Updated: Mar 21
As members of society, we often place a stigma on certain groups of people whether it is those suffering from mental illness or those who are homeless. Many battling addictions can fall into both of those groups. The truth is, addiction has always been society’s dirty secret that we would prefer not to deal with. No one wants a drug treatment center in their neighborhood or a liquor store for fear of what type of people will come into the neighborhood. In turn, many suffer in silence because of shame, rejection, and lack of resources to get treatment. Those battling addictions have a disease and deserve to have access to treatment for their condition. Although addiction is a recognized disease, there is still a sense of disgrace attached to those battling it. Oftentimes, this causes the underlying problem of possible mental health issues to also go undiagnosed.
The American Society of Addiction Medicine defines addiction as, “A treatable, chronic medical disease involving complex interactions among brain circuits, genetics, the environment, and an individual’s life experiences.” For those suffering from addiction, the disease often takes such a tight hold that you self deteriorate and it can impact those closest to you. You can be blinded by your need and take part in risky or dangerous behaviors in order to continue the addictive pattern. People with addiction use substances or engage in behaviors that become compulsive and often continue despite harmful consequences to themselves or others.
“It boils down to life or death and you will die if you do not stop drinking or using. Ask yourself the question, do you want to live? Life in recovery is more fun than life in addiction. There is paradise on the other side of addiction. If you choose recovery, you can put your life together and it is a beautiful journey.”
After observing how society treats addiction, in conjunction with the continued devastation it can have for communities of color, I decided to learn more about sobriety and the power that living a sober life can have for an addict. Often we think of certain things as other people’s problems, but addiction has no boundaries. We can no longer just step over people or ignore their pain and suffering. Continuing to do so can have negative implications on all facets of society and quality of life. I recently spoke with Josephe “Pop” Buchanan about his life journey to sobriety and the development of his brand, Sober is Dope. The importance of this conversation gives you a first-hand account of how the power of your decisions can change your life forever. His inspirational story can help others who may be suffering from addiction.
Q: Josephe, tell me about yourself, your journey, and how you ended up where you are today.
A: My name is Pop Buchanan and I am from Brooklyn. I grew up Catholic and was an altar boy, went to college, did Hip Hop, and did real estate. I lost my father, Raymond "Rocky" Buchanan at 13, which was a huge trauma point for me and one of the major catalysts for my story of addiction.
Part of my movement is to help identify how grief and loss can impact mental health and cause issues leading to addiction. Grief can also cause depression and dietary issues. Identifying pain is important. My story started when my dad passed and that 2 to 4 year period after. It was normal in Brooklyn growing up to smoke pot but for me, it led me down a dark path stemming from being exposed to weed at 13 or 14. I remember having that first drink at my brother's baby shower at about 16 and it was rough on me. There was no expectation among adults or my family that I would drink. I got drunk and made a fool of myself in front of my brothers and friends. Life went on normally after that incident but I continued to be drawn to alcohol and never understood the power of it.
Problems seemed to follow me and I had some episodes in high school but things took a turn for the worse in college. I went to Farmingdale State University in Long Island. Being away from home I had freedom and I had increased exposure to alcohol. It hit me hard causing me to get kicked out that year and I had stopped going to classes. When this happened, I was shocked and knew my family sent me to school to earn my degree and not get caught up in partying. When I came home my mom told me one day people will need my help. She gave me a red alligator suitcase and shearling coat and she told me to go make something happen in the world. I went out and did a little stint of modeling and eventually, I became the lead model in singer and musician INOJ’s video. I went back to school and earned good grades to be able to head back to Farmingdale, which I succeeded in doing. Alcohol still followed me. I was a party guy and the center of attention. When I graduated it got worse even though I had some episodes in college. Despite this, I was able to graduate and got into a successful real estate company.
Q: So your life was turning into the perfect storm with you on a collision course with alcohol?
A: I graduated from college in 2003 and by 2005 I purchased my own house. In 2007 the real estate market and the economy crashed. I was stuck in a negative behavior pattern. My lifestyle changed and I couldn't make as much money as I was used to. My girlfriend broke up with me because she could not deal with my erratic behavior. The drinking mimicked the loss of my dad. I had up and down episodes and my girlfriend eventually broke up with me.
I started drinking more and was not eating. I was heartbroken and depressed and was not sure why. I was going down a rabbit hole of addiction. I later met someone and she became a codependent party friend. We both dealt with our grief by embracing each other. After several years of partying that eventually took its toll on both of us, we hit rock bottom and were separated by her parents. My house which had become a party house also burned down. My internal environment was reflective of my external environment. I saw it as a blessing I could not keep living that way.
After losing my house and while staying with my mother, we had a fight and I was so upset and got drunk. I tried to get sober on my own around the summer of 2012 but it was difficult. I lost a place and my girlfriend was in Boston. I tried to do AA and one day I was helping my brother who was a priest, and I found a bottle of alcohol and kept it in my bag. I went into a building and sipped it. I continued throughout the day and got so drunk that I blew up at my mom later that day. My mom told me I could not stay there anymore. She was hurt and did not have the energy to deal with my addiction anymore. I tried to go back to Boston where my girlfriend was, but then we both relapsed into drinking. As a result, her family put her in rehab and sent me back to Brooklyn. I tried to go live with another family member, but the same thing happened with me relapsing. I burned all my bridges with my siblings. Now I was approaching the cold winter season with no place to go. I had no one else to call and I had one friend who was also my brother's friend. He agreed to let me stay with him on the one condition that I could only be in the house when he was home. I had to roam the streets until he came home. He gave me money for food. I was sleeping on the floor. I started wondering one day how I landed in my present situation when I came from a great line of heritage as the son of the great Rocky and Cheryl Buchanan. Despite my lineage, having my college degrees, and knowing God, there I was sleeping on the floor in the middle of winter with no place to go. I started to ponder healing. I am very spiritual and come from a long line of priests and nationalists.
I remember one morning my friend had something to do and it was so cold but I had to head out until he came home. I ended up walking from East New York, Brooklyn to Crown Heights. I was trying to roam in the vicinity where my mom lived. By the time I got to Crown Heights, it was the first time I started panhandling. I was getting sick and I needed alcohol, this happens to addicts without proper withdrawal support. I was no different from a homeless person at that point. My body and spirit were breaking down rapidly. No one was giving me money and I recalled at that moment, I was always the guy helping the homeless. I saw my whole life flash before me. I said to myself I could no longer panhandle and be homeless. I told myself it was over along with that chapter of my life and the bad behavior. I got on my knees right then and there in the street. I was by the train station and in the middle of the street, I said the biggest prayer and told God the devil had captured me. I realized then there was something evil in the world and it was taking me down the wrong path. My depression coupled with addiction took me down the rabbit hole to hell. I asked God for help and guidance. I needed so much help and I did not know what my next steps were. I heard a voice in that moment of prayer that told me to get up and take the train to the city where there was a Catholic hospital. I felt redeemed. I knew at that moment God was working inside me.
I had no money but I got up and went to Manhattan and took the train to 14 street. I remember asking people where the hospital was. I found it and went to the emergency detox clinic. When I got there I was shaking and my body was going into shock. I stayed there the entire day expecting to be admitted into the program, but I had no insurance and was eventually denied admittance. I lost my mind. I had nowhere to go, and I remembered asking the nurse to pray with me, and at that moment she did. After that, she decided to make a call to the program director. The director came down to speak to me. He took a look at me and asked how I ended up there. I told him I did not know, but at that moment I felt like I was dying, and I came for help. He said to me, “Promise me you will fly straight.” I looked him in his eye and promised him that I would and that I was a good person. That was my lucky day and my first day of recovery.
Q: Why did you decide to start the Sober is Dope Podcast?
A: I started my podcast movement so I can teach others. I tell my story and share resources on what keeps me sober. I thank Alcohol Anonymous and the time I spent as an outpatient. I stayed in a three-quarter house while in recovery and was the only person there not in jail. I just wanted to get better. I learned everything I could about my addiction. I learned from my doctor I had an allergy to alcohol. That was corroborated by AA and the doctor's opinion about the allergies of addicts. I waited 4 years, focused on recovery, got back into music, and improved my health. I did meditation and leaned into the power of prayer. I also did dieting to stabilize my health. I no longer struggle with addiction. That is why it is important to tell my story. God transformed me spiritually and I totally understand the dangers of addiction. There were aspects of my life that I had to fix. I was not playing games with that.
Once I was in a better place, I recognized the need to teach people the connection between mental health and addiction as this can be a comorbid addiction with the two underlying issues. Depression symptoms can fuel alcoholism. It’s important to do a mental health diagnosis and separately treat addiction and address underlying mental health. It is necessary to look at how rejection, loss, grief, and pain impact mental health. Seeing my dad die, and going to the funeral, I had a trauma point that was overwhelming. I ended up shifting my brain to tuning that reality out. I created an escape mechanism by using alcohol. The addiction amplified my energy and drinking while masking my underlying health issue. Every day I know there is a kid like me starting off the same. Every time someone gets sober they want to learn. As part of Sober is Dope, we have 319 episodes of immense resources and all types of motivation. I wanted to do that for people coming up behind me in their sober journey. I am in active recovery, and I encourage those who struggle daily to listen to a podcast. I just wrote a book of prayer affirmations and getting people to stay positive. My goal is to hit one million people to share the message of recovery with. I am looking for sponsorship so I can reach a bigger audience.
Q: What is a sober coach?
A: A sober coach is someone like myself that can share recovery methods. I consider myself a sober expert. A sober coach can be an accountability partner almost like a sponsor but outside of the AA mechanism and untraditional. Traditional counselors are more like social workers who can recommend specific programs. I went to outpatient rehab and had to sit with someone that created a treatment plan for me that included a mental health expert. Sober coaches will help you navigate murky waters. A sober counselor can specialize in helping you with a real treatment program. The best-recommended steps are to go to a professional detox program where they can recommend the next step of treatment properly. I always encourage people not to go cold turkey. It is best to get into a professional environment so as to eliminate relapse.
Q: What words of encouragement can you offer others wishing to choose a path of being sober?
A: You have to choose yourself. It boils down to life or death, and you will die if you do not stop drinking or using. Ask yourself the question, do you want to live? Life in recovery is more fun than life in addiction. There is paradise on the other side of addiction. If you choose recovery, you can put your life together and it is a beautiful journey. Everything will go right when you choose recovery. Life increases exponentially as you will be rewarded, be able to create again, and be able to deal with underlying pain.
Q: Given your experience in the music, modeling, real estate, and business industries, what advice do you have for others whose careers or lives put them in constant high-stress environments?
A: You have to have regular sleep patterns. If I feel off or lethargic, I have to adjust certain things. Meditation is good and it helps to have a ritual in order to decompress. Meditation has zero to do with spirituality and is a technique to help calm your nervous system. The goal is to do things like meditation to help you calm down. Deep breathing can help you create mindfulness and focus on one thing at a time. Our bodies can be susceptible to undue stress and disease, so it is necessary to decompress to feel better. Things like meditation, sleep, and nutrient-dense foods will keep you from burning out.
Q: Where do you see your brand in the future and what impact do you wish to make on the world?
A: I want my podcast to reach an international audience. I want to keep writing books and do documentaries where I talk about my story. I also want to continue to offer tips about things like the importance of sleep and recovery. My goal is to try to share these wellness concepts as much as possible and incorporate NFTs into my brand using my art as an expression to talk about sobriety and keep the podcast going. It is important that I stay authentic and have an impact on others. I want people to see me and know that they can be sober as well. I am vocal in my community and known in Brooklyn and when people see that I can do it, it becomes valid to them. They know someone a part of their tribe has been through this journey and found their way. People know if I can do it, they do not have to be ashamed. The next phase is to figure out how to take my message to a wider global audience because people need it now more than ever.
Josephe has clearly demonstrated his commitment not just to his own sobriety but also to those all across the world who are suffering and trying to find their own path towards recovery and sobriety. By Josephe opening up and sharing his own tumultuous journey, he is able to reach and inspire many. We cannot thank Josephe “Pop” Buchanan enough for being so candid and free about his gut-wrenching journey to discover what it means not only to live sober free but also to strengthen his connection to God. Josephe continues to do all he can to motivate and help others who are battling addiction. His continued resolve shows us that there is always hope and that no one has to suffer alone. Josephe is both an inspiration and trailblazer ready to expand his message to the global community. To learn more about Josephe and his Sober is Dope Podcast, please visit online at https://www.popbuchanan.net/soberisdope .
Josephe "Pop" Buchanan is an American artist, author, activist, and podcaster. He is rising in the world of Hip-Hop music and as a public figure like never before. The artist is all about positivity and spreads the message of God, love, and sobriety showcasing some of the most eclectic lyrics ever created. His increasing popularity among great music lovers and podcast listeners worldwide shows that his growing number of friends are welcoming every lyric and podcast he has created.
Supporters know him as Pop Buchanan and his friends know him simply as "Pop", but very few are aware of the story of his life that he has finally decided to reveal to the public. He was raised in Brooklyn and lost his father, Raymond "Rocky" Buchanan, when he was only 13. This great loss has been the fuel behind Pop's passion. Moreover, graduated with a Bachelors in Science from The State University of New York (SUNY) at Farmingdale, where he studied Business Technology.
Despite a complex childhood, he was a dedicated student who always had a passion for music and speaking. However, in his late teens, he entered the world of Male Modeling after being discovered. In spite of others trying to contain him in the modeling world, after starring in INOJ's hit video "Time After Time", Pop's love for music continued to grow. But he decided to take a break from both and set his sights on the business world where he became a successful Financial Consultant and Real Estate Investor. However, his lifelong passion has always been music and he quickly returned to what he loves.
The artist battled with alcohol addiction and that addiction turned his life upside down, professionally and personally. However, since 2012, he has gone through a major renaissance and is now helping others by sharing his story of sobriety, health transformation, and survival. Pop is an advocate against addiction, diabetes, and hatred. POP Buchanan took his passion for sobriety, health, and recovery and started the Sober is Dope Podcast, and Sober is Dope Transformation School. POP also created a free E-Book dedicated to personal transformation. This is POP’s way of saying thank you to everyone in the Recovery, Music, and Mental Health community. POP has helped over 15000 people thrive in recovery, and has been a leading force in the Addiction and Recovery movement. Pop's personal motto is, "It's never too late to be amazing."