Years ago, Daniella Park would have told you she was living a life straight out of a movie. As the daughter of two television industry parents who traveled the world, Daniella was able to pursue any dream that ever crossed her mind. With an impressive resume that included stunt actress, publicist for the world-renowned Muscle & Fitness, and Vice President of legendary star-maker Jay Bernstien’s production company, Daniella was living large and partying alongside some of Hollywood’s biggest stars. However, all that came to a screeching and nearly life-ending halt on September 11, 2006.
Daniella’s story starts in her latter years of high school when she started to feel more and more uncomfortable in her own skin. After years of feeling this way, and with nowhere else to turn, Daniella began to drink alcohol and eventually started using drugs.
“Since the tail end of high school, I was drinking to oblivion. I started smoking Marijuana, then I went to Cocaine, and then eventually, Methamphetamines. I had never really lived sober in my young adult life, and every single day of my life, I had to use or drink to just ‘be’ in my day.”
One night, like many others, Daniella was partying in Hollywood, drinking and doing Cocaine until the sun came up. However, that morning, when it was time to go to work, something felt different. After making her morning Jack Daniels cocktail, she remembered thinking, I need help and left in the middle of her shift to attend detox at Tarzana Treatment Center. Even then, Daniella recalls not going because she thought she was an alcoholic but rather because she had nowhere else to go.
“When I got sober, I had to completely change everything. Rebirth is what I had to do. I had to relearn how to live.”
For the next seven days, Daniella attended Cry Help, which was a truly eye-opening experience. At 21, Daniella got sober for the first time. However, she was unaware that addiction was a disease, and just 90 days after leaving, she relapsed. For the next 15 years, Daniella said she hadn’t “taken a sober breath.” That is, until one day, everything came crashing down.
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A Brush With Death
In the months following her initial detox, Daniella had moved away from the Hollywood party scene, and things initially were looking up. However, she began drinking and using Cocaine again, although she remained abstinent from Meth, which she described as her own form of “California Sober.”
What Daniella didn’t know, however, is that she had moved next door to a Meth dealer, and eventually, she started using again. Slowly, Daniella’s Meth use consumed her life, and she suddenly found herself more alone than she had ever felt before.
“I had eliminated every single person from my life. I was literally by myself, and I remember it was the first time that I actually asked for help. I texted a friend for help, and while he didn’t respond, I just remember that feeling of just saying, “Help.” I didn’t know what else to say.”
Just days after reaching out for help, Daniella was taking a shower when she had a near-death experience that would change her world forever.
“It felt like someone had stabbed me. I couldn’t bend over. I couldn’t move. I was screaming, I was contorting my arms, and I felt like I was having a stroke or a heart attack.”
Doubled over in pain, Daniella mustered up enough strength to dial 911, a number that would become a grim reminder of her brush with death. After being rushed to the hospital, Daniella underwent immediate emergency surgery, where doctors found her stomach lining had burst and she was on the verge of going septic. Daniella’s drug and alcohol use had finally hit a breaking point, literally, and had burned a hole through her stomach.
If being on the verge of death wasn’t enough to make her change her ways, the reality of just how much her drug and alcohol use had affected her personal life was. In the days that followed her emergency surgery, the only two people to visit Daniella were her parents. “It was such a lonely experience,” she recalled.
When she was discharged from the hospital, Daniella immediately went to her pharmacist and begged them to help. “Please,” she begged, “is there something you can give me to help me get through this? I’ve never not smoked, not drunk, or not done drugs, and I don’t know if I can get through a day.”
At that point, Daniella remembers the exact moment when her recovery journey began. With nowhere to turn, nobody to turn to, and no idea how to live sober, Daniella recalls having what she describes as a spiritual awakening.
“I had no idea who dialed the phone, but I called a friend who I knew was sober. I said, “Look, I really need some help.”
And what she said would be the catalyst for the next 16 years and counting of Daniella’s sobriety journey: “Meet me at an AA meeting.”
Finding Support In A New Family
Daniella wasn’t a stranger to Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings. In fact, AA meetings were one of the only places she knew she could go and feel safe.
“I remember when I was on Methamphetamines and had lost my mind, I was under complete psychosis thinking I was seeing people, and I just remember running into an AA meeting and saying, I really need help.”
However, something was different this time around, and Daniella remembers feeling an instant connection with the members of her AA group.
“AA opened their arms to me. They loved me until I learned to love myself. They called me, and they would ask me how I was doing. Nobody had ever called me to ask me how I was doing. And these people at AA meant it. And that was a really good feeling. It was a fresh start.”
Before long, Daniella started praying. At first, she didn’t exactly know who or what she was praying to, but she would read her Blue Book every night and pray. While it didn’t mean much at the time, Daniella continued to pray, read, and follow the guidance of her fellow AA members, until one day, she remembered the feeling of the obsession of drug and alcohol addiction being “lifted” from her.
“Once I had hope and had these people in my life that hugged me and loved me, and called me, the obsession was lifted. I did not crave a drink or a drug. And it’s because I really did what I was told. I followed the suggestions. I didn’t look for the differences and the things that I didn’t like. I just looked for the things that I related to. And now, these people are part of my life 17 years later. We’re all still best friends, and we’d do anything for each other. It’s an extended family.”
It was in AA that Daniella learned that one of the things she loved most, helping others, was also the one thing that helped keep her sober.
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16 Years And Counting: Learning To Live Sober
Daniella’s newfound sober life has taken her to places she could only have dreamed of; however, it hasn’t been without its challenges. In the years following her medical scare, Daniella got sober, became a committee member of over 10 years for the AA Ventura County Convention, and was eventually able to chair the event herself, which she recalls as “one of the most rewarding and beautiful things that I got to experience.”
“[Chairing] was just a great way to look at how far I’ve come. I wasn’t controlling anything anymore. I had a calm presence, and I was the person that was a pleasure to work with for once. But it didn’t happen overnight. I’m still learning.”
Perhaps one of the biggest learning curves Daniella has had to endure is learning to live with chronic pain in recovery. In September, Daniella is celebrating 17 years in recovery. However, recovery also means no pain medications, which Daniella says has been an especially hard challenge.
“I’m living with a very bad spinal condition, and I have arthritis all over my body. I am constantly having to go on steroids, but I am not on any narcotics. I am learning to live with the pain all on my own. And it’s difficult. It feels almost like imposter syndrome because you don’t wanna tell everybody about how horrible you feel because it’s [like this] every day.”
Daniella also undergoes chemotherapy once a month. One of the ways she endures and perseveres is by leaning on the things she’s learned in her nearly 17 years of AA. Daniella says she admits that she is powerless over her pain and dedicates everything she has to helping others “like her life depends on it.”
Along with her weekly show on Fireside, Daniella has been pioneering her own recovery-orientated brand for the last 9 years: Doing It Sober, where she brings some of the most unique and diverse recovery medallions, clothing, and other accessories for those in the recovery community.
Doing It Sober
Daniella had wanted to start a recovery clothing and medallion brand for years after she got sober for the last time; however, she could never quite put a name on what she wanted to call it. Finally, nearly two years after her medical scare, and with plenty of blood, sweat, and tears, she started making t-shirts, and Doing It Sober was born.
For the next five or so years, Daniella continued to build her brand from the ground up. Unfortunately, times were tough, and although Doing It Sober was her passion, Daniella was struggling to get rid of her inventory and considered throwing in the towel. It was at this point that Daniella visited an international recovery convention and met with other vendors that gave her newfound hope in her brand. After giving her advice, encouragement, and even some of their own products to feature in her store, Daniella says the rest is history.
For the last nine years, Daniella has built Doing It Sober up into so much more than a clothing and jewelry brand. Now, Doing It Sober is Daniella’s way of not only sharing the creative works of herself and others but also her way of giving back and staying sober.
“I have a full-time job, and I’m still consistently working seven days a week on Doing It Sober. It’s my life. It is something that’s kept me sober still all these years.”
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A Message From Daniella Park To Daniella Park
In sharing her story, Daniella also shared some advice she would have given to her younger self, which she also hopes may serve as a message to those in need.
“If I was to give a piece of advice to my younger self, I would say slow down. That’s it.”
“Everything else made me who I am today, and I am not ashamed of any of the things that I did when I was out there. I have never been. It’s just one of the things that I accept, and I’m very open about it. Not everybody is; I’m very open.
I’ve done a lot of things that I shouldn’t have done in order to get drugs and alcohol. I look at my life today, and if I were to have just slowed down a little bit and not tried to be so grown up, I could have made myself into a different person and fulfilled those dreams that I really wanted to fulfill. I just wish I would have slowed down.
I start over all the time and admit my faults with rigorous honesty, and that’s pretty much how I stay sober every day.”
Daniella Park’s story serves as an inspiration to all those in recovery and a beacon of hope to those who may be struggling with addiction. Her dedication to helping those around her and her commitment to her sobriety is second to none.
If you are looking for information on addiction treatment for yourself or a loved one, reach out to a treatment provider today.