“At Beit T’Shuvah, we don’t ask you to fit in. We ask you to belong.” These brilliant words from our founder, Harriet Rossetto, reverberate through the halls of our campus—acting as a wake-up call to our community of outcasts. Feeling “normal” is something every addict struggles with. In fact, we call people who aren’t addicts “normies,” implying that those who suffer from addictive tendencies are anything but. John M., today’s spotlight subject, has stood in that rain, walked through that dark tunnel, and made it to the other side…but he couldn’t have done it alone. 

Growing up in Madera, John always felt different, separate—isolated from his peers. His home life was far from what anyone would call peaceful. When his drug addict father’s belt whip cracked, John’s feelings of disconnection only grew. The only person John felt close to was his mother—his protector. She would stand in the way of his father’s blows to keep John and his two sisters safe. Once he was school-age, this attachment to his mother ended up being his downfall. “I lived in constant fear. Fear of being away from my mother.” This perpetual state of terror turned John into what he described as, “an awkward kid.” As a symptom of this, making friends became a challenge.

Early in his life, a new hurdle would stand in the way of his ability to fit in: his apparent homosexuality. Throughout his whole childhood, John was relentlessly bullied, mocked, and physically assaulted for being something that he didn’t even know if he was or not. However, he didn’t take the bullying well and ended up getting into plenty of fights because of it. Then, it arrived—a social lubricant. For John, it started with weed. From the first puff puff he realized that he had people to pass it to. Friends. There were friends in his life now. Cool ones, at that! That freshman-year social revolution turned into a sophomore-year cocaine snowball…and before long it all got bumped up to meth.

Coinciding with John’s drug renaissance, his family was being torn to shreds. After it came to light that his dad not only was having an affair but had fathered an entire second family, John’s mother left and moved to the outskirts of town. Not wanting to abandon everything he knew—the friends he finally made, John stayed behind and moved in with one of his friends. This was at the age of 16. The boy who feared nothing more than to be away from his mother had now chosen a life far from her protection. 

After high school, John moved in with his dad. The two of them were using meth together, which would prove to be a recipe for disaster. His father had a psychotic breakdown. It was a day like any other day. John came back from his job at Olive Garden, tired, looking to just go to sleep. When his father offered him a bump of meth and he refused, his father burst into his room with a knife and stabbed him in the arm.

In the following years, John’s drug use slowed down a bit, he met a girl (a normie) and got married. The discomfort of the marriage turned into misery and he found himself bingeing on drugs once more. “I never saw myself as an addict just a person with a high tolerance. I could party my ass off, get some rest, go to work the next day, and be fine.” John and his wife spent years together, during which he had multiple infidelities with men. “I think I tried to use my marriage to prove to the world that I was a straight man.” Eventually, this led to him coming out to her. He called her and told her that they needed to talk.

“Are you having an affair?”


“Do you like boys?”


There it was. He was out and his marriage was over. 

The years that followed turned the meth binges into full daily meth use. “The gay lifestyle kicked in.” Even within that community, John felt like he didn’t fit in because he didn’t adhere to any normal stereotypes of classic LGBTQ categories. In this time of wild sex and drugs, John maintained a steady relationship with a man for over eight years. The ten years after that would prove to be his darkest. 

Once people at his bartending job started to catch on to his drug use, he knew he had to get clean…but knowing it and doing it are not the same thing. John tried outpatient treatment, which kept him sober for just about as long as the program lasted. While working as a caretaker, he saw a Hebrew letter on the man’s screen. After learning its meaning, John dove deeper into Jewish teachings and, as if from divine intervention, learned about Beit T’Shuvah soon after. “I knew I had to go there. There was no stopping me.”

Stepping through the doors of Beit T’Shuvah, John’s worries of being that awkward kid in the corner of the rehab began to dissipate. He was finally able to be the person who he always wanted to be. “What has been pivotal to my recovery has been recovery through expression in art. Being in the film group, there was such a sense of elation. I am a writer who has never shared his work with anybody before!” 

Quickly, his gratitude built up and he looked for any way he could give back. That is when John found the BTS Thrift Store and, through hard work and dedication, got hired to work there. 

There is no such thing as an outcast at Beit T’Shuvah. You start to feel a lot less weird when you are surrounded by a community of weirdos…and that is a good thing—a great thing. For John, it was what has saved his life. “I can finally be who I am here, without wanting to want to fit in.” Today, John is a part of a thriving community. He has friends, comrades, acquaintances, and everything in between. John doesn’t fit in. John belongs. And so do you.  

Spotlight on John M. by Jesse Solomon

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