March 6, 2023

002 - How a Sandwich Saved My Life!

002 - How a Sandwich Saved My Life!

Leo Petrilli was trapped in an addiction for over four decades, and has been substance free since 2011. He just retired from working in the trenches at the Addiction Recovery Home, where he went for his own recovery. 

Today, he is a virtual Train The Trainer for the First Responder Program with The Addictions Academy.  Leo is also a virtual Personal Growth Coach, with the Wellness Coach organization, a Nationally and Internationally Certified Recovery Coach, and an Intervention Professional. 

 He attends several First Responder virtual recovery meetings, and is a volunteer with Boots on The Ground in Ontario, Canada. 

 He likes watching good movies, TV shows that make him laugh, and sporting events.

 Helping others keeps him sober too. 

 Q: Many people experience situations requiring de-escalation. What tools have you found to be effective in these situations?

• 1 on 1s are huge.

• Holding a Group discussion, where I can make everyone feel safe – so they at least can listen, if they are not ready to share yet. Because, if you can cry for others than you can cry for yourself.

• I tend to be pretty direct when I am helping someone get to their truths. And if they have to vent some of their emotions I give them some space. 

• You gotta LEO it. Let Everything Out.

Former Chaos Magician


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… Going to the parking garage and I'm looking around and they got. Big thick beams down there. Metal metal beams down there I don't. Okay. And so I looked for the doors. The side doors. Because staff always smoke outside. There were smoke outside. So I go through and I find a chair…I have a chair… I walk around…I found it. I found it being…So now I've got the means the place to plan. I'm depressed as anything…Instantly depressed…I went back to my room…I sat down and poured a glass of Jack Daniels …And I started writing a note …Anyway there's a man with a gun … Welcome to the deescalation conversations podcast. I'm here today with a friend of mine who I just absolutely love and respect. His name is Leo Trilly. And Leo was trapped in addiction for over four decades. And he's been substance free since 2011 which is. Wow. It's amazing. He just retired from working in the trenches at the Aetna addiction recovery home, where he went for his own recovery. Today he's a virtual train the trainer for the first responder program with the addictions academy. And he's also a virtual personal growth coach. with the wellness coach organization…He's a nationally and internationally certified recovery coach and intervention professional. The attend several first responder virtual recover. Recovery meetings. And as a volunteer with boots on the ground in Ontario, Canada. He likes watching good movies TV shows that make them laugh and sporting events. Helping others. Keeps him. Sober too…So Leo, welcome to the show…It's my absolute honor to be here. Thank you for the invite. Yeah you're welcome It's It's I'm honored to to have your time And I know that our listeners are going to gain a lot out of this so…Let's start with this At deescalation conversations When we talk about deescalation a lot of people will ask what do you mean by deescalation? And…one of our flagship courses is how to calm an angry person in 90 seconds or less. So when we talk about deescalation what we're talking about is how do you. Remove some of the heat. From the emotional fire that's going on. And you might not be able to eliminate all of it because people are in an emotional crisis. But can you reduce it enough? To where that person can shift their brain into executive state. And be able to problem solve and be creative and have empathy for other people And. Begin to have a rational conversation So working kind of with that definition of deescalation …I want to kick this off. By saying that there's a lot of people experienced situations requiring deescalation and Leo you have some really effective tools. In these types of situations. And you've said that. And conversations I've had with you before now. You said that one on ones are huge. Tell me a little bit more about that…I just retired from. Working in that recovery home. And I was there for eight years. And…In a one-on-one setting with an individual. You and I we talk about our addictions I talk about mine Maybe you talk about yours Most people when they get to. The recovery home. They're like what the heck is going on My world is over. You know I caught, what do I do They're scared There's natural fear. What I do in a in a one-on-one and especially in a group is…I will share my own journey my own past my own past includes. There's something that the CDC put together called uh, adverse childhood experiences They did a study in 1998. Were they asked. 15,000 employees at Kaiser Permanente. You know, these 10 traumas in your childhood Kent. Including sexual So verbal You know physical emotional spiritual… The S the scientists say that if you score four out of 10, cans are pretty good are going to be an alcoholic or an addict. My score was eight out of 10. My wow. My, my my sexual abuse occurred outside of the home I got I got. You know hurt by too I got raped by two men and I never dealt with it So long-term addiction So in the circle…Everybody's got stuff. Everybody's got their own stuff Different stuff A parent did. Something that did to others Everybody's got stuff. What I do is I share my stuff. I will openly Calvin. And I'll cry and I'll I'll I'll totally. Make myself vulnerable to people. In order to help them …Cry. Not just for me, but for themselves. If they can cry for me, they can cry for themselves. If they can feel for me they can feel for themselves. They're in there somewhere. Okay care. They're in there somewhere and I want to get to them and by making myself vulnerable , I think that really helps out a lot That was taught to me…That's awesome…You have that that's one of your techniques. Other. Things that you do. Tools that you use for deescalation. One example. And he kind of. Touching on what you just said about. If you can cry for others you can cry for yourself. When you're holding a group discussion …You're able to make everyone feel safe. And you said, and this was a this was a great quote from you. So they can at least listen even if they're not ready to share yet. So…Can you share a little bit more with us about how you make people feel safe besides you just being vulnerable or is that the key tool? Trust. We don't trust nobody. You can't trust them. That was built on in my life. A long long time ago. So so hearing from somebody else. Maybe I can say their words for them. Maybe I can help them get to a place inside. Uh their head and their heart like the distance between the head and the heart. It's only a foot. Right. But for people like me it's 20 miles. They never talk right This is shot. You have to open this up once this opens up. And you can let all that pus out It allows. For healing. And goodness to go in and actual love. Self-respect. And you say you got to get that out. And. It takes time Like. It is some people don't do it in a week. Some people don't do it. In a month. Part of our part of our therapy is you have to write inventories. Inventories of what was done to us or what we had done to others. And they're painful. and you know you get your you get your book to write probably after about five or six weeks depending on where you are in your program. And and you know, That's an important part of recovery because…That paper on that paper. There's your tears and your fears. And you put them down and you cry and you weep. And you know I had to I was ha I was taught to go back. And cry for my young self at that happened. And I had to give him an ability to come on and say cocky I hear you. I hear you. I see you. You know I'm with you now. You're safe. You're not in the past You could talk about this, get it out you know? And it's not an ability to do that that I have it's ability that you know, you know, God kind of sent it to him He manages…It's what I do. It's the wheelhouse that I'm good at or somethings I'm not good at. You know you saw that in Oh eight or something that I'm not good at. But there's somethings that I am good at… Yeah…Our core. foundational principles at idea, the international deescalation association is…how your brain can only be in one of two states executive state and survival state And what you just described. Bye. Talking to yourself. And and making. Sure that your brain knows that you're safe. Is exactly one of the jewels. To be able to shift your brain out of survival state into executive state. Where you where you can have that processing occur. Because when you're in survival state your brain is locked up You're in fight flight or freeze. And you're you're not able to access all of the parts of your brain In fact that thinking part of the brain the prefrontal cortex is shut off. When you're in survival state. So what you're describing is exactly one of the techniques that we teach which is how do you get out of survival state into executive state? That's that's pretty cool. Now you tend. To be pretty direct. when you're helping someone get to their truths. Hmm…How do you, how do you do that and establish trust? All at the same time Cause that's a lot to. To be direct with someone without offending them …It changes for every. Person that I'm talking to…I don't want to let. I'm going to say it to you I don't want to let you get into a pity party. I don't want to let you get into a drunk a log. About you know how much he drank and all this other stuff. If you get into that, we're spinning our wheels and wasting our time That's not what I'm here. One of the one of the phrases for you audience. I like to share is. I know when I'm talking to the person. And when I'm talking to the disease. I when I'm talking to the disease, I got no time for that. Get it out blurted out But once it's done it's done I got to put a period on that. That moves off to the side Now let's talk about why we're in this room. and if we can get some help if I can help you with some stuff. And I say it just like that. I'll say just like that. I will honor. What they're saying to me, how you feel how you feel. You know and even if it's not right how you feel, how you feel, I have to honor that. And once it's gone, Once I remove it. We can talk about stuff…That's cool You have another phrase. Which is awesome since your first name is Leo. You got a Leo…Tell us what Leo stands for It's an acronym that you came up with. Yes to let everything out…All the stuff that all the POS all the hate all the fear. All the guilt all the shame. You have to find a way to let that out. Once it's out…This is open once this is open. This can talk to this. You know what at work when I was at work they used to hate this all the time because. One of the questions they would ask if they would ask me is okay where's the disease issue disease in your head or in your heart? And they all said it's in the hat. And I said I disagree. It's in the heart. Because this can tell this. What to think, but this can't tell this. What the field. So to me it's in here. Once you can heal this. Everything works…It's interesting that you're talking about. An emotional wound or a series of emotional wounds. In a physical sense. Before I became a cop I was an emergency room technician. I still am an EMT but I was an ER tech. And we used to have people come in. That had these wounds that had gotten infected and the doctors used to Lance them open and literally get the pus out exactly in a physical form. Just the same way that you're talking about it And then emotional forum. And for that wound to heal. That was the process that had to happen. To be able to get …the the the the infectious part of the wound. Out of the body. So that healing could take place So I love your analogy of Lansing the heart open and letting the puss out because, and in a physical sense that's exactly how you heal a wound in your. Drawing a…perfect analogy that I think anybody can understand too. To a healing those emotional wounds that allow you to then be able to become a better person…I still have scars inside and out. I still have them. They just don't hurt so much you know and those scars …Keep me sober. And those are the scars that I show to the people that I'm talking to. You know look at okay. This is what I got for you man. I'm not I'm not here to hurt you. I don't know yet…We're just in a circle. right now and this meeting right now you know? And actually that's that that that's a really good analogy that you made about, you know getting a puss out Cause that's what it is. I have to get out all that. And the posse is full of guilt, shame, hatred fear. I used to say I was angry all the time. My old job I worked on the border. I worked I worked five minutes from the murder capital of the world downtown Detroit for, for 15 years And I worked steady midnight so I could get into altercations which and I'm not a tough man. But I'm not a top man, but I used to. Cause it cause I needed that I needed that. Angry all the time I was angry all the time…Carrie I'm afraid …Truth is I'm afraid I'm afraid of everything. You know, and…Most first responders they can say they're angry all day. A lot of it is here. A lot of us grab. A lot of us become EMT A lot of us go into the military. Because you know…What happened to me? That was never going to happen to me or guarantee, and that was never going to happen to anybody else Again. On my watch…Yeah. And again one of our…foundational. Concepts is…the root. Of all conflict is fear…And when you when you when you approach it that way …Fear of being the root of all conflict…Whenever you see conflict. And you began immediately to start looking for the fear…That… Does a couple of things First of all it shifts your brain into executive state from survival state because you get curious you can't be. Curious and. The in survival state at the same time. That's that's the first part of that. And the second thing is it automatically. Tends to. Make you compassionate and you can't be in compassion and in survival. at the same time. So it's a it's a double whammy there. Of curiosity and compassion because when you start looking for. Where is the fear coming from That's creating this conflict and we see that it's beer that's generating these negative emotions is. Anger and frustration and overwhelm and. And all these, all these things that people present with But when we look for the fear underneath it…We begin to we can begin to have compassion for that person because who would want to live with that level of fear. That makes you angry and makes you frustrated. And you can do that for yourself too. It's a it's a great tool to use So that's the caveat behind what I do You know, you want me to be sober…You want me to recognize my fear You want me to deal with that crap in front of a group of strangers …That's why I get drunk and high. I deal with all that. That's when I get drunk and high. And now you take away my coping medicine. Mechanism. And you want me to deal with my feelings? We want me to let me to get that out Are you kidding? Scary Scary scary scary stuff. Yeah. So more fear. More conflict. Yes sir…Now I'm going to shift gears just a little bit. Because the title underneath your name people who've seen it a couple times already and there's probably. If you're not. If you're watching this on the video side of things you're not just listening to the audio part. Underneath your name. Is your title former chaos. Magician. Tell me The…background of that… My, my…I was probably a full blown alcoholic by the time I was 21…Regularly drinking. At least like a 26 hours. Blah blah blah. Today…I want. At 21. Every day every day every day, went to school. Got a degree. Applied for a law enforcement job at the border here in Canada. Got that pace that while I was drinking. You know became a canine. While I was drinking. Gotcha. Got married. Absolutely destroyed A wonderful woman. Really nice woman and my kids. You know they're still hurting from from what happened from me from me you know? But I have to juggle all that. A job. Marriage. A family. Responsibilities …And full-time alcoholic at the same time. So I became a chaos magician. I can make magic out of nothing I knew where every. Every liquor store was. I knew when the banks open, I knew how much money I had. I knew how much booze I had. I knew the windows that I have to drink canoe the. that I had to be sober So I wouldn't be caught on my way. I knew by after after I got divorced in. 90. Four 90. So I got divorced I got divorced within seven eight years. Then I have to have it from work. You know I used to say. I like working out became part of my addiction. I would go to the gym for a couple hours to sweat all the boots and everything odd to me. So when I went to work. You know people Oh Leo he looks so attack. Oh I got up early man Went to the gym for three hours. It became part of my life working out became part of my life. So everything. Was all about… Me drinking And then and the last four or five years. It wasn't enough…But 40 a block or wasn't enough. I can't my psychiatrist. And to give me a script for Xanax. So I started abusing a sandbox with a 40 as well, and it was the perfect roofie It Did the job absolutely take the job you know? And then I would play. in all my drinking. And the honest members if you're struggling you know one in five One of one five sizes. So I'm probably talking to to some of you folks as well. I would plan everything around me getting drunk or high I. I would do that And then as soon as I could get it now I have to also tying it to my recovery time. So I wouldn't get caught. We are tremendous liars. We have to be I had to be in order to try to keep that. That life of mine that I had going on. Deceitful. You know, And coming out of that now coming out of that on this side right? You know if you look at it Gary I've got over half a century. Half a century. On both sides of this disease …I'm going to tell you that makes me a subject matter expert. In this area. I'm going to suggest that at least I'm going to suggest that at least you know… And…Uh words of magician… Now we're just talking about the tricks that I did…Wow what a great analogy and said that's a lot to juggle a lot to keep track of and. And the facade…That. People maintain…Sometimes can be …Overwhelming to be able to maintain that And yet we feel that we have to, and. And sometimes you do have to…interesting…All right so I'm gonna shift gears again …This is going to seem like maybe …A tough question. To our listeners. But I know you're fully prepared for this question. Why are you sober … My journey past to be spiritual. Has to be spiritual I'm not saying you know, You say 20? Mary's and you're sober That's not what I'm. But everything that's happened to me both good and bad has, has been for a purpose And I don't know what that is Yeah. You know, I'm sober because the last day I you know, The last day I drank …took a Xanax as well I fell through a glass table at home. In my apartment. I fell through a glass table. And I ended up in a hospital. And they kept me in like a medically induced coma for at least a couple of weeks So my brain could relax you know…And when…I was lucid, there was a doctor standing there by the side of my bed and he said Ah…he's holding a little plastic bag and he said you know I got I got two pieces of glass. They weren't in your eye but they were in your eyeball here. He said I'm going to come back and talk to you tomorrow And he did the next day. And he said to me yeah You're you're. Enzyme levels are screaming…You don't have cirrhosis yet. But you're right there. You know, And because I fell through a glass table I had to go in to get in the MRI You No wonder the can had to get brain scans you know pop pop pop pop pop pop…That's where I met with the neurologist. This guy…He he…He was a good man He's a good doctor , but he was angry with me He was angry with me…He was angry with me for what You know what I've done with myself? And he said to me how old are you? And I said I'm 52. At the time. You said your brain is half the size It should be. And I see. Is it because I'm an alcoholic …And he says, I said if, if I quit drinking will it get any better And he goes you don't. And I got mad at him. I got mad at them. I said what do you mean? What do you mean He says you keep going the way you're going. You got six months maybe a year You're done. So I got two doctors telling me. I'm done. You know what I mean? I'm caught at work. I'm caught at work Everybody knew. My boss knew they came to the hospital He said what do you want to do? And I said I need help I got to go to the hospital that you go to the hospital. Your job will be here and you get back. Just go to hot go go go to the corner of detox, go to a program called It's over And what about the job? We'll keep it for can they defer? For for nine days you know, So…The only reason I'm here care It's I got caught…And, you know God gave me a second chance and give me another chance to do this you know, and I become very good at this. I'm a very good recovery coach I'm a very good intervention professional. My certifications are from the addictions academy man. You know Dr Kelly asterix is a brilliant brilliant brilliant…Perfect professional lady man She knows her stuff like nobody else has. I could get certain certifications from them. That's something you know, And. I've been blessed with. A job from her that I start probably in in April started doing my first classes with her. It's all like I said I'm on a spiritual journey. This is God's plan. I mean this is what I'm good at. You know and in L L in LA you saw what I wasn't good at. But I had to go see that door I'm not good in crisis. But I'm solid. And peer support solid…Very cool. So here's another question and that is. Again I know you're prepared for in our listeners. Hang with me for asking this. I'm asking it for a particular reason…Leo …Why should I trust you …I've been down some paths. That I'm sure you might have. You know… January 25th, 2018…It was a very very bad day for me …Very very bad gave me …And that was a week before I met you in LA. Care that's a week before Right So I'm just carrying that…I can tell you about that if you want…I be honored. I was in new Orleans. And I had given a talk. At the American correctional association conference And I had probably …I don't know 400 correction officers and breasts. In the room with me and it went really well You know what I mean It went really well. God's given me the ability to speak and share. And so the next day I was just a tourist in the world. You know I fly out At the DFS so that I got data kill So. Uh about a mile from my house was a place called cafe do more I don't know if you've ever been in new Orleans cafe du MoMA They have a. Wonderful. Char. What do they call this chocolate hot chocolate. Cafe Ole. Cafe LA and they have wonderful venues that they make right there Sugar don't. I just wonder if that watch You know so I'm being a tourist I'm half and that you know when. Then I got him off a lot of sandwich I'm off a lot of sandwiches. I'm going to tell you this. And as as as…you know you can tell by this this knows that I carry in my name that I have. A lot of sandwiches at beautiful sandwich It's a French sandwich It's got you know big thick French bread. It's got wonderful cheeses and wonderful salamis and more Fidelis and CAPA colos. And all this and he put the sandwich together. And you carry it around for like an hour or two and all the flavors meld and then it becomes something special you know? So I know I'm just being a tourist and they got a beautiful park down there. And I'm walking around down a park and there's this little cement bridge I go up the summit bridge and look down. I'm going to see a man. And. He's urinating on a wall…Can I just focus on here…And I watch him stagger over to the ground…And he falls off. He falls face first…And I think we're at …And I. So depressed…That's you…That's how I passed out all the time That's you…All this stuff. It's all a lie. That's all you're ever going to be sewing. I've depressed as anything. So I started crying and I just wandered aimlessly back towards my hotel…and they have a beautiful church down there and there's homeless along the way that I'm walking through. They have a beautiful church down there I think it's called St Michael's. And so so I went into this church on a SAC. I sack…And I waited. Just I waited…And while I was there …I made a plan …What am I going to get a gun in new Orleans…But I made a plan. You know…And so I left. And I've got a bottle of Jack Daniels…And I went back up to my hotel room I put the sandwich in the bottle town…And then went down to the desk and I went by the desk and there was a there was a young couple there. Th they looked like they were going to be a couple Hey, Hey Mr Petrelli. How you doing? You know I said I'm doing good Listen I got to go back to the conference room I forgot I think I forgot my cell phone out there. All right Take care of me So I take the escalator off I go. And I've got my conference bag with me and I grabbed. A very thick extension cord…And I put it in the bag. And I go back down. Can I put it in my room…And I go onto the parking garage and I'm looking around and they've got big thick beams down there. Metal metal beams down there. Okay. And so I I looked for the doors. The side doors. 'cause staff always smoke outside. There were smoke outside. So I go through and I find a chair…I have a chair. I walk around…I found it. I found it been…So now I've got to means the place to play in. I'm depressed as anything…Instantly depressed as anything…I went back to my room…I sat down at port. Porter classic Jack Daniels…And I started writing a note … I'm sorry … So depressed. Calm. As anything…Calm as anything because it's the right thing to do. A whole life carrier has been you know if you knew me you would hate me too. It's been my whole life. You know…So …Well, I looked at that sandwich…And I said you know what? Got to have a last meal…So I took a bite of the sandwich …It was a damn good sandwich …More …The better…you know …I poured …The glass of Jack in the sink…I brought the bottle Okay. We've seen…outside. In the home…If I drank that day I wouldn't be here right now I'll tell you that…Right now. I'll tell you that…So one of the tools that I used to be sober…I think everything I've shared to use tools that have been given to me and it's been my journey So …That's why I do what I do. Long-winded answer but. I hope it helps …You know …I'll talk in a future episode…About…My brush with suicide…And…How I got to that dark spot My life…I'll just say right now that…I'm grateful. For you sharing what you just shared…Not just …Not just for being vulnerable but …Letting all of us know we know that in the first responder community that. Suicides are, are hugely prevalent and under reported …And the reality is. It doesn't matter. How good things can seem on the outside. I'm willing to bet that I lose. Four or 500. People that heard you talk that day that they never suspected…That. That you were going down. That dark hole …And. As we…As we …Ourselves. Can experience those demons. Poking onto us…Realizing that other people can as. well…And…The message being that if. You. One of our listeners…Are going through something like that. There's tons of resources. Available There's tons of people who want…to be able to help you …Cop line. Which I'll put the number in our show notes, and we're going to have people in future episodes from cop line that we're going to interview…That's just one resource. You found a way…Too. Shift out of that dark spot. True a sandwich…And…You know there's there's so many good things that you, you Leo bring to this world …Even though there is some things that, as you said that. If I knew Yeah I'd hate you but…I know you today. And I love you like a brother You're amazing individual You're in your your. A man with such a good heart. And I am glad that you're here …And thank you for, for sharing your past. Thank you for sharing. What got you through stuff …Thank you for sharing the tools. That you use to help other people. To calm people down when they're in crisis…And. Gosh I just, I couldn't have asked for anything more. Then to have a chat with you today and for our listeners to be able to …Get out of your story whatever they can get. And I have no doubt. That at the right time somebody's going to listen to you talk and share. And gain tons of value from that. So thank you Leo …Thank you for all those kind words. Thank you for. You know the love that you should. That you've given to me You don't know who I am but…you know I feel really close to you as a person Q1…You know what sobriety is possible We just. We've got to unpack our staff We got to get it out. Once it's out you don't have to pick it up and. Helping others keeps me Okay And, you know, That ain't easy being a chaos magician man …And hate easy being a chaos magician. Sometimes though it's nice sitting in the audience You. Just having to sit in the audience sometimes. So thank you This was my honor…So for our listeners if you want to keep in touch with Leo. We're going to keep his…His contact information available to you. All you have to do is send us an email at. Team at the idea that world. And. We'll connect you with Leo. And we'll do it that way too. Protect his personal contact information. But just know. That Leo is open to you connecting with him. If you'd like to if you'd like to send them a. Just a word of thanks for being on the show. Word of encouragement or any questions that you have is…Like I said he's a man with huge heart. And he's. In it to help. Other people who have…experienced the same or similar things that he has. So…again, shoot us an email team at the idea that world our phone number is in…the. Uh shownotes and. You can also keep in mind if you want to reach out to cup line directly that information is on our show notes as well. Leo before we go. Do you have any last parting thoughts or words that you want to share …It just it it's it's it's pasta. man. You know what not being a prisoner to your past. It's possible. You know a lot of people on the job. You know, direct trauma that's being done to them every day. You know vicarious trauma This year and the job every day you know …Being able to put that off to the side if you need help. You know you're not alone There's so many peer support. Peer support does not get enough …Momentum behind it especially when you got some really good peers that that can share their stuff and help others you know? And thank you for what you do man I think it's uh… I think it's pretty cool And thank you for this opportunity for me to tell my story. You bet. Thanks for being here And for our listeners Thanks for listening to the deescalation conversations podcast. We'll look forward to. Our next episode. For now. As always. Stay safe …