Those of us who find Beit T’Shuvah are no strangers to chaos. Some of us come to heal ourselves and break free of the addiction cycle. Others find the BTS community because a loved one is lost in the darkness, which has created chaos in those around them. For Bailee, the chaos of her life that brought her to the healing halls of BTS also served as her greatest comfort for many years. “I have never been okay for an extended period, ever. I need that chaotic energy to feel normal. I find my life is more comfortable in chaos. I lived in this consistent state of disarray and I became used to it. I knew how to navigate it and once I found substances they added to my ability to control the chaos.” Finding and creating chaos, while using substances to numb out became a pattern in Bailee’s life that took her into the darkness and isolation of her existence. Eventually, this led her to eleven treatment centers in seven years. Nevertheless, how does a beautiful, educated, and hardworking young woman become a cocaine addict?
Imagine that you are a child, the oldest of two, in a mid-western family in which everything seems perfect. You grow up in the suburbs of Chicago, playing in the warm summers and getting cozy in the white snowy winters. No signs of trouble on the horizon of her seven-year-old life. Then BAM! Your parents tell you, without any visible signs of trouble, that they are getting divorced. All of a sudden, that picture-perfect life has taken a very sharp turn, and nothing feels safe or perfect anymore. Well, that is what happened to Bailee’s family. Is Bailee an addict because her parents divorced? No, but that loss of the stable family structure, the back and forth of weekends at dad’s and mom’s separate homes, and the grief that first trauma in Bailee’s life definitely added to her pain and longing for escape. “I took it really, really hard and it made my life difficult as a child. There was so much back and forth and chaos and inconsistency that lingered from my early childhood to my adolescence, to my adulthood.”
Bailee did not jump right into drugs as a kid, “if you were to tell me ten years ago that I would be sitting here in residential rehab for the eleventh time trying to recover from a drug addiction I wouldn’t have believed you. Up until the 8th grade I had never tried them, I was very anti-drugs.” As many young kids have done throughout time, Bailee and her group of girlfriends made a pact. There in the local mall in the food court, the four of them swore to never drink alcohol and never do drugs. “Within the next three months, I had taken my first sip of alcohol and started smoking pot.” By her freshmen year of high school, Bailee was dating the local bad-boy drug dealer in school. The excitement of the relationship and the euphoric feelings of fun made Bailee feel propelled toward the distraction and excitement of the chaos.
“Ever since I started liking boys, I have always been drawn to the more unconventional and taboo guys. I need someone with an edge.” That desire for edginess and where it comes from is something that Bailee is only now piecing together at 27 years old. The loss of her perfect family and the chaos of the divorce drove her to find things that could mirror the chaos she felt inside of herself. “The lack of excitement in my life and the pain I felt drove me to find men and situations that weren’t good for me.” This search for chaos led Bailee to discover cocaine at 21, “I thought fuck this is great, and it’s going to be a problem.”
After that first try, Bailee stayed away from the substance for two years. She still drank and did other drugs, but coke had left a lasting impression. An ember that smoldered in the depths of her desires and at 23 sparked a raging firestorm of addiction. “I was at a house party in Chicago and someone had a plate going around. My brain literally said you haven’t done this in two years, you’re fine.’ So I did it. I did one line and I knew it was on.” Throughout all the years of mental health and substance recovery treatments, Bailee has never found anything that comes close to paralleling what the effects of drugs do for her. “They just make me feel okay, it’s not about the party, it’s about the relief I get from doing them.” That search for that relief has kept Bailee using it for a long time. What started as a party and self-imposed regulations around her use, soon turned into a full-blown cocaine addiction. “Fourth of July 2019 was the first time I used it by myself. I knew it was game over; this was a problem. But I wasn’t ready to outwardly admit it. I was prepared to continue to do what I wanted to do. And that turned into me regularly doing four or more grams alone in my apartment with my cat at 10 am. That’s not a party.”
This need to stay numb infiltrated all parts of Bailee’s life. She even started using it at her job where she was a vet tech. Bailee had found a way to have her two favorite things at all times, cats and cocaine. Then Covid hit and she got an opportunity to work remotely. This only added to her ability to use how and when she wanted. “What better way to fuel a drug addiction, I was in sales. So the more coke I did, the more I could sell because the faster I could type and talk. It was all bad.” During Covid, her Dad and that whole side of the family moved to Palm Springs and out of Chicago. This compounded her feelings of isolation during her use in the pandemic. “I love my dad, he is my rock. He wanted me to get sober and I wanted to move to Palm Springs.”
Through many more failed attempts at rehab and sobriety and rehabs, Bailee had all but lost her life. “A lot of people discredit my cocaine addiction, and that’s not okay. Sure, I was never homeless on the street, but I did lose things. But it wasn’t even the material losses that felt like my rock bottom. It was the human connection and the relationships that suffered due to my addiction that hurt. I lost 99% of my human connections and for me, that is far more devastating than anything materialistic” After losing her apartment in Palm Springs, Bailee found herself at her dad’s ready to give up entirely. He stepped in and took control of the situation while Bailee continued to use heavily. “I was out of touch, I was completely out of control, I was not okay. I needed to hand over the reins to my father.” That insight, even at the height of the chaos of her disease and use is a testament to the brilliance of Bailee’s soul. A self-proclaimed atheist at points in her life, Bailee looks back at moments like that and can see how something greater than herself was working to guide her out of the darkness and into the healing light of recovery.
“I’m coming around to the idea of a higher power, I don’t know if my concept of God will ever be a hairy man in the sky with a guest list. But I am coming around to the idea of some sort of spiritual entity that guided me here.” By here she means BTS and her current recovery journey. Her dad and stepmom researched what the right next step was for Bailee, and as a family, they landed on Beit T’Shuvah. “What’s different about Beit T’Shuvah? So much! I needed something with long-term accountability. I needed a place where I could establish a sober network. And I needed a place that could help me build a spiritual foundation. These were all things I was missing and special alternative approaches to recovery that only Beit T’Shuvah offers that I had never tried before. At the end of this last relapse, I thought my only option was death if I could not get this. But now, thanks to BTS, I am having a profound spiritual experience.”
Bailee has walked away from her chaos and the comfort it and cocaine had brought her. She is five months sober and interning as a Program Facilitator at BTS. “I am so fortunate I was selected to do the PF internship. I have been doing it for two months now and I am enjoying it. I’m really enjoying work in treatment.” Bailee has plans to go back to school and become a social worker that works in the prison system helping inmates rebuild their lives and start fresh. “The criminal justice system has always fascinated me, and it is so flawed. I think that people who go to prison deserve and need help and rehabilitation.” She smiled as she realized that in many ways this desire to be of service to people coming out of the chaos of prison life is a full circle moment. The good little girl from Chicago with a propensity for bad boys, drugs, and life on the edge after her world turned upside down at such a young age, can now see a purpose to it all. A discovery she owes to her time here at Beit T’Shuvah. “No one is ever too far gone, to get help. Everyone deserves another chance.”