Charles (CJ) Novak

Charles (CJ) Novak

Profound, deep thinker, selfless, giving, loved

CJ was wise, selfless, and non-judgmental which made people comfortable when they were with him and caused them to feel good about themselves. He was the center of attention at family gatherings because people were naturally attracted to him. CJ was extremely giving and had an enormous heart, and was described as an old soul. He was also comical, fun and very spiritual and a talented writer, as evidenced by his uplifting and motivational journals, which often referred to his relationship to God.

CJ grew up in Akron, Ohio and was very close to his mom, sister and maternal grandparents, Ida and Joe. He also loved getting together with his extended family, Aunt Shelley and Uncle Gary. He was a boy scout, went to Catholic grade school and graduated from Highland High School, then Hamrick Truck Driving School. He was a music lover, drawn to classic rock and old country songs.

CJ was a thrill seeker. He enjoyed racing his car and his dirt bike, lighting fireworks and jumping off cliffs into water. He loved kayaking and said that being in nature gave him peace, freedom from his own mind and closeness to God. He appreciated anything with an “engine” and was passionate about his Harley, feeling most alive and free when he was riding.

His sister, Candice, remembers times on Uncle’s Eddie’s farm, playing with the horses, picking blackberries and wheeling around in the wheelbarrow. “They were treasured times,” she said. ‘He also stepped in as my father and walked me down the aisle on my wedding day and we danced together at the reception; it was very special. The day my son Mason, was born, CJ never left the hospital because he was so in awe of his new nephew.’

CJ had many goals in life. He wanted a wife and children, to be a self-employed landscape designer or to work on a search and rescue team, helping people in imminent danger or distress.

When he was using, he felt inadequate and was distanced from his family. When he was sober, he had a sense of pride and accomplishment and shared his experiences with others to help them with their struggles. His mom recalled a story from when CJ came out of his last rehab. He told her: “Mama, I got an old truck and a job, and I am the happiest guy in the world today,” then he picked her up, twirled her around and told her he loved her. Sadly, shortly after he started using again; two weeks later, he was gone.

When his mom attends drug awareness events, she takes CJ’s photo with her. People say: “Your CJ’s mom?” ‘He was such a good guy; he encouraged me to be sober.’ His mom said: “People keep coming out of the woodwork to share their memories of him.”

His mom misses his smile and big hugs, going to church together and feeling his hand on hers. She said: “We lived in the hell right along with him and loved him all the way through it.” His sister stated: “No one will ever have the same sense of humor as us, no one can take his place, it’s as if my twin passed away.” ‘He was so undeserving of that life, my brother is my inspiration and I try to be like him.’

CJ’s mother, Susan Cymbor, and his sister, Candice Pinion, provided the information for this narrative.

June 15, 1988-April 17, 2017

Age 28-Lived with addiction 10 years

Share this story from The INTO LIGHT Project

Facebook
Twitter
LinkedIn

More Into Light Stories

Read more biographies from this exhibit.
Devin Hart Bearden

Devin Hart Bearden

Caring, athletic, bright, witty, attractive At 6’2”, Devin was lanky, handsome, and a natural athlete. Equally at home on a skateboard, snowboard, or when surfing, he was a pleasure to watch; so fluid and graceful. He was a good soccer and baseball player and loved hiking in nature or being at the beach, especially on the annual family beach trips to Hatteras in North Carolina. [...]
Read More »
Andrew Aegerter

Andrew Aegerter

Lived life to the fullest Drew had a huge heart and would do absolutely anything for his family, friends or strangers. He was funny, charismatic, smart and athletic; good at everything he attempted. Though he loved all sports, baseball was his favorite. “We spent every summer and fall on a baseball field and loved every minute,” his mom said. ‘Drew was a catcher and had the biggest cheering section, and definitely the loudest mom cheering him on.’[...]
Read More »
Brandon Taylor Beeler

Brandon Taylor Beeler

Fierce, loving, protective, father, son Brandon was fun, loving, kind and helpful to everyone. He wanted to see people happy and connected. He was protective of those he loved and a risk taker. He enjoyed spending time with family, watching movies and football, and reading Charles Bukowski poems. [...]
Read More »
Dakota “Ophelia” Berg

Dakota “Ophelia” Berg

Beautiful, tragic, short, sad, lonely, misunderstood Dakota was a deep, beautiful soul. She loved fully and unconditionally and was passionate about teaching acceptance for all people. She loved animals, especially her dog Keta, her loyal protector. She had an intense love for family and was striving to get sober and be an exemplary role model for her younger sisters. [...]
Read More »

Bring an Exhibit to Your State

Interested in bringing The INTO LIGHT Project to your State?
Find out how you can make this happen.