Voices of Recovery

Meet Daniel Schwartz

There are more than 23 million Americans from all walks of life who have found recovery. We would like to celebrate that fact by introducing, highlighting and celebrating the achievements of people in the recovery community while also breaking down the negative stereotypes and stigmas built around addiction and recovery.

How old are you? I am 20 years old.

Where do you live? I am originally from Queensbury, New York, but have since relocated to Washington, D.C., to attend college.

Who are you, and what do you do? I am a college student, behavioral health advocate, and current intern at the Association of Recovery in Higher Education and Altarum Institute. I previously interned at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and have served in numerous organizations and councils. I am extremely passionate about mental and behavioral health issues.

What is your relationship to addiction and recovery? My relationship to addiction and recovery is very complex: My grandfather is in long-term recovery from an alcohol use disorder, my grandmother has experienced severe depression throughout her life and my mom lives with bipolar disorder. I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder when I was 5 years old and major depressive disorder when I was 13 years old. Most recently, I was diagnosed with binge eating disorder. Although I have been treated for my mental illness since a very young age, I consider the start to my recovery being around the age of 16 — the time at which I began to prioritize my health and well-being above all else.

Where do you go to school, what are you studying and when do you expect to graduate? I am a college student at the George Washington University, where I study public health. I am entering my junior year in the fall, and I expect to graduate in the spring of 2019.

What is on your bookshelf? I just moved and am still getting organized, but here are some of the highlights: Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell; Naked Economics: Undressing the Dismal Science by Charles Wheelan; and Life of Pi by Yann Martel.

What is a superpower you’d like to have? If I could have any superpower, I would have the ability to morph into whatever being I choose.

This is my way of justifying not choosing more typical superpowers. If I wanted to fly, I could change into a bird, and if I wanted to time travel, I could morph into a superhero who could time travel. This way, I can have all the superpowers!

What’s something most people don’t know about you? I spend about 75 percent of my day reading. I am constantly on my smartphone looking through various news aggregator apps as well as online trying to learn more about random topics. Also, I love singing and am teaching myself how to play the piano. My close friends are very aware of this because I am always singing!

What is on your bucket list? Without a doubt, the No. 1 thing on my bucket list is to explore the world. Although this seems problematic for a bucket list — it is almost impossible to be able to travel the entire world during my lifetime — the vague response is perfect for me for various reasons: I do not want each location to be merely an item on a checklist to cross off; I do not want to prioritize certain opportunities over others; and above all, I know that even if I spent the rest of my life traveling everywhere in the world, it still would not have been enough time to adequately explore everything.

What is one thing you are glad to have done but wouldn’t do it again? About a year ago, I had mouth surgery, and I opted to stay awake during the entire procedure. Although it was certainly an interesting experience, I do not think that I would ever choose to do it again.

My anxiety came on full force once I didn’t have complete control over my body, especially because all I could think about was the episode where Derek Shepherd died on Grey’s Anatomy!

What would you do if you won the lottery?

I have a very simple answer: Revise my financial plan, and invest. I am already very happy with the way I live my life, so I wouldn’t want to change much except to ensure financial security.

What item in your closet do you wear the most? It is very hard for me to find comfortable shoes to wear, so I wear the same pair about four to five days per week.

What actor would play you in a movie? I think that Daniel Radcliffe would do a good job. The first time I got asked this question, I was probably about 7 years old, and he was the only actor I could think of at the time who shared the same first name as me. Although my criteria for answering this question has certainly evolved, my answer has remained the same.

Who is your ultimate dinner date? My answer may have become a bit overused by now, but I have no doubt that I would love to have dinner with Malala Yousafzai. She is one of my biggest inspirations, as a youth who defied convention by advocating for what she thought was just despite many obstacles. I am particularly enamored by people who do not let age prevent them from fighting for their cause.

What brings you the greatest joy? Any opportunity I get to spend time with loved ones. We could be doing the simplest thing, but just being around my family and friends lifts my spirits.

What is the best gift you’ve ever received? My parents got me a dog for my 10th birthday, and I don’t think I have ever been so filled with joy in a single moment. I am a huge dog-lover, so this is an obvious choice.

What are you proudest of? I am proudest of how far I have come in life while living with mental illness. For a large amount of time, I truly doubted if I could become successful by my own standards despite all my challenges. That entire way of thinking may have been the biggest mistake I have ever made because anyone can be successful while living with mental illness.

What are the most important lessons you’ve learned in life? You can come up with a million reasons in the world of why to not love yourself, but none of them matter. You are who you are, and nothing will change that. So why not accept yourself and embrace all your greatness?

What is your favorite quote? “Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or the darkness of destructive selfishness. This is the judgment. Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’” —Martin Luther King Jr.

What is the best advice you’ve been given? You are in control of your own identity. It is not your responsibility to meet the expectations that others have placed upon you.

What is one thing you wish you knew when you were younger? When I was younger, I had absolutely no faith that things would work out on their own. Every time something felt out of my control — which was a very frequent occurrence — I would completely panic and assume the worst possible thing would happen. Well, I was wrong. I have found that things have a way of working themselves out when you try your best to be a good person.

What does your future hold? I do not have an exact answer. My hope is to continue to feel happy and fulfilled while surrounded by my loving family and friends. Beyond that, I want to keep my options open. As a general direction, I would like to go into the mental health field in some capacity, probably related to public policy and potentially global mental health.


Voices of Recovery captures the trials, tribulations and, most importantly, the joys of being in recovery. If you or someone you know is interested in being featured, please email kelseydallen@gmail.com.

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