The soft timbre of his voice and his kind blue eyes belie the warrior spirit of Eric B. Entrenched in a lifelong struggle to survive addiction, Eric has fought tooth and nail for his sobriety. At 38, his calm demeanor and optimistic outlook are the stuff of miracles. It wasn’t always like this.
Eric, the oldest of three children, lost both his parents to addiction by the time he was 23. He fought for guardianship of his sisters and took on a parental role at an early age. “I promised my sisters that I wouldn’t abandon them like our parents had,” he recalls. All the while, the pull of addiction grew stronger.
Eventually his sisters were old enough to leave his care, and when he was 28, “things started to go downhill. I lost everything. I was on the move, sleeping on couches and selling drugs,” he says. Eric gave up on his culinary passions and lost his job selling medical supplies to hospitals. By 30 he only knew a life of crime and slinging dope. With disbelief he explains, “I was 30 years old, running the streets. I was at the corner store selling crack and carrying a gun. I never had to use it, thank God. I’m not a killer. I can fight, but I’m not a killer.”
Increasingly, Eric was unable to deal with life on life’s terms. “I tried to kill myself. I didn’t want to live anymore. I took every pill I could find and wrote a note to my sisters apologizing,” he recalls. When he woke up in the hospital, he knew he had to make a change.
Eric would suffer many setbacks, but he never gave up. Every time he started to build his life, his addiction would rear its ugly head and take him out. His family had all but given up on him. “My grandma told me ‘I watched your father die. I’m not going to watch you die.’ I’ll remember that forever,” Eric says, sadly.
He started looking into rehabs and found some success before inevitably turning back to drugs. His cousin, who had helped his sister Jessica find Beit T’Shuvah, sent him to a rehab bootcamp in Israel. He remembers, “It was so intense. I had never left the country before. I was culture shocked, religion shocked, and I didn’t know what to do. I did, though, begin to gain respect for Judaism.”
After more than eight months abroad, Eric moved to California to try to maintain his sobriety. He fought and lost numerous times until finally, with the encouragement of his sister and his then-sponsor, Jeremy Pool, he looked into coming to Beit T’Shuvah. He arrived on June 1, 2018 and dove head first into the fight for his life.
Eric got involved quickly: choir, hiking trips, the gym, 12-Step meetings, the kitchen. Recently, he joined the Beit T’Shuvah Running4Recovery marathon team. Eric smiles, “Training for the marathon is like being at Beit T’Shuvah. You watch people grow. People you never thought could get it, you see them change. You see the miracle. I can’t see it in myself, but I see it in others.”
Like any true warrior, Eric has learned to pick himself back up after falling down. Every defeat, every failure has been a lesson to help him grow into a man of integrity and gratitude. “The first thing that goes is my ability to live up to my word, to keep commitments. I hope that opening up to honesty, transparency and vulnerability will restore my ability to live in integrity.” Thinking of the future, he says, “I want to help people. I don’t care about material stuff. Material stuff comes and goes, but if I can stay in this state of mind, I’ll be happy.”