Spotlight on Josh A. By Randall S.
“As long as I was creating, I felt like I could accomplish any of my goals,” Josh A. shares in the Creative Matters office at Beit T’Shuvah.
Growing up in Tampa, Florida, the eldest of two sons, Josh was a fun-loving, self-sufficient over-achiever with, as he puts it, “a group of best friends that I am still close with to this day.” Nicknamed the “Golden Boy”, “I was active in sports and always made good grades, a very important emphasis impressed upon me by my mother, who had her Ph.D. in Counseling,” Josh explains. However, between his sophomore and junior years in high school, Josh traded his super student and “jock” lifestyle for that of the “Gambler.” Poker had started out as a harmless hobby in middle school, but, by the age of sixteen, he had started sneaking into casinos and participating in Poker tournaments. This transformation also led Josh to begin smoking weed, to help him self-medicate the tension and negative self-talk associated with this new hidden part of his life. And because smoking weed was illegal in Florida, “I was also arrested a few times,” he remembers.
He was living a double life. On the one hand, Josh was still making good grades and was even elected Class President in both his junior and senior years of high school. But when he wasn’t fulfilling his Golden Boy role, Josh was gambling, smoking weed, and living his childhood fantasy of a “gangster-esque” lifestyle. However, despite this dichotomous existence, Josh was able to get into his university of choice, the University of Florida. “I declared a Political Science major and became extremely active in my fraternity,” he recalls. Serving as Recruitment Chairman in his sophomore year, he then became President his junior year and was able to secure the largest recruitment class in the history of the fraternity’s chapter, doubling its size. And following graduation, where he achieved a 3.6 GPA, “I began a two-year stint touring the country as a recruitment consultant for my fraternity,” Josh shares.
The position was both a gift and a curse. “I got to visit every state in the country helping set up fraternity chapters by day, but at night I was still smoking bowls and gambling,” he recounts. By now he had graduated from Poker to Black Jack and his life had started to unravel. And it was during a recruiting trip to Cal-Davis that, as he states, “I had to get real with myself over my addictions.” However, despite that epiphany, Josh just transferred his addiction-laden life from recruitment consultant to working as a sales representative for a few start-up companies as well as a dental/medical equipment company in his newly adopted home base of Sacramento, California. But despite his natural-born ability to be a high achieving salesman, “I would always run into the same issue of setting a goal to rise quickly in an organization and when I didn’t see an advancement result I would get discouraged and move on,” he recalls.
It was now 2016 and the twenty-eight-year-old was listlessly drifting from one dead-end job to another, all the while still gambling and smoking weed. But it was out of this dark phase in his life that he returned to one of his original loves – music. Introduced to classic R&B/Hip-Hop music as a child, by his mother, “I began writing music as a form of therapy. I really liked the way I felt after writing a song,” he shares with a smile. Now going by his new performer name of “Class Prez”, as alluded to earlier, this ability to create reinforced his confidence in accomplishing any goal that he may set for himself. He was still saddled with his addictions but bolstered with a newfound confidence, Josh began an outpatient addiction program starting in 2018 and over the next two-plus years he managed to stay sober. He also managed to get his sales “mojo” back and achieved incredible financial success while working at DoorDash. Unfortunately, this newfound infusion of cash led him back to his familiar vices of weed and gambling. But, instead of casinos, “I channeled my gambling addiction into playing the cryptocurrency markets,” he explains. And for a while, he amassed a significant amount of monetary gain. But, inevitably, the market turned and he lost most of his money.
“I didn’t process what had happened. I just kept running,” Josh shares. He had also added cocaine to his ill-fated house of narcotic cards by this time. It was at this point he turned towards his music, once again, to assist in coping with all the stress and mania associated with this latest spiral. But, despite the refuge his creative outlet provided, he was still avoiding the eight hundred pound gorilla in the room. As far back as 2012, Josh had heard about a Jewish faith-based drug and alcohol treatment center in Los Angeles called Beit T’Shuvah. Over the intervening years, he had pondered coming south to, once and for all, face his demons. It was now time to make that trek. “I finally decided it was time to come here. I couldn’t wait any longer,” Josh retells, reclining back in his chair. So he called the front desk at BTS, began the admission process, and, following a call with Nanette, he was admitted September 30, 2021.
“I came here not wanting to have any expectations. I wanted to approach it from a fresh perspective and it’s exceeded anything I could’ve imagined,” he recounts. And through his treatment team of counselor, Michael Saks, therapist, Nikki, and spiritual counselor, Emily he’s been able to learn healthier ways of dealing with “No”. “If things don’t always work out it’s okay. I now have developed healthier coping mechanisms to deal with the inevitable ebbs and flows of this experience called being human,” he relays. And through this transformative process, Josh has also gotten more in touch with his Jewish faith.
He’s also harkened back to his college days, where he developed his first love of running and is now a member of the Beit T’Shuvah 2022 LA Marathon Team. His music has also returned to his life and can be witnessed through his joining the cast of “Freedom Song” and performing during Shabbat services. He concludes by saying, “My creativity is now evolving. Before I used it to just pull me out of the darkness. Now I create from a positive and, most importantly, sober frame of mind.” Whether running, performing, or creating it’s apparent, Josh, that you have run a good race, complete with edifying and healing music, on your journey to recovery and redemption. Continue to sing your song loud and proud. It’s one we never tire of hearing at Beit T’Shuvah.
To donate to Josh’s fundraising effort as a member of the 2022 BTS LA Marathon Team, click the link below and give what you can to help him, along with all the members of the team, raise money to help other souls, like Josh, get the help they need to conquer their addictions.
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