Faces of Long Island celebrates the uniqueness of everyday Long Islanders. In their own words, they tell us about their life experiences, challenges and triumphs. Newsday launched this social media journey into the human experience to shine a light on the diverse people of this wonderful place we call home.

‘I really turned this pain into purpose, and it just continues to get better and better … I’m no longer scared.’

Cody Louis Cohen, Hicksville

“I was going through so much in my life from 2014 to 2020, where I was suffering from a very rare illness, Granulomatosis with polyangiitis. I was fighting for my life. My father ran off, so it was just my mother, my brother and sister and me having to fend for ourselves.

“And what came to mind was, I wonder if people who live in these estates suffer, too. Or is it all perfect, you know? From my head, I’m assuming they have a perfect picture of life. If you have a house like that, you know, must be a great family, must have a lot of friends, too. But I wonder what goes on behind the door. Is it as perfect as it looks?

“But I know looks can be deceiving. So then I came up with this idea for a show that portrays the truth. I was inspired by a lot of my own experiences growing up on Long Island. I would hear things about these families that I thought were perfect, and it made me realize we all have issues and we all struggle.

“It was here in Oyster Bay at Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Park where it all started, where I was inspired to write ‘Gold Coast.’”

“I used to come here to clear my head, walk down the water, just take a breath even when it felt like I was on quicksand. I was inspired to write the pilot for my show because after everything that I was going through in my life, from my illness to other personal issues. I would come here, and I would stare at these beautiful mansions across the water.

Growing up, I could never really say my feelings toward this environment.

“The show is called ‘Gold Coast,’ and it’s about six close friends on Long Island and how each one of them is hiding a secret, or they have an issue they can’t reveal and how they’re feeling the pressure from their family, trying to keep up that perfect picture of life. But as life always goes, their issues are coming above the surface that they tried to hide for so long. It shows the kids are living in this moment, but they’re also carrying the burden of their parents’ pasts and why they moved.

“Writing this show really healed me. Although it wasn’t 100 percent based on my life, it was the first time I felt like my experiences were being heard. Growing up, I could never really say my feelings toward this environment. And now having written this show, I feel free. This is how I feel, and you can disagree with me and that’s OK, but this was my interpretation of my experiences.

“The thing about chronic conditions is that they are forever. People sometimes think, ‘Oh, he was sick, but he’s fine now.’ I have my good days, I have my bad days. And at the end of the day, I still deal with a lot of trauma. I am so thankful for my mom, my brother and sister and my girlfriend. We are a tight family, and we all lean on each other.

“And that’s the most exciting thing I can tell people. I really turned this pain into purpose, and it just continues to get better and better. And now I’m excited for the future. I’m no longer scared.”

Interviewed by Maggie Melito