Unfortunately, people over 50 tend to be an overlooked demographic in our society. We quietly shove them into the corners of our lives, making them irrelevant, possibly as an attempt to ignore our own impending and inevitable deaths. It’s a tragic tradition, as wisdom lies with those who have experienced life—and live to tell about it. At Beit T’Shuvah, in our own little community that often reflects society, we tend not to pay as much attention to our older residents. But they deserve some love too. So here’s a spotlight on Aimee W., an incredibly beautiful and multifaceted human being, and a woman over 50.
Aimee was born on the East Coast, into a strict, Catholic family. From the outside, it was a traditional, American family: A dad that worked a lot to support them financially, and a mother that raised the children. When Aimee was ten years old, they picked up and moved across the country to Malibu, California. Toes in the sand, Aimee became “a beach girl.”
“We had a pretty great life,” she says of her childhood. That all changed when she was in junior highschool and her mother started drinking a lot. “She got pretty wild,” Aimee remembers with a slight smile and mixed expression on her face. “My parents began separating and getting back together frequently. So, there was a lot of chaos then.” As a result, Aimee felt she had to take on quite a bit of responsibility within her family.
Once in high school, however, Aimee found her parent’s distractedness beneficial for her teenage-freedom. She and her younger sister Debbie (just 13 months her junior) took full advantage of their parents being otherwise engaged. “We got really crazy. She was my running-buddy,” Aimee says of Debbie. “We surfed and spent a lot of time on the beach, did a lot of drugs…but at the time out there [in Malibu,] people just smoked a lot of pot, did a lot of psychedelics, nothing too serious.”
After high school Aimee moved to Santa Barbara for college and met her husband. “I was 19, and he was the guy for me,” she says, reflectively. “We got together and that was the man I wanted to be with for the rest of my life.” In love and pursuing her art, Aimee was enjoying her life. She decided she wanted to have a family. (Not before some heavy partying, supplemented by alcohol and good old-fashioned cocaine, though—it was the 80s, afterall!) Eventually, Aimee got sober, in order to start a family of her own. It was an easy choice for her. A few years into her sobriety, she was blessed with her daughter, Daisy. Her son, Jackson, followed not long after that.
Aimee was able to stay sober when her children were young. She went years without drinking. “My story is that I could go a long time staying sober, but I would always drink again,” she admits. “For some reason I thought that just having a family was going to keep me sober, but I still had all that ‘stuff’ that I had never really dealt with. I had childhood trauma, felt a sense of inadequacy, I suffered from depression, and all those things were still there. I tried to do self-help programs and books, I tried different religions, I tried A.A, I tried transcendental meditation, I tried everything to fix what was going on inside me, I thought, but I never really, truly dealt with it.”
Her monster grew. “I did a lot of hurtful things. Even though I didn’t have any DUIs or physically hit my kids or anything like that, I did hurtful things, said hurtful things, acted in a way that really damaged my family,” Aimee shares. “My mother was an alcoholic and I swore I’d never be like her, but I ended up doing the very same thing to my kids because I had never really healed right.” When Aimee chose to drink again, time after time, it broke her family’s hearts, too.
One year, Aimee’s little sister, Debbie, whom she was always very close with, moved to Israel. She was an alcoholic, like Aimee, but never had any periods of sobriety like her older sister. “When I was sober, I would try to get her to be sober, too. It was a great heartbreak of mine that I never could,” Aimee recalls. Debbie was drinking heavily and abusing pills. In a foreign country, away from her family, Debbie died alone from alcoholism. Debbie’s daughter and granddaughter died from this disease, as well. “We clearly have alcoholism in our family, it really goes down the line.” Aimee explains.
Not long after her sister’s death, tragically, Aimee’s husband passed away, too, from a stroke. Needless to say, this shattered her world. With a son still in high school and a daughter in college, Aimee became solely responsible for her family; financially and otherwise. Like a great rolling snowball turned avalanche, Aimee’s mother was diagnosed with cancer, and sadly, six months later she succumbed. It’s a lot for anyone to have to handle, especially in such a short period of time. So, it was no surprise when Aimee turned to her old friend: booze.
“I tried not to drink, but couldn’t stop. I was drinking to die,” Aimee tells me. With multiple trips to the hospital, stays in the ICU, and blood transfusions, the doctors told her family drinking was going to kill her. “My family thought I was going to go the same way my sister went.”
A few of her close friends and a neighbor rallied around her and got her help. Aimee finally let them. They found Beit T’Shuvah and Aimee came to us in December 2021. “It wasn’t obvious at first that [healing] was happening for me, but it was,” she says of her first few months here. Through rigorous work with her therapist, Nikki, and counselor, Katie, Aimee began to find soul-mending and hope. She treasures the time she spent getting to know people within the community. “The women, in the groups, even the young kids there that you’d think we had nothing in common—we had so much in common, and I loved our talks,” Aimee relays. “And the music, the services—I had many breakthroughs and breakdowns during the time I was experiencing all that.”
With some deep therapeutic work, and with communal love and support, Aimee began to come back to life. She started work at the Beit T’Shuvah Thrift Store, where she is now an integral part of its day-to-day operations. “It became a job I absolutely love!” she expresses. Aimee is a good friend, a reliable employee, and a woman with integrity. “Gratitude is my spirituality,” she says with glee.
In addition, Aimee refocused her energy to her health, and even wrote a book that’s being published in the next few months called, “Transformational Intermittent Fasting for Women Over 50.” “There are other women over 50 years old who are still struggling,” she declares. “Maybe they think it’s too late, or that they won’t relate to anyone in a program, so they don’t seek treatment and that’s too bad. I still have a lot of good years left.” And she does! Heartfelt, she says, “I just hope that people who are older can see that you can still recover from addiction to drugs and alcohol. I think my job on Earth is to practice loving kindness and compassion for others; that might be my purpose, who knows!”
Moreover, she enrolled and graduated from Sober College in order to get an alcohol and drug counselor’s license. “My goal is to get a job in recovery, because I think I have a lot to offer,” she voices. “There’s a spark of Divine in all of us.”
“I’m healthier than I’ve ever been in my life,” Aimee concedes. “Coming to Beit T’Shuvah was life changing. I know there’s magic, I can’t put my finger exactly on what all the magic is, but there’s something that happens for people there that I see. And it happened for me there.”