Former WDVE, WXDX radio host 'Max' talks addiction on his 'Recovery Cast' podcast – TribLIVE

Former WDVE, WXDX radio host 'Max' talks addiction on his 'Recovery Cast' podcast – TribLIVE

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When WDVE radio hired Oxford, Ohio, native Pawley Bornstein to be a nighttime disc jockey in the mid-1990s, it was a dream come true. But, that dream contributed to the nightmare of addiction Bornstein was dealing with at the time.
Bornstein, 52, has been clean and sober for 16 years and also has moved on from radio to a job as alumni coordinator at Glenbeigh Hospital, a rehab facility affiliated with the Cleveland Clinic. He also wanted to use his radio broadcasting skills and started a weekly podcast called “Recovery Cast” when he couldn’t find a satisfactory show that dealt with rehab issues.
“Recovery Cast” features conversations with people in recovery as well as professionals who help them — social workers, counselors, advocates and family members trying to mend damaged relationships. Bornstein believes that with the rise in overdose deaths, candid conversations about the problem are part of the solution.
On an early December episode, Bornstein’s guest is his oldest daughter, Maddi, who talks candidly about being the daughter of a recovering alcoholic and addict. At various points during the interview, Bornstein becomes emotional and breaks down and cries.
“We try to have conversations that are very, very real,” Bornstein said. “There’s a lot of raw emotion, a lot of honesty.”
In 1995, when Bornstein began his stint at WDVE, the station had an all-star lineup that included a popular morning show hosted by Scott Paulsen and Jim Krenn, and afternoon drive host Sean McDowell.
“I couldn’t believe it,” said Bornstein, whose ’DVE on-air name was “Max” and later “Maxwell” when he moved over to sister station WXDX. “When you are in that business, there are certain radio stations that are legendary, that you wish to work at because of their status in the business and (WDVE) was one of them. Listening to a guy like Sean and listening to Scott and Jim at the time, what those guys did was magic to me.”
Unfortunately for Bornstein, who had come from a station in Cincinnati, there was a downside to working at rock radio stations. A significant amount of partying, he said, was part of the scene.
During a phone interview from Cleveland, he said he grew up in an abusive home and his problems with alcohol began in grade school. As he got older and pursued his interest in radio, he was exposed to a drug and alcohol culture that worsened his substance abuse problems.
“What ended up happening was I became addicted to opioids — I got caught up in the whole OxyContin situation. It’s pretty much what you hear in every news story. You start using OxyContin, it becomes more expensive, you have problems getting it and pretty soon heroin becomes a viable option,” Bornstein said.
He got his wake-up call in 2007 when his wife became pregnant and gave him an ultimatum. “The ultimatum was, ‘You go to rehab or we’re gone.’ ”
One other thing happened. He went to the home of a drug dealer whose 13-year-old son proceeded to tell Bornstein that his dad beat him.
“Here I am, I’m 36, and, I look at this kid and, I’ll never forget this, I’m thinking, ‘If I rat your dad out, I lose a drug dealer. So, I’m not calling Child Protective Services.’ That was the moment for me where I was like, ‘What have I become?’ That’s when I picked up the phone.”
Bornstein went into rehab on June 19, 2007, at Addiction Recovery Services at University Hospitals in Cleveland, where he was working for rock station WMMS at the time. His boss was shocked when he told him.
“I always did a better job of keeping the harder drugs secret because I knew that wasn’t OK,” he said. “(His boss) was surprised. He didn’t know.”
Bornstein said it was the other people in rehabilitation with him who enabled him to successfully kick his drug habit.
“I was attending a lot of 12-Step meetings (supporting recovery from substance addictions). It was finding people that had a message that resonated with me and taking their suggestions. I believed what they said. It was having someone look me in the eye who had been hopelessly addicted to drugs and alcohol say, ‘I get it. I get that you believe you can’t stop. But you can and we’re going to help you do it.’ ”
Bornstein also sought help and support from podcasts.
“It was trying to find something that both entertained and inspired me, and I couldn’t find it. They were too clinical,” he said. “And I thought, ‘I know how to do this. I know how to entertain. I have experience.’ I wanted to do something that was compelling and real and authentic.”
Soon, he created the “Recovery Cast” podcast.
Bornstein’s co-host, Michele Armstrong, a personal trainer and gym owner in the Cleveland suburb of Madison, also is in recovery.
“I’m a firm believer in recovering out loud,” Armstrong said. “It’s very important for us to recover with a voice because there’s this stigma behind addiction, and there’s a lot of shame and guilt and remorse that’s involved in any addiction.
“It’s very important for us to talk about how we feel when we’re in recovery because, for many years, most of us that are addicts were suppressing some type of feelings, emotions, trauma — whatever it is that we’re using these substances to cover up.”
The “Recovery Cast” podcast is available on Spotify, iTunes, Google and TuneIn.

Paul Guggenheimer is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Paul at [email protected].
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