.
I think our dream guest would be Lady Gaga. She went to Sacred Heart in NYC (the sister school where my son went) and she has made awesome statements about mental health, a social worker’s dream and she has a massive platform.
Amy: My favorite guest was Ms. Brittany Andrews, the Hall of Fame sober porn star. She was hilarious and incredibly forthcoming about drug use and trauma in the adult industry and how she’s trying to help other young girls in the business. I can’t think of another recovery podcast that’s had a porn star on but again I’m too busy making memes and posting headliners for our podcast to listen to all of them.
Yeah, Lady Gaga would definitely be a dream guest. My other dream guest would be Nora Volkow, the Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). I love science and I think the science of addiction is the key to changing the way some people still view it as some sort of moral issue or choice.
4. What makes you both feel inspired? What is important to you in your recovery today?
Joe: I’m really inspired by beach yoga, and gluten-free kale chips but I am also really interested in policy at this point. It’s important to me to shift policy so we don’t have another generation of people living in shame about their mental health. I think there are many systems that are important to deliver that message, sports being one of them. I still love doing individual work with clients but we have to address policy. In social work, we say “we pull people out of the ditch but we also have to work on the ditch itself”.
Amy: I’m inspired by helping people and delivering an important message with a bit of humor. I tried to do that in my memoir and it was a really different experience for people. People think information about mental health or addiction has to be sacred and humor shouldn’t be part of that but I disagree. When you make people laugh, you diminish shame and you also help them remember things. That’s a scientific fact. I think combining those two things is what we’re trying to do in the podcast: laugh and talk about pertinent issues. As a former comic, I know that humor allows people to more open-minded, more willing to see situations from another angle.
5. We admire how unapologetically open you guys are about your history with addiction. What’s one thing you hope to educate people about when it comes to addiction and recovery? How can people within recovery fight some of the judgment and stigma that exists?
Joe: There isn’t a human being on the planet who doesn’t face some type of mental health issue at some point. We all get our challenges in life, even if it isn’t chronic. Nobody escapes pain or the need for help. Humans need each other. We are tribal and communal by nature. We shouldn’t be ashamed of that. I think we can all help by asking ourselves not “do I have mental health concerns” but “what are my mental health concerns” at the moment. We typically wait for the crash to do anything. The same way we exercise and eat right (I try, I really do) to maintain physical health, we have to have a plan of action for our mental and emotional health as well. If we framed mental health as a need, not as an add on in the crisis, it would diminish the shame greatly.
Amy: I think by having on a slew of completely different guests from professors to doctors to athletes to porn stars to politicians to combat vets to transgender people, we are trying to show that addiction doesn’t discriminate and that everybody’s experience of what led them into active addiction and how they recovered is unique. I think we’re also trying to educate people on the different modalities of recovery, be it MAT, harm reduction, 12 steps, trauma work, whatever. What worked for you doesn’t necessarily work for somebody else and that’s okay.
Regarding stigma, I’m all for people recovering out loud and coming out of the recovery closet. I’ve said it before “we cannot break the stigma of addiction without breaking the stigma of recovery”. One of the things we do each week is to feature a famous historical alcoholic or drug addict, somebody who was an accomplished writer, singer, inventor, etc. We’re trying to show people “Hey if you’re alcoholic or drug addict, that’s okay. We can and have done amazing shit. Don’t be ashamed.”
You can listen to Amy and Joe’s podcast, Rehab Confidential on Apple Podcasts.