Posted by Beit T'shuvah
By M. Alexander
One of our blogs from last week entitled, “Can you judge other people’s sobriety?” got me thinking about how my own sobriety is judged by others.
Those devoted to Alcoholics Anonymous ask me a variety of questions. They ask how many meetings I’ve been to this week. They ask if I’ve worked all of the steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. They ask if I have a sponsor. If my answers don’t match their expectations, then my sobriety— and therefore my character— is judged negatively.
They don’t ask if I’ve been honest this week. They don’t ask if I’ve been productive at work. They don’t ask if I have been kind and loving to those around me. They don’t ask if I have lived in accordance with spiritual principles. They don’t ask if I have worked to become a better person this week than I was in the week previous.
To me, these questions, the ones that are not being asked, are the ones that should hold more importance. Going to meetings is a good thing; for many, attendance is essential to their sobriety. Working the steps and reading the text of Alcoholics Anonymous can provide a spiritually transformative experience. However, I do not believe them to be necessary prerequisites to the redemption of my soul.
Living decently, active engagement in redemption and the other metrics by which success is defined here at Beit T’Shuvah— these are the necessities. So, be my guest, judge my sobriety. But I suggest that you use different methods in your measurement.
11.29.13 at 11:12 am | As we celebrate Hanukkah and Thanksgiving, I keep. . .
11.22.13 at 1:38 pm | As I sit here this morning, 50 years to the day. . .
11.15.13 at 12:38 pm | I have been thinking about this week's Torah. . .
11.14.13 at 10:48 am | These past couple weeks my anxiety has been. . .
11.11.13 at 1:11 pm | It is amazing the choices I’ve been given and. . .
11.8.13 at 10:31 am | Tonight and tomorrow mark the 75th Anniversary of. . .
10.31.13 at 2:12 pm | Why is it that girls feel compelled to dress in. . . (139)
2.25.13 at 2:00 pm | Buddhism is one of the fastest growing religions. . . (38)
11.29.13 at 11:12 am | As we celebrate Hanukkah and Thanksgiving, I keep. . . (35)
February 6, 2013 | 1:33 pm
Posted by Beit T'shuvah
By Ben Spielberg
In my line of work, I deal with potentialities on a daily basis. When clients are admitted to inpatient care at Beit T’Shuvah, the staff as a whole assesses each client’s potential for sobriety. We assess whether or not they can internalize our words; we judge their spiritual principles by default paradigms and ancient dilemmas. When we send clients for IQ tests, we see predictions regarding where their IQs “could” be. We judge whether or not a client will be successful later in life by them going to groups now.
However, it may not be productive to afford so much responsibility to potentialities. In other words, while everyone may have the potential to get sober--not everyone fulfills that potential. I have the potential to do well on a meteorology quiz I have later tonight (but I probably won’t, because I’m writing this blog instead). The problem here doesn’t lie within futuristic terms; the problem is that the potential makes us unable to appreciate the moment.
When I miss a couple problems on my quiz tonight, I’m going to determine that it was because I didn’t have enough sleep. I should have studied cloud formation instead of write this blog. If this is the case, when will I have enough sleep? Surely undersleeping or oversleeping could just as well be the culprit to an obvious mistake.
Slight deviations from my sleeping patterns could therefore affect my grade, which is a consequence that will literally make me crazy. I would try to formulaically set up sleep calculators and track REM cycles until I miss my quiz completely. If I generalize the situation, I can apply it to most instances in life: I will never be able to perfectly balance the teetering between lavish vocabulary and social reservations in a job interview. I will never begin that application to a Ph.D. program because my thought process will be too muddled with possibilities, or my focus will be unfortunately narrow.
People remark that they will get sober in the future because they are sick in the present; they will go on that diet later because their blood sugar is too low now, or they will do something really nice for Mother’s Day next year because work is too stressful at the moment. There is a reason that we are enamored with the idea of “living in the present.” We cannot be fixated by the potentialities that change our future--we can only do the best that we can right now.
February 4, 2013 | 2:31 pm
Posted by Beit T'shuvah
By Yeshaia Blakeney
If one were to come hangout at Beit T’Shuvah (and I invite you to) they would probably use one word to describe it...crazy. Really I shouldn't joke about it, there are weeks when people in our community are suffering and there's a tension in the air, when both staff and residents have difficult decisions to make and the end result is unknown. I was talking to a friend about what makes Beit T’Shuvah so unique but also so difficult. And the conclusion I came to is that at Beit T’Shuvah, human life is the bottom line. I think if the bottom line was money, or profit, or making the most efficient computer out there, it would still have its challenges but of a different kind because the point would be clear. We would know if we were in the red, or the black or customers agreed that we make the best computers, or the cheapest t-shirts, however our "business" is not quite like this. We are in the mental/spiritual health arena and even at most other treatment centers the goal is more clear: abstinence from drugs and alcohol and the appearance of smooth functioning. If somebody can stay sober and look pretty good for a descent length of time they've done their job. But at Beit T’Shuvah sobriety is not the point (at times we might settle for that) we are much more ambitious, nothing short of living well, of living a spiritual life, those are the areas which we trend towards. But here's where it gets difficult. The question that comes into mind for me is what is the point of man/woman. I mean, if I want to help you live well what criteria do I look at? How do we define living well? Socrates asked the question in another time phrased as what is "the good life?" Is it personal happiness? Social success? How much you help others? Independent? Interdependent? All of the above, none of the above?
So, from my point of view here's where some of the confusion lies. We are not sure what the point of man is, I would say these days we’re not even sure if there is a point. I would argue there is a point, and a process, a particle, and there's a wave. Man by his very nature being endowed with free will is both an ends and a means. Most wise scholars and sages would agree that no man should be a means to another man. That men are ends in and of themselves. That individual people and the lives they live are the point. Their happiness, their independence, their relationships, their creative capacity, their love, their pain, their joy, that is an end in and of itself. But here's where it gets tricky. Man is also a means. If the point of MANKIND is our individual ends, then life becomes a little absurd. One of my favorite quotes comes from a scholar named Huston Smith who says, "the self is too small for perpetual enthusiasm.” That we as individuals, our lives aren't big enough, important enough to stay jazzed about, eventually most descent human beings get sick of their own petty desires, opinions, thoughts etc. Now a psychologist might say I’m suffering from self-esteem issues, but a religious person would tell me I'm missing the point if I think the point is me, because mankind is also a means, I mean a wave, a process. Our sources tell us that history is leading somewhere, That mankind is of the utmost importance for the sake of something greater healing, for G-d and Tikkun Olam healing our broken world.
Our choices have sacred consequences in a larger spiritual matrix which cannot see, but in moments of great insight can sense. Are we Important? Yes as a tool to bring about redemption. Individual life is a paradox, an end in itself but also a means to an end.
So what is the point of life? To live like you are dying forever for G-ds sake, and to love each other like there is no G-d for ours.
February 2, 2013 | 6:55 pm
Posted by Beit T'shuvah
One of my favorite things at Beit T’Shuvah is happening tonight: the Beit T’Shuvah talent show.
In keeping with the theme of addiction, I want to explain to you why this talent show (which happens every couple of months) is so important. Residents are allowed to perform whatever they want to, with a full band backing them up, for their entire community. They get to experience rehearsals, an opportunity to suit up and show up, what a commitment feels like, and then tonight they get the great payoff of performance. It is so wonderful and rewarding to see how thoroughly people enjoy themselves through this process. From my perspective, I get to see people who had once been facing life sentences now turning their lives around and singing country with a smile. People who had attempted to end their lives several times now jamming on guitar, enveloped in music. To say that being a spectator for an event like this is amazing is quite an understatement.
It is things like the talent show that REALLY makes Beit T’Shuvah a redemptive community. It doesn’t matter what your past is…so long as you can figure out what you have to offer the world (and in our philosophy, EVERYONE has something to offer the world), you can really find enjoyment, satisfaction, and purpose. People smile.
They make other people smile. People who had previously caused so much damage in their lives that all they did was make people frown.
…and isn’t that the epitome of redemption?
Shameless plug: keep your eyes peeled for a YouTube recap of tonight’s talent show, if you didn’t get to make it out for the actual event.
February 1, 2013 | 1:10 pm
Posted by Beit T'shuvah
By Rabbi Mark Borovitz
This Sunday is Super Bowl Sunday. I am struck by the attention given to God this past week in newspapers and media. It reminded me of a Bob Dylan song, With God on Our Side. In it, Dylan recounts many atrocities that were committed in God’s Name. So the question must be asked, Who’s Side is God on???
Both teams in the Super Bowl have people of faith playing. I think that this is great. It shows that people of faith live and work in all walks of life. And, I do not believe that God has a stake in who wins. I believe that God has a stake in WHAT wins. Does talent and hard work win? Does “bounty hunting” win? Do people who take seriously the task at hand win? Do the braggarts who just “show up” win? Does money buy championships? Do the people who win care for the widow, the poor, the stranger and the orphan? Does the winner enhance redemption? Does the loser see themselves as “losers?”
Much has been written about Ray Lewis and his pending retirement. Ray Lewis is a very good football player. As I write this, I have to admit that the Ravens abandoned Cleveland, Ohio, my hometown, and I can’t really root for them. Did God tell Art Modell to abandon the city that made him into an owner and gave him his start in football? Did God tell Art Modell to turn his back on a city that supported him even when the teams didn’t win? Where is the Godliness in these actions?
Ray Lewis was involved in a double murder in January of 2000. While no one knows the extent of his involvement, he did plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge of obstruction of justice and the suit he was wearing was never found. He has become a model of preaching and faith to many and I applaud this behavior. He has been spoken about by a Minister as a truly repentant person. I understand his “living amends” and am in awe of them. Yet, he has never spoken to the families of the victims. He has made financial settlements to a couple of the survivors and the transcripts of his depositions have never been made public. Can we say someone is a truly repentant person without confession and resolution with one’s victims? Not in the Jewish Tradition.
In his song, With God on Our Side, Bob Dylan reminds us of how the Indians were massacred and the Americans had God on their Side. The Germans were forgiven so, after “in ovens they fried, the Germans now too, have God on their side.” He goes on to say how we don’t question our actions, when God is “on our side.”
I see that this is what has happened to us today, Dylan was/is a historian and a Prophet. We still wrap ourselves in God and Country to defend indefensible actions. Extremists of all kinds do this. Politicians do this. Mass Murderers have used God as their reason for atrocities. Now we have football players and teams doing this? Who will be next?
I am Addicted to Redemption because Redemption calls me to action. The action of confession, confronting my victims, hearing their pain and sorrow, restoring their humanity and changing my ways. This is how GOD IS ON OUR SIDE. THIS IS WHO/WHAT GOD WANTS TO WIN THE “BIG GAME” “THE SUPER BOWL CALLED LIFE”!! Which team, God’s or False Ego will you play on?