Joseph W. Naus was born in 1971 in Southern California’s Inland Empire. He both graduated from Pepperdine Law and passed the Bar Exam in 1997. Joseph survived a hardscrabble, impoverished childhood, raised by his young mom – a heroin addict turned shut-in depressive – to become a respected lawyer. However, at age 32, his American Dream became a nightmare when his own sex and alcohol addictions collided and exploded. Joseph’s harrowing yet hope-filled memoir, Straight Pepper Diet, begins on the last day of his former life.
On Tuesday, I was a respected civil trial lawyer making six-figures. On Wednesday, I woke up handcuffed to a hospital bed … and then it got worse.
Joseph has spent the last twelve years learning humility the hard way: making a living doing everything from picking up the trash on film sets to selling outdoor kitchens at home shows, all while cleaning up the wreckage of his past and building a new life.
Joseph lives in Echo Park in Los Angeles with his girlfriend, Theresa and cat, Bogey. He spends much of his time writing, helping addicts recover, and perfecting his swing on Los Angeles’ public golf courses. His next book, Golf is Magic (Not Exactly a Book about Golf) is scheduled for release by Killer McMillan Publishing in 2016.
Clean Date: July, 26, 2013
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Joseph Naus: I try to meditate 10 to 20 minutes every day. I like to do it in the morning but quite frankly it varies on when I do it. That’s part of it. I have a couple of sponsees. They’re both in real different places in their sobriety. I have sponsor that I talk to. In fact, I just talked to him the other night. He was like, “You need to be calling your sponsees and talk to them.” So, that’s how I do it.
Omar: Man, so you got 13 years right? When’s your anniversary date?
Joseph Naus: It will be 13 on July 26.
Omar: Let’s talk a little bit, your story there’s a lot of addiction and different forms of addiction. I always open up with how old you were the first time you drank or used drugs? How it made you feel?
Joseph Naus: I was very late bloomer. My mom was a heroin addict and my dad was out of the picture but also had addiction issues. So, I had a healthy fear of drugs. I was Straight Edge in high school. I use to wear the black X’s on my hand, you know?
Joseph Naus: I never really listened to Minor Threat – be anti-drugs, anti-alcohol, anti-everything. When I was in a high school and early college, I was a kick boxer so I was really into health. I was a vegetarian. I read a “Diet for New America,” and that’s when I first went vegetarian way back in 1987. I stopped kick boxing because I was in college and started getting kicked in the head. I’m trying to become a lawyer and go to college, being kicked in the head probably isn’t a good thing.
I stopped that and I had a few drinks here and there with one of my lawyer mentor, just after workout and a beer or something. The first time I got wasted was when I was in New York for the first time and it was this unbelievable experience. I drank for the first time, smoked cigarettes for the first time, and cheated on my girlfriend for the first time (my fiance at the time, different fiance, obviously). I was in New York, it was cold. The highrises… I mean it was like magical. At that moment, I said to myself like, “This is the new best thing I’ve ever experienced. All that hard work, kick boxing, and Straight Edge, and vegetarianism, and all that stuff. This is the new thing.” It wasn’t like I just immediately became an alcoholic, but in my head I knew like this is the new best thing there is. It was magical. It was absolutely freaking magical.
Omar: How old were you?
Joseph Naus: I was 21.
Joseph Naus: Oh no, 21 or 22. Yeah, this was my sophomore year in college.
Omar: All right, so the Straight Edge kept you on the straight narrow for a while?
Joseph Naus: Yeah. The fear and the Straight Edge, yeah.
Omar: Would you say that, because I know you’re in 12 Step, would you say that sex addiction is your primary addiction, or which one of those would you say is your primary addiction?
Joseph Naus: It’s weird, it’s like I actually listened to one of your early podcasts. I thought you summed it up really brilliantly in that saying, “Addiction is addiction. We relate in different programs but addiction is addition.” I think of it as like if you were in a food program because you overate, you wouldn’t have a chocolate program, a pizza program, and a cola program. I think of it that way.
Now with that, we’re saying that it’s really helpful to be able to relate to different things. To answer your question ironically I consider nicotine to be my most hardcore addiction. It was the very last one that I was able to kick. Sex was the most powerful one but also the most risky. Alcohol was my fallback. As you know from my story, alcohol was what really did me in in the end. It was kind of a try. Man, powerlessness – nicotine taught me powerlessness because I quit the sex and the alcohol. I have the judge, the state bar, the LAPD, the probation department, rehab, the bail bondsmen, my law partner. Everybody. There was no chance I was going to relapse. It would have been like putting a bullet to my head. With the nicotine, I’m just like, “Pff, pff, pff. This is all I have.” Ironically, that is the last thing I gave up but I go to the mother ship program as my main program now, if that answers the question.
Omar: It does and I love hearing that because again we were just talking about how we don’t promote or endorse any 12 Step anonymous program. I even say that at the end of the podcast episode, that’s the disclosure. I initially got sober in NA. I remember my sponsor, he was like, “You’ll notice something in the literature. It addresses addiction. It doesn’t address cocaine, it doesn’t address sex, it doesn’t address food, it addresses addiction.”
I’m addicted to everything, to more. If it feels good, I want it, and I want it in massive quantities whatever that may be. That’s where I learned to understand where all that manifestation came from. Understanding that I am an addict and I’m trying to fill this void and if I stop using one thing, then I’m just going to gravitate to the next thing that makes me feel better. Once I get rid of that, I’m just going to gravitate to the next.
It’s almost like I got to take this 12 headed monster and chop all of his heads off. Get to the base of it all as we peel it all back. Yes, I agree a 100%. At some point or another, if we don’t address the actual addiction, we’re doomed to repeat our history.
Joseph Naus: Yeah. Just to say something about narcotics anonymous that I always love was that, I remember this from being in rehab and I have friends who are in that program now. I really love that they say in their preamble or latest preamble that I hear, I don’t know where it comes from but it says, “Alcohol is a drug period.” That’s the truth, alcohol is a drug period. Just because it’s liquid and it happens to be a little older than some of the other drugs, it’s a drug period. It’s just simple as that. I totally agree with the way that they structured their program. Even their book is sometimes a little more readable sometimes. Yeah, I’m a big fan of that.
Omar: You have a purpose, you always had a purpose. God had a vision for you that you had no idea. It took you going through what you went through to get to this point right here where you could carry your message, just like me and just like so many. Don’t wait till it’s jails institutions and death, right Joseph?
Joseph Naus: Yeah. They say, “It takes what it takes.” They also said, “Your bottom is when you stop digging.” I had a backhoe when I was digging my bottom. A lot of people I always saying, I’ll say to like sponsees, I’ll be like, “You feel sorry for me because I have this bottom.” There’s a guy who drinks one time and is dead. There’s another guy who keeps on getting away with it. There’s guys that drink once and go to AA and they’re cool, and there’s guys who drink once and die.
God works in mysterious ways. I don’t know how it works but I know I hit my bottom and I hope that people or listeners, if they’re like laying their options and try it out. If it does work, it doesn’t work, what you do? You miss a few nights of drinking right?
Omar: We’d gladly refund your misery.
Joseph Naus: Yeah, exactly.
Omar: Here’s the question I want to know. When did it hit you? When did you have that “Ah-ha” moment? When you first got into recovery, when you accepted you were powerless over drugs, and alcohol, and sex addiction but for the first time you had developed the hope that you could recover?
Joseph Naus: Once when I was so stressed out. I’m going through all that stuff, and I was in rehab, and then I got out of rehab and I was sober living and I had to go to therapy. I was so stressed out that one time I went to a massage parlor after the incident. I was talking to the therapist and I just blurted it out, told the therapist I did it. She just lost, she was like “What? Are you effin out of your mind?” She was really mild mannered person. She’s like, “Are you effin out of your mind? Are you stupid?” I was just like, “Whoa.” I was like, “Yeah. That’s craziness.” That one, and then with the cigarettes I always tell people like the alcohol I didn’t experienced the powerless maybe in some way that other people did because I had to quit because I have like I said a gun on my head. I never really got to that point where I really wanted to stop drinking. I love blacking out and everything. Despite I mean your consequences, I never got to a point where I was trying to stop. I was trying to control it a bit, I never tried to stop. With cigarettes, your five years into your 12 Step meetings and you’re going outside killing yourself… is hard not to go, “Wait a second. This is a substance that’s killing me that I can’t stop. What the hell?” Now, that’s the powerless moment too and I had to go to another program for that. Those two incidents probably are what led me to really believe on those powerless. That moment where you’re just like “God, I can’t do this on my own. I don’t know how quitting is going to help me stop but I give up, it’s in Your hands. I’m done fighting because I can’t beat this gorilla up in this ring.” It’s like when you’re in a boxing and you get out of the freaking ring, you’re not going to win. It’s some kind of weird magic that you can’t really put words on but it exist because I’ve seen it. I’ve seen it myself and I’ve seen it with sponsees, and could go in the rooms where they, just one day, they’re like they have this powerless that they just give up. In that giving up, they gain this power.
Omar: Obviously there’s your book, are there any other books you could recommend to our newcomers? Actually first, tell us a little bit more about the book because I don’t know if we’ve covered it too much.
Joseph Naus: Straight Pepper Diet. Some people will know what that means, and for those who don’t, read the flap. It’s a good read. I was able to price it so low that you cannot not read it. I wrote it with the intention because I know the type of books I like are books that are page turners, so if you’ve ever read like Cormac McCarthy’s, “The Road,” even like some John Grisham stuff, even though it’s not like “literature,” that’s kind of the style I wrote it in. It’s kind of like hard boiled, very quick moving. It’s 400 pages, a lot of people said they’ve read it one or two nights. It’s entertaining. It’s AA story really, right? It’s the back of the book, but it’s just a little longer and a little bit more dramatic. I hope it helps to people. People said it’s helping them a lot, I hope it helps them and not just as a showing what can happen and the recovery that follows.
The book that really changed me… I know that maybe some of your listeners, you always had this thing about, “I have a problem with the God thing.” I never really had a problem with the God thing, but I go to Agape, and a science of mind guy, and a friend of mine gave me “This Thing Called You” by Ernest Holmes. That’s one of those books where you can just turn to any page and just read some truth, kind of like an honest textbook where you just turn to new page and go, “That’s true.”
There’s nothing better than truth. I was driving on to my mom’s I heard because I was listening to CD “The Power of Now.” That guy basically took one day at a time and turned it into an empire. Is there anything truer or more powerful than you only have power over right here right now? Think about the past and think about the future and ain’t doing you no good. All it’s doing is blowing right now. That’s kind of way that book this “This Thing Called You.” It’s by Ernest Holmes who founded science of mind, and who has a whole bunch of books, but that’s the book I think is most accessible that he wrote.
Straight Pepper Diet – Joseph W. Naus
The Road – Corman Mc Carthy
This Thing Called You – Ernest Holmes
The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment – Eckhart Tolle
Spiritual Liberation: Fulfilling Your Soul’s Potential – Michael Bernard Beckwith
A New Pair of Glasses – Chuck C
Joseph Naus: The Dr. Michael Beckwith’s “Spiritual Liberation” is another good book. The Chuck C’s …
Omar: “New Pair of Glasses?”
Joseph Naus: “New Pair of Glasses,” so yeah.
Omar: Beautiful. Do you have your book in audible yet or?
Joseph Naus: Yeah. I did the recording on it. It’s in my voice but I put a nose strip on so it’s not as nasally as this. I got that So-Cal drawl, that nasal So-Cal drawl, but in the book it’s a little bit better. I put the nasal strip on. The engineer insisted.
Omar: Good. All right, I’m going to get that for sure because that’s how I like to read my books. I like to listen to them for sure. What is the best suggestion you have ever received?
Joseph Naus: One X at a time. Whether you call it the power of now, whether you call it one day at a time, whether you call it take it easy. It really comes down to like you could handle this thing that’s right in front of you, just break it up and do whatever piece you need to break it up to do. When you first get sober, and you’re just overwhelmed by the amount of wreckage you have. I mean imagine the records I have and it’s just overwhelming. When they told me that in rehab I was like, “Okay, that is a beautiful mind trick. I’m going to be like get up, put your shoes on. Okay, I’m done with that. Go eat breakfast.” If you need to break it up of that, it’ll be like “Pour the orange juice, let’s do this.” When it gets to the harder stuff, I need to break it down a little bit more like, “Okay, don’t call the client, dial the number.” Whatever it takes but you can do one thing at a time. Not even like one day at a time, that’s too much. One thing at a time. Whatever it is just break it down. It’s in all different things. It’s the best psychologist in golf I’ve got Bob Rotella. He says exact same things. It’s this one day at a time, one shot at a time, he says that. The best players on the PGA tour, one shot at a time. If you’re thinking about the shot you just blew or the difficult shot coming up, you’re going to blow this shot, so one shot at a time, and he sends them a bill for a thousand dollars an hour. One X at a time.
Omar: One X at a time. My last question is if you could give our newcomers only one suggestion, what would it be?
Joseph Naus: Lean in. Just give them another one, lean in. Just lean into this. Whatever it is, if these problems that you think you have, lean into them. The program is there for you. There are people that are amazing in this program like you, like there’s rooms full of them, and then they’re just amazing. If you ask for help, they will help you. If they don’t, they’ll send someone who can. If you just put the effort in and lean into it, whatever it is you’ll get the solution in the rooms. I’ll just say lean into it.
SUGGESTIONS FOR THE NEWCOMER
“Lean in. ”
Thanks again for your SHAIR, Joseph!
See you then!
Disclaimer – The opinions shared on this show reflect those of the individual speaker and not of any 12 step fellowship as a whole and though we discuss 12 step recovery and the impact it has had in our lives we do not promote or endorse any 12 step anonymous program.