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Like many prolific artists before her, Thea G. struggles with a dark and tortured past of drug abuse, abandonment, and self-doubt. These days, she is determined to write herself a new story that has its roots in hope and change. She has experienced the vicissitudes of life, with moments of joyous respite and moments of harrowing tragedy. Her long journey has brought her here, to Beit T’Shuvah’s music department, where she has found a way to pursue what she loves in a safe environment. Music has truly been her salvation.
Thea was born in Maryland and adopted at birth. At a young age, she grew up on the principle that she had a disposition for addictive behaviors (her biological mother was an addict who did drugs while pregnant). Even though she had this information stuck in her head, she still found it incredibly difficult to stay sober. “I had this feeling like I never belonged. At one point, I made a decision that I was less than,” Thea explains. Although her brother is also adopted, she felt like the black sheep of the family. In her senior year of high school, her family moved her to San Diego to escape the “bad friends” she was hanging out with. What they didn’t realize was, she was the bad friend and took all the trouble with her.
Thea concedes that around that time is when drugs started to catch up to her. “By the end of senior year, I was lying. I hated myself. I took 22 Adderall to try and kill myself,” she painfully recalls. After that incident, at 18 years old, she went into her first treatment center. While in treatment for the first time, she learned how to play guitar on a twelve-string they had. “It hurt my fingers a lot, but it was worth it,” a metaphor for her recovery. Thea graduated high school while inside that rehab and then managed to stay clean for two years. “I enjoyed sobriety for the first 9 months to a year, but after that I just hated it, and I think I stayed sober because of codependency and fear.” Realizing her sexual orientation, she broke up with the guy she was dating and relapsed. This time adding cocaine, ecstasy, and mushrooms to the mix. She was attending Grossmont Community College and quickly went from “All A’s to all W’s.”
Moving back to Maryland, she met her first girlfriend. “We were together for 9 months. I got engaged, but I was crazy. Like Psych ward stuff, trying to jump out of moving cars, I was crazy,” Thea shares with a reluctant smirk. Then Thea went on her first tour… her national tour of rehabs that lasted through ten years and almost 50 locations. It was when she was in Massachusetts that she tried heroin for the first time. “That was great and terrible at the same time.” She eventually went back to Maryland, where she became an orthodontist assistant. “I tried working all the time. I would wake up at 5 am, be the assistant during the day, wait tables at night, drink when I got off work, staying up till 2 am and then back up at 5 am. I mean, I was working as this orthodontist assistant, working on small children with sharp objects and I was nodding off.” When that didn’t work out, her rehab tour brought her to California. “I do really well when I’m sober. I work hard. I do well in school. I just get loaded and it all goes out the window. Even with music. Some people say ‘I’m scared, I’m not going to be creative if I don’t have drugs,’ but for me, I did drugs and music went away,” she says.
A pattern began to arise. After two weeks of sobriety, she would go out and score dope from a homeless person. This was the loop she was stuck in. “I couldn’t figure it out. My parents stopped talking to me. I was very alone,” she continues to say, “With 30-day treatment centers, they want you to open up to a therapist, but I didn’t know them. And I knew I’d be leaving soon and be with a group of new people. I always had this feeling that the other shoe was going to drop. That feeling that everything was going to get destroyed. So, I would just destroy it myself.” After years of trial and error, she has now acquired a strong sense of clarity while at Beit T’Shuvah. “I attribute that to my connection with my family. And the larger community here. It feels like a life I can sustain. I don’t feel like people are going to fall out of my life,” she explains.
Tragically, while Thea was a resident at Beit T’Shuvah, her mom passed away. With tears welling up in her brightly colored eyes Thea says, “I can’t really explain it, she always knew when I wasn’t okay, even if she was on the east coast. It feels easier to stay sober this time. I don’t have a lot to attribute that to, but I know after she passed, stuff would happen and I would know she’s here. If I’m scared to show up for something in life, my way of praying is talking to my mom.” A month after that, her ex overdosed. This emotional hurricane was too much to bear, and Thea relapsed yet again. “I think I just emotionally unraveled after that. My ex and I had a very codependent relationship and in a weird way relapsing made me feel closer to her. There was a trauma bond there.” Her wisdom has given her the insight that grief comes in waves: “It’s not a constant tsunami. And the more I practice sitting in discomfort the more I learn I am capable of it. For a long time, I gave up on shit. Humans have this idea that we need to be happy all the time, and that’s not really how life works. There is a purpose for sadness. I try to embrace it,” she remarks.
Thea attributes a great deal of her success to the Beit T’Shuvah music department. The last thing she expected when coming to rehab was to have her passion laid out in front of her. The first time she sang in front of people was in a high school musical theater class. She broke down in tears and could not finish the song. This weekend, she’s playing her first solo concert. It is truly incredible how far she has come. Thea’s future is bright. She is now attending barber school and has never been closer to her family. She plans to keep it that way. Once she finishes barber school, she plans to cut people’s hair and pursue music as a career. There is truly no telling how high she will fly and how many people she will impact. Thea is the perfect example of how work-therapy and a loving community can help heal a broken soul.