“Stop crying. Don’t feel. Man up.”

When you picture “a man,” what do you see? Are they smoking a luxury cigar in a three-piece suit? Do they have a freshly sharpened axe and a tattered flannel? Maybe, just maybe, life has taught you to think less superficial than that. Damion B. describes being a man as someone who stands up for what they believe in and fights for those that they love. Someone whose word is their bond. Coming to this realization wasn’t easy for him. You see, Damion grew up with a father who was in and out of prison. In other words, Damion grew up without a father. With no male role model, how did he become such an amazing example of what a man in recovery should be?

Damion grew up in Los Angeles, describing himself as “West LA’s Favorite Son.” Being raised by a single mother was difficult, but early on in his life, his mom met a woman who would become her partner. Having a lesbian mom was the catalyst for a lot of bullying. Damion was constantly fighting. Something that proves what an upstanding person he has always been is that only six years ago did he tell his mother that the reason he would come home with bruises was because he was defending her. 

The beach was his home and the skatepark was his life. Once he turned fourteen, he found his love of skating which ollied into drinking, kickflipped into drinking, and grinded into graffiti. His friends became his family and they were up to no good. They were living free, spray painting any surface they could find, and getting wasted while doing it. Even when bullets would fly past his head when he sprayed the wrong spot, he still knew that these were the “fun times.” That feeling of worthlessness and being uncomfortable in his own skin would dissipate when he was smoking or drinking. That first puff was an ah-ha moment. “Most of my friends had dads or could note memories they had with their dads. That wasn’t the case for me.”

By seventeen, his life started to get out of control. Damion had a job at Ralph’s Supermarket and realized that he could steal bottles of liquor from the store on his way out the door. So, naturally, he stole five a day. He would take all his booze to school. “Before I knew it, my locker was a liquor cabinet.” Every day, by lunchtime, he was hammered. One time he even blacked out and got into a fight with a parked car—the car won. “That night at a hardcore show, they pulled me onstage because I was the drunkest person there. I was seventeen. I blacked out. It was like I saw in the movies. I’ve arrived.” His drinking would eventually flunk him out of high school.

Through this, he still skated and eventually was even sponsored by a local skate shop. The owners of the shop took him under their wing, becoming role models for Damion in the process. Even this was not enough to push Damion onto the right path. He moved in with his uncle in Inglewood and his mischief only got worse. Damion’s sex and love addiction started to rear its head. The fear of being left, instilled by his childhood trauma, caused him to “love bomb” every girl who gave him a wink and a smile. 

Knowing he had to get his life together, Damion went to vocational school, got his diploma, and started working as a carpenter. It seemed like things were going well, but unfortunately, his disease reared its head. “Of course, I had to celebrate my accomplishments…and that celebration lasted weeks—months.” That celebration was cut short when meth entered the picture. The fun party drug days were done. Before Damion knew it, the tide came in, the couch surfing wave flattened, and he was living in a tent on the streets. “West LA’s Favorite Son.

Once he was in jail for selling twenty dollars worth of meth to a confidential informant on The Venice Boardwalk, he knew that he needed to make a major change or he would end up just like his dad. While putting the fear of God into him, the judge spared him more jail time and instead sentenced him to probation and drug treatment. This time, Damion did everything he thought he needed to. He got a sponsor, a man who ended up being someone who used to smoke crack with his dad. 

In his first year of sobriety, Damion’s love addiction and tendencies with women reared its ugly head. He met a girl and began an on-again-off-again relationship. Even with the nuclear slug of the relationship’s toxicity gliding down his throat, he still managed to stay sober. A great job working for a cannabis company run by sober friends of his opened up. This feels akin to a vegan working at a steakhouse, but that is neither here nor there. To compensate for the constant triggers around him, he would go to five meetings a week. However, this commitment to the program did not last. 

Around his third year of sobriety, his on-again-off-again was on-again and she convinced him to stop going to meetings, see his friends, or go to the gym. Damion was stuck—drinking the slug once more. Luckily he managed to break away from her, but this just led him into the arms of his sex addiction. At this point, his wallet was fat, his pockets were large, and he was using his wealth to try to buy the love of everyone he knew. He was living a debaucherous lifestyle and living it to the fullest. “You would have thought I was getting loaded.” The program of recovery he once held so dear had disappeared in his taillights. “I was sponsoring myself.”  I believe it was Lincoln who said, “A man who sponsors himself has a fool for a sponsee.” In 2021, Damion lost three friends in the same month…one of which was a father figure to him. With no tools left, this proved to be too much for him to take. After six years of sobriety, he drank. One court case, one crashed car, and a bouquet of regrets later he found himself at the doors of Beit T’Shuvah.

“You can feel the love when you walk in the door. It may seem a little strange at first because the love is oozing and coming out of everywhere.” Damion’s first stay here (foreshadowing) was for five months. Throughout that time, he committed to the program as much as he thought he needed to…but there was still a lot he was keeping buried inside. After trying to appease the wrong people and not following his treatment team, he left BTS prematurely. Once he was on the outside, he couldn’t help but hide and lie and turn into someone he knew he didn’t want to be. Tragically, during this time, he almost lost his life three separate times…one of which was on purpose. “God sent me back. Return to sender.”

When all hope seemed lost, he called his former Beit T’Shuvah counselor Jamie and then Jen in admissions and before long he was back in the arms of the community who loves him. Back home. Back where he can find a role model to look up to behind every corner…and that is exactly what he did. This time could not be more different than the last time he was here. Damion is journaling—getting deep into his trauma. Opening up in groups and crying in front of his peers isn’t something that rips his masculinity away, but instead instills it. The man he has become in just the last one hundred days is a leap from who he was when he first returned here. Just simply having the strength to open up to do this spotlight shows that. He is a pillar of hope and resilience in our community. If you are ever confused, lost, or nervous, let him be your example. If you need a shoulder to cry on or a smile to brighten your day, he is right there to help you. If you need a man in recovery to look up to, look up to Damion. 

Spotlight on Damion B. by Jesse Solomon

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