David Carlson, a New York City native, hoped to be on his way to a life in movies and television, but ended up at the Turning Point Center in Rutland instead.
Carlson, a certified recovery coach who specializes in medication-assisted treatment, is happy to be in the Green Mountain State helping addicts with their recovery.
“Being a recovery coach, it was everything I loved about counseling without having to do the case notes. When I was in the detox unit (in New York), I clearly spent 85 percent of my time doing paperwork. … People began to follow the paperwork trail rather than the paperwork trail following the people, and it was just sort of an inverse, perverted relationship with what you’re trying to accomplish,” he said last Tuesday.
Carlson said he was born and raised in New York City. His family moved to New Jersey, but he returned to the city to go to film school at New York University.
“I moved to the East Village in ‘77, I guess, and there began the beginnings of my drug problems,” he said.
After more than 30 years, Carlson began to recover from his addiction. He has now been sober 14 years.
In his career, Carlson spent about 20 years in film and video production and about 10 to 12 years in alternative medicine before deciding he wanted to be in substance-abuse treatment, which he hopes will be his final career.
According to Carlson, following that career in New York required more schooling and what he believed was more time spent on paperwork than helping people in recovery. Carlson decided it was time to leave New York.
“I wanted good motorcycling, and I wanted a Second Amendment-friendly state, and Vermont was both,” he said.
One morning, Carlson heard Tracie Hauck, director of the local Turning Point Center, being interviewed on the radio about the center and its base of volunteers.
“I thought, ‘Wow, I’ve been driving up and down State Street noticing this place.’ My radar was going off. I knew what was going on, so I polished up a résumé and walked in, and offered to volunteer,” he said.
Hauck joked that Carlson worked at Turning Point because he heard her on the radio, but quickly added the qualities she noticed that help him reach people who want to recover from addiction.
“He shares the passion of meeting people where they’re at and helping them figure out their recovery,” Hauck said.
Carlson began volunteering in December. By January, he had completed the training to offer peer-recovery coaching.
“I’m much happier here than I ever was in the city,” he said.
Carlson described their work with clients at Turning Point as peer support rather than clinical.
“In peer support, you’re not burdened by medical insurance, billing codes, things like that. It’s much looser while still being therapeutic,” he said.
He said his work includes working with other addicts to help them in their recovery and offering assistance to those who are in medication-assisted programs, so he can help them navigate the paperwork and start treatment.
Peer-based recovery allows people to talk to each other about anything. Carlson said that sometimes allows people in recovery to figure out how to get themselves out of a difficult situation.
“You’re helping them to find the solution that’s right for them and to consider the options,” he said.
Carlson said people in recovery need to do more than stop using drugs and alcohol.
“You still have the wreckage of your life to fix. That’s really the gist of recovery. It’s not just putting your substance issues behind you, but using it as a springboard to become the best person you could be now that you’re free of those constraints,” he said.