By Janae Jean & Spencer Schluter
Our guest this episode is Michigan-based author and speaker Scott Stabile. Stabile has a devoted social media following, including over 350K Facebook fans. We discussed his latest book, “Big Love,” social media, failure, success, pain and healing. You can learn more about him on social media @ScottStabile or on his website www.scottstabile.com. –J.J.
Janae: Welcome Scott to the Conscious Community Podcast! We are excited to talk today about your book, “Big Love”, and your experiences, your failures, your successes and your advice for our readers and listeners. So thank you for coming on the show.
Scott: Thank you so much for having me. I’m excited to be here!
JJ: Your book, I just finished reading it. I enjoyed it. Thank you. I’ve noticed you’ve talked a lot about authenticity in your book, and I really feel like that’s an important issue. We actually had JP Sears on our first podcast, and he talked a lot about being authentic yourself and accepting your weirdness. I felt that you were doing that as well. Would you like to talk about an experience that made you realize that being true to yourself is key to happiness essentially?
Scott: Well, I could think of many experiences. I mean I would certainly say the first thing that comes to mind would be my sexuality. I am a gay man, and it took years to become comfortable with that fact. Not just to acknowledge it in myself, which took a long time, but then to come out to the people in my life and to the world. I have to say that that was one of the most freeing experiences of my life. I mean it didn’t all happen at the same time. The more I was able to own my sexuality and be okay with who I am, and then start to share that with friends and family members and live my life in accordance with who I am. There’s no accounting for the amount of freedom that comes from living in your truth. So that’s certainly one example of it for me.
Spencer: One thing that I have seen in my own life, and that I have been trying to cope with, and get my mind around, is the external pressure that you get from society to conform or to be a certain way. I really got to the point where I’m just kind of like, “Look, this is me; and I will be miserable and unhappy if I don’t just be who I am. If anyone else has a problem with that, that’s their problem; it’s not my problem.” Do you feel like that’s really a fundamental human right, to be who you are? Or do you think that everyone should conform to society, and do what’s expected of you and that there’s something wrong about being different?
Scott: No, I’m not a big fan of conformity and conditioning. I believe we’re all conditioned from day one to be a certain way, to fit into a certain box, to believe a certain faith, to do this and to do that. So much of life, so much of the journey of life, especially if you were choosing to journey through life with a bit more consciousness and a bit more awareness, a big part of that journey is going to be, as you were saying, coming to terms with parts of yourself that are falling prey to that conditioning and moving beyond those parts. I think that the only way we can do that is with some really deep self-exploration because we’re told from such a young age to be certain ways that we don’t even often know who we really are. We don’t even really understand what is true for our heart and what is a part of this conditioning. It’s only when we do some deep exploration and start to recognize like… “Wait a minute. Do I believe this? Or was I just trained to believe this, and this doesn’t really resonate with what’s going on with my heart.”
When you can start asking yourself those questions, and when you can be honest with the answers, and start living your life in accordance with those answers, you start to see that you’re automatically going to be different. No one can fit into the parameters that are expected of us. I’m always encouraging people to be who they are world because what happens it’s like… Spencer, you’re working on it in your life; I’m working on that in my life, and the people who see us and see the work we’re doing in the way of authenticity, they’re going to I believe… Some people are going to judge us, but people will always judge no matter who you are, so let them judge you for your truth because they’re going to judge no matter what… But more than that, you’re going to inspire people to show up in their lives authentically. They’re going to be inspired by your choices and how you are being courageous enough to be who you are and to be different. There’s no saying how many lives you going to touch when you do that.
JJ: It’s interesting in the current political environment, the idea of being true to yourself and knowing what you feel versus what those around you feel. There’s a lot of pressure to be a part of a “tribe.” It’s almost like tribal warfare is going on in America. What advice would you have for people who are in a situation where they feel like they cannot be true to themselves because they will be exiled from… let’s say… their community, their tribe?
Scott: What I would say in general is, if you’re finding yourself unaligned with the tribe around you, in a way it’s affecting your life negatively, I would really look at why you’re choosing to be a part of such a tribe. I write a chapter in the book about my experience being in a cult. I was a part of the community for 13 years. It took me a year to get from the time that I knew I needed to leave to get to the point of leaving. In part, because I understood that if I walk away from this guru I could lose my community of friends, and these were the closest people, they were like family to me, and that’s exactly what happened. I left him, and he told them to leave me, and that’s what they did. When we are looking around seeing that were not resonating or connecting with the choices and actions and beliefs of those people that we’re bringing in to be our closest family or friends… It’s always worth asking, “Well, wait a minute, what’s going on? If all of these people are thinking one way, and I’m thinking something totally different that’s at complete odds with what they are thinking, why am I choosing these people to be my tribe? How might I be limiting myself, the possibilities, to engage, invite, attract others who might be more aligned with who I’m trying to be in this world and myself?
SS: That was my own experience. I had spent from fourth or fifth grade to age 35 seeking approval from my family and my community. It seemed like no matter what I did I was never making them happy. I looked at myself in my early 30s… I was 25 pounds shy of 300 pounds. I felt like I was going to drop dead of a heart attack. I was miserable. I didn’t like my job. I didn’t like my life. I thought back to who I wanted to be when I was a teenager, and I was like, “This is not what I want.”
As soon as I started that process of trying to rediscover myself, and go towards the life that I always saw, what goals and directives I had for myself, my “tribe” so to speak reacted in utter horror and acted like I had just totally lost my mind and completely rejected me. I had very painful experience of having to totally rebuild everything from the ground up from nothing. When honestly, I kind of wish I had never tried to do that to begin with and stayed true to myself that whole time. I wouldn’t have had to go through the process at mid-life and rebuild everything. They probably would have rejected me when I was 17, instead of when I was in my mid-30s. At least I would be that was closer to those goals and so trying to reach them again in midlife.
Scott: Hey, but kudos to you, man, for doing it in midlife. Some people just go through their entire lives and never make the choice that you made. They never find the courage within to step outside of their conditioning, or outside of the tribe, and actually live in accordance with their heart’s desire. I understand your perspective in feeling like it was later than you wish it would’ve been. But I look at my life at moments I think, “God, I wish I would’ve learned this sooner.” But we do it, when we can do it. I ultimately trust in the timing of things, like we do it when ready to do it. I congratulate you for making that choice.
JJ: I agree, Scott, that things happen on the timeline they happen on for a reason. Perhaps you weren’t ready mentally, emotionally for whatever that you are moving towards.
You have quite a large Facebook following. How social media has played into your career, and how it has changed, or even created, certain paths for you?
Scott: It’s been huge. Without Facebook, “Big Love” wouldn’t even exist. My book wouldn’t be here. I know the publishers were really excited about my writing, but they were also really excited that I could show up with a platform already in place. From that perspective, in terms of career and writing, it’s helped incredibly to have a large community on social media. On a personal level, it’s been even more important. The support and love that I feel, on Instagram too, but especially on Facebook… because that’s where most of my community is… it’s been extraordinary. To watch it grow over the past five years, and to watch it shift. To see people sharing really honestly about themselves. To see how I’ve grown from the sharing just really positive “Pollyanna” type posts to really speaking about my fears, my insecurities, my pain and my story and watching the community respond in kind, it’s been a really powerful outlet for me. I know that social media gets a bad rap, and I think it in some instances it’s warranted. Certainly, in this environment, you referenced the state of our country and world right now. In this political environment, there’s a lot of ugliness happening on social media. But I feel like we can take responsibility for the type of page we create, and the type of energy that we have when we’re showing up. I’m really trying to be conscious about how I’m showing up to my Facebook page, even when I’m discussing politics or provocative issues. I don’t always succeed at this, but I’m trying to bring more empathy and more compassion to the conversation. Because I don’t want to fuel the division; I don’t want to spit more vitriol on the fire of hatred that’s happening in our country. I think we can use social media incredibly positively, if we choose to, and when we choose to, again, we encourage others to do the same and think that we can have a powerful impact.
JJ: I agree, I feel that in itself it’s a totally neutral thing, it’s up to us to make it something positive, and not focus on only the negative aspects, such as bullying, the trolls, etc.
SS: One thing is, because I am pretty active on social media, and a common critique that I’ve heard is the sentiment that by talking about so-called “negative things” that that’s being negative. If you talk about abuse, or if you talk about drug abuse, or if you talk about the bad things that’s “being negative.” I’m not sure exactly if it’s just upsetting to people I don’t want to hear things that are upsetting, or even sometimes expressed by these kinds of people.
JJ: The Law of Attraction… Some people take it to the point where…
SS: Yeah, they’re taking to the point where you’re making these bad things in the world happen by talking about them. I always felt that part of being conscious is that you don’t necessarily want to nonstop hammer on about “Positive, positive, positive, you know, everybody love, Kumbaya, hold hands” because if you don’t discuss the hard things that is not helping solve the problem. They’re still there. They’re just happening behind a layer of stigma, behind a layer of denial and that’s, if anything, making it worse.
Scott: I agree with you completely. There is the term “spiritual bypassing,” and I think that that exists a lot with “spiritual people.” I count myself among the “spiritual people,” the personal growth, metaphysical people, people are people seeking greater consciousness. I get comments on my page like that as well, Spencer, where people will say, “You are feeding the negativity by even bringing it up.” I think that’s it’s just an avoidance technique, I think.
We live in a world, and in a country, that is such an addicted society. We are so averse to being in our discomfort being and feelings that are anything but comfortable that we are constantly numbing ourselves and we are constantly escaping. Some people are doing it with drugs, some people alcohol, and some people shopping and whatever else; and some of us are doing it simply by avoidance. We’re professing that we’re vibrating at a “higher spiritual vibration,” but for me, that’s not real; it’s nonsense. I believe in higher spiritual vibrations, but I think to ignore the injustices that are in our face in this world every day, all over the place, and to pretend like that by not engaging we’re somehow vibrating on a different level, it’s just not real. It feels bogus to me; it doesn’t feel like we’re being honest with what’s going on underneath. If we’re not willing to be honest with darkness, and if we’re not willing to be present in our pain, if we’re putting a wall up to that experience, believe me, we’re putting the well up to the light as well. We’re putting a well up to the deepest possible connections we can be having with others. We can’t really be selective in that way, I don’t believe.
SS: I guess one analogy I would use is, if you made millions of dollars running a sweatshop in Indonesia and your wife goes to a yoga retreat in Peru with the money you made. She’s very relaxed and very “enlightened” sitting there on a beach during her yoga poses with a guru. She may feel relaxed and happy and safe and calm but at the cost of great injustice. We can use all that “enlightenment,” all that centering and strength that we get from higher consciousness, to go out and deal with these problems, instead of using avoidance strategy to pretend that none of is happening. That’s something I really tried to do; all this stuff gives me the strength to be able to deal with the hard stuff.
Scott: Yeah, that makes sense. I have yet to meet somebody who is really feeling all good and peaceful all the time, even if they’re saying that’s the case. It’s not real. People are lying to themselves. We’re telling each other that you can choose happiness whenever you want. You can’t choose happiness. That is not how life works. Happiness is a feeling, and we can’t choose our feelings. We’re putting all this pressure on each other to be happy all the time, and to be “Zenned out,” and to be peaceful all the time. I have to say, I have fed that in my life and in my writing. I do it, but I’ve recognized more and more that we’re not serving each other by suggesting we need to be all “peaced out” and “Zenned out” and happy all the time because that is not the reality of being human.
I’ve met very wise people in my life. They still get stressed out sometimes. They still get angry; that’s the reality of being human. The difference is what I find in the people I see who are the most peaceful is that they seem to have the deepest acceptance around whatever they’re going through. Even if they’re stressed out and angry or whatever, there’s often a level of acceptance to the experience. In which case, you’re not adding to your stress or to your anger, by your frustration with the fact that you’re being stressed and angry. You’re just kind of accepting right now, this is what’s moving through me right now, and it will move through me and I’ll be feeling something different whenever I feel something different. That’s how feelings work. I think we end up adding a lot of extra pressure on ourselves to be perfect spiritually and to always be this or always be that. It makes the experience even worse than it has to be. [Laughs.]
JJ: Absolutely. On a similar note, talking about negative emotions, you had an experience where you wrote a movie which turned out to be a flop that you talked about in your book. Can you talk about failure, how to respond to failure, or how we can turn something it into something positive?
Scott: Sure. Well, we all know failure. I don’t think anyone who has experienced any sort of success did so without overcoming however many failures to get there. I wrote a movie that was a profound flop. It is still the lowest grossing wide release film in history, so it’s really the biggest flop ever.
JJ: In a way that’s sort of a success! [Laughs.]
Scott: Yeah. Exactly. I’ve got the biggest flop of all time behind me. [Laughs.]
In that chapter, which is called “Flop,” that failure, it forced me to look at failure and success through a couple different lenses. I put so much of the success of my experience writing the film on how it did in theaters and how it was received by critics without honoring the journey of writing a film. The fact that I have a lot of incomplete scripts on my computer right now, and the fact that I finished this screenplay. The fact this screenplay was turned into a movie, like are these things not successes along the way?
I think that we tend to be very hard on ourselves and get very discouraged by failure in general. The reality is we’re all failing all the time. If you’re unable to move beyond your failures, or if you keep yourself from taking risks because of the fear of failure, you are doing a profound disservice to yourself. To anyone listening, I would say, “Expect to fail in life. That’s part of it, and just keep taking chances.” I also came to view, around the film, was how do I really define success. What is success for me? Is success a movie that does really well in theaters, is that how I define success for my life? The answer is “No.” When I really looked at what it means to me to be a successful human being I feel most successful when I’m aligned with the energy of love. When I’m acting from compassion and kindness in my life. When I’m showing up my relationships from that place, I feel like I’m being successful. Make no mistake, I fail in that world as well, and I fail in the world of personal development a lot. I’m not always showing up in a loving way, in a kind way, and in a patient way. But I can bring awareness to those moments, to get myself back on track, and that will always be success for me. Trying after a big failure, the fact that I didn’t let “The Oogieloves,” which was the movie, keep me from writing and keep me from sharing my creativity, that’s success. Moving on from our failures in a courageous way that will always equal success. We can’t let these fears rule our lives. I say this as someone who has let fear of failure, of judgment, of change, of the unknown, I’ve let it rule a lot of my life for a long time, and I’ve come to find that they don’t have to. We can simply move forward with our fears. Recognize them; recognize I’m afraid of failing. I have a new book out, and I just told you what success really means to me, around love and all that. My mind and my ego are still consumed with like, “I hope the book does well, and I hope people like the book. I hope they don’t think I’m a crappy writer.” All of those things are also natural, and I understand that. When we sink into what’s really, really important and meaningful in our lives, we’re usually going to come back to love and all of the things that love and connection invite in our lives.
SS: I was going to mention something earlier when we were talking about social media… Did the process of writing for social media warm you up to the process, was that part of your process, of eventually writing a book? Were there pieces of what you did in your book? Was that in the posts that you were writing? Were you working on the craft of writing? That’s kind of how I feel. I feel like at a little paragraph at a time, a lot of the ideas I’ve developed and a lot of the worldview that working on, what I really want to say, I’ve been working out, just little bit at a time through social media. Was that at all a part of your experience?
Scott: It was a big part of the experience, yeah, absolutely. Several of the chapters were much shorter posts on Facebook. I took some of the posts that I felt really resonated with people, or the posts that I really liked, and just expanded dramatically, and made them into something much meatier. A lot of the book started on social media and just the practice of writing you. I’m sure you both have books in you. We all have books in us if we want to write them. The practice… the habit of posting regularly, engaging with others, getting a sense of how people respond to certain things that you write… Not that you have to let that dictate what you choose to put in your book, but it’s always interesting to see how people are responding to certain messages. I think that the Facebook page in every way imaginable has played into the creation of my book.
JJ: In that sense, it’s interesting how things are more collaborative now for creatives. For example, you wrote another book, which you crowdfunded. Do you want to talk about how the process of using crowdfunding and how that first independent book lead into this book?
Scott: Yeah, the first book was called “Just Love,” and I wrote that a couple years ago. The process of crowdfunding for me was excruciating. It was a really provocative experience for me. Ultimately, it was really great in ways and really painful. Painful in that, it provoked so many of my insecurities. Not only are you putting your creativity out there to the world, but you’re asking them to support it. My strength, I would say, is not in marketing myself overtly like that, and it’s not in asking for money for my creativity. A lot of artists aren’t really great at that. I’m becoming better and trying to be more conscious around money and art and all of that. With crowdfunding, you’re putting it all out there. You’re saying, “Here I am; here’s my project, will you please support it?” There’s that element where all these fears and insecurities are being provoked. Then it’s 30 days, which doesn’t sound like a lot of time, but it feels interminable because the first couple days there’s all this excitement and everyone supporting it. Then there’s this long lag-time in the center where it feels like a lot of dead energy, and then at the end again there’s all this excitement because it’s coming to an end. Some people, all the procrastinators, I count myself among the tribe, they wait until the final, last moment to support it.
It was a beautiful experience; in that, you’re realizing that people… I was fortunate enough to fund my project and you see that people are taking your work seriously. They feel impacted by what you’re doing, so much so, that they want to support it. They feel excited about supporting it. Then the moment the funding ended, and I knew I made it, and there was this “Thrill, thrill, thrill! Oh my God, this is exciting!” Then you’re hit with, “Oh my God, now I have to deliver the book that I promised everybody!” Then it’s the fear and terror of that. I’m making it sound really, really horrible, but the truth is that there were really horrible elements to it for me. There were also really exciting and beautiful parts of it. Creating the book was wonderful, and I feel really, really happy with how the book turned out. I was really excited to deliver that book to the people who supported the campaign. Again, that led me to this book now, which I went through a more traditional publishing route and signed a book deal and had that experience, which has been wonderful.
All of these things have played a part in it. I started my Facebook page because when I wrote “The Oogieloves” the PR guy said, “Hey, you should get a page going to interact with fans and to promote the film.” That was the whole reason I started a Facebook page in first place. The film flopped, so I didn’t have anything to do around the film. I suddenly had a Facebook page. What do I want to do with it? I started to write about the things that are important to me. “The Oogieloves” again, you can look at it as failure or whatever, but that is what launched my Facebook page and my Facebook page is what led to this my books coming out. You’re planting seeds all along the way.
SS: That’s kind of like where I’m at. I wouldn’t be able to do this podcast, or any of the other projects I’m working on, without all of the abortive attempts of things that I’ve done over the years, where I learned the things that are now coming into play.
JJ: I wanted to ask you, you mentioned how you had spent 13 years in a cult. Now you consider yourself on the spiritual path still. Was there a healing period? How did you go from having your spiritual life dictated by a guru, and then change to be able to find where you’re coming from your true self?
Scott: Well a lot of what I responded to, with the guru, with the cult, with that community, was in alignment with who I really am. We were constantly talking about unconditional love and unconditional friendship and being present with our darkness and our pain in an honest way. So everything that was happening in there, not everything, but a lot of what was happening there, felt really right. That’s why I was got involved in the first place because it felt like, “This I get, this makes sense to me, this is how I feel and what I believe.” What ultimately discouraged me from staying there was recognizing that the guru, the leader, wasn’t who he said he was. There was a lot of manipulation, a lot of lying that went on in the cult, a lot of words and actions that felt outside the bounds of love for me. That’s why, ultimately, I chose to move on. So when I chose to move on, it wasn’t that I needed to find myself because I felt like I’d long been on a path of love. I knew that that was my path in this lifetime, so that stayed the same. Moving away from him as a teacher was also fairly easy and that I was really ready to leave by the time that I left. I was really disheartened by his path and his way of doing things. What was brutal was losing a community of 25 friends who was seeing all the time and spending most of my time with, and all of whom deleted me from their lives overnight. So that was really the biggest shock and the hardest part of moving on from that point of my life was just grieving the loss of a family.
SS: I think that’s a really hard thing to learn, it doesn’t necessarily have to be a spiritual teacher, but if you have some kind of mentor or a teacher who you put up on a pedestal and you learn a lot from the point where you realize that they are not only human too, maybe they aren’t such a good person, after all, is really difficult. It’s easy to reject some of the things you’ve learned. It’s easy to be really confused disheartened. A lot of people are in denial of that; going back to stigma and not wanting to talk about the negative things that are happening in the world. Some really terrible things are allowed to happen perpetrated by these types of people because their followers are in denial. Their whole world is going to collapse if they admit their priest, or whoever it is, is abusive. The Catholic Church, they’ve had their scandals. There’s a real deep divide in the Catholic community between people who want something to be done about it, and then you got on the other hand people who want to deny that any of its happening because if they admit that is happening it just destabilizes their worldview. In the meantime, people are being hurt.
Scott: Oh it’s true.
SS: That’s really where a lot of the biggest conflicts in my life have been that I’m not going to shut up to protect somebody’s feelings about whatever it is. I feel like people are being hurt and exploited, and that may be painful and that may be a difficult truth, but as a human being, I owe it to the people who are being hurt a lot more than I do to the people whose feelings are going to be hurt if I do say something.
Scott: Absolutely. We need more consciousness in the world overall, on every level. We certainly need more consciousness in our world in the realm of injustice. We need to be willing to little look at honestly what’s going on in this country on so many different levels, just how sexist this country is, just how racist this country is, just how homophobic this country is. We need to be honest with these things because there is no healing that happens within denial; it’s not possible. Until we start acknowledging what’s going on, and our place in what’s going on, we’re not going to get to the other side of it. Luckily, happily, I feel like more people are. It doesn’t necessarily feel that way all the time because it’s such a dark political reality right now. The other side of that is I feel like more people are waking up in a different way. In many different arenas, waking up spiritually, waking up politically, waking up socially and all different arenas, and its happening because, I believe, because the darkness it just feels so big and so overwhelming that it is shaking people out of this zombie shell that so many of us live it and have lived in it. I understand, look I’m not professing myself to be so is always spoken up about everything or who even speaks up about everything still, but I’m certainly not the zombie I once was. If we want to create more healing and compassion and consciousness in this world, I believe love makes noise in the face of injustice. So we got to keep speaking up.
JJ: In a similar vein, talking about healing, as a writer do you feel that writing is a way to help yourself heal? We’ve talked to guests about this, about the process of art and how the creative sphere attracts broken people. Do you feel that the pain in your life has led you to be a writer and that writing is therapeutic for you?
Scott: Yeah. I’ll say a couple things. One: I think that it everybody’s broken to some extent.
JJ: That’s definitely true.
Scott: I think the creative spirit maybe attracts people who are willing to play in that world and look at it in a different way. Writing has been a huge gift for me. In terms of healing and growth and understanding; I’ve used it. Writing the book certainly was a very empowering experience. There are a few chapters that are fairly heavy. Writing those chapters and reliving those pieces of my life brought up a lot of emotion. I welcome emotion and re-grieving, if that’s what’s called for, in the moment. Even beyond the book, the moments when I’m working through stuff in my journal or on the computer, if I’m really reaching and angry about something, I vomit it out on the page and work through it in my writing. It always serves me, and I believe it will serve anybody. I think writing is such an amazing tool to process pain for anyone who knows how to write. Most people listening, I’m assuming you know how to write, which means you can write. I’ve often been so surprised by what I start when I want to process something in my writing and where I end up. Where I end up is often has so much more text of clarity and understanding and consideration of ideas and outlooks that I didn’t even consider when I first sat down to write. That’s one of the gifts of writing. I think it’s a great tool, and all the arts I think are great tools for processing everything. For me, writing is my “go-to” for that.
SS: In your book, you talked about how the heroin epidemic has touched your life. It’s something that has touched my life. At this point, most Americans have at least somebody in their lives that have been affected by it. One of the things, and I’ve also asked other guests about this, that I really struggle with, is the conflict between wanting to help someone who is grappling with addiction. It often takes the form of addiction, but it may be some other destructive impulse in their life, whether it is gang involvement, or any type of behavior that’s dangerous and suicidal to an extent, or suicidal ideation, whatever it may be. Where does the line between trying to save someone and being a violation of their own will by trying to force help on them? Where is that for you? Where do you draw the line between offering help and refusing to engage anymore because they will not help themselves? At some point, you’re putting your own stability, your own safety in jeopardy, if you continue to try and help someone who is going to keep repeating and repeating and repeating that behavior. Where do you draw that line? How would you how you describe that?
Scott: I think it’s a great question, and I think it changes with every person, in every instance. For me, it hasn’t been clear. For every friend or family member who’s been going through something that I’ve decided to engage with, it’s been a different circumstance. I think ultimately it comes down to considering a couple things. I recognize, in general, that a person is always going to be responsible for his or her own choices. So that, no matter what I do and how I insert myself in the situation that that person ultimately is going to do whatever he or she wants to do. One: I think it’s important to release yourself of ownership over another person’s choices, especially with people who are dealing with addiction. How can we possibly take responsibility for another person’s addiction? We will beat ourselves up. We will blame ourselves for what we are doing, but ultimately that’s not for us to own. I say that because I think it’s important for us to recognize that, so we can let ourselves off the hook owning it. So that, we know when we go into helping another person, as much as possible, without an attachment to the outcome because we have no control over the outcome. In terms of how much you, for lack of a better word, should help another person I think you always need to be checking in on where you are in your life, with your comfort level. “How is it feeling to be involved in this person’s addiction or in their recovery?”
I write a chapter… but I feel like I didn’t show up for a friend who ultimately ended up dying of prescription drug overdose. I felt like I showed up for him later then I could have, and I did that because I didn’t want to be involved. My brother OD’ed on heroin and he died. I grew up in a very addictive household. I was living with a man, as a friend, who ultimately ended up becoming addicted to prescription drugs and everything in me wanted to run. I made that choice, not to be involved, but I don’t think I was showing up as a great friend by making that choice. I think I was protecting myself, but I think I could have potentially done both. I think I could have set boundaries for myself and still shown up for my friend in a stronger way. I ultimately showed up for him down the line; he ultimately ended up killing himself, and I mean dying from drugs. It’s not clear whether it was suicide or an overdose. Ultimately, I recognize that I could’ve shown up for him in a stronger way as a friend and I couldn’t take responsibility for what he ultimately did. We have to constantly be checking in with ourselves, in our friendships in general. “Are we showing up to the best of our abilities as a friend? Are we creating boundaries for ourselves within our relationships that allow us to show up as best we can?” We have to continually ask ourselves those questions and reframe our connections based on how we’re answering those questions.
JJ: In your book, you made some interesting observations about the nature of forgiveness. You talk about your parents being murdered and having to come to terms with that. You also mention people who feel that they don’t need to forgive. Can you elaborate on those ideas?
Scott: Sure, well look, I believe in forgiveness. I basically how I view forgiveness is that it’s “love.” It’s mandated, love. If I see something as unforgivable to me that means that the darkness that lives in someone’s actions is greater than the light and love that lives in my heart. I simple don’t believe that’s the case, so I’m committed to forgiveness. I think the path to forgiveness is empathy in 9.9 out of 10 times. It’s when we take the time to imagine what like to walk in that other person shoes who’s wronged us. When we take the time to consider their struggle, we are more likely to find our way to forgiveness. When I talk about, not everyone has to forgive; I mean no one has to do anything they don’t want to. I’m committed to forgiveness, and I know because I’m committed to finding my way there.
I did a workshop where a woman came up to me afterward and told me about her stepfather who abused her when she was a young girl and that she would never forgive him. He had caused her too much trauma to this day. She was telling her story and sharing your experience, and I understood that she doesn’t want to forgive him. What I was feeling from her though, was that she was still on some level being ruled by this experience. Obviously, it’s a very traumatic experience, and I’m not trying to belittle her experience in any way. I felt like she was not able to move forward in her life the way she wanted to in part because she hadn’t found a way to forgive the man who did this to her many, many years ago. That was what I was feeling about the situation, which may or may not be accurate. I just think that we know what it’s like to hold on to blame; we know how toxic that feels in our system. We know what it’s like not to forgive; we know what it’s like to hate. We know that those feelings don’t ultimately serve us. If by not forgiving someone you’re not free from the experience, I encourage people to look at the possibility of forgiveness and to consider their empathy and compassion in doing so.
I have another friend, and I write about it in the book, who is married and loves her husband, but had a really bad boyfriend cheated on her; he was just a bad, bad boyfriend in a lot of ways. She hasn’t forgiven him, but she doesn’t think about it; he doesn’t factor into her life anymore. She’s not controlled by the past in the way I felt like that other woman was. Look, for me, forgiveness is a choice I am going to make. Forgiveness feels like freedom. I don’t want to suggest that everyone has to make that choice. I believe it’s always going to benefit anyone who makes that choice, but there aren’t rules to how we have to live our lives.
SS: One experienced I had, and I’m not going to rehash all the details, I’ll bore everybody when I write a book someday. I was in a situation where there were a lot of people who were going through all kinds of trauma and troubles. I felt like a man in a shipwreck with drowning people all around me, and they were dragging me down. I was trying to help, and every time I was trying to help, there was somebody else who was even more in need. They were all clawing at me. I was totally, totally overwhelmed by the situation and not trained or able to deal with it in any way. Coming out of that experience, I was very lucky to have friends of mine rescue me from that experience. Coming out of that experience, I’ve had a lot of people be very judgmental and say, “Well, how can you hang out with those kinds of people? What do you expect if you hang out with those kinds of people?”
I’m curious if you think it’s denial, or if it’s just naïveté. I don’t think most people realize just how bad a lot of people have it in this country and around the world that you know we have some very safe little enclaves around this country where things are very normal and happy-seeming on the surface level, but there’s a whole lot of misery in this country and a whole lot of places where that is just the norm. I don’t know if you could speak to that at all.
I have a friend who moved from Boston, she moved away from Boston because everybody she knew was overdosing. I don’t know if there’s anything you can say about that. I feel like we are in a crisis state right now. It’s kind of like we’ve gone this far, we have not talked about it, we have ignored it, and it has not fixed things. It is really at a breaking point where we have to start talking about subjects and figuring out a way to deal with them. It is not a reflection of you being a bad person, if you move to Boston to go help deal with the opioid crisis, you are not “hanging around the wrong kind of people,” so to speak. This is life for millions of Americans. I don’t know if there’s anything you have to say on that. I feel like your experience with your brother and everything is probably more common a lot of people realize who are not exposed to that or maybe they don’t want to admit that it’s happening in their own hometown.
Scott: Yeah, I agree. If there’s one blessing from the opioid crisis that’s happening right now, it’s that more people are recognizing that this isn’t some isolated event that affects that bad person over there in that neighborhood because it is a crisis. It is affecting so many different families, in every demographic. I think that we are having more conversations about it. I agree with you wholeheartedly that we need to be talking about these things that are difficult to talk about. That’s what I was saying a little bit earlier, until we start discussing them, until we start being honest with the experience of them, we’re never going to move beyond them. The reason why… you’re asking why do people not… Is it denial or avoidance? I think it’s a mix of everything; but I think in general, we live in a world… that yes, it’s very beautiful and there’s a lot of life and there’s a lot of wonderful, wonderful things about this reality… But there is so much pain and so much darkness and so much violence and horror, and all of these disgusting, disgusting things that people are overwhelmed and don’t want to face it. I think with social media and the news the way it is now, the inundation of information, is completely overwhelming.
I think people are more caring than maybe we even give them credit for in general. But it’s like how you process… you were talking about your experience being around a lot of people and it dragging you down and you needing to escape it. Well, if you watch a half an hour of news and hear about six different countries with different civil wars going on and poverty and human trafficking. It’s too much to process. I really think that along with having these types of conversations, we’re saying, “This exists; addiction exists.” One of the other blessings that could come from the opioid crisis, and I don’t think that it’s a blessing that it’s happening…
If I look at another gift that can came from it, if some of the stigma around addiction because those addicted to drugs and alcohol still have this horrible stigma placed on them… instead of approaching them and the situation with the intention of treatment and recovery and embracing them as brothers and sisters who are in need of support, we’re jailing them, ostracizing them and stigmatizing them. It’s the exact opposite of what we need to be doing. So maybe the fact that this opioid crisis is spreading into so many communities will help lift that and help show the need for more treatment and support instead of stigmatization and imprisonment.
These conversations need to happen we need to be more vocal. We need to be more open. What you’re doing with your podcast is a manifestation of that. What I’m trying to do with my Facebook page the manifestation of that. People are out there doing this. They are out there trying to bring these conversations to the forefront in a different way. You’re going to inspire others to do it simply by the fact that you’re doing it. That’s ultimately all we can do.
SS: I thought about doing a podcast probably…well, I’ve been kicking around the idea for years…but I really started thinking about a year ago because I’ve been through this horrible experience and ranting and raving on social media a lot. I was very, very angry at first, and most of I things I had to say were very angry at first. After a while in my head, my tone had changed. I was more trying to discuss solutions and trying to dialogue about these subjects. All same subjects we’ve been talking about. You don’t get tone of voice in writing like you do in spoken communication. I had been so angry and people still perceived what I was saying as angry. I had a number of people say, “You should do videos, you should do YouTube or do a podcast or something.” When they talk to me face-to-face they don’t get that same…I mean well sometimes you do [Laughs.] …the same degree of anger. I’m really just trying to find solutions and doing this podcast is really my way of trying to address these issues. Maybe now after I do this for awhile I can go back and write a book once I’ve set the tone. I really want people to hear it my voice what I’m trying to do here. I don’t necessarily get that in a wall of text on Facebook. People tend to think that if you write 750 words in a Facebook post, you’re totally irate.
Scott: Absolutely. They’ll attach whatever meaning they want to attach to your words.
One other thing I wanted to say was also the idea that we don’t have a lot of control over what’s happening on a global scale, but we absolutely have control over how we’re showing up in our communities. How we are choosing to be of service in the world right outside our door. In that world, we can make a profound impact. That’s how we can touch people. That’s how we’re so often touched by people, simply by that connection. You watch the news in the world all in flames. Yes, there’s a lot of crises out there. Yes, that’s all very real and important needs to be addressed. The other side is when you walk out your door, you’re just going into the community and interacting with your neighbors, you come to find that most people are just focused on living their lives, taking care of their families and doing their jobs. When we can become more and more immersed on the micro level we have a much better odds of reflecting on the good that exists in this world too. Feeling a bit more hopeful than hopeless.
JJ: Absolutely. I’d like to thank you, Scott, for coming on the Conscious Community Podcast.
SS: Where can our readers get your book?
Scott: It’s online everywhere. It’s in most bookstores. If it’s not in your local bookstore, please have them order it for you, but you can get anywhere. There’s an audiobook, I do the reading of it. It’s everywhere, it’s easy to find. However you like to read your books.
JJ: How do people find you on Facebook?
Scott: If they just search for me “Scott Stabile,” find me on there. Then on my website ScottStabile.com. If you’re into Instagram, I’m on there, too. I’m pretty easy to find.
JJ: What’s up for you next?
Scott: “Big Love.” It’s all about “Big Love” right now. I suspect I have another book in me at least, but not right now. I’ve been just doing a book tour for the book, just promoting the book and feeling it. It’s only been out a month, so it’s been exciting. That’s what I’m doing.
SS: Thank you so much for coming on. It was a great conversation. We look forward to seeing more from you and will be in touch on social media. If you are keeping our stuff we’ll tweet at you and let you know when the episode comes out so you can give it a listen. We look forward to staying in touch.
Scott: Thank you so much really grateful. Janae and Spencer, you’re doing good work here!
JJ: Thank you!
SS: I appreciate that. Have a great day!
Janae Jean serves as editor, social media manager and podcaster for Conscious Community Magazine. She has an M.M. in computer music composition from Johns Hopkins University and is actively researching using electronically generated sounds for healing. See janaejean.com and perennialmusicandarts.com for details about Janae’s upcoming classes, lesson information, workshops, shows and projects.
Spencer Schluter is the advertising account manager, social media manager and podcaster for Conscious Community Magazine. His experience includes visual communications, advertising, social media, marketing, public relations and business development. Visit yggstudios.com for more information about his freelance design and consulting work. He is also a master level Reiki and traditional Chinese Qigong practitioner.