Social Impact Heroes: Why & How Brandon Novak of Addiction Recovery Speaker Is Helping To Change…

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Social Impact Heroes: Why & How Brandon Novak of Addiction Recovery Speaker Is Helping To Change Our World

I know it sounds cliché, but being positive and putting a smile on someone’s face can change the world. Laughter is one of the most underrated qualities that a human can possess, and we need more of it.I know it sounds cliché, but being positive and putting a smile on someone’s face can change the world. Laughter is one of the most underrated qualities that a human can possess, and we need more of it.

As part of our series about stars who are making an important social impact, I had the pleasure of interviewing Brandon Novak.

In a nutshell, Brandon was a professional skateboarder discovered by Tony Hawk. He rose to fame on the hit MTV show Viva la Bam and the Jackass movies, got hooked on heroin, and wrote the addiction memoir Dreamseller, which became a bestseller on Amazon.

Brandon gives back by traveling around the globe sharing his addiction recovery story. After battling a 20-year heroin addiction, he celebrates seven years clean today. He relates to millions of people across the country — 1 in 4 to be exact — who are directly affected by addiction in their family.

Thank you so much for joining us on this interview series. Can you share the backstory that led you to this career path?

As a young kid, I dreamt of becoming a professional skateboarder, and I realized my dreams as a teen. But sadly, I was addicted to drugs and alcohol, which affected my skating and my ability to continue touring with other skating legends. I did have some success in television shows and films, but it was short-lived due to my heroin addiction.

After thirteen inpatient treatment centers, I got sober by the grace of G-d, and it finally clicked. I wanted to get better and do better. I eventually became an interventionist and global recovery speaker, helping families and communities from all walks of life. My story led me on this career path, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that occurred during the course of your career? What was the lesson or takeaway you took out of that story?

The funniest story from my career as a recovery speaker is when I was the DEA’s keynote speaker in my hometown of Baltimore, Maryland. I was one of the people selected to take a picture with former First Lady Melania Trump. I didn’t know that there were strict rules in which I couldn’t embrace her with a hug. The next thing I knew, four secret service agents came over and removed my arm from around her during the picture. She was very sweet, and while it was an innocent embrace, I now know what not to do during photos around secret service.

How would you advise a young person who wants to emulate your success?

Never fear failure. Failure is ultimately what gives birth to success. I look at “no” as merely a speedbump to success. Embrace all experiences. Everything is a learning curve. There is no wrong way to go about something by attempting a new project, a new task, a new method. The reason I’m successful today is because I failed so miserably for many years.

Is there a person that made a profound impact on your life? Can you share a story?

My mother, Pat Novak. No questions asked. She taught me what honesty, authenticity, and transparency look like. She taught me the values in life that get overlooked today — being loving, compassionate, sympathetic and empathic toward the next man or woman. Those are the important characteristics to have as a human being, and she taught me that.

When I was a kid, we lived in the county. My mom was a single mother raising a household of three children. She worked from 4am until 6pm. During middle school, every day when I got home, I went to a skate shop and would skate on their ramps. Some days my grandmother would take me. When she couldn’t, my mother put an ad in the paper to find someone who could. She did everything she could to find a way to get me to the skatepark so I could do what I love. Skateboarding raised me.

How are you using your success to bring goodness to the world? Can you share the meaningful or exciting causes you’re working on right now?

Right now, I am an addiction recovery speaker traveling the world. I have been blessed with the talent to connect to many addicts, families, professionals, and communities all over the world. I want to instill hope. I meet people where they are, without any expectations of where they should be heading or going.

I have battled a 20-year heroin addiction and am now celebrating seven years of sobriety. Through my story, I have helped others come forward for help. I aspire to continue being a light for those still stuck in that dark, drab tunnel.

Can you share a story about why you chose to take up this particular cause?

Upon completing treatment, I entered a men’s sober living house, where I resided for one year. I was taught how to reintegrate into everyday life as a productive member of society. I vowed to myself that one day when I was financially stable, I was going to start my own recovery residence.

Today, I am a proud owner of four sober living houses called Novak’s House, and we are growing. Through my work as a recovery speaker, I was able to save up my money and start this endeavor. I also vowed to never let price be a deterrent for anyone needing housing and a chance to rebuild their lives. I have recently launched my first Novak’s house Annual Fundraising Event, where proceeds are given to young men for housing scholarships.

Can you share a story about a person who was impacted by your cause?

During active addiction, my sister told me that she would never speak to me as long as she lived. This was a result of my addiction. After one year of recovery, my sister reached out to me to see how I could help her son. My nephew found himself struggling with the disease of addiction. I was able to fly him to treatment, and he successfully completed the program. Today, he has two years sober.

What can individuals, society, or the government do to support you in this effort?

I believe we need to create as many as resources as humanly possible. We need to meet addicts and alcoholics where they are, without expectations or preconceived beliefs of what their future should look like. We cannot arrest our way out of the problem. Long-term rehabilitation produces the best outcomes for maintaining long-term sobriety. We need residential housing and clinical support, but often, insurance doesn’t cover this level of care. We need more access and resources for our communities.

What are some things you wish someone told you when you first started?

I wish people told me that others will make you responsible for their relapse, recovery, significant other’s death, and other things out of your control. There’s always another side to it. You can’t make everyone happy.

You’re a person of enormous influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the greatest amount of good to the highest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

I know it sounds cliché, but being positive and putting a smile on someone’s face can change the world. Laughter is one of the most underrated qualities that a human can possess, and we need more of it.

Can you please give us your favorite life lesson quote? And can you explain how it was relevant in your life?

I was taught in treatment by a very intelligent therapist that if I change my perception, I can change my world. Prior to him explaining that to me, I was always looking at myself as the victim. ‘Why me? Why is this happening to me?’ Once he told me this, I looked at my behaviors that created that outcome and started to take ownership of and accountability for my actions.

We are blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.

If there is someone who is deceased, it would be Mother Teresa, because she is like my mother on steroids. She is someone who can bring out the best version in everyone and is the epitome of positivity, healing and selfless love.

In terms of people alive today, that would be Robert Downey, Jr. and Russell Brand. They are two very talented film stars who are both in recovery and have equally amazing stories to tell.

How can we contact and follow you on social media??

Please contact my incredible manager and publicist Allison Seriani Rush for all speaking and PR inquiries at

Find me on IG at @Brandon__Novak. Two underscores between the names.

Thank you so much for these amazing insights. This was so inspiring, and we wish you continued success!

Social Impact Heroes: Why & How Brandon Novak of Addiction Recovery Speaker Is Helping To Change… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.