One of the most important things to sustaining human life is the feeling of belonging. From tribes to cliques, our identities are inextricably linked to the larger group. But what happens when you are born into the wrong group? This is the exact situation that brought us Miriam Y.

Miriam was born in an ultra-Orthodox community just blocks from Beit T’Shuvah. She remembers seeing the stained glass windows as a child and thinking that inside was some “weird offshoot” of her religion. Growing up in this rigid community is the perfect place for some. Some people thrive under the many rules and regulations associated with ultra-Orthodox Judaism. Not Miriam. She felt judged and ridiculed in the community she was raised to believe was her own. She says, “If I wore black they would tell me I was goth. If I wore colors they would yell at me for that too! I never could f***ing win!”

This disconnect between Miriam and her repressive community led to years of self-loathing. She was afraid to be who she was always meant to. Miriam felt like there was something wrong with her for not being accepted. From an early age, boys and girls were separated, and because the girls already ostracized her, she had difficulties making friends.

Lonely and fed up with her heritage, Miriam decided that the minute she could leave her home she would. “I couldn’t wait to turn 18 and get away,” she says. “So what did I do? I moved to the Middle East, to Israel, and started doing drugs!”

Eventually, she would return to California and start working for an organization called Got Kosher. Before Baked T’Shuvah, Got Kosher supplied all the challah to Beit T’Shuvah. She would sometimes see members of Beit T’Shuvah getting challah and would be surprised at the grins on their faces. “I thought all addicts were miserable,” she said.

After a few more years of drug use and a handful of rock bottoms, Miriam sought help. She knew exactly where to go. So, with contacts she made in the greater Los Angeles Jewish community, she got herself into Beit T’Shuvah. Suddenly, a lifetime of searching had landed her in the right place. She knew that she was finally a part of a community that would accept her for who she was. Our fearless founder, Harriet, always says “We don’t ask you to fit in. We ask you to belong.” After years of trying to fit a square peg into a round hole, Miriam finally found her perfect fit. “For years it has been a string of wanting to be accepted and wanting to accept myself,” she says. Today, Miriam can be seen wearing the same grin as those members of our community she’d see all those years ago. I think I can safely say that I speak for the entire Beit T’Shuvah community when I say… Welcome home, Miriam.