I am a substance abuse counselor and consulted with Aaron Paul the year he won an Emmy for his role as Jesse Pinkman on the AMC cable show Breaking Bad. OK, do not be mislead I had nothing to do with him winning the Emmy. Although, I fully support it. Aaron is a dedicated and passionate actor and after meeting him I have a new immense respect for actors, and actresses who are dedicated and take their profession seriously. Aaron clearly does and in my opinion will earn many more awards as an actor in his lifetime. That give’s you a little idea of why I respect and am inspired by Aaron Paul but why my wife? Did my wife save Aaron from a burning bush or house? Read on.
Here’s my true story of consulting with Aaron Paul for his role of Jesse Pinkman on Breaking Bad and how my wife inspired me during it.
I live in New Mexico where Breaking Bad was filmed and I specialize in substance abuse treatment. At the time I led three 3 hour intensive out patient groups weekly at a hospital for people with substance abuse problems that involve alcohol, heroin, meth etc… I received a call from a fellow therapist in the community who recommended that Cisco Fernandez call me for a consultation. Cisco Fernandez sets up appointments for Aaron Paul who plays Jesse Pinkman on AMC Breaking Bad. He said there was someone who would like to learn more about substance abuse treatment and recovery and it was a bit criptic at first but when I said I would meet with the person at my office he told me it was Aaron Paul. Now many of you may have known who he was but I did not. At the time I had 2 young children and we were watching Thomas the Train and Barney and honestly watching a show about Meth users and drug dealers is more like work to me in some ways. When I watch TV or movies I like to escape with shows that have happy endings. I see and hear about a lot of unhappy ending stories regularly. One day I will have a marathon weekend of watching Breaking Bad but currently do not have the time yet.
The day before I met with Aaron I Googled Breaking Bad and Aaron Paul. I was dead tired at about 11pm after facilitating my evening 3 hour group. I met him on I think it was a Friday or Saturday when no one was around. It all seemed very stealth and I was fine with that. As a counselor every person we meet with is confidential so this was not out of the ordinary for me or any counselor really.
I was running late due to work and when I met with him in the lobby he was looking very LA or at least what I thought Hollywood Los Angles people look like. Dressed in black pants, black shirt and sunglasses with spiky hair and yes, he did look cool. I briefly went back to my own childhood fantasy of wanting to be a movie star but that faded fast. I brought him back to the group room and for the next 2 hours I basically tried to give him all I could about addiction and substance abuse treatment. I was writing on the dry erase board and passionately sharing as much information as a masters level therapist specializing in the field for 15 years could do. I was talking as quickly as I could because I was not sure what kind of info he needed and nor did he since he was told by the writers that his character may be going to rehab and he wanted to do some research. So when we got back to the group room I said “I’ll give you all I have until my wife calls.” Yup, that’s what I said. Until my wife call’s. My wife has degenerative disk problems in her back. We had our youngest daughter Sophie three years earlier and during the middle of her pregnancy she had to have back surgery. From our understanding her surgery was the first back surgery while a woman was late into her pregnancy in New Mexico. We had eight doctors consulting on this. She originally hurt her back when she was carrying our 2 year old son Hunter down the stairs and she fell. She twisted and contorted as she feel down the stairs so our son was not hurt and he was not. Julie once a gymnast understands pain and has a high threshold. She thought she could just walk it off. When she got pregnant with Sophie soon after the fall the weight of the pregnancy compounded the problems she had with her back, The pain was unbearable and the threat of losing Sophie was constant and thus she had surgery while pregnant.
When I consulted Aaron Paul Julie’s back had not healed and there were more complications fusions, herniated disks, degenerative disks and vertebra on the upper and lower back, and more. Her back never fully healed. It seemed like we were going to the ER every other week. Anyway, When I would leave the house to go to work I always had my cell phone with me. I had to work to pay the bills, she could not work, and we did not have any other income. Julie always had a positive, optimistic disposition through all of this. She is not one to complain and sometimes I would not know until her face was the color of ashen grey from pain. Then I knew it was time for her to stop what she was doing and rest. So I new when she called me at work it was an emergency and most likely we are going to the hospital. I would drop what I was doing and go home. We had two children not in school yet. We did not have much help and this threat was always there.
Back to Aaron Paul. so I just kept talking and consulting and was giving him all I had. I am passionate about helping treat people with substance abuse problems and am always trying to put myself out of a job by having people recover. I truly believe the world is a better place when people who have addiction issues do no use and are in recovery. During my mad dash to get as much info as I could to Aaron to help him with his character He really did not have much of a chance to get a word in, but he said he wanted all the information I could give him. He was recording it so he could listen to it over and over depending on the direction the writers took his character. I was 2 hours into it full on when my phone rang and yes it was my wife saying in pain she needed help. I told Aaron I had to go now and we did. We had 2 children at home and my wife had passed her pain threshold. He was gracious. We got up and on our walk out I told him how I appreciated his dedication to his character and his focus on learning about addiction and recovery because he would reach more people on Breaking Bad then I ever will in my life. He understood the importance and the impact his character had on the show and the Breaking Bad audience. He was passionate about playing his character as authentically as one can. He went out the door with a wave and we parted ways. I drove home. No ER that night fortunately.
My wife inspires me everyday with her positive attitude as a mother, friend and wife under extreme chronic pain. It helps me put into perspective any issues I may have. To me they both inspire me. I never heard from Cisco or Aaron again however, my wife had a friend who had a small part on Breaking Bad as a heroin addict and got to talk to Aaron Paul on set. She told Aaron that she knew me and asked how I did. He said the time with me was very helpful and he listened to the recording of our time together often for more research for his character as the writers took him in a new direction. That made me smile.
To you the reader: After reading this think about who inspires you and write them a note, or call them or send them a pray. Inspire someone today. Today my goal is to inspire Sophie, Hunter and Julie by continuing to love them deeply and encourage them to live, love and matter more fully in this life by doing the same. My best, Stuart
P.S. I did not get a picture of Aaron and I on that day to post and show proof. I had my iphone but it was not about that. I wanted to be of service, I was not and did not ask to be paid or anything like that. I want to do my small part to help people understand addiction and recovery. He was very interested in this field which is my favorite audience. So some may believe this story and some may not, but I know it is true. I write about it today because It came to mind on my way home and realized how inspired I was by him and my wife and wanted to share. Thanks.