Social Impact Heroes: Why & How Gary Roberts of Promises Innovative Recovery Is Helping To Change Our World
Learn to say “NO.” I put this last because it is basically a one phrase summary of above. Saying “No” does not mean you disagree or you deny someone’s idea or something they want you to do. Saying no means you’re focusing on the important items and don’t want to weigh yourself down with more items or projects that will remove your focus from your end goal. Saying “No” allows you to be in control, experience less stress, and be more focused when you need to be.
As part of my series about “individuals and organizations making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Gary Roberts.
Gary Roberts is an 18-year career firefighter with over 30 years of experience in the fitness industry. He’s an advocate for cannabis and psychedelics to improve mental and physical wellness. As the founder of Promises Innovative Recovery, he’s using the latest technology and real-world data to pioneer these novel therapeutics’ legalization, standardization, and education.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path and point in your life?
It was really a series of events that brought me to this point. I’ve seen too much loss from the impacts of addiction, PTSD, and mental health concerns and so much gain from the use of cannabis and psychedelics that I had to do something on a larger scale to help more people. The losses are many. As a firefighter, every day I see the grave impacts of addiction and mental health issues. I’m in the trenches saving people from overdoses and walking alongside first responders who ineffectively deal with PTSD and traumatic stress. After a car accident, my daughter was prescribed opioids and they ultimately took her life. Three months later, my father died from the same medication. I’ve lost six fellow firefighters to suicide.
The benefits are just as many. After a personal injury, I experienced the immediate and life-changing impact from CBD on my pain levels and ability to sleep. Through the products I’ve created, Pure Body Zen CBD, I’ve received countless stories of people improving their overall quality of life with cannabis. On my podcast, Good Dudes Grow, I’ve heard from professional athletes, doctors, and individuals who experienced significant changes in their lives after using cannabis and psychedelics. I’m talking about people going from having such severe depression they never got out of bed to going dancing every week, and being unable to walk to running several miles daily, even having cancer and being in remission after treatment. After so many firefighters started using CBD products, my station is reporting better sleep, less pain, reduced use of medication and alcohol, and overall better health.
Equally as important to the physical and mental relief is seeing men who are traditionally stoic and quiet about personal concerns are opening up and having conversations about how they are feeling and addressing mental health in healthier ways than reaching for a bottle of Wild Turkey and a prescription for Xanax.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?
After I founded Pure Body Zen and brought newly legal THC-free products to market for our fire station, I got a call from one of our chiefs. I’d been secretly selling CBD products on the down-low. I felt like a bit of a backdoor drug dealer at the fire department, but I was adamant about helping my peers. I knew there was a risk because cannabis was listed on our illegal substances list. The chief said, “Hey, I need you to come downtown.” I’m like, “What for?” He goes, “We need to talk about the CBD thing.” I thought to myself, “Oh, no. Here it goes. This is what I was petrified of.” I went downtown, sweating and worrying the whole time and trying to figure out how to get out of the meeting. There was no need to worry. He actually wanted to talk about buying something. He wondered if our CBD products would be good for him and if he was safe to take it without triggering a positive drug test. I let him know he was safe and he’s been a customer ever since.
It has been said that our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
The funniest story I have about making mistakes is that I encourage people to make them often. I want people to try things and make mistakes. Mistakes and failure are a life lesson that is missing nowadays, I don’t want to get too political but the life lessons of winning and losing are a lost art. Failure and mistakes teaches one to think and overcome, to find new ways, to do something better.
Can you describe how you or your organization is making a significant social impact?
There are so many ways.
Pure Body Zen is providing THC-free pain relief and sleep aids to athletes, EMTs, firefighters, police, and military personnel. They can take our products without fear of losing their jobs of benefits when subjected to drug testing.
Good Dudes Grow is instigating conversations around cannabis and psychedelics for physical and mental health. This five-star rated podcast syndicated on iHeart radio includes candid conversations and unbiased opinions from physicians, professional athletes, and entrepreneurs in the world of hemp, cannabis, and psychedelics on the future of a new medical revolution.
Promises Innovative Recovery was developed as a commitment to give back to those we have lost and those who feel lost. While treatment is available for anyone, as a fellow First Responder, I am committed to ensuring our Veterans and First Responders are provided with the culturally competent care they deserve. Through our non-profit organization and strategic partners, we support access to medically necessary treatment under appropriate medical supervision. When other options to treat depression, PTSD, and anxiety, are otherwise unavailable or unattainable, PIR and its expert healthcare team will provide innovative treatment options.
We’re also impacting the advancement of effective medical use of cannabis and psychedelic medicines through our clinical trial facility that will test new formulations, dosages, and delivery methods. We’ll be working in partnership with other companies and non-profit centers to ensure that the government, community, and end users are provided with the most ecological and win-win-win solutions.
Our facility will be built with 100% sustainable materials. PIR is dedicated to sustainable design, architecture and green building practices that work to create energy-efficient buildings, ecologically appropriate design, and greater alignment with the sustainable development goals of Costa Rica and the United Nations.
PIR will create green energy using solar energy, implement a water recycling program, create employment for the local area, and hire local staff. In addition, PIR board members are predominantly female, which helps promote gender equality.
At the same time, we are dedicating the center to promoting cannabis and hemp in the medical communities.
PIR will interact with the municipality, universities, and local institutions to strengthen the local economy by creating employment opportunities, supporting medical tourism, and supporting the historical-cultural elements of Costa Rica.
Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?
I gave my first bottle of CBD to a fellow firefighter who was having neck problems. He called me three days later and said, “Dude, what did you give me? The pain is gone.” He went on to say, “I’ve never told anybody this before, but I’ve been having these nightmares and these terrible thoughts. I was yelling at my wife and I hated my kids. I was going down this road that I didn’t like. I’ve tried everything. I was on an antidepressant and once started taking this (CBD) those thoughts slowly went away. My anger kind of calmed down. I started being a little calmer and changed everything that was going on. So, whatever it is, it’s completely changed how I feel about my kids, my wife, and everything else. I was going down. I was gonna get a divorce and everything. Now, I’m not. I’m see things differently. So, you know, I don’t know what’s in this thing, but it’s amazing.” That was three years ago. He’s still doing great. His kids are healthy and growing and he’s dedicated to the fire department. As word gets out about the benefits of Cannabis, I’m collecting more and more stories like this.
Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?
- Transition the thought of cannabis and psychedelics as being “drugs” alongside alcohol, which is severely debilitating and classify them as “medicines” alongside natural plants, which are severely beneficial.
- I understand they are going to need substantial non-biased empirical data to make that transition and that’s exactly what we plan to do with the clinical trials and real-time experiential data we’re collecting at PIR.
- Support widespread education on cannabis and psychedelics, not only for the providers who deliver care, but for the public at large so they can make informed decisions.
Are you working on any new or exciting projects now? How do you think this might help people?
We’re about to break ground on our revolutionary center of excellence, Promises Innovative Recovery in Uvita, Costa Rica. Here, we’ll be providing precision medical treatment with plant medicine in the set and setting of luxurious five-star accommodations. As a clinical trial facility, we use the latest technology and real-world data to pioneer legalization, standardization, and education for novel therapeutics like cannabis and psychedelics, including but not limited to psilocybin, MDMA, ayahuasca, and 5-MeO-DMT.
I was also recently appointed as the Chair of a new Cannabis Wellness Committee through the city of Ft. Lauderdale. Through the committee, I’m working with the fire and police departments to change contracting language and drug testing procedures so firefighters, EMTs, and police officers have access to legal Hemp CBD and with more education and data access to medicinal cannabis in the near future. The benefits of using Hemp CBD as preventative medicine are far-reaching and anticipated to save the city millions of dollars in medical expenses, prescription drug costs, sick time, and workman’s comp claims while creating a higher quality of life for employees.
What you are doing is not easy. What inspires you to keep moving forward?
It’s the memory of my daughter, my father, and the firefighters I’ve lost to addiction and suicide coupled with the amazing stories of recovery, improved health, and inspiring actions of those who’ve been helped by cannabis and psychedelics.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why? Please share a story or example for each.
- No one will believe in you but yourself. I’m building PIR for my daughter. They all said I was using her to make money and it would never amount to anything. It doesn’t matter what THEY say, I am building this center of excellence to remember her, to honor her, to make sure that she is here every day I open my eyes. I have dreams of how I could have saved her and I have nightmares about how I failed her. This is my way of saying I love her and always will be with her.
- Things will get a lot tougher before they will get better.In the beginning of most new endeavors it’s sunshine and rainbows. There’s excitement every day on the progress that is being made. Meetings go well and collaborations are formed. You think this will be the easiest thing you’ve ever done and “Boom!” Day after day of problem solving, putting out fires, and having to learn things as the come up takes a toll. There ends up being numerous emails, phone calls, and meetings building up. Everyone is looking at you for answers. The excitement, thrill, and high energy can disappear if you let it. But like most say, “When you are close to building something, everyone will try to stop it and you will find yourself on a island alone.” But, all this just means you are doing the right thing, and you’re on the right path, just don’t stop.
- You cannot do it all. You may feel like you can do it all because it was your idea or your vision. Wrong! You need to lose the ego and step back. Evaluate what you are good at and what you are not good at. Stay in your “good at lane” and begin finding those with the same passion for what you are doing and can fill in the area that you are not good at. Don’t stop there. You must believe in them too. Don’t hire an inspired person and micro manage them! You can give them direction and ideas, but they are there to take those inspirations and make you the plan you envisioned on that will succeed so you can do what you are good at and keep moving the company forward.
- Making the right decision doesn’t always feel like it’s the right decision. Solutions are needed to solve problems and not all solutions will be met with praise. Some may even be met with resistance. Always choose the decision on what will make your company move forward — not to please people. I look at my business as supporting people’s families and their kids’ education or college fund. So, every decision, whether supported or not, is to make the company everyone works for successful and that will please more people than that one person you didn’t.
- Learn to say “NO.” I put this last because it is basically a one phrase summary of above. Saying “No” does not mean you disagree or you deny someone’s idea or something they want you to do. Saying no means you’re focusing on the important items and don’t want to weigh yourself down with more items or projects that will remove your focus from your end goal. Saying “No” allows you to be in control, experience less stress, and be more focused when you need to be.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
We’re building it now through Promises Innovative Recovery. Our medical programs create the foundation — (physically, emotionally, and mentally) — for increasing the quality-of-life individuals experience. Throughout the therapy process, they will be provided complete medical oversight and access to novel therapies, progressive medicines, legal access to medical cannabis, psilocybin, MDMA, ketamine, and Ayahuasca coupled with wellness programs to help them achieve their goals. Our Medical Director, healthcare team, and esteemed, global advisors have developed a paradigm-shifting platform for improved recovery access and delivery.
In addition, PIR will operate the first clinical trial unit of its kind to standardize global patient care with plant-based medicines and therapeutic psychedelics. Working under medical licenses, PIR will become an educational hub for the psychedelic industry as they begin to become legalized. Under current regulations, doctors cannot offer psychedelic-assisted therapies without going through self-treatment to understand the patient experience. There is currently no legal and secure environment to provide this experience. PIR will be the first and only center of its kind to educate and license physicians to provide psychedelic-assisted therapies.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
There is never a problem that doesn’t have a solution. The solution may just not be the one you want and it may not be a positive one. But if you make the decision based on that solution there will never be any problem that can’t be solved.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
Andy Frisella, the creator of 75 Hard. He built a business from the ground up, says what he means, and believes that leading a company is about supporting your employees to not just be better people but also about giving them the opportunity to succeed. Being a teacher is being a leader because without your employees you have no business.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Want to help change the narrative from loss to better living through plant-based medicines?
Make a tax-deductible donation: https://www.promisesinnovativerecovery.com/donation/
Have a chat with Gary and share your story: https://gooddudesgrow.com/podcast-discovery-call/
Learn more about Pure Body Zen’s products that are THC-free and compatible with compatible with drug testing
requirements for athletes, EMTs, firefighters, police, and military personnel: https://www.pbzcbd.com
This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!
Social Impact Heroes: Why & How Gary Roberts of Promises Innovative Recovery Is Helping To Change… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.