Homegrown podcast advocates for transparency in recovery from trauma
Do you feel the need for some advice on a challenging issue you’re facing, and you’d like to listen to some entertaining dialogue at the same time?
KDD Media Company in Livingston features a podcast the general public can access for free where celebrities and others are interviewed and describe how they recovered from things like trauma, mental illness issues, and substance abuse.
KDD Media was founded in 2020 based on an autobiography, Knockin’ Doorz Down, A Story of Breaking Through the Darkness and Finding Redemption, written by local sweet potato businessman Carlos Vieira. The book details his inner struggles with drug abuse and his eventual recovery to live a happy, productive life which is described in the book as pulling himself from the brink and knocking down a new door.
These days, Vieira is the Vice President of A. V. Thomas Produce in Livingston, the largest producer of organic and conventional sweet potatoes in the United States, as well as the founder of the Carlos Vieira Foundation, which is dedicated to raising awareness of autism, addiction and mental illness. He has a family and lives with his wife in Atwater.
The KDD Media podcast is accessible in an audio version online on the website, www.kddmediacompany.com/podcast. There are videos of the podcast on the website that will link to the YouTube channel.
The goal of KDD Media is to inspire those struggling with personal challenges such as mental illness, addiction or other traumas to overcome them through courage and determination and in a climate of transparency where they can bring forward their real situation and keep it in the forefront of conversation.
The podcast allows those struggling to hear/view how celebrities like Charlie Sheen and people from all walks of life have worked through similar issues to live a purposeful life and while doing so, become an inspiration to others to be the best they can be.
Jason LaChance, media director at KDD Media, and Mikey Nawrocki, assistant media director, who are also podcast hosts, started the media company when Carlos Vieira put out his self-published autobiography.
LaChance told the Times, “Our analytics show we’ve had 130,000 listens for 76 interviews on the audio, so it works out to 2,200 listeners per episode, but actually the celebrities get a lot more. Charlie Sheen had 377,000. YouTube got 1.5 million views for the 76 episodes.
“We release the content every Monday, and it’s pre-recorded on the website for anyone to listen to. Most people listen on mobile devices.
“Some of the early interviews, you can only get audio, but all the celebrities are on YouTube except one.”
One of LaChance’s and Nawrocki’s initial missions was to help other authors self-publish and bring other podcasts on board to give the company the ability to grow.
LaChance told the Times, “If people want to start their own podcast or they want us to produce their podcast, they can contact us.”
Nawrocki told the Times, “Carlos Vieira is very active in participating, but isn’t active daily because he’s busy with his sweet potato business. However, we are aligned with the Carlos Vieira Foundation and partner with it. The Foundation helps youth. Based on essays they submit, it provides scholarships for kids going into college who have had mental health issues (or else someone in their family has them). We have spoken with some of the scholarship recipients, and some of their videos are on the You Tube link on our website and people can listen.
“It was cool to shed light on the fact that teenagers are not alone in what they’re going through. The past generations taught the message, ‘bury it down, don’t talk about it’. The studies say it’s the worst thing you can do because it builds up shame and resentment and that’s where anxiety comes from — from burying things and not talking about them. What is buried is eventually going to come up, and it’s how you handle it that is going to determine your future.
“A lot of people look at mental issues as a defect and they’re not, it’s just the cards you were dealt, and it’s how you manage it that’s important. If you manage it poorly, you will get worse, and if you make the conscious effort to get better, which includes talking about it, that works well for a lot of people.”
Transparency is the key, since society’s stigmatization of struggling individuals doesn’t encourage them to stop a certain behavior in a healthy manner, but instead, only results in their feeling shame, hiding that part of themselves, and avoiding treatment in order to avoid being judged.
How the podcast come about
LaChance explained, “It started with Carlos Vieira’s autobiography. He had a 13- year cocaine addiction and has been sober for 14 years. I worked in radio for 20 years, and 17 of it was at Radio Merced. I’m in recovery for alcohol abuse.
“Carlos Vieira came to me asking what are these podcasts I do for fun, and he was presenting his book and wanted to do a podcast on addiction recovery. Then we branched out to his background in mental health because anyone in recovery has mental health issues. So, 16 months ago, we combined those.”
When asked how KDD Media is able to find celebrities to feature on the podcast, Nawrocki responded, “We have a booking agent in Florida. Her husband is in the business and she used to work for people in the business, and she has some contacts. She was a marketing manager for a rehab business at one time, so rehab is near and dear to her heart. She got us 90 percent of the celebrities we’ve had on the podcast. Jason and I will also research people who are in trauma and have faced any kind of adversity, and we will reach out to them.
“I’ve done my stint in rehab for cocaine abuse. Rehab is good if you want to go, but if you don’t want to go it’s pointless. I went in order to make my mom happy but I didn’t really want to go, and I did my share of drugs afterwards. But when I recovered, it was motivated by my mom when she said that when she was pregnant she did everything to make sure I was healthy and it broke her heart to see me do this to myself.
“In my family, I kind of grew up with the attitude, ‘shut up, get over it and move on’, but it’s good to talk about these things and that’s why our podcast is so beneficial. You can’t cure addiction entirely, but you can manage it, and knowing that, we really need to talk about it.”
LaChance added, “That’s a big principle. I feel like the podcast is just that — it’s kind of like a long-form share that you would hear in AA or Celebrate Recovery. We get humor in there and although the situations aren’t fun, there are some crazy, wild and funny stories. My friends in recovery have a really good time listening.”
Nawrocki explained, “One of the most humorous things is on the podcast featuring actor Charlie Sheen. I asked him to write his name down so I could take it to a tattoo parlor, and he wasn’t sure at first, but he did. I got his name tattooed on my leg. On the podcast, Charlie said, ‘What if it doesn’t go well with us and we have a falling out? You might not want to see it.’ I responded that I would just put a Day of the Dead tattoo over it and cover it up!
“We interviewed Charlie Sheen twice. He has a vibe around him. We were at his manager’s house waiting for him and then you felt his presence when he arrived, and he was the most down to earth, level-headed, sweet guy ever, especially for being an A-list celebrity. He was so cool and easy to talk to. He was super nice and laughing with us. It was just fun, and we had a good talk.”
On the podcast, Charlie Sheen talks about the fact he had a nervous breakdown “front and center on the world stage”. He says, frankly, “The majority of it was ultimately linked to booze and dope.”
He did not blame his breakdown on his parents, saying, “I had a pretty normal childhood, except for traveling most of the world with my dad [Martin Sheen] on his locations.”
Alluding to what might have been a contributing factor in his substance abuse issue, he described the pressure he felt due to his ambition to enter the world of acting. Sheen said on the podcast, “I would create different versions of myself based on who I was dealing with.”
Explaining recovery, he said, “It’s part of staying on that path that we know to be stable.” He also said the “situation dictates” how you should respond.
Sheen said, “Sorry I didn’t show up with concrete solutions. It’s so delicately individualized, not a ‘one size fits all’. I get fan mail and someone was able to derive something profound from something I said that I forgot.”
Nawrocki told the Times, “His ex-wife, Denise Richards, was the same way and could not have been sweeter. We interviewed Denise for the aspect of what it was like living with an addict and raising kids under that roof.”
LaChance added, “Her angle was having gone through a divorce and being on the other side of someone with an addiction, and co-parenting. We thought it would be helpful because addiction destroys so many marriages and families, but they were able to work it out. Charlie was willing to do the interviews because he felt it would be helpful.”
Nawrocki told the Times, “On the podcast, celebrities and others talk about how they have overcome any trauma that would affect their mental health or substance abuse or any type of adversity. When you see the Nature Boy Ric Flair talk about wrestling and his accomplishments, it’s great, but then he talks about the death of his son, and it’s a roller coaster of emotions, and if you can relate, it’s going to be helpful.
“One lady, Casey Johnson, talked about the time she was a high school student at Columbine, and a gunman said, ‘Are you ready to die today?’ She was actually shot by a shotgun at about point-blank range. It blew out most of her shoulder, and they were all laughing. She played dead, and survived. She saw another kid not too far from her get shot and killed.
“On the podcast, she talks about how she didn’t let the boys who did that horrendous thing have control over it, and she did OK until shootings started occurring at schools years later, and then she had to do internal talking about how to not let that control her and take away her power in life. She wanted to panic and pull her children out of school, but she rethought it because she didn’t feel that was living. She said that you have to take that power back.
“Jason and I are not doctors. We’re not here to diagnose or cure anybody. We’re just here to offer help with some really good names and their experience and wisdom.”