In 1989, 29-year-old New Yorker David Marion bought a one-way ticket to Minnesota to get sober. But after 13 years of staying clean, he had knee surgeries and relapsed, succumbing to opioid and gambling addictions. Marion, who owned a gold and silver brokerage firm where he bought, sold and traded precious metals, ultimately spent 36 months in federal prison for wire fraud and money laundering. Today, the 60-year-old from Excelsior is a nationally certified intervention professional, recovery coach and doting father. Plus, he got a gig on a soap opera. Marion and former wife, Dana Golden, are authors of the newly released “Addiction Rescue: The No-BS Guide to Recovery.” He shares more here.
Q: It feels unfair to remind readers of this, but COVID-19 isn’t the only devastating health challenge we’re facing. More than 40 states have recorded increases in opioid-related deaths since the pandemic began, according to the American Medical Association. Do you see a connection between the two?
A: Absolutely. There was an epidemic before the pandemic and the carnage and fallout we are seeing from opioid abuse is higher than in previous years. Addiction is a disease of isolation and loneliness and the antidote is connection and community. With stay-at-home orders in place, gatherings curtailed, and social distancing recommended, the commitment to community and staying connected is difficult and people are suffering because of it.
Q: You know more than you probably wish about opioid addiction. How did it start?
A: I was one of many people who were prescribed prescription opioids for a sports injury because they were deemed safe, effective and with a small likelihood of addiction. At the time, there was no indication of the perniciousness of this drug, yet I didn’t stand a chance and neither did many others.
Q: What punishment do you think is fair for companies such as drugmakers Purdue and Mallinckrodt for opioid marketing and distribution? How do you respond to critics who say they were just producing what consumers desire?
A: Big Pharma, including Purdue and Mallinckrodt, created a false narrative that opioids were safe and effective with little likelihood for addiction for chronic pain. They were marketed as a miracle pain remedy and as a result millions of lives were impacted and lost. I believe that Big Pharma must be held accountable for the lies that were told, the mess of an epidemic they created, and the destruction of families and lives that were lost. Purdue Pharma, specifically, was let off way too easy considering 450,000-plus people died and so many more were affected. Not one of their executives is going to jail.
Q: Opioid abuse was only one of your addictions, which also included heroin and gambling. When you reflect back, was there a pivotal moment that sent your life into a spiral, or were there many steps to getting there?
A: I believe having undiagnosed anxiety and ADHD as a child set me up to start using at a very young age just to quell those uncomfortable feelings. But there was no monumental event or moment that sent me spiraling into addiction. My biggest nemesis was simply being unsure of myself. Using substances helped me to feel comfortable in my own skin when I otherwise did not.
Q: Was going to prison a relief in a way? I’ve heard people say that they welcome finally reaching bottom.
A: Yes, it certainly was. Reaching my bottom, being sent to prison, was my wake-up call as well as a life-saving opportunity. Prison gave me a second chance on life. I was ready to face the consequences of my actions and move forward. I sobered up a couple of years before going into prison and I threw myself into recovery. I welcomed the time to do introspective work and redefine and refocus my life. Prison gave me the space to change the narrative of my legacy. I knew I was on the mend when I no longer felt the need to use substances.
Q: What’s a huge myth about addiction you’d like to bust?
A: That treatment is widely available. Of the 21 million Americans who have some kind of substance use disorder, only 10% receive treatment, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. That’s not acceptable.
Q: How did your story end up on a soap opera?
A: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention wanted to do an RX Awareness Campaign on the opioid epidemic. A respected recovery advocate in the Twin Cities recommended me (theliferecoverycoach.com) to represent them in this campaign because they felt my message would resonate with others who were struggling with an opioid addiction. Then “The Bold and Beautiful” soap opera used my campaign ad in an episode dealing with opioid addiction.
Q: Who typically seeks you out for recovery coaching?
A: Addiction doesn’t discriminate. My clients are professional athletes, musicians, C-suite executives, students and people who are homeless.
Q: You’re now close to your ex-wife and two young adult daughters. How do you navigate those crucial relationships after addiction created separation?
A: I make them a priority. Not a day goes by that I don’t talk to my kids at least once. There was a time that I disappointed all the people that were important to me. Now I focus each day on what I can do to make them proud.