Addiction Recovery Testimonial: The Sean Spellman Story (interviewed by Anna Mason, APN Lodge’s Senior Writer)
Anna: Hey, everybody. Welcome to Team Tuesday at All Points North Lodge. I am so excited to be back. If you haven’t been here before, my name is Anna. I’m the writer at All Points North Lodge and I host a segment every Tuesday, where I bring on somebody who works with the team at All Points North Lodge whether it’s in Malibu or in Colorado and we get to chat with that person, see what they do at All Points North Lodge. Talk about kind of what their story is, why they’re passionate about what they do, and just peek behind the scenes.
So the goal here is that if you are thinking about treatment or if you’re, I don’t know, you work in the industry and you’re like, “What is All Points North Lodge all about?” That you would be able to just experience kind of a peek behind the scenes at what our staff is like. I know that it can feel really intimidating to look at a new place, right? To try to figure out, “Is this place legit? Can I trust somewhere new with my client or with myself?”
And that can be a hard decision to make. So what we want to do is give you just a peek behind the scenes so that you are able to make that decision knowing not only what our philosophy is, but the value of our people too. We know that relationships is such an important part of therapy and so to have those great relationships with your staff members are crucial. So today I’m very excited to bring in a recovery advocate for you. So this is Sean Spellman and he just requested, so I’m going to go ahead and let him in.
Hi, how are you?
Sean: I’m good. How are you, Anna? Thanks for having me on.
Anna: Yeah. I’m so excited to have you here. This is fun because I’ve heard all about you, but I’ve never seen you face-to-face, so nice to meet you.
Sean: It’s good to be here. Yeah. Nice to meet you officially.
Anna: Yes, I know. Okay. Are you in the Lodge right now, by the way?
Sean: I am in the Lodge. Yep.
Anna: Awesome. So I’ll just intro you again here. So this is Sean Spellman. He’s a recovery advocate at All Points North lodge and so we’re super excited to get to hear a little bit of your story today. So, I mean, let’s start at the beginning. Where are you from? Where’d you grow up? Are you a Colorado native and how’d you get here?
Sean: So that’s a great question. I moved out here from New Hampshire in 2012, and I was in a treatment center in New Haven and I was ready to get out of the Northeast and I grew up in New England. So I was blessed enough to learn how to snowboard out there. Did some USA events for snowboarding as a young kid when I was a teenager, so really passionate snowboarder, so that’s why I moved to Vail. And I came out here with two duffle bags, no idea what I was doing and I’ve been here for close to nine years now, so it’s pretty wild.
Anna: That’s insane. I mean, I think how often do people think about doing that and then never make that leap? So I think it’s really, really cool that you did that.
Sean: Thanks. Yeah, I was totally nervous. I had no idea what I was doing. I had this slight plan that I wanted to be a wilderness educator. So I did a semester course with Outward Bound out here. It was for 60 days. Climbed all over the state of Colorado. And once that was done, I was like, “Well, I really have no plans and I don’t want to go back East, so I moved to Boulder, stayed in Boulder. Unfortunately, I didn’t stay sober. So I relapsed and then I moved up to Vail and I had way too much fun up here and then I had to get sober again.
Anna: Got it. Yeah. Okay. I mean, if you’re up for it, tell us a little bit about kind of your story with getting sober. I imagine that plays a part in why you ended up at All Points North lodge as a Recovery Advocate helping other people. So tell us your story.
Sean: Yeah, it’s pretty cool. It’s funny how my life turned out. I had no plans, I just wanted to ride my snowboard and drugs and alcohol were really fueling the fire and always helped motivate me to go bigger on my snowboard and things like that. So I was always under that cunning baffling sense that alcohol and drugs were working for me in a way.
And yeah, my life on the mountain was really good. I was riding close to a hundred days a season for a few years and then off the mountain, I was getting into trouble and relationships were falling apart and just discomfort with my life and not having a stable place to live, so issues kept arising. I got into some trouble. Then that was another kind of shift into, “Okay, well maybe I should try getting sober again.”
Did that for a little while. I couldn’t stay sober for very long. It was about 10 months I stayed sober. Relapsed once I was kind of in the clear of the probation system and stuff like that. And then things got bad again. My disease, my addiction, it is progressively getting worse, no matter how long I’ve stayed sober. I have to continue to do the work in the program, the 12-step program I’m in to kind of keep that at bay.
And just to fast forward a little bit. I was sober for, I think I was about 18 months sober and I was playing on a sober softball league in Vail and one of our therapists, Dustin Straight was out and I just met him and him and I kicked it off and he was like, “Let me know if you want a job up at APN.” And I was like, “Yeah, I’ll think about it.” And sure enough, a few months later went by and I was like, I had always wanted to work in recovery and behavioral health and things like that.
So I was like, “Maybe I’ll do this.” And sure enough, I’ve been here since November. Love it. Absolutely love it. It’s total, it’s a super meaningful job. I meet incredible people and I’m learning a lot and this is what it’s all about, you know? So I’m really grateful to be up here.
Anna: Yeah. Gosh, that’s amazing. I mean, there are so many things we could unpack in there. First of all, I think it’s fascinating to get to interview people who are clean or sober now that are on our staff, because all the stories, they’re so unique. Everybody’s journey, everybody’s reason why they started drugs and alcohol, why they continue their difficulties of [inaudible 00:07:00] staying sober. It’s all so unique. I had never even considered that using drugs or alcohol may have for like extreme sports can help minimize fear, you know? And so that, I mean, I imagine that’s a big driver for people and I never thought about that before.
Sean: Yeah. It really is. Especially in Vail too. This is a party town. It’s a ski town and it’s very accepted up here to be drinking on the mountain at 10 o’clock in the morning and all day. An. And so actually when I got sober, I got sober in 2017 in November, I took a whole year off of snowboarding. I didn’t ride it all. One reason we didn’t have any snow, so that was a big reason. And then two, I just wasn’t comfortable. I was like, “I’ve been riding my whole life. I’m just going to take a step back and focus on me.” And I was going to a lot of meetings. I was working the steps a lot and I just wanted to get better. My desperation at that time fueled me to stay sober and the hope was there.
And I’m grateful that there are those programs out there. I wasn’t blessed enough to go to treatment this time. After I went to treatment the first time it was extended care, so I was there for a long time. My folks were like, “No. You got to figure it out.” And so luckily desperation kind of helped me out. And I knew where to go.
The treatment center I went to, they planted a lot of seeds. Though I didn’t stay sober, there were seeds that were planted, so I knew where to go, and especially when things were not so hopeful. And so this community up here is rock solid with sobriety as well. You find some of the biggest party areas are going to have a lot of good sobriety. So, I looked back into that program and just took it one day at a time since then and my life is pretty awesome today.
I’m really grateful. I just went on a 12-mile mountain bike ride before I came into work. Colorado offers some amazing amenities and I’m grateful that I’m sober now and I can take advantage of a lot of that stuff because beforehand, I wasn’t. I had no idea what to do. I was always hurting and never had any money and now my life has come together really nicely, so I’m super happy.
Anna: That’s amazing. And it’s so cool. I mean, it’s kind of cool that you got hooked up at APN too, because especially with Dustin because he’s heading up that experiential therapy and adventure therapy and mountain biking and all that stuff. And since you said you had kind of dabbled in becoming a wilderness guide and that sort of thing, it’s like that is a little sweet spot for you too probably.
Sean: Yeah, it is. And this winter was amazing. I was working side-by-side with Dustin doing a lot of experiential stuff and I am in that direction with APN. I like taking clients out outside of treatment, bringing them to the mountain, taking them on hikes, going to different outfits to outdoor outfits to go to ATVing, and things like that. So there were a lot of cool activities that we do plan up here for our clients and then I get to join too, so that’s always awesome.
But my biggest one is definitely taking the clients on the mountain every winter. And this year, this past winter, before COVID, we were going twice a week. And some clients we’re even getting in a quick break after their group therapy and things like that. So it was awesome and I’m just happy about it. It’s great. I’m always ecstatic when I’m on the mountain. It’s another side of me that comes out and just having some one-on-one conversations on the ski lift are super impactful to some of those that are in treatment, working on some heavy stuff, and to bring light to it and to give them a break from that it’s really, really impactful on their recovery. So I like to say that I’m here at APN to show clients how to have fun in sobriety.
Anna: No, that’s so true. And just like you were saying. There can be difficulty in leaving your former life because you’re like, “Well, what do I do now?” When you’ve used drugs and alcohol to have fun in the past, it can be hard to come out of that and find new hobbies and new purpose. So it’s really cool that you get to do that. Help them, not only process some of the things they’re going through and have those ski lift talks, but you’ve been on both sides of using drugs and alcohol while you’re on the mountain, and then learning, probably relearning how to have fun and experiences sober too, so to be with them on that journey, as they’re learning that too is awesome.
Sean: It really is awesome and it’s great to see them smiling and just having a good time, and that’s what it’s really all about because some people have the stigma of like, “Oh, I’m going to get sober. I’m never going to have fun again.” And that’s not what this is about. I have way more fun in sobriety than I ever had really while I was getting impaired.
Anna: Yeah. Gosh, that’s so important. I feel like we should use that. I’m taking mental notes so we can make ads about that and talk about that in our content.
Anna: No, that’s so good. But I feel like there’s so much more we could talk about, but I think we’ve covered our time here for today. So I may bring you back on in the future.
Sean: Oh, absolutely. I’d love to.
Anna: Awesome. Well, thank you again, Sean, so much. I think what you have to offer to the clients at the lodge is really important. And I hope that people who are considering treatment or even considering sobriety and feel intimidated. I hope that they’ve watched this and are encouraged that there’s light on the other side and there’s fun on the other side too, in a whole, in a fuller way. Right?
Sean: Yeah, absolutely.
Anna: Awesome. Well, Sean, thank you so much and everybody who’s watching or watches this on playback, thanks for joining us for Team Tuesday. If you ever have any questions for our team, or if you want to talk to somebody like Sean, who can help you kind of navigate getting into treatment so that you can hang out with Sean at treatment, give us a call or visit our website or DMS on here. That works too. And we will see you next week on Team Tuesday. Thanks, Sean. Thanks, everybody.