BTS Resident and Film Department Intern Noam J.B.G. shares his story.
Exactly two years before the horrific events of 9/11, I was born into a somewhat unfortunate family dynamic. My sister was four years old and my parents were still together. I was about seven when they split up. Shortly after the divorce, my dad was fired from his job and started spending the majority of his time isolating in his room. I didn’t see much of him for a while. My mom, on the other hand, ran around juggling her work as a Hebrew teacher, dealing with my sister, fighting with her sisters, and dreaming of having a normal loving family. When I reached the 6th grade, there was a night I spent in the living room listening to the fighting between my troubled sister, and my PTSD-triggered father. That night ended with me running out of my dad’s place and sprinting to my mom’s to get help. My sister was then taken to a mental hospital for her suicidal thoughts. Neither of my parents knew how to tell me what went down that night, so they didn’t. I never knew what happened to my sister then until years later.
We were all hurting in my family, for our own personal reasons. But we never wanted to listen or talk, no matter how loudly we screamed at each other, or how softly we cried to ourselves. When I hit 9th grade, my sister decided to leave the country due to her own trauma, my dad slowly started coming out of his isolation, as my mom was starting to fall into her paranoia and depression, and my first long-term girlfriend cheated on me. The new school year had just started, and I was already feeling exhausted and beaten. It didn’t take too long before I was randomly offered weed, alcohol, and pills. I don’t remember if I hesitated at all when first presented with them. This is right around where my memory becomes foggy. All I know is that when I started experimenting with getting high, it didn’t take me too long to get to the point where I ate a handful of mystery pills, drank a 50ml bottle of peach flavored vodka, and smoked a half ounce of weed in what was probably a seven hour time period. I just remember waking up in the morning thinking two things: “God I’m fucking shitfaced right now,” and “I just want to die.” I grabbed my vodka, ate the rest of the pills, and left for school. By the end of 7th period I was asking my mom to take me to BHC Alhambra Hospital (A treatment facility for a number of mental health disorders). I woke up again in a daze, falling out of my bed. But this time it was a nurse waking me up. and I had no belt or shoelaces. I was in the same place my sister went to for the same reasons. That was just the beginning of my drug use.
You’d think that after that experience I would have learned my lesson—you’d think wrong. I spent the rest of my High School years using Xanax. I smoked meth, and a morning after, I broke into cars with some “friends.” Again, x, alcohol, weed, and psychedelic mushrooms to pass the time. During this period, I ruined all my friendships, was the reason my mother couldn’t sleep, sent my dad back into isolation, screamed at girlfriends, and got into a fist fight with a boy I was experimenting sexually with. My life had become pure chaos and I had grown to love that. I was sick in the head and perfectly fine with dying. I would hope every night to not wake up in the morning. The shred of sanity I had left would come up every now and then, and tell me that all I really wanted was a loving family and for everything that’s going on to just stop. I remember thinking that, a day or two after my memory is pretty foggy. Looking back at it all now, thinking of how much I fought with my mom, yelled at her, threw shit at her in a drunken rage, cornered her in a room, scared the life out of her, I cry because I see we both really wanted the same thing, a loving family. But I was so mentally checked out that no one could have known that about me. I was just a troubled animal, completely detached from what made me human, surviving off drugs and other troubled animals.
Deep down I knew there was a problem and I wanted to stop it. I decided to quit pills and alcohol, and just stick to weed and mushrooms. It was a long process, but after a year of family therapy with my mom and changing my friendship circle I could finally tell myself… nothing. All I could tell myself is that I stopped taking Xanax and I could talk better with my mom. I was still the same depressed, angry kid who couldn’t see the point in his own life. The only real difference was I wasn’t waking up every morning in a blind rage screaming, punching holes in my walls, looking for the Xanax that I already took the night before.
After another year of being stuck in my room, stoned and depressed, I made a decision to move to Israel with my mom. Two weeks after my mom bought her ticket I backed out and made the conclusion with a few of my cousins that going to Beit T’Shuvah was my best option. And it was.
My journey here has been a roller coaster of twists and turns, ups and downs, and loopty loops. The first time at Beit T’Shuvah, I left in a hurry with no plan. Only to come back seven months later. My second time here has been fine tuning my confidence and self-worth, becoming the film department intern, planning out my dream to travel, and going back to school. What I have now because of my time at Beit T’Shuvah, is best described simply as a better life and mind than what I had before. I’ve made friends who I love with all of my heart and who inspire me to do good. I can feel the tears that roll down my face and the laughs that come out of my gut. I have learned what it means to be present in your own life. Beit T’Shuvah gave me the tools to get back my humanity and find beauty in even the darkest areas of life. I am no longer the suicidal animal that runs rampant. I am Noam J.B.G.: the complicated, sensitive, capable, strong, human being who loves to make art. I am all of these because of what I’ve been through….but what do I know? I can barely remember any of it.