Throughout our lives we are all forced to endure many trials and tests. How many of those tests have we failed? I am sure that no one reading this article, written on a rehab’s website, has gotten every single question right. At some point in our lives we all get asked the same question, the question that our spotlight subject, Jonny S., struggled with his whole life:
What gives you purpose?
D) All of the Above.
If you don’t know which option he chose…you don’t know Jonny S.
Let me enlighten you.
Jonny has lived his life in search of meaning, of purpose—of any semblance of direction that would have helped point him towards a pathway ending in joy. “I am someone who never had purpose or had any sense of what my divine purpose was. I just existed for the day and had to make it to the weekend.
He grew up in New York and from a very young age was bullied for being a Jew. Once the beer bottles thrown at him on his walk home from school had become too much for him, Jonny turned to fighting. He watched his parents get divorced and bounce around between (let’s call them) insignificant others. The influx and exodus of his parents’ partners left Jonny mourning the loss of a parental figure on a regular basis.
When he was in eleventh grade he fell in love for the first time. Had he found purpose? One day, the first love of his life took him to a party where Jonny met the second love of his life. At this party he witnessed a room full of drunk people that were “no better or no worse [than each other]. Everyone was on the same level.” That was a light bulb moment for Jonny. He realized that if he got drunk, people would like him. Soon, drinking became smoking and smoking became pills. “I really just wanted to try anything that would crank the level of how far removed from real life I was.” When a medical issue landed him in the hospital, he discovered opiates and his drug usage got darker and more dangerous.
Jonny has a few stays at various east coast treatment centers. In and out. In and high. Out and high. Rinse, repeat. Eventually, he stayed out and stayed high. He would sniff heroin and take pills all day every day. You’d think this was his rock bottom, but Jonny hadn’t even seen the edge of the cliff yet.
After leaving a long term treatment center in Arizona, he decided that his new purpose in life was selling drugs and guns. Like a true entrepreneur, he realized that the clients he just spent time in rehab with would make great clients for his new start up business. “It was the first time I felt empowered and it was in all the wrong ways. I was selling dope to the gun-man and guns to the dope-man. Jonny the gangster had arrived.”
This tough guy persona was nothing more of a facade, because when trouble found Jonny, he would run for the hills.
A few months into this lifestyle and Jonny knew he needed help. Through a family friend, he found Beit T’Shuvah. This was in 2017. He spent a year here, consumed by the women in the program. 8831 Venice became his own personal brothel. “I sat in front of Zac Jones over and over saying ‘We’re on the same wavelength! We’re meant to be together!’ Eleven times I said that.”
By no surprise, he left with a girl and was getting high soon after.
Believe it or not, their rock solid relationship ended and Jonny moved on to a new girl. The two of them lived a lavish lifestyle full of drugs and parties. They eventually moved to Colombia where Jonny found himself running naked through the jungle tripping on acid. That relationship ended and, once on American soil, he was immersed into the rave scene and all the drugs that come along with it. Those all led back to heroin and heroin led back to Beit T’Shuvah.
“I crawled into the doors of Beit T’Shuvah shaking and crying and then collapsed into Lysa’s arms. Gratitude isn’t even it. I felt like I made it to the winning lottery ticket, to heaven—it was the ultimate journey to make it through that front door.”
Jonny still holds that feeling with him today. This time around, everything is different. No longer is he replacing drugs with new addictions, like women or work. Today, he is all about his program and all about his passions. “Beit T’Shuvah was the only place I could call home. It was the only place I was excited to return to.” After spending his entire life Goldilocks-ing his way to finding a purpose, selling drugs and guns (too hot), staying isolated doing dope (too cold), he finally found Beit T’Shuvah (just right).
The trials and tests won’t stop for Jonny—it won’t stop for any of us. There will always be the next question to answer, but hopefully, if you have taken anything away from his story it is that “What gives you purpose?” is not a multiple-choice question. It is a fill in the blank.