First of all, Merry Christmas and welcome to my website! Explore it. Visit often. Subscribe to my email list. Or don’t. Live your dreams. But I finally have a .com. I feel accomplished. Unfortunately, until I can get my domain transferred, I’m stuck with WordPress.com for the next 2 months. WordPress.com can’t do much. It’s kind of pathetic and limiting. I am a creative bird and this platform superglues my wings. But once my domain is transferred, this website will experience a huge makeover. I guess this will have to do for now.

2017 is right around the corner. Even though 17 is an awkward, odd, and prime number, I’m certain that this is going to be one of the best years of my life. I know that I just wrote the most cliche statement ever, but I’ve never believed it before.

With confidence, I can say that 2016 wasn’t the greatest. It started off alright; it had some pretty okay parts. I celebrated a lot of marriages, newborns, and 21st birthdays, but this year ended up a total train wreck. Let’s be honest, 2016 was not anyone’s year and if it was your year, then congratulations. Gold star for you.

Mind you, when 2016 started I was fresh out of a 30-day rehab program, claiming to be a “changed man.” Yeah, okay. I had no desire to stop drinking or partying. I knew I had a problem, but I had convinced myself that I could live that type of lifestyle in moderation. I had not accepted my substance abuse for what it was: a ruthless disease that could only be cured with willingness, commitment, and complete abstinence. After rehab at the end of 2015, I thought that my depression would become easier to deal with, but I continued to battle with it daily and it worsened as the year went on. Turns out, alcohol is a depressant. Duh.

The dumpster fire that was 2016 was necessary–I needed to experience the severity of my condition. This year, I told more lies than I can count, I tried practically every drug out there, and I drank my life into oblivion. If I had to guess, I would say that I was sober for maybe 150 days out of the year, but that’s pushing it. I compulsively spent money, put myself in unsafe situations, and went back-and-forth with God dozens of times. I peed on the floor of a cruise ship while intoxicated and asked a bouncer at a club where I could find drugs. No, I was not at my best this year.

January. I ushered the New Year in with my bestfriend Michael. I started an online semester, got a job at Olive Garden, released my first single with Nick Epic, bought my first guitar, and had Maggie tattooed on my arm.

February. I visited dear friends in California, surprised Austin in Orange County for his birthday, and had lyrics from Hillsong United’s Oceans tattooed on me. Leap Day also happened, so that was cool.

March. I became a vegetarian, flew my sister out to Colorado for Spring Break, was accepted into CU Boulder’s INVST Community Leadership program, and almost died when my first car’s engine exploded. Fun stuff.

April. My sister turned 18, I publicly shared a spoken word of mine for the first time, took a selfie with one of my heroes, Jamie Tworkowski, and completed my online semester with flying colors.

May. I met the person I’d soon give my heart to, was awarded a $5,000 scholarship, and left my serving job at the Olive Garden.

I was less than 6-months out of rehab and my partying had already become unmanageable again. It was much worse than before.

June. I visited family and old friends in Florida, my sister graduated high school, I traveled to North Carolina to visit a handful of my favorite people, and there, I saw two of my bestfriends’ siblings graduate high school.

On June 10th, the world lost Christina Grimmie and on the 12th, 49 people were murdered in the Pulse Nightclub shooting. These events destroyed me. My heart mourned these tragedies. I’m still grieving. It’s a lingering ache.

My entire family went on a Caribbean cruise to celebrate Alyssa’s graduation and I got to perform in a show as Elvis on the cruise ship. I got in a huge fight with my parents during the trip, because they didn’t approve of my life choices and thought I had a drinking problem. When my extended family and I came back to Colorado, I saw Sia live at Redrocks, I left the INVST program because I thought it would be too much for me to handle (smart choice), and I started dating my first boyfriend.

I then abandoned my faith.

July. Demi released “Body Say” without warning and I freaked out in the best way possible, I released my second single with Nick Epic, I spent the 4th of July with Michael, Leilan and her husband visited, my parents decided to stop paying for my education, and I landed my dream internship with Blue Sky Bridge.

On the 14th, I celebrated my 21st birthday with my partner at the time and it was everything I could’ve asked for. The next day, I was randomly offered a job at Starbucks and at the end of that week I had a phenomenal 21st birthday party.

August. I saw Demi and Nick Jonas in concert, moved into a beautiful home in Boulder, started my first semester back at CU Boulder, interacted with Jake Runestad on social media, got into On That Note acapella, and Pretty Little Liars had its second to last season finale.

September. I had my heart broken and even though I desperately tried to stay strong and keep myself together, I couldn’t. I blamed myself for losing him. It was a deep sadness and pain that I couldn’t sit with. I only knew one way to cope.

*insert 2-month bender here*


This month, I realized that the Pokemon I most relate to is Psyduck, I attended my first Ted Talk Conference, and I met Ash Beckham. I ended up returning to my faith and was baptized at my church.

The rededication of my life to Christ and my baptism were both genuine acts of faith and commitment. But I was hurting. A lot. Neither stopped my substance abuse. The bender continued. My addiction was starting to kill me and I didn’t care.

But everyone who loved me did.

“I’m watching you slowly kill yourself and it’s terrifying.” –Annie

October. Demi announced she was stepping down from the industry in 2017 (I was already an emotional hot mess, so this news crushed me), I won 1st place in my category at CU’s Got Talent, was exposed to “Holla 2” (please, watch it), and I mourned 4 years since Maggie’s passing. This was the quote I most related to that month:

“The Great Barrier Reed is under severe stress, but not dead yet.”

November. I hardly felt human when November began. All I knew how to do was get trashed. All I knew how to do was be depressed. All I knew how to do was hate myself and everyone around me. The life that I was living was absolutely unsustainable. I remember filling up Gatorade bottles with tequila before classes, making up excuses to get out of my coursework and my job, and I was experiencing strong cravings for the things that would cause me to forget how badly I was hurting.

I checked myself into a week-long detox on November 7th and then spent the following 2 weeks in West Pines Recovery Center. That place changed my life.

“When my life was fainting away, I remembered the Lord” (Jonah 2:7, ESV).

December. I withdrew from CU Boulder and continued to mourn Trump’s victory. Demi was nominated for a Grammy (I love how much of an impact her life has on mine), I celebrated a month of sobriety, giraffes were recognized as potential victims of extinction, and I was accepted into CU Denver’s BA in Psychology program.

Next week I have the chance to leave 2016 behind, the good and the bad. I have been given a chance to move forward, sober, and I’m going to do just that. I’m going to continue to hope for amazing things and trust that what God has for me is better than anything I can even imagine. I’ve been blessed with incredible friends and family who I know will support me every step of the way. I swear that I’m going to turn 22-years old sober, start my senior year next fall sober, and, God-willing, on November 7th of 2017, I will celebrate the hell out of one-year of sobriety. I started a hashtag on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram: #recoverywithdonaven. Anything that I post on social media that’s related to my recovery will be followed by that hashtag. You can get involved with that by posting anything that you think could encourage or positively challenge me in my recovery.

I’m not one to set resolutions and that’s not going to change this year. I’m simply going into 2017 hopeful, God-focused, and determined to live a sober, joy-filled life.

“To exist is a beautifully rare thing. Today you have breathed the most breaths you ever have. You have every freaking right to shout into the cosmos, I am worthy! And whether you shout with pain or joy or doubt or fear doesn’t matter. What matters is that you let your lungs morph oxygen into language and you let those words slip past your teeth and you let that truth roll off your tongue into the air, into reality where it belongs.” –The Hopeful, Donaven Smith

Always with hope,

3 thoughts on “Hello

  1. Donaven,

    I knew your mom when we’re in Okinawa together. We met through PWOC on Kadena AFB. I got the chance to see you perform with the HS choir. I was impressed by your talent and your genuine kindness I saw towards those around you. I will keep you in my prayers, that may find peace within yourself, strength for continued sobriety, and much success.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Donavan,
    My husband, Dan, and I are friends with your mom and dad. We met thru church. I loved reading this post. You are so gifted and blessed. God has amazing things for you to accomplish and do in your life! This is evident by the many second, third, fourth, etc. chances and opportunities you have been given. He is not done with you!! I look forward to following your journey with you in 2017 and beyond as you achieve your goals. Through Him ALL things are possible!! God Bless you!! Lisa Rothenbush

    Liked by 1 person

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