Andrew: I have the pleasure of interviewing Michael Dadashi the Founder and CEO of Infinite Recovery located in Austin, Texas and the Founder and Company Director of MHD enterprises, an electronics, recycling and resale business with nearly 70% of its employees in recovery. Thank you so much, Michael, for joining us at Serene Scene Magazine today.
Michael: Thank you so much.
Andrew: Why don’t you tell us about your story a little?
Michael: Okay, so I was born and raised in Austin, Texas. I’m 32 years old. And my story with my journey of addiction and leading up into recovery started in 1998, my freshman year of High School, when I first discovered alcohol. And I used alcohol the first time just in a social setting, not thinking much of it, not thinking of any of the implications, just really succumbing to peer pressure and wanting to be a part of a crew. And when I drank the first time, I ended up blacking out and not really knowing what happened that night but just remembering the effect that it produced and knowing that I wanted to do it again. And unbeknownst to me, it filled this void within myself that I had been living with for so many years that I was unaware of since I thought it was just normal, par for the course type feelings, but once I finally discovered alcohol it was like, my God, that feeling goes away, that anxious feeling, that nervous disposition seemed to disappear that night that I drank alcohol. It was almost like this emptiness inside of me was all of a sudden filled, and that’s why I wanted to experience alcohol again and again. As I continued to progress in my drinking, I just continued to drink more and more and my habit just continued to grow and I couldn’t really control the amount that I took.
I would always black out or I would always have a bad experience happen every time I drank alcohol. So that lasted for about three years, and then I discovered prescription pills. And once I discovered prescription pills, I really just became a daily user and became chronically addicted. Yeah, so I discovered prescription pills and that seemed to fill the void even more.
I always had that emptiness, that kind of screw inside of me that would always tighten and tighten and tighten and every time I took pills or drank alcohol, it seemed to relieve that discomfort and relieve that anxiety and that emptiness that was inside of me. As the story goes with most addiction, my problems began to pile up on me and I couldn’t keep control of what was going to happen, I started getting in tons of trouble. One of the times that I ended up getting fired was a catalyst for me to start my first business which was MHC Enterprises. I’d gotten fired for the fifth time and I couldn’t get my job back. I was always good at cleaning up and trying to trying to get things back on track right away after going on a spree and after going to rehab. And this one time that I got fired, I couldn’t seem to get it back together and I couldn’t seem to be convincing enough to get my job back, so that’s when I started MHC Enterprises. It was kind of on a whim, and kind of out of necessity, because I couldn’t get a job anymore and I couldn’t get rehired at my old job.
I had lost out on all of my chances. So I started MHC Enterprises and I slowly started to build that business, but I was still going in and out of rehab and I wasn’t yet sober enough and I wasn’t on the right path. And then finally in July of 2009, I poured my heart all the way into recovery. I dove all the way in. I wasn’t just dipping my feet in the water anymore. And once I dove all the way into recovery and really just did a total 180, I said I can’t keep sweeping this under the rug and acting like it doesn’t exist. I need to face my addiction head on. I got to take the bull by the horns and follow the steps, follow the recovery program, go all in with service work, go all in with changing everything in my life. Not just the drugs and alcohol. And I started doing those things and I had a revolutionary spiritual awakening in 2009 and I still was doing business with MHC Enterprises at the time of having this personal awakening and it’s kind of crazy because simultaneously to myself having a spiritual awakening, my business had a spiritual awakening too, and part of the business’s spiritual awakening was I need to hire people that are in the local detoxes, people that are in the rehabs that I was constantly engaging with through service work and through unity events, and through fellowship.
So I started hiring these people because, it’s the craziest thing, once I got sober and once I redirected my attention, it was almost like God magnified all of my talent and I was finally able to think clear enough to put the right pieces in place and to build a really good business. And to build good relationships, good vendors, just good strategies for growing the business. So, my business was exploding and tons of products were coming in. I moved from my mother’s garage into a 7,000 square foot warehouse and then from a 7,000 square foot warehouse to 15,000 square foot warehouse and then from that, finally to a 27,000 square foot warehouse.
So I continued to grow and as I grew, like I said, my business had a spiritual awakening as well. And I was like, the most obvious thing was to hire the people that I was engaging with on a service level, on a mentorship level, on a sponsorship level. So I did that and I started bringing in the cream of the crop from the local rehab. The people that were really on fire about recovery. The people that wanted to change their lives. The people that just needed a second chance. The people that really couldn’t get a job anywhere else because of what they had just gone through, they were just 30 days sober or 60 days sober, they didn’t have a car. They were living at a halfway house. They had a criminal record. They hadn’t worked in ten years. They were dealing with all these life situations and I just believed in the ones that believed in themselves and believed in the recovery process. Because through volunteering my time at local detox centers and rehabs, not everybody wanted to get sober.
But the people that did want it, they were on fire for life and they were on fire for any way to change their lives and they were really just about this new found freedom that they had experienced, so I hired those people, and you know, and put them into MHT Enterprises and gave them purposes in life, you know, gave them a path on how they could be successful and realized how they get more productive numbers. A magical combination a magical synergy. So my business took two years to grow. We had tons of success, I was in Inc Magazine, their fastest growing companies of 2012. And I was the 20 fastest growing company in the nation. And that continued to progress, I continued to experience a lot of success in the external world. But what really gave me the most rigid and what really fulfill my heart the most, that gave the most riches in all areas of my life was the work that we were doing in the company with the people, and that always was something that got me excited, it was always something that got me fired up. It was always something that gave me a reason to show up for work each day. So I took that feeling, I harnessed it, and I was like, how can we take this to the next level? How can we expand this experience? And that’s when I created Infinite Recovery.
Infinite Recovery has a world class recovery campus here in Austin, Texas – right in the heart of Austin, Texas. We have a community center that’s open to the public. It’s located right next to a 12-step clubhouse so there’s 500-600 people a week that go to this recovery clubhouse that’s been in Austin for 15 years It’s one of the most famous recovery clubhouses in Austin and in Austin’s surrounding area. And I opened up the Infinite Recovery Campus and the community center right next to the 12 step clubhouse. So it should be a good synergy of community, of recovery and of all those elements right in this one shopping center here at Austin and yeah I just took that passion for getting back and for being a service to people and for, you know, trying to give people a taste of recovery and give people a taste of purpose.
I gave that some new legs and opened up Infinite, and as a result of that, we now own five homes here in the Austin area that really give people an amazing experience to live with other people that are just getting out of rehab and they can build their community and their homes together.
So that is my true passion. That is the same element that was in enterprises and we just moved it into recovery. So that’s part of my story. My experiences, the people in recovery are the hardest workers. They’re the most honest people because people that are truly working a recovery program are more honest than just average folks, because they have to practice their program. And they’re really putting themselves under a microscope every day to try and change their life and they’re really analyzing all of the decisions that they make and they’re analyzing. They’re thinking and they’re trying to stay positive and they’re you know doing prayer and meditation and they’re really just watching how they interact with people and they’re really wanting to give everything a full effort.
So my experience with hiring people in recovery was that I got ten-times more work out of the people in recovery as opposed to just the normal people that I hired off the street.
Andrew: So I’m sure you’ve had employees that have experienced relapse. How do you handle that?
Michael: We handle it just like any other job would, perhaps not like any other job would, but here’s the thing, no matter what company, no matter how big or small the company size, even companies that don’t hire “people in recovery,” they have people that are using drugs or alcohol in there corporation, they are not telling anybody but they are doing that it is just a fact. 10% of the U.S. has admitted to be alcoholic and they are addicts. So one out of ten times there’s going to be somebody in the workplace that’s using drugs or alcohol. So those people use drugs, they disappear, they’re sober, they relapse, whatever the case is. Everybody has to deal with it.
We deal with it in a much more positive way and that’s the blessing about having the recovery community in the workplace. Is that when people do relapse, we go out and support them instead of just not calling or saying you’re fired. We go out and support them and meet them where they’re at and maybe do a 12 step call or maybe help them get back into rehab, help them get into the hospital into a detox center. And then stay engaged with them as they get out of rehab for the second time where, as they sober up again, help them get back in the workplace. And help them get back on the right path.
Andrew: Now quite often people that are coming out of rehab facilities or are new to their sobriety and their recovery. But quite often they’re changing career paths. So do you have mentorship programs or training programs or do you help people go back to school?
Michael: Yeah, definitely. We do all of the above. We mentor people on certain skill set that we use in the workplace and we give them a buddy and a sponsor mentor in the workplace to help teach them these skills and coach them up to a level where they can be successful. And also school programs where we partner with of students for recovery here at UT. And we help them get back engaged with recovery communities on the college campus and help them on their education path that’s going to lead them to the career that they desire.
Andrew: You must have employees that are not in recovery as well. Do you have education tracks for them so that they can understand that some of the unique issues that play along with, that are in recovery.
Michael: Big time, yeah. I educate all of my staff that “Normie’s” that are not in recovery on all of the elements and the culture of people that are in recovery so that everybody can support one another.
Andrew: What do they think of the principles that follow along with recovery and you mentioned a few earlier about, being honest, hard-working and forthright. Are they taken aback a bit by that?
Michael: They kind of are, actually, they’re like woah, I’ve never experienced people can be so transparent and people being so authentic. I really think that it’s inspiring to the normies and to the people who aren’t in recovery. And it makes them want to be better people as well.
Andrew: You also employ some family members, right?
Michael: Yes, I do.
Andrew: Well, that’s another can of worms. So how do you manage employing family members as well?
Michael: It’s kind of the same thing because the way that I consider people in recovery, they are my family. They’re basically my second family. I know like I’m working with family dynamics. I’m working with my recovery communitarians, people that are on recovery or my family. I consider them my family. I feel it’s a very good environment, and a good mix and a good culture. Because the family had so much warmth and so much compassion to the people in recovery and vice versa. I really feel like they feed each other’s spirits very well.
Andrew: So let’s get down to some brass tacks here. Our listeners and readers are probably wondering, gee, if you have a workplace environment with so many people in recovery, that’s an awesome experience. But there are also some challenges that are attached to that and one of those is going to be with regard to the co-dependent nature of many of us in recovery. So how do you set boundary systems within the work place so that people aren’t stepping on other people’s toes?
Michael: Yeah, basically we set boundaries, and we let everybody practice their own program, and empower them to practice their own program. So if we see people over stepping their boundaries, or etcetera, etcetera. We just encourage them. It’s all about empowerment. I’m not a dictator here at work and I’m not anybody’s sponsor, but what I do is, I empower them and I encourage them. Hey, let’s go to a meeting tonight. Hey, let’s go to this meditation that we’re hosting at the community center this week. I encourage and lead by example, and I just empower people to seek their own recovery. Because if everybody focuses on their own recovery, they don’t need to focus on anybody else’s recovery. If they just focus on their own recovery, it all has a ripple effect on every people.
Andrew: Employee performance. Do you have some sort of performance compensation system in place or a review process? How do you handle reviewing people, giving them feedback, and helping them to improve?
Michael: Yeah, so we do have that. We just analyze everyone’s performance. And we encourage them to do some of their own self-analysis, kind of like a fourth step for the workplace. Have them look at things that they’ve possibly done wrong, clean up their side of the street in the workplace, and things that they could have improved on. It’s kind of like I helped them do their own self-analysis because I feel like that’s the only way that they’re going to grow.
If I’m just reviewing them and telling them all the things that I see. Nine times out of ten, they’re not going to change a lot of those things. But if I can help them encourage them to see them on their own. And for them to dig deep within themselves to come up with those areas where they need growth. I feel like they’re going to have so much more of a catalyst for change.
Andrew: And conflict must rise, how do you handle conflict? Is it different with those in recovery than it is with those that are not?
Michael: You know what? It kind of goes back to that thing with, they’ve got this spiritual tool kit. I feel like conflict happens less often with all of my employees that are in recovery, because they do have that spiritual tool kit. And they are practicing principles, so they resolve conflict right away. If they are getting into a conflict, they immediately ten step, or they call their sponsor, and they try and resolve it right away.
Andrew: You have an interesting mix of business and recovery. And you’re also operating two different environments, one being a treatment environment and sober living, and the other a business environment. That must give you some insight into people when they’re exhibiting behaviors that maybe aren’t conducive to their long-term recovery. Do you step in? Do you intervene on those behaviors?
Michael: I do. I help people, like I said earlier, help really empower the people that are in recovery to seek their own recovery, and to really get engaged with what direction they want to go in life. And really get them excited about experiencing the promises that recovery has to offer, and empowering them to really take themselves to the fourth dimension. And take their recovery to the next level where they can be of more service to other people, and experience all of these riches that recovery has to offer. So if I continue to do that, like I said, everything seems to work itself out.
Andrew: The primary readership of this magazine are therapists and counselors that are in the profession of treating addiction. What advice do you have for them, when they’re helping someone during the discharge planning process. And they’ve got a patient that’s going to be out there looking for work. How can you help them help those people find somebody like you?
Michael: The simplest, and the shortest answer that I can give is, encourage them to find community. They need to find, a sense of community not only in a sober home that they’re going to go to, or a new city that they’re going to go to, but also in the workplace. They need to find a sense of community. Whether or not, depending on the location, whether they can find a job that supports people in recovery or hires people in recovery. As long as they can at least find some sense of purpose out of that, and then find the community outside of the workplace. So that’s the key element, I’d really encourage them to pull their clients of the vision that they really need to get engaged with some type of purpose for. Where they can feel good about themselves, and have a sense of giving back to the community or to the world at large. And just to get engaged in community. I mean, as much as possible in the workplace, at school, in their home groups, at their sober home. It’s all about community and purpose.
Andrew: There certainly isn’t a tremendous amount of confidence in somebody that’s trying to re-enter the workplace for the first time, but in a sober way. Perhaps they’ve been out there for a really long time drinking and using and they’ve been able to hold a job, but now that they’re in recovery that’s a very different thing. Confidence is tough for them. From an employer’s perspective, what are you really looking for in an employee?
Michael: I’m looking for somebody that has enthusiasm. I’m really looking for somebody that has enthusiasm and is fired up about their recovery and is fired up about life.
Andrew: Boy if somebody’s in recovery and they’re really taking it serious I would think they’ve all got enthusiasm
Michael: Exactly, so really that’s my only prerequisite.
Andrew: You’re involved with a couple of philanthropic efforts. One is called Facing Addiction. What is Facing Addiction about?
Michael: Facing Addition is a national non-profit. They basically want to create a brand that can go head to head with the Susan G Komen or the American Heart Association. So they want to be that face and that size brand in the recovery non-profit space.
And we’re doing huge things to try and change the stigma. That’s one of our pillars. And then the second pillar is to try and change and influence the politicians to try and change and reform some of these drug policies.
Andrew: And the second that you’re involved with is HeartWater. And is it my understanding that the co-founder of HeartWater is your fiancé?
Andrew: Well you got to give her a big shout out right now then.
Michael: Thank you. Yes my beautiful, lovely, and talented fiancé, Ylianna Guerra.
Andrew: Now what does HeartWater do?
Michael: HeartWater is a platform designed to quench the universal thirst for authenticity and vulnerability through powerful stories of recovery, inspiration, and hope. You can go to pouryourheartout.com. Just as its spelled, pouryourheartout.com. And you can also find us on Facebook and Instagram. And basically what we’re doing with HeartWater is to try and share what’s going on the inside of people. Because in today’s society everybody is bottling up their emotion. They’re not sharing. They’re not being vulnerable. They’re putting on a facade and trying to quench the thirst for authenticity. So we’re trying to smash that facade. Allow people to share openly. Allow people to share stories of suffering that they’ve overcome so that we can connect heart to heart in the world.
Andrew: Well, Michael Dadashi, thank you so much for joining us here at Serene Scene Magazine today. We really appreciate your time and your knowledge.
Michael: It was my honor. Thank you so much for inviting me on the call. And I’m just so grateful to share all the things that I’m passionate about and your level of enthusiasm and excitement about it as well.