By Eliot Godwin
By Eliot Godwin
Beep beep beep beep…
I can’t say for sure why I hate my alarm clock. It’s an inanimate object. I’m definitely smarter than my alarm clock and it does exactly what I tell it. Perhaps I really just hate myself for committing to getting up early and running miles upon miles every Sunday morning. More likely it’s that I love myself enough to commit to something that makes me physically healthier and mentally stronger, and follow through on that commitment each week. Clearly, it’s tough love.
The perspective from under my comforter is bleak. A snoring, farting roommate. Accruing laundry. Clouds and rain. Once I get up, however, the world doesn’t look so intimidating. How quickly the body responds to the act of going from horizontal to vertical in the morning. The brain needs blood to operate, and getting vertical denies my brain the blood it needs to make bad decisions like ‘stay in bed’ or ‘do drugs’ or ‘gamble.’ I leave my room! I interact with people! I eat bagels!
When I start running, the endorphins start to flow and life is good. Invariably, I wonder how I ever considered not getting out of bed. With the unwavering support and infectious enthusiasm of Stephanie Cullen and Craig Miller, along with everyone else on the team, I feel a part of something. We train on our own during the week, and every Sunday the team meets at the Santa Monica Pier for our weekly runs, some as long as 20 miles.
In so many ways, my weekly marathon training is a microcosm of rehabilitation. Arresting my addiction is difficult because it is uncomfortable, like getting out of bed. Training for a marathon is hard and daunting, but the road is paved with success and encouragement, along with the inevitable difficulties. My team is supportive and present; we look out for each other and hold each other accountable.
Once training ends, the real thing awaits. Hopefully we’ve been present in our preparation and have amassed a toolbox of the strategies and skills necessary to succeed. Like life, the marathon is fraught with peril and unexpected complications will certainly arise. But failure is much less an option than a choice we simply cannot make.
In part one and two of our Judaism and The Blues series, Rabbi Mark Borovitz weighed in his thoughts the relation between the two as emotions and concepts. In part three below, Beit T’Shuvah musical director James Fuchs discusses and illustrates the musical similarities between the two, as well as pointing out the parallels of their origins.
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 David Gole
Last Friday I arrived at LAX, still stunned from one of the most memorable experiences I have ever had – a sober birthright trip. Around October, my counselor asked me if I had ever been to Israel before on an organized trip to which I replied “Yes I have been there 3 times, but never on an organized trip.” When she asked me if I wanted to go on a sober birthright trip, I had to think about it for a minute. A “sober” birthright trip, is that even Kosher? At first, the thought of a bunch of recovering addicts and alcohols traveling the Promised Land sounded like either a lot of fun or a recipe for disaster. Being the optimist that I am, I willingly took the plunge into the unknown.
When we arrived in Tel Aviv, everything I experienced 7 years before started coming back to me. Many of the things I had seen were just how I remembered and experienced them; only last time I did not lose my luggage. We then drove from Ben Gurion Airport up to the Golan Heights where we stayed for three nights. Though I had my skepticism about being with people in recovery in Israel, it quickly disappeared when everyone seemed to bond almost immediately as we got to look out onto Syria and hiked around Gamla. On the way to Tzfat, 4 Israelis joined our trip and so did my luggage. Like we embraced each other on that first day, we welcomed the Israelis with open arms and open hearts. After spending 3 days in the north, we ventured on our tour bus down to the holy city of Jerusalem.
The memories of Jerusalem before I went consisted of three things – Ice Cream, Candy, and Jewish mumbo jumbo that I was too young to identify with. This time, now that I am older and have a better understanding of what’s going on around me, I was able to appreciate the Jewish side of Jerusalem a lot more. Going to the Western Wall on Friday night with 50,000 Jews singing and dancing followed by dinner over looking the wall was an incredible experience. Saturday night, we went to Ben Yehuda Street for a little sober fun and danced everywhere. On our last day in Jerusalem we went to Yad Vashem where the fellowship of our group really stood out as everyone expressed their compassion for each other. After that we went to the marketplace and bargained with our Israeli friends. Exhausted from an emotional day, we all went to sleep very satisfied with our purchases and the money we saved.
The next day was our last day with the Israelis and we tried to enjoy ourselves as much as possible. We went to Herzliya where we visited a recovery center called Matrix. It was nice to see people with less time because it reminds me of where I was when I started this process and it shows them that it is possible to string time together. Proceeding our time with the residents of Matrix Recovery Center, it was time to say our goodbyes to our Israeli friends, where everyone was sad to see them leave.
New Year’s Eve in Netanya was just not the same without our Israeli friends, but that didn’t keep us down for the duration of the trip. New Year’s Day we hit Tel Aviv and Yafo with full force. Visiting Independence Hall was eventful for me because after seeing learning about what I had seen in Poland, the declaration of Israel’s Independence was very important for Jews everywhere. We did not spend the night in Tel Aviv; instead we drove south to a Bedouin Camp in the Negev Desert and spent the night with everyone in a tent.
The night in the Bedouin Tent was rough. It was cold, sandy and almost everyone woke up with some type of sickness. Early that morning we rode camels around the Negev and then drove to Masada. Even though everyone that was sick was given the option to take the tram, the resilient nature of recovering addicts drove most of us to tough it out and hike the mountain. After hitting the major landmarks in the Negev like the Dead Sea and Ein Gedi, we spent our last night 20 minutes outside of Jerusalem at a kibbutz.
On the final day of the trip, we went back to Jerusalem to celebrate bar and bat mitzvahs and have some quality time in the old city. The final goodbyes were very emotional, but our Israelis friends, dressed in animal costumes, surprised us at the airport. All in all, the experience I had on birthright with people that deal with the daily struggles of addiction was one for the ages. It was amazing how quickly these friendships blossomed and how we were able to show the Israelis on our trip that although we are not a normal birthright trip, we can still have fun without waking up every morning with a hangover. I can honestly say that this was one of the most influential moments in my life and strongly encourage recovering alcoholics and addicts to go on a sober birthright trip.
By: Chris Alvarez
Being sober during the New Year holiday is something many addicts and alcoholics have a tough time with. This is one of the few days a year where it is socially acceptable for tax-paying, dog-walking, pay check-cashing, grocery store going people to act like drunken fools. Here are some tips that should help any addict or alcoholic stay sober during the holiday.
Sober Parties: Please don’t laugh. Ok you can laugh. Yes they are painfully awkward and most of the time its just a bunch of people standing around drinking Red Bulls, but they offer the addict in recovery a chance to socialize in a safe environment without the temptations of substances (besides cigarettes and energy drinks). However there are ways for one to go out and stay safe and sober.
Sober Companionship: An addict or alcoholic can go out and celebrate with “normies.” But it is advisable to only go out with someone who has more time than you, or go out with a group of other sober people so that you can watch each other. It may sound strange and intrusive but it could save your life.
Sober Dances: This is just as funny, ridiculous, and awkward as a sober party but can be fun as soon as everyone decides to stop being shy (don’t hold your breath this could take a LONG time). Until that happens it’s just a bunch of sober people standing around drinking energy drinks. But that can be fun…
Hope this helps, if it doesn’t then don’t do anything. New Years is just another day, stay in and watch TV or something.
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.”