A Sit Down with Zac Clark
Entrepreneur, community builder, mental health advocate, runner–the list goes on. Zac Clark is all of these things and more. After going through this his own journey of recovery following brain surgery, he has since gone on to co-found Release Recovery, run marathons and has recently announced his partnership with Rhone. We caught up with Zac to learn more about Release, what he's up to now and what his goals are for the future.
Can you give us a bit of background on yourself?
The short story is I am a 37 year old guy who has lived in New York City for the past ten years but grew up in South Jersey right outside of Philadelphia. At 27 years old, I reached the bottom in terms of my addiction and mental health that forced me to get help. I feel like I have lived two lives at this point, both of which I am grateful for. My purpose and passion is helping people to help themselves. Watching someone break through and come out on the other side will never get old. Other than helping people, my other loves include Philadelphia Sports team, Pearl Jam, sneakers, golf and hanging with the people I love the most in this world (family and friends).
How was Release Recovery founded? What’s the story behind it?
The recovery services organization, Release Recovery, was founded in 2017 when one of our closest colleagues, Todd Whitmer, called myself and Justin Gurland and told us that he had just visited a property that had our name written all over it. Four months later that would become the original Release Recovery property in Westchester County New York. Our non-profit, The Release Recovery Foundation, was started by our board of directors in 2020 in an effort to help individuals, who otherwise could not afford it, receive help and embark on the journey of recovery. We are equally proud of both organizations and the lives that have been saved as a result of them being formed.
When it comes to those struggling with addiction, what do you think are the biggest roadblocks in terms of recovery?
Really just the notion that getting sober is a lifelong punishment. My experience tells me that it is exactly the opposite. My recovery is by far the greatest thing that has ever happened to me–everything I have in life today stems from my recovery.
Are there any commonalities that you’ve seen among those struggling with addiction?
In my experience, people who struggle with addiction are some of the most talented, creative, caring human beings this world has to offer. Don’t let me convince you though, come hang with us and find out for yourself.
What would you say to someone struggling with mental health and/or addiction?
First and foremost, do not compare your problems to anyone else's. It is not the magnitude of the problem but the way you are feeling. You are worth it! From there, the best thing anyone can do is ask for help. This is by far the hardest thing to do, especially for men who grow up in homes where they are taught that asking for help is a sign of weakness. These days, there are a ton of resources and ways to do this (safely and privately). If you are reading this and you are struggling you, can call us at Release and we will help guide you.
How has Release Recovery evolved since it was first started?
Release Recovery is all about the people and the community. Me and my co-founder, Justin Gurland, established very early on that the most powerful tool for our clients is to immerse them in a community of people who share common experiences. It is so, incredibly powerful. Since opening our doors in 2017, community has and still remains to be our main focus. Our team has grown and we have opened new programs but we continue to remain committed to giving our clients incredible communities to recover in. One thing my dad taught me early on in business was to hire people that are smarter than you and I am grateful to report that we have been able to do that. Our team is a group of heroes and they deserve all the credit.
Where do you hope to see Release Recovery go in the future?
The sky is truly the limit for Release. We continue to work towards casting a wider net so that we can help more people. This means we are going to need to work hard with insurance companies and government agencies to help them understand the value of the services we provide.
Have you had any journeys of your own when it comes to mental health? How has that impacted the work that you do today?
Yes, and most of the time it has to do with me giving my power away to other people or situations. When my mind is right, I operate with confidence and know my worth. When I am "off, I pay attention to the “noise” and let it creep in. They say you have to put your oxygen mask on before you can help anyone else–that is very much true in the work I do today. I have to walk the walk in order to talk the talk.
What is your biggest goal looking ahead towards the end of the year?
Once the New York City Marathon is over, I am going to try to take some time, look inward and reflect on the year that just passed. I have a really hard time slowing down. I'm looking to put mentality of "slowing down" out into the Universe so the energy is out there. I would like to find a few days to put down all of the electronics and just be. If I do this, it will be a major accomplishment!