I met Omar Pinto in 2015 when I was helping to promote an author’s addiction memoir. ‘’O’, as he is known by his friends and fans, used to be an alcoholic and a drug addict. He lost his wife, his family, and even his mind in states of drug-induced psychosis. 15 years ago, he finally faced his demons, fought his battle against addiction, and emerged victorious.
Now O hosts The SHAIR Podcast (Sharing Helps Addicts in Recovery), which showcases the power and resilience of the human spirit. Nothing is more painful and distressing than being trapped by addiction, to know you’re destroying yourself but not being able to stop.
Addiction is a modern-day plague, but Omar Pinto demonstrates that it is possible to make it through the darkness and use it to become a more extraordinary human being than you ever imagined you could be. It has been truly amazing to work with Omar on a project that touches people on the most profound levels.
O also shares insights on producing his podcast and growing his global community. Be sure to check out his free resources at the end of the interview!
O, you’re my American expat neighbor next door in Costa Rica. How did you end up there and what is it like living there?
I moved to Costa Rica in 1999 to open an online casino and sportsbook. Costa Rica can be a crazy place to live if you have the propensity to party serious. I didn’t know just how seriously I could party until I moved here.
I fell in love with the country, the people, the culture, the lifestyle and with a 21-year-old Costa Rican girl. We got married, had a beautiful daughter together and then drugs and alcohol destroyed everything. I lost the online casino business, my marriage ended and I was just about to lose my daughter when I found recovery.
Got clean and sober, I’m 15 years clean and sober now. I’m remarried and live in San Joaquin de Flores, Heredia in Costa Rica. Its right at the base of the Heredia Mountains and it’s lush with green areas and beautiful views of the mountains.
My wife and I are foodies, we have our favorite typical Costa Rican restaurants that we frequent every week. It’s a city with all the amenities of a city but has a small-town appeal. It’s an amazing place to live and I can imagine living anywhere else.
What gave you the idea to start a podcast? What was its aim?
I started the Podcast with 11 years clean because I want to interview and showcase people like me. Your average addict or alcoholic that absolutely destroyed their life with drugs and alcohol but by the grace of God were able to win the battle against this monster of a disease.
I love going to speaker meetings where one member tells their whole story. The battle against drugs and alcohol, the wreckage it caused in their life, when they hit rock bottom and their journey into recovery up until today.
That is the podcast I wanted to share with the world, real stories from real people in order to help the addicts still suffering today. To give them hope and guidance especially those that are hesitant to take that first step towards recovery.
Give us a brief rundown of your addiction recovery story. How long have you been clean and sober?
I’ve been clean and sober now for 15 years. My clean date is May 26, 2003. I started my journey of recovery on October 5, 2002 in NA Narcotics Anonymous and committed myself to working the program the way it was suggested to me by my sponsor.
It took me 4 years to work all 12 steps in Narcotics Anonymous. I became an entirely different person, it changed my life completely and in turn I changed everything in my life. People, places and things…everything.
They said you only have to change one thing when you come into recovery and that’s everything. That may sound extreme for some but I was desperate, I reached a point in my life when I no longer had the will to live. Married, baby on the way and I prayed for death.
[bctt tweet=”‘I reached a point in my life when I no longer had the will to live. Married, baby on the way, and I prayed for death.’ – @OmarPinto from @TheSHAIRPodcast #addiction #recovery #suicide” username=”@christawojo”]
Yes, it was difficult to follow all of the suggestions at first but what happened was that each time a followed through on a suggestion, my life got better, the program was working in my life and I could see the changes first hand. So I just kept coming back.
You have bravely stepped from the traditional anonymity of recovery. When did you know you had to become a face and voice in the fight against addiction?
I did not and do not agree with the rigidity of the 12-step mindset. The program is just fine the way it is, the literature is outdated and should be revised but the steps themselves are perfect just the way they are.
Mine was more of conflict with members that were creating dogma around the steps. It was beginning to feel cultish and inflexible. You will hear members with many years of clean time say things such as, “this is the only way”, “there is only one way”, “my sponsor taught me…” robots.
I hate religion with a passion for this same reason and I was starting to hate going to meetings and hearing the same shares over and over again with no real change, not in the fellowship and not with the members.
I wanted recovery to be fun again, I wanted to be excited about recovery again and I felt that by delivering a new message about recovery, a message that allowed you to take what you need and leave the rest. To agree or disagree with what is being suggested, to make your own choices about the pathways you would like to explore in recovery.
There isn’t only one way to recover. There isn’t only one 12 step fellowship that is better than all the others. And when I started the podcast that was my message—it’s not up to me to tell you how to recovery, my job is simply to carry the message, your message, our message and allow others to benefit from our stories free of judgment and free to interpret these stories and suggestions any way you would like.
SHAIR is one of the top-rated addiction recovery podcasts in the world. Did you ever expect it to grow so huge? Why do you think it resonates with so many people?
I always hoped it would get this big and spread hope all over the world the way it does today. It resonates with so many people, from so many parts of the world because each story is relatable and real.
It’s about getting real, raw, open, honest and vulnerable. There are tragic stories that are shared on SHAIR and when my listeners hear them they laugh, cry and grieve with the guest. They are instantly connected with the story because of its authenticity.
It’s contagious and my authenticity is what brings them back as well, my listeners love that when I’m interviewing a guest this time is for them not for me. It’s about their story, their struggle, there recovery and it’s never about me. I was given a wonderful gift from my higher power and this podcast allows me to show case it to the world.
What are the biggest challenges of podcasting? Do you have advice for those thinking of starting a podcast?
The biggest challenge is unrealistic expectations. Podcasting is a fun, easy to launch hobby that anyone can do. All you need is a good dynamic Mic you can pick up for under $100 and a good computer or Mac. Most of the software needed is very user friendly and either free or under $50 for a lifetime license.
The problem is not getting set up, recording or going live. The problem is building a listener base. It’s not a lot of money but in the beginning takes a considerable amount of time. It’s should be looked at as a hobby or passion project.
In other words, like a painter or sculptor, for many, they are not interested in how their art looks to others, what’s important is how they feel about the “art”. If you can detach yourself from the download numbers that at first will be very small and focus all of your intention on creating a podcast you love then eventually your listeners will find you.
[bctt tweet=”‘…like a painter or sculptor, they are not interested in how their art looks to others, what’s important is how they feel about the art.’ – @OmarPinto from @TheSHAIRPodcast #art #content #passion #podcasting” username=”@christawojo”]
What are the biggest challenges in helping to evolve the world of addiction recovery today?
The good news is none. There are more Recovery Resources available online than ever before. The stigma behind addiction is diminishing more and more every day. There are so many high profile celebrities and sports hero’s going public about their battle with addiction and the steps they took to recover.
The biggest challenge falls on the addict. They can’t say there are not enough resources, there are plenty of resources but all of them require work, time, contribution and community. The majority that don’t find their way to recovery because of one fatal mistake, they attempt to do this alone. You can’t recovery alone.
What advice do you have for those who think they may have a substance abuse problem or are in full-blown addiction?
Listen to The SHAIR Podcast!! Hahaha!! But seriously that is what I would tell them. Real stories, from real people just like you and me who have recovered from addiction. As you listen to them share their story of addiction they also share their journey of recovery.
What they did, how they did it and why they did it. How the recovery pathway they chose worked for them and is still is working for them. From there they connect with our giant FB group with over 5,000 members all in recovery in one way or another.
What you learn in this group is how to be vulnerable by watching other members get vulnerable and ask for help. So many of them have quickly found the pathway that works for them. But above all else get plugged into a network, a community of people trying to stay clean one day at a time that is the most import thing you can do for yourself.
You’re a certified NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programing Practitioner). I have personally experienced your NLP sessions and had a huge breakthrough from a sabotaging mindset I didn’t even realize I was acting on. Tell us a bit about how NLP works and who can benefit from it.
NLP is a process where we re-map the way your brain processes information. Where do negative emotions and negative self-talk come from? Many of us carry any number of negative emotions around with us all day. Anger, fear, bitterness, resentment which then provokes anxiety and frustration.
These feelings and emotions begin to pile up year after year and manifest in bad decisions, maladaptive coping skills, shielding, soothing behaviors such as poor performance at work, fighting constantly with your significant other, isolating, perfectionism, people pleasing, alcoholism, smoking, workaholic and the list goes on and on.
When you are feeling stressed, fear, anxiety, overwhelmed, depressed, etc. (negative emotional state) it is your body’s way of telling you that you are going in the wrong direction, it’s trying to steer you away from danger. The only way it knows how to get your attention is through evoking negative emotional states…pain!
[bctt tweet=”‘When you are feeling stressed, fear, anxiety, overwhelmed, depressed, etc. (negative emotional state) it is your body’s way of telling you that you are going in the wrong direction.’ – @OmarPinto from @TheSHAIRPodcast #NLP #therapy #coaching #mentalhealth” username=”@christawojo”]
I walk my clients through the blueprint that has been used to create the chaos in their life currently. Once identified we design a new blue print that will allow them to build a new emotional foundation that immediately brings relief and allows you to once again feel confident, clear, focused, driven, happy, relaxed, assertive and many other positive emotions now that the negative emotions have been removed.
You’ve also just launched a membership platform. Tell us a little bit about that.
The SHAIR Recovery Community (SRC) membership platform is recovery based. It is a support network that allows individuals struggling with addiction to get the love, guidance, support and coaching needed to navigate through early sobriety and how to maintain that sobriety.
It’s $1.00 for the first month to try it out and see if it works for you and then only $12 per month thereafter. We use the ZOOM webinar platform to facilitate 30 plus meetings a month in multiple time zones. We have members from all over the world in the SRC and we feature a wide variety of recovery pathways and modalities in order to meet the needs of anyone seeking recovery.
It’s a live online meeting and webinar platform that allows individuals to build quality relationships with the other members in the SRC face to face. It makes such a tremendous difference to the effectiveness of the recovery process once you have introduced the added benefits that come with face to face meetings.
There are very few platforms in the recovery space that encourage such a wide range of recovery options and support.
What can we expect from you in the future?
You can expect me to stay very clear and focused on what I bring into the world. A face and voice for the advocacy of long term recovery from addiction. A platform designed to make massive change in thousands of people’s lives while at the same time allowing them to do the same.
There is so much freedom with all of our membership and recovery platforms that your ability to not only grow and change in your life but actually affect change in the lives of the other members is infinite with possibilities. My mission with everything I do is to empower everyone I touch so that they in turn can do the same in their own community.
Thanks so much to ‘O’ Omar Pinto for sharing his story with us.
Leave your comments and questions for him below.
Connect with O and The SHAIR Community!