“My spiritual adviser was the biggest key to my ability to not only stay clean but to help me find specific purpose in my life,” Greg S. shares from his room at Beit T’Shuvah.
Born in Hollywood, Florida, Greg was the older of two children, with a little sister three years his junior. When Greg was just nine he explains, “My dad’s brother overdosed on drugs, he was confronted with some serious change of life issues, and he and my mom ultimately got divorced.” A bad custody battle ensued between his mother and father during the divorce proceedings. “They got joint custody of me and my sister and we proceeded to live out of plastic bags for the remainder of our childhood,” he describes with his wry smile.
Music became Greg’s first and favorite outlet of escape during those tumultuous years. He learned to play the guitar and drums and began playing gigs in various bands, usually with older kids. “I also started experimenting with everything at this point – sex, weed, but mostly prescription opioids,” he recalls. The now infamous Oxycontin epidemic of the early 2000s had just begun and Greg got caught up in that horrendous storm of prescription drug abuse.
By 2004 he had dropped out of high school but, as he relays, “Despite everything my grades and SATs were so good that I still got scholarship offers from some good schools.” At first, he attended Florida International University hoping to pursue a Journalism Degree. But his continued dependence on and abuse of Oxy caused him to drop out. He briefly attempted to attend a couple of other schools, vainly trying to switch gears and study Audio Engineering, but his addiction was still his main passion and he again dropped out.
It was 2008 and twenty-year-old Greg was now a father to a son he was ill-equipped to provide for or raise. “By the time he was born, I had graduated to full-blown I.V. (intravenous) junkie status,” he sadly remembers. Desperate to help her son escape his inevitable path to self-destruction, Greg’s mom was able to get him into his first rehab facility. He was still young enough to be able to use her insurance to pay for the treatment and he took advantage of that opportunity, roughly ten more times after the first attempt. “I wasn’t ready. These places were more of a thirty-day co-ed ‘wash and dry, where I would just get temporarily clean, meet some girl, and go back on the run,” he recollects.
By the time he had used up all of his “swipes” of his mom’s insurance card, Greg was twenty-six and things had begun to turn extremely dark for the struggling artist from the other Hollywood. As he explains, “There were bouts of homelessness, arrests, and failed stints at state-run facilities.” But just as things seemed their darkest, in 2018 his stepfather happened to meet a co-worker who was able to connect Greg to Chabad, another Jewish faith-based rehabilitation center in Los Angeles. Greg was able to secure a scholarship and immediately went into treatment. “It was a true lifesaver. I was able to get the help I needed and I managed to stay clean for eighteen months,” he shares.
However, not unlike a lot of addicts who experience their first true period of sobriety, Greg relapsed. As he relates, “Unfortunately, I then hit a deep valley in my life. I lost custody of my son and went on another eighteen-month run.” He was able to get back into Chabad, but following the death of a friend who was also a resident there, Greg was unable to stay clean while inside. “Thankfully they didn’t quit on me and were able to pull some strings and get me into Beit T’Shuvah. It turned out to be the true ‘salvation moment’ of my life,” he gratefully describes.
He entered the doors of 8831 on September 9th, 2021, and unlike many residents, during that time he was very grateful for the two-week mandatory quarantine. “I committed to cleansing myself of all the opioid ‘subs’ in my system so I could totally dedicate myself to the process,” he states. And as mentioned earlier, his work with his spiritual adviser, Michael W., was pivotal in his ability to not only stay clean but also discover his true purpose in life. Greg now works as a Front Desk Intern and he provides his drumming skills on occasion to the Music Department during Shabbat Services at BTS.
He also has much gratitude for the Beit T’Shuvah community, which, as he puts it, “Has allowed me to laugh, connect, and heal in ways I never could at other facilities.” As far as his future is concerned, Greg has just started a new job in Real Estate Marketing with a long-term goal of returning to school and studying to ultimately become a Rabbi – his true life’s purpose. He concludes by saying, “None of this would have been remotely possible without the space, opportunity, and inspiration afforded me at BTS.” From where he started to where he is now, Greg’s is a true story of courage, perseverance, and penultimate redemption. And his Beit T’Shuvah bandmates can’t wait to hear and experience Greg’s future spiritual compositions to the beat of his newly healed and inspired drum.