"It’s More Important to be Happy Than Right", Words of Wisdom with Paul Pellinger, President of Face the Music Foundation

12/11/2017 05:18 pm ET

“I knew as a child, growing up in the Catskill Mountains 10 miles away from the original Woodstock site that music had power and the ability to change moods, motivate, reinforce gratitude, help people stay in the present, reflect, anchor people and most importantly communicate to the soul where long lasting change happens. These are some of the exact skill sets addicts need for long-term recovery.”

Paul Pellinger with Steve Tyler
Paul Pellinger with Steve Tyler

I had the pleasure of interviewing Paul Pellinger, who is an innovator in the addiction treatment arena. His career spans over 25 years having worked as a Certified Addiction Counselor (C.A.C.), Court Appointed Liaison, interventionist, public speaker and president of Face The Music Foundation. Paul co-founded Recovery Unplugged in 2013 bringing his years of wisdom and insight with his groundbreaking approach creating a new musical treatment modality that is showing unbelievable success rates.

What is your backstory?

My name is Paul Pellinger and I am the president of Face the Music Foundation (501 C3) which is a nonprofit organization in existence for over four years but has been a concept in my mind for over 20. Our mission is to raise awareness and understanding about addiction, provide the means for struggling addicts to get clean/sober and help newly recovering addicts develop the tools to maintain long-term recovery. What is unique about our approach is that we use Music and legendary/professional musicians as a major catalyst to engage this revolutionary movement in addition to other qualified professionals.

I am a certified addictions counselor and have been in the Addiction rehabilitation industry since 1989 as a therapist, court liaison, interventionist, public speaker and professional consultant. I was extremely excited and humbled to be asked to help create and design the mental health and drug courts in Broward County Florida, which were used as a model for the rest of the country many years ago. In addition I have helped open up dozens of rehabilitation centers across the country. I have always known in my heart/soul that music has power and if harnessed correctly has the ability to save and change lives, which is why I am extremely grateful I am now on the forefront of another movement. In 2013, I became Chief strategy officer of Recovery Unplugged, which is a treatment center that uses the power of music to provide hope and healing for those affected by addiction. Maybe when we talk I could fill you in on why Recovery Unplugged treatment centers and Face the Music foundation is a perfect match. Even though you’ve given me permission to “brag” it is still a bit uncomfortable. The backstory has been taking place for over 40 years where I knew as a child, growing up in the Catskill Mountains 10 miles away from the original Woodstock site that music had power and the ability to change moods, motivate, reinforce gratitude, help people stay in the present, reflect, anchor people and most importantly communicate to the soul where long lasting change happens. These are some of the exact skill sets addicts need for long-term recovery.

As somebody who’s worked in the treatment field of addiction’s for over 25 years I’ve often been frustrated and downright angry about not being able to help people unless they had money or insurance. Andrew Sossin and others as well as I thought it would be a good idea to create a non-profit organization so we could help the sick and suffering addict regardless of their financial limitations. Thus Face the music foundation was born in 2013.

How does your organization make a difference?

Face the Music Foundation was simply born out of the frustrations of not being able to help the over 2 million addicts in this country due to ridiculous financial, funding and Health insurance restraints. Our foundation currently consists of approximately a 10-member board that has been directly/indirectly affected by addiction as well as the previously mentioned frustrations. We put on concerts and events all over the country in order to raise awareness, change the stigma attached to addiction and solicit corporate sponsorship, donations and even a small cover charge in hopes of utilizing that money to assist the suffering addict. We have had some major events that have raised tens of thousands of dollars in which 100% of those funds are used for the client. No administration fees are taking out currently due to the over whelming generosity of Recovery Unplugged treatment centers which is a title sponsor.

What are some of the most interesting projects you are working on right now?

Some of the most interesting projects that we are working on right now include the release of our new book within the next month or two called “Music is our Medicine”, while continuing our public speaking tour all over the country.

The release of the video and song “I got this” written by Richie Supa, which is a national campaign that will help change the stigma and raise awareness of the opiate epidemic along with the solutions now has over 2 million views because people like Flo Rida, Adam Levine, Maroon 5, Richie Sambora, Billboard magazine etc.… Loved it so much and posted it.

Another interesting project supported by our nonprofit is an album called “Enemy “released by Richie Supa, and award winning singer songwriter and former touring member of Aerosmith who has written songs for major artists like Gladys Knight & The Pips, Ozzy Osbourne, Pink, Air Supply, Tom Jones, Aerosmith etc.… He has devoted his entire life and his 29 years clean to help the sick and suffering addict as well as their families by creating a body of work that speaks to the horrors of addiction while giving hope for recovery.

I’m constantly doing interviews, presentations and public speaking all over the country. One recent thrill for me was to do a presentation on the power of music on the original Woodstock site grounds a few weeks ago. I brought a professional musician me there with me to perform like I do at all my presentations. I have been doing this for years for a variety of different audiences and the feedback I’ve been getting because of incorporating live performances in my presentations has been extremely positive. When we talk I would be more than happy to elaborate on that.

Face the Music Foundation has collaborated and is always attempting to collaborate with major artists, in recovery, to assist not only in our message, but there have been talks about creating a recovery anthem like the “ We are the world “anthem from over 30 years ago. We also have teamed up with the Boys and Girls club and have done multiple presentations in schools for prevention purposes and as always incorporate music in all of our presentations

The Recovery Unplugged treatment center with locations in Florida, Austin Texas, and Maryland and soon to be Nashville Tennessee, which is the title sponsor for Face the Music Foundation, is currently in the process of creating it’s own evidence-based model based because of the unbelievable success rates simply by using Music as its main treatment modality.

There are many more projects, goals and dreams we have. The aforementioned are maybe some of the most interesting right now.

We were fortunate enough to be a part of a panel discussion at the Winter music festival in Miami that spoke about addiction and recovery.

We are also in discussions right now to be a part of a 50th anniversary concert that Face the Music will participate in

Can you tell me a story about a person that you helped?

There are literally dozens and dozens of people we have helped so it is difficult to narrow it down to one particular client. Normally people just talk about the financial help that a foundation assist with and even though we do that, we think helping them in their soul is equally important. A particular client comes to mind that was literally suicidal, indigent, as well as spiritually and emotionally bankrupt. We will call him MICHAEL S. He actually created a video for us to see with him, his family and children begging for our foundation to help him because all other bridges had been burnt. In all of my years of being in this field I have never ever seen that before. We paid attention.

Through the help of Face the Music foundation we were able to get him the treatment he needed through a financially supported scholarship, Financial assistance for some of his medical issues he was dealing with and equally as important create the necessary paradigm shift needed for long-term recovery and a healthy lifestyle. He has now created a chapter in his home state in which our foundation supports where he is now helping dozens and dozens of people like himself. This positive domino effect like this happening all over the country simply because we took a problem and came up with a solution.

This obviously is not easy work. What drives you?

What drives me is A few things. First of all I have children myself and I know that this foundation/movement has the ability to break the cycle of addiction for decades to come. Second I’ve been blessed and spared the horrors of active addiction and have been in recovery for years myself so I know what it’s like to be hopeless and in the grips. Now I know what it’s like to live happy, joyous and free life while being a productive member of society. “ Often times it happens when we find ourselves in chains and we never even knew we had the key”. Performed and written by the Eagles in case you didn’t know. Next I refuse to accept industry standards, dysfunctional bureaucracies while almost 60,000 people a year die from this addiction epidemic. There was no one I know, you know or ANY of your readers who haven’t been directly/indirectly affected by alcoholism/addiction

The last thing that drives me is knowing that there is a solution. Simply by using Music and everything related to it from lyrics, vibrations, science behind it, live performances etc.… it is the only form of communication that communicates to the soul wear long lasting change happens and recovery becomes more of a pay off then getting high. Wow. I would love to elaborate on that one.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are?

My parents were my initial motivator and I’m sure they’re looking down with gratitude. Reminds me of another song but I digress

The environment and some say spiritual vortex of growing up in Sullivan County in the Catskill Mountains was also extremely inspiring, solution orienting, Music incorporating and spiritually motivating.

My children, Hunter and Tyler who showed me the meaning of true unconditional love solidified my purpose, motivation and unwavering determination. And of course last but certainly not least my fellow board members and cofounders reinforced the certainty and optimism of implementing this revolutionary movement.

What are your "5 things I wish someone told me when I first started" and why.

The five things I wish someone told me when I first started this was:

  1. Trust your gut.
  2. Surround yourself with positive people
  3. It’s more important to be happy than right
  4. Gratitude is the secret to success
  5. There is something greater going on here then you’re able to comprehend

Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see just see this. :-)

From everything I’ve seen and read in the past several years, Richard Branson would be the best person for us to meet based on his decades of innovation and positive disruption in several different industries. He is a true pioneer and with his music background I am certain he would have a great insight and ideas as to how Face the Music can save even more lives through the power of music

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