Batter up. First two pitches are bad, I don’t swing. I have a good eye for these things. Third pitch I swing, foul ball: strike. Fourth pitch: strike again. Two more balls (bad pitches) and it’s a full count. Oh yeah, and the bases are loaded…
My first time at Beit T’Shuvah was in 2008. I walked in the front doors, a 21-year-old, fresh out of jail, in pajama pants, chucks with no laces, my hair braided, a mildly concerning abrasion under my left eye, and a pretty bad attitude. I’d been arrested four months prior for seven counts of armed robbery with a sawed-off shotgun. When Beit T’Shuvah found me, I had a 6 million dollar bail.
I learned a lot my first time here: how to be a part of a community again; how to ask for help. I read Heschel and talked to Rabbi Mark frequently (though my visits with him were often birthed from earned ‘trouble;’) I learned how to get in trouble and not get away with it—to let myself be seen; I inundated the spiritual department/clergy with a plethora of existential questions that opened doors to a new way of thinking for me… At that time, I just didn’t quite get how to translate everything I was learning into a new way of being.
I knew I had caused a hurricane of pain, trauma, and chaos, but I still wasn’t convinced I was an alcoholic. When I presented this thought to a former clergy-head here named Shai, he said,
“Does it matter?”
“No, it doesn’t,” I thought, “I have a better life when I’m sober…”
He didn’t know it, but this was a revolutionary concept to me- it resonated deeply and has stayed with me, even now, almost 15 years later…
When I left here after nine months, it wasn’t on great terms. It was October and I was on the street. My sponsor had been helping me schlepp my stuff from place to place and I remember her looking over at me in the passenger seat, my belongings tucked all around me and on my lap. I was fighting her on going to a sober living, (as if I had a better choice, or any other choice, for that matter.)
“I’m just not convinced I’m an alcoholic,” I bargained. What she said next changed my perception of my disease– that I even had one.
“You know how I know you’re an alcoholic?” she replied, “Because you drank…”
I ruminated on Shai and my sponsor’s ideas about alcoholism as I gypsyed from sober living to apartment back to sober living for the next 5 years. Although I could no longer deny I had a problem, and I often found myself defeated and desperate, I stayed stubborn and unwilling to surrender.
During this time, I was still on formal probation from the court case in 2008. I had completed my 480 hours of community service, but I also had to randomly drug test. With a 5-year-suspended sentence over my head, one would think I had sufficient reason and cause to stay in line. Sadly, it was another system I thought I was masterfully swindling. But, I misjudged—bad eye.
Instead of penalizing me and sending me to prison for 5 years, my saint-of-a-P.O. gave me another chance to get sober outside of the California Department of Corrections. The stipulations were that I had to attend A.A. meetings regularly. And go home to live with my mother in Studio City, something I hadn’t done since before I was kicked out of the house and sent to an all-girls, emotional-growth, lockdown boarding school in Arizona when I was 14. Shockingly, I had to weigh a 5-year-prison sentence next to going to live at my mother’s. I had a moment of grace and good sense, and my angel-of-a-mother allowed me to come home.
My mother was always invested in my Judaism. My great grandparents, who I had a close relationship with growing up, were Orthodox. My parents and I went to temple regularly, and I attended Stephen S.Wise, a Hebrew day school in Los Angeles. I went to Milken, a private Jewish school, for middle-and-high school. I spoke Hebrew and was Bat Mitzvahed. Although I was adopted, blonde-haired, blue-eyed, (very schicksa-looking,) underneath it all, I was a good Jewish girl.
During the time I was living at my mother’s house post-possible-probation violation, she was determined for me to take my birthright trip to Israel. I could barely stay sober, let alone employ the executive functioning part of my brain required to fill out forms and travel to another country. So she signed me up. Low and behold, I found myself enrolled for the sober birthright trip with none other than: Beit T’Shuvah.
Although Beit T’Shuvah will probably never be taking a group-birthright again, I had a transformative trip and the familiar sense of community awoke a dormant desire in my heart. It wasn’t long after that, I returned to Beit T’Shuvah to get sober again. And this time I did it for real. I joined Freedom Song, and the choir. I worked as a copywriter for Creative Matters, revisiting an old passion of mine for writing. I did the steps for the first time in my life, attended a big-book workshop regularly and secretaried meetings. I sponsored other women, something I believe was the keystone that contributed to the preceding almost 5 years of sobriety I was blessed with.
I met my 30s sober, and, for the first time in a long time, I was… (and I use this word rarely and suspiciously) “happy.” In fact, those were probably the most beautiful and authentic years of my life. I had been working as a vet-tech at an animal hospital again, something I’d made a career of since I was 22. I also had a small pet-sitting business. I was living on my own, with my new Italian Mastiff puppy. I was writing and painting and playing music in my free time. I had a solid support system and was re-integrated into my family. But something was still missing. I was feeling numb. I began to hear the quiet tic-tic-tic of the self-destructive time bomb in the back of my head.
I decided to take 10 career-coaching sessions because, although I really liked the work I was doing, I didn’t love it. I wasn’t feeling fulfilled. I had gone to college at UC Santa Barbara for Creative Writing, and felt my purpose in this world was to contribute through music or writing—something creative. I moved back to my Dad’s house in North Hollywood so that I could pursue my passion without the financial stress of having to pay rent.
I became disconnected from the community that had fostered my growth in sobriety, and closer to the types of people I had committed crimes and used drugs with– my Dad’s house is in “the hood.” I was hanging out with one of my neighbor-friends one day, and he pulled out a meth pipe, took one hit, and blew it in my mouth. For the next 3 years, I smoked meth every. single. day.
That kicked off the longest and worst run of my life. I became homeless, and found myself in an abusive relationship for the first time; a few times I even ended up in the ICU. I begged my parents for help, but they’d had enough. I was going to have to figure it out on my own. I tried, and tried and tried. I went to shelters, couch-surfed, and slept in my car. I was the most destitute, hopeless, and alone I had ever felt.
With literally nothing left, I called Nannette (formerly) in admissions. She said they had a bed for me whenever I was ready. Once my Dad agreed to take my dog, I returned to Beit T’Shuvah for the 3rd time on May 6th of this year.
In the 5 months I’ve been here, I’ve been able to reconnect to my Jewish roots and immerse myself back into the world of A.A. I read Torah frequently at Saturday services. I’m about to tour with Freedom Song again, something I deeply enjoy being a part of. I’ve decided to get my pilot’s license and am interning in the music department. And I get to write spotlights. Yet, as a writer, it’s still somehow hard for me to find the words to describe the kind of love I experience here, and the healing it’s gifted me. I guess I could say it feels like…home.
Bases are loaded.