By Lauren Bens
Following the tragic death of her son Isaac to the opioid epidemic, Eve Goldberg had big dreams to keep his legacy alive while helping other young people struggling with addiction, and hence, BIGVISION was born.
Eve Goldberg, a native New Yorker who spent most of her life on the Upper West Side and who now resides in Tribeca, thought things such as accidental drug overdoses happened to other people. That was until her own son began experimenting with drugs in high school, a habit which escalated during his freshman year in college. Isaac was just 23 years old when he died of an accidental drug overdose almost seven years ago. Eve, who has worked in her family-owned jewelry business for 35 years, William Goldberg Diamonds, which was started by her father over 50 years ago, is now as devoted to helping other young adults overcome addiction as she is to her diamond business.
“Big Vision came out of a very tragic story,” explains Eve. “I never dreamt I would be doing something like this. Isaac was a beautiful human being. When he passed away, I knew I had to do something. There are different types of people. Some people can’t function or get out of bed when something like this happens. While I was sitting shiva, I said to myself, I’m going to do something to make meaning out of his life. Friends and family were asking what they could do to help, so I took out a big yellow pad and wrote down the names of people. It took me a year, but I eventually called a meeting of about 50 people who had gathered in my apartment, and I said this is what we’re doing, we have our big idea.”
That big idea was to help young adults like Isaac live sober lives, something that proved to be a major struggle for him. The most heartbreaking and misunderstood aspect of addiction is that someone can get treatment and seem like they are readjusting back to normal life, only to have a relapse when least expected. “Isaac came out of a sober living facility in New York City and had moved into our apartment. He got a job working as an assistant basketball coach at the United Nations School which he really enjoyed. It took me years to realize that I had done all I could for him. I couldn’t control the outcome. I finally recognized that this is a disease that has no magic cure. Everybody’s brain is wired differently and there are different paths to recovery, it’s a lifelong process. I had always thought that if you have an addiction problem you come out of rehab and you’re fixed, but in reality, that’s when the work begins. That’s when you have to figure out how to live a life. It’s about creating a new lifestyle where you can find your passions and still have fun like before, but with a clear head. You can’t just go back to hanging out with your old friends and going to the same places and doing the same things as before.”
Eve believes people suffering from addiction need to find a place to connect with others going through what they are going through, and that is exactly what Big Vision has created – a community. According to Eve, talking about addiction has less of a stigma around it than in previous years, but it still exists. “There wasn’t much conversation about it back then” explains Eve. Celebrities weren’t talking about going to rehab. It’s starting to become more accepted and understood. Isaac felt horrible about it, he felt embarrassed. There are more organizations out there than ever before, and even some sober bars and events are starting to pop up. It’s super helpful to be around other people who understand. There’s even a movement called sober curious. We mask our feeling s because life is hard, so it’s all about learning to face your feelings and your life.”
While her son seemed like he was doing great on the outside – he had a psychiatrist and life coach who had both commented on his incredible improvement just the day before he overdosed – he was still struggling internally. Even Isaac’s life coach felt such a loss over what had happened that she questioned what she had done wrong. Eve came to the realization that her son’s brain had been hijacked. It wasn’t him speaking any longer. Her goal now is to help keep this from happening to any other parent. “We’re helping to save lives because we have people who come and still relapse, but they come back to us afterwards because they feel comfortable coming and saying I relapsed, but I want to come back. Having them come and reach out to us means everything.”
In order to keep everyone’s minds and bodies active, Big Vision typically offers everything from trapeze school to mini golf, ice skating, workouts, yoga, spin class, go karting, knitting and more. “We have a support group called Visionaries which meets twice a month. It’s an alternative support group for anybody who wants to join and they really just talk. Our executive director, a former clinician who is in recovery himself, leads the group. We regularly have trivia night and comedy night, plus health and wellness meditation classes. We try to provide as much content as we can as a way to give them a toolbox to sustain a sober lifestyle “It’s all about healthy eating and exercising and taking care of your body. Isaac especially loved workouts, it’s really a major key to sobriety.”
With the current pandemic, however, things are looking a bit different – but still beneficial – at Big Vision. While isolating at home is very difficult for all of us, especially those struggling with staying sober who are now experiencing high rates of relapse, Big Vision is still offering a sense of community, just virtually. Though it’s not the same as interacting in person, the sobering silver lining of virtual events and meetings is that people can join from all over the world. Their most recent attendees included visitors from California, Dallas, Oregon and beyond. They even host knitting classes twice a month. The virtual world has also allowed the organization to create more content on a more continuous basis.
“We’re giving people hope. So many of those struggling with addiction view living sober as a negative. Someone on our team, Suzanne has become the sober lifestyle poster child. She is constantly posting pictures of herself on social media out and about and having fun without substances. I like to think that if Big Vision had existed before, it might have helped Isaac. I know it helps people because they keep showing up. I see so many changes, especially with confidence levels, in so many of them the more they come. They just start to feel more comfortable in their own skin. A lot of them are so in touch with their feelings. These kids can really express themselves, they’re not like your average 20-year-old. Their stories can be pretty scary sometimes. A lot of them have been previously incarcerated. After coming to our events, they become so grateful. Most are like a part of the family now.”
When she originally began working on Big Vision with her husband , Neil, and daughter Beatrice, Eve had no idea if her idea would turn into anything. Today, Big Vision keeps getting bigger, and they now have a diverse board of directors and advisory board. Every year in June they host an auction and basketball tournament in honor of Isaac’s birthday. With one in three households affected by addiction, almost everyone knows someone who has or is struggling with this disease. “Big Vision has given me a different passion in my life. I wanted to find something where I could give back and find something meaningful for me, and all in my son’s name. Isaac was such a compassionate young man. He helped so many people and this would have made him so happy. He was so sweet and kind and loving and was always there for his friends. I’m so happy that we can continue with this mission. “It’s like having two full-time jobs but it keeps me busy and I have so much support. It was very difficult in the beginning for my daughter to get involved because she wished she had been able to help Isaac but now she is an integral part of the organization. This is really a sober lifestyle movement that keeps growing. We just hit the five-year mark and we’re at a good place. We have people coming to us now and we are forming partnerships with different sober organizations in order to save as many lives as we can. It’s important to educate others and to keep away from substances until the brain is developed. Schools are now offering programs for kids on campus and offering support and mental health checks. We have to keep these kids mentally healthy and on a good path from a young age.”
If you want to find out how you can help, head to the website. Whether it’s through donations or volunteering, it’s all about spreading the word about how important it is to embrace those struggling with addiction. Eve’s next big idea for Big Vision is to grow the organization to a national level, with community spaces around the country.