It’s been said that “the opposite of addiction is connection”. When I think of connection in the community here at Beit T’Shuvah, John S. is the very first person that comes to my mind. He completely embodies this concept in every facet of his life, from the way he connects to fellow residents to how he integrates a recovery mentality in all his affairs.

When we were complaining about not going off grounds enough, BAM! He stepped up and organized Surf Therapy.


When someone is having a bad day, KABOOM! John S. is the first person to ask them if they are alright.

When L’Chaim wasn’t living up to its full potential and solid speakers were sparse, POW! He took charge as secretary and had speakers coming in that lit a flame under the foil of our sobriety.

This week’s Spotlight is not just on John S… This week’s Spotlight is because of John Sullivan. John S. figured “There were so many stories in this community that just needed to be told”, so he took the initiative and created a weekly newsletter which eventually led to the telling of those stories, hence, both The Shmata and The Beit T’Shuvah Magazine were born. 


John’s path to Beit T’Shuvah was one filled with the bleak monotony of incarceration upon incarceration, his stints outside of a penitentiary, though brief, were encompassed with the stereotypical life of a Southern California native hanging ten on good surf and the occasional melancholy of hitting a freshly drained pool on his skateboard. John S. eventually found Heroin during one of his terms and didn’t power slide his chase of the dragon until reaching Beit T’Shuvah in 2008 where he contributed his graphic design prowess to Beit T’Shuvah to help bring in funding for the $10 million needed to build the sanctuary. This is when he founded BTS Communications (later named Creative Matters) an in-house ad agency, and made a complete 180—no, more like 720, becoming an integral part of this community. According to John, his greatest accomplishment was entering, and ultimately winning, a fast pitch competition that secured a $250,000 grant under the guidance and direction of his mentors, the great Rabbi Mark and Russel Kern, both of whom helped forge John into the person he is today..


Things eventually barreled out after 4 years of sobriety, for “I let ego get in the way of my recovery. Nothing was ever enough”. His first stay at Beit T’Shuvah was centered around this idea that if he chased and amassed things (i.e. the girl, the car, the house) he would be happy. After arriving at the destination he for so long dreamt of, finally having all the things he could want, he came to the realization that he wasn’t any happier; If anything, it brought him further away from everything he was so desperately searching for. So, like many of us do, he went out…and he went out hard.


It was ten years of wipeouts before John finally caught a clean wave back to Beit T’Shuvah. Every fall had brought him to his knees and he was ready to, once again, grind his way to recovery. It was a humbling experience to have to walk back through the very same doors John had worked for almost ten years prior, but he did it—knees scrapped and elbows bruised. He credits that humbling experience as one of the main factors as to why it’s “different this time,” as well as the ingrained knowledge that things aren’t going to make him happy.


John has been clean and sober for 5 months now, and it’s so inspiring to see him put his charisma, determination, and savvy nature to use outside of a prison cell. He has even gotten back into graphic design, helping to make various slides for this year’s Gala. I look up to John, and it’s so incredible to be able to follow his line and carve the waves of our sobriety in the same community as him—in the ocean of recovery, that is Beit T’Shuvah.

Spotlight on John S by Auston P.

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