There he was, in the hills of Calabasas, passed out on his father’s front lawn with an extensive sunburn. With an empty bottle in hand and 30 years of regrets, Ben G. awoke to the realization that he needed to change the way he was living. Ben wasn’t under the impression that he would find his faint hopes, distant dreams, and dashed confidence at the bottom of the bottle, but that didn’t stop him from looking. The people he called friends were all just means for him to acquire different substances. The closest person to him was Jack Daniels. After losing his apartment and girlfriend, he reluctantly moved in with his dad. While living in Europe, he spent much more time with his father’s open bar than with his father. This wasn’t the first sign that Ben needed a change, but it was the last.
Ben was born around the corner from Beit T’Shuvah on Cattaraugus. At a young age, he moved to Calabasas. His parents divorced when he was eight, and Ben’s father left most of the parenting to Ben’s mother. Unfortunately, his mom worked two jobs as a night nurse, so she wasn’t around very often. This forced Ben to raise himself.
By the age of 13, Ben was already smoking weed. He had been placed in remedial classes because of his profound lack of interest in school. As for goals? Nonexistent. All he ever wanted to do was get high and hang out with his friends and play football. “I really found solace in sports,” Ben says. “Come high school, I experimented with more drugs and alcohol, but football was really my saving grace. It’swhat kept me in school.” While he was messing around with substances and failing classes, his sister was excelling in everything she did. “She’s two years older than me and has always been an overachiever. She was a valedictorian candidate and an All-American athlete. I always felt less than. I was shy and she was very extroverted. She seemed to get most of the attention,” Ben says.
Ben had absolutely no plans for his future until he got to community college. At Pierce College he started making moves towards the next stage of his life. For the first time in his life, he actually did well in school. So well, in fact, that he transferred to Cal State Northridge and eventually graduated with a major in Psychology. Yet, this spark of ambition quickly flamed out and even with his degree, he felt lost. After studying for six months and taking the LSAT, he realized he did not want to be a lawyer.In the following few years, Ben bounced around between passionless jobs; from real estate to software sales, he would take on any job that paid well and made him look good.
Ben had a loving girlfriend, a perfect haircut, and a smile suited for an Orbit chewing gum commercial. He seemed to have it all together, but he was tortured by crippling anxiety and depression. Ben explains, “I was drinking a bottle of hard alcohol every day. Whiskey, beers, pretty much anything to just keep me buzzed, because I couldn’t deal with reality or emotions like a normal person could.” Drugs and debaucherous behavior filled his weeks. He showed up for work during the week, but come Friday night, it was on—an 8-ball of cocaine and booze to wash it down until late Saturday afternoon. He needed the rest of the weekend and Monday to recover, but come Tuesday, he was back at it all over again. When Ben was 25, he had to have shoulder surgery. The doctor prescribed him three months worth of painkillers that Ben happily extended to four years. Every night he was popping pain pills, Xanax, and drinking heavily. His breaking point was coming soon, but he did not know it yet.
Amidst this party lifestyle, Ben still made it to multiple therapy sessions a week. He says, “My therapist suggested I go to a treatment center, which I thought was crazy. I had known about BTS for a while. My grandma, Pat, and my grandpa, Sandy, have been a part of this community for some years. I had never attended services here, but the majority of my family would attend and had good things to say. I was very hesitant coming here. Long term treatment scared me. I didn’t think I needed anything like that. I thought I could just go to a detox and getting sober would be more than enough for me.” When all hope seemed lost and it was time for Ben to pull the trigger on going to detox, he was terrified. Ben and his father checked out a place in Thousand Oaks, but when coming face to face with a man withdrawing from heroin, they didn’t think it was right for him. That night, Ben got belligerently drunk and by the next morning was begging his dad to send him to detox.
When arriving at Beit T’Shuvah after detox, Ben was overwhelmed. He explains, “Being here with 100 residents and being told most people were here for a year to 15 months…I thought that was outrageous. After being here for about a month, having some time under my belt, I realized long-term treatment made sense.I started digging deep in therapy, getting put on the right meds for anxiety and depression, and seeing the roots of why I started acting as I did.”
For the first time in his life, Ben says his future is bright. He is currently working as a Program Facilitator Intern. “What I like about the PF Internship is that they don’t give you an approach you have to take,” Ben says with excitement. He continues, “I feel like there is a punitive or therapeutic approach, and I really like the therapeutic approach. It doesn’t feel like I am at work. Just talking to people connecting with them instead of just telling them to go to group. What I really like about it is the personal interactions I get to have.” It is not all rainbows and unicorns as a PF Intern. Ben opens up and says, “[Since becoming a PF,] I have found that I have fewer friends. There is a bit of a disconnect, which is weird cause I am still in primary care. I feel like I am more of an authority figure than a resident—well I guess I am kind of in the grey area. It’s hard for me to tell people what to do. I just want to be their friend and be a part of the resident group. I project confidence and that things are going great, but I am actually not that confident. I want everyone to like me. I may come off as a dickhead, but I actually care deeply about others. I see the residents here as brothers and sisters.”
Ben is currently getting his master’s degree in clinical psychology. He has rekindled his relationship with his girlfriend and family, and gives thanks to this community for all of it.