Their tales are strikingly comparable: Two younger Minnesota males whose lives have been upended by substance use. For years they each struggled with addiction, remedy and relapse earlier than discovering sobriety. Later their winding roads led them to lengthy careers in management on the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation.
This fall, these two males — Marvin Seppala, chief medical officer, and Nick Motu, vice chairman and chief exterior affairs officer — will likely be retiring from the nonprofit addiction remedy large after a long time with the group.
William C. Moyers, Hazelden Betty Ford VP of public affairs and neighborhood relations, mentioned that Motu and Seppala’s private histories, and their willingness to share them, have helped to form the nonprofit and its place on this planet of restoration.
“Individually and collectively, personally and professionally, with their very own journeys,” he mentioned, “Nick and Marv have highlighted not simply what it means to beat addiction, however the affect their recoveries have had on the lives of hundreds – extra like tons of of hundreds – of people that wrestle with the identical sickness.”
Recently each males took time to speak about their tumultuous pasts — and their lengthy careers selling addiction remedy and restoration.
Marvin Seppala: ‘I’m identical to them’
Growing up within the southern Minnesota city of Stewartville, Marvin Seppala started consuming at a younger age. Back within the mid Seventies, it wasn’t that distinctive.
“I began consuming in seventh grade,” Seppala mentioned. “At the time, it wasn’t that uncommon in a small city in southern Minnesota.”
By the time Seppala was 15, he was utilizing medicine and alcohol each day. The oldest of 5 siblings in a “one hundred pc Finnish,” household, Seppala mentioned he lied to his dad and mom and different adults in his life to cowl up his substance use till his senior 12 months in highschool, when he may not cover the extent of his downside: “I acquired kicked off athletic groups and was struggling academically,” he mentioned.
Once, he recalled that he took velocity and stayed up all night time finishing his physics homework. The subsequent morning, nonetheless wired, he went to class. “I keep in mind I used to be capable of go as much as the board and full issues that not one of the different college students have been capable of full,” he mentioned. That night time he acquired wasted once more: “I smoked numerous pot, drank alcohol. The subsequent day we had a check on the identical kind of downside that I had accomplished the day earlier than.” Seppala couldn’t keep in mind how one can do the work he’d accomplished efficiently 24 hours earlier than.
“The solely factor I placed on my paper was my identify,” he mentioned. “After that, I walked out of sophistication and straight out of faculty and by no means went again. I used to be so ashamed of myself.”
Without faculty to floor him, Seppala drifted out and in of his dad and mom’ home, staying out all night time and returning within the wee hours of the morning. One day, he was in his mattress, sleeping off one other powerful night time, when his mom woke him. With the assistance of a neighborhood doctor, she persuaded Seppala to get within the automobile, saying they have been taking him to the hospital. But they really had a unique vacation spot in thoughts. After stopping in Rochester to select Seppala’s father up at his job at IBM, the 4 drove north till they reached Center City and Hazelden.
At the time, Hazelden had been round for 25 years, and nonetheless served largely grownup males and a few girls. With the assistance of their doctor, Seppala’s dad and mom had managed to get him an appointment with a counselor at Hazelden Betty Ford, and once they arrived he was ushed into his appointment.
With his defenses down, Seppala got here clear in regards to the extent of his substance use. “This was the primary one who had come to me with an understanding of what I used to be going by way of and will speak to me about it,” he mentioned of the counselor. After the interview, the counselor beneficial Seppala for admission.
That advice made Seppala the primary adolescent to bear inpatient addiction remedy at Hazelden Betty Ford. He was lower than enthusiastic in regards to the concept. “When I spotted at that time that I’d be staying right here, I mentioned, ‘I’m not going to remain right here,’” Seppala recalled. “My father mentioned, ‘If you don’t, we’re going to go to a decide and power you to be right here.’”
Seppala isn’t positive if his dad and mom may’ve truly adopted by way of on their menace, however he agreed to remain at Hazelden as a result of he didn’t need to go to courtroom. For the primary two weeks of his four-week keep, issues went poorly. “I argued that I didn’t belong there and in contrast myself to the older males I used to be with,” he mentioned. “I even used info from the Big Book of AA to show I didn’t belong there.”
The different males within the remedy program didn’t purchase Seppala’s argument, however as an alternative of dismissing him as an offended teen, Seppala mentioned the boys listened to him and shared their very own tales of addiction.
“They simply cared for me,” he mentioned. “The actually cared about me and I began to hanging out with the fellows who have been actually severe about restoration. I didn’t admit that I had it, but I discovered I used to be drawn to them and the way they talked about it. All of a sudden I spotted, ‘I’m identical to them.’”
When the month was over, Seppala graduated from remedy, however relapsed 5 days after going residence. Eventually his dad and mom disowned him and kicked him out of the home. He crashed with a collection of buddies till he acquired a job as a lab assistant on the Mayo Clinic in Rochester.
The job turned out to be an inspiration — and a problem.
“I cherished this job,” Seppala mentioned. “It was unimaginable. Suddenly I used to be on this lab with physicians and Ph.D.s. It was fascinating.” Excited by this new alternative, he stayed sober for 2 weeks till he relapsed, stealing cocaine used for analysis from the lab. Feeling determined, Seppala went to an AA meeting in downtown Rochester. For weeks he noticed the meeting with out contributing, however finally he labored up his braveness and requested one other man to be his sponsor. After that Seppala mentioned he had another relapse, however since has remained sober for 46 years.
His time as a lab assistant impressed Seppala to need to grow to be a physician. Though he’d walked out of highschool simply months earlier than commencement, directors at his faculty agreed to grant him a level. He went on to school, married his highschool sweetheart and finally enrolled in medical faculty on the Mayo Clinic, changing into a psychiatrist with a specialization in addiction medication.
Seppala is fascinated by substance use dysfunction and its remedy. He believes that his personal addiction has a robust genetic part, and that data has helped him to see it as an inherited sickness.
“The Finnish authorities was the primary nation to confess that the No. 1 explanation for loss of life there was alcohol,” he mentioned. That understanding of his personal predisposition for addiction made Seppala frightened that he would possibly go it on to his personal youngsters.
“I figured it was too enormous a genetic load to have youngsters,” Seppala mentioned, “however my spouse prevailed. We have two fantastic children who at the moment are of their 30s. They don’t have any proof of this illness.”
As Hazelden Betty Ford’s chief medical officer, Seppala has been a robust advocate for remedy assisted remedy [MAT] for opioid use dysfunction.
“I drove this when buprenorphine was first obtainable,” he mentioned. “At the time, most conventional addiction remedy packages wouldn’t use it in any respect. They considered it as simply relapsing from one drug to a different.”
Though the choice to supply buprenorphine to sufferers recovering from opioid use was controversial, Seppala caught to his weapons.
“I insisted on beginning this remedy and introduced that to bear for the group, which turned numerous heads within the subject,” he mentioned. “We have such a fame, and instantly we have been utilizing this remedy. It helped numerous different remedy packages make the identical choice. I assumed it was the proper choice, and it has labored out extraordinarily effectively.”
When he formally retires on the finish of October, Seppala, who’s completed a memoir mixing his personal expertise with addiction and his remedy experience, plans to maintain his hat within the ring.
“I’m going to maintain working, however transfer to some part-time job the place I can simply concentrate on one factor at a time,” he mentioned. But he’s not speeding into something: “First, I’m going to take a few months off and take a great have a look at my life. I additionally need to go snowboarding and fishing and spend a while with my granddaughter.”
Nick Motu: ‘I drank from the time I wakened within the morning to once I went to mattress.’
As a younger man, Nick Motu confirmed promise, however alcohol saved getting in the best way. He loved consuming together with his buddies in school, however his use blossomed into addiction when he graduated and acquired a job as a reporter at a every day paper in Wyoming.
“In journalism, there was a tradition again then of heavy consuming,” Motu defined. “We put the paper to mattress each night time after which we’d exit and drink. My alcoholism flourished in that interval.”
Motu finally moved again to his residence state of Minnesota, the place he took a job on the New Ulm Daily Journal and as a stringer for the Associated Press earlier than transferring to advertising and marketing jobs at insurance coverage corporations. Though from the skin it appeared as if his profession was flourishing, on the within Motu was struggling.
“By that point my alcoholism was in full bud,” he mentioned. “I drank from the time I wakened within the morning to once I went to mattress.” It acquired to the purpose the place he didn’t need to do something however drink, so he give up his job so he’d have extra time with alcohol. “That’s how sturdy the facility of alcoholism was. It was a extremely, actually powerful time.”
Motu had been married, however his first spouse left him, he misplaced his home, and he moved again in together with his dad and mom. “I used to be 35 or 36 on the time,” he mentioned. “That entire time is obscure. I used to be in blackouts.”
Life didn’t get any simpler for Motu, although he tried to sober up on his personal. He would possibly avoid alcohol for a number of days or perhaps weeks, however he’d relapse, blacking out on the road and ending up within the emergency room. One such expertise despatched him to addiction remedy on the sixth flooring of what was then referred to as Ramsey Hospital.
He completed that remedy, walked out and instantly started consuming. He made it again to his dad and mom’ home, the place he blacked out and had a grand mal seizure.
The expertise was a turning level. “My mom determined I needed to get assist,” Motu mentioned. “I didn’t need to do it by myself. She went to the Dakota County courtroom and had me dedicated beneath a Rule 25.”
During the courtroom listening to the decide requested Motu if he was prepared to go to remedy. “I mentioned I’d go to remedy if I may to Hazelden,” he recalled. “She agreed and beneath a Rule 25 order I ended up at Hazelden and spent 32 days right here.”
That one go to wasn’t sufficient to get Motu sober. He went to a midway home, saved consuming, and ended up at two different remedy facilities earlier than he lastly was capable of give up for good. In 1995, he acquired a job at Hazelden within the advertising and marketing division after a good friend known as and instructed him about a gap.
“It felt like an awesome alternative,” Motu mentioned. He relished having the ability to mix his advertising and marketing abilities together with his dedication to restoration. That mixture was acknowledged by his colleagues, and when Mark Mishek was employed as Hazelden Betty Ford’s president and CEO, he expanded Motu’s job. His new title? Vice president and chief exterior affairs officer.
“He gave me the duty of managing the entire advertising and marketing and enterprise growth for the whole basis,” Motu mentioned. “It was an thrilling alternative.”
Motu is happy with the work he’s been capable of do at Hazelden Betty Ford. On the publishing aspect, he helped shepherd the nonprofit into the digital age, transferring from print to digital publishing.
“When the iPhone was launched into the market place in 2007, we started to embrace this new type of communication,” Motu mentioned. “We developed among the first restoration apps.” Those apps gained awards and recognition, together with particular recognition from then-President Barack Obama.
Motu appreciates how expertise makes restoration accessible to a broader viewers.
“My greatest satisfaction in publishing was studying letters from grateful dad and mom and folk in restoration saying that they acquired assist from one thing that we printed or had helped them and their member of the family handle their addiction and help their restoration,” he mentioned.
Because he needs to make addiction remedy obtainable to all, Motu mentioned he’s happy that he was capable of help the group’s choice to simply accept business insurance coverage: “We have been
self-pay solely till Mark Mishek got here on board 13 years in the past. Now greater than 90 p.c of our purchasers come on board with business insurance coverage.”
He thinks the subsequent step for Hazelden Betty Ford and different remedy facilities is to additional broaden their providers to individuals who don’t have insurance coverage protection. “Our greatest concern going ahead is making an attempt to extend entry to remedy for individuals who can’t afford it. Years in the past, I used to be in that state of affairs myself. I couldn’t have afforded remedy at Hazelden had the decide not despatched me there.”
Motu mentioned his coronary heart instructed him it was time to retire.
“Coming to work each day was feeling like déjà vu,” he mentioned. “The similar challenges, the identical points, the identical plans, the identical processes. At some level, after 26 years, you simply need a change. I need to do one thing else.”
For Motu, doing one thing else consists of “making an attempt to proceed to assist those that need assistance — not solely with addiction but in addition with behavioral well being points.” When he finds work in that area, he provides, he hopes he can concentrate on children and adolescents, possibly serving to to show the tide early, in order that younger folks don’t need to wrestle the best way he did.
One factor Motu is definite of is that Hazelden Betty Ford will go on with out him. “An previous boss instructed me as soon as, ‘Everybody is replaceable,’” he mentioned. “You suppose you’re not, however you might be. There are loads of individuals who can backfill the void left on my own and Marv. I’m not frightened about that. We’re too stable a corporation and the bench is simply too deep.”