The Dopey Podcast was created “by addicts for addicts, and for those that might be recovery-curious.” The show normalizes past behavior in a safe place to listen, identify with, and be a part of a coterie capable of laughing at “the craziest stories, fueled by drugs and alcohol that are frankly too debaucherous to make up.” Both an audience and a community, the “Dopey Nation” is numbered in the thousands. They are a “self-monitoring tribe, in and out of recovery, that won’t judge or shame people for their past and will offer stories of their journey when asked to provide insight on living a happy and fulfilling life.”
Friday, July 24th was Dopey Day, organized by Dave, host of the Dopey Podcast, to commemorate his former co-host, Chris. Chris died from a lethal overdose two years ago, after being almost five years clean. He was pursuing a Ph.D. while committed to a loving relationship, earning “renewed trust from his family and friends.” Dave has never taken Chris’s name off of the show in any capacity—every episode ends with “toodles for Chris.” The purpose of Dopey Day is to “honor Chris’s life and all others that died at the hands of addiction. It is also a way for addicts to come together in an attempt to destigmatize drug abuse and mental health disorders.”
Knowing that Chris’s parents were in close proximity, Dave invited them onto the show to celebrate their son for this year’s Dopey Day. When the invitation was accepted, Dave found himself both touched and scared—part of him thought that his friend would be home when he arrived to record the podcast. While discussing the origins of the Dopey Podcast, Chris’s mother admitted that, when Chris first told her about the show, her first reaction was to wish her son had moved on from the subject material of drugs in every way. She found herself incapable of listening to the first few episodes. It was only after Chris’s death that she saw the therapeutic value of the podcast.
Chris’s father had another outlook and thought the show was a waste of time. He commented that Chris was perhaps more generous than he since, “to some extent, [I] [got] preoccupied with [my] own son. . . . [I] want[ed] him to get away from drug-culture and [I] really [didn’t] care about other people’s children.” The notion that the Dopey Podcast could be beneficial to others took a backseat by Chris’s parents until his funeral when they realized the true value of the show. They didn’t realize how many people listened in and were grateful for the legacy Chris left behind in it.
Chris had a great passion for compiling a Dopey Book filled with various tales that were shared on the show. He even put together a 36-page book proposal, although it has not yet been picked up for publication. Dave and an abundance of fans contributed to writing their experiences detailing addiction and recovery while Chris wrote the introduction. “He wanted us to have a Dopey book sent around the rehab [community],” Dave said of the project. “Maybe I’ll get back to it. . . . I have a couple of Chris’ stories that would obviously go in.” The introduction discussed the smoking section outside of rehabilitation meetings and the importance of connection to others through recovery while disclosing the origin story of the Dopey Show. Even though the book has not been released, the podcast on which it is based succeeds in offering an avenue in which to form a sympathetic human connection.
Chris’s sister, while reflecting on the day her brother died, commented, “I’m very grateful that [Chris] heard love up until the day he died because, as a family, we tried everything. . . . I go to bed knowing that he heard that we cared about him. . . . I don’t think he [overdosed] intentionally, and it just happened.” Unlike typical episodes, the conversation revolved around the family’s frame of mind. The Dopey Day discussion with Chris’s loved ones illuminated an alternate perspective of addiction and recovery while remaining utterly reflective.
Dave found himself unsure what the response to Dopey Day would be during the time of COVID-19 due to the social limitations imparted on the country by the virus. “The amazing thing about [the show]—it’s a consolation since Chris is gone—but the intensity of Dopey has really grown. . . . I think people are really enthusiastic about celebrating Chris and showing solidarity with addicts today. It blew my mind to see all the action on social media,” Dave said of the fanbase’s response to this year’s Dopey Day. Those who count themselves among the Dopey Nation, along with “allies across the addiction and recovery spectrums,” put the Dopey logo over their eyes and posted that image as their profile picture across social media platforms. Dave and Chris first started this tradition as a way to protect their anonymity, but it now serves as “a symbol with a greater purpose.”
Dave is proud of the Dopey Nation, acknowledging that “Dopey is nothing without Dopey Nation.” The fanbase is essentially a massive recovery support group, although, when Chris and Dave set out to make the show, forming such a cohort was not their goal at all. It was instead, to help the two men have fun.
“The therapeutic value of Dopey is still not on my agenda,” Dave said, who continues to find the process of producing the Dopey Podcast an enjoyable experience: “What I believe is that, as long as the show is fun to make, it will have therapeutic side effects. . . but if I try to make a therapeutic show, it will suck, and nobody will want to listen to it.” In this way, the Dopey Podcast is truly unique; the show and community fostered by it are of good-natured support instead of shame or severity. It can appeal to people who do not want to attend a twelve-step program for addiction recovery by providing an alternate option. It’s a way for people to share pain and experience in a fully destigmatized environment.
A complete recording of the podcast can be accessed here.