“You don’t really know who you are until the end of your life.” After all, people are constantly changing, making mistakes, and improving themselves. So how would it be possible to define someone who’s still here with us? Well, this week we are attempting to do just that with Cody V.N., the subject of this week’s spotlight.
Cody has spent his whole life grappling with two ends of himself: the funny, hard-working, confident party animal and the emotional, deep-thinking, nice Jewish boy. For most of his life, these two versions of Cody have repelled each other like poles of a magnet. Either he could push his emotions to the burner in the back of his mind or he could lie in bed consumed by feelings in a near catatonic state of depression. However, through a process of self-discovery, he has realized that he no longer has to exist as Schrödinger’s Jew and can instead embrace both sides of himself.
Born and raised in Los Angeles, Cody is well versed in partying culture. He’s had plenty of experience getting into fun or trouble (or both) around the city. So, of course, at a young age he was exposed to drugs and alcohol. During a tumultuous childhood, he began to feel lonely. In an effort to combat the depressive feelings, he started to use and sell drugs with kids from school. Slowly, he turned his focus away from school and into the “druggie lifestyle.” Those around him recognized the problem and at 16 he was brought to his first AA meeting. He would go on to get sober for his first time, and it wasn’t until college that he began to drink and use again.
Cody was exposed to Jewish culture when he moved to Beverly Hills. Ethnically he was part Jewish, but his atheistic mother had not raised him into the religion. Judaism gave him a purpose he had not previously found in life, so he began to get more involved. In college, he joined a Jewish fraternity and started getting involved in Chabad. Even in the depths of his addiction, completely cut off from those closest to him, Cody remained in touch with his spirituality. He told me he always remembered to put on tefillin in the morning, sometimes still intoxicated after a late night out.
In 2016 Cody woke up in a psych ward. He didn’t know it yet, but this would become the catalyst for his second time getting sober. At only 23 years old, a freshly minted college graduate, Cody recognized that he needed to get help. He began calling around and found out about Beit T’Shuvah. During his first stay he spent 11 months here, became a PF, and got into plenty of trouble. While he was able to heal some of his issues, he didn’t sustain his recovery, and by the time the pandemic came around he had gone back to using.
After his first stint at Beit T’Shuvah, Cody began working in solar energy. In an attempt to escape his problems he moved to Israel in 2018. There, he would go on to form an energy tech company with his friends. While his career was progressing, Cody’s relationship with drugs was headed in the opposite direction. He was taking Xanax to treat his bipolar disorder, Percocet and fentanyl for chronic back pain, acid to boost his creativity, snorting cocaine at parties, and smoking weed just because. A variation of this cocktail would be added into his addiction equation every day for three years before he came back to Beit T’Shuvah earlier this year.
Despite having created a family for himself in Israel, Cody was still lonely. The loneliness, aided by a monstrous combination of drugs, caught a hold of him one night, and he found himself speeding down streets on his motorcycle, hoping for it all to end. But the universe had other plans: Cody made it home safely, called Lysa Harrison, and was shortly on a flight back to LA.
In this stay at Beit T’Shuvah, Cody has learned that he doesn’t have to be the hero or the victim. He has become a learner – somebody who doesn’t get caught up in minute details because there’s so much more out there to focus on. He’s gotten heavily involved in AA and started working the steps, something he’s never done before. He’s become focused on the community and on doing what he can to help others. “Everyone has their quirks in life. Everyone’s different. Everyone’s gonna be struggling with their own things. You can show compassion in so many small ways – it can even start with a smile.”
Two cultures have come to a head within Cody. Part Ashkenazi Jew and part Mexican Catholic, he’s become a melding point between two polar forces. However, he’s also gotten to know where the overlap in the two antagonizing forces lies. A deeply ingrained pride and a knack for generosity have combined to make Cody one of the most accountable people at Beit T’Shuvah. He is somebody who shows up for others, and when people ask for help he goes out of his way to aid them—no questions asked.
Who is Cody? In a recent group he wrote a mission statement that sums up who he is right now: “I am an individual who is able to solve problems in the face of adversity for myself and others or say that I don’t know how by asking for help. I am someone that is compassionate towards others, is loved, and loves myself and when not present it is noticed. I succeed professionally as well as personally by being strong and weak, right and wrong.”