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.
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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?
January 31, 2013 | 2:56 pm
Posted by Beit T'shuvah
By Michael Soter
There is an ancient myth that states that the act of reading is an enlightening experience. Supposedly, the printed page expands the mind— whether it’s Socrates, the Bible, Ginsberg, or Stephanie Meyer. If I were to try to pinpoint the moment in history when anything written on a page was deemed educational, I would guess that it had to be around 1439. Before then, the written word was reserved for academics, priests, and the nobility. It was a sign of education. So, when Guttenburg developed a Western mechanism that allowed for the mass-production of printed material, the word spread—common people had instant access to what was once reserved for the elite.
This allowed for the popularization of ancient texts and in part, gave rise to the Renaissance—but what once opened the door to Homer has since opened the door to Us Weekly. Meanwhile some parents are still living in 1439 and demand that their children read, believing that this will make them intelligent and cultured.
With the advent of television came a new medium that could be brought into the home. A man named Minow, chairman of the FCC, said in 1961 that television had become a “Vast Wasteland.” Television was defined as a numbing medium.
574 years after Guttenburg and 52 years after Minow, we have an irrational dichotomy that goes something like this: “Books=Good and Television=Bad.”
Instead of looking at the medium, it might be more important to look at the content. I don’t quite see how 50 Shades of Grey is more educational than 60 Minutes. I don’t understand how Twilight can be seen as better for your kids than the latest episode of Homeland. After all, Minow also happened to say, in the very same speech, "When television is good, nothing — not the theater, not the magazines or newspapers — nothing is better.”
January 30, 2013 | 3:37 pm
Posted by Beit T'shuvah
By Ben Spielberg
I've touched briefly on this issue in the past, but it's something that I see very often today. As treatment professionals, we are forced to indulge ourselves in judgement by picking apart the pieces of our client's sobriety.It's controversial because there is a value in the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous: “Don't take other people's inventories.” As recovering people devoted to Living Well, we cannot judge the actions that other people take; our resentments are our own. However, when working in a treatment center, the staff is forced to do the opposite. We analyze confrontations, engage in other people's problems and consume ourselves in eight hour intervals with the stresses of new sobriety.
Sometimes, I wonder if it's justified. No matter the amount of letters after one's name, there are still no qualifications that can accurately portray the plight of addiction into recovery. Even people engaged in their own recovery often forget the perils of withdrawal like clockwork, remembering only glimpses of euphoric recall. In addition, recovering individuals are not “supposed” to take note of the smaller issues in the lives of other people. We are not “supposed” to invest time into the recovery of other people, and we are not “supposed” to confront the newcomers in sobriety.
But we do—and it works. So how do we deal with these conflicting values—the values of saving lives, and the values of protecting AA principles? Maybe we can set up boundaries in order to protect our personal lives from our professional lives. Maybe, we can remember that everyone has a different path in their sobriety. After all, there is no one road to recovery. Right?
January 29, 2013 | 10:45 am
Posted by Beit T'shuvah
By Michael Welch
Enter the accelerator--benzoylmethylecgonine-- a continuation of invigoration. Expeditious-thought with sounds of reverberation and body left debilitated. It’s demonstrating an inability for any shot of stability. Psychosis! It’s perspiration due to locomotion begging to be stationary. It’s defined by incoherence but to it, it seems congruent.
Efforts then lead toward a desire to land; to conduct a chemical homeostasis.
Enter the tranquilizer-- diacetylmorphine-- an immediate bounty. It’s soft in spirit with ties to inclination, inclination to habit. It’s known as the seducer the go-getter for the unaccomplished. It’s the Bobby Frost of fixation, demonstrating the ability to shoot stability. It makes absolutely no sense but the sensation is so so sensible.
Egh… I’ve over-shot, or did I under-shoot. I didn’t mean it. Gosh, I’m not ready to go. When did I become it as it needs to be me and I don’t want to leave, but I’m going to go
Not just yet. It ain’t my turn. I need to make sense of this, let me clean this up. This crooked mind doesn’t excuse my crooked actions, action is a gift and I’m the inventor of the crooked. I’ve been taught that I can put anything I want in front of action, so today it will be my foot, followed by the other one. My redemption begins here; it resembles fight, resistance to devastation. It’s my physiological condition’s Emancipation Proclamation. I’ve put my life on the line for the last time, so now I’m putting my life on the line.
Abaddon! I won’t turn a blind eye. I’ve about-faced . I’m face to face. And I’ll tear you limb from limb if you cross the line. I’m committed to this quest, the Don Quioxte of recovery making a redeemer quixotic. I made my stand, and I swear to G-d, stepping on your throat will be effortless. Why would I pick you up? Where were you when I fell?
January 28, 2013 | 2:22 pm
Posted by Beit T'shuvah
By Yeshaia Blakeney
The Beit T’Shuvah hallways have been an interesting place as of late. What happens when you take a handful of addicts and give them each their own blog once a week? Addicted to Redemption that’s what. If you've been following the Beit T’Shuvah blog, you might be noticing an interesting trend. Many of the blog titles have been provocative and circling around areas where humans are (for lack of a better word) weak. Titles including the words sex, food, marijuana etc.—sounds harmless enough. It's a ploy! They are catering to the lowest, most immature part of you! Don't fall for it! It's like reality TV or cotton candy; seems like a good idea until you’re finished then you have a tummy ache and pink sugar all over your fingers (or pink fingers in your brain with reality tv, (that's a metaphor)). There has been a war inside the offices of Beit T’Shuvah, a war for the most hits on our respective blogs. It started with a ginger friend of mine who shall remain nameless, a crafty salesmen and dubious Irishman who could sell ice to an Eskimo or intelligence to me. Then I got caught up in the competition on accident. Because of my natural charm and charisma, I of course attracted a descent following and unbeknownst to me became a competitor. Then it spread to the younger generation in the prevention office and it even infected our Cantor and Rabbi. The Irishman, the youngsters, (and I hate to say it) but even the cantor and Rabbi will stop at nothing to get your attention and I for one can't participate and intend to keep a steady course on the high road.
In all seriousness I'm all for a healthy competition, but the competition should be about meaning, writing, creativity and ideas, not just about hits and attention. It seems to me what's happening at the Shuv is a reflection of the marketing orientation in our society. No quality, all quantity. Kim Kardashian is one of the most well-known human beings on earth and she has done literally nothing (besides look amazing). But just because I put a provocative picture of her to promote my blog, I’ll win this week’s hit race, pathetic! It is amazing how quick we were all willing to sell our soul for a few quick hits, and it wasn't even crack. Well I am going to make a change. I say we all come together and create meaningful content! Not this pathetic garbage you all have been spewing for a couple of hits once a week. As the most talented writer of us all I would like to validate you by saying you are all equally clever, so enough competition. You all have lost your way, like the Jews in this week’s Parsha wandering in the desert, questioning Moses, wearing him down. I'm not saying I'm like Moses in this metaphor, I'm just saying. You might not all make this transition and not all of you are as wise and have as much sobriety as I do, but I think if we all commit we can stop competing and let our true selves shine for the world to see. It's time to redeem ourselves and get back on track! Addicted to redemption Forever!
January 27, 2013 | 1:21 pm
Posted by Beit T'shuvah
By Rachel Goldman Neubauer
I used to be a really jealous person. I don’t know if that was my nature or if I was conditioned to be that way—growing up as a performer, it sort of seems that competition and jealousy would be things that go hand-in-hand. Either way, I found it hard to be happy for other people’s successes, especially when they were people that I worked with. I haven’t been aware of this part of me in quite a while—or more so, that it had greatly disappeared—until last night. All I knew beforehand was this is a part of me I didn’t like.
I’d like to dedicate this blog posting to Shy Blakeny, who I had the honor of giving his 10th cake to (along with many others) two nights ago at Beit T’Shuvah and whom I work very closely with. He is the one who made me realize this past Shabbat that part of me that I didn’t like has grown and changed into part of me I like. Here was my coworker, my office-mate, my clergy partner, speaking so eloquently of trials and successes…even some things he has that I know that I want. All of me was happy for him. ALL of me. He is someone I am in awe of and there was nothing that I could do but have my heart swell (and kvell a bit) as he spoke. This isn’t a new phenomenon, but perhaps just the first time I ever really noticed it wasn’t the same way I reacted to others’ successes as I did maybe 7 years ago.
I know this past Shabbat was Shabbat Shira and as the cantor, I should probably be talking about music. Yes, there was song and yes, I sang. But Shy was the most ‘musical’ part of Erev Shabbat services to me. Through Shy, I was able to hear the melody of my soul again, and hear at that point that some notes had changed and it was now something I much more enjoyed listening to. It’s nice to know that our own melodies can be re-written, re-orchestrated, tweaked, and enhanced.