Tag Archives: Run To Save A Soul

Pain is Weakness Leaving the Body

By Eliot Godwin


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.


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.”


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.


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.



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

My Mom, Jennifer Sarnoff: Running to Save Souls

Los Angeles Marathon runner for Beit T'Shuvah

Me and my mom

My name is Jackson and I am 2 years old.  I like pudding and naptime. Another thing about me: my mommy, Jennifer, is crazy.  Wanna know why?

She is running 26.2 miles for the LA Marathon this year. So on top of having to take care of me, feed me, watch me, teach me, clean me, and get me to bed every day, she runs. And not just a mile, or two, but eventually, 26.2! And do you know who she’s running for? Beit T’Shuvah.  She’s running for a Jewish rehab that she never even lived at! She’s never even personally struggled with addiction. I mean, sure, while growing up in Los Angeles, my mom saw a lot of people deal with addiction—some of her family and friends were addicts. She’s seen the tragedy of alcoholism and witnessed the insanity of drug dependency. But she’s not an addict. She’s not an alcoholic. She’s not even a compulsive gambler.

She used to be “normal,” too. I did some eavesdropping and when asked if she ever thought about running a marathon, I overheard her saying in an interview: “No, and I’ll tell you a secret. I almost failed out of PE in high school because I wouldn’t run the mile…I hated running. I used to get hiccups and I didn’t know how to breathe right when I ran. I’m kind of laughing to myself when I run these distances. It blows my mind that I’m about to take on this experience.”

Crazy she may be, but I guess my mom is dedicated. She’s only able to run with the team every other week because she takes care of me. I like to think of myself as her boss. And as her boss I guess I’d like to tell her that I’m proud… huh? I gotta go. My mom’s calling me. And I love her, so I’m gonna go now.

Jennifer Sarnoff


Jennifer Sarnoff has a remarkable, beaming radiance. She is a woman who follows through with her word, promising to run the marathon a year before she signs up. Jennifer is a key component to our team because, like Chris, she did not go through Beit T’Shuvah. She runs because of the kindness in her heart and the professed blessings she feels from seeing the bountiful work of Beit T’Shuvah, treating the broken-willed and restoring the souls of her loved ones. She now runs to save a soul.

When asked about what she is most nervous about running the marathon, she resolutely replied, “Running 26.2 miles… I’m not Forrest Gump.” She’s right, she’s not Forrest Gump—she’s Jennifer Sarnoff. And we think that’s something to be proud of. You can check her Crowdrise page here.

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Filed under addiction, Family Wellness, LA Marathon, Run To Save A Soul, Spirituality, Temple, Uncategorized

Coach Chris and the LA Marathon Run to Save a Soul 2012

Coach Chris at last year's marathon

“The metaphor of running with recovery is profound. One foot in front of the other, being devoted, not giving up. Pushing past the wall. Having moments of intense exhilaration and moments when you really doubt yourself.” This is how Christopher King describes the intense relationship between running and recovering. For some, running is a simple challenge, a test of will and feat. For others, it is a divine spiritual practice. Christopher King fits the paradigm of a man who shares his passion and helps others recover their purpose by coaching the 2011 BTS Run to Save a Soul Marathon.

Chris (aka ‘Coach Chris’) enthusiastically became a contributing member of the Beit T’Shuvah team a little over three years ago when he saw our own Rabbi Mark speak at Culver City’s Rotary Club. Though he’d never heard of Beit T’Shuvah before and was not Jewish, the Rabbi intrigued him, and he decided to check out our Shabbat services one Friday night. Chris had been seeking for a long time, though he wasn’t sure for what. He knew upon his arrival that this was it. A place he could be passionate about, and a faith he wanted to learn more about (Chris is now in the process of conversion). He wanted to give back to the community that had begun to give so much to him, so he offered to do the thing he knew best: to run.

Chris had already run 7 marathons before joining up with the BT team. He embraced marathon running after college as an opportunity for self-discipline and to cultivate a sense of purpose. Three years later, Chris is just as excited about coaching BT as when he started. He thrives off of motivation—more specifically, he thrives off of giving people motivation. “I understand it having run before,” Chris says, “especially when the mileage starts to increase and your body starts to get the natural aches and pains, waking up early in the morning, going out again and again…[that’s when] being able to reach people and keep them motivated is a challenge but its one of the things I like the most about it. It’s a lesson that translates to real life, the principles you need to run a marathon are the same principles you need in life.”

The culmination of all the training builds to the night before the marathon—the team feasts on a big meal, but everybody still has their doubts about whether or not their body can make it the 26.2 miles, and more importantly, whether or not their minds can surpass nagging uncertainties. Chris takes this moment to impart a personal story (which will go untold, unless you run the marathon!) of doubt and triumph to help inspire the runners before they go to sleep.

After passing the finish line, Chris looks forward to the same ritual every year. First he hugs his father, and then he gets to work on his cell phone, calling all members of the team to make sure they make it to the finish line.

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Filed under addiction, Beit T'Shuvah, Current Events, Family Wellness, Gratitude, LA Marathon, Run To Save A Soul, Uncategorized

Gala? What Gala?!

By Ben Spielberg

Beit T’Shuvah’s annual Gala is quite possibly one of the most exciting events of the year! But with all of the surf therapy, alumni Torah studies, acting groups, marathons, and musicals, how could this be, you ask? Well, as some of you may know, Beit T’Shuvah is a non-profit treatment center/synagogue, where nobody has ever been denied a bed due to lack of funds! Because of this, Beit T’Shuvah is constantly seeking donation opportunities in order to keep the place running , and to continue to be able to accept people regardless of their financial situation. In the past, the Gala has a pattern of raising enough money for 50 people to stay per year, and out of 120 residents, that means almost 50%. Are you excited yet?! If you’re not so sure, check out this video that one of the interns of BTS Communications has created.

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Filed under Beit T'Shuvah, BTS Communications, Current Events, Gala, Gratitude

United By Charity

It was 5:30 am, the air was cold and the sun had not made its presence know. In the darkness of the night some of the residents of Beit T’Shuvah packed the big white van headed for Dodger Stadium. Where they going to an early morning baseball game? Defiantly not. However, I think they were going to be part of something far greater.

For the second year in a row Beit T’Shuvah is an official participating charity of the Los Angeles Marathon. As we arrived in the floor level of the stadium parking lot, we were greeted by the other various charities taking part in this year’s LA marathon Charity Awareness Day. Everyone from the blind to mentally challenged, drug addicted to paralyzed, even dogs from the Rover Rescue showed up and though we were all different in our appearances, we were all united by our passion to help better the community and our world.

While different members of our teams ran different legs of the 26-mile course, I realized that this race wasn’t about who wins. The real winners are the people of all different problems and backgrounds that are benefited by the monies raised to support the charities of the event. So in a way we all win.

The most amazing part of the experience for me was to see the residents, some of whom had only been sober for a week, doing something to give back to a community that hey had taken so much from. They have traded in their addictions to participate in an event that helps them just as much as it helps anyone else.

If you want to sponsor or participate in our “Run to Save a Soul 2011,” please contact Nina Haller or Alison Ditlove at (310) 204-5200. Additional information to help this campaign can be found at active.com/donate/beittshuvah on our active giving page.

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Filed under addiction, Beit T'Shuvah, LA Marathon

Anything is Possible

By Gini Bowling

Gini & Kaylee

What better way to celebrate my two-year sober birthday than to go out of my comfort zone?  I am not an athletic person – I smoke, and love to sit on the couch and watch TV.  Walk eighteen miles?  Sure! Why not?

I get to the Shuv around 5:30 and head out to Shirley’s.  The first person I see is Karen who greets me with a huge hug.  “This is my old roomie”, she announces to the other residents nearby.  Karen and I went through primary together, then sober living and finally Independent.

Karen has been a huge inspiration for me throughout my recovery.  I am a VERY competitive person and Karen came into Beit T’Shuvah after I did.  Our time sharing a room while in primary was amazing but too short.  She moved up to sober living before I did….WHAT?  OH noooooooooooooooooooooooooo….I couldn’t have that!!!!  My competitive side (also known as my ego) took over, and snapped me into action.  The next week I had a job and was moving to sober living.  Thanks Karen.  🙂

A very similar chain of events happened when transitioning to Independent living.  Karen went first and I followed very shortly after.

There are about  10 of us excitedly piling into the van as Doug drives us to Hermosa Beach.  We’ve got our backpacks full of healthy snacks and water.  The sun is setting on the ocean and I take it all in with a deep breath.  There are people all along the bike path with their dogs and their bikes.  A happy energy consumes me – sort of like that feeling I got as a child when everything was perfect in the universe.  Some of the people in the group I have not spent too much time with other then maybe a hello in passing, but right at this moment, we have become bonded.

We start our journey.

Half of the group walks ahead at a faster pace, I can see them disappearing into the night.  Karen, MJ, Steph and Ronit are my comrades.  We can barely see the embryonic lights of the Santa Monica ferris wheel far away in the distance.  “Keep looking at the ferris wheel”, Karen says.

At around mile 8, MJ points to the marker on the bike path and says, “Look, mile 8!”  I am shocked. “Shut UP!”, I say.  “No way — this is EASY!”  MJ chuckles and says, “Just wait till 18, when your legs feel like jello”.  I am not worried I think to myself.  If Karen can do it, so can I!  I look over at Karen and she’s truckin’ along.

Just then I look over at the ocean, and I see big beautiful lights.  “Oh my God you guys, look at that cruise ship!”  Through her laughter, Karen says, “That’s not a cruise ship, that’s an oil rig!”  We roar into laughter for miles.

We are somewhere in the Marina at this point  (can’t gauge because we’ve lost sight of the ferris wheel) and we are lost.  I pull out my GPS on my phone and we are on our way.   We walk about a mile and I hear MJ say, “Oh Gin”.  I look up and we are at a dead end.  At this point, Steph has a stomach ache and a blister and can’t go on.  She sits down and says, “You guys go…I can’t do anymore, tell them to come pick me up here.”  “Oh no” I say, “Come on, you can do it”.  She reluctantly gets up and we back track until we get back on the right course.

We are somewhere between 14 and 18 miles, and I am starting to loose speed.  My feet and legs hurt so bad.  There is no way that I believe that I can do this anymore. – Thank God for GaGa in my iPod.  A bit further, and I fall back to the rear.  I can see the rest of the crew pushing on and I wonder how they are doing it.  I just don’t understand where they are finding the energy to push forward.  I keep shifting back and forth in my mind – “I can’t do this” to “If they can do it, then so can I” and back to “I can’t do this”.  We find our way back to the bike path and I can see the ferris wheel.  It has definitely gotten bigger, however it’s not big enough.  At this point my phone alerts me of a new Facebook message.  It’s David, he’s updated his status to say, “successful mission. completed with ease and comfort. thank you all for your love and support, i mean that wholeheartedly. “ – I want to throw my phone for a moment and then I realize that this status couldn’t have come at a better time.

It’s about 1:00 in the morning and we are walking (dragging) through Venice.  Steph falls back with me and asks me if I’m ok.  I say, “No.  I am not ok.  I can’t go anymore”.  She says, “Oh no, yes you can..you can do it!”  I don’t believe that I can do it at that moment, but something inside me is pushing me.  That ferris wheel is getting brighter and bigger…

The last mile was the most difficult.  MJ stayed with me and put up with me having to stop every few feet to sit.  At one point he asked me if I wanted him to carry me the rest of the way.  I said,  “No..I can do this, I just need to rest for a second”.  Thanks MJ.

We finally made it to the ferris wheel.  My legs felt like they were going to fall off.  My eyes welled up with tears and I felt a lump in my throat.  I did it.  I can’t believe I did it.  I walked eighteen miles.  I was floating.

This experience has affected other areas of my life.  I am pushing through things everyday, that previously I would have given up on.  I have this drive inside now that is taking the place of fear.  I realize the importance of community and lifting each other up.  The bond that I have with the others is indescribable.  Anything is possible if you want it and are not afraid to ask for help!  You can do it!

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Filed under Gratitude, Run To Save A Soul