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We know that addicts come in all shapes and sizes. Still, based on his clean-cut, well-dressed appearance, it is difficult to believe that Robert B. has a problem. On the other hand, when you consider that he was born in Kentucky and that his first beer – at 10 – was his father’s homemade beer out of a tap, it gets easier.
Robert, 42, was the youngest of four and born to parents in their mid-forties. “My childhood wasn’t ideal,” he recounts. “I felt alone a lot. There were nice moments, but overall it was tough. I drank and smoked cigarettes as a way to connect with my family.”
At 15, Robert was diagnosed with bone cancer in his leg, and went through a year of chemotherapy. He remembers helping out the other kids in the hospital by playing games with them, but by the end he was thoroughly depressed.
After the deaths of his parents, Robert made his way to California and to CalArts, where he earned a Bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts. He started dating a fellow student and together they got into cocaine and Adderall. “I loved Adderall. I felt invincible. My other friends were into Oxycontin but I liked stimulants. I had a lot of residual trauma from childhood bullying and from cancer. The drugs made me feel like I was normal,” Robert explains.
Robert and his girlfriend married and spent eight years together. Their apartment was known as the party house. His drug use – but not his drinking – slowed down and the couple chose to divorce. Almost immediately, Robert met a woman online and within a few months she was pregnant. They married quickly but divorced after their daughter Amada was born; they shared custody 50/50.
Soon, Robert began dating a girl at work who was also the drug supplier for everyone in the office. His love of Adderall comes back in with a vengeance. Robert describes those days: “I was popping Adderall in the morning with my vitamins, throughout the afternoon and again into the evening and taking benzos at night to fall asleep. Then I’d be up at 5:00 a.m. starting it all over again. All I cared about was my job and my daughter. I let the rest of my life fall apart.” Robert even pawned his beloved surfboard.
On November 12, Robert arrived at Beit T’Shuvah. This is Robert’s third rehab.
“What’s different about this place is that I’m actually learning the tools to cope with life. Before, in my thirties, it was more of a detox, but once I was out and life started getting hard, I fell back into what gave me a quick sense of relief.” Robert continues, “Beit T’Shuvah is amazing. For the first time I don’t feel alone. I always felt as though no one would understand my problems and here, when I get to listen to others who struggle like I did and I can speak openly about my thinking and my emotions, it’s amazing. I love the community here.”
Robert has immersed himself in Beit T’Shuvah. Besides volunteering, Robert is in two work therapy programs: in the kitchen and in development. “I’ve always loved to cook. I would cook with my daughter all the time. Now I’m cooking for 150 residents and they all have opinions about my skills. So it’s a fun challenge. I get to be creative and I really enjoy it.”
“Development is really special. I work with such wonderful people and I get to be involved with helping raise money for this place which is such a great feeling. I just finished helping out with the Marathon and this week we were putting the finishing touches on the Circle of Majesty luncheon. It’s really great to immerse myself in this sense of community-building because for most of my adult life, I was only focused on making money and wanting to be a good father. I never focused on being a good man. This whole experience, but especially being of service, has helped me learn to be best version of myself.”
His stay at Beit T’Shuvah hasn’t been without its dark moments, though. Three weeks in, he learned that he was going to lose custody of his daughter (now 10). But by owning up to his mistakes, he has been able to take ownership of his life. Robert explains, “I used to blame everyone but myself for my problems. So when the court told me I wouldn’t have custody, I had to take a hard look in the mirror. I surrendered my control and the strangest thing happened: my daughter and I got closer. We’ve never been this close before. I hope to regain joint custody soon.”
To find Robert, look for the handsome, unassuming man with the shy smile. But don’t expect a Kentucky accent.