“Music was, and always has been, a huge part of my life. It was my coping mechanism for dealing with all the trauma in my life,” Cody C. shares sitting in the teen lounge at Beit T’Shuvah on his five-month anniversary of sobriety. But it was a sad and, at times, perilous few verses to get to that momentous crescendo in the “Song of Cody.” Born and raised in Pensacola, FL, Cody was the oldest of four brothers. However, he was the only son shared between his parents, prior to their divorce when Cody was just three years old. Growing up he lived with his mother and half-brother from her relationship following the divorce. However, he also maintained a close connection to his father and his other two half-brothers from his father’s second marriage.

“My mother was a single mom and she ruled the household with an iron fist, especially towards me,” Cody shares. On top of all that pressure, Cody was hiding a secret. Being gay in the Deep South was still a very scary proposition when Cody was growing up. “My mom seemed to be rather progressive when I was growing up but I always worried about how my father would view me being gay,” Cody recalls. To his surprise, however, it turned out to be the opposite. At age fourteen his mother found a note that effectively “outed” him. “She was really, really angry and not supportive at all,” Cody remembers.

And because of this unexpected violation Cody began drinking alcohol and experimenting with Adderall and marijuana to help him numb all of the pain. “I was so depressed. I wanted to kill myself,” he says. And as alluded to earlier, along with drugs and alcohol, he turned to music to help him escape from the heartache. “The first CD I ever bought was Britney Spears’ ‘Baby One More Time’,” he recounts with a little giggle.  But this transitional period in his life also saw Cody begin to experiment sexually with his, now “out in the open”, identity. He was only allowed to hang out with one gay friend. And, along with that friend, there was a group of gay teens that would assemble regularly at that friend’s house. It was during one of these hang out days that Cody suffered his first experience with sexual assault. “One of the older guys started sexually abusing me. It started out innocent enough but it escalated and turned violent,” Cody explains.

Then at age seventeen, his mother lost the house during a hurricane and Cody moved in with his father. And as mentioned earlier, his father was much more supportive of his gay identity than his mother. However, as soon as he moved in with his father, he fell in with a bad crowd. One of the guys in this group introduced Cody to the adult film industry. Not surprisingly, his drug and alcohol addiction became much more rampant and destructive as a result. Over the next few years he traversed the country working and hustling to make money.

Suddenly, however, everything came to an abrupt and jarring halt. His mother was diagnosed with stage four-breast cancer in 2010. He traveled back and forth to help her in her battle, but ten months after the diagnosis she was gone. During this difficult time he met a man who would become his boyfriend. He had provided support and love for Cody as he struggled with his mother’s illness and death. Following her passing Cody decided to follow him to Los Angeles to try and get a clean break from all the trauma of her passing. Shortly after arriving he began the pursuit of his desired career – the music business. As he tells it, “I wanted to work in the industry on some level but I had no skills or direction.” While searching for this elusive “dream job” he continued drinking a lot and smoking a ton of weed. Not long thereafter, the boyfriend he had followed to LA unexpectedly broke up with him, following a traumatic twin overdose suffered by the couple at a party.

Now alone in the City of Angels, Cody began working at a restaurant. While working there he met a man, Erik, who would become a lifelong friend and mentor. “He got me an internship at a record label and I also went on tour with him as his comedy career began to take off,” Cody reminisces. However, his constant companion of alcohol came along with him as he began to build some positive momentum in his life. And as his disease began to dominate his life, Cody went from intern and tour buddy to holing himself up in Erik’s house and drinking his days away. This downward spiral of alcohol-laden depression and self-destruction continued for the better part of the next fours years.

It was now 2015, and Cody finally decided he needed help. He first used a combination of Clare and Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services to address his alcohol addiction. And with the combination of therapy, medication and a structured program he was able to stay sober for six months. But in 2016 he relapsed, got a DUI and found himself in the psych ward. He made a commitment right then to stop drinking. But instead of returning to treatment he decided to switch to meth. “I didn’t have a drinking problem anymore. Meth fixed all of that,” he ironically details.

Between 2017 and 2019 he moved around a lot, relocated to Las Vegas for a period and finally returned to Los Angeles. During the whole time of his gypsy-like lifestyle he continued to abuse meth at a high level. Upon his return he met a new guy who became his boyfriend. But sadly, one evening in June 2020, Cody weakened and got drunk. One terrible thing led to another, he punched his boyfriend and ended up in jail for two weeks. Following that catastrophe, Cody entered yet another treatment center but as he puts it, “It didn’t provide me the skills or support to help me manage my addiction and stay sober.” Feeling hopeless and at the end of his rope, he finally found salvation when a few friends told him about a Jewish faith-based rehab center called Beit T’Shuvah. As they described it to him he was most drawn to the spiritual element in BTS’ recovery philosophy and, within a month, he was accepted into BTS on June 14, 2021.

“I was so relieved and excited to get here,” he explains. And since his arrival Cody has been one passionate and dedicated member of the community. “I’ve done every extracurricular group and activity BTS has to offer since I’ve been here,” he says with a jubilant tone. An active member in the music community at BTS, Cody is part of Beit T’Shuvah’s “Freedom Song” ensemble. He is a PF (Program Facilitator) intern and has also served as a house monitor during his tenure at BTS. But it’s the spiritual aspect that is his true passion. “Torah study and Shabbat services are the most important parts of my healing and recovery process,” he explains. And it’s that spirit element that informs on his aspirations for the future. As he concludes, “I want to work in prevention, the Elaine Breslow Institute and eventually become a counselor.” And while the “Song of Cody” may have started with a few verses of pain and suffering, we’re all excited and inspired to hear the positive and powerful lyrics he continues to write at BTS and beyond.

Spotlight on Cody C. by Randall S.

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