Meet Helaina Hovitz

Helaina Hovitz in Park

How old are you? 27

Where do you live? New York City

Who are you, and what do you do? I am an editor, journalist, author and co-founder of a startup news service called Headlines for the Hopeful. I write about recovery, health and food, but my main focus is positive and inspiring stories about the people and organizations working to make the world a better place by addressing social issues with unique solutions.

What is your relationship to addiction and recovery? Before I could get sober and recover from alcoholism, I had to recover from post-traumatic stress disorder, and that was a journey that sent me through a revolving door of different therapists and psychiatrists, several misdiagnoses and a bunch of medications that made me sick and didn’t work. It was pretty bad. Once I finally found the proper therapy, it took me another few years to get sober, to start to see that, with all of the progress I was making, my drinking and smoking weed was still holding me back and accounting for a lot of my crises. I tried to stop on my own, several times, but always went back. I wasn’t a daily drinker and wasn’t always a binge drinker. I drank like I thought any other college-aged girl in New York City was drinking: socially and a little sloppily. It took me a grand total of six months after I graduated college to reach out to my therapist to find out whether young people went to 12-step meetings and if she could recommend any. At 22, I was often the youngest 12-stepper in the room, but I’m glad I stuck it out and trusted my gut because, five years later, I am the kind of person I’d only ever fantasized about being: trusting, kind, calm. I cleared out so much junk, and when I did, there was all this space to feel happy.

If you went to school, where did you go to school, what did you study and when did you graduate? I went to The New School and studied journalism. I graduated in 2007.

What is on your bookshelf? Wasted by Marya Hornbacher, PTSD: A Love Story by Mac McClelland, Certain Girls by Jennifer Weiner, The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto and The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom, A New Earth and Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle, and a few beach reads that shall remain nameless

What is a superpower you’d like to have? The ability to fly in and rescue any dog in need of a loving home … and place it in a loving home.

What’s something most people don’t know about you? That’s a tough one because I tend to write about my most vulnerable moments and personal struggles (sorry, Mom). How’s this: My favorite time to snack is right before I go to sleep while watching TV with my fiancé. My grandma always used to get herself a piece of cake, cookies or ice cream at midnight, so I feel like she passed it along to me. I know that snacking before bed is the least-healthy thing I could possibly do, but you can’t help when the craving hits! Also, after five years without cigarettes, weed or alcohol, I think that I’m doing pretty well if the worst thing I do is nibble on some popcorn or chocolate before I go to sleep.

What is on your bucket list? Write a bucket list!

What is one thing you are glad to have done but wouldn’t do it again? Face my fear of roller coasters. Twice. Twice was enough.

What would you do if you won the lottery? First, I would make sure I could keep my startup going so we could tell tons more stories with tons more staff than we have now and help nonprofits, charities, foundations and individuals get the exposure they deserve! I would also buy a huge plot of land in every state and designate it as an animal rescue haven in place of standard shelters. Then, I would start a program that actually pays volunteers — is that an oxymoron — to visit old people in nursing homes across the country on a daily basis, not only to keep them company but also to ensure quality care. Lastly, I would buy my parents a house somewhere relaxing to thank them for all of the love and support they gave me when I was a hard-to-love teenager.

What item in your closet do you wear the most? During the summer, it’s a colorful dress that my mom bought me from the love of my life, my grandma, just days before grandma passed away. Once the dementia set in, my mom became the one in charge of her finances, and she knew grandma would have loved how fabulous that dress was because I was always her little princess.

What actor would play you in a movie? Natalie Portman. I’ve gotten that a couple of times.

Who is your ultimate dinner date? My fiancé, of course. But if he’s busy playing basketball, then John Stamos.

What brings you the greatest joy? I get chronic migraines, so any day that I feel healthy and pain-free and can get near the beach or run around with our rescue pup is a great day for me. This also sounds cheesy, but I get a lot of joy out of helping people. Anyone who doesn’t is not someone I want to know.

What is the best gift you’ve ever received? As far as materials gifts, I would have to say it’s a necklace that my ex-boyfriend gave me that was almost identical to one I’d admired in a movie we’d seen together. It wasn’t elaborate, but it was thoughtful, and he was the kind of guy who showed his love through gestures rather than expressing it physically or verbally. I almost didn’t get it, though, because on the night he gave it to me, I was still actively drinking and acting like a complete monster. I think I might have actually kicked him. I got sober a few months later.

What are you proudest of? My book, After 9/11, because I went through so much rejection — beyond the already crushing amount of rejection that so many aspiring authors go through — before finally getting it published. I kept at it for five years, despite all of the no’s and the changed minds. I always wondered if it was going to be the kind of story where, if you never give up, you can do anything … or if it was going to be the kind of story where you lit a candle for what might have been. I have yet to light a candle for anything that might have been.

What are the most important lessons you’ve learned in life? That everything, no matter how painful, ultimately happens for a reason, even if we don’t end up seeing any sort of silver lining through the pain for a very, very long time. Sometimes the silver lining is that you make it through something awful and survive and somehow use your experience to help others.

What is your favorite quote? “So many people walk around with a meaningless life. They seem half-asleep, even when they’re busy doing things they think are important. This is because they’re chasing the wrong things. The way you get meaning into your life is to devote yourself to loving others, devote yourself to your community around you, and devote yourself to creating something that gives you purpose and meaning.” ― Mitch Albom, Tuesdays with Morrie

What is the best advice you’ve been given? Usually there is a split second before we say something we know we’ll regret, a moment when we have the chance to stop and think: Does this need to be said? Does it need to be said by me? Does it need to be said now? Try and catch that elusive moment as often as you can, and take a pause.

What is one thing you wish you knew when you were younger? That if I’m anxious or afraid or feel like I’m not OK, it’s because I’m thinking about something that’s already happened or something that might happen or is going to happen. If I can stay in the present, right where my feet are, chances are I am actually OK and have control over the choices I make.

What does your future hold? If it looks anything like my life does today, I’ll be very happy.

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