By Eliot Godwin
Saturday Morning Shabbos Services At Beit T’Shuvah:
A View From The Stage
By Matthew Greenwald
I’ve had many fantastic experiences performing with the Beit T’Shuvah band on Saturday mornings. Like many residents, I prefer Saturday morning services. The laid-back atmosphere, the funkiness of the music and the overall communal camaraderie of the event is something that many of us take through the weekend. Through this informality, the reflective nature that is Shabbat becomes that much more comfortable and immediate.
But aside from this, to be able to see the transformation of residents during their stay in primary care is for me, an extraordinary thing to witness. Once, several years ago, there was a new resident that came into Beit T’Shuvah. She was a newly-transplanted Canadian, coming off a lengthy run with speed and alcohol, and her first few days were bumpy indeed. She was in a new town, a different country, newly-sober, and in this…unusual place. On the first Shabbat she attended, she was clearly overwhelmed by the emotionally-charged atmosphere. As the service progressed, she seemed to know the prayers, and was making some tentative effort to sing along with the congregation. However, she was painfully shy, and spent most of the service looking around the room, wondering what exactly was going on.
A couple of weeks later, I was playing another Saturday, and during the service I was wondering if she was still in the house. I scanned the seats near the front, but didn’t see her. However, a few minutes later, during “Ashre,” I finally saw her: she was standing on her chair, screaming with exultation, “Happy are those who dwell in this house…”
To witness changes such as these and many others make the experience of Saturday services that much more rewarding for me. As a footnote, the resident I’ve mentioned successfully completed the program, and had lengthy employment at Beit T’Shuvah before going on to another job. While she no longer works here, she is still sober and will always be a part of this community.
Among current new residents, the feeling of having a place to be part of is underlined on Saturday mornings. “I’ll admit that I don’t always like waking up to go to services on Saturday mornings,” said one new resident, “but something happens during the first half hour; I don’t know if it’s the music or the message, or both. But the fact that this service is all about the residents is what brings it together for me, and I get to carry that through my weekend.”
I couldn’t agree more. In the end, where it’s at for me is that Saturdays are a welding of the core of the resident community, and it’s precisely this activity that forges our spirits together…from wherever you’re sitting.
By Chris Alvarez
What Do You Do in Those Meetings?
“Those” meetings also know as AA meetings or 12 step meetings are private. So for me to tell you what exactly what happens in them would be wrong. However I can give you an overview, and touch on the reasons why we do what we do.
Basically AA meetings are places where people who want to stop drinking or using can go to get help. They are also a great way for those who have stopped drinking to maintain their sobriety and serenity. In the meetings people come in and share their experience strength and hope. Cakes and chips are given to celebrate and acknowledge milestones in sobriety and show newcomers that it is possible to stay sober.
A meeting is a place where you can speak your mind and ask for help. It is a therapeutic community of people whose only care is that you stay sober and live well. Over the past 22 months I have experienced more love and support in these meetings than I ever thought was possible.
The knowledge and support that was so freely given to me must be given away if I wish to keep anything I have received. All I have to say is that meetings are awesome and if you or anyone you know needs help just hit a meeting and there will be many people willing to help. Or just leave a comment and I’ll do my best to answer any questions you have.
By Chris Alvarez
What is a sponsor?
A sponsor isn’t a friend. A sponsor isn’t a therapist. A sponsor isn’t a parent. A sponsor is something more. A sponsor is someone who has something you want. They help those who desire sobriety regain a life worth living by taking them through the twelve steps.
Well… that’s what they are supposed to do but most of the time they end up doing a lot more.
Although a sponsor is supposed to be a guide and help keep their sponsees on a path of sobriety, the sponsee ends up helping the sponsor more than they will ever know. It’s been my experience that when I let someone help me, it also helps them.
A sponsor ends up becoming so close to their sponsees that secrets cease to exist. They make their sponsees do things that they don’t want to do, they take sponsees out of their comfort zones and help them overcome their fears.
Ultimately all I can surely say is that my sponsor has helped make me the person I am today; and by sponsoring someone else I learn how to stay sober, or as Peter F. Drucker said, “No one learns as much about a subject as one who is forced to teach it.”
By Chris Alvarez
Us addicts and alcoholics like to call people who don’t suffer from the disease of addiction “normies” or “normal” people. Recently I began to think that these normies might have questions about what it’s like to be an addict/alcoholic. So I began asking some of my “normie” friends if they had any questions.
Here’s the first in a series of questions they had for me:
A NORMIE ASKS:
There are little things that bother me about not being able to drink. I miss the taste of a cold beer on a hot day. I miss going to bars with friends and bonding over a couple drinks. But mostly I’m not really that bothered that I can’t drink. However this being said, what does bother me, and it bothers me a lot, is when I am looked at like a leper, or when people in my family (close relatives) make up lies about me or don’t feel comfortable telling their friends that I am an alcoholic. They do things like give me looks when I am about to be open and honest. For example someone asks me why I moved to LA and I am about to answer, “It’s because I went into treatment.” Then I get cut off before I can answer and someone else replies for me, “he moved there for work.” It’s the stigma of addiction that really bothers me, the shame that family members feel.
Being an alcoholic has taught me how to live life and see the world differently. The struggles I have been through have made me a stronger, wiser and a more caring person, and that is something I am proud of.
By Chris Alvarez
On May 18, 1980 Mt. St. Helens erupted, completely annihilating the surrounding areas. The eruption was the most powerful volcanic event in the lower 48 states, since the 1915 eruption of Lassen Peak in California. The explosion was as powerful as 24 megatons of TNT, 9 megatons more than the most powerful hydrogen bomb ever built by the US. It turned hundreds of miles of forest into wasteland described by President Jimmy Carter as, “more inhospitable than the surface of the moon,” and destroyed nearly 185 miles worth of highway. Along with destroying forests and infrastructure, it also destroyed a way of life that had existed in the area for nearly 80 years.
On January 24, 2012 the volcano of addiction that was my life erupted for the last time.
I recently visited Mt. St. Helens, and was surprised to see that while 30 years had passed since the terrible eruption, the area was still in recovery. For me, my addiction was a volcano that was endlessly erupting and destroying my life one tiny piece at a time. It’s been only 7 months but I am astonished with what I have achieved in my recovery so far.
When I decided that I wanted to get sober I knew that my old life was over. I came to believe that the way I had lived my life would have eventually killed me, and I knew I needed to stop. Since then, I have lived a life filled with recovery. Even, “in my darkest hour, my deepest despair, through my trials and tribulations and my hurt and my sorrows,” (my favorite lyrics from Michael Jackson’s hit song Will You Be There), there is still hope and recovery. This reminded me of an image I saw when I visited Mt. St. Helens—flowers being birthed from the corpse of the murdered forest. If addiction is an exploding volcano, then recovery is the regrowth of flowers from the corpse of my past.