[vc_single_image source=”featured_image” img_size=”full”]Joshua C. has played a lifelong game of hide and seek; hiding in plain sight from the world and seeking the underlying truth of his own identity.

Born in the Philippines and raised by his religiously strict extended family, Joshua eventually moved to North Carolina when he was 8 to be with his mother. “Coming here was a big shocker. I didn’t know who my mother was. The whole transition was really hard for me,” Joshua recalls. His mother worked around the clock, and he had trouble speaking English. He spent a lot of time with his mother and her friends, watching them sew. “It was hard to make friends. I felt alone and unwanted. All I wanted to do was isolate,” Joshua remembers.

His isolation bred resentment. He grew rebellious. Joshua got in trouble with the law as he began a life of petty crime, breaking and entering and stealing whatever he could. He was addicted to the rush. When he turned 18, Joshua walked into a casino and thought he had found his home. “The smell, the people, the atmosphere. It made me feel alive. When I was there, I wasn’t alone,” he says.

Except he was alone. He surrounded himself with strangers, always pretending to fit in. Joshua reminisces, “The casino was my friend and my lover. Everything I ever wanted, I found at the casino.” As Joshua’s expensive addiction grew, so did his life of crime. But the law would eventually catch up with him. On January 15, Joshua went to jail yet again. But unbeknownst to him, this time would be different.

While incarcerated, Joshua enrolled in an addiction awareness program and for the first time realized he was an addict. He had a choice to make: “I could have finished my sentence, gone back on parole and lived my life, but I realized I was running away from something I was afraid of my whole life. I realized I needed help.”

Joshua arrived at Beit T’Shuvah on September 27th, and since then, has come to terms with a profound truth. With the help of his treatment team, Joshua realized, “the reason I was acting out and was scared all the time was because I’m gay.” It is something he always knew but was too scared to accept, and Joshua never wanted to get close anyone for fear they might find out his secret. His strict religious upbringing as well as stories of anti-gay bigotry drove him to bury his truth. Now, he is gaining a new perspective on life. Finally, at 35, the burden of secrecy has been lifted, and he has received nothing but support from the Beit T’Shuvah community.

On top of the internal work Joshua has done, he has given back to the community. Joshua used to hide his ability to sew because he was afraid of the stigma he believed attached to it. Freed from his internal constraints, Joshua played a pivotal role in the High Tea and Fashion Show that Beit T’Shuvah held in November. He helped design, sew and alter the clothing for the models. “I came to trust Josh’s skill and judgement implicitly,” says Creative Director Izzy N., “it was as if I had another set of eyes and hands.”  Joshua has also joined the Beit T’Shuvah marathon team. While he’s proud to be representing his community, there is a deeper meaning for him attached to the race; “I’ve never accomplished anything in life. I’ve always quit. And even though this is a struggle, I’m going for it.”

As for his future, Joshua wants to help kids who were like him; troubled, scared, confused about their identity. “I walked down that path, and I want to show them that there is another way.