May 17
  • Written By Scott Drochelman

  • 180 – Adam Banks

    Adam Banks

    Bottle To Throttle: Sober Pilot On Addiction And Flying On 9/11

    Adam Banks grew up in Northern Wisconsin, a place where he felt he needed to hide his sexuality. At 15 he started drinking in bars where the only requirement was a promise that your parent was in the bar with you.

    As he got older he felt a strong need to leave the oppressive environment of his hometown, so he looked to the closest example of someone getting out, his neighbor who was a pilot. He became extremely driven and motivated and became one of the youngest pilots in his class.

    He quickly realized the life of a pilot wasn’t how it was portrayed in movies. The life was a lonely one. Often his days involved sitting in a cockpit with one other person, then sitting alone in hotel rooms all around the country. The isolation was the perfect catalyst for his growing alcoholism. He found himself getting closer and closer to the legal lines of being a pilot. While caught up in his addiction he found himself drinking up to the minute he was required to stop. 

    On September 11th he was flying a plane and upon discovering the tragedy his mind spun on how easily it could have been him in one of those planes. The trauma of the day stayed with him, adding more power to the strength to his addiction.

    In the months after, there wasn’t much flying happening and they moved his homebase to New York City. In New York, he found the acceptance he’d been looking for in the bars and clubs of the city. Cocaine, steroids and other drugs entered his life and his addiction hit new heights.

    Eventually, his using and his life as a pilot could no longer co-exist and he finally found lasting sobriety 16 years ago.

    Today Adam runs an addiction clinic where he helps families find help for their loved ones.

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    Episode Transcript

    Ashley Loeb Blassingame (00:00):

    Coming up on this episode of The Courage to Change, sponsored by Lion,

    Adam Banks (00:06):

    I was actually flying the, the morning of nine 11. Still to this day, it’s hard for me to talk about. It’s still very emotional for me. I don’t know why I internalized the pain of nine 11. I did, which I perceived more than a lot of people. I think it has to do with sort of the age that I was at. Pilots internalized nine 11 in a much different way than non pilots. As a pilot, it’s your job to protect the airplane, and a pilot has so much pride in an airplane and to see the, the planes used in that way, and I was, I was flying that warning. I was flying, uh, the New York airspace. So I heard some of this going on, and I’ve just really internalized that trauma.

    Ashley Loeb Blassingame (00:50):

    Hello, beautiful people. Welcome to the Courage to Change Your Recovery podcast. My name is Ashley Loeb Blasting Game, and I am your host. Today we have Adam Banks. Adam grew up in northern Wisconsin, a place where he felt he needed to hide his sexuality. At 15, he started drinking in bars where the only requirement was a promise that your parent was in the bar with you. As he got older, he felt a strong need to leave the oppressive environment of his hometown. So he looked to the closest example of someone getting out his neighbor, who was a pilot. He became extremely driven and motivated, and became one of the youngest pilots in his class. He quickly realized the life of a pilot wasn’t how it was portrayed in movies. The life was a lonely one. Often his days involve sitting in a cockpit with one other person, then sitting alone in hotel rooms all over the country.


    The isolation was the perfect catalyst for his growing alcoholism. He found himself getting closer and closer to the legal lines of being a pilot. While caught up in his addiction, he found himself drinking up to the minute that he was required to stop. On September 11th, 2001, he was flying a plane, and upon discovering the tragedy, his mind spun on how easily it could have been him in one of those planes. The trauma of the day stayed with him, adding more power to the strength of his addiction. In the months after there wasn’t much flying happening and they moved his home base to New York City in New York, he found the acceptance he’d been looking for in the bars and the clubs. Cocaine, steroids and other drugs entered his life and his addiction hit new heights. Eventually, his using and his life as a pilot could no longer coexist, and he finally found lasting sobriety 16 years ago.


    Today, Adam runs an addiction clinic where he helps families find helped for their loved ones. I love this story because Adam touches on so many different threads that we find in alcoholism, the ability to hold it all together till you can’t, why we experience trauma sometimes and not others, and what the life of a pilot actually looks like. Most of the time. I think there’s a lot of amazing information about alcoholism and addiction and also recovery in this episode, including some pretty good laughs. So I hope you enjoy my new friend Adam Banks. Let’s do this.

    Ashley Loeb Blassingame (03:24):

    You are listening to the Courage to Change a Recovery Podcast. We are a community of recovering people who have overcome the odds and found the courage to change. Each week, we share stories of recovery from substance abuse, eating disorders, grief and loss, childhood trauma, and other life-changing experiences. Come join us no matter where you are on your recovery journey.

    Ashley Loeb Blassingame (03:52):

    Adam, thank you so much for being here.

    Adam Banks (03:54):

    Oh, Ashley, thank you. It’s, uh, a pleasure to be speaking with you today. I was very impressed. I’ve listened to some of your podcast episodes and, uh, very impressed with your interviewing, and I’m impressed with your podcast. So it’s, uh, an honor to be on your show.

    Ashley Loeb Blassingame (04:06):

    Thank you. Thank you so much. Thanks for being here. Has anyone ever told you that you look like Tom Cruise?

    Adam Banks (04:12):

    Oh, I’m glad you said that. <laugh>, I I get, uh,

    Ashley Loeb Blassingame (04:16):

    I can’t be the first.

    Adam Banks (04:18):

    I get two celebrities while I used to, when I was younger, people said, Tom Cruise more. I’m, it’s, it’s not, it’s fading. People aren’t saying that anymore, but sort of more unfortunately. My name is Adam Banks, and if you know the movie Mighty Ducks, the main character was Adam Banks. So sometimes, occasionally, especially when I go home to Wisconsin and Minnesota where hockey is more prevalent, they see my credit card and they’re like, are you somebody famous? I’m like,

    Ashley Loeb Blassingame (04:41):

    <laugh> And what do you say the movie Ducks?

    Adam Banks (04:42):

    The movie Mighty Ducks.

    Ashley Loeb Blassingame (04:43):

    Yes. The Moody movie, mighty Ducks. That’s great. I love that. There’s some, there’s some stuff from Mighty Ducks that I still think about to this day. Great movie. Talking about that, you grew up in Wisconsin. What was your childhood like? Tell me a little bit about what it was like to grow up there.

    Adam Banks (04:59):

    Oh, I like that segue into, uh, growing up in Wisconsin. Yeah. I grew up in a very small town, a tiny town of 1,883 people. I think the population sign says very remote, basically south of, uh, Duluth, Minnesota. So in the northern, northern part of Wisconsin.

    Ashley Loeb Blassingame (05:15):

    I’m, I’m picturing, um, I was, I’m picturing like sled dogs and

    Adam Banks (05:20):

    Sled dogs and,

    Ashley Loeb Blassingame (05:21):

    Uh, yeah, and, and trying to get around like an Alaskan city.

    Adam Banks (05:25):

    I I would say it’s pretty remote, like northern Wisconsin is, is known for lakes and woods. It’s, uh, oftentimes when people, I’m in New York now and people say, oh, I’ve been to Wisconsin. They’ve been to Madison, Wisconsin, or they went to school in Madison, Wisconsin. And I say, that’s, that’s a world away from the actual Wisconsin, the, the very sort of remote rural areas of Wisconsin.

    Ashley Loeb Blassingame (05:45):

    What was it like growing up in your family in this rural town?

    Adam Banks (05:49):

    Yeah, I, I look back on my childhood so fondly, being in, in Wisconsin, the, the way that people embrace living outdoors embrace winter, you know, it’s winter for a very long time up there. So I grew up outdoor activities and do a lot of, I was a big water skier. There’s sort of a divide between the water skiers and the fishermen. I was a water skier, but just how you really embrace being outdoors. And it’s something I’ve lived in New York City now for, for 20 years and getting outside in New York City while we’re outside a lot, like those outdoor activities are hard to access from New York City. So I, I do miss that part of, uh, living up in the the North woods.

    Ashley Loeb Blassingame (06:27):

    Did you have a happy time through your teenage years? Did you have comfortability E eventually you do come out as a gay man. Is that something that you knew about when you were living at home in this town? Very

    Adam Banks (06:40):

    Much. Part of my story of addiction is growing up in that small town, gay, growing up pre-internet. I think that has a a lot to do with it. Um, a town of 1800 people in the mid to late, uh, eighties, early nineties, there was no gay role models. There was nothing on tv. I knew in my heart of hearts that it was there, but I worked really hard suppressing that. I was popular in school. I was prom king with a woman. I was always dating, uh, a female that continued on through college. The therapy that I’ve done, the, the work that I’ve done now many, many years later, is when you’re living that double life, that’s actually traumatic. I didn’t understand that as trauma until I was 40 years old and working in addiction, we see this a lot when somebody is, you know, I created a completely false persona close to being engaged with a woman around 21, 22, and just working so hard at keeping that a secret.


    It was very painful. It was in my subconscious. I never let it come out of my subconscious living. That putting externally thing that I put out externally was basically fake. I remember being in a lot of pain in the morning. I would wake up and know what my truth was, and the mornings were very, very painful for me. I started drinking very young, sort of normal in Wisconsin at the time. I remember I had my first beer in a bar at 14 or 15 years old in Wisconsin from day one. Alcohol is what I needed. This constant thing that was going on in my mind, it’s exhausting. Putting on that, that fake persona and alcohol just was the thing that calmed my mind down. I drank probably a alcoholically from day one. I needed it to some extent. Alcohol was very much probably saved my life. You know, the, the rates of suicidality and young gay people is much, much higher than straight. So to some extent, I think maybe alcohol saved me. Like I, it gave me something that I absolutely needed at that time, and that was to calm that, settle that pain up.

    Ashley Loeb Blassingame (08:42):

    What does it feel like to not be exposed to any gay role models, but have an idea that something is different while you’re dating women? Are you in, in your head? Are you thinking, I’m, I have feelings about this person, but I’m not gonna think about it? Do you even know what it is? When you say subconscious knowing, like what’s it feel like? What’s the thing in the back? What kind of feelings did that produce for you?

    Adam Banks (09:10):

    I remember just being in tremendous pain. I sort of, one of my nightmares in my mind was that I would be getting married, you know, in the, this big pump and circumstance. My wife was looking the most beautiful that she would ever look on this wedding day, and I knew that I would not be attracted to her. And this thought of being 18 and thinking that I was getting married at 23, and I was very much living the life that I thought I should live. Right? You know, this thing of BS sort of small town. I, I don’t think I saw other lives. So it was, you get married relatively young, and that thought of like getting married at 23 and a lifetime, I look forward and I said, this is gonna be a lifetime of pain and think about all the lies that I told.

    Ashley Loeb Blassingame (09:54):

    So it’s in the, it’s almost worse in the little all day, every day things, it sounds

    Adam Banks (09:59):

    Like all day, every day. It’s like it’s creating, it is creating this third person I had to drink to blackout the intensity of the pain, the intensity of what I was carrying with me. Alcohol was the thing that gave me the relief that I needed.

    Ashley Loeb Blassingame (10:13):

    It’s interesting that while you didn’t have any gay role models and that kept you in this one box, you did have a neighbor who was a different type of role model that got you out of this town. Can you tell me a little bit about that?

    Adam Banks (10:27):

    Going back to the small town, there wasn’t a lot of economic opportunity that I could see, and my neighbor was the richest person I could see. He was a, a pilot for Northwest Airlines at a very early age. Around the same time, we’re talking 15 years old. I said, that’s what I want to do. And sort of the concept today is like, I was actually flying out of this town. It was a way to get a good job to locate someplace else outside of, uh, the city. And it was just the career that I saw. I jumped into that at a very early age too. So at, right, it was this coming of age time at 15 years old, I started taking flying lessons. People always wonder if you can do that. It’s very easy to learn how to fly. Anybody can go to an airport and just get it, pay for an instructor and learn how to fly.


    So it’s, it’s actually, it’s not that difficult to sort of start that. And that was something I could just really throw myself into this sort of identity crisis. I could guise it by throwing myself into becoming a pilot. It’s, it’s not just one license to be a commercial pilot. There’s probably six or seven licenses that you need. And it just gave me something to always do. It was something that I could show externally. High school kid that got his private pilot’s license, it was an external thing that sort of gave me validation and everybody just was like, oh, Adam’s the pilot, and he’s working so hard. I think we see this a lot with young gay kids. If we kind of look at, there’s highly accomplished young gay lawyers. There’s highly accomplished young gay politicians. That energy, I think it’s a repression energy through putting it into something else. And you see certainly fantastic early careers.

    Ashley Loeb Blassingame (12:07):

    Yeah, yeah. So we see those memes online, like what you think it’s gonna be like, and then it shows, you know, the, the glossy photo and then what it’s actually like, you know, what is what you thought it was gonna be like being a pilot, and then what it turned out to really the, you know, the day in, day out be like, what was the discrepancy between those two things?

    Adam Banks (12:29):

    So this, this energy that I put into becoming a pilot, I was hired to be, uh, an airline pilot at a relatively, well, actually at a very young age. I was 23 years old, you know, drinking in my flying career, I don’t wanna say went hand in hand. Pilots work for a block of time. The pilots work three or four days, and then they have three or four days off. It really led itself to binge drinking for law. At the time. It’s, the culturalism was eight hours between bottle and throttle. Having the f a and federal government mandating that you do something is a, a strong motivator. You know, I, I know a lot of pilots I work with, uh, a lot of addicted pilots today. Nobody pushes that. I think it’s highly unlikely that a pilot is under the influence flying. There’s random drug tests, but what are they doing with their time off and sort of this way of being gone and then coming home, there’s a loneliness about being a pilot.


    When you’re a young pilot, you fly the weekends and you’re off Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, your friends are, they’re at work. So there’s these blocks of time that you have off and binge drinking on, on the road. There’s sort of two shifts in a, a pilot’s schedule. You’re either getting into a hotel room early afternoon and there’s the rest of the day, or you’re getting in late and you have, you can sort of go out at night and you’re not showing up into the airport until three or four the next day. So there’s, there’s loneliness on the road. You’re in hotel rooms, you’re uncomfortable. There’s sort of this concept of it’s gonna be a great life out on the road. As a pilot, you have gone to the same city hundreds of times, and when you’re, you’re traveling as a pilot, you’re not, you’re not there on vacation.


    I liken it to, you’ve gone on business trips before. Imagine a business trip that you don’t want to go on. That was kind of this feeling that I had as a, a pilot all the time for every fantastic overnight and a, a great destination. There’s pilots that are hanging out in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, or Grand Rapids, Michigan. You know, that’s when you’re a young pilot. Those are the, the cities that you’re, you’re overnighting in. So there’s just a lot of loneliness in there, and that my drinking, well, I don’t think it interfered with my flying. It was alcoholic and binge drinking on my time a lot.

    Ashley Loeb Blassingame (14:33):

    Do you think that you had you had a different job that you would’ve still, this alcoholism would’ve progressed the same way? Or do you think that this block of time that you knew you could not mess with kept you from drinking all the time?

    Adam Banks (14:48):

    I think we see this in a lot of professions. People absolutely. What they have to do to sort of juggle an addiction and their profession. I don’t think it’s not mutually exclusive that you’re an alcoholic and makes you a bad professional. I don’t think we, we don’t see that at all. We see a lot of very accomplished professionals that these people are so smart, they can be excellent at their career and excellent drinkers. You know, that’s, we’re talking about only an alcoholic can be that smart, that they can, they can juggle both.

    Ashley Loeb Blassingame (15:15):

    So eventually you do make your way to New York City and the drinking progresses because it is progressive. Take me to what happened between getting to New York City and then deciding I really need to get sober.

    Adam Banks (15:29):

    So sort of after learning how to fly, starting with the airline, I was based in Cleveland, and, and that’s where I sort of came out of the closet and I started dating men. It was fantastic fun time in my life. I was actually flying the, the morning of nine 11. I was a young captain. I says, I must have been about 28 years old. Still to this day, it’s hard for me to talk about. It’s still very emotional for me. Nine 11. It’s just, we talk about trauma and addiction. I don’t know why I internalized the pain of nine 11. I I did, which I perceived more than a lot of people, and I think it has to do with sort of the age that I was at. Pilots internalized nine 11 in a much different way than non pilots. You know, I, I don’t want to take away from everybody’s pain from that experience because everybody does have pain.


    And it’s interesting, I go to 12 step meetings out in Long Island where there’s lots of firemen that were in New York City. So I see how different groups have identified with this pain. But as a pilot, it’s your job to protect the airplane. And a pilot has so much pride in an airplane and to see the, the planes used in that way. And I was, I was flying that morning. I was flying, uh, the New York airspace. So I heard some of this going on, and I’ve just really internalized that trauma and in, uh, things that crossed paths. After nine 11, the airline transferred me to New York City, small town kid in Wisconsin. I thought I would hate New York City, 28 years old, just coming out of the, or sort of newly into my, my gay lifestyle. And I, I hit New York City and I hit it hard.


    You see this really common, and people sort of have careers in a, uh, smaller mid-size city. And then they, they end up in New York City. They’re, they’re 28. New York City’s a lot of fun when you’re young, and that my partying escalated very, very quickly. So we weren’t flying much from the, the airline. I randomly, my apartment was right across the street from one of these big gay nightclubs. And I got swept up in that. And I think it has a lot to do with that pain that I was in that, that trauma that I, from nine 11, very quickly I was having so much fun partying that I came up with the i this decision. I still regret the decision today that I sh I should just quit my job as a pilot. And I gave a notice, uh, to my hair airline and quit a career.


    Quite literally, I made this decision on a dance floor someplace. The wheels of the wagon came off really quickly, and we talked about that drug test. Like that drug test with the F FAA was keeping my addiction within some rails. I remember one of the reasons I quit was I was thinking about those drug tests. I’m like, it’s, it’s holding me back. I’m not living the life that I was supposed to live. Like I need to be free. Once I resigned from flying, the guardrails were off my addiction. And it just, it really, really accelerated over the, the course of two years quite wonderfully. I got, I got sober kind of early in the addiction. I say today that it’s the hardest thing that I’ve, the hardest one thing I’ve done at the time, I, I don’t know. I didn’t know about rehab. I didn’t know, I don’t think I even processed that. I kind of came into my understanding my alcohol addiction through my cocaine addiction. I

    Ashley Loeb Blassingame (19:15):

    <laugh> cocaine is a really amazing way of letting you know that you also are an alcoholic <laugh>.

    Adam Banks (19:22):

    Well, yeah. To this day, like, uh, I hear birds chirping and what do birds t chirp remind me of? Birds chirping remind me of waking up, not, not even waking up. Yeah,

    Ashley Loeb Blassingame (19:31):

    But, but the, but the sun coming

    Adam Banks (19:32):

    Up, the sun coming up and taking the last hit mm-hmm. <affirmative> looking at my watch and saying, I’ve gotta be working 33 minutes. Like I, I can sleep for 27 minutes, and then the bird starts tripping. And that, the shame that I felt that first bird chirping, and then of course, more and more come on, that I didn’t sleep, that I did this again. There was really that, that feeling in the morning that, you know, I realized I got a problem with cocaine. So for probably six months, I hung around cocaine anonymous meetings, ca I really tried to tease out my cocaine addiction, and it didn’t really work. I wanted to remove cocaine. I wanted to keep alcohol. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, I, there was, I didn’t process alcohol as a a problem. Of course, at that time, I’m hanging out with a bunch of people that drank the same way as me. What I did come to realize is every time I drank, I wanted to buy cocaine and <laugh>. For me, I proved it time and time again. I only did cocaine when I was drunk. I never wanted cocaine when I was sober. So I, I’m sure it took me two years to realize this, but I had to, that’s when I realized I had to get sober to stop cocaine.

    Ashley Loeb Blassingame (20:35):

    Yeah. Related to that. So much <laugh>. In fact, the, i the thought of doing cocaine without alcohol doesn’t do anything for me, which is saying a lot as a, as a former cocaine addict. But I too, you know, try to tease out the difference between alcohol and drugs. And I know a lot of people do it, and we try to hold onto this, this thing and, and some people, I don’t know, I’m sure you, you hear this all the time, which is, but it’s not my drug of choice. And what really happens for us, if you have the ism, right? Alcohol ism is really an ism. It’s, it can latch onto any addiction. And if you have the ism, if you take one thing off the table, you’ll really learn to like another thing. You know, as much as you liked that past thing. And so people who say, well, it’s not my, not my drug of choice. I’m like, don’t worry, you will find a new drug of choice.

    Adam Banks (21:24):

    I think there’s truth to that. And that’s, we talk about stigma and the word alcoholic, you know, I’m okay with it today. But when you’re young in recovery, considering recovery, you know, the, I still remember not wanting that label. I thought, you know, then, and that was sort of taking the cocaine out. It’s fine being a coke addict, like that’s mm-hmm. <affirmative>, that’s cool. I live in New York City. Yeah. But sort of addressing alcohol as a problem there, I had a lot of stigma around that. You know, today when I’m, I’m working with people, when I’m in a 12 step meeting, I introduce myself as an alcoholic, but that’s the only place that, you know, I’m going to a 12 step meeting to address my addiction. And when I’m there, I do identify myself as an alcoholic, not outside. Outside in the, the real world. I’m so many more things than alcoholic interventionist. I’m a father, you know, a partner. That’s just one part of who I am. But in an AA meeting, that’s who I am.

    Ashley Loeb Blassingame (22:14):

    Yeah. Yeah. Absolutely. <laugh>, absolutely. I remember when I first got sober, I got sober at 19. And when I first got sober, I literally was nothing else. That is, I, I didn’t have a jaw. I mean, I was one of the people who could not do anything other than drink and use. And so when I got sober, I had nothing else to talk about. And I truly was nothing else. So for many years it was like, my mom used to laugh. We’d go anywhere. And I was like, well, I’m an alcoholic. You know, I don’t know what else. I had nothing else going on. And years of recovery, I’ve built all these other things, aspects of myself, but for me, for many years, there was, there literally was nothing else. My whole life had been consumed by that. It is important for us to create other parts of ourselves.


    You do see people who stay in recovery a long time, and they, they’re so focused on the alcoholism, alcohol part. Our alcoholism and our recovery allow us to do other things, uh, that be other things in the world. And I think that’s a kind of a big point of being in recovery, is like you get to separate a little bit from that one identity. And, and I laugh when you say, I didn’t wanna identify as an alcoholic. Well, I think of, I think of how many people pre-identified me as an alcoholic or a drug addict before I ever identified myself as one. I was worried about the stigma of me saying it, but the reality was, it was clear to most anyone who was hanging out with me, that that’s what I was, I was not shielding myself from stigma at that point. I don’t know if you relate to that at all.

    Adam Banks (23:41):

    I see that a lot with working with people. The stigma around recovery, like you were doing, it sounds like crazy bad things, but that was more acceptable to you than this concept of correct sobriety and recovery. And I, I see that with everybody that I, I work with like this concept of if I go to rehab, it’s really bad. Like, uh, my, my problem is bad. But like, you look at your life, like, I, I don’t know why there’s so much in early recovery, hesitation. Like, we can look at our life and it’s a disaster. But the answer sometimes it is hard to look at and, and see and accept that.

    Ashley Loeb Blassingame (24:19):

    What do you tell people who are looking at their disaster of a life and saying, well, it’s better than going to rehab.

    Adam Banks (24:25):

    Everybody says that. Part of intervention, I think, is it’s holding up a mirror with addiction. I think you people get, I call it very myopic, very nearsighted. And as addiction progresses, sort of the year foresight might be to the next use, I was always looking forward to drinking at five or six o’clock. I think that’s probably is kind of as far, like, I had things, dreams. I didn’t understand how I was gonna get there. And I, I think that my prediction made me just very nearsighted. I remember people jogging in the morning at Central Park when I was coming home, and I, like, I couldn’t process how they were doing this. Like, how can somebody be awake 7:00 AM and jogging and, and I was feeling sick and just coming home and it was like, I couldn’t see That intervention, I think is, you’re presenting what life can be. Like I’ve literal really enjoyed my recovery. And you and I have seen so many people have fantastic second chapters. My addiction was great when it lasted. I have fun, but I’m so happy that I’ve got another chapter or multiple chapters.

    Ashley Loeb Blassingame (25:24):

    One of the things that, that you just said that was interesting to me, and this very well may have been my age, people would describe to me what sobriety would, you know, when you’re talking to people about, Hey, you could have this other life, and it didn’t sound that great. You know, the idea of like, you too could get up and jog at 7:00 AM in the park while now. That’s amazing to me. At the time, that was not so interesting. This idea that I would be able to hold a job. Okay, cool. I, I’d be in a committed relationship. Okay, great. There were all these things that people described, and I remember two things that were described to me. One was that I could be happy and that I could have serenity. And I remember not understanding what that meant, really not knowing and I, and also experiencing true serenity and panicking because it, it didn’t feel comfortable. It wasn’t something I understood. Do you have any stories that relate to this idea of having to learn to like new things because you had gotten so far away from them and learned to love this new life that might feel really foreign?

    Adam Banks (26:33):

    Yeah. I think you hit on something there that sort of a better life might, you know, for somebody that’s addicted, like that’s unimaginable to them. Maybe they don’t want it. I always, whenever I, I meet with somebody, like drinking and having drugs is fun. Like they’re, let’s, let’s not <laugh> let’s not say that it isn’t, I think people reach a point when the pain, like when the pain is so great, we’ve heard the saying sick and tired of being sick and tired. If I’m talking to somebody and talking about the pain that they’re in, we see that there’s, you know, damage with the family. Addicted individuals always wanna be a part of the family. Sort of a unfortunate symptom of addiction. The family has to protect itself. It has to push the person away. Friends have pushed the person away. Maybe the employer has pushed the person away.


    The addicted individual becomes isolated. Addiction loves isolation. Right? That’s, that’s where we’ve just seen that in covid. Like so many people were so isolated. We’ve seen that addiction rates increase. I don’t know if addiction rates have increased, but we’ve seen Yes, yes. Visibility of addiction increase much more during covid. And uh, when I talk to somebody and I talk about the pain, like they’re ready to talk about the pain. They are in pain. Do they wanna run in Central Park? Probably not. They want to get out of pain. Absolutely. Do they wanna be a part of the family? Do they want a path back to the family? Absolutely. A hundred percent of the time.

    Ashley Loeb Blassingame (27:50):

    And I think that’s a really good point to stop on, to say that a lot of the time when family members are trying to talk to their loved one, they’re trying to say, don’t you want a happy life? Don’t you want, you know, and they’re, they’re, they’re throwing in things that they like. And a lot of the time it really starts out as just wanting to get away from the pain first and then uncovering what it is that the next chapter is gonna look like. But really believing that we can leave that pain behind. Because to me, selling me on this life that I knew nothing about nor had any experience with and didn’t really, you know, you were saying, well, do you want cocaine or serenity, <laugh>? And I was like, I want cocaine <laugh>. So you know that that didn’t work. But if you said, if you, if we pointed out to me, but cocaine isn’t working very well and you know, these are the things that are happening. Okay, now you have, now I’m listening. But if you’re trying to compare like a cool breeze on the beach and an eight ball, I’m not with you. That’s not gonna work for me.

    Adam Banks (28:49):

    One is more fun than the other for sure.

    Ashley Loeb Blassingame (28:51):

    Yeah. Yeah. I mean it’s just, that’s just the, the way it goes. So I think it is an important piece. Like we start out wanting to get away from the pain and eventually we experience life so differently in recovery, that we get all those things. And now we’re motivated by the things that we’re getting this, you know, something else to talk about. Oh, I’m something who knew I’m something other than an alcoholic and a drug addict. I’m, you know, all these other things. And that helps motivate us to get to the next day. And through the really tough days.

    Adam Banks (29:21):

    You hit on some great points there. And you know, this goes back to the trauma. Whenever 95% of alcoholic drug addicts have trauma associated with trauma. Uh, I don’t know why. Question. Yes. What about the other 5%?

    Ashley Loeb Blassingame (29:35):

    Do you actually know 5% who haven’t had trauma? Do you know them? Have you met them?

    Adam Banks (29:39):

    There are people that use that. It is just fun. Drugs.

    Ashley Loeb Blassingame (29:43):

    Fun. Yeah. But they don’t end up with us

    Adam Banks (29:44):

    <laugh>. They don’t, they can control it.

    Ashley Loeb Blassingame (29:47):

    No, I just mean like, they don’t end up, I’m saying like, of the people who need help. Have you met the ones without trauma? Cuz I have not,

    Adam Banks (29:55):

    You know, traumas in the eye. They go hold it. And this is where I think we kind of get it wrong. One person’s trauma, why was nine 11 more traumatic for me than somebody else? I didn’t have any right to process that differently, but I did, you know, the, we talked about alcoholics and addicts being very smart people. Why do very smart people get caught up in this? And I think it is often that underlying pain, you know, my recovery has been lots of 12 step meetings and lots of therapy. I did not process the trauma of being gay until I was 10 or 15 years sober. You know, I, oh wow. It took me a long time to uncover that.

    Ashley Loeb Blassingame (30:32):

    I feel like we as alcoholics, the feeling is being born on a treadmill and the treadmill’s just on, and the only,

    Adam Banks (30:40):

    You gotta jump on it,

    Ashley Loeb Blassingame (30:41):

    <laugh>. Exactly. And maybe this is why the, the central park running at 7:00 AM was, you know, it’s triggering. No, the, the, we’re we’re born on this treadmill and we are looking for ways to either slow it down or get off or stop and the best fastest. And when I say best, I mean, fastest way to do that is alcohol, right? It’s, it’s short acting. It’s immediate, you know, theoretically you can control it until you can’t. And now, you know, we have to control it with exercise and meditation and all these other things. That’s not the fastest way to do it, but it is a really great way to do it. Long lasting positive results. But alcohol is really good at slowing the treadmill down for a period of time. And I think that description of the go, go, go, go, go. It makes people very successful, but they can’t get off the treadmill. And so we use the alcohol to, as they quote, say, take the edge off. And if you’re not an alcoholic, taking the edge off might be totally fine. But for those of us who are an alcoholic, we just now we’re trying to just stop the treadmill every day, all day long. Cuz it never shuts

    Adam Banks (31:43):

    Off. It’s understanding alcohol as a medication, alcohol, drugs perfectly formulated to hit that perfect receptor. Right? It’s, it’s, it’s a better medication than any other medication than we have. All medications have side effects though, right? And alcohol. I think that’s, why do we get addicted to it? Because it’s so perfect. You know, we have to understand it. It worked for you. It worked for me. It works for a time. Why the alcoholic takes it to the nth degree. I, I think science is still trying to figure that out. We, we don’t quite know why, why some people do and why some people don’t.

    Ashley Loeb Blassingame (32:14):

    I think some of that is the obsession, right? It’s the, like this obsess, you know, you’ll find, I don’t know if you’ve experienced this, but in my recovery, I noticed when obsession is creeping up and it looks sneakily like addiction. So with obsession, you know, you, you find this thing that works and then you become obsessed with it over and over again having the same experience. And next thing you know, you’ve baked yourself into an alcoholic. With my life today, when obsession starts to creep in, it is, it is the form of my sober alcoholic, right? Or whatever you wanna call it, ism addiction. My just crazy hamster wheel is this ability to latch onto things and hyperfocus and hyper-focus can be really great. It’s gotten me great grades before. It’s helped me to be successful and look like a really hard worker. And it’s also been the thing that is like, I can’t let go of this thing. And now it’s maladaptive.

    Adam Banks (33:09):

    I see those obsessions still coming up today. You know, this is part of my addiction recovery. I’m a covid expat from New York City. I moved to the suburbs and I wanted some roses.

    Ashley Loeb Blassingame (33:17):

    I’ve heard that term. Covid, expat

    Adam Banks (33:20):

    <laugh>. It’s great. My partner did not want any roses. He said, it’s a beautiful flower, ugly plant. And the way to trigger my obsession is to tell me not to do something. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. I <laugh>. And he said, no roses. Well, he went on a business trip and I got so obsessed about roses. I was until two, three in the morning. I was on websites. I went to Home Depot. I brought a whole bunch of Home Depot roses. He was calling me up, I was ignoring his phone. He’s like, what’s going on? I was outside planning roses. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, I planted I think 20 rose bushes in this business trip. Well, as an alcoholic, like, I, I was gonna lie to him when he came home, well, you can’t do that. Like my natural inclination, oh, it’s so good. I’ll just cover this up <laugh>. He came home and there was a bunch of roses. He’s like, what the f did you do here? And the shame that I felt like the, the guilt, the story continues. I’m still obsessed about roses. I realize that Home Depot roses are cheap. I got more obsessed. I then got into heirloom roses. So I tore up all the old roses and I’ve now planted heirloom roses. Yeah, you did <laugh>. So

    Ashley Loeb Blassingame (34:22):

    I just loved that you wanted to lie about

    Adam Banks (34:24):

    It. <laugh>, you can’t lie about rose. Like maybe about alcohol. I could get away with that, but not rose bushes.

    Ashley Loeb Blassingame (34:29):

    Oh God, that’s so funny. Wait, I went to a medical spa, not telling my husband, and I got, I, I got this fat dissolver in my face under my chin. And one thing I didn’t realize was that one of the side effects of this fat dissolver is that your whole face comes down like this. Like you, you like look like you have like a bullfrog. And so my plan was to not mention anything to my husband, same sort of thing. And I got home with this full bullfrog situation and tried to play it off. And he was like, who are you <laugh>, how do you, like, that’s not a thing. You can’t, it’s clear you did something and it just reminds me of your roses. Like, so how exactly were you planning on hiding the roses?

    Adam Banks (35:15):

    <laugh> like a true alcoholic. There was no plan. Exactly. There was like, I’m just gonna avoid his phone call. I’m gonna lie about, it’s amazing to me that those thoughts were going through my mind. And you know, to be truthful, there’s the neat saying in 12 stuff, you can’t control your first thought, but you can control your second one. Even to this day, like my first thought is oftentimes sort of this lie, cheat, steal anxiety. How do I get away with it? You know? But thank God I have the second thought. Thank God I, I take the time to get the second thought. I think it’s fantastic that I’ve identified my mental health characteristics as addiction. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, I really understand it. I really understand what I have to do. I think everybody has a mental health issue of some sort. I find a lot of relief in that I’ve defined mine.


    Do I go crazy at times? Like do I do dumb things and try and get away with it? Yeah. My partner laughs at me when I’m doing it. He sends me off to 12 step meetings, <laugh> when I, when I need it. He kind of sees it as I’m, I’m pulled away, I’m down in the basement, I’m on my computer walking around the living room, pacing, anxious. That feeling still comes up. I think that’s kind of the care and feeding of my long-term sort of mental health glitch that is this addiction is treating that sort of anxiety thing that, that

    Ashley Loeb Blassingame (36:29):

    Creeps up on its face are manifestations of these anxiety, obsessions, interests, whatever you, whatever they start out as <laugh>. They,

    Adam Banks (36:39):

    That’s what you call ’em interests. Yeah.

    Ashley Loeb Blassingame (36:41):

    So we, we call them interests. We call them hobbies, but the, our manifestation of them oftentimes many years down the road doesn’t look as destructive. And sometimes you become a really amazing gardener that knows a lot about heirloom roses and it can be a positive thing. We just have to manage it. And that acknowledgement of what is going on is a perfect example of you can use this force and put it for good. And even sometimes when it gets a little wonky and off course we can, we can bring it back and still engage. You know, you don’t have to quit roses. You, you know, you can, you figure out a way like, okay, I’m gonna talk to my people, figure out, you know, where’s the middle ground for me? It’s often my third thought I can do, you know, 17 years in the second hit or miss.


    It’s <laugh>. It’s, it’s, it’s getting better, but I’m, I wouldn’t rely on it. It’s, it’s more the, it’s more the third thought and then I’m still running it by people. And, and when I don’t do that a lot of the time I’ll have the conversation like, I don’t know what the plan I had was I’ve figured out along the way or whatever it is. And so like using that support, a big part of my recovery, and it sounds like yours too, is the fellowship for me, just 12 step and using those people who are also on this journey with me to help me unpack behaviors that to the rest of the world might just look like high achievement.

    Adam Banks (38:07):

    You know, just the conversation that we had here. Complete strangers and you understand and you think that my rose relapse, like you laughed with me and that’s,

    Ashley Loeb Blassingame (38:17):

    I love your rose

    Adam Banks (38:17):

    Relapsed <laugh>.

    Ashley Loeb Blassingame (38:20):

    I don’t just like it. I love your most relapsed.

    Adam Banks (38:22):

    That’s a testament for the magic of sort of recovery is right in 12 step meetings. When I talk about that, people laugh with me and they understand it. We talk to people that aren’t in addiction and they, they don’t understand it. So that, that kindred spirit that we have and that comfortable comfort that we have of, of other people in recovery.

    Ashley Loeb Blassingame (38:41):

    Yeah, it is. It’s a really, it’s a beautiful thing. It’s, you know, you find your brand of crazy and, and it’s very exciting because when you find that things that you think are funny or, you know, situations, like if I try to talk to my parents about some of the things that I think are hysterical, like roll on the floor, crying, laughing, they’re not laughing with me. That’s not funny for them and

    Adam Banks (39:03):

    Bring it to me. I’ll laugh. Yeah.

    Ashley Loeb Blassingame (39:05):

    Exact. Exactly. Exactly. And so it’s this lightness, lightheartedness ability to laugh at yourself. And also, you know, we’re far away from that too. You know, I’m sure, I’m sure a couple years <laugh> a couple years out, some of that stuff wasn’t funny yet and it got funnier the the longer we stayed in recovery. What was the impetus to write your book and tell me about your book.

    Adam Banks (39:26):

    Yeah, my book right back here.

    Ashley Loeb Blassingame (39:27):

    Yeah. Navigating Recovery.

    Adam Banks (39:29):

    Navigating Recovery, as you mentioned, you know, my post being a pilot, I remade myself a couple of times. I, I started, uh, my partner at the time, we started a, a medical company. He was a doctor. And my transition from airline pilot into the healthcare field was because of, uh, somebody that I was, uh, dating at the time. And we built, uh, a company, physical therapy and sports medicine company. Big transition for me, but created just a, a fantastic business. We sold the company right around 40 and I, that, that’s when I was in healthcare. Worked with another company. We were mental health. I transitioned into working with mental health and at that point I started working with addiction. Through that mental health company. I did a lot of interventions. I placed a lot of people in treatment and that’s where sort of I, I cut my teeth unprofessionally as a interventionist and decided to take the addiction part from that company and just focus on addiction.


    During covid. Navigating recovery came to, to mind having obsession. I could write a book, <laugh> mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. I think I’ve written four books. Once I start, you know, I’ve gotta finish it. Navigating recovery is, it’s lessons that I teach people when a family calls looking for help. Families call me up all the time and people call for an interventionist late in the game, right? Like nobody, nobody calls an interventionist three years early. Un unfortunately, interventionist is called sort of as the wagon is completely falling apart. People ask the same questions every time. As a airline pilot, I structure every landing is exactly the same. So I really try to look at every intervention. What is the same in every one of these interventions. I came up with these 12 lessons. When I work with people, with families in inter intervention. If, if they learn these 12 lessons, the family becomes so powerful.


    Sort of the problem with getting somebody into treatment by the time sort of they call me, the situation is just melted down. Families are yelling, you need to go to rehab. And the person is saying F you, I’m not going to rehab. And the dynamic of the family is just really falling apart. If I educate the family on these, these 12 lessons, let’s select a treatment center. Let’s figure out how much it’s gonna cost. Let’s talk about how we’re gonna talk to the individuals who came up earlier in our conversation. If we really organize the family, the family is gonna make the change. The family is gonna get the person in the treatment. The family, families always have the power to do that. They just don’t know what to do. And for years they’ve been hoping, wishing to see a change in this person. Unfortunately, it’s just people are just yelling at each other. Right? It’s just ultimatums at that time. Empty promises, threats. If we organize the family with these lessons, they become powerful and, and they can, it’s always amazing from the first person that calls me up, that first phone call is where a change happens. And it’s often, it’s often a strong sister. Like it’s usually the strong sister that calls me up when there’s a strong sister. That guy’s going to rehab like <laugh>,


    Strong sister, strong wife. If there’s a strong female in the picture, she’s dragging the guy to rehab by his ear. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, you know? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So <laugh>, I actually love that when I get that call from the worried sister, if we organize the family, kind of circle the wagons around the addiction, change happens. Change happens every time.

    Ashley Loeb Blassingame (42:48):

    It’s incredible. As during my training as an interventionist, I couldn’t believe how much time was dedicated to educating the family. Very little time is actually dedicated towards the identified patient, the i, the alcoholic. And it is really, like you said about teaching the family about what is going on and the cohesion. And you know, one of the things that when, when people say, I mentioned this to you before, when people call and say, can you just tell me what to do? Like what to, you know what to say? And I’m like, I, I can’t, it’s not, it’s, it’s a process and it’s a process that you and your family or who, who in family is loose. You know who, who the supportive network is that you guys have to learn more. You have to, that there’s stuff you have to know. It’s not like a just say these things and do these things and then boom, someone goes to treatment or makes a different life decision. That it is so much and it is so much really amazing work with the family. I still have, most of the relationships that I have are with the family members that of interventions that I’ve done. And it’s, it’s extraordinary. They changed probably the most,

    Adam Banks (43:57):

    It’s amazing to see the, the change and get those phone calls a year later or two years later. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, I think you said it best Intervention is a process and unfortunately television has created this Turner intervention looks like sort of this event, you know, that’s part of the intervention process. The intervention actually started long before they call me. There’s been other interventions on this person. The family has tried interventions. I look at the process, it’s never just one event. Usually 30 days or 60 days. If we really dedicate the time and the energy to, to work on this for a period of time. I liken it to a project at work. When you hire an out outside consultant, you know, this is not, if we put all of our eggs in one basket of like a surprise intervention, it’s not gonna work. He’s not gonna go to treatment, he’s gonna slam with the door on our face.


    There’s so much more that we have to do to, to prepare to do this in a positive way. Unfortunately, by the time somebody calls an interventionist, we probably don’t have a lot of time. Often we’re racing job issues. We’re racing, you know, if somebody’s drinking and driving, we’re racing safety issues. This is why I wrote the book. We need to educate the family to get them to a positive place to affect change. Sometimes in two days, sometimes in three days, if we’re lucky in, uh, a couple of weeks we, we have, which interesting over covid, we’ve, I’ve sort of mastered the Zoom intervention mm-hmm. <affirmative> three years ago for however long, you know, we would’ve never thought of that. I’m finding it as such a powerful tool. Family members, the brother in London, the sister in Santa Fe, we’re not flying people. It’s not such a high stakes event. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> Invitational. We invite the, the, the addicted individual. It’s not on their property, it’s, they’ve got the little, they can click out of it. We’re not at a level 10 when we start. Cause it’s a much softer way to start.

    Ashley Loeb Blassingame (45:44):

    So your book is Navigating Recovery Ground School and where can people buy your book if they’re interested in learning more about the things they need to know to help a family member?

    Adam Banks (45:55):

    Yep. The book, navigating Recovery Ground Schools 12 Lessons to Help Families With Intervention and Recovery. It’s available on Amazon, Adam Banks and Navigating Recovery. Uh, or my website, Adam Banks

    Ashley Loeb Blassingame (46:06):

    Awesome. Well, thank you so much for being here, sharing your story. I know it’ll help lots of people along with the book, so I really, really appreciate your time.

    Adam Banks (46:14):

    Thank you for having me. Like I said, I’ve listened to your episodes and your, I think your podcast is fantastic. You, you do such a great job with it. Thanks for having me. It’s an honor.

    Ashley Loeb Blassingame (46:22):

    Thank you. Thank you.

    Ashley Loeb Blassingame (46:26):

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