We sat with PAUSE star Sam Jay to talk sobriety, introspection, and how to know if you’re an alcoholic

In talking about season 2 of the HBO Max series ‘PAUSE with Sam Jay,’ the eponymous host has warned fans to expect a more personal, introspective, intimate experience. Indeed, in season 2 of PAUSE, Jay covers a wide range of potentially uncomfortable topics such as race, sexuality, and private prisons.

When it came time to talk about addiction and recovery, the PAUSE star reached out to our own John Roesch, Director of Recovery Services here at Suntra Modern Recovery. “I was excited about the opportunity to be interviewed by Sam J in season 2,” said Roesch. He continued, “she said that she was going to take a more introspective, personal look at issues that are important to her, and that resonated with me.”

“I’m just really grateful to have the opportunity to be interviewed,” says Roesh, “I think Sam Jay is really brave putting her own issues out there like that. It takes guts to self-question and take a real look inside and unpack your own social drinking and addictive tendencies on national television.”

— John Roesch, CASAC, CIP

John shared his thoughts on being interviewed by an Emmy-nominated comedian, his coincidental connection to the bar where the interview was filmed, and his regrettable answer to Sam Jay’s pointed question, “am I an alcoholic?”

Suntra Modern Recovery featured in HBO interview

SUNTRA: Had you ever heard of PAUSE with Sam Jay before they contacted you?

JOHN ROESCH: I had heard of them! I watched season 1 last year and I remember I really liked the show. I read this quote where she talked about being queer and black and what that means to her, and it really resonated with me.

“To me, the episode is about the intersectionality of Black queerness, but then also just how we can create more Black spaces where all Black people can be a part of them. To me, it’s about freedom. It’s about judging less and not putting things in boxes.” – from BET.com

SUNTRA: What was your favorite part of the interview?

JOHN ROESCH: We asked if we could see some of the interview questions in advance, but they said Sam typically tends to do interviews unscripted. The backstory for the trailer was, Sam recanting a story about when she was on vacation in a giant dance club somewhere in Mexico.

She had been drinking non-stop and taking assorted party drugs – and there were tons of soap bubbles shooting out of cannons, deafening music, she was completely tripping balls, and she had to pee. She eventually snuck behind the bar and pee’d, staining her outfit in the process, she asked the only other English speaking person to find her friend, who she described as “the only Asian lesbian in the club with multiple face piercings,” and her friend literally rescued her out of the club to safety…

What do you say when someone asks “am I an alcoholic?”

ROESCH (con’t): So Sam is recanting this wild story super-fast and then suddenly she stops, quite abruptly, and says, “Does that make me an alcoholic??” Which is not an easy question to answer at any time! Hence my eloquent response, “Ummm…”

The truth is, the only person who can decide that I’m an alcoholic is me, the only person who can decide that she’s an alcoholic is her. We get to make that determination for ourselves. There may be alcohol or drug related consequences going on in someone’s life, but that’s not what makes someone an alcoholic. What makes someone an alcoholic is when they choose to say the words, “I’m an alcoholic.”

Sam Jay opens up about her own drinking and drug use

SUNTRA: Where did you shoot the interview?

JOHN ROESCH: The spot they chose to shoot was Larry’s Pub. It was especially interesting because 2 years prior I was working on an intervention for a guy who was really struggling with alcohol, and I literally staked out that pub. My job was to find this guy and convince him to get help. His family said he drinks at Larry’s Pub, a very old-school neighborhood pub.

Larry’s is the kind of “old salt” bar that I grew up in, where I got my “alcohol education” as they say. So I’m sitting at the bar, not drinking, staking out this guy and waiting for him to leave the pub. The guy gets drunk, exits the bar, and promptly breaks his collarbone by falling face-first on the sidewalk. An ambulance came and they breathalyzed him, and his BAC [Blood Alcohol Content] was .4 something – like 5x over the legal limit. We managed to get him into detox and he’s ok, thank God. The doctors said that at that blood alcohol level, he’s lucky to be alive.

NYC alcohol intervention recalled in PAUSE interview

Then I have this second connection to Larry’s Pub, which comes from my next door neighbor in Astoria [Queens]. My neighbor is an actor named Sam. He starred in this mini-series on EPIX called Bridge and Tunnel, which was shot in Larry’s Pub.

Sam’s interviewing me in this very familiar pub, where I have these personal memories. And I’m thinking, “for a guy who doesn’t drink anymore, I sure do have a lot of memories in this bar!”

PAUSE with Sam Jay interview about addiction and recovery

SUNTRA: Did she ask you any questions that stumped you? Or any off-the-wall funny questions that threw you for a loop?

JOHN ROESCH: Sam didn’t ask any off the wall questions – but her introspective questions showed me she’s really thought about this topic [addiction] a lot. She asked how to tell if she has a drinking problem or addictive tendencies. That’s always such a hard question because it’s different for everyone.

She did bring up an interesting subject, where she admitted, on-camera, to buying way too many pairs of sneakers when she’s been drinking too heavily. Then trying to figure out how to get them into the house without her wife noticing. Drunk shopping is actually a really common “enough is enough” moment. People who’ve spent thousands of dollars in blackouts. Waking up with no rent money, that kind of thing.

“My nephew says he’s addicted to jerking off. Is that a thing?” Sam asked.

“Yes, of course,” I said. “Being addicted to masturbation is a really common issue that affects a lot of people.”

“It sounds like you’re speaking from experience,” she said. It was a pretty funny moment. She’s a really funny, authentic person.

Can a recovery coach help me stop drunk shopping?

JOHN ROESCH: I did tell her a bit. In my job, I often have to share the experiences that make me qualified to help people with addiction. I shared a bit about my own personal struggles with addiction, alcohol, and drugs. How I would pick up and use with anyone who was willing. The connection was there, another person to drink and get high with. That’s what I needed, was someone to share the misery with.

SUNTRA: Did you tell your story? Should we expect to see a show called the Sober Sommelier on HBO sometime next year?

Eventually my addiction got so big and eclipsing, that I just ended up using in solitude. That’s the big thing. The solitude. That’s another issue that comes up over and over in Recovery Coaching. Being alone, miserable, not knowing what to do or how to get help. That’s probably the most important thing, having a support system, not doing it alone. That’s why we’re here, so nobody has to do it alone.

— John Roesch and Suntra Modern Recovery


See the full John Roesch interview with PAUSE with Sam Jay on HBO Max airing in June 2022.

If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction and needs help, contact Suntra Modern Recovery and schedule a free consultation. Visit our homepage or call toll free: 866-218-0059