If you’ve noticed recently that Beit T’Shuvah’s looking pretty spiffy – new paint, well-groomed Zen Garden – you might be looking at the work of Jeremiah S., long-time work therapy intern in the Maintenance Department. With his technical skills and incredible work ethic, Jeremiah has contributed to almost every area of BTS’s campus.
Jeremiah, 34, is a grateful participant in Beit T’Shuvah’s Right Action Gambling Program. He credits Yael Landa and Brad Ruderman with giving him the tools to succeed with his program of abstinence from gambling. Through their clear guidance, they have taught him to be mindful of the creeping depression, anxiety and low self-esteem that often precede a trip to the casino. Jeremiah explains, “Both Yael and Brad are good communicators and explain directly the feelings behind gambling and how we can use our wise minds to deal with them. And both of them care a lot.”
Born in Colorado and raised in California, Jeremiah has lived primarily in San Diego since 1997. After high school, he spent a couple of years working – Vons, construction, drywall – before spending a few semesters at San Diego Miramar College. He moved into a house with friends and began using hallucinogens, including marijuana, magic mushrooms and salvia, which continued for several years. Thereafter, he moved out of the party house, stopped using drugs and went back to school, this time to study criminal justice. He began a relationship with a roommate’s sister during this time. “I was living with my girlfriend, finishing school, working in security, and binge-drinking in bars,” Jeremiah says. “After I graduated with my B.A., things got worse. I started drinking more, buying lottery tickets, and going to casinos. Roulette, with its fast pace, was my favorite, but you could also find me at the blackjack, craps and pai gow tables.” Jeremiah and his girlfriend broke up.
Three years after graduation, he moved in with his sister, and things began to go downhill even more quickly. Although he still worked his security job, Jeremiah spent after-work hours every day at the casino. The only plus? Jeremiah’s sister was pregnant, so he quit smoking.
In 2014, after 3 years at his sister’s, Jeremiah moved back to Colorado to build a relationship with his dad and to try a new atmosphere. As he had done a few times before, Jeremiah switched some vices on and others off. “In Pueblo, I started smoking again but I quit drinking, and haven’t had a drink since. And I went nuts gambling,” he says. In 2016, Jeremiah’s father (with whom he was living) told him to get help for his gambling or get out. Unfortunately, there were very few meetings of Gambler’s Anonymous and those were far away, so Jeremiah moved back to San Diego for more accessible meetings.
Since he returned to San Diego, Jeremiah has been a member of GA. “I would get months of abstinence and then relapse over and over, until I went from having somewhere to live, to couchsurfing, to homelessness. By the end of 2017, I had had it. In December I called Beit T’Shuvah, and I spoke with Brad 2 or 3 times a week until there was space in the gambling program for me,” Jeremiah recalls. “I came in on May 15, 2018.”
“My life has really changed since I got here. My work with the Maintenance Department has given me a positive outlet for my energy and let me rebuild my confidence. I have lost 80 pounds, built rapport with staff, my treatment team, the sisterhood and the community, started getting needed dental work and begun a romantic relationship, something I haven’t had in 6 years!”
Jeremiah continues, “Rabbi Mark and Harriet are amazing. Beit T’Shuvah is a true sanctuary. It has amazing people teaching residents structure. It lets you fall down and reaches out a hand to help you help yourself up. Beit T’Shuvah helps people who haven’t had lives to have lives in the present and to grow for the future.”
Jeremiah has been sober since November 2014 and abstinent from gambling since December 2017, and the Zen Garden looks great too!