Episode 10: Jason Snell (Part II)- Recovery, Reparations, and Redemption

Our interview was long and there were so many strands and winding threads of his story, that I decided to split this episode into two parts. I also wanted these episodes to be about the two versions of every story. There is the destruction, the collateral damage, the loss that can come with addiction, death, pain, and any darkness. But there is also a beauty that comes with healing, recovery, and coming out the other side.

Ultimately that’s what this show is about, the beauty and healing that comes with darkness.

Where we left off. Jason had just lost his friend Eric to a heroin overdose, and after he went through his own recovery, learned that his ex-girlfriend Naomi, died in a drunk driving accident in New Orleans. Jason told me about his long period of grieving, getting sober, and his process of making amends with those he had hurt, including Willow, another friend, who had begged him not keep using after Eric died.

Addictions or not, we all have periods in our lives where we hurt those closest to us. Maybe it was a distancing, lies we told, pains we caused, or an event that caused a rift, but when we want to come back, it is often possible, with humility. Jason wanted to repair the damage that had been done with his family and friends, but soon realized that there was one relationship that would be more complicated to repair. 

How do we learn to accept ourselves and our past? Jason and I follow up on the destruction that ended in death and loss in a story about recovery and reparations. We talk about how to let go, the gratitude and peace that can be found in survival, how his own recovery made him realize an authentic life. We also talk about forgiving ourselves and our parents and why people who are more sensitive to the world are more likely to become addicts. 

Episode 9: Jason Snell (Part I) – Back From the Edge

“I was looking at the world and it started to flatten out and I realized, this is what it’s like to die. Everything starts to lose meaning. . . it just becomes a flat image.” – Jason Snell.

I interviewed Jason Snell while he was in Europe, in Berlin, on his trips between Paris and Warsaw and Italy, before he heads back to either Iowa or L.A., or somewhere in between, wherever he decides to land for the next weeks or months. As I’m nearing my ninth month of pregnancy, becoming even more firmly planted, sometimes feeling immobile, I can admire the freedom, independence and that open quality of not knowing where you are going next. Sitting down with him, felt like time-traveling, both of us, revisiting the ghosts of our old selves. 

I was reminded me how stories unfold in time and space, how sometimes we are not sure where one ends and another begins. There are the kind of stories that happen in an instant, a car accident, a trauma, a sudden loss, and then there are those that can span years, decades, even a lifetime. Jason’s story is one that happens in flashes, and also, spans more than 20 years, and so, I’m going to break the interview into two parts, Episodes 9 and 10.

In Episode 9, we talk about his youth and intro to drug addiction- LSD, cocaine, heroin, and the magnitude of his losses, from human life to his innocence, and self. We talked about the attraction towards darkness, the sheer weight of death. This is an episode about the edge. It’s an episode about loss, but more, what does it take to turn around?

Stay tuned for Part II of this series, where we will explore human potential, forgiveness, and the power of mending our past, not just our relationships with others, but with ourselves.

Music Credits:

Artist: Miss Kenichi
Album: Fox
Tracks: Death Cab

Artist : The Space Where She Was 
Albums: What We Lost and How to Play Dead
Tracks: The Memory Changes Every Time I Remember, What She Dreamed For, What She Thought of Herself

Episode 8: Julia Kratz – Our Bodies: Addiction, Escape, and Sexuality

This episode is about the relationship between sexuality and eating disorders, the power of women’s sexuality versus objectification, addiction, transcendence of the mind and body, and the healing power of embodiment.

The human body, it’s complicated and mysterious systems, directly influences our emotions, our response to memory, and simply, how we interact with the world and with life. Inhabiting our bodies is more than just the machinery of living, moving, and acting. It’s how we identify, how we relate and perceive ourselves and our environment. It is not a surprise that it is the human body that often takes the toll when we are suffering, or in pain. Or that many of us turn against our own bodies during times of grief or trauma.

It’s a primal way to disconnect with the world.

My guest today is actress Julia Kratz, a woman I would describe as bold and ageless, the kind of woman who wears big hats and bright lipstick, and can pull off platforms and chunky jewelry that could have been picked up at a flea market or at an expensive boutique in Paris. She’s fluent in German, French, and English, deeply intellectual and worldly. Her father was a diplomat, working for a very young EU in Africa during the 60s. Her early childhood was spent in different countries throughout Africa, including Tunisia, Morocco, Cameroon, and Niger where she describes the happiest years of her youth, as a very simple sub-desert life.

In some ways, drugs, alcohol, eating disorders, and other addictions are manifestations of this escape from the human body the human form, giving us distractions from the things we don’t want to feel, the physiological responses that are too painful to cope with. In previous episodes, we’ve talked about this deviation that happens in adolescence, that transition from childhood into adulthood where something is lost, and many of us spend years, decades, even our lives trying to figure out what it was, and how to reclaim it.

Julia’s story is about human body, the shame that can accompany adolescence and sexuality, and the ways that she fought against herself, her family, and even nature in order to survive. Ultimately, this is a story of rediscovery and embodiment, how to forgive the past, to love ourselves, and embrace the bodies we inhabit. 

Episode 7: Cedric Till – Beyond the Mask of Toxic Masculinity

 Photo Credit: Megan Spencer
Photo Credit: Megan Spencer

The inner-lives of men have always been mysterious to me. What is it is like to perform masculinity? What does the pressure of being a man feel like? I’ve never been forced into a physical altercation or had to defend myself with strength, or had my self-worth measured by my perceived strength, dominance, or income. Of course, it’s true that women are forced to perform femininity and are judged in a host of other ways, but it led me to this question: what qualities are associated with gender and how does it impact the way we learn to express ourselves, or limit our potential to evolve?

With the rise of the #metoo campaign, a spotlight has been focused on toxic masculinity, but rarely do we investigate the internal struggles of being a man in a culture that rewards aggression and dominance.

My guest today is Cedric Till, a spoken word artist and storyteller who wrote to me about his transformation in the last years, after surviving childhood trauma, a diagnosis of ADHD, and institutionalized living for his violent behavior. What got my attention was how he described his transformation as it related to connecting to a female energy, deriving strength in feminine qualities and relationships, and how finding language and voice through rapping and poetry made him more vulnerable.

Before recording this, I thought, let’s do a show about overcoming toxic masculinity, but it is actually about something else. Listen to the whole interview, because his transformation was actually so much more powerful, and one we can all learn from. 

Episode 6: Lisa – Severance

Family secrets–what are yours? Every family has them. I have some that I can’t put on this podcast, though I really contemplated doing so just to air them, for myself. In the end it just seemed too heavy, too much, too revealing for those involved. But they are right at the tip of my tongue. Part of me thinks that airing them will be liberating, giving voice to my own experiences and my pain, but the other side of me says, no: it’s self -indulgent, and too many people would get hurt.

Silence can break an individual, but the truth can tear a family apart…so how do we decide, what to say, what not to say, when is it our own burden to bear?

Most families struggle with balancing the bonds of cohesion and the needs of individuals. Individual truth. Individual desires. Individual crisis and struggles. We are going to talk about what it means to suffer because of family, also when it’s time to get distance or even sever ties for the sake of your own wellness and truth.

This is a painful shift in life—but one that can be necessary to healing and moving on. My guest is Lisa, who decided after our interview that she didn’t want to use her last name and to remain anonymous. We talked about about her own family secrets, the tragedies that tore her family apart, and the ways that she had to sever herself to heal and become whole.  

About Face is now a member of the Bear Radio Network. 

Please take a few moments to leave us a review on iTunes!

Music for this episode from Free Music Archive. Artists: Broke for Free and Chris Zabriske

Episode 5: Larry Tee – Manifest

How do we face our challenges and manifest change? How do we decide the next right step without being held back by fears? How do we break through, despite our perceived limitations, whether that is a lack of time or money or something more personal?

Larry Tee is a song writer, producer, international DJ and most recently a fashion designer and founder of the label Tzuji, which has been spotted on celebrities like Missy Elliot and Rhianna. He was one of the original Club Kids and arrived on the New York scene with his friend and collaborator, Rupaul, in the late 80s. Larry is often working behind the scenes. You might know him by the top 40-hit he co-wrote in the 90s, “Supermodel (You Better Work).”

Larry was born in Seattle and moved to Atlanta as a small child where he did most of his growing up. His first boyfriend was Michael Stipe, lead singer of REM. He was also working collaboratively on a number of television and music projects with a young and the unknown, Rupaul. Larry looks back on these early Georgia days as a time where he learned a lot about the creative process, calling it a laboratory, for his own creativity and inspiration.

In this episode, Kate talks with Larry about his creative learnings in Atlanta, coming out in the height of the AIDS epidemic, his experiences as an integral part of the New York Club Kids, and how he overcame his personal struggles, like drug and alcohol addiction. Larry shares his own sources of inspiration and gives insight on how to manifesting change and creativity at every stage in life.

 Left to right: Larry Tee, Lizette, Michael West, RuPaul, Lurleen Wallis, Lahoma
Left to right: Larry Tee, Lizette, Michael West, RuPaul, Lurleen Wallis, Lahoma

Episode 4: Ally – Freedom

In this episode, Kate sits down with a woman she calls Ally, a former “trophy wife” who gave up everything when she realized she wasn’t living her authentic life. Ally didn’t want to be identified by name or expose others who were involved in this story because. . . people got hurt. This is an episode about how Ally struggled to reconcile feminism and wife/motherhood, personal freedom and security, as well as the “grass is always greener” myths surrounding romantic relationships and singledom.

Kate also discusses her own struggle with losing the independence and freedom that comes with detachment before marriage and children, as well as the pressures faced by unmarried women in their 20s and 30s and beyond. It’s an episode that deals with the personal struggles we have inside and outside our relationships, and how to evolve in an authentic way when we are bound to interpersonal commitments.  

This is an episode for anyone who is in a committed relationship who reminisces about what life used to be like before marriage, or children, or falling in love… who sometimes pines for freedom and independence, the joy of being completely untethered. And, it is for anyone who is single who thinks that maybe their life isn’t quite complete yet because they are still looking for their life partner, a better half. 

It’s about the myths and stories we tell ourselves about the other side. It’s about the before and after, the looking back, and the looking ahead. It’s also about freedom and security and the many ways we have to choose one over the other.

And these are choices we make, over and over and over….

Episode 3: Sam Clayton – Homecoming

If you were looking at my friend Sam, you would see that he kind of glows. He’s handsome with blonde, streaky grey surfer hair, wide, kind eyes and a well-trimmed, hipster beard. Even though we both grew up in Seattle, Sam and I met in Berlin in 2012 after we were introduced by some mutual friends. Friends who I met in Istanbul, and he met in Saigon. It was worlds colliding and we immediately had a special bond. Sam and I have suffered with many of the same struggles—depression, addictions, and that same sense of wanderlust that drove us away from the U.S. but also made us long for a kind of homecoming, both spiritual, and literal.

As I came to know Sam, I learned more about his upbringing in the Mormon Church and his experience as one of the first openly gay students to graduate from Brigham Young University. This is a conversation I had with Sam about his crossroads with the Mormon Church and the life he’s built since he graduated from BYU nearly 20 years ago.

If you haven’t already, please consider leaving us a review on iTunes. It is a great act of support in helping us build our audience. Here are the instructions to Leave a Review on iTunes.

And don’t forget to subscribe wherever you get your podcasts!

One more episode caveat! I apologize for the low sound quality on this recording. It was my first live interview and I wasn’t able to remove the background noise. However, you can expect professional recording improvements in future episodes!

You can read more about Sam on his blog Carnivals of Affection.

Episode 2: Susie Kahlich- Superpowers

Susie Kahlich has always been brassy, even back to her early years in Chicago and punk rock days in 1980s New York. In this episode, we sit down and talk about the impact of sexual assault, the night she was brutally attacked in L.A. and her life’s work teaching self-defense to women.

We did this interview before the Harvey Weinstein scandal broke, before the #metoo campaign went viral. At the time, not even two months ago, it did feel like no one was talking about all the forms of harassment and assault that don’t involve penetration or rape that doesn’t involve a stranger or violence, but is still, just as painful, just as unwanted.  And we all know that it has everything to do with power. Even the conversation felt so cutting, and yet beneath the surface, both of us simmering with this feeling, this anger and agitation and fear and rage about what we knew had happened to us, what had happened to others, and this consuming, feeling that there was so much to say, so much unsaid.

This episode is about sexual violence, the body’s natural self-defense system, and Susie’s ability to translate a violent experience into one of self-love and transformation.

If you haven’t already done so, please leave a review of About Face on iTunes –>

For more information about Susie’s self-defense practice visit  her website at Pretty Deadly. You can also find her podcast on iTunes or follow the link here Artipoeus.

Episode 1: Kate Leismer- Reckoning

I consider myself an expat, but I hate the term. It implies a kind of break up and severance, and though it is that, it was never meant to be intentional or permanent. Five years ago I was traveling around the world as a freelance writer. I wrote from Australia, Bali, Vietnam, Thailand, and eventually Europe. I spent about two years homeless by choice, living out of my car in the U.S. and then abroad after I called off my engagement. Some of my friends still call me the runaway bride.  Five years before that, I was working as an attorney in Manhattan before I quit, and got escorted out of my office at 30 Rock. And about five years before that, I was wearing an orange jumpsuit, handcuffed to a bench in a holding cell somewhere outside of Seattle. In one of my few remaining boxes that have moved around with me, I still have a copy of the mugshot.

I’ve had more than a few turn arounds in my life, and, that’s what this podcast is going to be about. How do we get where we’re going and what does it all mean anyway?

As a way to tell my story, I recorded a conversation I had with my friend Sam, who you’ll get to know in a later episode. We talked about the concept for my show, but also the story that got me here.