For most kids, summer camp means fun, adventure and an escape from the adults. It also means trying to fit in, maybe for the first time. For 12-year-old Jeff R., things felt a bit easier, a little more fun, when he shared a drink or two with the other kids.
“Things were tough at home. I was desperate for connection,” Jeff recalled. His drinking worsened through his teenage years. Jeff recalled, “By high school I was stealing my dad’s top-shelf liquor, pouring it in my baby brother’s sippy cups and going to house parties. Blacking out and alcohol poisoning became a normal thing.”
Jeff’s behavior worsened at the University of Arizona. He pledged a fraternity, and his grades reflected his hard partying. His goal to study art was lost in a drunken, drug-addled haze. “I loved the world of art and design, but I loved cocaine more. I regularly told my parents that I was doing well and just needed a little more time to finish school,” he recalled. Jeff even began to believe his own lies.
In his 6th year of college, Jeff missed his flight home for Passover. When his father called and asked where he was, Jeff broke down in the airport bar. “I was sobbing in this airport and told my dad everything. I couldn’t do it anymore. I couldn’t lie.”
Jeff returned to LA and was immediately prescribed a cocktail of drugs by a slew of doctors. “I became a zombie. I had meds to wake up, to get through the day and to sleep,” he said. Jeff began working in his family’s business, which drove him further into depression. “I felt like I had no purpose. I showed up late and left early just so I could go home and hide from the world. I went to sleep every night praying that I wouldn’t wake up.”
With his family unsure how to help him, Jeff eventually checked in to treatment. He went to two different treatment centers but relapsed each time. Finally, exhausted, frustrated and scared, Jeff’s father gave his son an ultimatum: he could either go to the psychiatric ward at UCLA or come to Beit T’Shuvah.
Initially, Jeff had a hard time adjusting to life at Beit T’Shuvah. “The first few weeks I was living out of my suitcase because I was sure I was going to be leaving any day,” he smirks. “I even stormed into Harriet’s office and demanded that she call my father since I obviously didn’t belong here,” Jeff continues. Harriet told Jeff to stop acting like a brat and to give this place a chance.
Harriet’s words resonated with Jeff and he started attending groups. He slowly began to enjoy the company of other residents. Jeff’s moment of clarity happened when he shared his story in home group. A resident bluntly asked him, “Given all that you just shared, why do you feel that you’re not an addict?” Jeff had no response.
Since then, with the help of his treatment team, Jeff has been running on all cylinders. “The walls came down. I surrendered. It finally happened. Here was Jeff.” He found purpose and, for the first time, Jeff felt a connection. He and his father have taken advantage of family therapy available at Beit T’Shuvah. “I have never had a better relationship with my father than I do now. We see each other, really see each other. It’s amazing,” Jeff said.
These days you can find Jeff interning in the Clinical Department at BTS as a Program Facilitator. Jeff plans to continue on this path, working in treatment, helping those who struggle as he did. “It’s the best kind of work. Knowing that I’m able to relate and give a little guidance to those just getting here. I love it.”