Interview With Ross Remien of Rebos

 

Andrew: I am sitting here today was Ross Remien, the
founder and director of Rebos, in Culver City, California,
a unique outpatient program. Ross, thank you
so much for taking the time to visit with our readers
today.

Ross: I appreciate it, Andrew, thank you so much.

Andrew: We, we start off these interviews by asking
people about their back story: who are you, what got
you to this place. This is really interesting for our readers.
So can you tell us a little bit about that?

Ross: I’m from a little suburb just north of Chicago, and
I was born and raised there. I spent the majority of my
time between Chicago and Wisconsin. I’ll say Wisconsin’s
sort of where my heart’s at – where I was born and
raised. My father died when I was very young. He was
a successful Chicago businessman. He died on Halloween
of 1988. For the most part it was just me and my
mom growing up. My brothers and sisters were at least
16 years older than I was.
I had been through multiple, seven-and-a-half, rehabs,
as I say. I went AWOL for one of them, but I went
through seven different rehab centers all over the
place. I’ve done workshops, I’ve done big book studies,
been at big treatment centers. You know, week
long workshops, pretty much trying whatever I could
to get sober, knowing from my first treatment center
that drugs was a problem for me. So that was my thing
with drugs and alcohol.
Rebos came into existence, actually about eight years
ago, although I’ve only been open for two years. But
Rebos came into vision about eight years ago, when I
was trying to figure out what to do with my life. And,
like a lot of people while they’re in treatment, they
try to reinvent the treatment program that they’re in.
Thinking that they know better.

One of my counselors told me I was causing a lot of
trouble and a lot of mischief at the center I was at, and
they said, “You know, if you find so many problems
with our particular place why don’t you just create
your own place? You’ve been through enough of
them.” And so, that’s kind of what I did. I mean, maybe,
deep down, I thought I would open a place one day.
I took a legal pad, and I wrote it down. I actually have
the legal pad still, I call it my business plan now. It’s
actually in the other room. It’s on yellow legal pad and
it was the beginnings of what I wanted Rebos to be.
The name Rebos is sober spelled backwards, because I
didn’t like the word sober – I thought it was extremely
boring and didn’t fit with what I wanted to be. So I was
just being a smart aleck and I flipped it around. I told
my counselor I’d just be living a Rebos way of life, and
my counselor says, “I don’t care what you call it, but
you need to be that.” So, that’s just kind of how that
came to be.

But, about eight years ago, I came up with Rebos and
I have it on a legal pad on one sheet of paper. Funny
enough, I actually even have, in the top corner of the
piece of paper, a flight to go back home to basically go
AWOL from the place. I was looking up flights online
and I had scribbled the flight number on it: I never did
catch that flight.

Within a few years of me working in the industry, I felt
it was time for Rebos to take flight. I had learned a lot
in the industry while working for other companies and
having my own private practice.

I just brought a bunch of people together and tried to
create a very unique treatment center that would be
really great for aftercare, whether you came from a 12
step program, or a non-12 step program. That’s why
we’re here now.

Andrew: That’s so interesting. And I want to focus
more on why Rebos is unique. But before I do that, I’m
intrigued about something that you said. Seventeen
years of being out there and progressing into cocaine
and crack. You are kind of lucky to be here.

Ross: Yeah. A little bit.

Andrew: Seven and a half rehabs later, you’ve really
toured the facilities and the programs.

Ross: I’m a weathered individual.

Andrew: So I’m curious. What is it that made you realize
how to invest, once and for all, in your own personal
recovery? What was that point?

Ross: From day one in the treatment center I went to, I
knew I had a drug and alcohol problem. And I remember
telling my counselor at the time, who coincidentally
I just saw a few weeks ago at a conference where I
had dinner with him and said a huge apology because
I lost it on him because he had told me to go to a sober
living house in northern Wisconsin, and I told him
what to do with that whole idea. You know, through all
the treatment centers I went to, my will and my desire
to get sober was present at every single one of them.
My will and my desire to be a sober man was there.
What wasn’t there was my willingness to do what they
told me to do after I left treatment.

I was either only willing to do 30% of what they told
me or 70% or 99%. But this is like a cancer, if you do
not do 100% of the cancer treatment. And if the doctor
tells you, “We’ve gotten 99% of the cancer out of your
body, you should feel good.” I mean, you’re not going
to feel good. I mean, you want to hear 100%. You have
to do 100% of what they tell you to do. And I wasn’t
ready to do that until the last one. I was just so arrogant.
I was so full of it, I thought I could muscle this. It
really came to show that my will and my desire to be
sober was not enough. And I tell my clients that all the
time. It is willingness to get sober that gets you into
programs, it makes you stay in programs so you don’t
leave early, but once you leave, your will and desire to
stay sober is almost irrelevant in a lot of ways.
Because how many times, at least for myself, I’d relapse
and I’d be smoking a crack pipe I’d sit there and
think that I don’t want to be doing this. So, my will and
desire are not enough. I know that smoking crack is
bad. I know that doing cocaine is bad. I know lying to
my family, and all that stuff is bad. But, until I did what
they told me to do exactly, and I changed my beliefs
and my actions, and started relying on a mentor, a
sponsor, and depending on that where I was in my
sobriety.

Now I have more mentors going on in my life that I
look to for business and for my private life. That’s what
it comes down to. That’s when it clicked. One guy said,
“You’ve got to accept who you are.

If you don’t want to surrender to what we say, at least
accept that what you are doing is not working.”
And I did.

Andrew: Was it conscious with you? I mean, did you
have a time where you thought, “Okay, what I’ve been
doing hasn’t been working for me so I clearly I need to
change something. So what I’m going to do this time
around, is I’m going to do everything they say and let’s
see if that works.”?

Ross: 100% Conscious. I literally sat down one day
and admitted to myself what I was, and that I couldn’t
be trusted. And that was terrifying to me and very
depressing to me. But I remember sitting at the treatment
center I was at, and I said, “I can’t trust myself,
I’m a liar.” I was a liar to other people, to my family and
friends and whoever; but most importantly, I was a liar
to myself.

I was totally by myself. I’ll never forget it, it lasted for
about two to three weeks where I was in treatment. I
just walked alone there. I wasn’t at the table smoking
cigarettes with other people. I wasn’t having dinner
or lunch or breakfast with the other people. I was
going to my sessions, going to my group, and people
thought I was isolating. But I told people that I can’t
trust what comes out of my mouth. Because I seem to
exaggerate circumstances, I seem to lie to myself and
say I’m not going out. So if I can’t trust what comes out
of my mouth, I’m just not going to talk, and I’m just going
to listen. The therapists were really surprised that
I had said that. And then I really made an extremely
conscious effort to only tell the truth. If I messed up,
because it wasn’t like turning on and off the light
switch, and white lies and big lies were still coming
out. What I would do is go back and tell that person “I
was so full of it there, and I am really working on this,
so please don’t take offense to it. I’m sorry, I just lied,
I just literally lied straight to you and I didn’t blink an
eye, I literally looked right into your eyes, and I lied to
you, and I’m really sorry.”

And that has been one of the biggest things that I
still am very good at doing now; admitting when I’m
wrong. It’s helped me in my marriage like you wouldn’t
believe. It’s helped me at work, it’s helped me with my
clients.

Andrew: Well, thank you for talking about that, because
your words just now are inspirational to countless
others.

Ross: Thank you.

Andrew: You just mentioned your wife.

Ross: Yeah. I have a wife and a dog. That’s my family.

Andrew: And your wife’s been involved with you in developing
Rebos as well. So let’s talk about that a little.

Ross: Like most of us in this world, I tend to think of my
mind as very unique. I can’t even control the thoughts
that come into it, because my head works so fast. She’s
one of the few people that is able to take the gibberish
that comes out of my mouth and lay it out on paper.
And she’s also extremely brave, because a lot of my
ideas were very far-fetched to most people. Basically
I told her to quit her job and just help me set this up.
I said, “I don’t know what this is going to bring for us
financially or spiritually or anything. But, you know
what, you hate the job right now, and I feel a little
gutsy right now. Let’s take a swing at the least. I’m sure
we’ll get something out of it in, in some way, shape or
form – whether this place fails or goes.” She just walked
with me, with a lot of tears, a lot of frustrations, and a
lot of sleepless nights. I think I could have done this
place without her, but it wouldn’t have happened as
fast, it wouldn’t have been as classy from the start, and
it would have been wobbly. It would have been pretty
wobbly. I mean there’s not much that I can’t do, but
we definitely have people in our lives, if we choose to
recognize them, who can really make any situation a
bit smoother. I’m I eternally grateful to her for that.

Andrew: You mentioned your father being a business
man, and obviously you’re very entrepreneurial. Do
you think some of that comes from your family of
origin?

Ross: Yeah, I do. I think, whether it’s in my DNA, or
whether it’s just in my mind, if that’s what I want to be,
I think it is.

I never knew my dad as well as I wanted to. He died
when I was 10. My dad was a guy that came from a
long line of entrepreneurs. He did a lot of different
things. And, he started a company from the ground up
and did it. And I think that he’s in my spirit. I think it’s in
anybody’s spirit if they choose to see it.

Andrew: Your older siblings, do you have a relationship
with them?

Ross: Yes I do, some of them I do. Some better than
others. I get along with my brother very well and my
two sisters you know, I’m not as tight as I am with my
brother, but definitely friendly with emails and phone
calls and what have you.

Andrew: They saw you go through your 17 years of addiction,
the whole thing, I would imagine. Where they
are today with you?

Ross: With me? Some better than others in all honesty.
I cleaned my side of the street up the best that I can, if
I had missed a spot, I listened to others that would say,
“You missed a spot over there. I need you to clean that
up before I’m willing to meet you half way.” And I had
done that, the best that I can. And I’m always willing to
look harder, if somebody says I need to. You know, for
my brother I think I’ve cleaned it up.

My brother is the one that pulled me out of my hellhole
seven years ago. You know, he found me when
I was 147 pounds, I’m six feet-two. Just to say I was a
mess, would be an understatement. He just laid it out
for me, “Either you do what I tell you to do or I’m walking.”
He didn’t want to hear I was sorry, he didn’t want
to hear anything. He said, “The proof is in the pudding,”
and that is really what it is. I mean, if you have been
through as many treatment centers I have, you can’t
sorry enough, and my sister is one of them. You know,
it’s not as great as I’d like it to be, with the other one
it’s still not as great as I’d like it to be. You know what,
everybody has their own time of when they’ll come
around. And that’s what that’ll be. And you know
what? I just, I can’t chase them, like I can’t chase anybody
else. They’ll come around when they want, I can’t
prove myself any more than I have now because I’d be
just lying and making stuff up. So that’s where I’m at.

Andrew: Your brother’s been a big help and your wife
has been a big help. Who else has been really inspirational
for you and has been there by your side?

Ross: You know, I’ve got personal friends that have
been there. I mean, I had a lot of friends that were fair
weather friends, and then I’ve had a couple of friends
that have really stuck by me, and that has been great. I
have work people, and my clinical director Dr. Deanna
Olivas, she has been brilliant with us here. She didn’t
know what she was getting into when we started this
whole thing, and I think the world of her. You know,
she took this job when we were growing very, very,
very fast and she just dropped into it – she’s been brilliant.
I mean, from my office manager Tamera, to Dr. D,
to Allen Berger as a mentor. He has been great helping
me on the business end of this stuff, you know, everybody
needs somebody to run stuff by, and he has
been that for me.

I’ve got my personal guy that I deal with, Dr. Mark
Stahlhut, he has been just great balancing the other
half of my life. There’s a business half and there’s a
personal half.

That’s the beautiful thing about Rebos is every single
person working here, it’s not a job to them. They
stay here because they like it, and they’ve all brought
something to it. And I’ve told them all, “I need your
help, this place is growing, I want this place to be, not
about the owner, this is about the clinicians.” Clients
don’t come back here for the owner of the place, they
come back for the people they work with. I’ve really
been straight up with that and with them. This staff
here, I just love them – I really do, they’re very dear to
me.

Andrew: I can tell that you mean that. Let’s talk about
Rebos now, because Rebos is a little different. So, can
you in a nutshell, describe the services that are offered
here. The type of clients that you’re specialized for, and
the philosophy?

Ross: I think the best way to start is the philosophy
of it. This place was created by a client – me. Back in
the day, back when I was getting sober, of the needs
that I needed when I was getting out of treatment.
And so the philosophy of this place is to, whether you
have been in treatment for two days or if this is your
second day of sobriety or your 22nd year of sobriety
or anywhere in the middle or farther on, it’s to meet
you exactly where you are at. It is to treat you like an
individual. People need to understand that sobriety is
so much more than just admitting you have a drinking
and drug problem. People’s beliefs are still messed
up. Most of our clients are coming from in patient.
Inpatient is such a necessarily thing, but when you
really break it down, and most professionals would
relate with this, it’s basically just a foundation. It is like
a foundation of a house; it is just setting. When people
are being let go after a month or even three months,
after care is where you start decorating. That’s where
you really get your pizzazz. You don’t find yourself in
after care, you create yourself in after care, and that’s
very important for people to really understand when
they’re trying to get sober.

Do not go through life trying to find yourself, go
through life creating yourself. You’re not going to pass
up opportunities that will drive right by you; that is so
important. So, the philosophy here is, this is more than
12 step or non-12 step. I’d get people who have been
through 12 step programs, and they’re just not, and
I say this with lot of love and respect, they’re just not
mature enough in their sobriety to really grasp what
12 step work is. They don’t understand the steps and
the only attitude that they have is, “I don’t believe in
it” or “I hate it.” And to me, that’s way too premature to
say because you haven’t even experienced it yet. So,
what I really see, and for myself, is that people need
more work before they can even comprehend a job. A
12 step program, six months of sobriety – anything.

I think a lot of other treatment centers that I was
finding for my after care, were just throwing me into
a big group of people and using a blanket philosophy
that would work for everybody. And you know what,
that might work for me on day one, but on day fourteen
I don’t know where I’m going mentally, but it’s
not a steady uphill blissful climb. I mean, this is a roller
coaster. So Rebos is very, very good at meeting a client
exactly where they’re at.

Rebos works so well with chronic relapsers because
we can really go through your program and figure out
what you haven’t done, and what you need to do. Just
because you go to treatment for 30 days of inpatient
doesn’t mean all your trauma from your lifetime has
been dealt with. You haven’t found out who you want
to be. Think about the amount of baggage that you go
into inpatient with. You need to detox, and most of the
time these kids now are doing drugs that take a long
time to detox from. People aren’t even finding their
real selves in 30 days, so this is where it’s great. We do
targeted individual counseling here, every single client
gets a four person team. They get a licensed psychotherapist.
They get a chemical dependency counselor.

They get a spiritual counselor and they get a case
manager. And if I need to add something else, some
other specialty to their program, I can easily interchange
them. If they’re dealing with minor food eating
disorders or if they need a PTSD specialist; you need a
career coach, maybe they’re trying to go to personal
fitness to a whole another level – I’ll bring in a trainer
to meet with them during that time. I can really customize.
So, they meet with each person at least once
a day for an hour. I remember, at my first treatment
center I went to, I met with an individual counselor for
43 minutes over a 28 day span. And this was one of the
biggest treatment centers in the country.

You know, people do really well, it’s just like any other
thing with individual counselling. If your kid is not
doing well in school, what do you do? You send him to
a one on one tutor. People do really well with personal
trainers at the gym. You can’t learn something in the
group, but when you get the one on one attention,
you excel. Nobody can deny that one on one does not
excel people. And then we also do groups here which
are very unique. I went through a lot of treatment
centers where people were just Xeroxing pages from
some textbook and then we read them out loud. Every
single counselor or therapist that does a group here
has to have a group where the clients have a remarkable
experience from it. It has to be something that
is unique to them, that they have created themselves
to share with the clients. So the clients can take what
they got in group and bring it back to their individual
counseling sessions. So you know by just doing
that, Rebos makes it that clients choose to stay here
longer. It’s not the treatment center telling to them to
stay here longer. Yeah, we have to do that with some
clients without a doubt, but from all the places that
I’ve been involved with, we’re not talking clients into
staying longer. They are telling us they want to stay
longer. And that’s the bliss, because people say 90
days of treatment solves everything, but I think the
bottom line is the longer people stay in treatment,
their chances of relapse go down. I don’t know what
the exact date is, because I’ve seen some people literally
stop after 30 years of drinking, they go to one AA
meeting and they’re done. And then you see people
like me, they have to take 10 years of going in and out,
so I don’t know what the number is. All I do know is
the longer you stay in treatment, the longer you want
to stay in treatment, the longer you feel more productive
in treatment, the chances of your success go up,
and that’s what Rebos is fabulous at.

Andrew: So how do you bring in your clients?

Ross: It’s actually kind of amazing – referrals. I have
spent pretty much zero money on marketing. A couple
stupid little internet things I did here and there but, for
the most part it’s a happy client telling somebody else
in their sober living that they’ve had a great experience
here and they send them over to us. And it’s by
sticking to our word of what we do. It’s the best form
of compliment, “hey, so and so is our roommate at sober
living if you want to come here.” So we get a lot of
people from sober livings, and we get a lot of patients
from inpatient treatment centers, that’s where we get
clients mostly from. It’s a straight up referral just a person
to person organic referral.

Andrew: You operate some sober livings as well, right?

Ross: Yes, we have two sober livings, one in Santa
Monica and one in the Mar Vista neighborhood of Los
Angeles, both on the west side of L.A.

Andrew: Are those worked in to the Rebos treatment
model?

Ross: They are worked in, in the sense that everybody
that is in them are clients here in our program. Because
you can’t just be in our sober living and watch
TV, smoke cigarettes, and drink red bull every day.
You’re still drunk to me, you just don’t have the bottle
with you. It’s all about becoming a productive person
in society. They all have gym memberships, they get
their food taken care of, they come to treatment every
day. We take them out on Saturdays as a group, everything
from going out to Catalina, paddle boarding,
indoor rock climbing, hikes to the water falls in Malibu.
We took them to a couple of theaters down town. We
find stuff to keep them active.

Andrew: Now payment is payment here is on self-pay
basis or, insurance as well.

Ross: We do both. The majority of people are on insurance
now. I guess it is the times we are in, insurance is
just through the roof right now and times are tough
for people. I don’t care how well the economy is doing,
whatever they say it’s doing. You know what? These
treatment centers are a lot of money and some are a
lot more expensive than mine but, that’s the one thing
we try to do here at Rebos is we try to meet people
where they are at to give them a program around their
budget, and around their time frame. For the people
that can’t afford to go to an inpatient treatment center,
Rebos is great place for people to start because, we
actually give a lot more treatment in a week than most
treatment centers give in a month, and that is a fact.
And let’s not disrespect anybody or any other places: it
is just how we have set up our program.

Andrew: Well, thank you for explaining what Rebos is
all about. It’s definitely a unique program and one in
which I happen to agree with the philosophy. Where
do you think, the future of treatment and after care
is headed here? Because there is a lot of conflict with
the Affordable Care Act, and there’s a lot of shuffling
around of inpatient versus outpatient programs right
now. People are trying to find their space, where
they’re treating, what are you finding?

Ross: I think that the treatment industry gets a hard
time. The majority of the people that come to my program
and to other programs that I know, colleagues
in the industry – I don’t look at them as competitors,
just people I always talk to – when I see them around,
we have lunch, we do whatever. And the one thing
is, I don’t know where this is going to go, because I
have not found a solid person that can really back
up what’s going on with this Affordable Care Act and
Obama Care and all this stuff that was supposed to
be happening as of January 1st. Where people are not
supposed to be denied treatment, you know, unlimited
stays, this that and another, I have not seen that yet.
And apparently that was supposed to get going.
And now what I’m seeing is kind of really spooky. Insurance
companies are huge, and they’re very powerful.
They do a lot of good for people, but at the same
time, they don’t. And, I’m not trying to pick a fight with
insurance companies. But, I’m also just a guy just kind
of laying it out there. It is what it is. They are machines
and that’s how they run. There is nobody fighting, like,
we don’t have an advocate, somebody that goes up
and challenges these people. Every other industryhas
somebody fighting for the businesses that are having
to deal with it. We don’t have that. We are literally at
the mercy of the insurance companies. And whether
it’s from the Affordable Care Act to, you go right down
the line of any insurance company, we’re at the mercy
of what they do. I’m starting to see where the insurance
companies are trying to strangle out the small
companies like myself that are trying to really give
good help for people. They’re just inundating you with
paperwork, making it hard to get reimbursements
because basically I am floating people’s treatment for
anywhere from two months to a year before I get any
payment on it. It makes it very difficult to do that, so
it’s like I’m literally fronting healthcare to cure people.

Andrew: Do you think some of that is because the
treatment model that we built is different? Do they not
understand it?

Ross: No, not at all, because we have to fit it into a
certain model. We’re talking about license psycho
therapists time, PHD level people that is what it is. But
for this so called disease that we are all in, that the
insurance company recognizes as a disease – that we
all recognize that it is, it’s been around for a while now.
You don’t see this going on with heart disease, you
don’t see this going on with cancer treatment, and
a person can get as many cancer treatments as they
possibly need.
But, if a person’s just trying to get some good affordable
outpatient treatment, insurance companies are
like, “Nope, we’re not doing that.”

Andrew: Well, in spite of these difficulties that you’re
encountering, you’ve been able to lead Rebos for the
last two years, and have experienced some tremendous
growth and success. Congratulations.

Ross: I appreciate that.

Andrew: But businesses is one part of the picture in
your life, and the other part is your personal life. And
somehow, as the founder operator of this agency, you
have to find a balance there.

Ross: Yeah.

Andrew: You mentioned that outdoor activities is
something that’s a big part of your life?

Ross: I grew up in an age where I spent a lot of time
in Wisconsin. I never had video games growing up, I
definitely was not a deprived child, so let’s not even
think of that, but my family’s vision was – you’re not
going to watch TV, you’re not getting video games. I’m
now 38 years old, so Nintendo and Atari, and all that
stuff was coming out when I was a kid. We didn’t have
that. My dad gave me a fishing pole, and he gave me a
wooden lure that he took a wire snips to and took off
the hooks on the wooden lure so that I could practice
casting and he wouldn’t have to unhook it from trees;
it was just a wooden plug that I was whooping around,
it’s just how we grew up.

My first semester of college, I went to Patagonia, Chili
to go hiking and camping down there. It was my first
semester and I got college credits for it. The outdoors
are huge for me. I try to paddle board as much as I
can. In the winter time, I am snow skiing as much as I
can. I am just not a person who likes to sit inside. And
that is very difficult to keep going with work, and it
is a balance. Because a lot of times you just feel like
taking a nap, but you should get your butt out on the
water and go get a little ocean breeze in your face. It’s
important to do that. You got to have balance and it’s
easier said than done.

Andrew: Yes. You said something earlier in the interview
today, Ross. You said, you try to get people to go
through life creating themselves rather than trying to
find themselves. I clearly see how that impacts Rebos
and the philosophy here. How does that impact your
perspective on life itself?

Ross: The day that I decided to start creating the
person that I wanted to be, and not trying to find the
person that everybody else wanted me to be, is when
my whole life changed. You are going to miss opportunities
if you go through life trying to find yourself,
because this is a big world. And while you’re trying to
find yourself, all these opportunities are driving right
by you. You know, life, no matter your age, takes a lot
of courage, and it takes a lots of bravery. Sobriety, to
me, is no different. You know, becoming sober and
maintaining sobriety is no different than creating a
business, you know, a profitable business, a successful
business however you want to do it. There’s no difference
between having a successful marriage, a happy
marriage, a productive marriage. It’s the same thing:
you have to create all the opportunities that are at
your fingertips – that are right there in front of you. If
you just sit there and let the world go by, you’re going
to drop something. You know this all comes down to
the exact same type of a thing: you have to identify
what you need, what you want in this world, and have
the guts and the bravery to accomplish it. It’s just like
in marriage, I have to admit a lot that I screwed up,
that I messed up, that I’m not right, I have to eat crow.
And vice-versa on my wife’s side. Business is the same
way, and my sobriety is the exact same way. If you’re
going to the gym and you’re trying to lose 20 pounds,
it’s the same. You have to create the opportunity, that’s
really what it is.

You know, sobriety for me, is I came into this as spiritually
bankrupt and now my goal on a daily basis is not
– not to drink and not to do drugs. That’s kind of the no
brainier thing. For me, the idea of me staying sober is
more than just not drinking and doing drugs. But it’s
for me to stay spiritually profitable. Just making sure
that my side of the street is clean that I have no guilt or
resentments at the end of the day. That I’m just maintaining
a level of spiritual healthiness, culpability, and
that’s why the clients come to Rebos. You know they
all come in here spiritually bankrupt, and we’re here to
make them spiritually profitable.

Andrew: Well, thank you for your inspiration, your tremendous
work with what you’re doing at Rebos, and
also for your guidance for those who are suffering still.

Ross: Thank you.