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Solutions to the Economic Damage Caused by Addiction



As of May of 2013, our unemployment rate is at 7.6% equating to 11.8 million people on unemployment.  

Everything being equal would an employer hire a recovering addict? If you were an addict just leaving rehab would you disclose this on a job interview?  How do you explain on an interview that you have spent the last 30, 60, 90 days or longer in rehab?  Can you imagine?  ”Awkward!”  My assumption is that most people keep their stay in rehab their little secret.

In 1988, when I was coming out of my 6 month stay in rehab…as they say some are sicker than others :)  I chose to create an elaborate story about my whereabouts for the last 6 months.  I said to Gary, the very nice, very sophisticated, very well dressed property manager who was part of a conservative real estate company in Glendale, CA, that I had been traveling in Europe for 6 months.  If I was going to use the traveling through Europe alibi on my job interview I should have prepared better.  Gary loved Europe, of course! When the conversation turned to Paris I really got myself into trouble.  Gary knew about the different neighborhoods, little restaurants and some of the best places to stay.  Me, I had never been to Paris or Europe.  I was scrambling.  I knew one street in Paris, the Champs-Elysées.  So that became the center of my story.   Then I as quickly as possible changed the subject.

The next uncomfortable moment came when Gary called the rehab I was so embarrassed.  In 1988, before cell phones were common, our rehab had a pay phone.  My rehab was not one of those fancy places in Malibu, my rehab had a 150 residents who made the choice of going to rehab instead of prison.  Usually it was impossible to get through on the pay phone, Gary got lucky.  I heard my name being called down the hall “hey Alex come to the pay phone”.  When I picked up the phone I was caught by surprise, it was Gary.     I never expected he’d call.  Of course his first question was, where do you live?  I had to think fast, keeping with my fabricated persona of the traveling student, I said I was staying in a youth hostel.  Luckily years of drug use gave me the ability to think fast and convincingly lie.  At times I could not tell when I was telling the truth or when I was lying.  I got the job.  If I told you of my adventures with my first job out of rehab you’d laugh.  But I’ll save those stories for another blog.  The short story is I made it out of rehab.  It was tough.  Many of my friends and acquaintances at the rehab were not so lucky.  They really struggled.  I watched a parade of my friends and acquaintances relapse and die.  My theory is that the disappointment and stress of trying to find work seemed to escalate the frequency of relapse.  It looked to me when faced with returning to “life” or “using”, using looked like the better option. For the lucky ones they ended back in rehab, for the unluckier ones they ended up in jail or dead.

Whether the root of the problem for addicts is learned dependency or the very slow healing of the addict’s brain, I’m not sure it matters.  Our economy is being damaged by unemployed addicts.  I don’t mean to ignore the personal tragedy of people dying or going to jail but this is a business blog.  We business people try not to consider the human condition when we are talking about the economy. According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, we have 22.5 million Americans aged 12 or older—or 8.7 percent of the population — had used an illicit drug or abused a psychotherapeutic medication (such as a pain reliever, stimulant, or tranquilizer) in the past month.

So we have 11.8 million people on unemployment and we have 22.5 million using people in the United States.  What can we say is happening to the US economy by not addressing the problems of addiction and work?  How about this number…$366 BILLION caused by alcohol and Illicit drug use in health care, productivity loss, crime, incarceration and drug enforcement.  Ok so that is enough about the problem let’s talk about solutions…

One of the keys to our economic recovery is getting people clean and sober. Is that enough? We need to take it one step further and provide a bridge back to productivity. This is the focus of the 12 Angels. Here are some solutions to increasing productivity:

1. More agency owned businesses – these businesses can operate inside of long term government funded treatment centers. Some organizations like Delancey Street and the Salvation Army have been doing this for decades. One of our goals with the 12 Angels is to help other treatment centers that do not operate businesses start profitable and with sustainable companies. If you are reading this and are a cashed out entrepreneur, foundation or philanthropist – we need your help!

2. More micro-lending and micro-credit available to recovering addict entrepreneurs. The Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Muhammad Yunus and the Grameen Bank for their success in creating economic opportunity to the poor. Why can’t we apply micro-lending and micro-credit to recovering addict entrepreneurs?

3. Why can’t we use models such as the ones developed by Pacific Community Ventures? Pacific Community Ventures uses tools of private equity to stimulate job creation, productivity and wealth in economically disadvantaged communities.

Practicing addicts and alcoholics cost our nation over $340 billion annually. Addiction is the largest health care problem in the nation. Using the 3 models described above coupled with the specific knowledge and experience of the 12 Angels’ organization is a winning combination.

We have an incredible opportunity to help everyone in our nation by reducing the damage addiction costs our society. Addiction is treatable. Economic recovery is possible. The return on investment is gigantic. Act now, help the 12 Angels implement our social entrepreneurship programs in the recovery community.

You can contribute via PayPal by using the button in the right most sidebar or donate your time and expertise by contacting us at 877-858-1212 or via email.

The 12 Angels Fund – Launching Spring 2012

After years of building on the 12 Angels concept of encouraging social entrepreneurship within the addiction recovery community, The 12 Angels Fund will be launched in spring 2012 to take it even further.

The 12 Angels Fund will invest in social enterprises that employ and develop individuals recovering from addiction. Our mission is to provide the capital and mentorship to create sustainable businesses that help guide recovering addicts back into productive and healthy lives.

 Every year, over $600 billion is spent or loss on the overall costs of substance abuse, including productivity and health and crime-related costs. But addiction is treatable, economic recovery is possible, and the potential return on investment is massive. Our hope is to provide a second chance to recovering addicts and break the cycle of dependence onf family, friends and the community.
The 12 Angels Fund will invest in profitable sustainable companies and demand not a traditional financial return on investment, but a significant social return through the employment of recovering addicts. Using our expertise in funds management and venture capital, we will foster successful companies and, as a result, healthy employees.
We are currently in the build phase of the organization and fund and are seeking socially conscious donors to join us in realizing our vision for a powerful vehicle to mobilize capital and drive social change.
Stay tuned for updates!

Award-winning play “Bill W. and Dr. Bob” Return to Off-Broadway


In 2011 – the 12 Angels Fund was thrilled to announce its support of the production company of the Off-Broadway play of BILL W. AND DR. BOB.(

Well-known actors Martin Sheen and Hank Azaria supported the play with performances of staged readings, including at a fundraiser in Los Angeles in November 2011 supported by 12 Angels – raising over ten thousand dollars.

12 Angels was not the only non-profit supporting and investing in the company – The Hazelden Foundation has now become the major sponsor and non-profit umbrella for the play. Now – Alcoholics Anonymous Play Bill W. and Dr. Bob to Return Off-Broadway ( this July!

An ecstatic Stephen Bergman wrote this update:  “Dear Alex, (Shohet) Hope you are well.  We’re in rehearsal now, for first preview July 8 and opening July 16.  Because of your Kickstarter donation, you have two free tix awaiting you!  I hope you can make it! Gratitude! Your old friend, Steve”

Friends come but rarely go in recovery.

Updated links:

The Real Costs of Unemployment on our Community

It takes a little digging to figure out the “true” rates of unemployment in the US.  The unemployment figures you hear reported in the media are somewhat misleading.  At the time of this blog, the current unemployment rates reported are approximately 5.5% or about 8.5 million people are unemployed (March 2015) .

However, if you want to know the “true” unemployment rates they are significantly higher.  Depending on how you categorize people without jobs the range is anywhere from 25 million to 90 million in the United States.  This blog is not to intended to teach anyone about statistics but to examine how unemployment affects the people in our recovery community.

I know I said I was not going to get into statistics but I do have one statistic that may be of interest to our community…Out of the 10 million people who are categorized as severely mentally ill 8 million are unemployed.  With a little math that equates to 80% unemployment.  That is correct 80% unemployment.  The economic cost of providing 8 million people with disability or other forms of government support comes in at $250 billion a year.  This is a very, very, very large cost to our economy.

It is important not to let statistics and economics overshadow the human experience of unemployment.  In an article on the effects of unemployment on people’s mental health,  author Rebecca J. Rosen of The Atlantic writes “Those who have been looking for work for half a year or more are more than three times as likely to be suffering from depression as those with jobs.”  Mary Giliberti, executive director of National Alliance on Mental Illness states “People with mental illness who find competitive jobs have higher quality of life, fewer symptoms and lower mental health care costs”

It is clear that unemployment compounds the problems associated with mental illness.  So where are the solutions?

In a July 10, 2014 article in USA Today titled “Bleak Picture for mentally ill: 80% are jobless” says one of the answers exits in “supportive employment”.  Supported employment is a well-defined approach to helping people find meaningful jobs and providing ongoing support from a team of mental health professionals.  Since the 1980′s studies on supported employment demonstrate enormous benefits in helping individuals become healthier and more productive.  Access to supported employment continues to be a problem, despite extensive evidence showing its effectiveness.

It is my hope that any well-heeled entrepreneurs looking for a challenge join me in developing more supportive employment opportunities for the recovery community.  What an amazing opportunity to help someone find productivity, purpose and passion in their recovery.