When Eve Goldberg tragically lost her son Isaac to drug addiction in 2014, she almost immediately found herself looking for a tangible way to honor him. He had completed a treatment program and then lived in sober housing after that. He was living at home with his family, still struggling to find his footing with sobriety when he passed away. Determined to make meaning out of his life, Goldberg refused to believe that he died for no reason. Not long after observing a traditional Jewish shiva for a week, she was struck with an idea.
What started as a basketball tournament on his birthday (Isaac was an avid player), is now the non-profit BIGVISION (the “IGV” is always bold in honor of her son’s initials, Isaac Goldberg Volkma), an organization dedicated to creating a solid, reliable, fun and—most importantly—drug-free community for young people in recovery in New York City. Goldberg’s vision and ability to bring it to life is why she’s our latest AfterParty Hero.
From Mourning to a Mission
When I spoke to Goldberg recently, I immediately asked how she was able to pull herself so quickly out of severe grief and into a concrete plan for keeping his memory alive. “I think some people need to take action and you don’t know until something like this happens in your life, ” she responded. “You have no idea who you’re going to be, the one who stays under the covers for a year or the one who says, ‘I gotta do something.'”
BIGVISION happens to be particularly of need in its location (New York City isn’t exactly a mecca of sobriety). When Isaac left treatment and went to a sober living, his mother says he was promised he’d be introduced to other sober young people in New York, that he’d have a solid support system through 12-step programs and a substance-free home. That didn’t prove to be true. When I asked her if she thinks New York is an especially difficult place to stay clean, Goldberg speculated, “I think that anywhere is a difficult place to stay clean and sober when you’re a young adult, but in New York it’s very hard to have a community because it’s so separated by neighborhoods and people, staying in their own area. It’s very provincial; it’s a very busy place.” There’s a reason why they call it, “the city that never sleeps,” and that reason isn’t because everyone’s out drinking ginger ale all hours of the night.
In our culture, no matter your age, drinking and using sort of finds a way to permeate everything. As Goldberg points out, even so called “healthy” activities—like sports leagues or bowling—end up finding a way to weave in alcohol. She says, “It’s the go-to for people any age. You can’t avoid it— anywhere you go, any event. When Isaac used to play basketball, after they finished, they go get a beer. Even that, which is a healthy sport, there’s still [drinking]afterward, everything so much in our society revolves around alcohol.”
New Ways to Get “High”
That’s why BIGVision is determined to facilitate fun, social activities that don’t require a six-pack (of beer—your sculpted abs are most certainly welcome). They have two to three events a month and aren’t afraid to think outside of the box. They recently took a crew to a trapeze school on the Westside Highway. Leaps were made and fears were conquered. Goldberg happily recalled the excursion: “We had 20 people show up. They loved it. It was such a high for them. You’re on top of the city; it’s quiet you don’t hear traffic. There were people that had such fear. One girl—it took her so long to get up ladder; everyone was encouraging her and cheering on. She was terrified—literally frozen—she did it twice.”
Their ultimate goal is to create a space in the vein of a community center or clubhouse and plan for it to be open all the time. Games, a juice bar, a coffee bar, ping pong and billiards are all part of BIGVision’s big picture—just a cool, sober environment that’s free of any triggers. They want to foster a community where people will keep coming back, and hopefully bring their friends. They’ve been consulting with recovery professionals from outpatient treatment centers in the area, discussing how they can make their center the hub for anybody who wants to find a sober activity in NYC.
Goldberg feels certain that BIGVision is a concept her son would be really proud of. She says, “He was this very loving, giving person; that’s just who he was. He was always helping other people, always out there trying to help his friends. I’m kind of continuing with his mission.”
Photo courtesy of BIGVISION; used with permission.