We Face it Together: A Unique Approach to Addiction Peer Support with guest Kattie Lail

The Mental Health Mamas continue our theme of connection as a key to favorable outcomes as we hear Kattie Lail's compelling story of overcoming addiction. As Kattie shares her story we are feeling all of the feels! Listen in to hear about the wonderfully innovative model for recovery support Kattie leads.

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Serena: Hey everyone, I'm Serena

Tina: And I'm Tina

Serena: And we are the Mental Health Mamas.


Serena: Welcome to Need to Explain. We are so glad you're here.

Tina: First, as always, a quick disclaimer.

Serena: We come to you not as mental health professionals or experts in the field, but rather as parents with lived experience who are on a mission to normalize the conversation around mental health.

Tina: If you or someone you love is experiencing a mental health crisis, please seek professional support. You will find a variety of resources in our show notes and on our website, noneedtoexplainpodcast.com .

Serena: So we're going to jump right in today to introduce our guest today. We're excited to talk with her. Katie Lail is an addiction wellness peer coach and supervisor. She's married with a young son and two great danes through her work as a peer coach and supervisor. She's able to get back and help others, and she loves being there for her members and sees the best in them even when they can't.

Tina: So Katie, when Serena and I met you late last summer, we were both awed by your story. The story of where you had come from and the story of your journey to get where you are today, which is I'm sure among many other wonderful things in your life, you support others who are struggling with addiction. So I wonder if you can take us on a bit of a journey with you and tell our listeners a little bit of your story of growing up.

Kattie: Yeah, absolutely. So you know, I grew up and what seemed like a really normal family when I was really young, you know, because you don't really like process things and see things for what they are when you're young. And so I grew up feeling very attached to my mom, close with my dad, you know, I had my grandparents in the picture. But as I got older, I started to notice that things were maybe not as good as they seemed when I was young. So both of my parents struggled with their own meth addiction. And so growing up, things kind of just increasingly got more chaotic as their addictions progressed. So, you know, when I was in third grade, we moved up to a farm just outside of the town that I live in. And that was kind of when things started to get really bad. I think that isolation was a really bad thing for my mom. And so she would take off and go hang out at the bar or the casino. And, you know, in this time, I was ranging from third grade to, I think we left there when I was in sixth grade. And so she would leave me to care for my younger siblings. It's kind of how that started. And so they were six and eight years younger than me. So the my sisters are eight years younger than me and my brother was six years younger than me. So I had, you know, young children that I was caring for while she would be gone. And so for me, that just seemed normal. And if my grandma called to

check on us, it was always like, I just knew to lie and say my mom was sleeping or out taking care of the cows or whatever that looked like that it just really got progressively worse. So then we moved back to the city that I'm from. It's Sioux Falls, South Dakota. And when we moved back there, things just got really bad. My mom would, you know, leave to get groceries. And she would be gone for, you know, sometimes a few days. And we would not have any idea how to get a hold of her. And during that time, I just always remember my brother, like, he wasn't really young enough to comprehend anything. Like, can we call mom? And, you know, there was a bar that she frequented often. And we would call there and you could hear her say in the background, you know, tell him

I'm not here. And so it was just super discouraging. And I just remember like, we would just try to play cool. And I would just call random numbers. And, you know, we would ask if my mom was there. And it was kind of just like a funny thing that we did. Like, looking back, it wasn't that funny. And it was really discouraging. And I was just trying to always like make sure that everybody was okay. And everybody felt like everything was okay.

Serena: So Katie, I'm just going to interrupt you. I want to I want to emphasize here. Tell us again, how old you were and how old your siblings were when this was going on.

Kattie: Yeah. So at this time, I was probably in like eighth and ninth grade. So I was, you know, like 12, 13, 14 in that range. And so my siblings would have been in, you know, six and four, like in that, that range. So pretty young, I think my brother was like, maybe in first grade, my sisters were kindergarten, so kind of that age range. And so, you know, things kind of just kept going on that way. There would be times when we didn't have, you know, running water. We didn't always necessarily have electricity going. And, you know, just like a sea of dirty clothes and just like overwhelming amounts of things. I remember one time, you know, my mom and my stuff had gotten a huge fight and she had like thrown all the cups and plates and broke them everywhere. And just like the mass destruction that was our house. And it was, you know, that house felt like a new beginning to us because we were moving to Sioux Falls. And you know, I thought things were going to be better. And it was a beautiful house. And things just really quickly fell apart. So we kind of went through that for a few years. I began, you know, smoking weed and drinking as a way to cope, because the only people that I really felt comfortable having at my house were people that also had similar life situations. That's kind of how I got involved in those things. And, you know, not to say that those friendships weren't meaningful to me, but they were definitely not the people that I would choose for my kids to hang out with. And so I kind of went along like that. And for me, like, I was also my mother's emotional caretaker as well. Like, I felt very responsible for her well-being. And there was always like a piece of me that felt like if I could connect with her, if I could make her feel better, she would stop using and she would stay home. And so, you know, that was always very fleeting, you know, and she would cry to me and tell me all this stuff. And so, for me and my young irrational mind, I thought the most rational choice to make was to start partying with my mom. And then we were going to be friends. And then she wasn't going to leave us. And so, I did. I started partying with my mom and, you know, I started off with just, like, drinking and hanging out with her. But, you know, one night I asked her if I could use meth with her. And she said, yes. And so, that was when I was 15. I did meth with my mom for the first time. And, you know, within a few weeks of trying it for my first time, I was already shooting it up because I was, you know, using meth with people who are older and more experienced. And so, I kind of wanted to fit in with that crowd. And so, everything just rolled really fast. And all the way through, you know, my high school career, I was either in trouble, actively under supervision or in a placement or using. So, I did eventually get taken away from my mom and sent to live with my grandma and grandpa. And they were amazing.

Tina: Let me interrupt you for a minute. And I wonder if you can just back up and say what happened to your whole family. Like, you got taken away. But were you separated for your siblings? Were they with

you? If you could just say that?

Kattie: Yeah. So, and that's a great point because I got separated. I got

taken away because I had gotten in trouble because I wasn't going to school. And so, they took me. And then my mom didn't do the things that she needed to do to get custody back of me. However, they did not ever take my siblings. They, they were still there with her. So, you know,

even after I had gotten, so I got sent away for nine months. And then when I got out and I was with my grandparents, when I was there, like, I just always felt like, and I wasn't supposed to have any contact with my mom, but my siblings were there. And so, I always wanted to go and be there with them and, you know, walk through that with them and support them. And so, I also would get in trouble for, you know, running away to my mom’s at that time. And also, you know, I was using with her at that time. So, that wasn't helpful either. But yeah, they stayed there. Until they were probably, I don't, 10 and 8, maybe even younger than that. Because my mom, you know, at that point, she couldn't even maintain the household anymore. And she kind of left and became a transient person in Denver for a while. And so, then my grandma took over their care as well.

Tina: Let's just stop and say, you are 12, 13, 14 years old. And the amount of pressure you felt to be the caretaker for adults, as well as children, was immense.

Kattie: And that's right.

Tina: And then I can't imagine having been away from the people that you were taking care of. And I can imagine that was about both, right? Both your siblings, as well as your mother, worrying about everyone. And then who wouldn't try to see them, right? I mean, seriously, this is complicated.

Kattie: Yeah. Yeah. Well, and even just you saying that, you know, that reminds me, just it brings me back to how emotionally responsible I felt for my mom, you know. And even like, even to this day, like, her mental health isn't good. I'm not sure her status was substance use. And I still like, I have really good boundaries. And I don't do that emotional caretaking for her anymore. But it's like, still in immense, like, weighing guilt that I shouldn't be. And so that was a really

difficult time for me. And I was really resentful to my grandparents because I felt like they were responsible for me not being with my mom. I couldn't see in the time that it was definitely the better choice for me not to be there. But I just wanted to make sure everybody was okay.

Tina: Yeah. So that point's important. And I think the other point that's important that I want people to hear in this episode is, there's a lot of misunderstanding with foster care, right? Or, or what do they call kinship care, sort of kinship, right? Like, there's a lot of judgment,

there's a lot of blame. And it is ultimately about well-being of children, but is the well-being of children to rip them away, to find whatever. Like, it is so complicated that I think the, you know, until we can take the judgment away and really want the best for everyone. Yeah, it's really hard. And I will get off my soapbox now, but I just want, I want people to hear you, Kattie, hear the immense pressure you had at such a young age, hear that your siblings, you know, that you loved your mom, and that's a real thing, right? That's a real thing for all of us.

We want to be attached. We want to be, you know, loving anyway.

Kattie: Yeah, well, and I mean, just, I mean, it's kind of off the subject, but as you bring that up, like the effect that that had on my mom as well, just kind of being like demonized rather than like, what steps can I do to make this right? And I don't think to this day, I think that's a trauma she hasn't been able to move past.

Tina: And doing what you do, you must realize that it's not helpful for sobriety either, right?

Kattie: Right. Yes. Yes. Yeah, because you feel like you failed, you know, and so what is the point now?

Serena: So I do want to fast forward just a little bit here in terms of, you know, you said you were 15 years old and you were using meth and you were getting a trouble and you've been removed from your home. And clearly, this is not your world now. You've come a long, long way. So what what happened in between to take you from that 15 year old who was using meth to where you are now?

Kattie: What a bumpy ride that was as well. But, you know, I got in trouble. I got arrested when I was 19. For my first time as an adult and I spent six months in jail. And for me, like that six months, I needed like it was the first time that I had a clear head and I was just stuck with myself. And I, you know, my mom had left for Denver. She kind of wasn't involved. And so I was just really like on my own and I, and I stopped and I was like, you know what, that is not actually how I want to be like, I don't want to be like my mom. I need to quit like chasing this relationship and I need to do what's best for me. And that was be

be sober. Like, I realized that I wasn't doing myself any justices by, by using and I, but I was, you know, it was making me actually a person that I didn't even like. So I got out of jail. I moved across the state with my dad who had gotten out of prison and he was doing really well.

And so I was just determined to be sober. I ended up in a relationship with another guy who wanted to be sober. But his relationship with sobriety was a little bit complicated. And so that faded quickly, but I became really dependent on him because I've never really been an adult

by myself. And so I, you know, he was my support person. I really counted on him to make sure that things were okay. And I just felt like I wasn't capable of like doing life without him. So we spent nine years with me, um, you know, doing really well and then him doing really well

and then him falling off and then me kind of like jumping in after him. And it was kind of just that same pattern that I did with my mom. I just wanted him to stay. And so I just kept, you know, doing that cycle with him. Um, and then at about nine years, about eight years, and we tried to have kids and we were unable to, and, you know, I thought that I was

unable to have kids forever. But I, it was like that reflection point I needed to be like, what am I doing in this relationship? Um, and so I walked away from that. And um, you know, and, and when I walked away from that, I had about four or five years of sobriety. Um, but when I walked away after, you know, grieving over not being able to have kids,

grieving over the loss of this relationship that I was 100% dependent on, not having any outside support. Um, at this time, all of my family was using, I ended up relapsing too. And so, um, I, yeah, during, so I, you know, I'm 29 now. And I'm like, I'm too old to be crashing on people's couches anymore. Um, so I need to be able to support myself. And for me, and the rational decision at that point was to sell drugs. Um, so six months after I went back to using, I was getting arrested by the federal government for a conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine. And I ended up, um, spending three years in federal prison. But it was the moment that I got arrested. I was like, I need to do something different. Like, I just need to like, actually work on all those things that I have been refusing to work on. Like, I've been just trying to do this by sheer willpower because I know it's not what I want, but I need to like,

allow myself time to heal. And I need to put myself in good situations with good people. So I just really became willing to do those things that I hadn't been willing to do before. Um, I let people in my life and when people like made suggestions or told me to try something, I tried it. Some of those things weren't for me, but some of those things changed my life. Um, so I, um, I also during that time prior to sentencing while I was out on pretrial release, I met and married my husband. I had about a year before I had to, you know, go into prison. Um, but then I went to prison for three years and got out. And I just, you know, used that time as really investing in myself. Like, not that that time was easy or that made it all, you know, worthwhile, but I knew that I wouldn't have another opportunity like this to, to make the changes within myself that I wanted to make. So I just really 100% invested in myself. Um, I got out of prison and, you know, I had a bachelor's degree in human services and after I'd been out for a couple of years, I was like, I just want to help people. I have this story. I have this passion. I am in a better place than I ever have been in my life. I've grown so much. And so that was when I kind of started looking for a job back in that human services, addictions field. And, um, I had so many doors shut in my face because of my felony because I'd been to prison and I was feeling so discouraged and I kind of really just had hung it up. And I, you know, I just was the rejection was just weighing. I mean, it's like, I'll revisit this at another time. Um, but then like Face It Together, the place where I work

now, came across on Indeed and I was reading the job description for this recovery coach. Um, and I was like, I feel like this is almost too good to be true. And this might be a scam, but I'm going to apply anyway. And I did. And I was, you know, I'd been so burnt out from like

trying to say the right things and, you know, whatever sugarcoat anything. And so I just threw it all out on the table. And I just remember them saying you have such amazing experience. You're going to be able to help so many people. And I got it at that point. Like if I don't get this job, I don't think that I'm going to be okay. And, and I got the job. And so since I've been there, you know, I moved up to being a addiction coaching supervisor.

Tina: So let's stop, let's stop there and what we're going to talk about your work more in-depth in a little bit. Yeah. I don't know whether you want to circle back to that question because I think it is important, right?

Serena: Yeah. So, I mean, what I'm hearing you say, Katie, is like, you are the, you're the picture of resilience. And you, you have basically, you know, experienced things that nobody should have to experience and found your way out of it. Um, and one of the things that we talk about or one of the things, you know, we, we, uh, refer to is this idea that statistically, um, when a youth has at least one safe, stable caring relationship, they can be far more successful in adulthood. They tend to be okay as long as they've got that one person. Um, and, you know, it's a statistic. It's, it's an anecdote. But I'm curious, did you have a person in your life that you could point to that really helped you?

Kattie: You know, I, even though I didn't recognize it at the time, I felt like it. There was so much contention in that relationship. My grandma was, you know, my rock. She was the always my cheerleader. She was always the one that like saw the best of me, even, even when I think everybody else just thought that I was destined to become my mom, my grandma always just knew that I was more than that. Um, and so, you know, she took me in and she always supported me and she just was, she was just the one that was there for me.

Tina: Yeah. So all right. That is amazing. And, uh, even when we don't

recognize it, sometimes it's good. Say look for your champions and sometimes when we're in a dark place, it's hard to think about that. Um, but we will reiterate it. Find your champions, find those people who believe in you, who will be your cheerleader. So I'm curious if you will, um, so we are big believers in peer support. It's why we do what we do. Um, we think we are, uh, pain, pain to purpose people, right? So I'm curious if you'll tell us more about this is a very unique program. I would say, um, we've seen a lot of things. It's unique. And so I want, I want you to tell us about this kind of soulful, peer work you're doing.

Kattie: Yeah. So Face It Together is just a really great organization.

We offer peer coaching, which essentially means that you are receiving coaching from somebody who has been there, done that who you can really relate with. So, you know, we have a variety of peer coaches with, um, varying backgrounds. And that's really important to us because we want somebody to be matched up with somebody that has a similar background to them so they can relate and it kind of just wipes away that shame and that stigma of, you know, anything related to addiction. Um, and just those like mass complicated feelings, just knowing that you're, you're not the only one that's been there. So we, we offer not only coaching for people who have struggled with, with or are struggling with addiction themselves, but we also have a program for loved ones, um, because, you know, we kept getting calls from people who are trying to get their loved ones help and we're like, we wish we could do more for these loved ones. So we developed a program that helps loved ones work on supporting their, their individuals struggling, struggling with addiction, caring for themselves through that process, being able to set boundaries, improving communication in those relationships, and, you know, just being that resource for those loved ones as well.

Serena: That's amazing. That is so needed. Absolutely. Um, so, so let's talk a little bit of data, um, as Tina mentioned, and we've done peer support ourselves and it's, it tends to be hard to sort of quantify, uh, what we know works and we know it works. Um, so we, we love the statement on your website that says, “The world has one data point for addiction wellness, sobriety. We don't buy that. We focus on all aspects of life. We ask our members, are you more hopeful? Is your employment more stable? Are things better at home? These and many

other measurements prove that our members are doing better and doing better, not just being sober, is what gets people well.” Can you say more about that?

Kattie: Yes, we are so data driven, um, you know, we, we have a lot of assessments that we use when we are onboarding people and they help us match individuals up with the right coach, but also we, we do a continual data collection throughout the coaching process with individuals. And so that is our recovery capital index, which, you know, is a set of questions that focuses on, you know, different aspects of overall wellness. And the cool thing about the RCI is that it does not one time ask, you know, anything about your use. Just like you said, it asks a lot about, you know, how you are doing in your social relationships, how you are doing, you know, as far as employment, mental health, emotional well-being, all of those things. And so we collect that data every 30 days and it's so cool because we can really show, you know, that we just had a data meeting yesterday actually and we're averaging around a 15% increase in well-being for individuals, you know, at that that 60 day mark. And that's huge, you know, that we are able to, to show that we are making changes and that people are making changes. And everybody has a different picture of what wellness looks like for them. And sometimes that's not complete abstinence. And so, you know, sometimes those people aren't getting help because they are, you know, kind of pigeonholed into these programs. Let's say you have to be this in order to be okay. But, you know, I think there's more to it than that.

Tina: Yeah, so I love that. And in the last episode of our season three, one of the things I said was we need to shake things up, right? We need to do things differently if we really want to help people. And I think you're doing that. So also on your website and I encourage people to go and look at this. So there, but there's this member outcome report, which says this isn't a traditional annual report, which is a decision that we've intentionally made. So tell us a bit about some of the things that are in that report. You've kind of alluded to some of them and how it's different than other reports from other kind of support agencies like like that.

Kattie: Yes. Well, I wish that we had our internal evaluator here because she is so good at explaining data, but I will muck my way through this for sure. So, you know, on our outcome report, it's it's more about just focusing, it's more than just focusing on, you know, whether the individual has, you know, been absent or not. But we are really able to to see the places where we excel as an organization and helping people grow. You know, we can we can know if we are helping people improve family relationships, if we are helping people, you know, with their employment section, if we are helping them feel more like they have a purpose in life, just all of those things. So we're really looking at what we do well. But you know, another great factor is we can see like, hey, maybe we didn't do as well in this area, what can we do to be more effective in this area and help people continue to grow. So, you know, it is really helps us inform how we operate our day-to-day operations and how we train our coaches and the resources that we make available to our members that we work with as well. So it's really all encompassing. It also lets us know, you know, that a lot of times we can we can see things like a lot of times when people come in

and at that 30 day mark, people are feeling a lot better. But, you know, there tends to be a little dip after that. And so even we know that that sweet spot of like continued wellness is like that 90 to 120 days of working with an individual. So that kind of helps us inform, you know, how long we're trying to keep people engaged and and just it's just a really comprehensive and very cool documentary to read through.

Tina: And so this is available to not only people who live in Iowa,


Kattie: Well, we are in South Dakota, but yes, it is available.

Tina: Oh South Dakota! Sorry.

Kattie: And we do have an office in Colorado Springs also. So yeah, we are, we are, we've coached people from every state. We've had, we've coached somebody from the UK, Canada. So we have the capability of coaching people anywhere. We have really affordable pricing options. We also have certain scholarship opportunities, especially in, you know, different areas. And so, you know, we don't ever want cost to be a barrier to somebody receiving services.

Serena: So we know that taking care of others is a huge job. And we know that you do that personally and professionally. And you mentioned before having good boundaries, which is always part of self care, but what are some of the other ways you take good care of yourself?

Kattie: Great question. Yeah. So, you know, for me, I just always feel like

that time to be able to breathe is really important. And so in a household with a baby and toddler and two great danes, you don't always get that in your natural environment. So whether it be just like setting aside that 15 minutes for myself to be able to stop at the park and meditate on the way to work and just being able to take that chance to breathe, maintaining the good relationships in my life. I feel like that's so important to be able to have those people that you can go to and just be like, Oh, it has been a day. And just like having them be there for you. And then you know, being physically active, you know, the benefits of being able to just move are so important. So those things. And then, you know, I think that for me, we were just reflecting the other day on like that with my sister and the growth that we've had over the years. And I'm like, you know, and I still see my therapist. And I think that I always will just because it's great to have that safe place to just be able to express the things that you carry with you on a daily basis.

Tina: Absolutely. That's awesome. So I can imagine that some of our listeners will want to get in touch with you, Katie. How might they do that?

Kattie: Yeah. So the best way to get in touch with us would be,

www.wefaceittogether.org on the website there, we have a get started tab that you can get in touch with. We have a phone number. So I mean, if you had any questions for me personally, that's a great way to get a hold of me. But also, if you had anybody that was interested in coaching, that's just a great way to get more information. If you click the get started tab or call, you'll get in touch with one of our amazing first impressions team. And they will definitely answer any questions that you have. And even if we aren't the correct resource for what you are looking for, we will connect you with somebody that'll be able to help with whatever it is that you need.

Serena: Right. Yeah. So before we wrap up the episode, is there anything that we haven't asked you that you want to make sure you put out to the world?

Kattie: I think we did a really great job of covering everything. I just want to thank you, ladies, so much for the work that you do and bringing awareness to some of these things, you know, and helping all of it. It just helps break the stigma around, you know, the mental health and addiction and all of that and normalizes it for people.

Tina: It's why we do what we do, right? It is we are whole people with lots of stuff. And the more we admit that and put it out there to the world, the more normal it is, right? So yes, yes. We want to

thank you so much for joining us today. And we are so grateful that you have turned your pain into purpose and that you're well. We hope that you stay well and please keep up all this good work you're doing in the world. We we appreciate you.

Kattie: All right. Thank you so much.

Tina: So podcast friends, we are as always grateful for all of you listening and supporting us. You can help us out by visiting

Apple Podcasts. Leave us a review while you're there. If you wouldn't mind, subscribe and please share the podcast with others. You will find more content on our website. www.noneedtoexplainpodcast.com . You'll find us on all the socials and we would love to hear from you. We have a voicemail number, which you will find in the show notes. You can leave us a message. You can share a little bit of your story. And we would love to hear your ideas for podcasts for our season four as

we're starting. Yeah, just just call us to say hi.

Serena: And this is your gentle reminder to take good care of yourself while you are also taking care of your people.

Tina: Thanks so much for listening.

Serena: Bye.