Posted by Beit T'shuvah
By Michael Welch
I believe where I’m the most tortured is through my brokenness. It’s the concrete regions of where I exist. All-in or all-out. If I’m dieting, I’m eating 500 or less calories a day while exercising to the point of exhaustion, if I’m eating unhealthily I’m consuming 7000 calories a day while shouting at the roof tops how fat I am. I do this with everything; it’s debilitating and it’s never allowed me to sustain anything. It’s a set-up and my sobriety’s number one enemy. It makes me absolutely nuts and my neuroses are directly linked into this tennis game of thoughts because honestly, both places are awful.
I achieved quite a bit when I was young; this precipitated the “hook” for external esteem. Nothing came from within, so I lobbied from person to person/entity to entity to be fulfilled. This obviously comes with emptiness and limitations, making fulfillment quickly depleted (if it ever even existed). The main defect that comes with my inability to demonstrate any internal esteem is shortened relationships. I call it “burn out,” where people can only exist in my life at a limited capacity. Once a person has met said requirements of getting too close to me there is no longer any use for them. It always ends ugly and this cycle has repeated itself for years.
What I am aware of is that I have never had the ability to integrate the “2” selves, the demonstration of making “1” person. Honestly, I loathe ambiguity, it feels disingenuous and fake. It is usually followed by an excuse or explanation of how something appears so wrong, yet isn’t. It is already a contradiction when explaining that to make a whole person you have to live in the “both and.” I’m not a fan of this concept; it feels destructive to creativity, potentially problematic for initiative. Ambiguity feels like touching a hot stove. I would love to allow the embrace of both sides of misery that I jockey back and forth with. I have been in positions recently where I’m clear on what I’m feeling/not feeling. But I do not know how to embrace my brokenness. I have only begun to get out of the results of today. My current growth is defined as survival; I’m fucking terrified because at some point it will have to wear off. I come across as arrogant and a know-it-all, I speak to people with condescension and as if they are unintelligent. I get why I do it; I understand the empty broken Michael that is in there just crying for help. So maybe that mask is my cry for help, it may not appeal to those who take my charge personal, but maybe I can fine tune it to not look so abrasive. So if I’m stuck on the integration piece then that is where I’m best to identify where I am broken and also how I need to embrace it.
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February 18, 2013 | 3:05 pm
Posted by Beit T'shuvah
By Yeshaia Blakeney
I woke up this morning thinking about creation. There were several aspects to this thought. One is the formation and creation of light and darkness. The other is this idea of harmony. I'll start with the second and move to the first. What is so amazing, truly remarkable about the harmony of the universe, I would say, is the harmony of the universe itself. The fact that the universe itself contains some order, some harmony, is a fact most take for granted on a daily basis. It is so close to our existence, it is so embedded in the fabric of creation that it hides in plain sight. Whether we perceive a lot or a little harmony in the world at any given time is not the point, if we own even the most infinitesimal bit of harmony in the world, it has infinite significance. I look at this idea like this. You see even the smallest, tiniest bit, of a true miracle, one tiny little true miracle at any point in all of the history of the Jews, means that there are miracles, the same holds true for harmony.
As remarkable or more remarkable, is that correspondingly our minds can perceive the order of the universe. Human beings have the ability to align our thoughts with reality. We also have the ability to check out completely, but that's a different story. We can perceive and put our own consciousness in tune with the harmony of the universe. We can do this on many levels. We can do this in the world of true ideas; a true idea is an idea that simply corresponds to a truth in the world. Of course there are deeper truths and more surface truths and more than one axis of truth but all truth nonetheless. That’s only one level and the levels go on and on. There are emotional truths, a truth of the heart and soul and I could discuss this for hours. Just to make this point stick, let’s ask the question directly, what is truth? Truth is Harmony. It is those things that ring true. The deeper the truth the harder it is to perceive the harmony, the more work it takes to understand, to get in tune with.
Now I’d like to get into the formation of light and creation of darkness. If I Steer away from the literal and traditional interpretations and move further with some of the ideas we've started to discuss, the leap is clear. It is human beings who form light in the darkness G-d created. This takes some wrapping your head around. The darkness is the material world, the deterministic machine that is our universe, every cog in its place, the cold dark universe. Hashem burrows a tunnel from his non-material plane and pierces a hole in his cold dark universe in his world of things and shines an eternal light on it. What is this light? It is consciousness. It is corresponding harmony. When we open our eyes, our hearts, our spirit, G-d shines light through us.
It is our obligation as Jews to seek out the greater truths and harmonies of this world and shine light, more specifically be a light unto the nations, when we do this, when we discover this, there is no worthier purpose or path, and until we discover this for ourselves, we are not in our proper place. When we are not in our proper place the world can't find its song, so in this week may we all be on the road to discovering our place in the harmony of the universe as creators of light.
February 17, 2013 | 11:23 am
Posted by Beit T'shuvah
By Rachel Goldman Neubauer
I spent much of my Shabbat thinking about our dearly departed Ira Skolky. What plays through my head more than anything are little snippets from his funeral. Death in our community, like any other community, is never easy. By the same token, though, I never am ceased to be amazed at the level of care, compassion, and support that can be brought out by a death.
Ira’s funeral must have had 300 people at it. The entire chapel at Mt. Sinai was packed, and almost the entire population was in one way or another Beit T’Shuvah. Residents. Alumni. Staff. It makes no difference in this situation. As the casket was lowered and earth was placed on the grave, EVERYONE lined up to help bury Ira. The whole community. Beit T’Shuvah is not just a community that will hold onto you no matter what in life, but will stay by your side even in death. I was floored.
Rabbi Ed Feinstein gave a beautiful d’rash in honor of Ira yesterday morning. He told the congregation—residents and VBS members alike—that to truly honor Ira’s memory, we should finish living it for him. This struck me as odd, but then I realized he didn’t mean Ira’s individual life…he meant Ira’s life as part of our community. When we lose a community member, we can choose to become weaker or stronger. I think Rabbi Feinstein meant that we should choose to be stronger. We should all choose connection over isolation, inclusion over exclusion, kindness over bitterness. We should choose to incorporate those things that Ira added to the world into our own community’s values even more so than they already are. Everything is a choice, even in sadness…it is best to go with the choice that will be the most healing.
Memorial services for Ira will be held this evening at Beit T’Shuvah at 5pm.
February 15, 2013 | 11:35 am
Posted by Beit T'shuvah
By Rabbi Mark Borovitz
Redemption takes a community. This realization came to me this week in a very tragic, powerful way. One of our staff members, Ira Skolky, z"l, died from a massive stroke. It is a great loss to the Beit T’Shuvah community and to the greater Jewish and Recovery communities as well. Dealing with this ordeal has strengthened my resolve to spread the word of Redemption and to try hard to get more of us to become "Addicted to Redemption!”
Ira was a Counselor, having gone through the Beit T’Shuvah program for Living Well. He was also a member of the cast of our original play, Freedom Song. On Saturday, the cast was leaving for 2 shows in South Florida. Ira was late and this was cause for alarm, as Ira was always the first person everywhere he was supposed to be. Yeshaia Blakeney and Laura Bagish went to his house and through a series of God Shots, found him lying on the floor of his room and called 911 and then me. We found his relatives, told them what was happening; the paramedics did their best to help and he went to Cedars-Sinai Hospital. The Medical team there did their best and, sadly, there was no brain activity. Ira passed away on Sunday, February 10, 2013. The fact that he was a recovering alcoholic never mattered to anyone helping him. He was seen as a human being in need of help and everyone responded accordingly. His friends and family prayed for him and were at the hospital to be with him. The entire Beit T’Shuvah community rallied to his side and prayed, hoped and showed our deep love and need for Ira. The cast went to Florida and dedicated the performances to and spoke about Ira. I have been told that they were some of the most powerful performances ever!
Ira's Redemption has had profound effects on people for these past 5 years. He has helped, loved, scolded and guided many of us to reach places we never knew were attainable. Ira's life is a testament to Redemption and that it is never too late and/or no one is "too far gone" to do T’Shuvah and Redeem themselves. Ira's Redemption happened because of his work, the work of others who helped him and the work of those he helped.
In arranging his burial, the family has no money, there is only a sister left. I had to call the Burial Fund people of Jewish Family Service and I spoke to Len Lawrence of Mount Sinai Mortuary and Cemetery. While I understand the need for checking things out, I was getting frustrated when they asked for paperwork that was not readily available and I spoke to Len. I asked him how he would feel if I made someone go through all this when he referred someone to Beit T’Shuvah and told me there was no money for the services. Leon's response was, "Mark, you will have the go ahead in 10 minutes.” And I did!
A Shomer watched the body and Bruce Bloom performed Taharah free of charge. All of the Clergy of Beit T’Shuvah are leading the services, free of charge. On Sunday we are having a Celebration of Ira's Life at 5PM with food and refreshments, free of charge to everyone.
I am proud of JFS Burial Fund, Mount Sinai Mortuary and Cemetery, Len Lawrence, Yeshaia Blakeney, Laura Bagish, Ira's sister and cousins, the Medical Team at Cedars-Sinai and the entire Beit T’Shuvah community for helping Ira redeem himself in life and in Death. Witnessing this coming together of community is one of the reasons I am "Addicted to Redemption!”
February 14, 2013 | 1:22 pm
Posted by Beit T'shuvah
By M. Alexander
A few days ago, 10 women were arrested in Israel. Their crime?—wearing talits at the Western Wall. I understand that traditional Jewish factions forbid this practice, and Israel must hold fast to its Jewish identity if it is to survive in the Middle East and remain a safe haven for the diaspora. But survival in the modern world means adapting to and embracing change. The Western Wall is arguably the most sacred site in the Jewish World and this is why Israeli authorities have upheld these seemingly antiquated laws.
The Kotel has become a wall of division. It separates religions: the Jewish quarter from the Muslim quarter. It separates time: past temples, a current mosque, and prayers for the future. The wall separates degree of faith: strict observers sway in prayer while secular tourists snap pictures. And it separates men from women; not just with a physical barricade between genders, but also with a law that led to the arrest of 10 women in the midst of prayer and peaceful protest.
These arrests do not protect Judaism. They are contributing to a polarization between Orthodox and Secular and to the disappearance of those in the middle. If Israel is to grow and thrive and if Judaism is to remain relevant, it must embrace the equality of Jewish faith and interpretation. It must be a religion that brings people together rather than tearing them apart. The Western Wall should be a symbol for Judaism—a wall of cohesion rather than one of division.
February 13, 2013 | 3:39 pm
Posted by Beit T'shuvah
By Ben Spielberg
I hate sobriety. Let me rephrase, I hate the idea of sobriety. I don’t like the Styrofoam coffee cups and powdered creamer they have at AA meetings. I don’t like talking about my feelings to older men and women, watching their faces contort with judgment as I tell my story as candidly as possible. I abhor the concept of “fellowshipping,” the idea of making friends with people with drug problems because they could, one day, drop a line of knowledge on me like Hiroshima, spurring me out of a potential relapse and into a recovery that only Superman could be proud of.
Meetings are just the tip of the cake and the icing on the iceberg. I don’t like working a 9-5 job, making sure that I do “sober” things that “real people” do, like waking up when my alarm clock pulls me away from my safe place known as sleep. I don’t like wearing collared shirts. I’d rather rock a torn t-shirt likely stained with blood and some kind of Alfredo sauce. Don’t even talk to me about dress shoes. That will just make me angry.
I go to school and I do my homework. Sometimes, I even get it done before the due date. I always opt to sit up front in the class, and try to raise my hand at least once per session. I form study groups that don’t revolve around Adderall and cocaine. I don’t take Xanax when I get tired--I simply fall asleep watching Netflix’s House of Cards while I think “God, this show is so poignant.”
I like the idea of drugs and alcohol! I like the idea of always having a small collection of the Drug Rainbow on hand, just in case I get a little too jittery or a bit too sad. I like that large sheets of acid have pictures on them, creating the trippiest puzzle ever, and I like that heroin comes in ridiculously tiny balloons in Los Angeles. I like playing pharmacist and I like spending my money on something that creates a feeling of immediate adequacy.
But I am sober, even though it seems stupid. And even though I seem like a sellout, I can still have fun. I’m the resident Unqualified Doctor at Beit T’Shuvah. I still like puzzles, even if I can’t absorb the pieces sublingually. It feels pretty damn good to spend enough time on a paper that I have enough knowledge to edit the Wikipedia page on the subject. I still opt for my trusty Vans instead of my dad’s dress shoes. But I’ll take a southern Kevin Spacey and half a tablespoon of NyQuil over Xanax any day of the week.
February 12, 2013 | 11:26 am
Posted by Beit T'shuvah
By Michael Welch
If you’re looking into getting sober don’t look at the statistics. I also caution you against listening to the stats given on the other end of the phone when researching for help. The chances of staying sober within the first year are 1 in 5. Then there is another 15% drop off into the second year, and another 20% within 5 years. These numbers could shy you right away from getting help; it’s as if addiction needed another excuse to prolong getting the necessary support to combating this ever-morphing disease. If you get lost and are defeated by the numbers, it’s ok. I’m here to convince you otherwise. I’m going to use the next 475 words to educate you in why those figures are appallingly low and millions of shifts are still made.
The most important component in getting help and finding the right rehab for you has nothing to do with their acclaimed success rate. In fact, the work that goes into finding the still sober members of one’s program look a bit like this:
Caller: Hello, are you still sober?
Caller: That’s great, take care.
Or Caller: Hello, are you still sober?
Caller: That’s not so great, we are currently offering a discounted rate for our Alumni, and instead of the normal $45,000 it’s going to be $40,000. But because you’re not paying our full-rate you won’t be able to partake in any therapy and will have to take a cab.
If this seems dark and distant it’s because that’s exactly what it is. Not only does this process lack legitimacy, it leaves you with a bad taste in your mouth. What is important to note is the culture of the program. What do they offer that is attractive to you? What is their mission? Is their understanding of addiction immeasurable? Is the understanding in the treating of addiction also vast? If not and it appears finite then it implies gimmick. Things like a “cure” and a “guarantee” don’t exist. If it did the same clients wouldn’t be getting cured two and three times with the same product… I’ve been “cured” 23 times. Or am I missing something? What you need to buy into is the truth and program presentation. Wait lists mean something, credentials can mean something, write-ups in your local paper, and published articles mean something. Take note in the tone of the literature out there. Especially if you’re deficient in an area and that just so happens to be the area of expertise being offered.
The people who get the help are the following: those who are ready, those who aren’t ready, those who are forced, and those who aren’t forced. Successes are not measured on just time, but what’s changed. What has changed within the time entering rehab to now? What shifts are being gained and how is the person interacting with the world in ways they were unable to do so previously? For some, abstinence from the drink or drug is enough, and for others they need to experience a life that’s worth living. I’m not one to judge, I just caution you on the representation of sobriety. I’ve been combatting these mistakes for years.
I know thousands of people who have been helped who also know thousands of people as well. AA has helped millions and is “confidentially” found throughout the world. There is a movement going on that uses words such as “service”, “do the right thing”, “live well” and “action.” I’ve bought into this and those who knew me before I found these ideas cautiously attest that profound changes have been made. I see it in others that I could have declared hopeless and unworthy of being saved too. It’s radical and contagious. It’s been done by people who started and couldn’t stop. This makes sense for relapse; this is why without the lapse we wouldn’t get the shift. Of course relapse is necessary; you just don’t have to do it.
February 8, 2013 | 11:36 am
Posted by Beit T'shuvah
I AM GUILTY! I have made mistakes, I forget to return calls, I have to reschedule appointments, and I don’t call my mother enough. I lose patience too quickly. I don’t rest enough some weeks so I am irritable and ‘fly off the handle.’ My anger is fierce and I am too demanding at times. I forget to see the person in front of me and sometimes I am too wrapped up in my own stuff to notice another. I hold people and myself to higher standards than may be possible. All of these things and probably others are true.
Taking responsibility seems to be very hard in our society today! Reading this week’s news has been very interesting to me. I have seen an Ex-LAPD officer kill others because he feels wronged. I have read about doctors who take no responsibility for participating in the death of a young man due to their constant and increased prescriptions for Adderall. The Royal Bank of Scotland has made a settlement regarding wire fraud and the 2008 financial debacle. No one takes responsibility, however. No one is guilty. JP Morgan Bank has emails proving their fraud regarding mortgages and selling these mortgages, yet they say they are innocent. “Too Big to Fail” has turned into “TOO BIG TO ADMIT GUILT “ and ” TOO BIG TO SPEAK TRUTH.”
What is going on? Doesn’t anyone remember the teachings of our youth? When I was young, my parents always told me that the Truth mattered most. While it took me a long time to incorporate this lesson into my daily living, I use this mantra to guide me everyday. What has happened to our Morality? We are told that Faith Matters, yet all faith has Truth at its core. All faith has at its core, admitting where we were wrong and doing T’Shuvah, amends, restitution, repair, etc.
I am so upset about this. My Rabbinate is founded in Truth, T’shuvah and Tzedek, righteousness. I understand why people will tell me “you do such wonderful work” yet not apply these concepts to their own living. They think, like we read in the papers and hear on the news; the rules don’t apply to them!
WELL, they do! Every one of us has to do T’Shuvah one day before we die and since none of us know the day of our death, we have to do T’Shuvah every day. This includes corporations, this includes professionals and this includes those of us who don’t want to. We, as a country, as a people, as individuals have to demand Truth, T’Shuvah and Tzedek from ourselves and everyone else.
The quote “To err is Human…To forgive Divine,” written by Alexander Pope, has been bastardized and/or forgotten. We blame, deny, forget, etc. in order to not take responsibility. This has to stop. Bosses can no longer abuse their workers and not repent. Workers can no longer slack off and not repent. Companies can no longer take advantage of the public and not repent. People can no longer sue others because they feel like it and not repent. Too Big to Fail cannot mean do as they please and not repent.
I am Addicted to Redemption because this ADDICTION has made me and others better people. Truth, T’Shuvah and Tzedek make us more human and more Divine. As Rabbi Hillel says: “If not now, when?” Please join me in living these three principles each and every day. Let us change the world, one at a time, and bring more Truth, T’Shuvah and Tzedek into everyone’s life.