081. Smash Your Anxiety by Embracing Change with Jesse Harless

The Do a Day Podcast from Bryan Falchuk

Jesse Harless, M.A., is a trainer, advocate, author and founder of Entrepreneurs in Recovery®. Jesse is the founder of RecoveryFacilitation.com and Entrepreneurs in Recovery® workshops and training, a platform and training that empowers people in addiction recovery to reach their full potential. He works with individuals, communities, companies, non-profit organizations, addiction treatment centers and programs throughout the Northeast U.S. where he trains and facilitates his Entrepreneurs in Recovery® workshops.

His work in the recovery space is the product of his experience in it himself. Jesse experienced trauma growing up which lead him down a path of addiction and destructive decisions that nearly landed him in prison. Today, he lives an extremely different life, and helps other embrace change to be able to do the same.

Key Points from the Episode with Jesse Harless:

  • Jesse has a training company called Entrepreneurs in Recovery to train leader facilitators help people in treatment centers, structured living or other forms of recovery to bring rapid change through conversational choreography.
  • What is “conversational choreography”?
  • It’s a way to bring people through content via an experience, as that helps drive the learning much deeper and help it stick.
  • Because recovery is Jesse’s personal focus, that’s been the space he’s built it for, but it works in corporate or non-profit team settings, as well.
  • It’s about self-care strategies to employ as a community to make the whole group stronger.
  • Jesse said how he believes everyone is recovering from something.
  • Help people see what they’re doing great today, and that can be a basis to start to build more resilience, self-care and personal strength to tap into to move forward.
  • We talked about the loss of human interaction while increasing our ways of connecting virtually.
  • When we don’t want to connect with someone, or are worried it might be uncomfortable, we just look down at our phone.
  • Jesse saw the similarity with looking down earlier in life being about self-esteem issues.
  • When you look straight ahead, you’re focusing on the future, while looking down is about focusing on the past.
  • Looking at Jesse’s past, it’s one of trauma and addiction.
  • Seeing his early years as traumatic is a new way to look at it. His father left when he was four, which was traumatic.
  • His father was in a car accident and pronounced dead, spent over three weeks in a coma, and then woke up with brain damage. They spoke only a handful of times over the years that followed, with his father struggling with his physical recovery and drug addiction added to his existing alcoholism.
  • And it was the beginning of a sad, difficult set of years where Jesse was consumed by hurt and social anxiety.
  • He stopped going to the cafeteria at school because he would have a panic attack around everyone.
  • He never asked for help, and withdrew into himself further.
  • Once he got to college, the addiction set in as he suddenly had access to alcohol and drugs, which made him feel better.
  • He was caught for plagiarism, failed out of school, was arrested all in his first semester of school.
  • He had all the ready made excuses – college was too tough, he took too many credits, etc.
  • A month after leaving school, Jesse’s father passed away. That was the first time Jesse tried cocaine.
  • Jesse described himself with the term he doesn’t like of being a ‘functioning addict’.
  • He’s learned how many people fall into this category, as 75% of people who are addicted are employed full-time.
  • That means many people working around you may be struggling silently.
  • At 22, he was arrested with a federal felony, facing seven years in federal prison. His choices followed him, and had caught up.
  • He talked about that whole time as unconscious addiction. He would see people happy and smiling, and not being able to comprehend how they could even do that.
  • He was able to avoid prison through the way he gave himself into changing.
  • He met his first mentor, Pastor Bob, and a recovery specialist.
  • He started to use all kinds of techniques and tools to reshape his life – journaling, keeping a calendar to structure his days, etc.
  • He learned about his intuition, which today is the thing he cares about most.
  • He kept doing the next right thing every day, which built and built, keeping him from prison, getting him his job back, and putting him on a clean path.
  • While all the original pain that drove him to addiction came back, he was clear and equipped to face it.
  • He went back to school and got his undergrad degree and bought his first home after six years being sober.
  • He went on to get his masters at 11 years sober, and got a job with a Fortune 15 company as a felon. These are all things he was told were impossible, but he did them.
  • The key was the sum of all the daily habits he was employing.
  • To Jesse, you don’t have to have the level of wake up call he did to wake up. Spend 20 minutes in silence with yourself, and let things come to the surface.
  • Start building a group of people around you to recognize when you’re not serving yourself and support you. Start with one person, and build a team of three to five Jesse calls your recovery team.
  • He shared a book called The Five Regrets of Dying
  • He shared the number one regret, “I wish I had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”
  • We shifted and talked about Jesse’s cold shower idea.
  • A friend told him he had to take a cold shower despite it being super cold out.
  • After that first shower, he went to a meeting two hours later, and he noticed her had none of his social anxiety.
  • He thought the shower might be part of it, so he decided to try it for 30 days.
  • What he noticed was that his anxiety was down, his confidence is up, and he kept doing more and more.
  • It fueled the idea for his book, Smash Your Anxiety with Cold Showers.
  • Jesse went back to all of the habits and tools, and advised we even start with one small thing.
  • Start with journaling, or doing the last 10 seconds of your shower cold.
  • These little shifts can start to add up and catalyze the change we seek.
  • When you’re doing the cold time in the shower, here’s an approach:
    • Before going cold, envision what you want for your life,
    • Say an affirmation of “I’m abundant, I’m safe, I’m secure.”
    • Then turn the water cold for 20 seconds, and don’t let it hit your face, but just hit your body.
  • That’s it. Over time, you can add more time, and work your way up to a minute or two minutes.


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