If you have been anywhere near the Beardbrand or Urban Beardsman Magazine webpages this year, then you know his face. One of the most popular models in the bearded community, he has worked with brands such as Diesel, P&Co, Dr. Martens, Franklin & Marshall, Barney & Taylor, and of course, Beardbrand. The tattoos, the wavy hair, and the jet black beard are what you first notice, but it is his eyes that stay with you long after you have clicked away from the images. It is one thing to assume you understand the life of a model, but it is another thing altogether to know the story that lies behind those dark eyes of Carlos Costa.
Addiction is not something that just appears out of thin air. There is usually some kind of a sign throughout the life of an addict, an inability to realize the consequences of your actions, or an inability to control your impulses long before they reach that downward spiral. “From my own experience, I think addiction has been in me since I was little. My first addiction, actually, was sugar. I used to save every little bit of money I would get and go to the candy shop. Loads and loads of sugar that had me buzzing around as a little kid.”
For Carlos, the long, dark journey that led him to the depths of addiction started in 1992 at the age of twelve. “It was more out of curiosity as my brother was five years older than me and was already smoking regularly. I wanted to fit in and act older than I was.” The bond between Carlos and his older brother, Luis Miguel, was strengthened by the decision to both live with their mother after the separation of their parents. Like many younger siblings, he viewed his brother as a role model and having the type of life that any young person would want.
After several years apart, during which Miguel was living with their father, Carlos had his first experience of smoking pot while visiting his brother. Having as close of a relationship as the two of them shared made it feel safer and easier to try new things when in the presence of his brother. Unfortunately, alcohol and marijuana quickly stopped being strong enough to provide the needed high.
“It was a progressive cycle of drug use and it started with the kind of things you would expect. Pot and party drugs such as ecstasy, speed, LSD, and cocaine. The music scene that I was into, these were very much a part of and they gave me a confidence and buzz that I fed off of. Over time I got into heavier drugs and for the latter part of my addiction I was hooked to alcohol, with heroine and crack cocaine. These stayed as my drugs of choice until I went into rehab.”
Throughout this time Carlos not only fell deeper into his addictions, but suffered in every area of his life. “I went from having a decent job, home situation and savings, to using everything we had to keep getting our next fix. After a while, we decided to leave everything and escape to London where we lived homeless for around a year.” The addictions and lifestyle eventually even led to the separation between Carlos and the mother of his daughter, as well as a period of time where he was not allowed to see his little girl. The time had finally come for him to declare his personal war against drugs and alcohol.
In early 2009 Carlos was accepted into StreetScene, a three stage rehab and recovery program based in the United Kingdom. The stages include detox, the rehab center, and lastly, the resettlement program. “The hardest part for me was the detox and rehab, getting myself off the mental and physical addictions really takes a lot out of you. I had to start to deal with a lot of … emotions I had never had to see through as I was used to numbing them.” Despite packing his bags to leave the program several times, Carlos felt there was something keeping him there.
Once the detox portion of the program was complete, Carlos moved into the two stage rehab phase. The first part involved an in-treatment program that lasted four months, followed by a secondary part that allowed him to do voluntary work in the community. This part was equally important in that it allowed him to begin meeting people and forming friendships, but this time as a sober member of society. The final stage of the program is known as the resettlement program. “In resettlement it is more about reintegrating back into the community and finding your feet again. I had the full support of StreetScene during this time and spent a lot of time looking into what it was I truly liked to do and exploring the possibilities of gaining new skills back at college.” It was also during this time that he was able to start rebuilding the relationship with his daughter.
While Carlos was steadily improving and winning his battle to stay sober, his brother Miguel had been unable to get accepted into a rehab facility. Six months into his stint in the third (and final) phase of the program, he received a phone call telling him that Miguel had been found dead from a suspected drug overdose. “He was always a very affectionate and caring older brother. He looked after me all through our time together, standing up for me whenever I needed him.” A few months after his brother’s passing, Carlos had a tattoo done in Miguel’s memory that depicts an archangel killing the devil.
“It was a representation of my story, of overcoming the drugs, and the archangel was a symbol of protection against the temptation. I lost my brother to this disease and so (he) became my archangel and protection to stay strong against the temptations of addiction.”
Today, Carlos can proudly say that he has been sober for nearly six years. He is happily engaged to his fiancé Jenna and has his daughter, Bionda, in his life full time. In the less publicized of his two jobs (more about that in a moment,) he now works as a key worker for StreetScene in the resettlement phase (the third and final stage) of the program. “I work with them on various levels, such as one-on-one sessions where I can help them find out their skills, what education they would like to gain, help them find a job, save money and even look for their own property.” His love and passion for this type of work is not solely because of the help he received. “While I was in treatment all I wanted was for my brother to be there and to receive the amazing support and help that I did so that he could be clean and sober with me. When he passed away before he could receive the treatment, it made me realize that I wanted to make sure I could give as much support and help to other people to complete the program the same way as me. I want to try and help more people not end up with the same fate that my brother did.”
When given the chance to describe his life before and after rehab, Carlos says, “Life in addiction is like walking around with a big ball attached to your leg. Life felt suffocating and I felt trapped, while life in recovery is amazing. I will always be an addict, but I am free from that vicious cycle and misery. I am able to feel and understand myself and deal with my emotions in a healthy way, knowing my own mind.”
Aside from his passionate career as a key worker at StreetScene, Carlos is most widely known for being one of the top bearded models in the industry. With a look as memorable as his, it comes as no surprise the speed with which his modeling career took off. “I used social networks to upload pictures and things that I was doing, and a popular bearded group featured me on their page. From that point, my feed went crazy!” Carlos is now signed to a number of international modeling agencies, as well as doing a shoe collaboration with Ortodoux and working with a few London tattoo studios. With his unforgettable beard and ink covered physique, we expect to see him quickly make his mark throughout the world of modeling and fashion.
“The war is over, give yourself a chance.”
Follow Carlos Costa on Facebook, Instagram, or on his official website. If you or someone you care about is looking to overcome addiction, visit the StreetScene website if you live in the United Kingdom or go here if you live in the United States.
Photography by Steven Brooks; Tommy Cairns