From the Podcast: Noa Shaw – Alcohol and Drugs Stole His Happiness, and SoulCycle Brought It Back One Class at a Time
Noa Shaw was born in 1963 in The Bronx. He moved with his family multiple times before moving to Connecticut at age 14. By this time, he had been drinking for 4 years and had attended 9 different schools, many of which he was kicked out of. After multiple fights, blackouts, car crashes, suicide attempts, failed marriages, empty bank accounts, and failed stints in rehab, Noa finally found himself asking for help and wanting to change. Noa learned early in his sobriety that one of his greatest innate gifts was his ability to inspire others to improve their lives. Noa has been in the therapy field for over 20 years and is a well known and loved SoulCycle instructor in New York. To listen to Noa’s episode in its entirety, click here.
Noa grew up in the Tri-state area: New Jersey, New York and Connecticut. He attended 9 schools in 12 years. His father was climbing the corporate ladder in the 70s. “We were moving all the time and he kept growing and getting our family out of lower income to very high-income areas. We ended up in Fairfield County, Connecticut” explains Noa. He had a deep love and admiration for his parents. “My parents are the parents you dream of, they couldn’t be more loving and kind,” shares Noa.
His father was in the advertising business for a newspaper, and at Christmas time he gifted his customers, his favorite drink, Wild Turkey Bourbon. When Noa’s father would come home at night, Noa would watch him sit down and pour a Wild Turkey.
When Noa was 10 years old, he took a bottle of Wild Turkey with his best friend Vinny and they went to the woods. “Me and Vinny got brutally sick and threw up all over the place,” says Noa. The experience was awful, yet Noa went out the next day and did it again.
Noa’s best friend Vinny had 10 siblings. Two of the older twin brothers who were 14 at that time introduced Noa to drugs. They started asking him to smoke weed and snort cocaine. “I started coke. They gave me a little piece of acid and I tripped; everything you can imagine between the ages of 10 and 11,” recalls Noa. Things quickly snowballed, and by 16, Noa was dealing large amounts of cocaine.
Noa went to the Institute for Living for a week, “It was a lockdown psych unit in Hartford, Connecticut at one of the oldest psychiatric hospitals in America,” describes Noa. Before he could settle in, he escaped the hospital. “I ran out that door and then ran down a flight of stairs. There were orderlies running after me on this 15-acre campus. I’m running and I hit this big brick wall and I jump over the wall and I run down the streets of Hartford, Connecticut,” describes Noa. He escaped and found himself on a 4-week bender. He was then checked into Silver Hills rehab facility.
While at the rehab facility, Noa would sneak out and meet his friends in the woods. “We would just sit out there and party all night. I’d stumble back to my room and pass out,” says Noa. Eventually he was thrown out and back to his same old ways.
Noa was living with his parents in Stamford, Connecticut. His parents went away for 2 months and Noa went on a cocaine run. He experienced cocaine psychosis, paranoia and was about to kill himself. “I’d done so much damage at home that by the time my parents got home and they found the house the way I’d left it and hundreds of thousands of dollars I’d stolen from my father’s company to pay for my coke habit, they just cut me off and didn’t want to talk to me,” explains Noa.
He ended up moving out to Utah for nine months, with no communication from his parents. “They finally broke down and they came and visited me and they spent a long weekend in Utah with me,” says Noa. They saw how well Noa was doing, so they bought him a car, gave him some money, bought him clothing, and his father got him a job.
Noa drove his parents to the airport in his new car, and then drove directly to his favorite bar. “ I pulled up to the bar in a new car and everything was cool, and everybody was like, “Oh, my God. You’ve got a car.” I’m like, “Yeah, check it out. I got a pocket full of money, like $10,000.00,” says Noa.
The next thing Noa remembers is waking up in a hotel room. There was a girl next to him, and he had no idea who she was. “The detritus of a massive party had happened in this hotel room. Beer bottles and cases stacked up and just wrappers of paper, coke and straws and all this shit,” explains Noa. He eventually got up, looked out the window, and realized he was in downtown Chicago. “I had made it to Chicago in a total blackout.” He immediately called his father. His father said they had been looking for him for a week, and asked Noa where the car, money, clothing and apartment were. Noa told him everything was gone. He sold everything. “I said, ‘Dad, I think I’m going to kill myself,’ and my father, who is one of the kindest, nicest people in the world said, ‘Noa, if that’s what you got to do, that’s what you got to do,’ and hung up on me,” describes Noa.
Noa, now 24, entered a 90-day program in Mississippi. During this time, Noa met a woman named Robin. Against medical advice, he checked himself out of rehab and 30 days later Noa and Robin were married. “I broke every rule. I had guns, we were hunting, I did not listen, married a girl,” says Noa. He was then transferred to Stage Three, which was a halfway house.
Noa and his wife moved to Connecticut because he had a job offer from his father so he could support his new family. Shortly after the move, Noa ended up getting separated from Robin. He found himself sitting on the floor of his apartment saying to himself, “I’m tired of being the [screw] up. I’m done losing. For once in my life, I’m actually going to try.”
That night Noa went to a meeting by himself. “I went for myself and I went by myself. That was the day that I believe I got sober, even though I had had about eight months sober at that point,” says Noa.
Meetings Are A Must
“Sobriety looks a million different ways, getting sober looks a million different ways, relapse looks the same every time. What did I do? I stopped going to meetings,” says Noa.
Noa believes attending meetings and paying it forward has kept him sober, “If you don’t see people who are fresh off the boat, brand new sober, 24 hours shaking and skipping, you forget what you were like.” In order to have success in his sobriety, Noa adheres to the 3 pillars; going to meetings, calling your sponsor and not drinking. “I see the newcomer. I help the newcomer. I give away what’s been given to me, but I have to go to the meeting to see it working,” describes Noa.
The day Soul Cycle opened in West Hollywood, Noa introduced himself to the owners and agreed to come back for a ride later that day. “I drove home, put on my 4 XL shorts and slipped into my sneakers, I was so fat I couldn’t reach my feet to put on a pair of shoes, so all my shoes were slip-on,” explains Noa. He picked a bike in the back corner of the class near a door for an easy escape and decided he was determined to try. “I did 2 classes that day, and 2 the next day, and 3 the day after that, and I lost 100 pounds in a little over 90 days,” shares Noa.
They asked Noa to be an instructor and told him to go to New York to train and teach for a year. Noa is the first and only SoulCycle instructor with a mental health background. “ I don’t come from an athletic background. I was the only one hired because of my mental health work and my ability to bring that to the classroom and exercise at the same time,” says Noa. This was an opportunity for Noa to help more people at one time.
Fast forward, and Noa is a loved and very successful SoulCycle instructor in New York city. “I believe in selfless help. The more I think about myself, the less I think of myself.”
*Quotes have been edited for clarity.