Mary: Welcome to The Voyage, a podcast for women touched by recovery. I’m your host Mary Foster and I have with me today Cynthia Henderson. Cynthia is the Professionals Program Liaison for JourneyPure. Cynthia, thank you so much for coming.
Cynthia: Well, thank you for having me. I’m glad to be here.
Mary: It’s been fun to chitchat about our families, and that’s probably my biggest passion. I could talk about that forever. But to talk a little bit about work things. What brought you to this industry, the addiction treatment behavioral health space?
Cynthia: Well, it’s a very windy road. I was a practicing…I’ll have to back up a little bit. I was a practicing attorney, and when my…I have four children. When my youngest child went to kindergarten, I decided to become a stay-at-home mom, and did that till she was a senior in high school. Well, actually, I did it after that, but I got sober when she was a senior in high school and was thankfully to be able to work on my recovery for a couple of years, and then realized even though I was a big volunteer because I’d done any number of volunteer positions while I was a stay-at-home mom.
I, of course, chaired every event I could find to chair, and that was back when I liked being in control.
Cynthia: And I, you know, was big into charitable events and volunteering. I still found with no children at home that I was getting bored. And I decided I was gonna get back to work, and thought, “Well, I’ll just go back and do legal trust work.” And I’ve really been doing some personal growth work, really trying to figure out what I wanted to be when I grow up. And because I knew I didn’t want to go back to practicing law.
Cynthia: But I wanted to be able to utilize that education and the experience that I had. And so legal trust work just seemed to be a good fit. So I was talking to a few people and a guy that I’ve met in recovery, he was in town, we had lunch. And he said, “Well, why don’t you send your resume to so and so at the treatment center where he worked.” And I thought he was crazy because I just couldn’t imagine what I could do. I mean other than my own personal story, I knew nothing about treatment. So he…But I did it because, you know, I’m a firm believer that God places people in my life for a reason, and so I thought, “What’s the harm?” Well, I did it and lo and behold they called me right away for an interview. I went in and they hired me. I mean it was just the fastest craziest thing.
And I kept stalling because I just couldn’t imagine…And I think part of it was my ego because I was not gonna be utilizing my law degree doing this job, and I, you know, oh, gosh. I’m an attorney. What would I be doing…I was gonna be like a community rep for a treatment center. And I just got so many big neon signs telling me to do this. And so I gave in and I did it. And it wasn’t my dream job but it was a great way for me to learn about the treatment industry, and a great way for me to meet some amazing people in recovery.
And I did that for a little over a year, and then they offered me a position working with attorneys, to get them to treatment. And…
Mary: Did you feel drawn to being an attorney just based off of like an obligate…A sense of like almost obligation, like, I went to school for this? I like being known for this?
Cynthia: I wanted to be able to utilize my education. I kept hoping it wasn’t my ego, but I think my ego did play into it some. And because identified as an attorney for so long. So but I just felt like this was a very comfortable place for me to be, where I could work with attorneys to get them into treatment. Because I can talk to them and say, “I’ve been where you are. And I know what this is like and it’s hard.” And so I did that for a while, and then had the opportunity to come on with JourneyPure, working with all of their professionals. And that’s just been a lot of fun. It’s been a lot of learning on my part, that it’s been a lot of fun.
And I’d really feel like even though this path has been very windy for me, it’s where I need to be and it’s where I’m supposed to be right now.
Mary: Yeah. And how long have you been at JourneyPure?
Cynthia: I’ve been with JourneyPure since October of 2016. So…
Mary: A couple of…
Cynthia: Almost a year and a half.
Mary: Yeah. And when we use the term professionals, like, in terms of the programming available to the addiction treatment programming, what does that really mean? Like, I feel like anyone could consider themselves a professional.
Cynthia: The way we look at…Well, the way I look at professionals is it doesn’t necessarily mean what degree you have, although that does play into it. It’s more about the professionals that we treat are the people that are then out caring for the rest of the world. If that makes sense?
Mary: Yeah, yeah.
Cynthia: It’s the teachers, and the clergy, and the doctors, and the lawyers who are then out caring for other people in the world.
Mary: Because oftentimes, they put so much of their energy into treating or taking care of or supporting other people that maybe self-care is lacking.
Cynthia: We don’t know how to take care of ourselves. And then we, you know, we still think that we can do it all.
Mary: Right. So when you look at successful programming for people like that, what kind of key components are involved?
Cynthia: I think it needs…there needs to be a level of an experiential is a great form of therapy because we can’t think our way through it. It’s got to be something that we are encouraged to do, that we can’t think our way through or manipulate our way through. And I’m speaking for myself. I told you exactly what you wanted to hear. If we were just doing, you know, cognitive behavioral therapy. But when it comes to experiential, I can’t do…I’m not that good. It has to come from my heart and that’s when we really get in touch with people who are overthinkers and overachievers, is to really touch them in their heart, and not their brain.
Mary: I think so I got to experience a little bit of that at JourneyPure doing an equine therapy sort of group session with colleagues, and it was interesting to notice some of my personality traits with how I did want to be in charge, and be sure to offer my like almost certain opinion that I would know how to get these horses into the thing, despite the fact I have never been in that closer proximity to a horse in my life. But I was like, “Oh, of course, I know how to do this, like, obviously.” And then it was so funny to see it sort of work, and then we needed the one person on the team who almost never speaks, was able to get the last horse into the…
So it’s interesting to see how your personality does come out. Because I am a little bit self-aware, so I’m able to check those things and be like, “I realize I can steamroll people by accident sometimes.” But then when you’re in that setting with the horse, it’s like you forget everything.
Mary: It all comes back out.
Cynthia: It’s like my third day at JourneyPure, I climbed a 45-foot pole. And I mean granted I was harnessed in, that was blade, it was, you know, all very safe. And I knew I was safe, but I’m scared of heights. And I did it primarily because I also have a huge fear of failure. I’m a rather small person, so I wanna be able to prove that I’m just as physically fit as anyone else. And I climbed up that pole and didn’t give it a second thought, and it was…It told me a lot about myself. It gave me just some self-awareness that there are things I can do, whether my motivation should have been, I don’t know. But just the fact that I could do it. And it was very liberating, and really cool.
Mary: It is. I almost still have like leftover baggage from the horse exercise. I feel like I wanna go back and be like, “I’m certain I can do it.” I’m certain I…
Cynthia: Right. Yeah, the horse exercises are interesting because I’m the one who tends to just stand back and watch the other people trying to see how they’re gonna do it. And I like to be an observer.
Mary: Okay. See that it’s probably a better, like, to take it all in before you.
Cynthia: It doesn’t help the team too much.
Mary: I’m like, “Let me blind you leap…blindly lead you on this challenge that I know nothing about.” So being a woman in this behavioral healthcare space addiction treatment, something that I have noticed is there aren’t a lot of us. So in this office that I work out of, in particular, there are…it’s dominated by men, I mean, just numbers-wise. Do you feel that’s the same like out there in the field that you’re in, that is it primarily men or do you feel like it’s a diverse population?
Cynthia: I think most of people with whom I work it is more diverse. The patients that we treat are primarily male, and we get more men patients than we do women. But the people, like, I’ve worked with a lot of monitoring programs in different states, whether it be people that monitor nurses, doctors, lawyers. And a lot of times the clinical staff will be female. But overall, I think in this industry, it is still male dominated.
Mary: Yeah. And do you think that the reason you treat more men maybe than women is that women are less likely to stand up and try to take care of…Like, there’s less willing to care for themselves first?
Cynthia: I think for the same reason that it…I knew 10 years before I got sober that I needed…I knew I needed to get sober, and it was…I still had children to take care of. I had other people to take care of. I had things I had to do, and I couldn’t stop what I was doing to go get healthy. I had to continue. And so and I was a very high-functioning alcoholic.
And I think being a stay-at-home mom also enabled me to be able to, you know, I could get the kids after school and go back to bed if I needed to. But I think there’s a lot of women out there that are doing the same thing that I was doing, that are just not willing to give up their lifestyle, give up. Because that was…Mine was a big fear of, “I’m gonna lose my lifestyle. I’m gonna lose my social whatever. I’m gonna…” You know, there were so many things I was gonna lose and then wasn’t thinking about that I was killing myself, and I was gonna lose my life.
So and I think there’s a lot of women out there. Men are more okay, they show up at work and they can’t do the job, and so they have to go do something. You know there are a lot of women who are working and taking care of families and, you know, need to come to treatment. And they’ll especially, “I can’t do this. I have too many responsibilities.” And I think that’s a lot of it. I think that’s why we tend to see, especially in professional women, we tend to see them at an older age.
Mary: What would you say then, like, let’s say someone was in that position? I mean are there resources for them, or how do you…is it just like you have to make time? You have to ask for help? Like, what is it they should be doing do you think? Locations, if you could address her, if you could see her in her living room.
Cynthia: Well, that’s where I feel like I come in, is that I’m very open about my recovery, and I do that because I want other women to know that I was a stay-at-home soccer mom who was drinking at my closet. And I want people to know that because I know other women are out there doing that. And they’re not alone, and I didn’t know that. I thought I was the only one doing it. I thought…I saw all of our friends drank like I did, but they weren’t drinking in their closet before they went out.
And I thought I was so alone. And I think if I could speak to that woman, I would say, “You’re not alone. There’s help. There’s hope and, you know, you just…” As women, we have to help each other. We have to be that resource. And when I was in the midst of it, I didn’t know there were any resources. So to the woman that’s in it. I don’t know how she finds that resource other than I hope that she’s able to stumble across somebody like me, somebody, you know, like other women that I know that are in recovery, that can help them along and tell them that they’re not alone.
Mary: And so maybe when someone does find the program, the professionals program in particularly, and they complete it successfully, so if they’re looking to restart their career or rebuild their career, is that something they should jump back into right away, or what resource…Is it good to take a step back and maybe change career?
Cynthia: I’m a firm believer in early recovery, especially first thought wrong. I mean, I’ve been sober for a little while now, and I still defer to first thought wrong. I used to just jump right into things, and now I step back and I really look at and I ask other people’s opinion. Because I don’t always know what’s in my best interest, I really don’t. And if you…I would have never said that, you know, 20 years ago. But now I’m, you know, it’s the truth. And I think for women and recovery, you know, if they’ve already got a good career, and they’re able to step back into that, and it feels comfortable, and they’re able to do that and live a program in recovery, then I think that’s awesome.
If they’re looking to do something new, I would recommend taking it slowly. Because we tend not to make our best decisions in early sobriety and early recovery.
Mary: I think one thing too that causes a lot of problems for people that just from the outside watching, is like you hear the term a lot but the work/life balance. So obviously, there’s like some neglect of self-care because they’re caretakers for other people, but then also potentially working too many hours. Especially, I know like lawyers that’s a typical thing, they work a lot of hours, it’s not the normal. How do you find, because you’re still in a very like hype…semi high-pressure business profession. How do you execute work-life balance now, or what does that mean to you?
Cynthia: I understand the importance of self-care now, whereas I didn’t before. I thought that was selfish before, it’s kind of like talking about that bath every evening. And it may be something different each day. Now I do make the time every morning to read, to just sort of get myself centered for the day, and if I’m particularly stressed. I know what works for me now, and that’s a walk. I have to go for a walk. I have to be alone, no music, just a walk. And I take the time to, you know, I go play golf. I go on a hike.
I may do it with friends, I may do it like the hike, I may just do alone. But I take the time to do those things now, and I don’t feel guilty. It’s because if I’m not taking care of myself, I can’t take care of anyone else.
Mary: Did you do any of those things prior to your recovery? Like, have you always loved golf or it’s…?
Cynthia: I’ve always loved golf, but I would drink and play golf. So now I do it…
Mary: So you were never very good?
Cynthia: No, I’m still not all that great, but I’m better. But now I just enjoy being with other women playing golf or with my husband. And just being outside, and just enjoying the moment.
Mary: That’s interesting that you say you love golf. So let me ask you this just as…so my husband also works in this industry. And a lot of working happens on the golf course. I don’t know, and it’s interesting to me I feel almost a little bit excluded because I don’t play golf, and even if I did, like, the women’s tees or in a different spot, so it almost feels like a nuisance to drop like…drive up and tee off somewhere else. Do you feel like, do you ever feel weird about that? I mean, you love golf but so maybe not, but have you noticed that there are a lot of golf networking things and do you ever feel excluded?
Cynthia: There are men’s golfing activities, but of which I’ve not been included. I keep saying I’m gonna invite some people out to play golf, and I have not done that. Because I just can’t quite figure out the right foursome. And because I want there to be another woman there.
Mary: I know.
Cynthia: I don’t know who that is. So I have not used it so much as a networking or business-type activity. For me, it’s more of a just a healthy way to be outside, and being enjoying in the moment.
Mary: You know, big comeback in terms of an industry, and also people just being aware of how important it is for your life, for living long time. But also, I know in behavioral healthcare it’s a big part of it, because when you exercise, like, it’s good for your mental health, endorphins and all that. But it’s also just one more thing to fit into what many people feel like it’s already like a jam-packed day. But do you have a fitness routine?
Cynthia: I do something every day, and it looks different every day. I’m in search of that perfect workout that will be 15 minutes, where I don’t have to take a shower and wash my hair again when I’m finished. That will, you know, I’ll end up with the body that I want and be a little…I haven’t found that. But I do something every day, and some days it’s just a walk, and some days it’s more about something. I love Tae Bo.
It may, you know, but it looks different every day, but I do something every day. I think it’s important to highlight something as basic as a walk, not only as like positive for your mental health, but also as a form of fitness because as self-care is becoming an industry. People, women in particular, are being marketed self-care, and it doesn’t have to be a bubble bath, it can just be a plain bath. And it doesn’t have to be a walk in, you know, your full-on Lululemon. I love fitness gear, so I would be like really into that. But it’s not what is essential to what self-care is. There are a lot of free ways to be fit and mentally fit, and so I think that’s great.
Like, you look great, first of all, but it’s just important for people to know that it’s free, and it’s accessible, and it works.
Cynthia: Yes. It does for mentally and physically. And it’s something that, yeah, like I said, I have to do something every day. If I don’t, I just feels a little yucky.
Mary: Yeah, I found myself, and I don’t know. So I’ve been in my personal fitness journey about a year, and I don’t know if I would have self-identified this way, but sometimes I feel grouchy, and it’s usually when I’m a little bit, I think I’m tired, and I’m just grumpy and admittedly grumpy, and my kids are aware. I’ll be like, “You know how I feel right now.”
And when I’m done I’ll go upstairs, I have a treadmill just because it helps me so much feel happier, and I’m a pretty peppy person. But like, it’s just great and I wish everyone could know that, I think just how much better you will feel. You don’t wanna go up there, no one or at least I know, I’m not like jazzed to go put in some time on the treadmill. I almost always dreaded going in there, and somehow you forget how great you feel afterwards.
Cynthia: Exactly. I have a rowing machine.
Cynthia: And I’ll go up there and just, especially if I’m, you know, just if the weather’s not good, I can’t really take a walk, I’ll go up there and get on that and I just feel better when I’m finished. I don’t know why, but it’s the endorphins or whatever…
Mary: The science will tell you it’s your endorphins, but personal experience is just like it’s great.
Cynthia: And I’m like with that with food as well, if I don’t allow myself to get hungry. Because if I get hungry, I’m not a happy person. So you will find snacks in my purse at all times because I snack. I snack in my car. I snack…My children make fun of me because I always have the snack bag that I take on the airplane, and but they’ll eat my snacks but they make fun.
Mary: Of course, they do.
Cynthia: But yeah, because I have to be…I can’t let myself get hungry.
Mary: Yeah. It’s the same and I’m sure it’s scientifically they’d say something about your blood sugar, but it’s good to just be aware and be like, “I just need to eat.” It’s important. So we’ve talked a little bit about your hobbies that you like golf, hiking, things like that. What blogs, or books, or podcasts, or other resources do you like to listen to for fun and then what do you like to listen to for work, if that’s applicable?
Cynthia: Honestly, I like to just turn everything off. I quit watching news about nine months ago.
Cynthia: Just as a conscious decision and my life has been so much calmer. If there’s something I need to know, I depend on my husband or one of my children to let me know or someone. Otherwise, I just don’t…I don’t wanna hear about it.
Mary: I think a lot of people aren’t aware that it’s a for profit business, and so they do sometimes…I mean, they play off those emotions, people get emotionally invested, and you feel like things are worse than they were. I don’t know a few years ago, but it’s most likely just that this media is so much more accessible, and you’re bombarded with it.
Cynthia: And so that didn’t answer your question, but that’s something I do like to turn off. If I’m traveling and I’m driving for a while, I’ll listen to a podcast, the most recent one I listened to was Ian Cron on the Enneagram. I also like to listen to Becca Stevens, she has little two and three-minute podcast about…Like, the last one I listened to was she found God in a Kroger parking lot. And I just I like those little listening to those things. That’s, it brings me Joy.
Mary: Do you have a book? So a lot of times people, like, professionals of all varieties will have a book that they swear is like the book, you should read it. I think I’m trying to remember what some of them were. There was like a four, “The Four…” Josh reads them all the time. I forget, so I don’t read books, I prefer blogs and web content. But is there a book that you feel like is the book people should have or read?
Cynthia: I have a book that I go back to every once in a while, it’s “The Four Agreements.”
Mary: That was it. The four, there are four of them.
Cynthia: Yes. Yeah, that’s one of my…It’s on my iPad. It’s a go-to book for me. And my boss has suggested I read a book right now called “The Advantage.” It’s downloaded on my iPad, and I’ve read the introduction.
Mary: Yes. Step one.
Cynthia: Hopefully I will get that read. Honestly, if I’m on a vacation which I’m just gonna read something, a murder-mystery that’s just, you know, has nothing to do with my life. It’s just a great way to escape on a vacation. But as far as…I actually…one of the books I’ve started reading recently is “The Adult Children of Alcoholics.”
Mary: Okay, yeah.
Cynthia: Big book basically. And it’s just fascinating to me that I’ve missed out on that all my life, and the insights I could have gained had I known earlier. But the things I’m learning now that, “Oh, my gosh. Other people had the same childhood.” So it’s very fascinating for me, and that’s sort of my before I go to bed reading right now.
Mary: We had a colleague of mine, he was sharing a little bit about his mom is very active in Al-Anon, you know, he’s in recovery and she’s very active in Al-Anon. And she was saying how fascinating it was that mothers of Alcoholics all had very similar traits, and did similar things, and had similar personalities. And it was just fascinating. Like, and I think just talking about those things, and making people more aware. And like you’re saying, it’s not just you. Like there’s a whole community of people who feel this way is so wonderful. I’ve noticed, too, there’s a little bit of a shift in the culture of anonymity. I don’t know if you’ve noticed that at all, but it not only works to break down the stigma. I think that’s great because successful people are sharing that they’re in recovery, it’s all walks of life, but have you noticed that as well, just about the culture of anonymity?
Cynthia: Yes. I think more and more people are becoming more open with it. And I understand the reason for anonymity. One being, if you’re a successful, say, a pediatrician.
Cynthia: People that don’t understand recovery may not want to bring their children to that person. Personally, I would prefer my doctor be in recovery.
Cynthia: But so that’s one aspect. The other aspect of it is, you know, people are out there, they’re talking about, they’re in AAA, or they’re in this or whatever and then they relapse. Then, you know, it’s not.
Mary: There’s a pressure.
Cynthia: There is. And so, for me, I spent three years trying to get six months sober. And I tried to keep it a secret the whole time from everyone. And I mean my husband knew, my children knew. But it wasn’t until I just said, “You know what? I give up and I don’t care.” That I’ve been able to stay sober, and I’m open about it and it got me into this industry. And I mean, I believe this is where, you know, the path as I was saying earlier, the path that I’m supposed to be taking, and that and it wasn’t until I was open about it and very honest. And it’s not for everybody, but that’s good for me.
Mary: Yeah. Do you ever miss working in the legal profession?
Cynthia: I don’t miss practicing law so much. I do miss the interaction with other attorneys, and I mean, you know, like, there are meetings that I can attend that are lawyers and recovery meetings. And I tend not to go only because they’re late at night, and I’m in my jimmies by then. But I think that’s why I enjoy going to conferences because it gets me interacting with like-minded people. What I don’t miss is all the cocktail parties and those type things that I had to go to when I was practicing.
And you know, I wouldn’t wanted to have to do that now so much. But honestly, no, I really miss it. I miss some aspects of it. But I really…I don’t really miss it too much.
Mary: Where do you see yourself headed for your career? Like, are you in your ultimate position? Is this it for you? Or do you not know and that’s fine? Or do you have something you’re working toward?
Cynthia: I’m very happy where I am right now. And I could just do this and be totally content because it brings on new challenges for me, and I like challenges. But I don’t know where I’m gonna be, and that’s okay. Limbo used to terrify me and now I look at it as, I don’t know. I don’t know where I’m gonna be, and that’s okay.
Mary: I have a hard time personally knowing if this is it. Like, I think it’s my competitive spirit probably, but you assume you’re always supposed to be working toward the next goal, and then I also am fully aware because this happened to me in my last position, what happens when it’s so stressful sometimes, and the pressure is so intense that it doesn’t drive with my other personally stated goal of work-life balance, and being able to be the one driving my kids to soccer, and all the things.
So being back in the workforce, after taking some time off, it’s interesting. I don’t know. I’m super happy in my current job and love it and I want to almost learn that that’s what many people do. Like, many people get a job and they like it and that’s their job, or am I gonna be the person who’s always like, ” Yeah, but what is the next thing I need to do and how can I be the best one at this job?”
Cynthia: In my previous career I was always looking for, “Okay, what can I do next? It’s gonna be better? What’s gonna be the next best thing.” And it’s very liberating to be content where I am. And maybe, you know, I mean, I’m a little older than you are and I’m content where I am. And but if something changes and I go some…you know, something…I head in another direction, then that’s okay, too. And I used to have my 5-year plan, my 10-year plan, my…And now I don’t know. I have no idea and that’s kind of liberating, too, just to not know and be okay with that.
Mary: And it’s different. Some people have a financial motivation, you know, they have a certain maybe salary that they need to make, or just set out that they want to make, but when you take that off the table sometimes, like, for me, I’ve seen what it…My family is able to sustain when I’m not working at all, you know, like, so it’s not that I have to be here for financial purposes. So it’s really just then you…The spotlight shines on the fact that it’s a personal goal.
And then I almost feel like a pressure to be like state that personal goal. What is it? Are you working just to have colleagues? Or, and so that’s something I’m sort of thinking through right now, and just it’s interesting to hear other people’s perspectives. Like, are you constantly working toward something? What should we be doing?
Cynthia: Yeah. I’m just, I’m content and I’m happy with that.
Mary: That’s so great. Thank you so much for coming to do this, and being our very first guest. You came highly recommended to me.
Cynthia: Oh, thank you.
Mary: To reach out to you. Are there any events that are coming up that you’ll be at that you may connect with people at, or…?
Cynthia: The end of this week, I’ll be at the CAPTASA Conference in Lexington. Next month I’ll be at the Mississippi Addiction Conference, and then right after that at the CAMP TLAP, it’s the Tennessee Lawyers Assistance Program retreat. And I’ll be there, Tamara Roth, Chip Dodd and Phil Herndon will all be presenting at that conference as well.
So those are just the ones I have coming up, and then right after that is the National Organization for Alternative Programs Conference.
Mary: So just a very light schedule.
Cynthia: Yeah, just a few. Then I’ll be traveling in between those times seeing people. So yeah, just a little bit on my plate coming up. But that’s okay, I like to travel.
Mary: That’s great. Well, again, thank you much. Thanks to all the listeners. If you guys want to reach me I’m on Instagram and Twitter @maryellisfoster. We would love it if you would rate and review our podcasts with all of the stars that are there. The Voyage podcast is produced by Todd Schlosser and is a part of the JourneyPure Podcast Network. Our next one will be in two weeks, so come back and join us.
Cynthia: Thank you.
Mary: Thank you so much.