CORAL SPRINGS, FL – No matter what, David Levin starts every morning with a self-help support group meeting to fight off any temptations to use drugs and alcohol.
“It’s my daily medicine,” he said.
For the Coral Springs father of two young girls, his struggles with sobriety have taken him to the lowest moments of his life.
But his hardships have also opened a new – and fulfilling – path in life that has helped him save many others from the destruction of addiction.
Because of his own bouts with addiction, he “wanted to be a counselor, a therapist and healer to others,” he said. “They trust me. I can empathize with them. I give them hope and inspiration.”
Earlier this year, the sensitive and soft-spoken 47-year-old social worker and mental health/substance abuse counselor became the CEO of Legacy Healing Center, a substance abuse center in Margate and Pompano Beach.
In reaching the pinnacle of his career, Levin has also stepped into a new battle: this one with many residents of the spacious Hills community in Coral Springs where Legacy Healing operates two residential houses for its clients and plans to open two more in the coming months.
Last month, a group of residents told Coral Springs elected leaders that they don’t want to have that many houses for those in recovery in their neighborhood out of concern it would diminish their property values and change the look and feel of the entire community.
Many of those residents offered stinging criticism of the way Legacy Healing has gone about buying up the houses.
Some of those shots were aimed at Levin.
Levin dismissed the attacks. He said in the nation’s current climate of “fear-mongering” and “race discrimination,” it was just a matter of time before his center’s houses were targeted.
“The reality is, they are scared because of the stigma of addiction,” he said.
He added: “It’s absurd to me that we’re having this discussion. We’ve been exemplary neighbors. We want to lift the value of the community.”
One of the reasons Legacy Healing chose the Hills neighborhood, he said, was to give their clients in recovery a chance to live in larger houses with modern comforts in a quiet and stable community.
He reiterated what his company representatives have already told some neighbors and stated publicly: the clients aren’t getting into trouble in the houses and the values of their properties, as well as others nearby, aren’t going to go down.
As a company, Legacy Healing is planning to get more involved in improving Coral Springs, including having staff volunteer at schools, clean parks, and offer assistance to police and fire departments, he said.
After the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School tragedy, Levin said he provided counseling services to about half-dozen students and staff.
Despite the issues in Coral Springs, he said he is focused on his daily work of helping people in recovery, which has gotten even harder through the opioid epidemic in recent years.
Born in Pittsburgh and raised in cities across Broward County, Levin has long known he would be working in drug treatment or the mental health field.
“I always wanted to help people,” he said. “It’s been in my DNA my whole life.”
He started experimenting with drugs and alcohol in middle school and became addicted when he was a teenager and young adult.
“I was a different person back then. My brain got hijacked,” Levin said.
After run-ins with police for mostly misdemeanor offenses, a judge ordered him to get help in a treatment center in 1999.
“This was my turning point,” he said.
Out of treatment, he got a job at a restaurant, went to Broward College, and started seeing a future for himself. He went on to get a bachelor’s degree from Florida Atlantic University and a master’s degree from Barry University.
With his education, research, and training, Levin took jobs at treatment centers and started his own center with other partners. Then, at a birthday party, he met the future founders of Legacy Healing and soon went to work with them.
He said he doesn’t lose sight of his own disease of addiction. He knows how quickly life challenges can trigger a relapse and undo his successes.
His work – as well as those morning meetings – are what keep him grounded, he said.
“Everything I do is to help people I serve. It’s always to help the patients,” he said.
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