“It’s all on me. The accountability lies on me, myself, and I. I could’ve done the bare minimum if I had wanted to but instead, I chose to maximize the experience. As a result, I’ve ended up raising the bar for my future expectations of myself,” Amanda S. shares.
Developing such a strong perspective on her own identity has been a mighty struggle for the triplet born, along with her sister and brother, in New York, New York in 1989. As she explains, “I felt like I didn’t really have a sense of self. So I would try any and everything I could to stand out.” Not helping matters was the fact that when she was six, along with her fellow triplet siblings, an older sister, and mother, the family moved to Arizona, while her father stayed behind in New York to continue to run his business. “He would visit when he could but he was gone a lot. I just thought it was normal,” she recalls.
But despite her acceptance of the non-traditional familial arrangement, the young Amanda did feel somewhat abandoned by her father even though, as she puts it, “I felt like my abandonment issues were unjustified and a little selfish because he was doing it all for the family.” The move and separation also deeply impacted Amanda’s connection to her Jewish heritage and religious upbringing. “When I lived in New York we had a big and engaged Jewish community, but when we moved we were like the only Jewish family in the neighborhood,” she remembers. While in New York the family regularly attended Shabbat services and other Jewish-related events and activities. However, upon arrival in Arizona, those bonding experiences gave way to a much more superficial and materialistic existence.
This emotional upheaval led to Amanda taking her first drink of alcohol in the sixth grade. As she relates, “When I found alcohol I instantly began to drink to numb out and detach from my pain.” By age thirteen she was only hanging out with friends who also drank only to get wasted and upon entering high school Amanda graduated to abusing prescription “benzos” as well. She and a friend then began to distribute those pills to classmates. And then, as she explains, “I got in big trouble for the first time during my sophomore year when a friend I had sold some pills to overdosed at school.” That led to her expulsion from the entire school district.
Her parents then sent her to a private Jewish school for her junior year, but things only got worse from this point. “There were only sixty-eight total students at the school and the parents had found out about why I was expelled and told their kids to shun me,” she shares. This further alienated young Amanda from her Jewish faith. As she puts it, “If this is what religious people do I want no part of it.” As part of her educational experience at the school, she and her classmates spent half the year in Israel. Upon her return, she found that all of her former public school friends had started abusing cocaine. Not surprisingly, to find some semblance of connection with them and herself and to numb out from her adolescent anguish she also took up the toxic white powder.
As a result, when word spread of her new addiction activities, she was kicked out of the Jewish school and re-enrolled back into her old high school. Despite all of the turmoil and drug abuse,
Amanda managed to graduate and get into Northern Arizona University. But the change of scenery only saw her switch vices from cocaine and benzos to psychedelics, weed, and a return to alcohol. Her freshman year saw her get arrested, get put on academic probation, and eventually flunk out. As part of her attempt to rehabilitate her educational aspirations, Amanda enrolled in a community college, ostensibly to improve her G.P.A. so she could return to Northern Arizona, but instead, she found heroin.
And as she describes, “I was instantly addicted. It overtook my life. I pretended to be in school but I was just doing heroin all day long with my then-boyfriend and getting completely strung out.” As a result, police raided her house and that led to her first stint in rehab. And here’s where things get a bit weird. Because of her aversion to all things G-d and religion she refused to do any type of A.A.-related treatment. So, as she relates, “My mom found a holistic treatment center that was actually run by the Church of Scientology.” She didn’t know it at the time but this facility was being used as a gateway to indoctrinate young people into the now infamous cult. “I sat in hot saunas for five hours while on copious amounts of Niacin. I talked to door knobs, ashtrays, and bottles of Tapatio,” she explains with a sly grin. Needless to say, the radical experience didn’t take.
So, not unlike millions of untreated addicts, she went back to a more socially accepted form of addiction – prescription medications. “To help with my A.D.H.D., anxiety, and pain my psychologist prescribed me Adderall (Meth), Xanax (Benzos), and Oxy (Opioids). It was all legal and it really messed me up. In essence, I was never taught any type of healthy coping mechanism. Everything was just a pill,” she recollects. By this time she was twenty-two, her boyfriend had started to abuse her and she decided to move to Colorado for a fresh start. However, upon arrival, she was confronted with an extremely difficult reality. Colorado had just begun prescription monitoring and she was unable to get the number of legal drugs needed to continue her “pain management” addiction. Thus, she was forced back to the streets and the insidious “dark horse” of heroin.
Over the next ten years, Amanda attended thirty rehab facilities, experienced several overdoses, rebuilt and then burned down her life multiple times, lost several people she was very close with, and ultimately ended up right back where she started, lost and broken. That was, of course, before she found Beit T’Shuvah. She openly admits that “before coming to BTS I had experienced a variety of different sober communities and I was left extremely hesitant to come to yet another ‘spiritually-based’ organization.” However, a trusted friend, Emily B., who was a current resident at BTS at the time, recommended Amanda leave the facility she was currently at in Texas and give Beit T’Shuvah a try. And in February of 2022, she did just that.
But like most first-timers she relays, “I felt like this paranoid junkie who had nothing to offer to the community.” She quickly learned that everyone is important and has so much to offer to the BTS family. “My counselor, Asia, was integral in helping me find my voice as well as helping me see my intrinsic value to not only my own salvation but to the community as a whole,” she shares. Her entire treatment team then began to help shift Amanda’s self-image and sense of self-worth. “My spiritual adviser, Rabbi Miriam, is such a haven of safety for me as a woman. Completely non-judgmental, she has helped me to see G-d in little ways I can handle,” Amanda describes. Her therapist, Lynsey, has also assisted Amanda in re-directing her view of herself more positively. “She didn’t see me as a lying junkie but rather as a bright and shining light. I feel heard and that what I say matters,” she explains.
Now, five months into her stay at 8831, Amanda is a P.F. (Program Facilitator) Intern and is also part of the BTS Summit Team training for their July trip to climb Mount Whitney. As part of that process, she and the team have already hiked Timber, Backbone Trail, Mount Baldy, and Sandstone Peak. She concludes by saying, “This is the first time I’ve actually started to take care of my body as well as my mind during a treatment experience. And I feel amazing.” From being born a triplet and not feeling like she had any type of individual identity or value growing up to now being a responsible, trusted, and beloved member of one of the most unique and special families in the world, Amanda’s BTS experience further reinforces the fact that those who commit to themselves and the community as a whole, during their time at Beit T’Shuvah, a life heretofore unimagined can not only become a possibility but a definitive and resounding reality. Keep climbing Amanda. There are many more summits to reach and dreams to achieve.