As alcoholics—no, as humans, we have a tendency to bury our emotions. Whether it is with work, food, or drugs, sometimes numbing ourselves is easier than feeling the slings and arrows life forces us to endure. For Thomas S., evading emotions was his go-to option…even before he took his first drink. 

Born in Memphis, Tennessee, which he describes as “a big small town or a small big town,” Thomas grew up in a happy family with three siblings, loving parents, and close grandparents. Thanks to their closeness in age, there was always a competitive spirit between the four of them. At a very young age, his grandparents instilled in him a strong work ethic—putting him to work on their yard and house doing manual labor. This drive to work lives within Thomas to this day. 

Growing up a good Christian boy, Thomas was taught that all drugs were bad—a lesson he soon dismissed when his friends started passing around joints at parties. At this point, getting high was purely social.“It was a way to connect with other people.” Once drinking entered the equation, it fully took over. Around Thomas’ sophomore year of high school, his father joined the army. This took his father to a base out of state, leaving his family behind. With only his mom to watch him, Thomas started getting in trouble more and more…but was only ever given a slap on the wrist. 

In an effort to find extra income, Thomas’ family moved to Lake Arrowhead to join the cannabis industry. Here, Thomas’ work ethic kicked back in full force. He jumped head into the weed business and started to truly excel at it. Clients started turning to Thomas and, before he knew it, he was driving around the country with pounds of weed in his trunk. This lifestyle caught up to him one day when he was pulled over with a trunkful—another slap on the wrist followed. Even though he was so determined to work as hard as he could, he still smoked all day every day. 

After this scare, Thomas started working in various restaurants. Drinking became a daily habit, at this point and it started to affect his work. One day, his boss found him passed out in the utility closet. Another boss fired him for being too drunk to work. On this occasion, he left the restaurant, got in his car, and was swiftly handed a DUI—the first external consequence to come from his addiction. “It was the first time I realized I was not untouchable.” So, just like many of us have, he picked up and moved…because clearly his problems were simply location-based, right? This cycle of drinking and moving and moving and drinking happened many times before he eventually landed back in Memphis. There, things only got worse. 

In Memphis, drinking in excess, still working in restaurants, and living with one of his best friends. On a trip to a bachelor party, his best friend was driving home and got into a car accident. Tragically, his friend died that day. This loss tore Thomas to shreds. “That’s when I first realized how I dealt with emotions. Drinking.” I wish I could tell you that this was the moment that Thomas confronted his alcoholism and turned over a new leaf—it wasn’t. That would come later.

Thomas’ day job was cleaning carpets and renovating houses, after that, he would go to work in restaurants, and then partying with his girlfriend. The whole time he was absolutely plastered. He would even steal beers from his boss’s fridge and, without even realizing it, he would empty the whole thing and have to replace the stock to hide his drinking. Somehow through all of this, he still maintained his strong work ethic. The only issue is, that work ethic was also being used to numb his feelings and avoid his problems. 

Here, he got a job working in the Cannabis industry again. His everyday urge to drink pulled him out of the business. The unhappiness he felt for his life started to overshadow his ability to drown it. He couldn’t sustain his career in the weed industry for long. “I was even too drunk to do that!” That is when his sister, whose husband had gone to Beit T’Shuvah ten years earlier, reached out and offered for him to “dry out” at her home in LA. Thomas stayed sober for a short stint, not going to meetings—doing nothing really but clenching his fists and trying as hard as he could not to drink. 

During this time, he started working as a part of the COVID team for a Netflix production. On a week-long work trip to Palo Alto, he asked himself that question we all do at some point, “am I really an alcoholic?” So, he decided to scratch that itch. One beer turned to two and two turned to a six-pack. “That allergy was activated.” Though he tried to hide his relapse, his brother-in-law, Dominic, figured it out pretty quickly. Next thing he knew, he was walking through the doors of Beit T’Shuvah. 

“I came in quiet—like a dog with its tail between its legs. I had gotten to the part where it was hard to look people in the eye.” The bright smile that fills his face today is a clear testament to how much he has changed in the six months he has been here. That work ethic that is built into his bones is now being directed toward his recovery. Thomas has a sponsor, opens up in therapy, and is doing everything he possibly can to move into the next stage of his life as a sober man. “I have never been to another rehab and I don’t think I will need to after coming here.” For him, a big part of this is staying committed. With two internships (because of course he would have two), for Baked T’Shuvah and The BTS Thrift Store truck, he has found a new sense of what it is like to give back to his community and work with his hands again. 

Another major goal he has for himself is crossing the finish line at this year’s LA Marathon.  “Halfway through every training session, I start feeling great and start feeling accomplished. I can do this.” For Thomas, the Running 4 Recovery program has become the greatest metaphor for his own recovery—something that he never thought he could do, never could achieve, but works every day as hard as he can work towards. “I can’t do these sorts of things when I am drinking and when I am sober, the possibilities are endless.” No truer words have been said. So, let’s all take a page out of Thomas’ book. Let’s put our all into ourselves. Let’s not distract ourselves from our emotions, but instead work through them. Because if any of us can harness even half the dedication Thomas puts into his recovery every day, the whole world will be better for it.

Spotlight on Thomas S. by Jesse Solomon

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