God’s Word Has the Power to Defeat #MentalIllness

Stop Child Abuse Now (SCAN) – 1565

Listen to the podcast with Nikki and Bill Murray here.

Tonight’s special guest is Nikki DuBose from Los Angeles, a returning NAASCA family member who was abused as a child and later as a young professional model. Nikki works closely with Matt Sandusky at the ‘Peaceful Hearts Foundation,’ and will tell us about her new book, ‘Washed Away: From Darkness to Light.’ In her memoir, Nikki details how being sexually abused as a child led to a seventeen-year battle with serious mental health issues such as eating disorders, depression, self-harm, substance abuse and sexual addictions. She experienced a great deal of success, yet that prosperity came with a high price that often mirrored the sexual abuse from her youth. Among other things, Nikki advocates on her web site for better regulation of the modeling industry. Coming to a place of full healing has not been easy for Nikki, but she says, “I wholeheartedly believe that full recovery is possible. It starts with speaking out and reducing the shame and stigma that is so often attached to mental health issues.” She goes on, “Being an advocate is what allows me to wake up every day and feel truly alive. All of that pain that I lived with for so many years is now channeled into making a difference in society. Whatever issues you’re passionate about, use your voice and the resources you have; love yourself first and from there you can help to change the world.” We’re delighted to have Nikki as a card-carrying member of the NAASCA family!

The Mental Illness Happy Hour

Glamorously Dying: Ex-Model Nikki DuBose

The 31 year-old ex-model (Vogue, Vanity Fair) discusses surviving incest by her mother (who was also an alcoholic with BiPolar and DID aka Multiple Personality Disorder) and a lifetime of battling eating disorders (binging, bulimia, anorexia), depression, anxiety, psychosis, Body Dysmorphic Disorder, alcoholism and drug and sex addiction. She reflects on the physical and emotional bottom that finally made her walk away from modeling and seek help, ironically as her emaciated body was more desirable than ever in the industry.

Listen to the podcast here.

Miracles Happen: A Dove Healed My Mother From Cerebral Palsy

 Once upon a time, there lived a little girl in Charleston with a big heart and a great lust for life. Although she held a fascination for the world, she was helpless to explore it. Braces covered her legs, and whenever she walked, she took stiff steps. Her adopted mother and father prayed every day for her limbs to move with grace, but the doctors gave no hope. They learned to accept the fate of their precious child, and they did their best to make her life comfortable.

     When the rain came down, she listened in bed and delighted in the sounds. Shadows from the drizzling water reflected off her bedroom walls, causing her to drift into a fantasy universe. It was an enchanted place, filled with underwater fairies that guided her to faraway lands. In these lands, she was free to run through lush fields full of magical flowers.

     She went to her special world as often as she could, and with every trip, she felt the strength returning to her body. Soon, she believed that she was invincible, just like every other girl and boy. But the strength lasted only in this place, and not in her waking life.

     One day, as she relaxed in the grass and peered up at the powder blue sky, she noticed a dove as Dovewhite as snow, soaring in-between the clouds. She watched in amazement as it glided through the atmosphere like an angel before descending and landing on her shoulder. Suddenly, she felt an overwhelming sense of joy and peace; this presence was familiar, and she recognized it as the spirit of Jesus. Her body softened, and she was infused with a new strength: a healing power full of grace and love.

     Light shone into her eyes, and she inhaled and drifted into consciousness. The little girl returned to her waking life, but she did not feel Jesus leave her. She yawned and sat up on the bed, and as she turned her body, she noticed a peculiar sensation in her legs. Her eyes widened, and she threw off the covers and gazed down. She slid forward; one of her feet touched the cold wooden floor then the other. She allowed herself to continue rising while holding onto the bed and released to find herself standing without braces. She took a step, and another, and for the first time in her life, she walked by herself.

     This little girl was my momma, Sandy. 

 

                      – Washed Away: From Darkness to Light  pg. 261

 

My momma, Sandy, was a fighter all of her life. She was born with cerebral palsy, a neurological disorder that affects a person’s body movement and muscle coordination. Currently, there is no cure for Cerebral Palsy, rather, it is a condition that an affected individual and family members learn how to manage. As a child, my mother walked with braces around her legs and tried to hide them underneath her long, cotton dresses. I don’t know if she felt sad or ashamed, but from the few pictures I saw of her during that time, she was always smiling and holding her fluffy, calico cat. I think that animals brought a lot of comfort for her, a way for her to cope with the mixed feelings she experienced from being adopted and having a physical disability.

Then one day, she had that dream; the dream of a dove that flew down from Heaven and sat on her shoulder. The next morning when she woke up, she walked for the very first time in her life without braces. The doctors were shocked; they had never seen such a thing before. Momma had experienced a miracle, but she would eventually lose her battle to her demons. The mental ones.

To be continued.

Get Busy Thriving! Podcast: Interview with Fashion Model with Nikki DuBose

“I’ve been reading the recently released memoir of Nikki Dubose called Washed Away: From Darkness to Light.

I sense so much hope from this woman and her life’s message. To read about what she’s been through and how she is starting to rebuild a happy life for herself is inspiring.

Nikki was a fashion model who landed the cover of coveted magazines such as Maxim and Vogue in the peak of her career. While from the outside her photos portray a woman living the life many people dream of, beneath the surface she was dealing with severe depression, sexual abuse, anorexia, alcohol and drug abuse and much more.”

Read more and listen to the podcast on Getbusythriving.com.

Yahoo! Finance – New Memoir ‘Washed Away: From Darkness to Light’ Reveals the Dark Side of the Modeling Industry

“Nikki DuBose, a former model turned author, speaker, and mental health advocate, announced today the release of her memoir, Washed Away: From Darkness to Light. In Washed Away, Nikki recounts her experiences navigating the dark side of the modeling industry, while battling abuse, addiction, and various mental health issues. In the book trailer (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Fop6kvFZI8), she mentions the sexual abuse she encountered, including having been raped by a photographer, and the pressure she felt to lose weight.”

Read more on Yahoo! Finance.

Medium – Conscious Capitalism, It’s On Us

“Nikki DuBose, board member of Matthew Sandusky’s Peaceful Hearts Foundation wrote on Huffington Post: “Regardless of whether or not Gafni was ever charged with a crime, or in spite of the statutes of limitations, we are obligated as a society to support victims of child sexual abuse and give them a voice.”

Read more on Medium.

Washed Away: From Darkness to Light Book Trailer

Buy Washed Away: From Darkness to Light now on Outskirts Press!

Outskirts Press Announces Washed Away: From Darkness to Light

“Outskirts Press announces Washed Awunnameday: From Darkness To Light, the latest highly-anticipated biography & autobiography / personal memoirs book from Santa Monica, CA author Nikki DuBose With James Johanson.
September 30, 2016. Denver, CO and Santa Monica, CA – Outskirts Press, Inc. has published Washed Away: From Darkness To Light by Nikki DuBose with James Johanson, which is the author’s most recent book to date. The 6 x 9 black & white paperback in the biography & autobiography / personal memoirs category is available worldwide on book retailer websites such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble for a suggested retail price of $27.95. The webpage at www.outskirtspress.com/washedawayfromdarknesstolight was launched simultaneously with the book’s publication.”

Read more on Outskirts Press.

Business of Modeling – A Story of Recovery: Former Model Nikki DuBose on Her Book, ‘Washed Away’

“My modeling career was anything but typical. I wasn’t plucked out of a mall or grocery store; I wasn’t even discovered. I didn’t just ‘fall’ into the industry by chance, either, although I was a serious nerd who never thought she belonged with the fashion industry’s elite. I pushed my way into the business, desperate for love and acceptance, because quite frankly, I didn’t receive a lot of it at home. When I did start modeling as a teen and later in my early twenties, it wasn’t ‘exciting,’ although I often fantasized that I was a glamorous supermodel because it lifted my low self-esteem. At some point, I did reach a pretty high level in my career, and I paid a high price for it, as I talk about in my soon-to-be-released memoir, Washed Away: From Darkness to Light. I was more familiar with abuse, poor body image, and distorted ideals of love than confidence and beauty, which all pushed me to look for acceptance in places where I could never find it. The modeling industry was one of those places, and it proved to be an illusionary world, one where I felt that I had to remain high, drunk, or starved in order to exist in it.”

Read more on Business of Modeling.

A Recap of our 2nd Annual Project HEAL SoCal Gala

Our second annual Project HEAL SoCal Gala was a tremendous success. Thanks
to Reasons Eating Disorder Center, Lisa Kantor, JD, Gabriel Hammond at Broad Green Pictures, and everyone who donated and attended, we raised over $34,000.00, a giant leap from last year’s $19,000.00! That money goes towards helping people who need funds for eating disorder treatment, and we can’t do it without people like you; people who have caring hearts and who understand that lifeProject HEAL SoCal Gala Nikki DuBose is about so much more than the superficial. Right now, there are people dying from eating disorders. Anorexia nervosa has the highest mortality rate of any mental illness, more than schizophrenia or substance abuse.

From the bottom of my heart, I thank each and every one of you who not only donated and attended, but who I have had the honor of serving this past year. As the Volunteer Director and Executive Board Member, it has been my sincere pleasure of seeing this chapter grow, and I have learned so much from every volunteer who has walked into our meetings.

 

It is with a heavy heart that I step down from the chapter now, but I will take with me everything that I have learned as I move on. I will still serve on the board of Peaceful Hearts Foundation, and will educate others how child sexual abuse and eating disorders are linked. And as always, I will be a great supporter of Project HEAL and their wonderful mission.

Remember this: No matter where you are, or who you are, recovery is possible. I believe in you.

Thank you,

Nikki DuBose
Former Volunteer Director & Executive Board Member
Project HEAL SoCal Chapter

Huffington Post – My Psychosis Doesn’t Define Me

“I prance down the runway like a queen, my body dripping with jewels. Like a lioness, I sway from side to side, moving to entice all who look my way; I am the beast who no one can touch, and no one can tame. As I glance at the rows of curious faces, however, the darkness begins to take over. Before I know it, my worst nightmare has returned: the demons have revealed themselves, with their black eyes and mouths full of jagged teeth. I cannot escape them; they are my masters, and I am their slave.

Voices command me to keep moving. Look forward bitch and keep walking. Don’t screw it up! They’re all going to laugh at you. I force my head higher and put my shoulders back as I push through the noise and approach the end of the runway. As my feet carry me to the edge, I hear no sound, experience no sensation. Despite the music and commotion, I am lost in a dreamland.”

Read more on the Huffington Post.

 

We Choose to Thrive Interview with Nikki DuBose

“Nikki Dubose is an amazing young woman who is actively involved in helping others to live the life they are meant to live. Listen to share her story of her past and her journey to healing and thriving in life.”

Read more about Nikki with author Becky Norwood.

An Open Letter to NY Times Public Editor Liz Spayd, from Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse and Advocates

Proud to have my name on this open letter to The New York Times Public Editor Liz Spayd. On behalf of Peaceful Hearts Foundation, I am listed as one of 35 Child Sexual Abuse Survivors and Advocates, urging Liz to cover the Child Victims Act of New York. Thanks, Nancy Levine for your hard work and dedication to this important issue, and thank you to everyone who is using their voice to create change.

“Dear Ms. Spayd,
We are a global community of survivors of child sexual abuse and advocates. We were heartened when, under your editorial direction, the Columbia Journalism Review published a piece by Steve Buttry, Director of Student Media at LSU: ‘The voiceless have a voice. A journalist’s job is to amplify it.’ We would like to ask you and The New York Times to consider amplifying our collective voice; we reiterate our request, emailed to you on July 11, 2016.
Our previous correspondence raised questions about The Times’ absence of recent coverage of the Child Victims Act of New York, and an appearance of a conflict of interest. Presumably there is no causal relationship between The Times’ absence of recent reporting on the Child Victims Act and Publisher and Chairman Arthur O. Sulzberger Jr.’s family financial interests in Whole Foods Market. But to quell concerns about an appearance of a conflict, we think this matter warrants further response.”

Read more on Medium.

Momma Sez

Growing up in Charleston, South Carolina, I was heavily influenced by the Gullah culture. My momma spoke Geechee, as we called it, which is a dying mixture related to Bahamiam Dialect, Barbadian Dialect, Belezian Dialect, Jamaican Patois, Trinidadian Creole, and the Krio language of Sierra Leone found in West Africa.

When my momma was angry or excited, she would often switch from English to Gullah, or the “Sea Island Creole” language. It can be very difficult to understand, and I am passionate about preserving the culture. I hate to see the culture disappear because of tourism and other reasons. I hope through my poetry and future books I can help to educate and preserve this special language.

Nikki_DuBose_Poetry_Gullah

Dutch Grazia Interview June 2016

Voor schut
“Ik begon mijn modellencarrière op mijn vijftiende. Ik was zo blij. Het poseren en de creatieve kant van de mode-industrie vond ik geweldig. Jong als ik was, had ik nog geen flauw benul hoe het er in de modewereld echt aan toe gaat. Mijn eerste knauw kreeg ik toen mijn coach me tijdens een catwalktraining voor schut zette. Waar alle andere meisjes bij waren, trok ze ineens mijn shirt omhoog. Ze tikte op mijn buik en bitchte: ‘Jouw buik moet er net zo strak uitzien als die van de andere meiden. Ga naar huis om te trainen!’ Dat was de eerste openlijke aanval op mijn uiterlijk, iets wat in de modellenindustrie heel vaak voorkomt. De psychologische spelletjes die worden gespeeld, kunnen enorme psychische schade toebrengen. ”

Read more on Grazia.

 

Huffington Post – Bill to Protect the Rights and Health of Models Dead for the Year: Education and Support Necessary to Move Forward

“On Friday, May 27th, 2016, California Assembly Bill 2539 was held in the suspense file and killed for the rest of the year. The bill would have awarded models workplace protections and health standards, granting them employee status, similar to actors who are employees of the brands they represent. As well, California modeling agencies would have been licensed as talent agencies. Although we fought hard to see this bill through, the Association of Talent Agents (ATA) and specific modeling agencies lobbied violently against it, which ultimately led to the bill’s death. As an executive board member of Peaceful Hearts Foundation and Project HEAL SoCal Chapter, two organizations dedicated to preventing child sexual abuse and eating disorders, I am passionate about pushing forth legislation which will protect vulnerable workers from being exploited in the fashion industry. Furthermore, as a survivor of a more than seventeen-year battle with eating disorders, trauma, other mental health issues, and as someone who experienced the darker side of the modeling industry, I want to clarify the arguments that have continuously come up over the past few months concerning the legislation.”

Read more on The Huffington Post.

The Paintbrush

I want to share this poem by Bettie B. Youngs. When I was thirteen my mother was living in a mental institution. During her stay she was given a packet of papers, essentially what contained all of her feelings, hopes and desires. I now have this packet because my mother passed away in 2012. A couple of years ago I was going through the papers and I noted a poem by Dr. Youngs; it touched me deeply and became the inspiration for my memoir, Washed Away: From Darkness to Light, which will be released fall 2016. I hope it speaks you in some way.

I keep my paint brush with me
Wherever I may go,
In case I need to cover up
So the real me doesn’t show.
I’m so afraid to show you me,
Afraid of what you’ll do – that
You might laugh or say mean things.
I’m afraid I might lose you.
I’d like to remove all my paint coats
To show you the real, true me,
But I want you to try and understand,
I need you to accept what you see.
So if you’ll be patient and close your eyes,
I’ll strip off all my coats real slow.
Please understand how much it hurts
To let the real me show.
Now my coats are all stripped off.
I feel naked, bare and cold,
And if you still love me with all that you see,
You are my friend, pure as gold.
I need to save my paint brush, though,
And hold it in my hand,
I want to keep it handy
In case someone doesn’t understand.
So please protect me, my dear friend
And thanks for loving me true,
But please let me keep my paint brush with me
Until I love me, too.

VLOG Episode 7: My Response to Trump Bullying Alicia Machado

VLOG Episode 6: Models, Financial Exploitation & Eating Disorders

Google Hangout with Eating Disorder Hope: “Loving Yourself – Keeping a Positive Body Image in the Summer”

Join Me For an Exclusive Google Hangout 5/5 with Eating Disorder Hope!

On May 5th, 6/9pm EST, I’ll be joining Eating Disorder Hope for an exclusive Google Hangout! We’ll be discussing the ever-important self love and how to keep a positive body image during summer 🙂

Visit Eating Disorder Hope to find out more!

Register for the Event and Watch it LIVE Here!

God Bless,
Nikki DuBose

NAASCA Podcast – Stop Child Abuse Now with Bill Murray

I was a guest on Bill Murray’s podcast, talking about my recovery from child sexual abuse, and how that led to a plethora of mental health issues for most of my life. Listen here.

“Tonight’s special guest is Nikki DuBose from Los Angeles, a child abuse survivor who was later abused as a young professional model. Among other things, Nikki advocates on her web site for better regulation of the modeling industry (she tells me about 40% of models have an eating disorder and that there’s a lot of sexual abuse/harassment). Nikki also works closely with Matt Sandusky at the “Peaceful Hearts Foundation,” where she serves on the Executive Board and is their Volunteer Director. Nikki says, “I wholeheartedly believe that full recovery is possible, but it starts with speaking out and reducing the shame and stigma that is so often attached to mental health issues.” In her upcoming memoir, “Washed Away: From Darkness to Light,” due out later this year, Nikki details how being sexually abused as a child led to a seventeen-year battle with serious mental health issues such as eating disorders, depression, self-harm, body dysmorphic disorder, substance abuse and sexual addictions. During her career as a professional model, she encountered a great deal of success, yet that prosperity came with a high price – one that often mirrored the sexual abuse from her childhood. Coming to a place of full healing has not been easy for Nikki, but she says, “Being an advocate is what allows me to wake up every day and feel truly alive. All of that pain that I lived with for so many years is now channeled into making a difference in society. Whatever issues you’re passionate about, use your voice and the resources you have; love yourself first and from there you can help to change the world.”

 

VLOG Episode 5: Male Models and Body Image Issues

VLOG: What Advice Would I Give to My Younger Self?

Thank you Jenni Schaefer, Eating Recovery Center, and Project Heal, for allowing me to be a part of this inspiring recovery series!

My Eternity

Good evening
I love you,
Now bow to the moon.
Go to sleep
Rest your eyes
Dream of our love.
The possibilities
That can arise
Only in Heaven
A breath, a sigh
Then we are back
Here, now.
Good morning
I love you,
Let us bow to the sun.
Your eyes glisten
Through them I see,
My dreams, my eternity.

©2016 Nikki DuBose

VLOG Episode 4: Eating Disorders & Sexual Abuse in the Modeling Industry

Trials Come In Bunches But So Do Comebacks

My testimony
by Christopher Chavez
Christopher’s Facebook

I come from a divorced home. My mom raised me, and I have one older brother and one older sister. My mom told me that I was conceived during a reconciliation; I was unplanned and it was an overwhelming time for her. My father was an addict so he was absent most of my life; growing up was hard without a father, my mom worked tirelessly to provide for us.  I was a very needy child, I remember always wanting people to like me and I was always looking for a father figure.

 

unnamed

The abuse started when I was six or seven years old. I was abused verbally, mentally and physically. The main abuser was a relative; he felt that because I didn’t have a father that he should step in and “discipline” me. Sadly, at times my mom would ask him for help in bringing that “discipline.” I remember being taken into my grandfather’s room and being smacked so hard that I couldn’t move my neck afterwards. To make matters worse no one knew I suffered with ADD and a learning problem ’till much later in life.

I remember being hated by relatives because of my behaviors; they felt sorry for me but at the same time they were cruel. I have been to eight schools in my life – that instability affected me greatly. I never had long term friends and was often hated for being the new kid.  I was forced to go to church as a kid so I had some basic fear of God. However during my sophomore year in high school I turned away from God and started to smoke weed; some friends lured me into the drug scene. During that time my family had also lost our family home and we were living with our grandmother, so I started smoking cigarettes, then drinking, and smoking weed.  I didn’t care for the high I felt so I stuck with weed until my senior year then I tried meth.

I remember I wanted to get away from my family – I wanted out. I did think about suicide at times to escape my pain but I didn’t want to go to hell. I almost bought a gun from some gang members to kill my abuser, but they wouldn’t sell it to me. They asked why I wanted one and when I told them the truth, they said they didn’t want to be involved with that. After I went to continuation school I felt even worse about myself and more depressed. I was nineteen and older than everyone else because I had been held back two grades. So all I did during school was drink and get high; it was the biggest waste of my life.

For the next four years I went head first into drugs. I was doing meth just about every day, until it came to a point where I stopped because I had a nervous breakdown. I started hearing voices and seeing shadows; I went to God and stayed sober and tried to change my life for the better. I managed to stay sober for five years, then I started using again and hanging out with old friends. That’s when I got into smoking crack. I would go with Simone who would steal a car and we would drive down to the projects in Compton and get a couple hundred dollars worth of crack. During those times we never got caught – it was God’s Mercy that we never got robbed or shot at.

I never stole anything, it was my friend who did; I was just along for the ride but if we would have gotten caught I would have been in just as much trouble as the driver. A few years later I got sober again and tried do the right things, but drugs damage your body, spirit and emotions. I couldn’t get myself together.  I ran into hard times, started smoking weed again and began hanging out with the wrong friends. It was the year 2000, I had just gotten a good job as well as my own apartment, then drugs came back into my life again.

I was in a motel room doing meth. I decided to do a hundred dollars worth in one big line, and after I snorted it my nose began to bleed everywhere. My heart was beating so fast I could have sworn I saw it pounding out of my chest; I ran into the shower hoping it would calm me down but it didn’t do a thing, so I started to cry and ran outside naked screaming for help.  Someone brought me inside and called 911; when they told me that help was coming, I fell to my knees and began crying out to God, asking Him to not let me die in that state.

That was one of three times I that I rode in the back of an ambulance. The second time I was upstairs at someone’s house. To make a long story short I had to jump out the second story window to get help then walked to the fire department. I was taken to the hospital because I was overdosing again. The third time I was at my aunt’s house. I had done meth, alcohol, and crack everyday for two weeks straight. I had gotten sick so I took some robitussin, but by the second day I started feeling faint. I felt weaker and weaker and began to look pale; my body was ice cold. I called 911 and they gave me oxygen because I felt like I couldn’t breath. After that night I had people saying goodbye to me because everyone thought I was going to die. I cried out to God, “Help me! I wanna live!”

Then in November of 2004, I rededicated my life to God, and never touched alcohol or drugs again. I did, however, have to deal with the aftermath of my addictions. I suffered from horrible anxiety, nightmares, and had a very difficult time trying to rehabilitate my mind. I had lost everything and was starting my life over from the bottom. I realized that staying sober meant the difference between living and dying.

I know God gave me a another chance for a big reason; I’ve stayed sober all these years by being rooted in a church and cutting off all relationships with anyone that used drugs or partied. I also found role models to look up to, such as my cousin Danny Perea who used to be a heroin & cocaine addict, Adam Goldstein AKA “DJ AM,” as well as some well known ministers on TBN. As of today I am one of the leaders of the youth ministry at my church and I’ve witnessed to them many times about about my past with addiction and speak on abstinence too. I give all glory to God for saving me from myself, and refer often to the Bible verse that got me through the darkest of times:

Psalm 118:17 says, “I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the Lord.”

 

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On a side note, my father came back into my life in 2005. He is now sober and recently married. He opened up and told me that he had been living on Skid Row for twenty-one years during his addiction; he now does ministry work on Skid Row every weekend and feeds the homeless with his church. I just want to close and say that if God can change my life he can change yours; a better day is coming, don’t give up.  Jesus loves you so much that He died for you. As well there are plenty of programs such as AA that are available for you. You can also find wonderful programs through your local church. Someone is always ready to help you.

“Trials come in bunches but so do comebacks” – Christopher Chavez

If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, please contact: 1-800-273-8255, or visit: National Suicide Prevention Lifeline’s Website

If you are an adult victim of child abuse, please contact: Help for Adult Victims of Child Abuse

For help on drug and alcohol addiction, please contact: National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc.

Brian Changed My Life Forever

by Andre Villa
founder of theStitch.com

Hi, my name is Andre Villa and I’m the founder of a new start-up called theStitch.com.  I first heard about Project HEAL SoCal through new friend Nikki DuBose, volunteer director for Project HEAL SoCal. Their mission of promoting a healthy body image and self-esteem completely resonated with theStitch’s rallying cry of Embrace Your Own Beauty – or #EYOB, so when Nikki told me about Project HEAL’s Surf Workshop with Saltwater sessions, I knew theStitch had to find a way to be part of it.

Saltwater Sessions’ approach to helping people recover from addiction – with a surfboard – is both unique and life-affirming. As they say, “Surfing isn’t easy. Neither is sobriety. Life, like the ocean, can be unpredictable.”  They give participants “the skills they need to stay on board. In the water and in life.”

I personally have a deep connection with surfing even though I have never been able to successfully catch a wave in my life! A San Diego surfer named Brian Brokaw changed my life forever… here is my story.

My friendship with Brian started the summer that I turned ten. We lived in the same neighborhood. In fact, Brian lived across the street from us – but he was seven years older and played varsity football for San Pasqual High – so he wasn’t part of the bunch of kids that spent the hot summer days playing outside together.  There was football, baseball, flash-light tag, pickle – you name it, we played it!

This one particular day I was bored, so I joined my little brother David and our friend Bradley in playing a game of catch with a football in Brian’s front yard.  We saw a new kid in the neighborhood approaching.  He was about my age and wanted to play, so of course we said, “yes.”  We were having a great time when, for reasons I can’t remember now, the new kid got mad at the younger Bradley and started pushing him around!

I immediately stepped in and said – “If you’ve got a problem with Bradley then you’ve got a problem with me!” He stared at me for a moment and then took off down the street as fast as he could. Thinking that was the end of it, we kept playing, but he came back – and this time with four other kids.  I could tell that they’d come over to even the score! I was scared and didn’t know what to do.  I yelled at David to run home and for once he listened to his big brother but Bradley and I didn’t have time to make it. I moved him behind me. No way was I going to leave him alone. I gulped.  We were completely outnumbered.

Then, without notice, Brian came out of his house and yelled, “Hey! That’s my little brother! Leave him alone!” Instantly I wasn’t afraid anymore. I didn’t even care if I got hurt.  Brain had just called me his “little brother.”

The kids all backed off and went on their way and Bradley and I jumped up and down with relief. Brian told me that he was proud of me, then added “We always stand by our friends.” We weren’t related of course, but the bond we forged that day made us family.

Brian spent a lot of that summer teaching us kids in the neighborhood, including the new kids, how to play football and baseball by the rules, but the most important lesson he taught us was really about fairness and kindness.

As a high school senior varsity football player, he was easily the biggest and the fastest so he made sure to always pick the smallest and youngest kids to be on his team.  You never saw little kids smile so big or walk as proud as when then they made their way to Brian’s side.  I always hated that rule because I was the third biggest kid so I hardly ever got to be on his team – but that became the neighborhood rule. Even when he and his real brother Craig weren’t playing with us, I made sure that we always picked even teams.

As the summer wore on, Brian would always join us in a game of football – as long as the Nebraska Cornhuskers weren’t playing.  His father, Roger, was a Big Red diehard – which meant that Brian and Craig were too. I would love it when Nebraska lost because it meant that they would come outside fighting mad, looking to let off some steam.  We would play football until it was too dark to see the ball. Oh, how I wish I could relive those days playing with Brian and the neighborhood kids.

Brian Brokaw

In addition to football, Brian loved to surf and would go surfing every single day if possible. My father would be leaving for work at 5:30 in the morning and invariably see Brian headed for the ocean, surfboard at the ready. They’d smile and wave at each other.  I was still asleep that early in the morning, but I’d be up by the time Brian got home and would run out to see him. He promised that he’d teach me to surf once I worked on my upper body strength. He wanted me to be safe in the water. There he was looking after me once again.

Fast-forward to October 5, 1985. I am now a freshman at San Pasqual High School playing freshman football just like Brian had. I enter Mrs. DeVroeg’s English class but she isn’t there. Something is wrong but all we are told is that there was an emergency and Mrs. DeVroeg was called to the office. Mrs. DeVroeg is Brian and Craig’s mother.  I am tense.  Jumping out of my seat I run to the office even though I knew this was breaking school rules. As I entered the office I saw Mrs. DeVroeg and Craig holding each other with tears running down their faces. Craig looked at me and said, “Brian died today, while surfing.” The worst day of my life…

Brain was my hero.  He made me feel safe.  He taught me about friendship and what it means to be family.  He taught me about fairness and the importance of being kind to everyone no matter what their age.  He was my everything, and most importantly “I” was his brother. As we got older, he also taught me what I consider to be the most valuable lesson he ever taught me, which was that it was okay to say to a male friend – “Hey bro, I love you.”  I only wish I had the opportunity to thank Brian in person and tell him just how much I loved him.

I played football with all the neighborhood kids up until the day I left for college and always made sure that I picked the smallest kid first.  Just as Brian did.  I owe so much to that 22-year old who lost his life that day.  I’m the man I am today in large measure because of him.

As I said, I never got a chance to thank him… so when I learned about Project HEAL SoCal’s surf workshop with Saltwater Sessions I had to smile.  Here was the perfect way to say “thank you” and honor Brian Brokaw’s memory at the same time.  theStitch came together and decided to sponsor two people for the workshop. I am not sure that I can attend because my emotions will get the best of me… when the day should be a day of enjoyment for all. If Brian knew about Saltwater Sessions he would lead the charge.

“Hey Brian, thank you. I love you!”

– Andre

Speak2Heal Episode 9: How Clothing Retailers Are Contributing to our Youth’s Mental Health Issues

VLOG Episode 2: How to Get Involved with AB 2539

The News & Observer – Fashion models back California bill to fight eating disorders, sexism

“Levine and backers argued that his bill would help young women who absorb unhealthy body image expectations from advertising. Former model Nikki DuBose relayed her struggles with eating disorders and referenced research in which around half of the girls surveyed said they felt moved to lose weight by magazine images.”

Read more on The News&Observer.

 

People Magazine – Why Former Model Nikki DuBose is Backing a Bill to Fight Eating Disorders and Sexism in the Industry

“Nikki DuBose’s time in the modeling industry was anything but positive.

‘I experienced everything negative that you could imagine in the modeling industry,’ the former model, 31, tells PEOPLE. ‘I was raped in the modeling industry. I was sexually harassed. I had eating disorders which were exacerbated by the modeling industry, and I was pressured by the director of my agency about sleeping with him, and all of these things really triggered my mental health condition.'”

Read more on People.

Assembly Access: Workplace Protections and Health Standards for Models