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Harnessing Entrepreneurship to Foster Recovery from Addiction & Substance Abuse

Updated: Apr 8

Entrepreneurship has played a key role in my recovery and my life. Among the many other topics you will read about in my other posts, entrepreneurship is one of the topics I am most passionate about. One of the many things that set Red Door Life Detox and Recovery Treatment Center in Los Angeles, CA, apart from other healing and rehab centers is our focus on fostering entrepreneurship- helping our clients find greater purpose and a self-led life. This can look like many things- from uncovering the tiniest hope, a vision, or a dream that feels distant- to those already working as freelancers or sole proprietors, to those already on their second or third multi-million-dollar venture.

During my several years spent personally in rehab, which is thankfully long ago- I was struck by the profound sense of loss those in recovery must face. This loss is comprised of many elements that are truly beyond words and more tragic than just the loss of time. It also includes the loss of relationships damaged by their substance abuse, and the loss of critical developmental periods in life where those in health pursue investing in things like education, career building, or perhaps building a family. Not only do those who struggle with substance abuse suffer the loss of connection to their path, place in the world, and a sense of their bright future- but they also suffer the loss of the critical network building that advances one in their career and society.

I believe that entrepreneurship is the antidote for this profound sense of loss and grieving because it is the return to hope, to connection and networks, to a sense of power, to autonomy, and the return to the pathway toward a compelling future.

While I work to foster mentorship for the full spectrum of those on entrepreneurial journeys, it takes a different lens to look at entrepreneurs in early recovery compared to entrepreneurs who have maybe years of recovery. For example, the work that we do inside Red Door Life, at our physical detox & recovery treatment center in Los Angeles, CA- is more focused on the hope and opportunity of identifying and strengthening the gifts and dreams that people have without putting too much pressure or expectation on them being able to successfully launch a startup in early recovery. We provide the attuned support to allow them to advance at the pace that improves their recovery outcome rather than destabilize it, as matters of work and finance often can.

The entrepreneurial aspect of the Red Door Life community provides the antidote for grief and loss in many ways as I previously discussed, but here is a specific example. One of the things all entrepreneurs do is to use the resources around them- whether it’s the resources of being connected to a community or social groups of others on a similar path. Some people go to college and form deep bonds as they are in close proximity with others enduring similar struggles over a long period in a very special environment of transformation and growth. During college, you make lifelong friends, or you build contacts and connections with people who often supercharge your career and the opportunities available to you. Often a person’s entire life path unfolds from this foundation of connection. And so looking through this entrepreneurial lens, we help people understand their time in treatment at Red Door Life detox and recovery rehab center in Los Angeles, CA- is that much like that time at a university, you’ll start to see that it’s not only the education that you’re getting and the ways you are developing personally, it’s also who you are meeting. Our community is a vast network of warm, compassionate, connected people at all stages of recovery (from early to advanced) which extends far beyond just those who are currently in residence at Red Door Life. This community of people becomes a lifelong network of connections that not only inspire, but that actually may foster areas of your career more effectively.

I’m often asked how I came to be so passionate about improving recovery outcomes through fostering entrepreneurship. During my several years spent personally in rehab, which is thankfully long ago- one stark reality kept resurfacing: the alarming frequency of relapses among my peers. Brilliant, unique, and creative individuals- they struggled to transition out of rehab, succumbing to addiction’s grip time and time again. In 2004, within six months, this harsh reality claimed the lives of two cherished friends. In the realms of Alcoholics Anonymous, it’s said that “romance and finance take people out.” Since my first steps toward recovery in 1988, I’ve witnessed how romantic entanglements and financial woes devastate those in early recovery.

In 2004, when I found myself in rehab (which turned out to be the last time), my motivation to get clean was completely absent. Professionally, I was soaring- having established three successful tech companies with ample financial resources to fuel my addiction. It was against my will that I entered rehab, and why I stayed is still a mystery to me. The question that haunted me was: Why couldn’t I stop using drugs? I had a loving relationship with my wife, which was deteriorating due to my excessive cocaine and heroin use, and a beautiful two-year-old daughter. In my life, money was never my primary motivator- it was the freedom and security it brought, yet no amount seemed enough to quell my deep-seated financial insecurities.

Shortly after I arrived in rehab this last time, I began to reflect on my life and especially my career achievements. Pride swelled in me for being an entrepreneur, having built companies that provided sought-after solutions. However, juxtaposed with this was the grim reality of my crippling drug addiction, a shared affliction with many significant people in my life, some of whom had tragically succumbed to it.

Then came a life-altering epiphany: What if I leveraged my entrepreneurial skills to mitigate the destruction wrought by addiction on my friends, family, and community?

Giving my work and my career this purpose could be my salvation. And salvation for those whose lives I could touch.

A glimmer of hope appeared.

Although spread over about eight years beginning in 1986 and ending in 2004, my cumulative time in rehab amounts to about two years- a period marked by encounters with incredible individuals. The tragic undercurrent is the loss of such beautiful souls to addiction. Despite the gravity of their struggles, some embarked on entrepreneurial ventures, their fervor arguably eclipsing those pursuing conventional employment paths. Yet, their recovery remained fragile.

This led me to ponder: Is early recovery a stage inherently more susceptible to relapse? Can we, with the right type of attuned and individualized support, indeed prevent it?

This glimmer of hope persisted and has grown stronger as I have had the honor of witnessing those who persevere through early recovery often achieve profound success in their relationships, careers, and entrepreneurial endeavors. Witnessing such triumphs has been a privilege and inspiration.

But the question remains: Why do so many falter before finding their post-rehab footing? Since 2005, the commencement of my second recovery, I’ve dedicated myself to enhancing the recovery process for others. In addition to working personally day-to-day with those in residential recovery at Red Door Life detox and substance-abuse treatment and recovery center in Los Angeles, CA, and leading an online telehealth IOP group for entrepreneurship (A Self- Led Life: Entrepreneurs in Recovery), I have also established of The Evergreen Fund, a non-profit, which is my contribution to fostering entrepreneurship within the recovery community and supporting businesses to aid those afflicted by substance use and mental health issues. We are working on many projects including a sober companion safeguard training program, a harm-reduction awareness, education, and distribution start-up, and an evolutionary form of treatment and proprietary tech in the wearables space leveraging the power of AI to prevent suicide and overdose. I’ve been fortunate to assist numerous individuals in their entrepreneurial pursuits over the years, from launching socially conscious treatment centers to co-founding a technology company dedicated to preventing overdose deaths and suicide.

Central to my recovery journey is the act of helping others. It has fostered a sense of self-worth and purpose, as I evolved out of my self-centered tendencies that accompany substance abuse. It has helped me to cultivate deep compassion, empathy, and insight that was stunted by substance abuse. Despite missteps, as I learned better methods in both my entrepreneurial endeavors and in recovery, these very errors ignited my passion for aiding others by leveraging the power of entrepreneurship to break free from addiction’s grip. Embracing my identity as an “Entrepreneur in Recovery,” I extend an open invitation to others to join me on this inspired and transformative path.

Alex Shohet is the co-founder of Red Door Life, a Los Angeles, CA substance abuse treatment, recovery, detox, addiction & trauma healing center also featuring companion services, entrepreneurship empowerment, community & education.




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