The Gangster's Guide to Sobriety With Former Gangster and Actor Richie Stephens

Actor Richie Stephens

Verywell / Julie Bang

Every Friday on The Verywell Mind Podcast, Editor-in-Chief Amy Morin, LCSW, shares the “Friday Fix”—a short episode featuring a quick, actionable tip or exercise to help you manage a specific mental health issue or concern.

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Meet Richie Stephens

Richie Stephens is an Irish gangster turned actor who lives in Los Angeles. He frequently plays villains in TV and movies, including "Days of Our Lives," "Criminal Minds," "MacGyver," and "Blue Bloods."

He’s also the author of "The Gangster’s Guide to Sobriety," where he shares how 12-step groups helped him recover after decades of drug and alcohol abuse. He’s a frequent speaker in recovery groups and actively works with the homeless at The Midnight Mission and The Center in Hollywood.

Why Richie Stephens Is Mentally Strong

Richie makes it clear that he got into recovery because someone helped him do so, and it saved his life. Now, he shares his story because he hopes to help other struggling people find their way out of addiction.

He shares some wild stories about what his life was like when he was a gangster, but he doesn’t glorify the things he did. Instead, he acknowledges that he made mistakes and has lots of regrets about his past. His willingness to share his story and support struggling others shows mental strength.

What You’ll Hear on the Show

  • What Richie’s life was like when he was an Irish gangster
  • The struggles he encountered with drugs and alcohol
  • What made him want to get sober
  • How someone encouraged him to go to a 12-step meeting
  • What happened when he didn’t like certain aspects of 12-step groups
  • What made him decide to keep going after he wanted to quit
  • How he worked through the 12 steps and how that changed his life
  • How he got a sponsor and why having a sponsor is so important
  • The lies he used to tell himself that allowed his addiction to continue and how he finally got honest with himself
  • How he learned to manage cravings
  • What he thinks about the notion of having a ‘higher power’ and the relationship to recovery
  • How getting into recovery shifted his beliefs that he was a victim and helped him take personal responsibility
  • How Richie responds to other people’s concerns about 12-step meetings
  • What to do if you aren’t sure if 12-step meetings are right for you

What You’ll Learn About Mental Health and Mental Strength

Quite often, people think a substance use disorder is a moral issue or a sign of weakness. But it’s not. Many factors, including biology, past experiences, mental health, and culture, lead to substance use disorders.

Getting help is a sign of strength, not weakness. You don’t have to go through recovery alone, either. In fact, many people say that community is the key to getting better.

Quotes From Richie

Richie Stephens

The reason I got sober is that somebody helped me. I didn't get sober on my own.

— Richie Stephens
  • "The weird thing about being an addict is that if you're in the middle of it, you think you're making the decisions. But after you get sober and you get a little bit of hindsight, you realize that you're powerless over it."
  • "If you're in a place where you're trying to stop drinking and getting high, your life obviously isn't going well."
  • "When you're an addict or an alcoholic, there's a lot of denial that can go with it. Like if you meet somebody who has cancer and you tell them they have cancer, they're not gonna go, ‘no, I don't have cancer.’ But if you tell an addict they’re an addict, a lot of times they go, ‘I'm not an addict.’"

More About the Podcast

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Editor’s Note: Please be mindful that this transcript does not go through our standard editorial process and may contain inaccuracies and grammatical errors. Thank you. 

For media or public speaking inquiries, contact Amy here.

Links and Resources

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By Amy Morin, LCSW
Amy Morin, LCSW, is a psychotherapist and international bestselling author. Her books, including "13 Things Mentally Strong People Don't Do," have been translated into more than 40 languages. Her TEDx talk,  "The Secret of Becoming Mentally Strong," is one of the most viewed talks of all time.