Andrew: I’m so happy to have Austin Eubanks, the Chief Operations Officer at The Foundry Treatment Center located in Steamboat Springs, Colorado on the phone with me today. Austin, thank you so much for joining us at Serene Scene Magazine.
Austin: Thank you. I’m happy to be here.
Andrew: Well, I want to start with your tremendous background and we’re going to use your story to lead us into The Foundry and your work there, but can we back up the clock many years and can you tell us about your very interesting experience in your teens?
Austin: Yeah, absolutely. I think that interesting is a good term, to put it lightly. So, I was a person who turned to addiction as a result of trauma. When I was 17, I was one of the students who was shot in the Columbine shooting. I was injured, obviously and then I also lost my best friend right in front of me which was the most traumatic thing that occurred. And so, as a result of that experience, I was prescribed a variety of substances that were necessary at the time for a short period of time, but the prescriptions kind of continued on for me in perpetuity and I started to learn how to manage emotional symptoms with substitutes that were not prescribed for that.
And so, it was a matter of months after columbine that I describe myself as being in active addiction and I really had no predisposition for that. I had no familiarity with addiction. It didn’t run in my family. It wasn’t something that I was aware of and it took me quite a few years to even realize that the way that I was using these substances was not appropriate. And so I held onto those false core beliefs for many, many years and it wasn’t until that I found long-term recovery for myself that I developed a passion for this work and decided to use my story and my experiences to help others.
Andrew: You were talking about the significant trauma that you experienced in your teens and that followed you for how long, for how many years, until you recognized that this trauma is really impacting your life in a very significant way and that you’re self-medicating?
Austin: Well, that experience happened to me when I was 17 years old shortly before I turned 18, and it wasn’t until I was 29 that I found long-term recovery. However, I would say that it was probably about six or seven years later that I realized hey, my behaviors around substances are not appropriate and I have a problem and it took me a while to figure out the best course of action to figure that out for myself.
In 2006, I went to treatment for 30 days and that was when I first got the spark of, “You know what? something isn’t right, these stories that the people around me are telling sound very, very familiar.” But I still had that false core belief of I’m abusing prescriptions primarily. And I was prescribed these substances, because this traumatic event happened to me and it was almost like my past. It’s okay that I use this, because this happened to me. And so, after I left that, I immediately went back to previous behaviors.
And with that treatment experience, I kind of went for the wrong reasons. It was at the urging of both my parents and my wife at the time and my employer. And then, in 2008, I elected for the first time ever to go to treatment for myself. Because, as we all know, it’s a progressive disease. And my consumption continued to increase, the symptoms that came with that continued to worsen. And I realized that if I didn’t figure it out, I was going to have a much bigger problem on my hands. And I went to treatment for 90 days in 2008 and I got 8 months out of that experience. So I started to figure out things that were working for me and started to work the steps and really, subscribed to a lifestyle of being in recovery.
But the problem was that thinking started to creep back in. Well, you know what, I just had a problem with prescriptions. And because of that, I could probably drink and I would be okay. And so then you start drinking again or I started drinking again and slowly, but surely that thinking started to progress and I drank from what I perceived to be successfully for a few weeks. And I was like, hey, look. I drank for a few weeks, nothing’s happened. I can smoke weed. And then sure enough, it all started to fall back together. And then before I knew, it I was right back to my drug of choice which was opiates. And so, I continued to worsen and then it was finally in 2011 that I achieved long-term recovery.
I continued to find new lows and new rock bottoms, and I finally went to treatment with a willingness to that I had never had before and I remember sitting down at my therapist’s office. And I just said, tell me what to do. Tell me how to walk. Tell me how to talk and I will do it, because I’m done fighting. I don’t have the answers and I’m ready to figure this out, and I stayed at a continuum of care at that time for 14 months that slowly transitioned me from residential to transitional to sober living back to independent living with monitored sobriety. And before I was done with that accountability, it was 14 months of sobriety and that put me on the path to where I’m at today which is 5.5 years sober - four years working in the industry and proud to be here.
Andrew: It seems that so many that are afflicted by this disease of addiction have that traumatic experience in their backgrounds, probably not as traumatic as yours, but nevertheless, some trauma. What did you find really worked well to expose that trauma for you, so that you could deal with it and then deal with the addiction?
Austin: I mean, I would definitely agree with that statement, that it’s so prevalent. And I think that, from my experience, the reason why people are more drawn to it isn’t because of it being more traumatic than other experiences. It was just because everybody has an emotional attachment to that. Columbine was one of the events that, if your age 30 or above, you remember where you were and you remember what you were doing when Columbine occurred, similar to 9/11 or perhaps the Oklahoma City bombing for some of us that are a little bit older. And because of that, everybody has this emotional attachment to that experience. But by and large, I’ve worked with people in my career that have profound trauma that I would describe as so much more severe than my own. And so, I’m always cognitive of that and not positioning my trauma as being more severe than somebody else’s or anything. It all ties together and it is all trauma.
But the way that mine was able to come to resolution? Many times in my life, I would have therapeutic modalities that were designed to just get right to the trauma whether that be EMDR or a multitude of things. And for me, it actually took allowing It to come to light and resolve in more of a natural way. And so when I went to long term treatment, I actually went to a therapeutic community. And so for those who know about the modality of a therapeutic community, it’s all about awareness and peer accountability. And so, that awareness of my surroundings and the way that I was interacting with my environment combined with long-term sobriety allowed those things to start to come out naturally. And I remember going through the stages of grief that I should’ve experienced at age 17 and age 18 that I couldn’t engage with, because I was so heavily medicated. I was doing that at age 29. I was going back through the stages of grief and it was just textbook.
I can remember to this day, the way that I was able to come to resolution and I was feeling that survivors guilt and everything that came with it. And so for me, that was how it was able to come to resolution and I think that part of the reason for that is my life was so Tumultuous because of the way that I was living, because of active addiction, that it was trauma after trauma after trauma. None of which were as profound as Columbine but it was these micro-traumas and it continued to just bury everything inside of me. And it was very hard to sort that out. And so when I was trying to engage in a modality that was designed specifically for trauma, it was hard for me to pinpoint what trauma it was.
I mean, do we want to talk about the divorce? Do you want to talk about being estranged from my children? Is it the loss of jobs, the loss of friends? Everything that comes with the lifestyle of active addiction. But, for me, staying in that continuum of care long enough, it allowed everything to come to resolution in time. And I think that that’s really the most important part is the time that it takes to sort everything out that comes with a decade more of active addiction.
Andrew: You mentioned earlier, step work, and I’m assuming 12 steps is a part of your recovery effort. How does that work into your regimen today?
Austin: It is, I mean, it very much is. And The Foundry is a 12 step program. But I’m always careful about the way that I present 12 steps. Because I’m a firm believer that there’s a path for everybody. And there’s not one path that fits all. And so for me it was definitely multiple modalities that led to my recovery.
So my residential treatment experience was not a 12 step program, it was a therapeutic community. They didn’t talk about the 12 steps at all. It was behavioral, it was pure accountability, and it wasn’t until I got back into more independent living that I was drawn to the 12 steps because of the fellowship aspect of that.
And so there’s been multiple times of my life where I have worked the steps because of all of the principles that are so important to recovery. For me specifically, that making amends was a huge part, and I think that’s something that’s lost in the therapeutic community modality.
And so, I am a part of a 12 step recovery community today, and it’s something that we promote at The Foundry because it’s the easiest way to get around a bunch of people, of like-minded individuals, that are all striving to hold each other accountable for living a better life. And I think that, really at the core of recovery, that’s what’s so important.
Andrew: Are you able to speak openly and freely about your background, your trauma and your background, at 12-step meetings? Is that received well?
Austin: Yeah I think that going to as many meetings as I have in my life, there’s been times where it has been, and there’s been times where it hasn’t been. So the things that I talk about today, aren’t really surrounding that experience. So for me, and in my own path and my own journey, that experience for me has been resolved. I’m at peace with that. And a lot of the things that I experience and the adversities that I experience in my life today aren’t really tied to that experience. They’re much different. And so the things that I talk about today aren’t really geared towards my previous traumatic experiences. They’re more in the present. And so the only time that I’m really discussing Columbine today are if I’m in an environment where I’m sharing my story similar to the one I’m in today.
Andrew: Well, let’s talk about The Foundry for a moment. It’s located in Colorado, Steamboat Springs. What is The Foundry all about?
Austin: So, The Foundry is an adult residential, long-term addiction primary treatment center. Our residential treatment program is 90 days, and then we have an outpatient program that is another 90 days as well. And those really the two entry points to our program. You can either come into detox in active addiction and transition to the residential program. Or if you have some previous level of stability and you’ve been to treatment before, so you have the fundamentals of recovery, you can come directly into the outpatient program.
And so we have a continuum of care right now where we could keep people for six months. And by the end of 2017, we’re also going to have a long term silver living component here in Steamboat Springs that we’re really, really excited about, that’s going to allow us to keep people in the continuum of care for a year or more, under the management of the same clinical team. And so we’re really, really excited about that. Because as I’ve talked about today, we’re huge proponents of long-term treatment. And really removing this, kind of, antique philosophy of the 28 day fix because that’s been proven ineffective in my opinion. And so we’re really, really excited about that.
Our approach to recovery is rooted in the 12 steps, but we design our curriculum in a fashion where we’re actually able to engage people who are resistant to the 12 steps as well. Because our curriculum is a multi-modality approach, but we take a principle of the step, and we apply it to an entire week of the curriculum. So everything that is done, all of the education groups and all of the experiential therapy that’s done that week is going to be rooted in one of the principles of the 12 steps. And that’s how we designed the 12-week curriculum. So for somebody who is resistant to the twelve steps, they’re still going to get the education that the 12 steps affords, without a lot of the things that I think people historically have been resistant to. So we’ve found a lot of success in that regard.
We do equine therapy, horticultural therapy is one of things that we’re really, really proud of. In harvest season we have about 30% farm to table, and that’s food that’s grown from the seed level on the ranch. So our residential treatment program is on a 48 acre ranch, in Steamboat Springs, and obviously a working garden and an orchard. And for one hour a week, participants are out there working with our two staff gardeners, and learning about the benefits of growing their own food, and just getting their hands in the soil. And that’s something that our participants have really enjoyed and been drawn to. Combined with that, our core philosophy is really that recovery is from a place of whole body wellness. So they have yoga four times a week. We have 1,000 square foot gym on the ranch. They have open gym every day, and then they have structured fitness with a personal trainer three times a week. All of our food is locally sourced organic. Our executive chef is actually in long-term recovery himself. So he talks about the benefits of limiting sugar in regards to cravings. And we don’t allow caffeine after 9 AM. We’re a nicotine-free facility. So really it’s designed for somebody who wants to find recovery from a place of full body wellness, and the outdoor experiential therapy that we do really supports that as well.
So, in the winter it’s snowshoeing, it’s cross country skiing, it could be ice fishing. In the summer we’re doing mountain biking, volunteering at least once a month, and doing a variety of things in the town. And participating in all of the fitness activities that Steamboat has to offer.
So, it’s a It’s something we’re really, really proud of. And only being 18 months old now, it’s a pleasure to be able to talk to you today and really get that message out there.
Andrew: You mentioned continuum of care and the length of stay several times. So let’s really dig into that for a moment. Many people say that the continuum of care for that first year of recovery should at least be 12 months. Why do you think that length of time in that initial year, or maybe in a year plus, is so important to individuals?
Austin: Well, in my opinion, it’s because at the end of that year, your brain is fundamentally different than it was at the beginning. So you’re naturally going to have a different response to stimuli than you do at 30 days, or 45 days, or 60 days post active addiction. And so I know that in my own personal experience, that was, it was really between the 12 and 18 month mark that I had that, what I call a turning point. Where it was, you know what, I can live this way for the rest of my life happy. I can do this. And I think in talking to others, that experience is very common. That, recovery isn’t always easy. And it gets easier with time. And I think that that’s common for almost everybody.
There’s very few people who come into recovery and just say man, this is it. I want to get it and I’m passionate about it and I’m going to have that forever more. You definitely go through ups and downs for the first year, or sometimes more. And so, having enough accountability in your life for that period of time is incredibly important.
Because, like I said, with those ups and downs, you want to make sure that, on the downs, you don’t fall to a point that takes you back to active addiction. And, it’s the accountability and the support that you have around you that prevents that from occurring. Because you know, those lows are going to happen.
But what are you going to do when they happen? And if you’re in independent living and you’re focused on your career, and you’re focused on all of these other outside stressors it’s much, much easier to just turn back to substances. As opposed to being in an environment or having a system around you or, at minimum, a supportive counselor or therapist combined with monitored sobriety that will prevent those slips from occurring. And if they are to happen, there’s a supportive system around you that can put you back on track much, much faster. So you don’t go down that rabbit hole, as I describe it. Things start to perpetuate. And then it snowballs. And before you know it, you’re, multiple years later, back in active addiction.
Andrew: It can certainly be difficult to try to convince someone in early recovery that they need to really commit and invest that energy over the long term, in order to greatly improve their chances of long-term sobriety. How do you go about trying to get the patient’s buy-in to stay engaged?
Austin: Well, a number of ways. One is talking about experiences that others have had that have been in recovery. I think the most important person in the room is the newcomer. And everybody shares their experience, strength, and hope with them and when they hear that story enough I think that some people will automatically buy into that. But combined with that, at The Foundry, we afford an environment that is fairly accommodating as far as the ability to buy into. So we’re not a luxury facility. Everybody has a roommate and there’s chores that need to be done, but with that, we have a wonderful menu of food that’s available for participants. And, combined with the gym and all of the experiential therapy that we have in the environment of Steamboat Springs, Colorado, it becomes much easier to buy into that long term continuum of care. And our hope is that the majority of our population will choose to transition over to our Long term sober living, and actually transition to independent living.
And so the goal of The Foundry isn’t just to transform individual lives. We truly want to transform the energy of recovery in the town. And automatically when you start to discharge a population that’s motivated for recovery, and they’re staying engaged long term, those people are going to start new businesses, some of which will be rooted in recovery.
Others are going to start sharing/chairing meetings. And so automatically the town starts to have a better energy around recovery because of the motivated people that are choosing to stay in the town. And so that’s what we’re really aspiring to do with The Foundry and the continuum of care that we’re building here.
Andrew: I have to ask the question, why is The Foundry called The Foundry?
Austin: Well that’s a wonderful question. So our founder and CEO: his family’s lineage is in gray iron casting. So his great grandfather started the Auburn Foundry in Auburn, Indiana in the early 1900s. And that grew to be multinational. And at one point they had 80% of the market in cruise ship engines. And so that was really his experience in that. And the similarities between taking metal that’s old and discarded and actually, you know putting it through the process of melting it down and casting into something new that’s a functional part. He saw the similarities between that and his own personal experience and recovery. Therefore, we got the name The Foundry. It was a combination of his experiences and similarities, as well as the financial aspect that it was the business that allowed this business to come to fruition and helped to fund us in our early phases.
So we’re definitely very proud of our name. And our slogan of forging new lives, because that’s really what we’re doing here is forging new lives.
Andrew: I know that one of your passions is trying to address the stigma that is so firmly attached to addiction. How do you go about doing that in an effective way?
Austin: Well, for me, and this is a relatively new experience for me, but it wasn’t until this year that I said, you know what? I’m in a place both personally and professionally where I think that I’m comfortable sharing my personal experience to help others. And my story of addiction Is actually quite common.
For a large part of my addiction I woke up every day and I put on a suit and tie, and I went to work. And I was using all day. I had drugs in my desk drawer. And so when I talk about that to others, addiction affects everybody. And specifically when I go into communities that don’t have the knowledge that perhaps you or I have, they see addiction as this thing that only affects a homeless population and it’s these people living under a bridge. And that’s addiction. So when I go in and see, I speak to them as I’m speaking to you today and say this was my life. This is what turmoil was for me and this is what my rock bottom was for me. I think a light bulb goes off in people that hopefully, yeah, you know addiction doesn’t discriminate. It affects everybody and as a result of that I’m going to be more aware if the behaviors that the people around me are exhibiting, that my children are exhibiting.
I’m going to talk to my kids about addiction. I’m not only going to talk to my kids about addiction, I’m going to talk to them about prescription substances that they’re ingesting which is a big part of the work that I do. Because when I was initially prescribed pain pills or things like Diazepine, I had no idea what those drugs were, or what they were going to do to my brain, or the fact that I could even become dependent upon those.
The first time I ever experienced withdrawal, I thought I had the flu. I remember laying on the bathroom floor and actually Googling what is withdrawal? What is happening to me? I had no idea. And I think that our society is progressing in that regard. I think there is a lot more education around prescriptions than there were in the late 90s. And I’m very proud of the work that we’re doing there.
Andrew: Well, what was in the future for The Foundry and for Austin Eubanks?
Austin: So, we’ve got a lot of exciting stuff going on. I’ve talked to you today about the launch of both our transitional and long term sober living. And so that’s really the next big thing for 2017. Right now we have four beds in our detox combined with 12 beds in our residential treatment facility. At the end of 2017, we’re going to have 40 beds spread over four phases, to actually keep somebody in that continuum for a year or more. And so we’re really, really excited about that. And beyond that, we haven’t talked much about it. So, I think that we’re big in, let’s figure out a plan for this year, let’s make it work great, and then we’ll talk about next year when we get there. So for now, that’s what’s on the horizon for The Foundry.
And for me, I’ve been in Steamboat Springs now for eight months. And I’m enjoying the seasons here, and skiing, and fly fishing in the summer. And so I’m very much looking forward to that. And I will be getting married next month, and so that’s something that’s coming up for me. And my honeymoon is on April 9th, and so I’m looking forward to that. And aside from that, just loving life, and loving life in recovery. So, I’m very blessed and proud to be here.
Andrew: Well, congratulations on your upcoming marriage. That’s exciting news.
Austin: Absolutely, thank you very much.
Andrew: Austin Eubanks, Chief Operations Officer at The Foundry Treatment Center in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. I want to thank you for joining us here at Serene Scene Magazine today.
Austin: Thank you. I appreciate you having me.