People need people. Young people need other young people. And entrepreneurs and founders very much need to build a professional network of people who share your passion and support your goals.
As a part of our series about “Heroes Of The Addiction Crisis” I had the pleasure of interviewing Eve Goldberg.
Eve founded BIGVISION in January 2015, a year after her 23-year-old son, Isaac, died of an accidental drug overdose. She was motivated to do something to help young adults in recovery learn to live fun, meaningful, sober lives. She has now committed to making BIGVISION a reality by building a community where the BIGVISION.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a bit of your backstory?
In 2014, I lost my 23-year-old son Isaac to an accidental overdose. He was a bright, funny, compassionate, and caring young man who had struggled with addiction for several years. Despite access to excellent treatment centers, loving support, and a desire to recover, relapse was part of his story. In the darkest days following his death, I vowed to prevent this devastation for other families.
At the time, I had no specific idea in mind, but even before I had a plan, a group of friends volunteered to help. It was clear to me that something different needed to be done to better support young adults in sustaining sobriety. I am a doer by nature. One year after Isaac’s death, I knew what I wanted to do, called on my friends and together we got started.
That, in a nutshell, is how BIGVISION was born.
Is there a particular story or incident that inspired you to get involved in your work with opioid and drug addiction?
It’s personal for me, and for too many others. I got involved because even during the depths of my sadness, I also saw an opportunity. I recognized a massive blind spot in existing long-term recovery treatment protocol for young adults specifically, and there was something to be done about it. Like I said, I’m a doer.
When Isaac left an in-patient treatment program for the last time, he was sober, in good health and optimistic … just like the nearly 2 million young adults who complete addiction treatment programs each year. I saw the determination in his eyes as he told me, time and again, that he was eager to face the future substance free. I saw his strength. And, just like those millions of young adults, Isaac no idea how to ‘get a life’ — the kind of life he would need to joyfully sustain sobriety forever after. He had no idea how to meet people, go places and do things socially, but safely. Treatment programs can save lives, but they don’t build that life for you.
Can you explain what brought us to this place? Where did this epidemic come from?
Last year, a staggering 93,000 people died from drug overdoses in 2020 and the highest increase was 48% in those under 24 years old. We are witnessing the clear, and catastrophic, failure of what is readily referenced as a ‘broken’ addiction treatment system in the US.
For millions of young adults suffering from substance use disorders (SUDs), getting sober is the simplest part of recovery. And frankly, there is a lot of money to be made in that area of recovery treatment. Those fortunate enough to complete in-patient programs will walk out the door sober. It’s what happens next that impacts the rest of their lives. But the idea of building a fun, fulfilling yet sober social life can feel overwhelming.
For a 20-something in recovery, a house party, bar, or a fraternity gathering are clearly not good choices, but neither is sitting on a folding chair in a church basement with a group of middle- aged people who are also on the road to recovery. The younger you are, the longer road you must imagine for yourself, substance free. It can be incredibly difficult to find ‘your people’ as a young adult in recovery. BIGVISION exists to help young adults enjoy full and fun, sober social lives.
So, while pundits point fingers (pharmaceutical companies, treatment centers, hospitals, dentists, insurance companies, politicians) and focus on the lucrative business of recovery, we’re focused on helping build a safety net to bridge the giant chasm between treatment and life.
Can you describe how your work is making an impact battling this epidemic?
The opposite of addiction is connection. Community is vital to sustaining recovery and saving lives. My urgent message for the newly sober is — find your passions in life, BIGVISION will help you!
BIGVISION is the go-to source for sober-social fun for young adults in recovery. We are a community, and we create and curate a calendar of incredible events and engaging activities, so young adults don’t have to search so hard for safe and sober options. From yoga classes and 5K runs to basketball tournaments, parkour challenges, mini-golf, baking, hikes and knitting sessions, we do fun things together. The key word is “together.” Since its founding in 2015, BIGVISION has offered more than 500 FREE experiences for young adults in recovery throughout NYC.
Can you share something about your work that makes you most proud? Is there a particular story or incident that you found most uplifting?
It was the sound of laughter. We hosted a trapeze lesson for our community. I watched from a distance as they swung through the air. I thought, “They’re brave! They’re trying something new. They’re meeting other young people.” That made me happy. And then, I heard the laughter — a group of people laughing out loud, together. That sound — that joyful sound — so simple, is truly so uplifting and every time I hear it, I feel the same way.
Can you share three things that the community and society can do to help you address the root of this problem? Can you give some examples?
I’m deeply proud of the work BIGVISION is doing to save lives, addressing the unique sober-social needs of young adults (18–30) in recovery (aka the “fun” that follows sobriety.) As a community, we pick up where in-patient treatment programs leave off and we make it easy for you to get involved. We are expanding to 5 more cities by summer 2022:
- Visit us to learn more about what we’re doing
- Sign up to become a BIGVISION Ambassador in your city. Ambassadors help us curate robust local calendars and build community.
- Join us for an event or just help spread the word! Check our website for upcoming events, including an annual 3:3 basketball tournament (see this video) — full of hoop and hope-filled fun.
I know that this is not easy work. What keeps you going?
The support of my family and the belief that BIGIVISION is saving lives.
How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
No one person can or should handle every aspect of an organization. Leadership is sharing a clear vision and empowering those who can, will and want to help.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
When I started BIGVISION, it was my intention to help young adults in recovery. I had no idea how much they would help me and how much I would learn from them. Here are 5 things I’ve learned from BIGVISION community members that I think can inspire us all:
- There is more than one path to recovery and what matters is knowing you are part of a community that welcomes you, wherever you’ve been, however you got here… you belong.
- There is more than one path to pretty much everything. Remaining open to different possibilities is critical if you plan to grow anything from a new business to a national non-profit.
- People need people. Young people need other young people. And entrepreneurs and founders very much need to build a professional network of people who share your passion and support your goals.
- Many of the practices that support sustainable recovery are applicable and powerful in all aspects of life. Young adults in recovery have become excellent role models for me when it comes to prioritizing health and well-being. From living with balanced structure to having a process to fall back on in challenging times to applying mindfulness and intentional thinking to working towards fulfilling a sense of purpose while staying on track and avoiding pitfalls — these are effective ways for everyone to optimize personal and professional well-being.
- Humans want to help one another. I used to think that fundraising was about asking for money. Frankly, it made me uncomfortable, despite knowing we were saving lives. The big-hearted BIGVISION community showed me that people really, truly, want to help other people. Fundraising isn’t about asking for money, it’s about giving people who care, a meaningful way to make a difference.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Treat people as you would want to be treated. It doesn’t get more simple or powerful than that.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
Jamie Lee Curtis! Not only do many people tell me we look alike, but she is brilliantly talented. I deeply admire her for sharing her personal story about struggling with addiction in a 2019 story in Variety. Jamie Lee Curtis, I’d love to meet you for breakfast. Open invitation.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Thank you so much for the time you spent doing this interview. This was very inspirational, and we wish you continued success.