Many men dream of being a kept man. Few would want to live Reuben Shapiro’s experience, however.
Reuben’s parents divorced when he was five. “I began to feel lonely and neglected,” he reflects “My parents were uninvolved, and I learned to bottle up my feelings and do whatever I wanted.”
But whatever Reuben wanted wasn’t always good for him. He was expelled from school for fighting – not a first time for him – and began to use drugs and alcohol. Because of his bad behavior, Reuben’s mother sent him to live with his father. There, he fell in with new friends, the parents of whom were especially permissive. “They bought us booze all the time, especially one friend’s stepfather. We would drink and fight. The adults would bet on the outcomes,” Reuben says matter-of-factly.
The adults he came to know personified depravity. “In the mid-2000’s, I began hanging out with Big Mama, the mother of a friend. She made her living pimping out young women and dealing drugs,” Reuben says. She gave him his first Oxycontin, assuring him he would feel good. “I felt great for the first two hours; then I got very sick. In my misery, I vowed that I would never take any again. The next day I was ready for more, and there it was,” he recounts. He ended up selling Oxy for her, then crack.
Reuben had a girlfriend. And the girlfriend had a mother. And she, too, found a use for young men; this one was physical. For many years, Reuben didn’t have to work, and wasn’t much interested in schooling. (He graduated from high school at 20 and has had minimal formal education since.) He did, though, have an interest in drugs. Finally, the IRS got to mom and his meal ticket disappeared. Since then, Reuben has moved around. He has been on drugs and off them. He came to Beit T’Shuvah in January of this year.
“If I had one word to describe Beit T’Shuvah, it would be ‘amazing’”, Reuben says. “I have gotten in trouble here, and it’s been a wake up call. I realized that although I was clean and seemed to be participating in BTS life, I was really doing the usual skating by and doing what I wanted to do. CGA (Criminals and Gangsters Anonymous) opened my eyes to my behaviors, which hadn’t changed.”
Reuben’s Beit T’Shuvah experience has not only given him insight, but it has engendered relationships and opportunity. He speaks glowingly of Rabbi Mark and Iggy and the help they have given him. He has a sponsor, now – a BTS alumnus – who is taking him through the 12 steps. Reuben has been interning at the BTS Thrift Store for over four months, and has developed the utmost admiration for Daniel Ardel and Mordekhai Moadeb, who he also describes as amazing. His internship has given him purpose and a way to give back to Beit T’Shuvah. And Reuben has had the opportunity to appear in Almost, Maine, produced by Pat Gage, who he now counts among his close friends and supports. “Since I’ve been here, I’ve stumbled into stuff and gotten involved with new, cool things,” he reports.
But not everything’s been cool. One of Reuben’s castmates in Almost, Maine was Brett Nadler, who died of an overdose earlier this year. Reuben immediately connected with Brett, but Reuben could only watch as his close friend self-destructed.
“One of the most important – or maybe the very most important – things I have learned is to always maintain the position that I might be wrong. This allows me to keep an open mind, no matter how sure I am that I am right,” Reuben smiles. “And I have developed faith. I really believe that Beit T’Shuvah has my best interest at heart. In so many ways, it’s an amazing place.”