Big thank you to Katie Walters, Meg Burton, and Gabriel Hammond!
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 life 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.
Former Volunteer Director & Executive Board Member
Project HEAL SoCal Chapter
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.
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!”
As a survivor of child abuse, sexual abuse, and various mental health issues, including a long battle with eating disorders, for most of my life I never thought I would be in a leadership position. That’s exactly what mental illness and abuse leaves you with — scars and the feeling that you are nothing. Absolute filth and scum of the Earth. When I entered recovery three years ago, I gave my entire life to my Higher Power, God, and my entire world changed. So many people opened their hearts and I allowed myself to be molded and changed, and I worked …harder than I ever thought I would. I had to do the internal work to let myself get to the point to where I could become who God wanted me to be in order to get to where He wanted me to go.
That process has involved a tremendous amount of pain. Feeling it and letting it go. That part is a constant work in progess. One of the tools that has helped me deal with the pain is writing and sharing my story. My book will be released next year and that is yet another thing I never thought I would do. I went from killing myself to releasing all of that misery inside. Truly, anything is possible.
I never felt like a leader growing up. In fact, I felt like a downright loser. I remember most days, all I saw when I looked in the mirror was a distorted, grotesque monster. A reflection of the child who had been abused. Thanks to God, recovery, and all of the people who have helped me along the way, I am grateful to be able to serve and continue to grow in the community. Recovery continues to take me to new heights, and I hope to instill that hope in others along the way.
Recently I was asked to serve on the Executive Board for Project Heal SoCal Chapter. I was also asked to be the Volunteer Director for all of Southern California. It is a position I am proud to fulfill, and one that I hope to do for a long time. At Project Heal, we are committed to educating, raising awareness and funds for those suffering from eating disorders. In 2016 we will be holding workshops, speaking events, various fundraisers and our annual gala — all to inform the community about a devastating issue that affects more than 30,000,000 individuals.
I am also thrilled to announce that I am joining the Board of Directors of the Peaceful Hearts Foundation. They are doing tireless work in the realm of child sexual abuse, and as someone who was personally affected, I hope to further the mission of supporting, empowering and educating not only fellow sufferers, but the nation at large. More than 42,000,000 people have been damaged by child sexual abuse in America, but I want them to know that recovery is possible.
I couldn’t think of a better way to end 2015. I certainly couldn’t imagine a more fitting way to celebrate the holidays. Giving is what it’s all about.
If you or someone you know is a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, please visit Peaceful Hearts Foundation.
“8 Ways Your Struggle Brings Gifts
- They make us stronger. That’s right — after recovering from a lifetime of abuse, eating disorders, drug addiction and alcoholism, one thing is for certain, I am a stronger person. I don’t see my former addictions and mental health issues as a downside, rather as things that have made me more powerful, able to tackle anything life brings my way.
- They help shape our character. Of course we are all born with character, but I believe that my struggles have sharpened mine. With every challenge we face, our character is being built, so we can choose to see troubles as a blessing.”
Read more on Recovery Warriors.
Come join me and Project HEAL – Southern California Chapter, September 25, 2015, as we celebrate recovery, community and choose love over fear! The evening will include hors d’Oeuvres, an open bar, and a silent auction as well as guest speakers. All proceeds will go to the Project HEAL treatment grant. To purchase your tickets, please visit radiatelovegala.eventbrite.com
Over the next week for NEDAwareness I will detail raw, personal accounts of my time in the modeling and entertainment industries. These stories serve to inform and educate the masses about eating disorders, mental health issues, drug and alcohol addictions, and what really lies behind the doors of the fashion world.
My remaining weeks in Los Angeles had been spent in sheer agony. In order to conform myself to the size that the esteemed modeling agency had asked, I had dropped to even more desperate measures than normal. Day after grueling day, I lived in hell. A blistering inferno that I couldn’t get out of.
Inside my mental blazes, I ran around in circles, unable to escape my insanities.
Every day I exercised for hours, binged, purged and locked myself in the bathroom to scrutinize my face and body. The only times I left my house were to get more supplies to fuel my obsessions. I took photograph after photograph of myself to see how much weight I had lost. In my mind, the more weight I lost, the more I achieved, and the more I achieved, the more valuable I was, to myself and to the modeling agency. My self worth was determined by people who only cared about my appearance and how much money I could rake in, but I didn’t care, I had no real love for myself.
Christmas was only a couple of months away but the Miami weather raged on as if the summer had no end. As soon as I stepped off the plane in the sweltering Florida sun I sensed adventure, mixed with a feeling I couldn’t quite place. This undertaking would turn out to be one that I wouldn’t necessarily want to take.
I was instructed by the agents to come in the following day and sign my paperwork. I was overwhelmed by the move, the excitement of being in a new city and the fact that I was going to be a bona fide model! No longer would I just fantasize about being a model, I was actually going to be one. Pride washed over me and all at once I wanted to soar through the clouds and gaze at all the commoners in Florida. They would soon be seeing me on the billboards…I was a star!
The scenery the next afternoon on the way to the agency was quite a change from my safe house in Los Angeles. Girls and guys buzzed about on the white sanded beaches in barely-there bathing suits, rollerblading and confidently participating in a variety of sports. It was not going to be so easy to hide here. I pulled down my form-fitting skirt and withdrew my face as I passed through a dozen restaurants. The agents had informed me that I should wear something body-hugging, but now I was regretting it. I could feel a thousand unwanted eyes ripping off my clothes. I walked faster. As I entered into the sleek, two-story agency that faced the crystal ocean, I quietly took a seat and soaked in the moment.
I was the only person in the waiting area. All around me were large framed photographs of supermodels I recognized from the eighties and nineties. I was in awe. Did that mean I would be a supermodel, too? In my heart, I hoped so. I held my portfolio tightly and noticed a tall wall of composite cards. Rows of models that belonged to the agency were on display. I observed each and every one.
Wow, I thought. I wish I could look like her. I wonder what it’s like to be her, to be like that.
I became lost in the sea of faces and felt myself drowning.
Had I lost enough weight? Would they accept me?
I nervously tapped my foot but tried to appear calm and collected. My jittery eyes led to a second level that wrapped around to a glass enclosure. Inside a few agents stayed glued to their computers and telephones. They didn’t acknowledge my presence. I checked my phone; 2:49. The appointment was at 2:30. I bit my breath and quietly sat. In my stillness I was sorely reminded of one thing: how much I missed mom. In that moment I contemplated about what it would be like for her to be there with me, sitting beside me and cheering me on. I wanted her to be proud of me. I couldn’t wait to tell her about this opportunity, but most of all, I was tired of being…alone.
Pancake with a twist! Baked in the oven with cinnamon and nutmeg, and topped with butter and agave.
You will need:
1 cup of flax milk (or whatever milk you prefer)
3 tablespoons of Organic turbinado sugar/monk fruit sweetner/honey/agave nectar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
*2/3 cup all purpose flour
*(Note: If you have a gluten allergy, here is a wonderul gluten-free mix from Bob’s Red Mill) http://www.bobsredmill.com/gluten-free-all-purpose-baking-flour.html
1/2 stick of unsalted butter (half for cooking apples, half for melting over finished pancake)
2 apples, any kind, cored and thinly sliced
3 tablespoons brown sugar
agave nectar to top
Preheat the oven to 425°F. While the oven is warming melt some butter in a pan on the stove and cook the apple slices until they are a golden brown, about five minutes. Whisk together the milk, eggs, sugar, vanilla, sea salt, cinnamon and nutmeg in a bowl until thouroughly combined. Add in the flour and stir until it is smooth. Pour the apple slices with the butter into a baking dish that is 13 x 9. Rearrange the apple slices so that they overlap and then cover with the batter. Cover with a touch of brown sugar. Bake the pancake until it is slightly brown, around 20 minutes, then remove and serve with agave, butter and any other toppings you prefer.
is the wind
in my sails
propelling me forward
guiding me through
©2015 Nikki DuBose
This painting was created by my friend Travid Teate with Travis T Photography
Many years ago before I got into modeling I had periods where I was addicted to drugs and alcohol on top of dealing with bulimia. I was dancing at a dance club (not to be confused with a strip club) on some nights and Travis saw me from across the room with what he called, “crazy, wild energy.” The colors he portrayed in this painting were a manifestation, I believe, of some the pain and sadness I was dealing with. This was the first night he had ever saw me, and from there he went home and created this painting entitled, “Vanity.” Quite frankly, I was incredibly superficial and lost in my delusions for a long time.
Thank God for recovery so that I can live in reality now and do not have to give my life over to drugs, alcohol or eating disorders. I like to look at this painting from time to time as a reminder of what addictions can turn me into if I let them. A nightmare.
We went swimming
on those distant shores
carried our love
to the birds
we returned to the birds
a love song birthed
captured in time.
Now you are in the sky
with the birds
still I return to the
carry my heart
to your soul
as we play
in a kingdom come
mother and daughter
a love song birthed.
©2015 Nikki DuBose
Happy 48th Birthday to our beautiful mommy in Heaven, Sandy Cargile. This poem is dedicated to you. We love and miss you more than you can ever know. We take comfort in the times we had together, and knowing that one day we will all be together again. Thank you for all of the memories.
Late one winter’s eve
as the wind mocked and moaned
I uncovered a golden letter
and here is what it read:
‘O, Frankly my mind
I am no respecter of your thoughts
No longer your slave
A prisoner of your delusions
I am not.
You wail in the night
singing for my soul,
and whisper quietly in the stills of the day
concealing your intentions
I am free
Frankly my mind
I am me.’
©2015 Nikki DuBose
“I love rewriting my history. As the days unfold I gaze upon the New Year with hopeful eyes, and expect favor for my life and for my continuing recovery. I have to admit, I wasn’t always optimistic in regards to my health.
An enormous part of me never dreamed that I would be here…healthy, energetic, and most of all, freed from the most toxic relationship I have ever known…my anorexic image.”
Read more on Eating Disorder Hope.
“I cherish the array of feelings I receive when I send family and loved ones cards or presents in the mail. Just imagining their bright, beaming faces puts warmth in my heart.
Nothing sets my soul afire and brings me peace quite like knowing that the holiday season has arrived. As a little girl this magical time brought my family together and allowed me to feel safe and secure.”
Read more on Eating Disorder Hope.
I am honored to share this kid’s art diorama by fellow teammate and recovery warrior, Susana Fernandez. Susana uses her artistic talents every day in her personal life and in her profession as a teacher. She inspires countless young people to hone their energy into pieces that can change the world for the better, and Susana continues to motivate me, too! I had the pleasure of meeting her and her wonderful family last year at the NEDA walk, and I was touched by their passion for recovery and helping others heal as well. Susana believes that art is an incredible tool to bring about social change, and that is what she hopes to achieve with the LA Artist Initiative Team.
“Somewhere in our online travels, we met Nikki Dubose, who is currently writing, volunteering and advocating for this world to be a better place by promoting a healthy relationship with food and our bodies. We read her story, of once being a thriving actress and international model who walked away from her career so she could recover from an eating disorder. It got us thinking of just how many of you have already made this kind of choice, or are on the cusp of needing to do so.”
Read more on The Be Program.
A fabulous meal to serve for brunch or anytime you like, this french toast is taken to a whole ‘nother level with the use of pure eggnog! Nothin’ says the holidays quite like the taste of eggnog, and this recipe is sure to be a hit with everyone.
I was introduced to this special french toast by Cynthia Tassell, from Camano Island, Washington, and she learned of it from a friend she went to school with. Isn’t it funny how life is? We never know how we will discover our greatest treasures sometimes, and I am grateful these sweet ladies shared this gem with me, so now I can pass it on to you!
You will need:
Large glass pan
1/2 cup of eggnog
Four slices of at least a day old, old-fashioned buttermilk bread or similar, thick bread
A couple of bananas, sliced any way you like ’em
Hazelnut Syrup, Sugar-Free
Pumpkin Pie Spice
Whip the eggs with the eggnog and pour into the glass pan. Soak the bread into the eggnog mixture. Slice your bananas, and prepare your powdered sugar in a bowl as you wish and set aside. Heat the griddle to a medium-high temperature and add your desired butter/oil/non-fat spray. Transfer the bread onto the griddle, and cook for a few minutes on each side, until all parts are golden brown. Be mindful to observe the bread during the cooking process so that it doesn’t burn. Once the bread is golden and finished, you are done! Place each slice onto a plate and add your desired toppings! I love mine with all of the fixins’! Remember to practice mindful eating. Be in the moment, eat at the table, and enjoy every bite calmly.
*Note: B.E.A.U.T.Y is meant to serve as a tool to release feelings and to build confidence in an otherwise damaged society. Our perception of beauty today has been lost and many times we feel ugly inside, instead of the perfectly created souls we are. The content submitted is raw and unedited, as every individual has the right to express their perceptions that have led them to where they are today. The sole intended purpose of B.E.A.U.T.Y and all content therein is to bring healing and the message that full recovery from all eating disorders, mental health issues, abuse, and negative situations is possible.
When we hear the word “self-image,” what comes to mind? The mental pictures we form about our identities may be a reflection of the positive and negative experiences we have encountered over a lifetime. Sometimes the manners by which we perceive ourselves is consistent, while other times we are capable of changing our mirror formations radically in the blink of an eye. Whatever the case may be, our self-image is critical in how we interact with ourselves and the world around us. Our image is a mere representation of what we show to outsiders; are we giving a correct portrayl of who we are to those around us? Are we honest in our spirits first, and letting that flow to our physical image? So often in life we wear many masks to various associations and crowds of people; we desire our image to be one thing to one group, and another thing to another. The problem with this is that we can never be anyone but our true selves, and if we don’t know who we really are, we will never live fulfilled. We musn’t live life for others because truly no one is going to be approving of us all of the time. We must connect with a self-image that is peaceful and content at our core, and be satisfied with the image that is projected for all of the universe to see.
How and What I feel about Image
by Jacaila, age 13
Image to me is a bunch of crap society makes up to make us feel bad. I mean I didn’t receive proper care when I was five years old! Don’t get me wrong, I care about image too. Whenever I think I look good, somebody always has to tell me I look horrible. It brings my self esteem to an all time low. I’ve always tried to figure out how girls can be “ana” or “mia.” I tried to be like that once but food is just too good! When I say, “I tried,” I meant it. I purged and starved myself, tried diet pills without eating anything after words. In fifth grade things were changing for me, just because of someone’s opinion of me. The boy called my “ugly.” It took me awhile but in my mind I thought he was right. Every time I looked in the mirror, all I saw was ugliness. My whole attitude changed, grades slipped and relationships slowly disappeared. In sixth grade, self-harm played its way into my life. I couldn’t stop, therapy wasn’t helping at all and life wasn’t getting better. So I feel that self esteem, image and what we think about it is restricting us from thinking better about ourselves. In conclusion, image is just society’s way of keeping us down.
*Jacaila is now fourteen years old, and has a more positive view of herself through working recovery.
Carve out ten minutes in your day with no distractions, and breathe in deeply and calmly. How do you feel?
My heart caught on fire
with a glimpse of heaven
wounds of sins healed…
touching my soul.
I asked Jesus for forgiveness,
purple of the summer night
moon bounced off the silver sea.
Heaven embraces the horizon
feeling the winds of passion
I heard Jesus whisper…
So my brother Anthony is probably going to be so embarrassed when he reads this, but I just have to share this story with you all!
When Anthony was around three years old he was outside crawling and playing near the vegetable gardens that our mom had planted. Mom had taken the clothes down from outside and had gone upstairs for what seemed to be only a few minutes. Anthony and I were outside by ourselves and somehow during that short time of mom’s absence, Anthony picked over sixty green tomatoes from mom’s vegetable garden! Our mom came back from inside the house and was livid needless to say, however she made the best of the situation and our family ate fried green tomatoes in every shape and form possible for about two weeks straight.
(Note: A little oil goes a long way)
Crispy Hazelnut Tomatoes
You will need:
2 Heirloom Tomatoes
1 cup Hazelnut Meal
1/4 teaspoon black pepper (add more if you like)
3 tablespoons coconut oil ( a little goes a LONG WAY!)
Heat an iron pan with the coconut oil, but be careful not to burn. Slice the tomatoes thick.
Take each piece of tomato and dip it into the egg first, then dip into the hazelnut meal with the pepper mixed together before dropping it into the pan delicately. Cook only once on each side until golden brown.
You’re done, but not before you sit down and enjoy each bite slowly and mindfully!