Suffolk musician helps other recovering addicts

Published 10:03 pm Friday, March 31, 2017

Youth Challenge of Hampton Roads intern Nic Robertson overcame serious substance abuse issues to become a guide for others struggling with addiction.

He grew up in Suffolk with a good family and attended Lakeland High School. The addiction started in his teenage years with marijuana and alcohol, before he began experimenting with more serious drugs around age 18.

“I was always the type of person to sleep in the afternoon,” he said. “I was used to running around at night.”

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He lost relationships as his anger issues worsened with his substance abuse. He said his family didn’t want anything to do with him, and in 2015, he nearly died from an overdose.

“I had some friends know that I was messing up,” he said. “They told me I had to get help and I had to get it now.”

He joined the Youth Challenge program in 2015, spending four months in the program in Newport News and 10 months in Pennsylvania. He is now 33 years old and has been sober since Dec. 2, 2015, the first time in years that he’s gone longer than two weeks without any drugs or alcohol.

“That’s something I never had since I was 13,” he said.

Youth Challenge of Hampton Roads helps drug users fight their addictions on physical, emotional, and spiritual levels. Counseling is done both one-on-one and with families.

Robertson said programs last about 12 months and are now done entirely in Newport News.

“Youth Challenge equips you with the tools necessary to live a drug free life,” he said.

He is now in his first semester at Thomas Nelson Community College in Hampton and will transfer to Old Dominion University to become a substance abuse counselor.

“I never thought I would go back to school,” he said. “I never thought I would be on the path I am now.”

He is grateful for his friends for getting him on a better path. All of them practice together in the band “Of Zion,” playing a mix of “rock, reggae and jam” music with lyrics inspired by Robertson’s story.

“We’re always together,” he said. “Having them as my bandmates is a blessing.”

Their first album – “Resurrection” – is being recorded in Suffolk.  They will play at the Norfolk Blue Dog Music and Arts festival on April 22, and their album will debut May 1, according to Robertson.

He said the band’s music is both entertaining and emotionally resonating, describing one woman’s powerful reaction to hearing lyrics referring to his drug history.

“She almost cried during one song,” she said. “She had a past with it and got a lot from it. That was the best feeling for me because my goal is to help people.”

He said his family has seen the change in him and are proud.

“I would always stop anything I was doing, but now they see I’m actually following through and I’m staying on the right path,” he said. “We talk on a daily basis now. My parents are actually proud of me, which is awesome.”

For more information on “Of Zion,” visit