Tag Archives: Beit T’Shuavh

Pain is Weakness Leaving the Body


By Eliot Godwin

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

I Have a Dream…


By Erin Pad

“Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness” – Martin Luther King Jr.

“I’m sick of your lies,” my mom yelled, “get your stuff and get out of my house!”

It was a freezing, January, Michigan night and my mom had finally drawn the line.  She had taken a stand.  I just stood there and mocked her like a selfish brat, but this time it was different— she was different.

There was a time when America made empty promises and lied to part of its family.  It took a strong parental figure, like Martin Luther King Jr. to show America that it needed to change.  He drew a line and he took a stand.  When my mom drew that line for me, I realized it was time for me to change.

mom, me, erin, dream, MLK, T'Shuvah

My Mom and I

I sat there shivering on the porch, wondering how the hell I was going to “change.”  Throughout my using career and my countless tries at getting sober I walked through darkness.  I thought of no one, but myself.  I was the victim of life.  G-d hated me, and that was why I was the way I was.  I was constantly angry and had a bad attitude.  I did not care who I hurt because I was the victim, the black sheep who no one understood.  I hated everyone, including the monster I had become.   I decided I was sick of hating everything.  I wanted to change and be a better person.  I wanted to “walk in the light of creative altruism.”  After a few failed attempts at recovery in Michigan I decided to call Beit T’Shuvah, a place I’d heard could change lives.

Rabbi Mark is always talking about T’Shuvah, meaning return.  Doing T’Shuvah is the process of returning to your authentic self, your true self.  It is when you perform an act of kindness towards another human being.  T’Shuvah in itself can be selfish, but when applied in the right mind frame, it’s one of the most selfless acts one can do.

Martin Luther King Jr. once dreamed of a nation where people “will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”  Today, I am recognizing the contents of my character and how I treat others.  I try to stand for what is right and not judge a book by its cover.  I try to treat everyone as an equal and be kind and compassionate, even to myself.  My mom and I have an amazing relationship today.  I treat her with respect, something I was incapable of doing while high.  I am trying to be the loving daughter she’s always deserved.  And she is my mother, the most beautiful, loving person in my world; something I’ve always known, but never acknowledged.  Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream that changed America forever. T’Shuvah is my dream.

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Filed under addiction, Beit T'Shuvah, BTS Communications, Family Wellness, Gratitude, Mark Borovitz, Sobriety

Lindsay Runs to Save Souls


By Ben Spielberg

As I listen, immersed in her story, I notice Lindsay’s cadence and rhythm as she explains her development into a Beit T’Shuvah resident. She tells me of her struggles and success; her voice lowers and slows to a crawl as she retells her history pre-Beit T’Shuvah, and her voice rises in pitch and quickens as she speaks of her future aspirations of running the Run to Save a Soul 2012 LA Marathon.

Lindsay Posing After Surf Therapy

Just another day at surf therapy

When most people think of recovering drug addicts, they don’t think of Lindsay Recht. They don’t think of college students, who hide their methamphetamine use from their friends and family. They don’t think of “nice Jewish girls” or strong women. They definitely don’t think of swimming teachers or frightened yet poised diabetics. However, Lindsay Recht is all of those things and so much more.

Her story is heartbreaking—as I interview her, I notice her voice quiver and crack when she talks about her family history of addiction. I notice her body shake briefly as she discusses how low her drug use took her—how her parents had to let go of her and how drugs exacerbated her feelings of never fitting in. Most importantly, though, I notice the light in her eyes as she talks about the LA Marathon—how she is no longer running for herself, but instead for the next addict coming into Beit T’Shuvah.

This progression for Lindsay was not easy. Before her time at Beit T’Shuvah, she resisted sobriety despite moving into sober living. After reluctantly moving into Beit T’Shuvah, Lindsay had a cathartic experience in temple one day. “I was dancing at [temple] Valley Beth Shalom,” she shared, “And rabbi came up to me and told me I had this light about me. And he thanked me for sharing it with [them].”

This marathon won’t be easy for Lindsay, either. “It scares me, honestly. I’m diabetic. At this point, it’s like, I’m not running it for me anymore. I’m running it for someone else—for the next drug addict who needs a bed. It’s so much bigger than just me at this point.” Because of her courage and selflessness, we will be following Lindsay until she crosses the finish line. You can view her Crowdrise page or check her out on Twitter.

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Chai Five!: A History*


By Jaron Zanerhaft

Since the dawn of time, our ancestors believed in powers beyond the limits of our senses.  When Prehistoric Man found himself on the brink of self-awareness, he forged within the fires of his very soul a single gesture that contained the power to unite all people and maintain peace in the world.  And when the gesture was complete, Man named it… Chai Five! It was a blessing of unfathomable strength, a potent force of untold skill.  However, the power of Chai Five! proved too strong for early Man to wield, and the gesture was lost for many ages.  Throughout time, Chai Five! has appeared briefly, testing our species to see if we were ready for its mighty and awesome gift.

The first known Chai Five! to go wrong

In Biblical Egypt, Moses invoked Chai Five! on his 9th try to free the Hebrew slaves.  Unfortunately it backfired and a plague of darkness ensued.  Chai Five! next surfaced in Ancient Rome circa 435 A.D. when Emperor Valentinian III attempted to congratulate one of his Gladiators with a gesture greater than “thumbs up.”  But Mankind was still not ready, and Chai Five! collapsed much of the Coliseum into rubble.  Most recently, the Chai Five! was called upon by a young John Lennon who, in 1960, heeded the world’s outcry for a band to champion in an era of love.  Though initially successful, Chai Five! broke in 1969, leaving in its wake more crappy cover bands than the world had ever known.

Ancient Rome circa 435 A.D.

But now the time has come for Chai Five! to clap again!  At long last, we have reached the apex of anticipation.  The air has never been more ripe, the universe never more fertile for a new age.  Chai Five! has completed its incubation so that it may bequeath its jubilance upon us.  And of all the worthy hands by which to gesticulate Chai Five! into being, it has chosen two— yours and ours.  Yes, we cannot Chai Five! alone, so, believing that the time of Chai Five! is here, we have exposed our open palm to you.  You have but only to slap it with yours to bring into being paradise beyond the farthest borders of imagination.  The choice is yours— Will you Chai Five!?

John Lennon's almost successful Chai Five! attempt--unfortunately, the world was not yet ready

* No actual Chai Five!s were documented to have influenced the historical events contained within this blog.  It is purely the speculation and

opinion of the author that these occurrences are too radically similar to not have shared in common Chai Five!. 

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Carmageddon


By M. Alexander

The rotation of our globe has stopped.  Progress is impossible.  All humans have been paralyzed by aggression and impatience.  Does this sound like the rapture, armageddon, the apocalypse, judgment day, or 2012?  It’s actually a description of the coming weekend. The fated days—July 16th and July 17th, 2011.  The location of this apocalyptic nightmare—Los Angeles.

Splash!

This weekend has been dramatically dubbed “Carmageddon.”  Others have christened it the “Carpocalypse.”  The source of this lurid allusion—The 405 will be shut down between the 10 and the 101.

News sources have suggested that we should avoid canyon roads— Sepulveda Boulevard, Beverly Glen Boulevard, Benedict Canyon Drive, Coldwater Canyon Drive, Laurel Canyon Boulevard and Cahuenga Boulevard.  We should also avoid Topanga Canyon Boulevard, Cloverfield Boulevard and 4th and 5th streets. The Harbor Freeway, though 12 miles East of the epicenter, may also be treacherously gridlocked.  The point?  Avoid all streets.  Even the helicopter landing pads are expecting heavy traffic.

Basically, if you want to go over the hill, plan to arrive by Labor Day.  If you plan on going to a movie, make sure it’s a late-season Oscar contender.  Don’t go anywhere.  For anything.  At all.

Don’t drive. Don’t fly.  Just sit down, lie back, and microwave some hot pockets.  As addicts and as Angelenos, it’s difficult for us to do nothing—only our minds to occupy us.  Treat this as a learning experience.

For those of us in recovery, this weekend will challenge all the virtues we strive to attain.  Patience.  Love.  Kindness. Acceptance.  In AA, we attempt to “cease fighting anyone and everyone.”  On the road, we may have the urge to fight everybody and anybody.  Take a moment; realize it’s just one giant pileup.  Plaster the serenity prayer on your dashboard if you plan on defying my advice and getting into your boat to cross the River Styx.  And please, leave your golf clubs at home, lest you pull a  Johnny Drama  on the PCH.

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Freedom Song: Just Me and Drugs, One Happy Family :(


By Jamie Zabludowski

“For as long as I could remember I felt like I didn’t fit in, in school, on the streets, at family dinners, I couldn’t shake this unbearable feeling that I didn’t belong… so I created my own escape.”

For 4 years I was immersed in a very dark heroin addiction. I lost my friends, my family, but most importantly I lost my soul. I was in and out of treatment centers and couldn’t find my inner most self. That is, until I came to Beit T’Shuvah fresh off of being homeless in Florida. I left everything that was familiar to me in Miami without looking back.

I spent two months figuring out how to speak again. Once I found that courage to open up, I joined Freedom Song as an understudy, not really knowing what to expect. Freedom Song is an original musical/play put on by residents and alumni of Beit T’Shuvah. It follows the inspiring real-life stories of 18 addicts sharing a Passover Seder very different than all others. The immensely moving stories and songs form the need for a broader understanding of the disease of addiction. More than a play, Freedom Song is a real life drama that opened my eyes and changed my life.

When I first moved into Beit T’Shuvah I couldn’t form a full sentence. I was completely closed off to everybody–I wasn’t sharing anything about myself, or my past. At first, being a member of the cast was scary. I remember at my first rehearsal, being told, “You need to project! Project Jamie! Project!” And my response was a quiet, “I don’t know how to.” I remember sitting in my room one night with a veteran of the cast and felt as if the words of my character were my own. I realized how similar my story was to my character’s story; in fact they paralleled almost seamlessly.

My first performance was in Irvine about two months ago. I projected and felt every word as I performed. This play has allowed me to find that hidden voice I shut out for so many years. Freedom Song gets every single person in the cast to not hold back and do something different. Who would have thought that I’d go from a homeless heroin addict to performing in front of hundreds of people singing and dancing in a musical?

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Ohh, That Gala!


By Ben Spielberg

Six months ago, if I’d have pictured myself half a year later, the last image to come to my mind would be myself, wearing a full tuxedo inside of the Beverly Hilton, thanking strangers and board members for undoubtedly saving both my life and the lives of others.

And yet, that is exactly how things ended up happening. Beit T’Shuvah’s annual gala helps pay for a lot of our program here. Not only does it pay for about 50 beds, but also programs like surf therapy, art therapy, and Freedom Song. Over 900 people attended, and they were all supporting this one cause.

I have never seen anything like it before. I really felt a part of what was going on—this huge mass of people congregated in the same place feeling passionate about the same thing. We want to be free of this longstanding epidemic of addiction. One bed, one soul, and one example of recovery one person at a time, we are making the world a little bit brighter each day. We want to be free from this slavery.

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