Jake Solomon is living proof of what structure and purpose can do for a lost soul. A supervising Program Facilitator (PF) at Beit T’Shuvah, Jake came through its doors as a resident in 2014. Before coming to treatment, Jake battled to find his way in this world and instead found himself at the bottom of a bottle.
Jake grew up drawing and painting in his father’s home studio, something they shared from Jake’s earliest days and which he took to naturally. Art has remained part of his life throughout, something in which he takes justifiable pride. The other aspects of Jake’s life have not gone as smoothly. After stops and starts and selling art supplies, Jake finally graduated from college with a degree in sociology. He was ready to show the world what he could accomplish and make his mark… except it seemed to him that no one cared. Jake remembers, “When I graduated, I was thrown out into the real world. I was told to go be an adult, but I didn’t know how. I couldn’t deal with the constant rejection from job after job. I felt helpless, stuck, and powerless.”
The anxiety was crippling. “The only thing that gave me relief was drinking,” Jake says. He was living in a self-imposed prison, a mental solitary confinement with only booze, weed and despair to help him through his days. “I would try and paint here or there to feel like I had accomplished at least something during the day, but it wasn’t enough. If I didn’t get help, I was probably going to end my life,” he recalls.
Jake called his father and expressed his desire to get help and on July 17, 2014, Jake walked through the doors of Beit T’Shuvah, excited to change his life. However, “I wasn’t buying what they were selling,” he smirks. Jake couldn’t adjust; communal living was too much. He retreated to his room for days on end, only coming out to eat. His unwillingness to surrender and engage was interfering with his recovery.
Then his spiritual advisor, Matt Shapiro, had a counterintuitive idea: give Jake a PF internship. Maybe it would give him structure and direction. The staff reluctantly agreed and against the odds, it worked. Jake flourished. “I was honored and humbled. I felt blessed to have this responsibility,” he says.
After he was hired and became a supervising PF, Jake relapsed, overdosing on GHB. “I had taken 20 times the recommended human limit,” he remembers. Embarrassed and ashamed, he was ready to quit, resigning himself to failure and misery. Rabbi Mark and Harriet had different plans for him. They called Jake (still heavily intoxicated at the time) into Harriet’s office and gave him the pep talk of a lifetime. “Harriet saved my life that day,” he says. Jake used the lessons of his relapse to dive back into his work with a fierce tenacity. “I had a drive like I never had before.”
Jake has since reclaimed his position as supervising PF. He has a reputation for being strict when it comes to signing passes for the residents. “I understand that when I sign a pass, I need to take into consideration multiple facets of the resident’s well-being. I don’t know if I could deal with the weight of my decision leading to someone hurting themselves.”
Outside of Beit T’Shuvah, he is working toward a CDAC (Certified Drug and Alcohol Counseling) degree as well as mentoring at-risk youth. The structure and direction in Jake’s life has helped into flourish. Jake also keeps moving forward with his art; it serves as an outlet for his creative spirit. Jake smiles, “When I use my hands to build something every day, I’m happier.” And with Jake, we are a happier community.