Home » Jacki Hillios: Transcending Addiction and Redefining Recovery at TEDxBoulder (Transcript)

Jacki Hillios: Transcending Addiction and Redefining Recovery at TEDxBoulder (Transcript)

Jacki Hillios

Jacki Hillios, founder of Phoenix Multisport, presents: Transcending Addiction and Redefining Recovery at TEDxBoulder Conference. Read through the transcript of the TEDx Talk presentation below.

Listen to the MP3 Audio: Transcending addiction and redefining recovery by Jacki Hillios at TEDxBoulder


I work with people who many of you stereotypically love. They’re alcoholics. They’re boozers and they’re drunks. They’re addicts. They’re pill poppers and they’re junkies.

You see, I’ve always wanted to understand why people do what they do. Because I believe if I can figure out the why, then I can find ways to help them. Help them find a better life and heal.

So I worked as a clinician for probably about 15 years, and I watched as drugs and alcohol destroyed people’s lives. So I made the decision to go back to school and I got my PhD. Because I thought, maybe, through research I can find some of the answers to the questions that I couldn’t answer as a clinician.

And what is really exciting is I’m finding some of those answers, and I’m going to share some of those answers with you here tonight.

You see, when I was a clinician, I watched so many people who wanted to get sober, work really hard to try and get sober but they just couldn’t. And then again, it wasn’t because they didn’t want to, but because things just got in their way.

So let me tell you a little bit about Anna. When I met Anna, she was trying to get clean from meth. She’d probably been in treatment maybe five or six times, and she burned all of her bridges. But she told me she wanted to get clean and so we found her a program where she could go. And this particular program was going to be a little bit tough for Anna, because well, it’s a no smoking program, and Anna smokes cigarettes in addition to the meth.

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And she was there for maybe a couple hours before she lit up. There were no second chances. They kicked her out. They actually drove her down the road to the 7-11 and dropped her off. She had no money and no phone. And really her only opportunity at that moment, her only choice, was to hitchhike back to the meth house. And that’s what she did.

I heard from Anna a couple of weeks later and she wanted to try again. But this time, in order for her to get into treatment, she was going to have to go through a detox program.

She went to three detox programs before she actually found one that would take her. The first one she went to was a medical detox. And well, if you’re not going to die, they don’t want to admit you to the program. There’s no risk, why bother? And when you come off meth, it really hurts, but you don’t die.

The second program she went to, was cash only. She had no money. You can’t pay, you can’t stay. But she found this third program and they finally admitted her.

Ten hours after she was admitted to the program, my cell phone rang. It was 4 o’clock in the morning. The nurse on the other line told me that she was done. She had completed her detox treatment. And now they wanted me to come and get her. It’s 4 o’clock in the morning. But you see if I didn’t come and get her, they also said, they were going to make her just leave. And I knew where she was going to end up.

So I went and I got her, and this is where things actually got really hard. Because, now she is on a waitlist for treatment. And we didn’t know if it was going to take a day, a week or a month for her to get in. And she had no idea what to do next.

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Anna is not alone. In America today, there’s 23 million people struggling with addiction. Of those, 10% are able to get treatment. And of the people who get treatment, 40% to 60% of them relapse within the first year. So after a year, only about half of the people are still sober. And the question remains, even they’ve gotten treatment, what will they do when they get home. What’s next?

And what about that 90% of people who don’t get treatment at all? What are they supposed to do? You see, chances are, their cell phones are filled with phone numbers of people who they drink and they used with. They can’t go back to the bars and the parties. And they really just don’t know what to do, because they burned all of their bridges.

So think about it for a moment. If you were one of these people, what would you do? Can you even imagine what tomorrow might be like?

About 10 years ago, I was climbing at the Rock Gym in Boston, Massachusetts, and I met this guy named Scott Strode. And we became friends and climbing partners. Scott! And he told me he’s on recovery. But I didn’t really think anything of it because the truth is we were climbing and we were having so much fun. And there was this one New year’s Eve weekend, where we got a whole group of people together and we went ice climbing. And again, knock it out of the park, we had so much fun.

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