“It all started when I was born and my dad relapsed on crack and ended up coming to treatment here…”
Lily Morris looked me dead in the eyes and said this like it was completely normal. I mean, is it not a classic and universally relatable tale? Who amongst us didn’t grow up within the walls of a rehab? Can you even call it a childhood if you didn’t play kickball with a kicking heroin addict? Haven’t we all felt confused when we were the only child at the bouncy house birthday party finishing the song with “Keep coming back!”
For most of us, drugs or alcohol brought us to Beit T’Shuvah. For Lily, it was the same. The only difference was that she wasn’t the one taking them. Both her parents are addicts, which, as far as being dealt a good hand, is a royal flush. So, she has always been deeply immersed in the world of drugs and the world of recovery. When an AA meeting needed a crying baby in the back of the room to annoy everyone barely holding on to their sobriety, she was there. Basically what I’m saying is, Lily took her first steps while watching others take twelve.
After Lily’s father, former Beit T’Shuvah counselor, Earl Morris, relapsed on crack, he moved into a Karate Dojo. She would spend nights with him sleeping in the back of a school for people who were tired of being bullied. Oftentimes, she would attend birthday parties for kids that she didn’t know, singing “Keep coming back!” every time.
After a while, both her parents got sober again. Earl got clean right here at Beit T’Shuvah and later became staff. Lily loved spending her Friday nights at Shabbat services. She would sit on the piano and sing along for all the world to hear—the community loved every second of it.
When Lily turned ten years old, she decided she wanted to be a counselor. In response to this, her dad told her, “You can’t be a counselor. You’re not an addict.” Somehow, at the same time, “People would tell me I had an addict mind, but without the fun drug part.”
If you know Lily (or have even spoken to her for a moment) you know she is not free of her own issues. Behind her perfectly crafted plated steel armor of humor is leg-shaking, sweat-dripping, blood-boiling anxiety. This feeling of woe and panic has plagued her all her life. It was never as bad as when she was in college at the University of Michigan. After struggling for some time, she came to the realization that the best course of action was to take her own life.
In a slightly more clear-headed moment, she decided to call a suicide hotline. After blurting out every frantic worry and desperate threat of self-harm she had rattling around her brain, the suicide hotline operator let her know that she had called the wrong number. So, she took the next logical step and checked herself into a psych ward. No surprise, she loved it. Maybe it was growing up running up and down the halls of BTS, but something about the looney bin felt like home. She made friends, was proposed to by a man in psychosis, and got free milkshakes at any given hour. Where can I sign up? Once she was feeling better, she was ready to resume her college career and her path to becoming a drug and alcohol counselor…and no one was as proud or as supportive as her father, Earl.
Lily’s lifelong goal of helping people led her right back to her childhood playground. In 2019, Lily started a summer internship as a Program Facilitator. She learned the ropes of BTS in an entirely new light. She was finally behind the curtain and she loved it. So, when she graduated, she came back to work here. At first, she was a med-room attendant, but then later she achieved the goal that ten-year-old girl dreamt about and became a drug and alcohol counselor. Take that, Earl!
Sadly, as many of you may know, this is Lily’s last week working at Beit T’Shuvah. Her blinding bright future and gargantuan potential are taking her, to heights that Everest would be humbled by. “I am going to a year-long master’s program in criminology, so I can learn how to commit crime correctly and then show up at alternative sentencing,” (a defective joke from a girl who doesn’t give herself enough credit). She ultimately wants to get her PsyD and become a forensic psychologist. “I feel so excited about the program and not just the piece of paper I’ll get after.” Lily’s upbringing and future all have the same through-line. As she puts it, “This sounds so cheesy, but I’d like to give a voice to the voiceless. I’d like to open the eyes and ears of the people who refuse to look or listen.”
We are all so appreciative of everything Lily has done for our organization. From helping guide residents into a fulfilling life in sobriety to being a child version of a therapy dog, she has had an impact on generations of Beit T’Shuvians.
So, Lily, you will always have a place here. You will always have a seat at our Shabbat dinner table. This will always be your home. We are all excited for you and your brand-new journey, but we’ll still miss you when you’re gone. So, for our sake and yours…keep coming back.