Jeff Goldring Speaks about His Ongoing Recovery

Let's Talk Addiction & Recovery Podcast
Open Road to the Sun

Jeff Goldring has a uniquely intimate perspective on addiction and recovery. His family's storied history is all about distilled spirits and he himself works for Sazerac, one of the world's most recognized producers of alcohol products. Now with twenty years of sobriety, he joins host William C. Moyers to talk about the convergence of those two worlds and the pillars to his long-term recovery. Tune in.

The reason why we give to Hazelden is because I trust that when I write the check to Hazelden, that the money's going to be used in an appropriate fashion.

Jeff Goldring

0:00:13 William Moyers
Hello and welcome to Let's Talk, a podcast series produced by Hazelden Betty Ford. I'm William C. Moyers, your host, and today we have a special story for you. The story of addiction, redemption, recovery, and giving back to help others. My guest is Jeff Goldring, my friend and fellow traveler, who joins us from his home in New Orleans. Welcome, Jeff.

0:00:38 Jeff Goldring
Hey William! How are you?

0:00:39 William Moyers
I'm doing great, it's good to see you! Actually I said that you were joining me from your home but I think you're in your office there today. [Both smile] But here we are, together, and Jeff you and I are talking in August of 2021. Tell me why this is a special year for you.

0:00:54 Jeff Goldring
Yeah well this year, actually June 16th, celebrates 20 years in continuous recovery for me.

0:01:07 William Moyers
Wow! And what's that last 20 years been like?

0:01:12 Jeff Goldring
It's been, you know, fantastic. I mean the journey has been great, you know, I've met people that I never would have met. I've accomplished things in terms of you know family stuff and business stuff that never would have happened if I continued down the road of you know drinking and drugging.

0:01:37 William Moyers
And you are back in New Orleans where you've lived your whole life. You and I were talking the other day you just had a birthday and you were born in New Orleans. How did you end up at Hazelden in 2001?

0:01:51 Jeff Goldring
Well, how did I get there? I got there on an airplane. [chuckles]

0:01:55 William Moyers
Okay, good. [Grins]

0:01:57 Jeff Goldring
[laughs] And, you know, what had happened the first time I went to treatment was in October of 2000 I ended up in Hanley Hazelden down in West Palm. And then came up, you know, nine months later up to Minnesota. And what happened was, you know, I don't know—for a long time, I had been able to compartmentalize my life, my work, family, everything, my drinking and drugging. And then at the end it all just kinda came crashing down together. And I had ran out of you know options. And I always joke that I had a lot of back problems at the time, right? My wife was on my back, my parents were on my back. [laughs] And the thing it seemed like I had to do was you know go to treatment.

0:02:55 William Moyers
[nods, smiles] And so you came back, that second time, to Hazelden. When you got here, what was different? What was different the second time?

0:03:05 Jeff Goldring
Well, the difference was I think I had reached, you know, a bottom. And I was finally able to see you know the powerlessness and the unmanageability. You know when I went the first time to treatment, I wasn't there 'cause I wanted to be there. I don't know if I was there the second time 'cause I wanted to be there. But, you know, I mean the first time it was like you know they said to me like in this auditorium I remember it was, you know, look to the right and look to the left, and most of the people will be out drinking again shortly or they're gonna die. And I thought well who could that be? It's certainly not gonna be me! [chuckles] But, you know, I went—I went home and I did some outpatient treatment. And I started going to meetings. But I didn't do anything that was suggested, right? I didn't get you know a sponsor, I wasn't connecting with other people in recovery, you know, I was you know trying to do it basically on my own. The only thing I did right was every time I picked up, I came back into the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous. And I kept picking up you know a 24-hour trip. [Moyers nods] And then finally, something happened you know I hit that personal bottom. I was on the airplane heading up to Minnesota. And I started like, you know, crying, and I was like, you know I'm powerless, God please help me. And at that point I think I was able—I was willing at least, became willing to be willing, to take some direction. And just start doing you know the next right thing.

0:04:44 William Moyers
[Both nod] And so you've been doing the next right thing for 20 years! A day at a time. What works for you along the way?

0:04:51 Jeff Goldring
Yeah, you know, what really works for me is you know going to meetings. Doing service work, inside and outside of the program. Staying connected with other alcoholics. And just staying in the middle of the, you know, the herd. And those are the biggest things. And, you know, knowing that like left to my own devices, I'll go back out again, right? And so, I heard that message loud and clear when I was up in Minnesota. And so, you know, I just try to do this thing one day at a time, you know, and kind of stay in a place of humility about it. And know that, you know, the only reason why I'm sober today is there is something bigger, something greater, in my life. Whether you choose to call it Higher Power or God that's helping me with this. 'Cause I could never do it on my own.

0:05:59 William Moyers
Yeah. What's been the biggest challenge, Jeff, in the last 20 years walking it a day at a time?

0:06:05 Jeff Goldring
You know, look I've had—life has not been perfect over the last 20 years. But there's—there hasn't been anything that's been like, you know, really what I'd say is unmanageable. But I've had you know friends die, you know sober friends and non-sober friends. I've had things going on at work and trying to figure out how I fit into a family business. I've gotten divorced and I've gotten remarried. [Moyers nods] My current wife and I have had like kids and that was a struggle. I mean talk about really learning about powerlessness, trying to have like kids and do fertility stuff. [Both chuckle] You know? And I've had, you know, at 47 years old or something I had my parents they got divorced. I mean I've had all of these like kinda life events happen in recovery. And, you know, the solution is always the same for me. It's like, you know, I go to meetings, I connect with other alcoholics, I share honestly about what's going on. And you know and then everything seems to work out.

0:07:30 William Moyers
Yeah. Yeah. And of course, your wife Walton Goldring is also a woman in long-term recovery. I think she's been walking her walk about the same amount of time that you have, even though you all weren't walking it together back then, as you noted—

0:07:44 Jeff Goldring

0:07:44 William Moyers
Does that help to have a spouse in recovery? Or does that make it particularly tricky?

0:07:49 Jeff Goldring
You know for us, it really works because we have a common, you know, language. That we talk to you know each other. And when we're out to dinner and where there's other people that are drinking, we can sit and laugh like, you know, 'Do you think these people are having more fun? And would we be more fun if we were out there drinking? Are we losers 'cause we don't drink anymore?' [chuckles] And we sit there, we look at each other and we say ah, you know, and then we kind of laugh about it. But you know there's never once that I've gotten up the next morning and said like oh we wouldn't have a lot more fun if we were drinking last night.'

0:08:35 William Moyers
Right. [chuckles]

0:08:36 Jeff Goldring
You know, in terms of the way you know just we do life, I mean it helps to have these principles that we live by you know in our relationship. And, you know, when wrong, promptly admit it and you know we can talk openly and honestly about anything with each other. 'Cause we apply these principles, you know, and these steps in our life. On a daily basis. So.

0:09:04 William Moyers
What's interesting about recovery is they tell us when we're in treatment at Hazelden Betty Ford or wherever that we need to be cognizant of the people, places, and things that need to change. But what's interesting about your dynamic is that you returned to a family that works in a business and has for generations that's centered on alcohol. Can you explain that a little bit?

0:09:27 Jeff Goldring
[Grins] Yeah. You know, it's interesting, right? Because most alcoholics when you ask that question like, you know, about the family history about alcohol, they start talking about the other alcoholics in their family that have died, right? [chuckles] You know, the brother that's in treatment, the uncle that died, and the, you know, the father that wasn't present, you know? None of that is true in my family, right? You know I grew up in a family business. I'm fourth generation in the family business. It started out as a small little business in Pensacola, Florida, where there was some distribution of beer in a bar room. And this is like in the late 1800's. And it grew into we're the largest distiller in America. We also do some beer distribution. And you know what, nobody in my family has ever really drank except for me. [Moyers laughs] You know I have—I always joke like my dad that like he's probably got a lot of the isms just alcoholism, you know, one of them. But my mother didn't drink growing up, my dad might have had like a beer after we went jogging or one drink when he was at a like a social kind of thing for business. But they didn't—he didn't drink in the house. And my grandfather was the same, you know, way, and so I'm like the only alcoholic in this family. And I'll tell you, it's been tricky along the way not necessarily in recovery, but I remember having conversations you know with my dad where he would say, 'If you can't stop drinking, we're gonna have to—you're not gonna be able to work in this business.' And then he would say, 'If you can't stop drinking, we're gonna have to sell this family business!'

0:11:27 William Moyers
[laughs] Oh my gosh!

0:11:28 Jeff Goldring
And, you know, none of that in itself, you know, was enough to get me to stop. And it's funny, you know, early in recovery we had similar conversations about like hey do you think you can actually work in the liquor business as a sober alcoholic? And you know, when I first got sober, you know I—I was trying to do it on my own, right? And then people told me if you hang out at a barbershop long enough, you're gonna get a haircut. And you know I heard a speaker up in Minnesota on a Sunday night and he talked about, you know, we always get the message when we need it. He talked about, you know, working in a brewery after he got sober. He'd been working there for 40 years. And he drank there every, you know, after work, and you know once he got sober he continued working there because he needed the job. And that gave me a lot of hope that I could work in, you know, this business. And then you know I found in the Big Book where it says if we're spiritually fit, we can go anywhere and do anything. And you know that's been my experience like working in the liquor business over the last 20 years is look I don't have to be the guy that, you know, tastes the stuff, I don't have to be the person going to the bar promotions. [Moyers nods] But I can work in this, you know, business. And so I've been able to do it successfully.

0:13:10 William Moyers
I was gonna say—and be successful in working in the business!

0:13:13 Jeff Goldring

0:13:13 William Moyers
And interestingly enough, I was down there with you about two years ago, you actually carry the message of recovery now into the liquor business. I heard you speak and share your own story and talk about that. That must be sort of an interesting dynamic.

0:13:31 Jeff Goldring
Yeah, you know, at that there was this kind of liquor convention here in New Orleans called Tales of the Cocktail. It was for, you know, bartenders and we had made a donation to the cause because they started a program called Beyond the Bar. And you know it focused on, you know, mental health for people in the industry. And so, you know, as I was, you know presenting this check, I was able to say that I am a man in long-term, you know, recovery. And I'm still able to work in this business. And you know I can't tell you how many people you know came up to me afterwards and you know said they admired my courage to talk about that. And it's a big deal, I think, you know, because there is a stigma that revolves around alcoholism that, you know, I think is you know I've seen some footage of you know Marty Mann talking about the stigma back in the I don't know forties and fifties. I don't know where the footage was from. And you had me up to Minnesota at one point to talk about advocacy and getting out in the community. And at that point in time, like, I was like you know I hear ya, but, I don't know how I tell my story without talking about, you know, Alcoholics Anonymous. And AA is, you know, this anonymity. [Moyers nods] And what I've learned is I can talk about being in recovery and not drinking and not have to say that I'm in a Twelve Step program. Unless somebody asks. And then like I can have a sidebar conversation and when they say how did you do it. And so, it's been a big shift, you know, for me.

0:15:21 William Moyers
Well, and you've been a very important advocate in the alcohol industry and in the recovery industry, in the recovery community and even in this, carrying the message here. Through this Let's Talk podcast. Jeff you talked about you and your family's philanthropy and your support. You've been—well giving back is a big feature of the Goldring family.  And of course, Hazelden Betty Ford continues to benefit from yours and Walton's and the Goldring family's generosity. Why is philanthropy important to you?

0:15:55 Jeff Goldring
Well, you know, the values of philanthropy I think have—they were instilled in me since I was, you know, a young kid. And I had many conversations with my grandfather about, you know, we have this, you know, business, that we profited from and we take dollars out of the community. And it's important to put the dollars back into the community. And my—my father also said like hey, you know, it's not enough just to stop with writing the check. You can't just stop there, right? You know, giving your time is also very—very important. And so, you know, it's just been how I was brought up. And you know I get a really, you know, good feeling about you know being able to give back and help other people.

0:16:52 William Moyers
Yes and you've done a lot of that! One of the interesting areas before we wrap it up is your commitment to giving back to fund new exercise equipment for the patients at our facility in Center City, Minnesota. Why is exercise important to you, Jeff?

0:17:08 Jeff Goldring
Yeah, so we just made a you know a multi-year large donation to Hazelden. And it you know part of it I need to say this—I need to put a plug in for Jelnick because that's where I was for part of the money is going to help rehab, you know, Jelnick, and part of the money is going I can't remember—with that family—

0:17:26 William Moyers
Mental health. Mental health.

0:17:28 Jeff Goldring
Yeah. Yeah. And the last part which I felt really strongly about is going to like rehab the exercise place. And I don't know exactly what it looks like today but I knew it when it looked like twenty—twenty years ago. When I was—when I was up there. And look, I believe recovery today right we always talk about it being mind, body, spirit. Right? It's a holistic, you know, program. And so I've gotta be healthy in all, you know, parts of my life. And so my—myself, I've always exercised a lot, you know, I've played sports growing up, and you know as my knees have gotten bad I've you know shifted to doing things like yoga and riding a stationary bicycle. And, you know, lifting you know weights. But—but I believe you know physical fitness is just as important as anything. My wife always jokes that you know like exercise, we exercise in the evenings together. And she says it's like our cocktail hour. [Moyers smiles wide] Because we're able to let go of like whatever has happened, you know, during the day.

0:18:45 Jeff Goldring
You know, I will tell you—you know, yoga's a big thing for me. And I had done a little bit of yoga before I got sober. But when I was up at—in Minnesota, we had this substitute counselor on the unit, and he shared this—he was doing the graduate program at Hazelden and he had written this paper, this thesis, on yoga, the Minnesota model of recovery, and the similarities. And you know as I continued to do yoga, you know, I've seen more and more similarities. And a lot of it is about this—you know the—there's just very congruent, right? Especially for people in early recovery, yoga is a great stress reliever. And so is kind of any exercise I think like if you—if you feel like wanting to have a drink, you know, go take a walk around the block, right? [chuckles] Or go do some—go do some yoga. And the feelings will pass. So, it's just, you know, something that's really you know important to me.

0:19:50 William Moyers
Jeff, you talk about mind, body, and spirit and of course your philanthropy has often times benefitted the mind, body, and spirit of a person in recovery through treatment and through aftercare, recovery support. Talk to us about why part of your donation to Hazelden Betty Ford was directed towards our mental health services.

0:20:11 Jeff Goldring
I believe there's just such a need in the world today, you know, for more of these services and for people to go. And I think, you know, the reason why we give to Hazelden is 'cause I trust that when I write the check to Hazelden, that the money's gonna be used in an appropriate fashion.

0:20:33 William Moyers
Jeff Goldring from New Orleans, thank you for sharing your experience, strength, and hope with us today.

0:20:39 Jeff Goldring
Thanks for having me!

0:20:40 William Moyers
[smiles] We'll have you on another time too for sure. [to camera] And thank you all for joining us. Just a reminder as Jeff said, addiction to alcohol and other drugs, it doesn't discriminate but treatment does work and recovery is possible. So, if you or a loved one are struggling, don't wait. It's okay to ask for help. It's important that you ask for help now. I'm your host, William C. Moyers, I hope you will join us again for another edition of Let's Talk. See you soon.

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