One seed can start a garden.
One smile can lift a spirit.
One candle can light a room.
One conversation can start a friendship.
One person can make all the difference…
To the men and women at The Recovery Place, that person might just be David Levin. This poem, sent to David by a former client thanking him for another year clean, is one of the reasons he is so passionate about his work. Although he has an album full of thank-you letters and cards from past clients that he cherishes, he keeps this one close by at all times.
“This work is my legacy,” he explains. “Hearing from clients who have gone on to get married, finish school, have families and pursue careers – and receiving thanks for making a difference in their lives – inspires me to keep growing both personally and professionally.”
From Addict to Healer
And grow he has. Twenty years ago, David was battling his own addiction. He went to treatment twice, moved into a sober living house, relapsed after almost two years sober, and then finally committed to his recovery in 2001. During an internship at a therapeutic community run by the Department of Corrections, David noticed that on any given day, roughly 95 percent of the cases that went before the judge were in some way related to drug or alcohol abuse.
“It was then that I realized addiction is such a tremendous social problem, and committed myself to fighting it,” he explains.
David went on to earn a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in social work and became certified as both a mental health professional and an addictions professional. Working in mental health and addiction was a natural fit for David.
“As far back as I can remember, this is what I wanted to do,” he says.
The son of a psychologist, David was a peer counselor in high school, where he vividly remembers helping a troubled 11th-grader going through a period of crisis. He was in a gang and on the verge of being kicked out of his home and his school. David spent a couple days with him, listening to his experiences and relating to his struggles. Years later, when he ran into this young man at a local community college, he approached David and said, “I owe all of this to you.” The experience was incredibly powerful for David, who was battling his own inner demons at the time.
Tireless and Tenacious
David’s first job out of graduate school was as a therapist in an intensive outpatient program. He stayed there for six years before accepting a position in the residential program at The Recovery Place. Thanks to his strong work ethic and rapport with clients, David was transferred to lead clinician in the partial hospitalization program, and then to his current position as assistant clinical director where he works both behind the scenes and directly with a small caseload of clients to make The Recovery Place a highly effective treatment program.
“The staff at The Recovery Place is dedicated, compassionate and tireless when it comes to helping people heal from addiction,” he says. “We are willing to shed our blood, sweat and tears to teach people about their disease and get them on the path to recovery.”
Affectionately nicknamed “pit bull,” in part because he is tenacious about helping people and in part because of his physical resemblance to hip-hop artist Pitbull, David is an empathetic clinician who draws from his years of personal and professional experience in addiction recovery to help clients make positive changes in their lives.
“When I first started in the addiction field, I tried to use my own will to urge people into recovery,” David says. “Over time, I’ve learned to meet clients where they’re at, introducing them to the possibilities of recovery and using motivational interviewing to help guide them toward making healthier decisions.”
David’s approach is eclectic and versatile based on the needs of his clients. He draws from Gestalt therapy, psychodrama, cognitive-behavioral therapy, journaling, meditation, dialectical behavior therapy and other approaches to help clients explore their emotions in a safe environment. He believes passionately in treating every individual with dignity and respect.
A Continuing Evolution
Now in recovery for 12 years, David is married and has a 3-year-old daughter who is his spitting image. He is an avid sports fan (although he considers himself a Floridian, he maintains his loyalties to Pittsburgh’s teams) and still makes time to work his own recovery program, which includes meetings and regular workouts.
“From my own recovery I have learned the importance of being teachable,” David says. “None of us has all the answers and we all need help now and then.”