What are you living for? That sounded bleak. What I meant to say was: What is your purpose? Still a little a little too macabre. When you wake up in the morning, do you know what you are fighting for? Do you put your left foot in front of your right for yourself or for another? Maybe it is your parents, maybe it is your children, or maybe it is the knowledge that there is more to you than the mistakes of your past—that your worst self is not your whole self. What fuels your fight for recovery? There’s the hope. Today, Luca F. wakes up in the morning and knows exactly who he takes that first breath for…but it wasn’t always that way.

Having a nice home life and good friends doesn’t mean that everything in your life is going to be daisies and dandelions. If you know Beit T’Shuvah, you know that. Luca grew up in Santa Monica and everything in his life seemed perfectly normal. Until, at the age of 2, doctors noticed he had an auditory disorder—a precursor for autism. Any loud or sudden noise would send him into a full-blown panic attack. For a child who loved nothing more than to play outside and listen to music, this was a painful affliction. With therapy and patience, he worked through it. Step by step, decibel by decibel, he finally got over his disorder. Today, he blasts dubstep at full volume. (For our older crowd, dubstep is a genre of music that sounds as if two semi-trucks crashed into a jackhammer factor. I don’t advise looking it up.)

By the time he was in eighth grade, Luca found himself being bullied. For a very long time, he didn’t have the strength to stand up for himself. Once he finally did, he used physical and verbal violence to protect himself. This was something he couldn’t seem to shake. If he felt at all disrespected, he would lash out. Deep inside, it wasn’t something he wanted to do but something he felt he needed to do to mask his insecurities.

There is no two ways about it; Luca loves to play sports. It was instantly his favorite thing in the world. This passion would last him through high school—cross country in the fall, soccer in the winter, tennis in the spring. He always had a very close-knit group of friends and once these friends started drinking and smoking weed, Luca followed. “It made good things better and bad things fine.” Around this time, his teenage angst distanced him from his parents. After the pink cloud of high school had dispersed, a raincloud moved in. That wedge that had been made between him and his parents grew bigger and they gave him an ultimatum: pay rent or move out. He decided to pay rent for a couple of months and then move to Colorado. 

In Colorado, he discovered a class of drugs that would open his mind and shrink his life—hallucinogenics. Luca was frequently taking acid and mushrooms along, of course, with his constant excessive drinking and smoking. He was living the music festival party life. Eventually, he stopped showing up to work, ran out of money, and had to call his parents and beg to move back in. This time, it came with contingencies: Two jobs, get on medications, and see a therapist. Like many of us tend to do, Luca stopped working, stopped taking his medication, and stopped going to therapy—self-care was not at the forefront of his mind. Within no time, he was faced with that same ultimatum again…and again, chose to move out. He couch-surfed for a while, but ultimately the couchsprings shot him up, out, and into reality. At this point, Luca weighed 125 pounds and looked undeniably sickly. 

With no hope left, Luca drowned himself in pills, booze, and the rest of his standard go-to drugs. This is when tragedy struck. His long-time best friend lost his battle with cancer. This absolutely devastated Luca. He came incredibly close to overdosing after taking too many Xanax and alcohol. His mother found him, 12 hours after he was meant to call her, and thought he was dead. This put everything into perspective for him. “A big inspiration for me coming here was that my friend who passed away wanted to live so bad and I was trying so hard not to live. I wanted to flip the narrative. I wanted to live, not for him, but in honor of him.” There’s that hope again. 

Beit T’Shuvah had always been in the back of Luca’s mind, after hearing whispers of it during our addiction. So, once he finally decided it was time to change his life, he decided that this was the place that could help him do that. “I am very grateful to Beit T’Shuvah for giving me the opportunity and grateful to myself for taking the opportunity to try this sobriety thing out.” Since coming to Beit T’Shuvah, everything has changed for Luca. His dim stare has now transformed into a glowing gaze brightening the smiles of everyone he comes in contact with. He has two internships, one with the kitchen and one with Baked T’Shuvah. Knowing he would be giving back to the community that had given him so much would be the best thing for him, he begged his treatment team to let him take on this level of responsibility. That happily agreed.

Today, Luca knows exactly what he is living for. He has found purpose, drive, ambition, and self-worth. That kid who wanted to waste away is now doing anything but. “I’m a living example of someone who had no hope for anything. I didn’t think that I could stay sober for two weeks and I have been sober for 170 days. I know that, if I can do 170 days, there are a lot more people just like me that can do the exact same thing.”

This isn’t just hope. This is hope in action. 

Spotlight on Luca F. by Jesse Solomon

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