Talks to Optimists about Being a Sobriety Coach
I’ve been Where You Are!
I’ve walked your walk.
I fell down.
I got up.
I got out.
Many people who are frustrated with a relative or a loved one who is an addict or alcoholic don’t understand why the person can’t use willpower to stop.
Damian Costa, who serves as a sobriety coach, told the Palisades Optimists on Tuesday that he was addicted (and is now in recovery) because “I was stuck on stupid.”
He cited people who hate their job and complain about it year after year, but never leave. Another example are the people who are in a relationship that isn’t working, but they stay in that relationship. He pointed out that addiction’s grip is much the same.
“Change is the scariest thing in the world,” Costa said. “Intuitively we know what to do, but our disease is our ease.”
Costa grew up in Brooklyn and always had a job from the time he was 11. By the time he was 15, he was smoking, dealing pot, having sex. “At 16,” he said, “I was paying for cocaine.”
In high school, when many of his peers were preparing for college, “I was getting Ds and Fs and girls.”
Costa came to California in 1985 and found a job in the entertainment industry, working on a television show.
“Cocaine and Long Island iced tea were my downfall,” he said. “I knew I needed to stop, but I couldn’t stop.”
He said that if he had a bad day at work or if something went wrong, “I’d beat myself up” and used substances.
He was admitted to the Betty Ford Clinic. “Being stuck is stupid, but people who are stuck are not stupid,” he said, noting that he met judges, lawyers, plumbers and electricians while in rehab. But “when you’re stuck you’re stuck.”
“I came out of Betty Ford. Then I was three years sober,” before he had relapses. “Then I was one year sober.”
His life started to go in a different direction when he worked at three different rehab places, including the Salvation Army, to give back.
“What I heard a lot was that ‘my head’ is broken,” Costa said. “People would say, ‘I don’t like how I feel.’”
They think they need someone to help fix them. But, he discovered that “Once I like me, everything is okay.”
Costa said he worked with a lawyer’s son who had been in 10 rehabs in 10 years and had never been clean more than 30 days. The guy told him he should go into sobriety coaching because “I’ve been sober over six years with you.”
In order to become a coach, Costa needed to take a course at UCLA and then take the state test.
“I’d never been to college,” he said, noting that he had even been diagnosed with ADHD, but refused to take drugs.
He signed up. The first class was a disaster, he couldn’t keep up with the instructor. His mind tried to convince him, “You’re not good enough to be here.”
Undeterred, he bought a tape recorder and started taping the class—and passed.
Costa then took the state exam—three times, finally passing on the third attempt.
When he spoke at a high school sober living class, one student tried to explain that he was depressed. “Who gives a shit if you’re depressed?” Costa told him. “If you don’t like how you feel right now, it doesn’t mean it’s good or bad, right or wrong. Instead, what actions am I going to allow?
“If you don’t know what to do, that’s okay,” Costa told the student. “You need to be awake and aware.”
Costa said that 95 percent of parents don’t know how to help their kids if they have a substance abuse problem. Rather, “they just know how to enable.” After working with parents, Costa realized “they don’t know how to react to their kid.”
He practices meditation with clients because they “react and survive, respond and live” but “I help get them to neutral.”
Costa said, “People can smell you if you’re judging them and I tell them if they’re ‘stuck’ it’s okay.”
“You know where you are,” he said. “Where would you like to go?”
Costa can be reached at (818) 804-9068 or by email: Damian@damianCosta.com.