Dancing on Air II

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Dancing on Air II

Dancer, Adam Young, Defies the Odds, Battling Cystic Fibrosis

The following is Part II of a series of interviews with Adam Young, a 32-year old ballet, tap, jazz and contemporary dancer from California, who has cystic fibrosis (CF) and received a double lung transplant at UCLA in May 2013. He began dancing at the age of six in Riverside, California, and won national competitions in the United States and Australia at the age of 17, as well as the Kennedy Center Emerging Young Artist Award Scholarship at age 18. He was offered a full scholarship to the renowned Juilliard School and the Ailey School in New York but was unable to relocate due to CF complications. Graduating from the University of California, Irvine with honors on full scholarship as a dance major in 2003, he went on to dance with the Nashville Ballet for two seasons. He trained at the Conservatoire de Paris and has danced, judged and taught throughout the United States and performed internationally in France, Germany, Australia, Canada and Mexico. His professional career was put on hold in 2006 when cystic fibrosis caused his lung capacity to fall below 40 percent. Adam’s determination to overcome an addiction to pharmaceutical drugs through a 12-step program in 2010 allowed him to receive his lung transplant in 2013 – which has in turn given Adam a chance to return to the stage and continue pursuing his passion for dance. Tokyo Journal Executive Editor, Anthony Al-Jamie, talked to Adam about his inspirational story.

TJ: You mentioned that you were an addict and that you wouldn’t be considered for a lung transplant until you were clean. When did your drug use start?
YOUNG:Well, being a “pharmaceutical baby”, I had access to meds. In college I started getting sinus headaches. Nothing was working because I had really bad sinuses, so they put me on Darvocet. And that’s how it all started. I then started taking Vicodin and slowly progressed to the next highest drug until I reached the top. I started maxing out my prescriptions and then went “doctor shopping” in Nashville too, trying to get as many pills as I could. I mean, if you go in with a sad story like CF, they’re [doctors] going to give you pills – especially when you are on oxygen. I manipulated the system. I just knew exactly what to do. I never walked out without a prescription. It was free through my insurance so I could get free drugs. It was crazy. I actually overdosed in the hospital a few times; and sometimes I stopped breathing.

TJ: Wow, you overdosed while in the hospital? How did that happen?
YOUNG: Well, I loved going to the hospital. That’s where they give you the good stuff – the IV stuff – every couple of hours.What they didn’t know was that I brought my own stuff on top of that. So sometimes they couldn’t wake me up and I would stop breathing. I didn’t realize it at the time, but found out later that it had happened three times!

TJ: What was the worst part of your addiction?
YOUNG: I think it was just my emotional vacancy. I was a lonely user – an isolator. Other users have “using” friends. I didn’t have any of those. I didn’t use with anyone but myself. I was in my cave of despair, anger and hate. I destroyed my family, my marriage and all of the lives around me. And I was killing myself.

TJ: So how did you finally stop using drugs?
YOUNG: After I had several interventions and several relapses, my wife left me and my family kicked me out. My doctor said, “You’re going to die.” Finally, I had to say, “I’m going to make a change.” And when I decided that, I was done. I knew everything I was doing was wrong. I checked into a rehab for a 30-day stint. I said, “Whatever you guys say, I’m going to do.” Especially during my first year, any meeting my sponsor or anyone asked me to go to, I went. I went to three twelve-step program meetings a day and to a thousand meetings in my first year of recovery. I didn’t work and drugs were all I had. So, I could either stay at home and think about drugs or I could go to a meeting. I’ve been clean for three years now. I was lucky, because a lot of addicts don’t have supportive families. I had a loving family that supported me and was doing anything they could to help me. I know I wouldn’t be here today if I didn’t have an awesome family. tj

This is Part II of a series of interviews with Adam Young. Part III will be featured in Issue #276

The original article can be found in Issue #274 of the Tokyo Journal. Click here to order from Amazon.

Written By:

Anthony Al-Jamie

Anthony Al-Jamie lived and worked in Japan for over 20 years. His in-depth understanding of Japanese language and culture has allowed him to carry out interviews with many of the most renowned individuals in Japan. He first began writing for the Tokyo Journal in the 1990s as Education Editor, later he was promoted to Senior Editor, and eventually International Editor and Executive Editor. He currently serves the Tokyo Journal as Editor-in-Chief.


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