Tag Archives: addiction

Pain is Weakness Leaving the Body


By Eliot Godwin

philippides-300x253

The modern marathon as a sporting event was inspired by the fabled story of Philipedes, who ran from the battlefield at Marathon to Athens to announce the Greek victory over the Persians. After uttering his last words, “joy to you,” he promptly collapsed and died. When I ran the L.A. Marathon earlier this month, I wasn’t bringing any news to anyone in particular, but I certainly felt like collapsing and death was probably in play at some point.

You see, I took the marathon lightly. I went to the weekly training sessions because my counselor suggested I get involved in any and all physical activities offered at Beit T’Shuvah. Running a few miles on Sunday mornings seemed like a logical extension of that. I’d train for the half-marathon and just run the full on race day like no big deal. I rarely considered the marathon as an actual task; in my mind it felt more like just the end of my Sunday running appointments.

eliotmatters

Even on race day I complained about having to get up so early (4:30 A.M.) and tried to sleep as everyone else stretched and got excited for the race. When the race finally started, I felt great and decided I’d have no problem keeping pace with my friend who had been training seriously for months. This went against everything our coaches had repeated week after week, but I was a lifelong athlete, I’d played a Division I sport in college (12 years ago, mind you) and how long is 26.2 miles, really?

It’s long. By mile eight, I’d given up on keeping pace with my friend but I still thought I’d be able to finish no problem. At mile ten the five-hour pace runner had come and gone and I started feeling…a little less confident. At the halfway point I was supposed to stop and take a van to the block party at mile 19 but something about that just felt wrong. Get in a van while my fellow runners continued to suffer? Quit halfway and go party? It seemed like a metaphor for how I had lived my life thus far. I’d take a passion project lightly so when I inevitably quit halfway through, my lack of follow through wouldn’t carry much sting.

I was drawn to gambling because there was little effort and/or preparation required but lucrative, tangible results were attainable. No effort, cash reward? Sign me up! But I soon found out the principles of life don’t change just because you’re in a casino. Add compulsive addiction to the mix and I was licked. Preparation and discipline are key to any type of success, they just manifest in different, sometimes more subtle ways. I thought I could get by on my wits and guile, like a college student who shows up to a sociology midterm half-drunk expecting to ace it. But college and casinos aren’t real life until you leave.

At Beit T’Shuvah I’ve learned that pain and hardship are inevitable. Our impulses can often be damaging and will always be there, but preparing accordingly to deal with them will afford us a healthy, balanced life. Sitting with discomfort is possibly the most important part of overcoming addiction. My sojourns to the casino were attempts to not only completely escape the difficulty of life but to live life on my own terms, without the pain. And what did I eventually find in the casino? Pain, destruction and misery on a whole new level.

At mile 15 the pain was so great that I convinced myself I wouldn’t be able to finish. After all, I had only trained for the half-marathon, was it so bad if I stopped at mile 19? 19 miles was a lot, a terrific accomplishment. But when I scoffed my way through the halfway point I had committed to finishing. They say running a marathon is more mental than anything. At that point my body was telling me to stop and my mind was agreeing wholeheartedly. I was convinced I would need a wheelchair for months and that my knees would be irreparably injured. But something inside of me kept whispering, “finish.” At the 19th mile block party, stopping was never a real option as my friends cheered me on with hugs and high fives. The surge of confidence and adrenaline I got from this brief interlude carried me until my mind again intervened with the realization that “you’re almost there!” really meant, “you have more than seven more miles left.”

blockparty

Through miles 20-23 I saw multiple people carried away on stretchers, heard people talking about a 28-year old male who had a heart attack (I’m 34), and was passed by the older brother of Rip Van Winkle on one crutch. Still I persisted. The pain was unbearable but I bore it proudly like the medal of supreme achievement that would soon hang on my neck. After a few more miles, I could see the finish line! When I finally finished and obtained one of the few remaining medals, a race volunteer promptly removed it from my neck and replaced it with the half-marathon medal that matched my special yellow bib. The look of confusion and exasperation on my face must have been enough to persuade one of the blithe, less-experienced volunteers to give it back.

medal

I’ve always thought my shortcomings were the result of my refusal to finish what I’d started, not a lack of confidence. I thought I had confidence in spades and I just didn’t care enough to follow though on anything meaningful. But really I didn’t believe in myself enough to allow myself to fail. I was scared of what would happen if I finished something I cared about and it wasn’t all that good. I finished the marathon in six hours and 45 minutes. Over that span, the winner of the race could have run three marathons and still have time left over for a shower, a shave, and a leisurely cab ride to the airport. Instead of being upset with myself for taking so long, I am filled with confidence because I finally committed to something and I followed through to the end. It may not have been the Greeks defeating the Persians, but it was definitely a joyous occasion for me.

2 Comments

Filed under 12-Steps, addiction, Alcoholics Anonymous, Beit T'Shuvah, BTS Communications, Community, Current Events, Gratitude, Judaism, LA Marathon, Run To Save A Soul, Sobriety, Spirituality, T'Shuvah

Does Facebook Reflect Your True Self?


shutterstock_168145139

Special Thanks to Susan B Krevoy Eating Disorder Program Blog for providing us with this material.

By Eliot Godwin

The Internet is not real. In real life, much less choice is involved in how we present ourselves. We are who we are, and even if we try to hide our secrets, they have a way of surfacing in subtle ways. Online, we can pick and choose exactly what we present to our ‘friends’ and how we present it. Our online selves are mostly trim and tidy, we allow sloppiness if it’s tasteful and mildly self-deprecating. Even the most blithe Facebook user has removed an unflattering tag or two.

But for young people who’ve never known a world without Facebook, the Internet is very real. A recent study conducted by Florida State University found a correlation between time spent on Facebook and eating disorders. Facebook combines peer influence with popular media, both of which are tied to self-worth. Instead of seeing only models in magazines and on television, now women can see their skinnier peers in swimsuits on their Facebook pages.

“Your friends are posting carefully curated photos of themselves on their Facebook page that you’re being exposed to constantly. It represents a very unique merging of two things that we already knew could increase risk for eating disorders,” Dr. Pamela K. Keel explains. Dr. Keel and other psychologists at Florida State studied 960 college women in their study and outlined their findings in a paper, “Do You ‘Like’ My Photo? Facebook Use Maintains Eating Disorder Risk”.

Just as Facebook and other forms of social media have contributed to increased and more tortuous bullying of adolescents, this study shows that it clearly contributes to what the National Eating Disorder Association calls “unprecedented growth of eating disorders in the past two decades.”

The problem is that we see our Facebook pages as parts of ourselves instead of what they are: pictures. Facebook is a brilliant concept, executed with precision and clean simplicity. But it’s not an accurate representation of who we are. For young people whose identities are often inextricably tied to Facebook, it’s hard to take a step back and see the chasm that exists between who they really are and their Facebook page. Dr. Keel reminds us to “consider what you are pursuing when you post on Facebook. You are a whole person and not an object, so don’t display yourself as a commodity that then can be approved or not approved.”

How we’re perceived, especially as it pertains to images of ourselves posted on the Internet, is not who we are. Feeling secure has to do with actions, deeds and life. Not pictures. It’s shallow and destructive to tie our self-worth to photographs. My Facebook page shows some pictures of me and that I ‘like’ broccoli, The Wire and Daft Punk. Is that who I am? Broccoli and Daft Punk? More revealing than my ‘likes’ is that I chose to post them on Facebook. I am the choices I make, not what I choose to reveal on a website. Are the choices you’ve made lately posted on your Facebook page? Is it a detailed representation of who you are, or an e-scrapbook with comments?

Leave a comment

Filed under addiction, Beit T'Shuvah, BTS Communications, Current Events, Eating Disorder, Internet, Sobriety, Spirituality

Saturday Morning Shabbos Services At Beit T’Shuvah: A View From The Stage


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.

Image

 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.

Image

 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.

 

4 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Questions From a Normie #5


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.

hotquestion

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.

6 Comments

Filed under 12-Steps, addiction, Alcoholics Anonymous, Community, Compulsive Gambling, Education, Gratitude, Sobriety

Questions From a Normie #4


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.”

6 Comments

Filed under 12-Steps, addiction, Alcoholics Anonymous, Compulsive Gambling, Education, Gratitude, Sobriety, Spirituality, T'Shuvah, Uncategorized

Questions from a Normie


 

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:

What bothers me most about not being able to drink?

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.

8 Comments

Filed under 12-Steps, addiction, Alcoholics Anonymous, Education

Out of The Ashes


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.

Mt. St. Helens

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.

3 Comments

Filed under addiction, Beit T'Shuvah, Sobriety, Uncategorized