Do you think you fit in? Are you a part of society? In our modern culture, drug addicts and homeless people are treated like lepers—ostracized from the rest of the world. We are so used to keeping them at arm’s length that we end up treating them as something less than human. But what does it mean to truly be “a part of society?” Jason E. has been searching for a way to be a part of for longer than he can remember. Over the course of the last five months of his sobriety, he has not only reintegrated into society but has immersed himself in a whole new community—Beit T’Shuvah. 

Four sisters, two older, two younger, and Jason right in the middle. A chaotic household of estrogen and love. His parents, who were always supportive, showered Jason and his sisters with care…maybe even a bit too much. This overbearing protectiveness would lead to Jason’s future rebellious nature. 

Growing up, Jason always felt uncomfortable in his own skin. He didn’t feel a part of any conversation or interaction to the extent that he felt that he should. That is when the magical mystery cure entered the picture—drugs and alcohol. His first puff and pass happened when he was in junior high. Up until this point, he was a great student. He was on the honor roll, attended all his classes, and followed the rules to the tee. Once had his first sip, he was a whole different kid. By high school, Jason had become such a rebel that even Che Guevara would be jealous. Ditching class, coming home late, boozing, smoking, popping, snorting—Jason fought the law…but the law won when he got caught stealing a pack of beer from a local liquor store. The liquor store owner had seen his principal come in and asked if he knew Jason. After a positive ID, Jason was arrested at his school. The worst part of it all? It was non-alcoholic beer.

This was the start of his will-they-won’t-they in-and-out of juvenile halls and jails. At one point, he was sent to Boy’s Camp, a military-style rehabilitation retreat for troubled young men. If it wasn’t for his experience here, he would have never graduated high school. Here, he had no choice but to attend class.

Upon his release from juvie and Boy’s Camp, around 18, Jason got deep into pills. But, eating handfuls of Vicodin and Norcos could only sustain him for so long. As if it was an infomercial, Jason thought to himself, “There’s got to be a better way!” Ends up, there was a cheaper and stronger option—heroin. Before he knew it, Jason was stuck in the black tar. His parents kicked him out of the house and he was couch-surfing his way through his hometown of Santa Barbara. Eventually, the couch cushions were snatched from underneath him and he was forced to live on the streets. “Growing up, you never really think you are going to be this person that is disconnected from society and be homeless.”

At the age of 25, Jason met a girl in rehab and they hit it off right away. “We decided after we got our 60-day chip, we would go and do speed.” No better way to celebrate! Within a month, she got pregnant. “We were so insane at the time that we thought, ‘Oh my god we have a kid, this is going to keep us sober…but obviously it didn’t.’” Jason’s son came out addicted to Suboxone—born kicking. For a few months, they were able to hide their drug use, but once Jason’s parents found out, they filed for emergency custody. Eight years later, they have custody of his son. 

After this, Jason’s parents kicked him and his girlfriend out of the house. She went to treatment and he went from couch to couch to streets. Eventually, he found his way into a rehab and gathered three years of clean time. He even got a job working in treatment. Things were going really well for Jason. He was in his son’s life, he had an apartment, and he was being of service. The program was working in his life. 

Out of nowhere, one of his friends totaled his car. This friend was supposed to call the insurance to help get him insurance money but tragically died a week later in a motorcycle accident. This was the start of the spiral. Back to dope. Back to the streets. Back to treatment. Back to dope. At one point, he went to stay at a sober friend’s house the day before going to detox, not realizing his friend had relapsed a week before. The next morning Jason woke up to find his friend had overdosed.

At his lowest possible point, with nothing else to hold on to, no semblance of connection, he threw a hail mary and reached out to one of his friends for help. His friend Jackson W., a BTS Alumnus, pointed him in the direction of Beit T’Shuvah. The wild coincidence of it all is that he already knew a great deal about Beit T’Shuvah because one of his sisters, Sam, had just graduated from here.

Once a resident at Beit T’Shuvah, his struggles did not magically disappear. The door certainly hit his ass on the way in. Jason had spent years comfortably numb but now was forced to feel. “I think I became addicted to the comfortability of getting loaded and the lack of responsibilities. This idea that even though it was tough out there, in some ways, that was the easier way—not having to live life.” Groups were tough, socializing was difficult—he was back to being that little boy who felt like his skin was a suit that didn’t quite fit. Slowly, as he settled into the community, opened his heart in therapy, and bore his soul in groups, he became a whole different man. “I am happy that I am proud of myself. When you live so long with a lack of pride and self-respect, it is hard to believe you will ever have that again. I am holding onto that and I don’t ever want to let that go.”

Beit T’Shuvah is a microcosm of our larger society. It is often facetiously called “The Beit T’Shuvah Bubble.” But to be a part of Beit T’Shuvah is to be a part of the world. Jason, who has clearly struggled with not feeling like he was a part of, now feels at home in our band of outlaws and misfits. He has an internship working for the BTS Thrift Store truck, just got his RADT to work in treatment again, and is looking into a future as a mechanic. The future has never been brighter and he has never been surrounded by more love and support. Not only is Jason a part of our community, but without him, we wouldn’t be whole. The truth is, Jason does not “fit in.” and why should he? He is an amazingly unique individual who should have every right to be himself, past, present, and future. That is why at Beit T’Shuvah we never ask anyone to fit in. We ask them to belong.

Jason belongs and so do you. 

Spotlight on Jason E.  by Jesse Solomon

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