Spotlight Jeff H.
by Jake Schw.
Born and raised in southern California, Jeff grew up splitting his time between two seemingly different worlds. He spent half of his time with his mother in the affluent area of Westlake Village, hanging out at the country club, and the other half with his father who was sober on and off. His father had been in and out of the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous, desperately trying to hold on to his sobriety. “We knew manners, we knew how to be proper young lads, but we also knew how to do drugs,” he states only half joking, speaking on behalf of himself and his older brother Justin, who is also a member of the Beit T’shuvah community.
Around the age of 7, He discovered his first true love: surfing, a passion Jeff still maintains today.”That was like my saving grace,” he says, reflecting back on the impact his dad had introducing him to surfing. No matter what was going on in his father’s life, he always took the time to take Jeff surfing.
Jeff found people to look up to in the surfing community, where smoking pot and drinking were not exactly frowned upon. Early in his teenage years, he saw that the people he idolized were smoking weed, and it did not take long before he joined them. “It was a way of life.” He explains.
Around the age of 17, Jeff started down a darker path. He started ditching school, stealing pot from his stepdad, and eventually taking his drug use to the next level with prescription pills. He recalls his addiction really starting to take shape after taking a few Norco, a hydrocodone based painkiller. “I was on the track to not graduate high school, and it made me not worry about stuff like that. It wasn’t like my home life was so bad I needed to do drugs, I just liked the way they made me feel,” Jeff says.
It wasn’t long after Jeff’s 18th birthday before he was kicked out of his mother’s house. His downward spiral continued—Jeff was on his own, and he inevitably started committing crimes to obtain drugs and money.
About a year into this destructive lifestyle, Jeff found himself up for days on meth, in front of a cache of pills that he acquired by robbing a pharmaceutical delivery truck. On a quest for sleep, he decided to take some of the Ambien – a sleep medication – from the stash of pills he had obtained. The combination of pills, meth, and lack of sleep threw him into a state of paranoia and hallucination. “I called my mom and told her that people were breaking in through the roof,” he recalls.
This incident prompted his mom and other loved ones to stage an intervention for Jeff. His brother, who had recently gotten out of jail and was sober himself at the time, convinced Jeff to come stay with him in a sober living in Newbury Park. “They were like, do the steps or die,” Jeff explains with an adoration for AA that is not always shared by newcomers. When it came to the Big Book, Jeff went all in. He was able to relate to a lot of what it said. “Someone had written a book about exactly how I felt,” he reflects. But recovery isn’t always linear. Despite his best efforts, Jeff relapsed after 2.5 years.
For the next several years, Jeff found himself in and out of various rehab centers. From the 30-90 day treatment centers to the “beans, rice, and Jesus Christ” variety, none of them stuck.
It wasn’t until the first time he arrived at Beit T’Shuvah in 2009 that he started to see a future for himself in sobriety. He took advantage of all the groups offered and especially enjoyed the surf therapy program. Although he maintained his sobriety for a long period of time after moving on from BTS, he relapsed as many of us do. Jeff lost touch with the community, he stopped going to meetings and fell into a cycle of relapses. After numerous vain attempts at other treatment centers, he finally made the decision to face his fears and return to Beit T’shuvah.
“My spirituality really flourishes here,” Jeff explains as he describes his new found appreciation for having a daily prayer practice. “I’m trying to make my life better one grain of sand at a time,” Jeff states.
Since his return, he has hit the ground running, becoming more involved in surf therapy and helping the new people wherever possible. Whenever Jeff feels that a group is getting stale, he takes the opportunity to share his experience and knowledge instead of daydreaming or tuning it out like some of us have a tendency to do.
Jeff has been blessed with the opportunity to go back to work in hospitality, giving him the opportunity to do something he enjoys working with people. He will also be able to save up and indulge in his true passion, chasing waves all over the world.
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