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From Patient to Staff at Recovery Unplugged

by Lauren Emily Whalen

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Saturday September 10, 2022

From Patient to Staff at Recovery Unplugged

"I thought I could figure it out on my own and I didn't really need any help," says David Mora of addiction recovery. Reality, however, proved the opposite.

After 11 years of drug and alcohol abuse, the Phoenix, AZ native bounced around different states and lived with various family members — he's one of seven children — trying "everything," he says. "I worked with a therapist, a shaman, tried to get sober through multiple churches, went to a couple of AA meetings." Finally, after Mora relapsed for the last time while living in San Antonio, TX, his sisters connected him with Recovery Unplugged. Sixteen months later, Mora is sober and works as one of RU's alumni coordinators.

Singing for Sobriety

"I was in treatment for 30 days and really enjoyed it," Mora says of his time at RU, a national organization that integrates music into all aspects of its multi-level care model and offers both in-person and online addiction treatment. (The latter is also available for mental health issues such as depression, anxiety and PTSD.) Mora sang growing up and had always been a big music fan — but still, "I was terrified," he laughs.

However, RU stuck in a way Mora's other sobriety attempts hadn't. "The flexibility of the program was really beneficial," he says. "The knowledge that the staff gave me and methods they taught me are still part of my daily routine."

RU's emphasis on music was a turning point in Mora's recovery. "It was great getting to connect emotions with music, and using music as a tool," he says. "Open Mic [a weekly performance where audience members can only give positive feedback] was an amazing experience and every weekend they brought a band in for us to perform with." Mora fondly remembers the effect Open Mic had on him. "Getting to sing along showed me that I could perform sober, and it reignited my passion for singing," he says. "That feeling was unlike any feeling I had performing before."

An Unexpected Offer

After his time at RU, Mora joined Alcoholics Anonymous and continues to work AA's 12-step program. A licensed cosmetologist, he was working at a salon when he received a call from RU's Alumni Director — with a job offer. Making the decision to stay or go wasn't easy.

"I wrestled with it because I was really happy with the salon I was working at and enjoyed doing hair, but my heart was pulling me in the direction of working in treatment," Mora says. Soon, the answer became clear. "I ultimately decided that this was where my path was leading me and I jumped on the opportunity."

As an alumni coordinator at Recovery Unplugged, Mora runs groups, plans events and shepherds "all things alumni," he explains. It's a good fit for the 31-year-old: "[a]lumni is the perfect position because we get to follow up with the clients after they leave our care to make sure they are still doing well." The job is rewarding on another level too, Mora says. "It feels great to be able to sit eye to eye with a fellow addict and let them know I have been exactly where they are, and extend some experience, strength, and hope."

A Unique Skill Set

Mora still does freelance work in cosmetology and enjoys swimming, hiking, rollerblading, and (of course) music, especially guitar and singing. A vegan for the past three years, he wants to try every vegan restaurant in Austin, where he now lives. "Life is good," he says — a far cry from where he was over a decade ago.

He credits Recovery Unplugged not only with his sobriety, but the lessons he's learned on both sides of the organization. "As a client, my biggest takeaway was how important having a community is, and what a powerful tool music can be in recovery," Mora says. "Also, that leaning on others for help is a lot easier than trying to do it on your own." As staff, he says, he's learned about the prevalence of addiction and importance of RU's work. "I use this as a motivator to give it my all to truly make a difference."

As an out gay man, Mora emphasizes Recovery Unplugged's inclusivity. "There is a process to make sure that everyone is informed of orientations, identities, and pronouns," he says. This year, several RU staff marched in Florida's Pride parade and manned a booth at the festivities — an experience that was both fun and incredibly meaningful for Mora, and affirmed the uniqueness of Recovery Unplugged's programs.

"Getting to connect with other addicts in our community was so amazing," Mora reflects. "I believe LGBTQ+ face different challenges and struggles, so the individuality of care is definitely beneficial for our community. One size does not fit all."

If you need help, please contact Recovery Unplugged at 855-621-4247 or visit

Lauren Emily Whalen is a writer, performer and aerialist living in Chicago. Her third novel "TAKE HER DOWN," a queer retelling of Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar," is available wherever books are sold. Learn more at

Lauren Emily Whalen is a writer, performer and aerialist living in Chicago. She's the author of four books for young adults. Learn more at