reCHARGE® Your Life

Ep49: Glenn Danas reCHARGED

January 05, 2022 Dr. Keri Ohlrich & Kelly Guenther
reCHARGE® Your Life
Ep49: Glenn Danas reCHARGED
Show Notes Transcript

Warning: We swear a bit in this episode. 

You will not want to miss our first episode of 2022. Glenn Danas shares with us his story on reCHARGING his life when he became sober in 2005. Leading up to that crossroads, he lost his relationship with his significant other, lost his job at a prominent law firm, was broke, and had no relationship with his family. All of this occurred during a short window of time and his desperation and pain led him to do something about it. 

His recovery took over 9 months. As he said, he was lucky that he didn’t need to go back to anything. This gave him the freedom to tell himself “Okay, I am here to do what I need to do, even if it takes a while”. He pulled on his humility to learn from others on recovery and resiliency to bounce back. 

Glenn gives us his insights on why “you are the problem” and words of wisdom for families who have relatives or friends who are struggling with addiction. An inspirational story for the new year. 

Glenn  is an attorney practicing in Los Angeles, California.  He specializes in civil appeals and class action litigation. The Daily Journal has recognized Glenn as one of the “Top 20 Attorney’s in California under 40” in 2013, one of the “Top 100 Attorneys in California” in 2017, as well as one of the “Top Labor and Employment Attorneys” in California each year from 2015-2018. 

Glenn graduated from Emory University School of Law with honors and was a member of the Emory Law Journal. He received his undergraduate degree from Cornell University where he earned a Bachelor of Science in Industrial and Labor Relations. Glenn frequently presents on California appellate and employment law issues at conferences and seminars.

Connect with Glenn to learn more about him and his background:

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Keri [00:00:12] Welcome to the reCHARGE® Your Life podcast with me, Dr. Keri Ohlrich and Kelly Guenther. We are thrilled to talk to people who have made a decision that reCHARGE® their lives. Often they push themselves out of their comfort zones and took risks. We want to know about that decision point. Why did they make that decision? And most importantly, how can we learn from them? Kelly and I are passionate HR professionals, and together we co-founded our HR consulting firm Abbracci Group. We have talked to amazing people throughout our careers and listen to them as they made decisions that changed their lives and knew that these inspirational stories would help others. And why did we call it reCHARGE®? It's based on a book I coauthored called The Way of the HR Warrior, and in it we have a leadership model CHARGE which stands for courage, humility, accuracy, resiliency, goal oriented and exemplary. We know that people used one or more of these qualities to help them make their decisions, and we want to learn from them. Now sit back, listen and be inspired by these stories, and then do something to reCHARGE® your life. Let's get to it.

Kelly [00:01:18] Hi, everyone, it's Kelly. We're thrilled to have Glenn Danas as our special guest. Glenn is an attorney practicing in Los Angeles, California. He specializes in civil appeals and class action litigation. The Daily Journal has recognized Glenn as one of the top 20 attorneys in California under 40. One of the top 100 attorneys in California and as well as one of the top labor and employment attorneys in California each year from 2015 to 2018. Glen graduated from Emory University School of Law with honors and was a member of the Emory Law Journal. He received his undergraduate degree from Cornell University, where he earned a Bachelor of Science in Industrial and Labor Relations. Glenn frequently presents on California appellate and employment law issues at conferences and seminars. Glenn, it's a pleasure having you in our podcast. We always like to start by asking, What do you do when you want to push yourself and expand your thinking? 

Glenn [00:02:13] Well, thanks so much for having me. It's really it's a pleasure to be here. And I do appreciate it. Well, in terms of what I do to train, you know, my thinking, I would say that I have gotten really into podcasts myself and, you know, starting in about twenty fifteen or so, started listening to Sam Harris, coming to him out of an interest in just, you know, some of the different topics he discusses having to do with, you know, atheism and artificial intelligence. And, you know, there's sort of a variety of consciousness, different things that he focuses on. So I go to the Sam Harris podcast, and from there, there have been a range of other thinkers that just interest me and inspire me. So I have gotten into reading or listening to podcasts involving David Deutsch. He's a he's a physicist from the United Kingdom. I really like Douglas Murray quite a bit. He's a conservative but very funny thinker and writer from the UK, sort of in the spirit of Christopher Hitchens. I like the the feminist writer Camille Paglia, who's pretty well known and is just, I think, a lot of fun to read and listen to. And more recently, some of the writing and discussions from Jordan Peterson, who writes from a very different perspective than Sam Harris's, but I think also has pushed my thinking into ways that are sort of new and different for me. 

Keri [00:04:01] Welcome, Glenn. Thank you for that. I have Camille's book on my shelf since I don't know that one of her first one sexual persona and I didn't know she had a podcast. I cannot wait to go and subscribe to that one. So thank you. What do you have such a good, wonderful, deep podcast subscription? So what is two questions for you? One, maybe one kind of learning that stands out to you or one thing that you went, Oh my goodness, I didn't think of it that way. And then two none. You didn't mention one that has to do with labor law or California. So how do these podcasts help you in your legal practice? So two questions for you on that. 

Glenn [00:04:46] Yeah. So I guess I would say that, you know, when it comes to what I listen to for inspiration, it tends not to be work related. You know, I really do have, I think, my, you know, the things that I listen to that are there for work kind of sectioned off and away from other parts of my life and I want to make sure that I give. Time to other things, because if I don't, you know, work will really intrude into every area of my life and already does to a large extent anyway. So I really try to say, OK, I'm going to listen to or read something that's either, you know, spiritually focused or we're sort of, you know, intellectually focused or something that's different than what I get all day long at work. So, yeah, so that's you know, and I sort of use either, you know, my drive into work or, you know, certain parts of the evening, if I'm, you know, let's say, taking a walk around the neighborhood with my dog, those are the times that I'll sit down and say, you know, or stand and walk around and say, OK, I'm going to, you know, focus on on something else. And, you know, in terms of the, you know, I guess, big ideas that I have gotten out of it, you know, I guess thinking about people as individuals has been a real theme for me over the last year or two. I really am not a huge fan of thinking about people in groups. And it's really been my thinking has been moving, you know, more and more towards people treating people as individuals. You know, casting aside anything, I think I may know about someone beforehand. And you know, and it's very difficult. It's really that's, you know, that's not as easy as it is, it might seem. So I really have just been focused on different ways of understanding people on an individual basis. 

Keri [00:06:48] How how you're right, it is difficult to kind of you have to shed things before you see them and think of them because our brain wants to categorize. It makes things easier and faster for us to process. How has that thinking more deeply and being intentional about thinking about the individual? How do you think maybe that's changed in your practice or just in your life in general? Have you seen some kind of tangible results from that different type of thinking over the past year or so? 

Glenn [00:07:19] Yeah, I mean, that's that's a very interesting question. I would say at work, you know, there's a tendency, you know, I'm a litigator, so I'm I'm frequently in front of judges. There's a tendency for lawyers, myself included, very much to think of, you know, judges and actually even other lawyers as sort of in a box of either, you know, for a judge what political party they are based on, either, you know, if they're a federal judge who appointed them or if they're a state judge, you know what party they ran under or, you know, sometimes who appointed them. And for lawyers to think of them in terms of, you know, the defense side and they represent lawyers, they mean they they, you know, they think and are motivated by these things that they're on the plaintiff's side and they represent employees they think about and are motivated by these things. And I really tried to remember that those assumptions are often wrong. And there are, especially when it comes to judges, there are a lot of judges that really do not at all fit comfortably into any of those boxes. You know, I I was just talking to some colleagues about Judge David Carter, who's Federal District Court judge in the Central District of California. And you know, on the one hand, he's very he has qualities that are quite progressive and humanitarian. He's been recently doing some really kind of out of the box stuff about overseeing the homeless situation and really trying to do some more interesting things, actually taking his courtroom to go visit physically, to go visit its Skid Row in downtown L.A. and trying to get a better understanding of what what is causing and how you know what, what solutions might present themselves to certain aspects that touch on, you know, homeless litigation. And on the other hand, Judge Carter is also known for being, you know, very exacting about what he expects of counsel. And it would be a complete mistake to assume that you know that he's someone who's laid back and easygoing and maybe is going to take it easy on plaintiff's counsel. I mean, quite the contrary, my understanding is that he's really very hard to predict and is very demanding of counsel in his court, but also has these very, you know, typically kind of progressive, empathetic sides to him. So again, you know, what box does that person go into? It's better to approach him as an individual and really to think about what you know, what might appeal to him on a case by case basis? 

Keri [00:10:08] Yes. And I think, too, while our like I said, our brain wants to kind of categorize because it makes life easier, the quicker you can recognize your own pain in putting people in boxes, your own biases and then shed them is is the best because we're always going to have those. So how do you just go? Oh, that was just a little stereotype I had, and now it's over and I've gotten I've received data that that breaks that and I'm OK with that. It's where people get stuck, where they're getting data to show them that this is not true, but they still hold on to that. That belief or that stereotype, you're like, No, this judge must be laid back because he's progressive. Right? With that go. Exactly what? So now the big question that we love, we love to ask all our questions, Glenn. But here's the big one. So what is the decision that you made or sometimes was made for you that changed the trajectory of your life? And what are some of those charged qualities that maybe you use to help you in that decision? 

Glenn [00:11:06] Well, there's no question that for me, the biggest the biggest decision or set of small decisions were those where I decided to and was fortunate enough to get sober in September or September 23rd of twenty five, to be precise. You know, I had been having a really tough time of things. You know, we we talk about or at least I talk about it in terms of, you know, I had a lot of fun with alcohol and drugs. Then I had fun with problems and then I had problems. And that was kind of the arc of my drinking and using career, which started when I was about 14. And, you know, it was normal quote unquote for for a while or at least looked normal and then became something that was causing some problems. But these were problems I could deal with, whether it was, you know, smashed up car or, you know, sort of creating, you know, a lot of strain on a particular relationship. Or maybe not, you know, disappointing myself on something in school or, you know or work or what have you. And then that sort of moved into a stage of nothing but problems and those problems became, you know, in retrospect, I can say that they became pretty big enough and that that it just, you know, really put me at this crossroads, you know, with it within the space of a very short amount of time. I lost a very important relationship with the girl that I had been dating for about five or six years, who had finally had enough and lost a position at a very prominent law firm. That was just perplexed about why I was, you know, couldn't really be counted on in terms of the work that I was producing. You know, was broke even though I was earning a lot of money and my family was just like, What is going on here? Why? Why are you? You know what? You know, just not understanding really having almost no relationship with my family at the same time, you know, friends who had just had enough and given up on me, I mean, all of that really happened within a pretty short amount of time. And you know, for me, I'm just incredibly lucky that I was desperate and that sort of caused a great amount of desperation. I mean, a ton of pain, a lot of, you know, feeling sorry for myself, you know, lashing out at the people around me. But there were, you know, there was there was enough kind of spark of motivation, I guess, in me to do something about it. And, you know, just to fast forward, my family had had reached out to a lawyer who is helping me with one more set of, you know, crashed car and, you know, a set of problems from that. And they this lawyer happened to be working with a sort of an interventionist named Bob Timmons, who worked on the West Side in Los Angeles. And you know, I didn't know anything about recovery or anything having to do with any of that at the time. And I was just a mess and my family had me go meet with this guy. And I remember I went into his office and, you know, he had all these kind of pictures of him with different rock bands and all of the stuff around. And I didn't really understand why I was there or what was going on, and he was just like, So you know, what's what's going on with you? And I told him about all these external things and, you know, circumstances there were conspiring against me. And employers who didn't understand it, my friends who you know, were, you know, disloyal and all of this kind of thing. And he. And he sort of just laughed at me and was like, All right, well, I think, you know, I think first, first of all, we're going to need to get you into treatment somewhere. And I thought to myself, Great, you know, I'm going to go to like, you know, one of these places with equine therapy and a pool, you know, biofeedback and maybe meditation and maybe a zen garden and all that. That sounds great like a like a month long vacation. Awesome. And he was like, Well, you know, I don't know if it's going to be exactly like that, but you know, we will. We will reach out to you and I'll set it up and, you know, blah blah blah. And I sort of didn't I didn't hear anything else. And what turned out was that after several months, you mean, at the time I was on methadone maintenance, which I don't know if you know anything about it. This is a very, very difficult thing to do. So I was I had to go spend about four months stepping down my dose at a clinic in New York and and then going into a long term physical detox. But when that ended, I came back out to California and they had someone who was sober, picked me up and this guy drove me and we're, you know, we're driving through Pasadena and we're going through a, you know, it's sort of the nice area of Pasadena. And I'm thinking to myself, this is great, you know, we're going through this through the Rose Bowl area. How beautiful you thought that finally, they really understood that they had a very important person coming and they were going to, you know, fix me up. And then we kept we kept driving, though, and the scenery changed a bit. And we ended up in northern north Pasadena at a at a treatment facility called Impact, which is, you know, for anyone who doesn't know about it, is really, you know, is very rigorous and not and not short. And when I got there, you know, the worst news that I could possibly have heard was that this wasn't going to be sort of a 30 day deal. This was going to be like much longer than that. And the lucky and I think, you know, for for purposes of our discussion, the thing that really was most fortunate about it for me was that I had nowhere to go and nothing to do. I had nothing to get back to. You know, it's pretty common that people who end up in treatment, you know, once there's there's some amount of, you know, a few days sober, it's like, Oh, I got to get back to fix this and that I got to get out of here and I got to go, you know? And you know, we sort of joke about it in treatment where it's like, Oh, you know, he's got a he's got a goldfish at home that needs feeding. And, you know, and but I had I had nothing. I had nowhere to go. No one who really wanted me around. So I just said, you know, I'm here to do whatever, whatever there is for me to do here. And if it takes a while, I'm here, you know, I don't care. I've got nowhere to be. And it turns out that that's an incredibly helpful place to be. For purposes of recovery. And you know, I guess I would say, you know, in terms of, you know, your book, this would be there was a lot of humility going on just in terms of teach ability being open and willing to do different things. And I just said, you know, whatever, like I'm I'm here to, you know, so I just followed a lot of direction and started doing a lot of work on myself and, you know, sort of taking direction from other people, people who, you know, just a couple of years earlier, I probably would and said, can't teach me anything. I'm more educated and, you know, blah blah blah. And you know, it turns out that I was just incredibly lucky and fortunate to be surrounded by people that knew I knew nothing about recovery. You know, I knew a lot about other things, but not that. And these were people who had many years of recovery in them and had a great deal that I could learn from them. And thankfully, I was able to do that and, you know, and stayed long enough that that I was able to build kind of different patterns and a foundation so that when I left there, you know, I was really a different person. I mean, you know, it was it was nine 10 months later and I had just an entirely different outlook. You know, some would say that that was a, you know, a spiritual awakening and, you know, sort of a a shift that I really had nothing to do with. So a lot of it was just was being lucky and being desperate enough to be willing. 

Keri [00:19:52] Yeah. First of all, congratulations on being sober. And I will say I have I studied psychology and I have a quite a bias toward addiction theory to people who have been gone through it. I tend to believe talking about, we just talked about, look at the individual, right, but people who have been through addiction and come out of it can be so vulnerable and authentic and also tolerating zero B.S. because they've been through so much. So I kind of appreciate that that personality type and I can talk to you for hours about all the addiction piece, but I want to focus on actions for people because so many people know someone, they are someone, or maybe they have a family member. But before we get to your advice and your thoughts on that, Glenn, I had to ask you this question. When did you realize if you can, if you can think about it, did you realize shit? It's me. It's not everyone else because you are so good. You're like, I. I know those excuses. I've heard them from people. Yeah, the girlfriend doesn't get me. Yeah, the jobs up my butt all the time. Like bad, bad. Bad. Right? And it's always someone's fault. The cop was there and he shouldn't have been there or whatever. When, if you can remember when you went on, Shoot me, right? Like, This is such bullshit. It's actually me. 

Glenn [00:21:13] Yeah, I mean, I will credit the majority of this to, you know, where I went to treatment. I mean, I came in there with, you know, still thinking of myself as a first and foremost lawyer who is very smart and has some people that are causing problems for me that I need to figure out how to deal with it pretty quickly. You know, I had, you know, caseworkers who was dealing with other people who were like, You know, motherfucker, you are the problem. You know, people said to me straight up, Look where you are, you know, do you think you're in a suit downtown? You are fuckin raking leaves, then a, you know, you were raking imaginary leaves in a treatment center in, you know, in a, you know, in sort of questionable area of town. And you have got nothing, you know, you got nothing in common, you know, and and that was really the mantra. I mean, you know, I had been familiar with some, some people who went to, you know, sort of fancy treatment centers and that kind of thing. And you know, that's not how it's done everywhere. And in fact, you know, my wife, I don't think she would mind me mentioning, you know, I'd worked at this very well known and very expensive treatment place in Malibu. She was a therapist there for teens and young adults. And there is none of that there. You know, when you're paying, you know, 60 grand a month and people have options, I guess, you know, there's an idea of sort of, you know, kissing the ass of the client. From where I went, there was no kissing the ass and the client. They would just say, you know, I mean, I went to the treatment center that that, you know, Robert Downey Jr. got sober in, OK, and that old dirty bastard went to and shortly after died, you know, and they said, You know, this is this is the end of the line. You know, this is where you go when you've got nothing else coming. And I really like that really impressed upon me, you know, and they and they put me in the kitchen for three or four months because they said, you know, you need to be, you know, kind of broken down. Your ego needs to be dismantled and nothing is going to dismantle an ego like getting up every day at 5:00 in the morning and, you know, having to go work in a kitchen to prepare meals all day for someone who you know, thinks he's above, you know, manual labor or whatever, you know, and you know enough of that, you know, and really, it really built up. And, you know, sooner or later, it really appealed to me. You know, I really came to say, you know, this is absolutely the way to do things. And you're absolutely right. Know that is that is carried over to a lot of things in the way I live day to day. I mean, I have, you know, very little sort of, you know, tolerance for excuses and bullshit these days because I know that it's possible, you know, to to to make a lot of progress. But it really requires you're saying, you know, someone's got to say to you, you know, you were the problem. You can move around and you know, you can move from here to California and, you know, move on to a nice sort of coastal area or whatever. But it doesn't matter where you are, you're bringing you with you. And if you don't make and if you don't make the changes, you're going to get the same shit you always got, which is going to be bad and it's going to get worse. 

Keri [00:24:45] I have. Yes, I was just thinking that if we could put the quote, Kelly for this one like "motherfucker, it's you." You know, I'm not sure that gets posted while on LinkedIn, but I do love it. And even if you're not, if you don't have an addiction like the traditional right alcohol and drugs or something like that or gambling, it's still you like. Whatever you're battling, and that's what I love about your story line is whatever you're battling, it's still you. If I'm a workaholic or whatever I'm doing, it's my issue and I have to like figure out how to manage that issue. Some of us get to go, like you said, like you have nine to 10 months to focus on it. You didn't have something else on the other side. So I guess with the short amount of time that we have, I wondered maybe if you could speak to two audiences, one someone who is addicted and needs to hear something from you. And then also more likely, I'm thinking, I'm thinking most people are listening to our podcast for the who are who are also kind of maybe doing imbibing alcohol a little bit too much. They're not listening to our podcast, but I bet your family members are. And so maybe you could speak to them too on maybe some tangible because they're pretty desperate and how to help. I'm sure your family was very desperate and very upset and trying to figure out how to help you. So maybe you could answer those two questions for those two audiences. 

Glenn [00:26:10] Yeah, sure. I mean, you know, they're sort of good and bad news there. You know, the the bad news is that, you know, and I've been in this position many, many times since being sober, you know, being a lot of people that I know know me as being sober because I'm I'm open about it. And, you know, in the last 16 plus years, I get a lot of calls from friends and family and other, you know, a friend of a friend, etc. And the bad news is that you can't get sober for anyone else who's at home. And there is really, you know, all of the good intentions in the world are not going to get someone else sober. All of the money in the world, all of those things, you know, but you know, it's not it's not entirely hopeless because there are times when someone who you know is in is really in the shit is is kind of vulnerable and maybe has kind of a brief moment of clarity. And those are the moments to maybe get in there. And especially if they seem like they're sort of asking asking questions or say, you know, maybe there's sort of a glimmer of an understanding that that this is a problem that they need to fix. Those are the moments to really get in and to try and support that person. And you know, all I can suggest would be, you know, 12-Step programs are, I believe in them and are extremely helpful. And I think that for people who if you have the means to do it, you know, treatment something where there's a physical removal from an, you know, an environment for for as long as you can is extremely helpful. And I know these days, you know, a lot of insurance will pay for some amount of treatment, but it's really very, very helpful to just be able to have the luxury of, you know, doing nothing but concentrating on trying to get better, you know, because having to deal with, you know, bills and people and work. And if there still is work and all of those things while trying to make these, these kind of massive changes in one's life is really very difficult. It's very difficult anyway. So I guess I would suggest, you know, trying to just take take advantage of those down moments and say, you know, if someone might be able to agree to do something, try to shift them to one of these things that might help them get better. And you know, again, 12-Step programs, treatment centers, I believe in them because they work for me. 

Keri [00:28:47] Yeah. And I would everything I've always heard, Glenn is you cannot do it alone. So you can't just kind of white knuckle it and do it all by yourself, like you need help. You need to be in a 12-Step program or or have a sober coach or something to help you. Absolutely. And I think to extrapolate that point on, you can't help someone if they don't want it. Kelly and I talk all the time in business because being an HR or coaches and influencers and we always say to people, you can't implement things if the client doesn't want it, you can't want it more than the client wants it. And I think even with you again in law, you might be saying to a client, Well, this is what you should probably do. Here's three options, and I feel like man, like you can't want it more than that. It's the same thing, right? You can't want it like Kelly and I can see very clearly sometimes, like, you are going to be in so much trouble if you do this like please, don't please, and you try to influence and cajole and do everything. And guess what? They say? No. Absolutely. Yup. You can't want it more than the client. You can't want it more than your friend or your family member who's who's addicted to something right now. You can't want it more. And it's super hard. So I think, Kel, and if you want to talk about we wanted to go down, though, the sad sack of HR trying to influence things at how hard that is. But what are your thoughts on Glenn's just amazing interview and his story? 

Kelly [00:30:07] Well. Thank you so much for being so vulnerable and sharing your story with us. Deeply personal. And you know, honestly, a very inspirational story. I mean, what I like I think the most is just how true, how how detailed you were in sort of the levels that you were at in your life. And then the sort of the the resurgence you found in yourself to actually, you know, like you said, get beaten down, work in a kitchen, get the structure to find yourself again to find out how you can kind of overcome work through recovery and be the best version of yourself that you can be not only for yourself, but also for your friends and family. So just one quick question. When you came out of when you came out of your treatment program, what was what is what was something that your family and friends did that really kind of helped you to continue on the path? 

Glenn [00:31:03] Yeah, I mean, my, you know, my family, you know, there's a thing that happens. Some people have a history of kind of trying to get sober and relapsing, and a lot of family are wary of, you know, new attempts of recovery. Thankfully, that wasn't my situation. My family was just just overwhelmed with gratitude over the fact that I was emerging from this place with a with, you know, an obviously different perspective. So they really just didn't, you know, never judged anything. When I say, you know, I'm in New York and I've got many years sober and I want to go to a meeting, they still, you know, smile and say, of course, you know, there's never this idea of why do you still go to the meetings or why do you still, you know, why? Why can't you have a drink? I mean, none of those things and you know, from my from my my father just passed away three weeks ago, and the last text I got from him at the end of September was congratulating me on my sober anniversary. And, you know, knowing that I had given my family, you know, the ability to to not have to worry about that was really something that I'm just so happy about, you know? So yeah, it's really having that support and acknowledging it and not, you know, trivializing it. And, you know, all of that has been very, very helpful to me. 

Kelly [00:32:33] Hmm. Well, thank you so much, and I am so sorry for the loss of your father. But what a great text to receive as one of the last messages from him. Again, just I think, in furtherance of your continued health and your continued dedication to committing to recovery because I know every day it is a commitment, it is commitment and a choice you make. So again, Glenn. Our sincere condolences for the loss of your father. We are so grateful to have had the opportunity to speak with you. Encourage anyone else to who is listening to this to connect with you, Glenn. We will include all of your contact information in the show notes, so please make sure that you reach out. And again, Glenn, thank you so much for sharing your story with us. 

Glenn [00:33:18] Well, thank you for having me. 

Kelly [00:33:22] Thank you for listening to the reCHARGE® Your Life podcast. Please sign up for our newsletter at Abbracci and follow us on social media. You can find us on LinkedIn at Abbracci Group, Instagram at WarriorsofHR and Twitter at Warriors_HR. Remember to subscribe to our podcast, leave a review and please tell a friend and be sure to drop us a note on how you are recharging your life. We can't wait to hear from you.