It takes more than one step to make it out of the dark and into the light. Despite what many people may tell you, also it takes more than twelve. Being an addict is about far more than an uncontrollable urge to take a substance, gamble, eat cake, or whatever the vice may be. Deep within us all is a feeling of discomfort so strong that it ignites disease. Emily B. knows this uncomfortable feeling all too well—she has lived with it all her life. The constant battle between the darkness and light not only brought her to Beit T’Shuvah but also to a better understanding of herself. 

Emily was born in Australia, but, at the age of three, her family picked up and moved to Virginia. She grew up playing in the streets with her brother—the idyllic American childhood. When she was in fifth grade, her mom got the urge to move the family again. This began a string of moves all around the United States. Finally, they ended up in Texas. This is where she “mostly” went to high school for “various reasons.” Emily went to five different high schools. She went to a local high school but got in trouble and was sent to another. She was sent to a boarding school in Australia for a bit but got in trouble there and was sent back home. She went to a school for troubled kids and that is where she eventually graduated. “All the moving around and having to make new friends led to me getting high.”

At the age of sixteen, Emily’s rebellious nature turned into a full-blown drug addiction. It started, like it usually does, with social drinking and pot smoking. Emily, who always suffered from an inability to engage with others socially, found that getting inebriated was a great social lubricant. “I would get high and it would be easier for me to make friends and feel like I fit in and belonged somewhere.” In her sixteenth year, she drank for the first time, smoked for the first time, and did cocaine for the first time. Truly, diving head into this new world. “I was obsessed with being as bad as possible.” At the age of seventeen, her aunt dropped a bomb on her. Her father, the man she grew up with her whole life…was actually her stepfather. Emily’s biological father lived in Papua New Guinea and she had never even met him before. This was actually a positive for her because the relationship she had with her stepfather could be described as tumultuous at best. Despite this groundbreaking news and the new relationship she was forming with her father, this revelation was clouded by her constant drug use. By eighteen, she was taking painkillers and within a few months of getting a taste for those, she was injecting herself with heroin. Half measures availed us nothing. 

Within a few years, Emily was in cuffs, in rehab, and in trouble. “It started out as getting rid of my social anxiety and my stress around people and then it turned into ‘Well, why don’t I just make this my full-time job?’” At her first IOP someone asked her, “Why do you get high?” and her response was, “It makes things better for me. It makes my life easier. I can function.” She looks back on that statement now and says, “ I remember at the time thinking that all my worries were gone and all my social anxiety was gone…That’s not how I feel now. I can look back on that and know that would not be my answer today.” 

From twenty-one to twenty-five she was lost in a sea of eleven rehabs and countless relapses. Her mom, who is totally straight-edge, did not know how to handle her daughter’s behavior. She never gave up on Emily and always loved her no matter what. “My mom is my best friend.” Once Emily was around the age of twenty-five, her life became darker and darker and she realized it was really time to try this sobriety thing. “I was trying before then and that is why I couldn’t stay sober.” Unfortunately, she would try and still couldn’t stay sober. That is when she knew she needed something different—somewhere different. 

Emily was living in Phoenix and, for the first time in her life, she got a year and a half sober…but ultimately got high again. So, she came to LA to visit a friend who suggested she go to a little place in Culver City called Beit T’Shuvah. This was in 2021. After seven months in the program, she left with an alumnus, Zach E. They got an apartment together and soon after, he started getting high. She tried everything she could to get him sober, but ultimately when her efforts failed, she relapsed as well. Knowing the mistake she had made, she quickly returned to BTS. After another seven months in the program, she was offered a trip to Australia by her dad for her thirtieth birthday. Feeling like she was ready to leave, she decided to leave treatment and take the trip. When she returned from her trip, she and Zach were happily living together. Then, tragically, two months later, Zach used one time after eight months of sobriety, overdosed and passed away. That day Emily got high again. 

After a short run, getting high, and working as a dog groomer, a skill Emily got certified for on her first stay at BTS, she returned to the comfort of our sanctuary. She has now been back for ten months. This time, she has fully immersed herself in everything our program and community has to offer. She is working as an intern at the thrift store, going to school to follow her dream of being a painter on film sets (a dream she didn’t know she had before coming here) and performing in Freedom Song. Actually, as of this article’s release, Emily is in Milwaukee with the cast and crew of Freedom Song. “Freedom Song has been something that has been very different for me. I have very bad stage fright. I don’t like to speak in front of people at all. So, it has helped immensely with confidence.” From being in a musical to learning how to paint sets, to working at the thrift store, to finding love for sports, ceramics, and even running the marathon, Emily has thrown herself into her passions and this program full force. “I literally didn’t have any hobbies. I didn’t think I was good at anything, but I am, I am good at stuff….I took the opportunities offered to me. I am doing the extracurriculars that no other rehab offers.” Half measures availed us nothing. 

If you know Emily, have talked to Emily, or have just seen Emily around, it may be hard to imagine that she has social anxiety. She exudes a warm glow of love and friendliness that only comes from someone comfortable with themselves. That is the Emily of today. She has friends, family, and a community that surrounds her, and, more than anything, she lets them see the real her. Of course, those life-long nerves don’t vanish in a day, but it is clear that the Emily who walked through these doors in 2021 is not the Emily who is singing her heart out in Milwaukee today.

One step didn’t get Emily out of the darkness. Stepping into the light has been a daily practice for her. But unlike ever before, Emily wakes up every morning with a smile on her face and love in her heart, ready to take that next step. While some of us may move one step at a time, inch by inch, from the broken souls we once were to the full lives we now know we can live, Emily sees her worth, knows she matters, and feels the love that comes with being truly seen. While some of us may walk, Emily runs. 

Half measures availed Emily nothing.

Spotlight on Emily B. by Jesse Solomon

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