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An Interview with Patrick Zierten, EMBA, MA (Part Two)


Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2017/04/08


An interview with Patrick Zierten, EMBA, MA. He discusses: MA at The University of British Columbia and the EMBA at Queen’s University; degrees and benefits to professional work; personal benefits from the work; communication and recovery; reconciliation; Zierten taking a moment; being abstinent, but not necessarily in recovery; being self-driven; the Jesus Myth; and the Golden Rule.

Keywords: Edgewood Health Clinics, Jesus, Patrick Zierten.

An Interview with Patrick Zierten, EMBA, MA: Program Coordinator, Edgewood Health Clinics; Ex-National Executive Director, Edgewood Health Clinics Network (Part Two)[1],[2],[3],[4]

*Footnotes in & after the interview, & citation style listing after the interview.*

*This interview has been edited for clarity and readability.*

16. You earned an MA (1997-2002) in theology at The University of British Columbia and an EMBA (1990-1991) at Queen’s University. What is the story?


Well, work paid for that. I didn’t have an undergraduate degree. Work was beginning to smell some issues were up with me. My drinking was getting progressively worse. But I was working here in British Columbia, and then later in Toronto. They said, “What do you want to do?” I said, “There’s this lovely program at Queen’s. Why don’t you let me do that? This might straighten things out.” I don’t even think this could be considered a Masters program based on the information given to me. This is way back in 88’ or something like that. So, I went to that and they paid for it.

I drank like a fish that entire thing. I was constantly intoxicated during the thing. It didn’t teach me anything that I didn’t already know. I knew on the business side of things. They give you a lot of credits for previous work too. They gave me credits based on the previous professional work. I would say my takeaway from that thing was nothing. It bought time in my job is what it did.

Now, theology is a different issue. I think what the Masters programs did for me was team me discipline. The Masters, at least of theology, gave me the permission to think creatively. I didn’t have an undergrad. But from what I’ve heard, you get information and regurgitate it on a test. It doesn’t require new thinking.

17. What you’re telling me, with the EMBA, you were at the moment of spiritual emptiness more or less, and then this followed into the Masters in theology. You are recovering. You’re taking these classes. And at the early part, you are in detox. At the latter points, I would speculate being in some form of AA (Alcoholics Anonymous).


18. How did this benefit professional work with the emphasis on the MA rather than the EMBA based on the previous response?

The MA allowed me to become a counsellor. That’s all that was needed to get the first job that I got at the Orchard Recovery Centre. They just wanted a Masters degree. They didn’t care about what it was in. So, that plus some other work with family systems and certificate work in drug counselling made me a counsellor, and of course my own experience. And I read extensively.

Slowly, people realized that I had this business background. I started to take on more and more administrative duties when Edgewood hired me here 8 years ago, they asked me to open the office in Vancouver. Then a company bought us out called Edgewood Health Network and said, “Gee, Patrick, we’re building all of these clinics. Why don’t you head this up? You have all of this business experience plus you’ve got the clinical background.” I said, ‘Yea, I’ll head this up.” Six months into it, I realized I don’t want to do this.

I truly believe that being a counsellor is a calling from God. God wants me to help people. But I was doing 90% of my work as business because I was running all of these clinics. It went back to this same emptiness in my gut. I had to go back to my boss and say, “I’m sorry. I’m not your guy. In the past, I probably would’ve pushed through it.” And if I was drinking, I would’ve been drinking.

I was willing to take a cut in pay. Even if they said, “If you’re not the guy, you cannot be working for the company.” I was willing to do all of that. I had to be true to myself. I had gone astray, again. My ego had not quite died in that last 20 years. It was still hanging around. They hired somebody to take the position. And I’m going through transition now. As of April 1, I am running this little office all by myself. So, that, I guess, that business side influenced my life. The business side of me influenced my ego. Theology influence my counselling.

19. In terms of personal life, with the previous responses related to the profession and the calling, any personal benefits from this work? Of course, some obvious ones, but there seems to be a tangle between when it happened, how it happened, and this as an attempt to parse the personal from the professional.

I don’t know if the schooling or the Masters did anything for my personal life. There was this work. There was this façade. There was this pseudo-self that supported my work life and family life. It was all tied together. Of course, my drinking was heavily influencing my personal life back then too. It’s tough to suss that out. Even today, to suss what the theology degree has done, or the recovery process has done, but I do know that I am far more compassionate than I have been in the past. Far more forgiving, not only with others, but with myself. I find myself far more patient. I find myself being able to communicate at levels that I was not able to communicate in the past such as being vulnerable in intimate levels with people I know that I am not used to.

I hope that I am a little bit of a better guy, you know? A little bit better guy than 20 years ago. I have had much more rewarding relationships today than I ever did 20 years ago. I think that is part theology, and I think it is part recovery.

20. You mentioned communication. How important is communication to recovery? Being able to communicate, for instance, those that come into a situation and realize, “Okay, I have a serious problem.” But they cannot even articulate to others that they care about that it’s a problem.

Communication isn’t necessary in the rooms, in the 12-step rooms. Everyone know what’s going on. So, you don’t need to communicate that. There’s something. They mention something. And you go, I know exactly what you’re talking about. The 12-step community is a place where I learned to start to learn to communicate. I learned things in AA that I should’ve learned in kindergarten. How to share, how to be nice, how to be kind, how to communicate, how to tell people how I feel, I learned all of that in AA.

So, I think communication with the other people outside of the rooms took me much longer because I had to learn those skills in AA before I could take it into my relationship with my wife and my kids. Of course, there is the process in AA about making reconciliation and amends, and all of these others things they call on.

Eventually, recovery demands that you communicate with your loved ones to reconcile. There are a lot of people that are abstinent, but not in recovery. Abstinent does not mean a person is in recovery. That is a whole different ball game.

It does not mean it happens right away. Communication is critical at some point, but it does not mean that it has to happen right away.

21. Two things come to mind from that. First, in the period leading up to your going into detox, entering your Masters in theology, you lost your family…


22. …And you lost your work. And you mentioned reconciliation, and you mentioned family, what this brings to mind for me is how did things reconcile for you – if they did?

They did. It’s taken a long, long time because I devastated my family. I abandoned the family. When I left the family, there were a lot of reasons that I used to justify what I did that made no sense. I blamed my wife, my job, etc.

Only in hindsight after I got sober did I realize that I was chasing my addiction. It was too difficult to juggle family, and work, and addiction. So, the family usually gets discarded. Most addicts discard the family. Because you need to keep the job to pay for the addiction. So, I got into recovery. Like I said, I devastated my family. I broke my daughter’s heart, and I broke my ex-wife’s heart. The two boys, I got three kids. I have an older daughter and two sons. The two boys. They’re men, right? They’re much less complicated. They are like, “It’s okay, dad. We still love you.” We’re guys. It’s okay. That was quickly resolved. The reconciliation, but my daughter took me years to move past the pain and the hurt that I caused her.

She was heavily aligned with my wife and my wife’s pain. So, the two of them were allies with the pain that I caused. Their pain was covered up with anger. So, whenever I approached them, there was always anger.

My daughter was really important for me to reconcile with – so I made this huge effort. I sent her cards, and emails, and little messages, and you name it. I tried everything. Gifts. Send her trips and stuff. Nothing, no thank yous, no phone calls, no nothing. I was with my sponsor. He said, “Be diligent, be diligent, be patient, be patient.” Until finally, I said, “Forget it. Screw that. Enough of this bullshit. I can’t handle it. I’ve done everything I possibly can. It’s in her lap.” And I got angry at her, which made me feel bad that I was getting angry at my daughter for the terrible things I did to her and she didn’t want to forgive me, like, where does that logic come from?

Somehow, I began developing a relationship with my ex-wife over this because we talked about the kids, and there was this softness that began to develop. I was sending her Mother’s Day cards and thanking her for taking the kids while I was gone. I made my amends to her. Matter of fact, I made amends to my ex-wife 3 or 4 times as I remembered things. So, that relationship got softer. And then Father’s Day, which was a big event in my day, because I was waiting around the house waiting for the kids to call.

My boys would call. They’d say, “Hey dad, called to wish you a Happy Father’s Day.”


They were done. They’re men. One sentence or less.

It was seven years, seven years, and then my daughter called on Father’s Day. It was really awkward, obviously. “I just wanted to wish you a Happy Father’s Day.” I probably said I loved her, she did not respond, and then I thought, “Wow, we’re making some headway.” After, I started thinking, “Why did she start thinking to pick up the phone and make this darn call?” I think what happened was that I was repairing the damage done between me and my ex-wife, and that allowed her to make some space to come closer to me. I think she thought if she created a relationship with me, she would have felt that she would be betraying her mom because they were locked in their own pain. Their own grief. I had it backwards. I should have always been trying to work with my wife and reconciling with her, and that would have allowed my daughter to come closer.

That opened the door, and it’s got better, and better, and better, and better, and better. In April, I am going to be staying at my daughter’s house. She’s invited me to stay in her house.

Now, I’ve been sober for 21 years.


And, you know, it took seven years before I got the first phone call. I still don’t like the relationship I have with my daughter, but that’s because I’ve got this idealized relationship picture that probably can’t happen because there’s so much time that’s gone by. I don’t know my daughter the way I should know her. Because there are huge gaps of time when I wasn’t around and didn’t see her grow and experience. And I am hoping at the end of the day, that she’s going to, you know, ten years after I die, she’s going to sit around at the dinner table with my two sons and they’ll be exchanging stories about dad and she’s going to say, “Hey –

[Long pause]

[Zierten Crying]

“…He was a good man. He’s alright, you know?” And I’m sad that I didn’t know them better. But if that conversation occurs, then it will make life worthwhile. So yes, reconciliation takes a long time, man. But at the end of the day, it is the relationships you have with your loved ones and how do you make them the best you possibly can. And by the way, the onus is on my side of the street, not theirs. If they want to play along, that’s wonderful, but if they don’t want to play along I still have that role I have to play.

23. It’s okay. We can take the time. If you need time, it’s okay.



24. You mentioned something else about someone being abstinent, but not necessarily in recovery. So, what does abstinence mean in this context? And what does recovery mean in this context? Therefore, how can one be abstinent and not in recovery?

The answer to this is maintaining a sobriety from all form of mood altering substances: alcohol, cannabis, cocaine – whatever the drugs of choice are. So that you’re not always defaulting back into an old behemoth. And living sober. Recovery is about becoming a better human being as a result of this freedom you’ve gained from not having to use anymore. To me, if you don’t get recovery, you’re going to go back to using because you just can’t live with the terrible angst. Those issues have not been solved yet. The negative consequences may have stopped. That’s fine. That’s probably good, but you still haven’t solved the inner issues. To me, recovery is about resolving the inner issues. The reconciliation, establishing the relationships, righteous living, just being a better guy one day at a time. That usually requires community support, therapy, education, all of the things that make you a better person.  That’s the difference.

25. Now, some of the things talked about before with respect to the content and purpose of the MA had to do with it simply being a way in which to better think independently about certain subject matter – to “play around with ideas.”

That seemed to fit your anti-collective, or independence of, mind that you had, which was both grounded in that American, Milwaukee experience. In addition to, possibly, going away from the collective of your father, who was likely Roman Catholic, in addition to the Roman Catholic system, which is, in general, to do with authority, especially to do with Mass and cathedral attendance with the priest wearing a robe.

The authority based on apostolic succession from Saint Peter. You have the boys in the white robe coming down the pews. You lean down with the cushion pullouts from the back of the seat behind you, and do prayers, but it is all guided for you. It is all interpreted for you, preliminarily. Therefore, your thoughts are guided, and therefore your decisions, for you in advance with regards to the ultimate nature of the world from theological disciplines.

What I am getting a sense of is both this spiritual experience of ‘getting alcohol out of my life!’, ‘I’m going to enter detox’, ‘I interpret that as a miracle from personal perspective’, and ‘that was an act of God’. The act of God, the quitting, the entering detox, and then going into the MA of theology, which has to do with a large independence of mind there, and the self-driven and the self-discipline. Now, the self-driven was more there at 16, but the self-discipline was more developed during the second Masters degree. One thing that was not necessarily talked about was the content and purpose of the MA.

The purpose was to continue education, but I do not know what was in it, in terms of interpretation of scripture, reading, and so on.

I didn’t take credit for stuff. In my recovery, it is so easy. It so comes to me so naturally. You’re probably right. It’s self-driven, but I don’t feel that it’s self-driven. I don’t know how to explain.

If it isn’t, I will put the brakes on the statement about being “self-driven.”

I don’t know how to explain it. But going back to the content, why did I join and go back to university to get a theology degree? It was just curiosity. I had no expectation of getting anything out of it. Really, a Masters in theology. You do not make money with a Masters degree in theology, unless you’re going to be pastoring a church, which I had no intention of doing. It was totally out of curiosity.

A lot of it was around, what is the purpose of Christianity? Let’s talk about the purpose of God, Jesus Christ figure, and it’s a philosophy of God. A philosophy of Jesus Christ. That’s what most of the studies were about, and from a literal perspective to a cosmic-spiritual perspective of the Lord. It is interesting.

26. You called it the “Jesus myth” before.

Yea! I didn’t have the courage to call it the “Jesus myth” in seminary. I was afraid I’d get excommunicated or kicked out or something like that.


I challenged the actual – the literalism, but I never challenged the truth of the story. So, that kept me in good grace with a bunch of folks.



I could elaborate on the resurrection. I could elaborate on the faith. I could elaborate on the belief system and the importance of being a good person, which is, basically, Christian thinking. Love your neighbour, love God, and love yourself. That’s the Bible in three sentences. I never strayed from that.

26. You get these principles out of Matthew 7:12, which says, “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”[5] That is a general principle. There are generally three forms of the Golden Rule: an affirmative found in Matthew, a negative form, and a passive form. You can find this throughout Confucius’ Analects, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, and so on. I believe you can even find it in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and Scientology.

For the Mormons, where the Garden of Eden was in Jackson County, Missouri, this is based on their cosmology and philosophy – and purported history, or that the Native Americans, across groups, were a lost tribe of Israel. To them, you die, go to heaven, hell, or purgatory, and then are reborn with a perfect body, and then, based on works in the world are given placement in the Telestial, Celestial, or Terrestrial realms in this after-earth life with a perfect body.

Or for the Scientologists, the perspective of the galactic overlord Xenu from trillions of years ago, and the inhabitation of human beings with Thetans with the cure being in Dianetics. You have these principles of “Love your neighbour, love God, and love yourself.” These are the valuable things that you got out of the Catholic upbringing.

I always had it. I always had it because I was brought up in the Catholic tradition. It was the epitome of Love your neighbour, love God, and love yourself. It was the literalism that I escaped from when I left after high school, but I never left the basic concept or premise of the Bible.

Appendix I: Footnotes

[1] Program Coordinator, Edgewood Health Clinics; Ex-National Executive Director, Edgewood Health Clinics Network.

[2] Individual Publication Date: April 8, 2017 at; Full Issue Publication Date: May 1, 2017 at

[3] MA (1997-2002), Theology, The University of British Columbia; EMBA (1990-1991), Queen’s University.

[4] Photograph courtesy of Patrick Zierten, EMBA, MA.

[5] The Bible: New International Version. (2017). Matthew 7:12. Retrieved from


Edgewood Health Network Inc. (2016). Edgewood Health Network Inc. Retrieved from

Jack Hirose & Associates, Inc. (2016). Patrick Zierten, EMBA, M.A.. Retrieved from

LinkedIn. (2016). patrick zierten. Retrieved from

Media Awareness Project. (2016). Drug Forum A Success. Retrieved from

Mirus Rehabilitation Care Centre. (2016). Meet the North York Team. Retrieved from

The Bible: New International Version. (2017). Matthew 7:12. Retrieved from

The Globe and Mail. (2013, September 24). John Cleese explains why he loves Canada. Retrieved from

The Rave. (2005, November 11). CN BC: Community Discussion Focuses On Drug-Use Prevention. Retrieved from

Zierten, P. (2012). EDGEWOOD Alumni INSITE in Vancouver. Retrieved from

Zierten, P. (2011, September 1). Motivated to Change but Not Ready for Residential Inpatient. Retrieved from


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