Mason Orr


James Pehkonen and Kevin Thole’s mission to strengthen and empower people in their sobriety


When brainstorming ideas for my enterprise story, more than anything I felt overwhelmed. Overwhelmed by all the possible options and avenues.

I thought about my passions and hobbies. I considered topics that sparked my interest. Yet, I knew that I ultimately wanted to write about something that felt important. 

My story idea was introduced to me by my mom. Both my parents have worked with Jim Pehkonen, a “Life Architect” or “Life Coach” who works here in Salt Lake City. When my mom mentioned to me that Pehkonen had started a new podcast, “Sobriety Elevated,” with his co-host Kevin Thole, I immediately thought, “This is what I want to write about.” 

Right away I thought this was a topic that people should be informed about. In their podcast, “Sobriety Elevated,” Pehkonen and Thole discuss some really pertinent subjects relating to drug and alcohol abuse and the recovery process. I felt as though this was a resource that should be shared with others. 

First, I knew I wanted to interview Pehkonen since he is an expert in his field. He has worked with a multitude of people struggling with alcohol and drug abuse so I knew he would be a really great resource. Setting up the interview was fairly easy since I already had connections with him and shortly after reaching out, we met for coffee. As I expected, he was extremely helpful and informative. 

Pehkonen then helped me get into contact with his co-host. Unfortunately, my interview with Thole had to be over the phone since he lives in St. Louis, Missouri. However, despite the lack of face-to-face interaction, Thole was extremely helpful and offered me ample information for my story. 

When conducting the interviews I experienced difficulties with recording the conversations. I found that taking handwritten notes for both of the interviews was difficult, but overall I felt more connected with my story. 

Another challenge for me was that much of what I talked about with Pehkonen and Thole was very sensitive. Both of them gave me permission to use any of the information they provided me, but I wanted to make sure I did so in a respectful manner. 

Just from these two interviews, I was given more than enough information to write my story. I started by finding my lead. I knew I wanted to start out strong and I was hoping for a good anecdotal lead. Luckily for me, Thole provided me with a great one. From there I wanted my story to move chronologically. First, introduce Thole and Pehkonen. Then I went into how the two of them met and finally how they started their podcast. 

I found my interviews with both Thole and Pehkonen to be extremely uplifting and empowering. Hearing their stories of what they have overcome in their own lives gave me a sense of empowerment. No matter what hardship you may come across, there is always a light at the end of the tunnel, and that is what I wanted the focus of my story to be. 


I am a full-time student at the University of Utah, currently in my senior year. I expect to graduate in the fall of 2022 with a major in communication with a journalism emphasis. Writing has always been a way for me to express myself and now I hope to use writing as a tool in my career and as a way to connect with people. I have always seen writing as an opportunity to bring a community together. This is what I hope to do in my future career.