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By Ryan Riggs
Introducing “REAL Talk with REAL LIFE” a podcast brought to you weekly from the REAL LIFE Community Center. REAL Talk will bring on guests and their wealth of ideas, energy, and resources on recovery, re-entry, housing dilemmas, mental health and other related topics – all areas that we see are plaguing our clients and many others in Richmond and throughout our country. It is our goal that REAL Talk will contribute to sparking the fire of social change, while providing motivation for those in recovery and in this arena.
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Currently playing episode

Season 2 Ep 6: Abbey O'Toole - 'Motherhood, relationships and lasting recovery"


Season 2 Ep 6: Abbey O'Toole - 'Motherhood, relationships and lasting recovery"


Season 2 Ep 9: Kevin Britton - Chasing Greatness
Kevin is a student at Howard University School of Law(HUSL). He is a person in long term recovery who is chasing greatness and has been a bright light to those who find themselves in a hopeless place. Kevin writes: ”Drawing my inspiration from the writing and actions of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. In my bleakest moments, I found strength in his sermons and speeches that inaugurated the civil rights movement of the 1960s. They demonstrated how a black man growing up in the South with more adversity than anyone should have to bear could decide to see the world in a different light. Dr. King showed me that, in order to effect the positive changes in my own life that I desperately needed, placing others ahead of my own desires would be the key to escaping the life that had imprisoned me for so long. In the last 9 years, I have realized and embraced my autodidactic nature that lends itself well to community work and the fight against social injustice. My own experiences have proved unquestionably beneficial. They have allowed me a degree of empathy and understanding through which I can be of maximum use. And this is simply because I have chosen to bring light to others in the way Dr. King advocated. Dr. King, upon receiving the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize, noted that he refused to accept despair. He said that life’s events—no matter how challenging or debilitating—can be of value to others who can benefit from being shown a way out. Given my own experiences with inequality and marginalization, my professional goal is to become a just and fair prosecutor, specifically for those mistreated (neglected) by the legal process. Ensuring fairness to those with or without resources, expanding my skills for use in additional legal contexts along the way. By the grace of God there go I. The marathon continues...”  
April 5, 2019
Season 2 Ep 8: A.J. Johnson - My Personal Recovery Journey
AJ is a strong advocate for recovery. Upon release from Riverside Regional Jail he joined the REAL LIFE program and has not looked back. Along with volunteering for different events that the program has, AJ also works a full time job landscaping and attends NA meetings weekly. AJ has refocussed his time and energy into positive actions that will affect his life for the better. He plans on one day to own his own home and acquire his CDL license. With the support of family, friends, and the REAL LIFE program AJ is determined to become a productive member of society. He knows that the journey in front of him won't be easy but as long as he puts God and his recovery first he knows he's going to succeed.
March 29, 2019
Season 2 Ep: 7 - Joel Elston - “Powerless No More:The Power of Positive Thinking and Growth Mindset”
This episode we are joined by Joel Elston to discuss the power of positive thought and developing a growth mindset. We also discuss the potential for misuse of the principle of powerlessness and how that may sometimes inhibit growth and foster a victim mentality. Joel Elston is a Master Life Coach, Motivational Speaker, Author and Consultant. He is the Father of 3 sons, TJ, Chris and Justin. Joel is an advocate for children in foster care, helping to find homes for special needs and older children. Find "The Bench" by Joel Elston here:
March 7, 2019
Season 2 Ep 6: Abbey O'Toole - 'Motherhood, relationships and lasting recovery"
Abbey O’Toole is a woman in long term recovery. After spending her teen years in and out of institutions and 12 step programs she finally found lasting recovery after a serious suicide attempt. From the depths of despair and hopelessness she has climbed up and reclaimed her role as a daughter, sister, faithful fiancé and now new mother. Join us on this episode as we talk to Abbey about her journey, the gifts and struggles of being a new mom, and how she manages her recovery with such a full life.
March 1, 2019
Season 2 Ep 5: Johnny Harrell: “I have to get myself right first”
Johnny Harrell was recently released from the Virginia Department of Corrections after serving a 3 years sentence. After coming in and out the criminal justice system for many years as a result of battling a substance use disorder, Johnny made the decision to transition to REAL LIFE.  His goal is to stay motivated, work hard, and push forward to help achieve a brighter future for himself.  Johnny wants to take care of himself in order to one day be in a position to help other who battle the same demons that have held him hostage for so long.  On this episode we have a candid discussion about Johnny's life and what is helping him change his ways today.
February 21, 2019
Season 2 Ep 4: Daniel Brockington: What is different this time?
Daniel Brockington is person in long-term recovery. He is a father,a partner, and an aspiring leader. Daniel has been recently released from his last period of incarceration due to his substance use disorder.  Mr. Brockington sits down with us to discuss what led him to this point in his life and what he is doing today to avoid falling in the same traps that have snared him in the past.  This raw and uncut discussion will be one that you don't want to miss.  
February 15, 2019
Season 2 Ep 3: Paul & Matt on Occupational Therapy Practices in Recovery
Matt Carpenter and Paul Kehrer are Occupational Therapy Doctoral Students at VCU who are doing their doctoral practicum at REAL LIFE Community Center.  Their ideas on how OT relates to the population we serve are very insightful and intriguing.  Today we sit down with them to discuss those ideas. Matt Carpenter is an Occupational Therapy Doctoral student at Virginia Commonwealth University and has an undergraduate degree in Sociology from the College of William and Mary. He loves working with people and has done so in a variety of environments from summer camps, cruise ships, retail, and a church. Matt is particularly interested in helping individuals with mental health issues not only regain what they have lost but also to learn new skills and thrive.  Paul Kehrer is originally from Springfield, VA. He has attended Virginia Commonwealth University, Wesley Theological Seminary, and is currently pursuing his Doctoral degree in Occupational Therapy. He is motivated to work with others by his enduring belief that he can learn from anyone, and favors a collaborative and timely paced approach to helping others build psychosocial skills. Find an article recently written by Paul about his experiences at REAL LIFE here :
February 8, 2019
Season 2 Ep 2: Upcoming Legislation Discussion w/ Sarah Scarbrough, Anthony Grimes, and David Rook
Sarah Scarbrough(REAL LIFE Community Center), Anthony Grimes (The WAR Foundation), and David Rook(TRUE Recovery) are all founders and directors of their organizations that serve people with Substance Use disorder and incarceration issues. On this episode they sit down to discuss upcoming legislation that is being heard in the general assembly that has a potential to greatly impact our ability to better serve this marginalized population and mitigate disenfranchisement. They will be joining forces for a lobbying day at the general assembly to support these bills on February 14th, Valentine’s Day. Come out and help us be heard by making our voice as loud as possible. This is such a need and we look forward to seeing you there.
January 31, 2019
Season 2 Ep 1 : Jesse Wysocki "Life, Love, and Recovery"
Jesse Wysocki sits down to discuss a wide range of topics to include: Life, Love, and Recovery.   Jesse Wysocki is the Chief Operating Officer of The McShin Foundation.  Born in Suffolk, VA, his childhood was spent following his Dad’s Navy career until moving to Chesterfield and graduating from L.C. Bird High School.  Previously, he worked as a Human Resource Director at The Towers Retirement & Assistant Living Community and was the Transition Peer Mentor and Overnight monitor at The Healing Place. Jesse is a Certified Peer Recovery Specialist and Peer Recovery Coach who has been featured on “Hero’s Among Us” Segment of WTVR Channel 6 and the “Faith That Works” segment of WWBT Channel 12. He has been recognized as an outstanding motivational speaker for Sussex I Prison and been the keynote speaker for numerous Department of Corrections facilities, while also being featured on panel discussions for Substance Use Disorder for local and state organizations.   Jesse lost his oldest son to a Substance Use Disorder, and now takes pride being a beacon for those struggling through the darkest of nights.  His clean date is January 10, 2012.  Jesse resides in Chesterfield where he proudly parents his five children.  
January 25, 2019
Season 1 Ep. 10: Maggie's Story
Maggie is an active member of the recovery community. She guides women today to bettering their life and getting out of their old life-style; just as she was guided and is continuing to be guided. This is her experience while in active addiction and where she is at now once choosing a different way of life.
September 5, 2018
Season 1 Ep. 9: Laine's Story
Latest episode of REAL Talk with R.E.A.L. LIFE
August 29, 2018
Season 2 Ep. 8: Johnny Bullock: Empowered Fathers = Empowered Communities
Johnny Bullock, Coordinator/Facilitator @ The Virginia Family& Fatherhood Initiative, discusses how VFFI is striving to empower young men to become strong, positive providers to help stem the epidemic of fatherless families in Virginia. We also discuss how the reunification of healthy families contributes to the total health and wellness of the family, community, and society at large. Young fathers, especially those who have grown up in poverty, need assistance and support to make the transition from adolescence to responsible parenthood and adulthood. VFFI curriculum provides clients with 1) the opportunity to spend time with other men dealing with similar issues and problems 2)support when feeling scared, overwhelmed or depressed 3)access to professionals who serve as counselors, advocates and brokers with the legal and social service systems. Virginia Family & Fatherhood Initiative 400 East Cary St. Richmond, Virginia 23219
August 22, 2018
Season 1 Ep 7: Tracy Grow: Grief and Loss Support/Recovery
Tracy Talley Grow: Founder of GRAPLE & Recovery Advocate After losing her son, Taylor to a heroin overdose in October 2016, she saw a need to help those who have been affected by similar losses and began GRAPLE in February 2017. She also works with individuals in recovery as they navigate a new way to live without substances while coping with grief. GRAPLE is a grief and loss recovery resource for anyone who has lost someone to substance use disorder or addiction. They provide weekly meetings on Tuesdays at 7:00 pm at the McShin Foundation in Henrico, VA; 24 hour crisis support to local police chaplains; as well as individual peer mentoring. She believes that peer support and education is essential in healing after a substance abuse passing, due to it's disenfranchised and stigmatized manner. Contact Info: (804) 229-5024
August 15, 2018
Season 1 Ep. 3: Richard and Rodney: Community
Two REAL LIFE Participants discuss the importance of "Community" in recovery and their personal experiences with drug court and how that has contributed to success in their recovery
August 8, 2018
Season 1 Ep. 6: Creating Positive Momentum w/ Ryan Riggs
Case Manager Ryan Riggs discusses his experience with negative momentum creative by negative thought, behaviors, and habits and how he was able to change that momentum through consistent, deliberate, positive action.
August 2, 2018
Season 1 Ep. 4: Tauchanna Gilmore: Housing Crisis for Women and Children
Tauchanna Gilmore is REAL LIFE'S Expectant Mother's Program Director. On this episode we discuss the overwhelming hurdles these women face and what REAL LIFE is doing to meet the needs of this population.
August 1, 2018
Season 1 Ep. 5: Jill Cichowicz: End The Stigma, Fight For Tomorrow
Jill Cichowicz is a stay at home mother of two energetic boys and currently resides in Midlothian, Virginia. After losing her twin brother, Scott Zebrowski to an accidental drug overdose on February 28, 2017 she partnered with The Mcshin Foundation and created the Scott Zebrowski Scholarship Fund to help those suffering with Substance Use Disorder (SUD) receive the help they so desperately deserve. She orchestrated her first fundraiser, “A Night for Scott” and raised over $28,000 for the scholarship fund which helped many people struggling with addiction. Jill also serves on the Philanthropy Committee at The McShin Foundation and vows to continue fighting to erase the stigma associated with Substance Use Disorder and give hope for those struggling to fight for tomorrow. The 2nd Annual “A Night for Scott” fundraiser has been set for February 16, 2019 with the goal of raising $40,000 for her scholarship fund.
July 24, 2018
Season 1 Ep. 2: Anne Moss Rogers: Grief From A Stigmatized Death
Anne Moss Rogers, Executive Director of The Beacon Tree Foundation(,Mother of A child, Charles, that died from suicide and suffered with SUD and mental health. She is also a public speaker, and writer. Anne started a blog called that focuses on starting dialogue about issues that often stay hidden in the dark corners of society: mental health, addiction, and suicide. She is joining us today to discuss how she has dealt with grief and has chosen to use her experience as motivation to help others. Anne is truly a vision of hope, resilience, and inspiration to many and we are delighted to have her with us today.
July 16, 2018