Jessica Lahey on Addiction and Failure


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Jess Lahey is the author of the NYT bestselling The Gift of Failure and The Addiction Inoculation. Her writing can be found at The Atlantic, the New York Times, and the Washington Post. She co-hosts the award-winning #AmWriting podcast and works as a prevention coach at Sana at Stowe, a medical detox and recovery in Stowe, VT.

Jess had a number of amazing insights during our conversation. Some of them include:

“One of the best things my parents ever did for me was [let me read whatever book I wanted]” (6:00).

“My idea of heaven is a story well told that teaches me some things” (6:25).

“I went for jobs I wasn’t qualified for and then learned how to do them on the go” (7:25).

“The best part about being a writer is I can write about anything I want and I have to become an expert in that thing before I have any standing, any sort of authority, to write about it” (7:35).

“I was a teacher for 20 years, and from my perspective my job was to not only teach the material to other people, but to anticipate their possible questions” (8:20).

“The way we encourage curiosity without making our kids so curious to try things that may be dangerous for them is to also provide lots of information about it” (11:30).

“Many of the ways we gather information changed during the pandemic” (20:20).

“You can opt to just not have [drinking alcohol] be a part of your life, not because you have a problem with it, but because it doesn’t make you feel great. I love that” (22:15).

“Getting to the place where you know you need help is like a 100-piece puzzle; you can’t have that 100th piece drop into place unless pieces 1-99 were there” (25:15).

“I’m happy to be a resource for whoever wants to use me as a resource” (30:00).

“Being there when someone is ready to talk is the best thing that I can do for anyone” (30:45).

“I love learning on the fly, I love learning under pressure, I like a deadline, I like putting myself in the position of impressing people by how fast I can pick things up” (35:05).

“[Through my book] now I get to give other people the benefit of what I learned from [my experiences with alcohol and addiction] and what I learned with years of research” (36:45).

“I was born to teach and I was born to write, but they’re the same thing to me” (37:35).

“Here’s this complicated thing that’s really interesting, let me do all the research for you and translate it for you. That’s my dream job, that’s heaven to me” (39:35).

“We tend to teach the way we were taught” (42:35).

“Teaching for me is partially about being on a stage and crafting thoughts and information in a way that helps people to arrive at conclusions themselves” (42:50).

“I am a difficult person to have on your staff because… I have no problem saying ‘No, that doesn’t work, why are we doing it that way’” (45:45).

“For me, the more public I am, the easier it is for me to stay sober” (50:00).

“You have to name it to tame it when it comes to emotions” (51:10).

“Gaining competence through doing things that are new/sometimes a little risky, that’s one of the biggest adrenaline hits and dopamine hits that kids can access. That’s one of the best ways to get that dopamine hit when a lot of kids turn to drugs and alcohol” (58:55).

“[I] love to live in the gray area” (1:00:30).

“One of the things I’m most proud of in my life is a big failure” (1:04:40).

“It was this moment of facing that fear of not being good at something, to allow myself the freedom to learn how to do it and learn how to do it right so well that the next time I attempted to do something similar I was able to learn from my mistakes” (1:07:55).

“Go for the moment [your kids] will let you have with them” (1:13:50).

Additionally, make sure to follow Jess on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram! You can also use this link to find and purchase Jessica’s books!

Thank you so much to Jess for coming on the podcast!

I wrote a book called “Shift Your Mind” that was released in October of 2020, and you can order it on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Additionally, I have launched a company called Strong Skills, and I encourage you to check out our new website If you liked this episode and/or any others, please follow me on Twitter: @brianlevenson or Instagram: @Intentional_Performers.

Thanks for listening.

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