Spotlight on Steve S. by Randall S.

“I believe the best years of my life are ahead of me,” Steve S. triumphantly states sitting in the Beit T’Shuvah’s Zen Garden. Steve’s journey to this moment is one filled with beautiful experiences as well as some extremely dark and lonely days.

Born in San Diego, CA in 1957, Steve was the eighth of ten children. His father passed away when he was just seven years old, forcing his mother to go back to work to provide for the children still living at home. Lost in the mix of so many siblings, Steve and his brothers, Rick and Bill, “were pretty much on our own since the age of nine or ten,” Steve explains.  Left to his own devices, and lacking any real father figure in his life, Steve started smoking weed at around twelve years of age. And as he transitioned into high school, he also added alcohol and psychedelics to the mix and began partying hard with his brothers and friends.

“By the time I graduated high school I was a full-blown alcoholic,” Steve recalls. But then something occurred that would forever alter his life and future battles with addiction. “On my eighteenth birthday, my best friend, Mike and I went out to celebrate. We were both drunk and while driving back home we got into a horrible accident and Mike was killed,” he painfully remembers. In an attempt to put that tragedy behind him, Steve married his high school sweetheart and joined the army in 1975. Stationed at Fort Carson in Colorado he and his new bride quickly began to build a life and family, and by age twenty-one, the couple had two sons, Shawn and Chris.

In 1979, Steve left the army, moved his family back to San Diego and took a job as a paramedic. However as he puts it, “my drinking continued and took on really ugly proportions. I became a blackout drunk.” And by the early 1980s, terrified by this new level of drinking, Steve sought a remedy to counteract those blackouts. But, instead of seeking help for his drinking, he decided to add crystal meth to his illicit medicine cabinet of narcotics. The blackouts ended but the detrimental effects of his growing dependence on drugs and alcohol culminated in 1984 with, “my employer finally putting their foot down regarding my addiction and staging an intervention,” Steve says. And, after attending A.A. for the first time, he managed to stay sober for eighteen months. However, following that brief respite, Steve relapsed and lost his job as a paramedic.

In 1989, following a two and a half year run of heavy drinking and drugging, he hit his real “first bottom” and went to his first rehab center, Freedom Ranch. This time it took and Steve got sober for the first time. The next ten years saw him get divorced from his first wife, raise his sons on his own, get a good job and stay sober. However, in 2000, as he tells it, “I sold the house and got transferred to the Imperial Valley and that’s where I picked up gambling for the first time.” At first, he was able to resist the draw and temptation of the casinos but, “the first time I put money in a slot machine I walked away with three grand and was forever hooked,” Steve describes.

Over the next five to six years Steve continued to gamble, lost touch with his sponsor, and, not surprisingly, relapsed in 2006. After nine months, he reconnected with his sponsor, went back to meetings, got sober, and quit going to casinos. And in 2010 Steve met his current wife, Betty, and they were married in 2012. “I told her I was a recovering alcoholic but I never mentioned my gambling,” he recollects. Then in 2016, he was injured at work and had to have three shoulder surgeries. In the end, he had to go on full disability and, with money coming in and nothing to do, “I started going back to casinos and gambling quickly consumed my life again,” Steve explains.

Following a two-year run, in 2018, Steve checked himself into his first gambling treatment center. However, it wasn’t long before he returned to the casinos and, over the next couple of years, became lost in a vicious cycle of chronic relapsing. This whole time his wife had no knowledge of his gambling addiction but “in October 2020 she discovered I was going to casinos and losing a lot of money and told me she wanted a divorce,” Steve recalls. In February 2021 the couple decided to go their separate ways, but not long after, “she came back to me and said she didn’t want a divorce but rather just stay separated until I got my act together,” Steve recounts.

To get away from all the noise and tumult of his addiction and marital discord, Steve retreated to his love of long-distance hiking and, in March 2021, began hiking the Arizona Trail. Following his completion of that trek, he immediately began another hike of the Tahoe Rim Trail. “However, two to three days into the trek I realized there was an eight hundred pound gorilla waiting for me at the end. I called my counselor Sarah and she connected me to Brad R. at Beit T’Shuvah,” Steve describes. Following conversations with Brad and then Lysa H., Steve was accepted into the Gambling Program and eventually made his way to BTS on July 13th, 2021. “By the time I got here, I didn’t want to live anymore. I had alienated my wife, my sons, and my friends and was at the end of my rope,” Steve painfully recalls.

But, since his arrival, he now sees his journey to Beit T’Shuvah as a total G-d shot of salvation. “Yael and Brad have helped me immeasurably in dealing with my addiction and path to recovery,” Steve reveals. Along with his counselor, Brad, Steve gives just as much credit and appreciation to his therapist, Lindsay, and spiritual counselor, Jill, for helping him stay focused on his healing journey and to embark on activities that, prior to BTS, he never would’ve thought to attempt. “My thinking has totally shifted to realizing what is truly important in life; family, friends, community, love,” he jubilantly shares with that kind and ever-present smile. An intern in the kitchen, Steve is parlaying that experience into a potential new career path. In a few weeks, he’ll be starting culinary school to become a chef’s assistant and he looks forward to either becoming a full-time staff member in the Beit T’Shuvah kitchen or working in a kitchen in a resort in Costa Rica; a dream he’s had for a while. Either way, he has totally enriched the lives of his fellow residents and staff at BTS and we all look forward to whatever new culinary delight he whips up for us, as he continues his ascent to the peak of his recovery trail.

Spotlight on Steve S. by Randall S.

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