Posted by Beit T'shuvah
By Rabbi Mark Borovitz
I am always called on to make decisions or reverse decisions that others have made. These experiences come from Staff, families, residents, potential residents, community members, colleagues, etc. I sometimes think about the line from "If I were a Rich Man", "posing questions that would cross a Rabbi's eyes.”
I know that I have to make decisions and all of us make decisions/judgements all day long. Otherwise, we would all be walking around in a daze of chaos and paralysis. Yet, since I am Addicted to Redemption, I find myself twisted up between my absolute belief in the possibility of everyone being able to do T’Shuvah and the realities of the situation at hand. This week, I got a call from someone who had to be asked to leave. This person wanted to "do recovery different and right this time.” Given this person's history of deceit and inability to admit Truth when confronted with proof, I knew this was a long shot. Yet, I was also a long shot some 24 years ago. This person was successful in their field, smart, and capable of great insight and depth. I had seen glimpses of this in their prior stay at Beit T’Shuvah. The rest of the staff, or most of them, were terribly upset that I admitted this person, yet no one said anything to me. I am sitting here, in Starbucks in Encino, writing this blog and wondering if I made the right choice.
What goes into determining if a choice is right? The easy answer is: the outcome. I don't think this is true; the outcome is out of my hands. As much I would like to have the power to say, "HEAL" and make addiction go away, I know I don't and never will have that kind of power. So, I have made a decision to determine if a choice is right by how I make the choice. Is it an informed choice? Do I have as much of the facts as possible? Am I making this choice weighing what is best for the individual and the community? Am I being sure that I’m not "taking a bribe" or being blinded? Do I believe we can help this person? Am I the right person to make this decision?
In this case, I believe I made an informed decision. I know who this person is, good and not good. I weighed the impact on the community and on this person. I erred on the side of the person in this case because they were so " torn up.” I thought about whether I was being influenced by knowing her/his family, my own affinity for this person, the challenge of working with him/her because I saw my own former pathology and believe I/Beit T’Shuvah can reach her/him. I also had one of the senior staff with me when I interviewed this person. I know that this is a long shot; I know that this person could influence me because I see my self in this person. I also know that we have been successful helping this type of person. I know that certain parameters have to be put on this person and I know that this is a difficult type of person to treat.
Given all of this, I believe that I made the right decision. I would rather err on the side of compassion and care than just take the "safe" way. Even though on paper, this looks like a big mistake, I believe my process was correct. I went with my gut instinct. I went with my intuition and I was able to see the pain of this person's soul and believe that everyone deserves as many opportunities for redemption as they are willing to seize. I am addicted to redemption, I believe in redemption. I am a recipient of other people's belief and addiction to redemption. I have to give to others what was given to me, a chance to redeem myself and others.
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January 3, 2013 | 1:30 pm
Posted by Beit T'shuvah
By BTS Prevention
Part of addiction is compulsion, and as this blog’s title is “Addicted to Redemption” we find that we must compulsively redeem ourselves. For us, redemption is not relegated to the time between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur and it is not specific to New Years.
Jewishly and Secularly, these days are set aside to look at the past year and look forward into the next one. We make t’shuvah, we make promises, and we make resolutions. Often, these resolutions dissipate by the end of the day, week, or month. By February, we have fallen off the wagon and by May we have forgotten them altogether.
But there is a clear solution to this problem—become addicted to redemption. Make it a daily habit; change yourself every day. As we are fluid and dynamic beings, stagnation is synonymous with regression. If we do not make progress, we will inevitably fall. We must always be moving forward— however, it impossible to do this perfectly. We may slip, mess up, and move backwards. But that does not mean that redemption has flown out the window—it just means that we must recommit and rededicate ourselves to the process.
So, if you have already broken your resolution, don’t beat yourself up, because the process of change does not contain itself to the yearly markings of the Gregorian calendar.
Follow BTS Prevention on Twitter @BTS_Prevention
January 2, 2013 | 4:34 pm
Posted by Beit T'shuvah
By Ben Spielberg
I have a feeling that things used to be much more simple in twelve-step groups. One was either strictly sober (being defined as not using any mind-altering substances), or not sober (thus defined as using mind-altering substances). Both rhetorically and realistically, this doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. For instance, there are substances that alter the mind as a secondary response. There are millions of people who suffer from chronic pain (a condition in which the mental anguish is comparable to a mind altering drug). There are people who suffer from anxiety and depression, taking mild SSRI’s in order to preserve neurochemical and emotional stability. And there are people who do not “live” sober.
Tackling the issues one by one, I will start with the least complicated of the three: anti-depressant medications. In numerous circles of AA--as well as a variety of treatment centers--people are not allowed to take these. In fact, even if they have abstained from heroin, crack cocaine, marijuana, or PCP for years, they would still be considered “not sober.” The idea of Wellbutrin being equivalent to a relapse probably originated over 30 years ago, when the common medical treatment for addiction was the use of benzodiazepines such as Valium. Such is not the case any more, and people need to be reminded that the use of anti-depressant medications is for the safety and sanity of the members of Alcoholics Anonymous, adding nothing to its detriment. To clarify, it is my professional opinion that SSRI’s are fine to take as members of Alcoholics Anonymous. If anyone has a problem with that, refer them to this blog.
And then, there is the issue of pain management. Grunge artist Kurt Cobain was famously pitied after his overdose because he suffered from a lifelong stomach condition (admittedly painful, but still no excuse for leaving a child behind). What is an opiate addict to do when they are in so much pain that every movement, action, and even thought makes them cringe in agony? Surely letting them sit in misery brings upon an identical life to the alternate, substance dependent lifestyle. Personally, I could see the argument that weak opiates would be a medical necessity for people like this. Please keep in mind that when I say “weak opiates,” I mean something like Tramadol, and not “only half a shot with barely any coke mixed in.”
Part of the argument against this method of treatment is that it borders so close to “waking up the dragon,” meaning that taking these chemicals reminds us of the uncontrollable feelings we used to have in our active addiction, making it harder to maintain sobriety after admitting our powerlessness to the very chemicals that were just ingested. This is all notwithstanding the issue of actual maintenance--the “harm reduction” approach. If addicts can just maintain the same dose of Suboxone or Methadone every day and otherwise remain sober, does it “count” as being sober? The argument goes both ways. A stereotypical AA person may say that drugs like these are powerful narcotics that change perception sans euphoria. A proponent for harm reduction may say that these powerful narcotics don’t effect active addicts that same way that they do people with no tolerance. Somebody who works a very good program would most likely tell both of these people to stop taking other peoples’ inventories.
Finally, there is the highest form of the blur: living sober and acting sober. At Beit T’Shuvah, this is the most commonly addressed form of sobriety (and relapse). I have been sober 848 days today. In the past 848 days, I have been around people on drugs. I have touched marijuana with my bare hands and I have taken weak opiates because of seemingly unending diarrhea. These do not negate my sobriety; they add to it. One has to know where the line exists to find where it blurs. I called in sick to work the last couple days because of stomach flu and have done nothing but sleep and play video games (what I would consider the worst thing I have done in these 848 days). Sitting around and doing nothing is where I found my blur, because that’s all I did when I was high. In short, be mindful of the split; be weary of the blur.
January 1, 2013 | 4:13 pm
Posted by Beit T'shuvah
This past Saturday Harriet Rossetto, CEO and Founder of Beit T'Shuvah, celebrated the release of her new book, Sacred Housekeeping--A Spiritual Memoir.
The memoir is more than just the story of Harriet's life, it is the tale of a woman who set out on an unpopular mission to rehabilitate Jewish ex-convicts into society.
This venture soon became more than a job; it became her passion and life's work. Now, more than 25 years later, that vision has spawned the congregation of Beit T'Shuvah--a faith-based recovery center which helps people recover from addiction and learn to live again.
This story of commitment and redemption is interwoven with the unique experiences of Harriet's courageous life to form a Spiritual Memoir that is both uplifting and inspiring.
To purchase a copy in either Paperback or Digital form visit Amazon.com.
December 31, 2012 | 2:20 pm
Posted by Beit T'shuvah
By Yeshaia Blakeney
On Passover we are asked "to see ourselves as if we had made the Exodus from Egypt." I must admit this is quite a challenge for me. As we leave Genesis and enter into Exodus, I started to think about this idea. I guess in some sort of metaphorical way, I can draw loose parallels between my own difficulties and being an Israelite slave 3000 years ago. But even that I feel little attachment too.
The narrative of Exodus has defined for many generations the story of humanitie’s struggle and inspired countless battles for freedom. As I thought about this "seeing ourselves as if we had made the Exodus from Egypt,” one of the thoughts that came to me as a parallel was, do We even see ourselves as if we ourselves are Jewish? What does it mean to be Jewish now? I mean is my Jewish identity something I put on like a talis or kipa, as an afterthought before entering the sanctuary. Or more importantly, is it something I take off as soon as I'm in my car headed home from services. I've come to realize being Jewish is problematic for me. Where is my Jewish identity? Is it above, below, or underneath my humanity? Does it trump my biracial ethnicity? Do I have a Jewish soul? Should I even be concerned about that, or should I be grateful at the possibility of having a soul at all? When these days, science is leading us closer and closer to a material reductionist view of existence where my experience is a product of my brain, choices are an illusion and the universe is as random and terrifying as the nightly news. How many of us would die for our Judaism today?
I once asked my rabbi if he would, and he said he hoped so. What is so important about being Jewish that people die for it? Or want to, in the rabbi’s case. What does it mean to be Jewish now? On many of these points, Jewish philosophers have no ready-made answers. Maybe the answer is in the passage itself; perhaps it begins with seeing ourselves as if we ourselves had made the Exodus from Egypt, something so hard for me to do. I think we have a tendency to think history does not apply to us, that it doesn't apply to our modern technological society. We have a tendency to think that this is the beginning of some strange new time where classic morality and divine order don't apply. However I doubt we are the first generation to feel such a way.
Granted it is an exciting and rapidly moving period of human history; but it is human history nonetheless. Our challenge is to look through the lens of history to see ourselves in the context of a larger story, not out of fear for persecution but out of love for the author of history. Our challenge in being Jewish now is a beautiful struggle, a struggle for transcendence. To use our reason, to live in this time, but not worship our reason and to live there also in the desert and worship G-d, keep faith. It means to not take the story of Noah literally but not to write it off as myth or fable either. It means to be human, to be Jewish against all odds and probabilities, against reasonableness itself, like a flash volition of the will, a surprise, a moment of creation everlasting. It means it's problematic; it's worshiping the author, as the story is still unraveling and appreciating all from the tragedy to the triumphant.
Being Jewish now requires, as much or more than it ever did. It requires that "we see ourselves as if we ourselves made the Exodus from Egypt", even in the year 2013.
December 29, 2012 | 1:36 pm
Posted by Beit T'shuvah
Inga Roizman is a stunning example of the power of redemption. She had been a resident of Beit T'Shuvah on two separate occasions and has now been working as a Counselor for the past 10 months. Everyday that Inga comes to work she brings both her personal experience and a personality that brims with humor, kindness, and affection. She are truly blessed to have her as part of the Beit T'Shuvah family. Inga was kind enough to take a break from her busy day and answer our Saturday Questionnaire.
What is your idea of redemption?
Coming back to truth.
What was BTS's role in your life?
A sanctuary for internal metamorphosis
What do you like most about yourself?
What first came to mind is my integrity. That I’m searching for truth.
What quality do you value most in your friends?
Honesty and authenticity. Also, playfulness and those who stand for their principles
What is your favorite occupation?
Healer, teacher, student, and guide.
What inspires you?
Art, music, learning, seeing the light in other people’s eyes
What is your major fault?
I have a litany of thoughts going through my head but the two that stand out this moment are perfectionism and being a know it all.
What is your motto?
I don’t have a motto, I have principles
What is your present state of mind at this moment?
December 28, 2012 | 12:56 pm
Posted by Beit T'shuvah
By Rabbi Mark Borovitz
My day has gotten even crazier than I last wrote about. I have had to deal with someone who left Beit T’Shuvah owing a lot of money—someone I had helped personally. She ripped a couple of other people off and now wants help. What do I do?
This is my struggle: I like the young woman and feel sorry for her. She has had many years of therapy and yet she continues to play the role of victim. She has used it against her family and everyone else that has tried to help her. The spiritual drain of helping her has taken away from my ability to help another. Yet, Redemption/T’Shuvah is always possible.
The last time she was here, I had to ask her to leave because she was working and not paying anything for rent/cost of care. While money is not held against anyone for entry to the program, not paying one’s rent when one is in Sober Living, is not Living Sober. We can’t be enablers; we can’t take the place of parents who have enabled prior to their children getting here. So, what do I do? I find myself getting angry with this young woman because she is making her screw-ups, her chaos and her destructive actions, my responsibility. This is an old pattern and I am not going to play. It is very difficult for me. I understand the actions but I can’t stand people I’ve invested time, energy and spirit in going against everything that is important in order to live well. I constantly struggle not to get angry and I find myself winning the battle more often than not. I also know that I do get angry, I am angry that I am put in this position. I am angry that I could not find the key to the soul of another to unlock their inner “Pintele Yid”, their innate decency and love for self and others.
My next call was from a family member of a homeless person who has a high IQ and is also schizophrenic. This man was complaining about the system that doesn’t help his brother. He was upset that he had to put a restraining order out on his brother because his brother could get violent with him and he was worried about his wife and children. He knew he was powerless and he couldn’t put this together with living a Jewish Life. “How come there is nothing we can do, Rabbi?” I shook my head, I was angry also at the way our system treats the mentally ill and homeless. I was angry that I also am powerless to help. I spoke to him about some possible solutions and am waiting for his brother or he to call me so I can talk to the man. Maybe, I can find the words that will unlock his soul to hope and being in the solution to his problems. I am praying this can happen.
The thing that brings both of these instances together is Powerlessness. I am not happy that I am powerless. I connect with God in these moments very deeply and powerfully. I realize the truth of Rabbi Heschel’s words about God after Cain slew Abel: “God should have been disgusted. He said, No, I will keep the human species alive. I’m waiting. Maybe someday there’ll be a righteous generation”…But He’s still waiting, waiting, waiting for a mankind that will live by justice and compassion. He’s in search of man.” I get upset, sad and angry that I/we are not in search of God. I get sad, upset and angry that we are not living by justice and compassion enough. I just get angry that I don’t/can’t do enough to make this happen. I hate powerlessness.
My struggle is that together, WE can find God. We can live a life and make a world full of Justice and Compassion. Yet, we don’t. We are too polarized, we are too indulgent in our own victimhood, and we are too consumed with our own selves to make this happen. This angers me because it is not just others, it is me too. I am part of the problem and the solution. I pray each day for more of the solution and less of the problem. I pray each day for the grace to accept the things I cannot change and the courage to change the things that should be changed. Please God, Please all of you, help me to know the difference and enact the changes to make us all more just and compassionate.
December 27, 2012 | 2:24 pm
Posted by Beit T'shuvah
By BTS Prevention
As a department within Beit T’Shuvah, Prevention has a different jurisdiction from “Rehab Proper.” Instead of treating those who have already gone down the rabbit hole of addiction, the Prevention program attempts to attack the roots of the disease, preventing teenagers from having to become full-fledged addicts.
The question we receive more than any other within Beit T’Shuvah is, “Is it even possible to prevent someone from becoming a drug addict?” Many people who are going through rehab think that their disease was pre-ordained; claiming that nothing said to them could have prevented them from their destiny. But the Prevention program strongly refutes this claim. We believe that addiction often arises as a solution to problems that many teenagers do not know how to solve.
Just as it is not clear what circumstance in my life caused me to breach the line and cross into the realm of addiction, so too it is not clear what will prevent somebody else from trudging the same path. Maybe it is having a person to talk to, maybe it is awareness, maybe it is knowledge, maybe it is self-reflection, maybe it is the ability to cope with discomfort—what is clear is that we offer all of the aforementioned possibilities. We believe in autonomy. We believe that, on any given day, you have the power to change the course of your life.
Do you think preventing drug addiction is possible? Let us know in the comments below.