I’m a firm believer in synchronicity. When a number of seemingly disparate things happen at the same time it makes me think that it happened for a reason and that they are ultimately connected. Late last week I had this happen and it definitely encouraged me to take this column off the page (um…screen) and into the real world.
Before I get into that, I want to explain what happened at the last treatment facility I worked at and see if that translates into what I want to do. When hired I was asked to take over an adolescent intensive outpatient department. It had been struggling for years--low attendance, clients not getting sober, the wrong fit with the staff they had hired (it’s not easy finding someone that can get through to teenagers.) When I got there, there were five clients total in the program, three groups a week, and none of them were getting better. Maybe it has to do with my style of counseling (as loose and flexible as possible), maybe it was the timing, maybe I’m really good at it, I can’t really say, but within three months the census was up to double digits in each group, the groups increased to six per week and within the first 90 days some of the clients started getting better. I mean really better, like embracing changes in their lives and talking to their friends about the program and encouraging them to attend. In short, it exploded. Staff kept asking me what the secret to my marketing was. My response was always the same: “Well…I used to drink a lot.” You see, I personally believe that nothing will get through to someone that is struggling more than talking to someone that’s been through it and came out of the other side. That’s why I tell all my clients struggling with drugs and/or alcohol issues to check out 12 step meetings. They’ll connect with people that can relate because they’ve been through it. Just talking to people you can relate to makes you realize that you’re not the only one; it makes you feel less alone.
But it wasn’t just the program that exploded. At one point one of my clients, a senior in high school, decided to approach the administration at her school and told them that the school needed to start a group at the school itself where anybody that wanted to attend could as long as they were willing to talk about their issues. It started off small, from what I understand it was three of the clients from my program. And then word got out, and it took off too. That was four years ago and the last time I checked, it was averaging about a dozen students every time they met as it had been doing for years.
I also believe that people create their own power, and that once you have some momentum unbelievable things happen. With the group, once the first two clients starting making changes they started calling out the other members of the group, which caused the next half dozen to do the same and it just built on itself from there. I reached a point where the groups for the most part ran themselves. I would show up, sit down and occasionally moderate while they interacted with each other…and got better.
So this is what brings me to last week. Two things happened within an hour of each other in the form of three emails I received. All the previous emails had been very positive about the column, some of the things I said, some people telling me their story, relating to points I had made. Very cool stuff. But I got an email from a guy who was a little on the angry side; he disagreed with some of my points (which is cool as far as I’m concerned--we ending up having a pretty good back and forth for a while) but the point he made that stuck with me was something along the lines of (and I’m paraphrasing) “Great, now you’ve scared a whole lot of people into thinking that they might have a problem…aren’t you going to give them a solution?” I pointed out that in the first column I had mentioned counseling/therapy/12 step meetings. But after I thought about it, it wasn’t enough--which brings me to the second email. Mike Costello from My Arcadia hit me up, completely out of the blue and dropped something on me that I didn’t know. It’s his story to tell, but I can say that his family was deeply affected by drugs and alcohol and that he wanted to do something about it. He wanted to start a foundation or a not-for-profit organization that encouraged people to start making better decisions, to stop messing up their lives and the lives of their families, and when I thought about it, sure, I’d love to start a foundation or a ‘not-for-profit’ organization but what I really want to do is start a mother fucking movement. So he brings it up and my immediate reaction was to suggest, “What if we brought this idea to shows?” What if, instead of the usual ‘meet and greet’ a couple of hours before showtime, we had anybody that wants to talk about their stuff sit down, and talk about their stuff? What if any bands that wanted to get involved would actually take the time to really connect with their fans? Because the reality is everybody’s got stuff. Mike loved the idea, he’s in.
So basically anytime he’s playing in New York I’m going up there and we’ll get a group going, and anytime there’s a show in Philly he’s coming down here and we’re going to start from there and see if we can blow this up. He said, “If we get two people at the first one I’ll be excited.” Hell, if we get one person at the first one I’ll get excited. Within minutes of that conversation, KJ from Dancefloor Diplomacy hit me up and I bounced the idea off him. His response was “I would have killed for something like that when I was a teenager.” He’s in. And just for the record if you haven’t seen the video for “We Are Ready” do yourself a favor. If you have a minute (or nine…) check it out--you’ll get to the end of it and like everybody else that has watched it, you’ll say “Okay, that was really cool, what the hell was that?” Any bands that want to get involved, hit me up. Any fans that want to attend, leave a comment. I’m thinking as soon as I get some responses I’ll add a calendar to my website or even better, we’ll start a website specifically for this (whatever the hell this is) so you’ll know who’s participating and what venues they’ll be at. Let me know what you guys think. We don’t even have a name for it yet, but Mike wants it to involve the word “beats.” Something tells me that this is a really good idea that might just work. Let’s start a mother fucking movement.