His mind and body were broken. The bright, young, athletic man full of vibrance and joy had ended up a junkie by his mid twenties. Tonight, he had nothing else to do but wait for his dealer, trying to ignore the pain of his cracked ribs and bruised body. Coming down from heroin, the only comfort he had left, he began to feel the pain from being jumped by some thugs earlier in the night. Sitting in his truck, dopesick, he was barely able to move. He managed to rest for a moment, only to be startled awake by a knock on his window. Police lights temporarily blinded him. The help he had so adamantly refused finally found him.
Nolan W. grew up in a loving family in South Lake Tahoe. “My dad would call in sick to come see me play sports. My parents never missed a game. There was a lot of love,” he says. He attended the University of Nevada, Reno, and soon into his freshman year, Nolan was short on spending money. He decided to start slinging weed, even though he had yet to use any sort of drug. “Then I started having problems because of sports. Turns out, I had zero cartilage in my knee. I started smoking weed to help with the pain and eventually a doctor gave me some painkillers. I had no idea what the side effects would be,” Nolan recalls.
Nolan started popping and selling painkillers. Life was good until the “pill mill” doctor who had been supplying Nolan got busted and the pills stopped coming. “I got dopesick for the first time and had no idea what was going on. This guy told me I should try heroin and I said ‘hell no.’ The next day, I was at his place smoking it,” he remembers. His life took a drastic turn for the worse. “I felt nothing. No emotions, no laughter. I had money coming in from my job as a blackjack dealer so I figured I wasn’t a real addict. Everything else in my life started to fall apart. I stopped talking to my parents. My girlfriend was about to leave me. It was bad,” Nolan says, shaking his head. Smoking heroin eventually turned into injecting it and his life spiraled into desolation.
Cut to the night of broken ribs and police. Nolan’s dad had reported his son missing six months earlier, and when he saw his son, he ran to him. “He just hugged me. He wouldn’t let me go,” Nolan smiles. “My dad called my cousin Robbie who had been through Beit T’Shuvah and the next day we were in L.A.” Nolan detoxed and healed at the Clare Foundation, a recovery center in L.A., and within two months he was admitted to Beit T’Shuvah. “I just hit my one year. I owe these people my life. Beit T’Shuvah gave me hope again. I laugh now, all the time! I’d never been to a gym in my life; I’m now working at LA Fitness. I’m beyond grateful for this place; without it, I’d be dead or for sure in jail. I’m not even Jewish and they took me in as one of their own. This place taught me how to live life again,” he says.
Nolan’s infectious laugh can be heard all over Beit T’Shuvah. His energy is palpable and he motivates the residents to get in shape and have a good attitude while doing it. “I’m doing the marathon now. I have some fear about hurting my knees again, but it’s all about finding what challenges you and confronting it. I honestly hate running, but I said I’d join the marathon team and Beit T’Shuvah taught me how to show up and be a man of my word. This place saves lives. It definitely saved mine,” he says.
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