Posted by Beit T'shuvah
Ms. Harriet Rossetto, the CEO and Founder of Beit T’Shuvah, has announced that she will be releasing her much-anticipated book, Sacred Housekeeping A Spiritual Memoir in early 2013.
Below you will find an excerpt from the chapter The Fair is in Pomona in which Harriet directly addresses the residents of Beit T’Shuvah.
“My qualification to be your life teacher is I have been where you are. I’ve seen it all. I know your torment, your war against yourself. I have battle-‐hardened experience and I still struggle every day. And I have learned how to live an integrated life. You will too.
You are sure that whatever you’re addicted to is the only thing that will relieve the misery of your emptiness, the hole that aches. Without (fill in your own blanks) drugs, alcohol, gambling, sex, food, money, power and prestige... there is no reason to get up in the morning.
You will see eventually that the agenda is to hand you back your life and teach you how to be You, the authentic you, to stop comparing yourself to others and judging your worth comparatively and conditionally. I can help you find the ammunition to tame your self-‐defeating demons, your ‘What’s the point?’ ‘Why bother?’ ‘Fuck it!’ voice that “crouches at your door.”
I don’t give a shit about your tattoos, piercings, hairstyles, costumes or kashrut. They are only props you used when your spirit was subdued. You don’t yet understand that rebellion is not freedom: you have merely conformed to different masters. We will bombard you with alternative highs and rushes-‐-‐ surfing, singing, drama, art, writing, cooking, joining the choir or band. You might run the marathon or play golf or do yoga. We will teach you how to have fun in sobriety – dancing, sports, concerts. We will allow you to have relationships and will be there every step of the way, so you can learn how to draw on the power of love to better regulate your own reactions and emotions. You will learn patience, acceptance and tolerance in relationship with one another.
Connection to this community will become a stronger connection than connection to your dope dealer. And ultimately we help you frame your life by connection to a Higher and Eternal truth that governs your choices and provides a road map for the journey. And then back to the things and people who are important to you.”
Sacred Housekeeping, A Spiritual Memoir
12.6.13 at 2:19 pm | Last night, as we were getting ready to go to the. . .
12.5.13 at 10:12 am | Every year at Thanksgiving dinner, my entire. . .
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. . .
12.5.13 at 10:12 am | Every year at Thanksgiving dinner, my entire. . . (71)
2.25.13 at 2:00 pm | Buddhism is one of the fastest growing religions. . . (56)
12.6.13 at 2:19 pm | Last night, as we were getting ready to go to the. . . (55)
November 10, 2012 | 1:44 pm
Posted by Beit T'shuvah
Kendl Ferencz is one of those indellible personalities that crop up through the process of recovery. Her life today is unrecognizable to the one she was living up until a few years ago. Kendl had been using drugs for years and had even relapsed during her first stay at Beit T'Shuvah. Today she is a Graphic Designer for BTS Communications and an example to the young women everywhere who are willing to take a step toward redemption. We decided to sit down with Kendl and pick her brain a bit to see what has made her story so unique.
What’s your idea of redemption?
Redemption is something hard and personal but coming through it makes you a better person.
What role did Beit T’Shuvah play in your redemption?
They led me to BTS Communications and taught me how to be a functioning human being.
What do you like most about yourself?
My sense of humor.
What quality to you most value in your friends?
What is your favorite occupation?
Who are your heroes (real or fictional)?
What inspires you?
The people around me.
What is your main fault?
I am really quick to judge people.
What is your motto?
Show up no matter what.
What is your present state of mind?
I am in good place in my life.
November 9, 2012 | 12:04 pm
Posted by Rabbi Mark Borovitz
The title of our Blog is Addicted to Redemption. To redeem means to buy back, to recover, to free from distress, etc. This week you have read blogs by different people associated with Beit T’Shuvah who have written about their experiences of being free from the distress of living false scripts. This is what I am addicted to: extricating myself and others from living inauthentic lives.
In looking at the election season, I am struck by the lies and inauthentic things people said in order to "win.” This is what we need to be redeemed from most of all, I believe. Whether it is a candidate for President of the United States of America, for the Senate, House of Representatives, Governor, Mayor, Judge, the head of another country, CEO, worker, father, mother, child, teacher, Rabbi, Priest, Imam, etc, we all have to stop trying to win!!
Our challenge as a person is to remember that we are all created for a purpose that no one else can fulfill. We don't have to "win" against anyone else. We have to fight the inner battle to detach ourselves from the distressing situation of living an inauthentic life.
How do we do this? By being in recovery from the need to compete—that need to "win" at cost to ourselves and others. Despite how long we have lived a life in opposition to who we truly are, we can redeem ourselves and live the life that God created us for. I know, I lived a false script and caused much damage and heartache to the people in my life for a long time. Through the support of others, God, and myself, I have been redeemed in these past 24 years. I have been rescued from many distressing situations by teachers, loved ones, myself, God, and Judaism.
Moses was not the last Redeemer. There are Redeemers in our lives today. Please God, let us hear their call, let them hear our call for help and let us all listen to the call of God and our own souls.
November 8, 2012 | 12:22 pm
Posted by Doug Rosen
By BTS Prevention
Relatively recently—in terms of human history—young boys and girls were occupied from sunrise to sunset running through fields, gathering nuts and berries, and hunting for dinner. By the time they hit the literal hay in the evening, they were exhausted. They were not obsessing over what activities they had to complete that day in order to get an A for nut-collecting. They were not pressured into hunting only the most prized venison in all the land so that someday they could hunt in the prairies surrounding Cambridge or New Haven.
But in the times of Ivy-League preschools, 0 period classes, APs, ACTS, and more SATs than Star Wars installments, the pressure to succeed has replaced the joys of adolescence. Instead of moving children into their freshman dorms, many parents now drop their boys and girls off at rehab on their 18th birthdays. These are the same children who just moments ago were proudly bringing home their unblemished report cards. Many of them do not know how to fail; every time they were on the verge of a minute failure, their parents would bail them out. As toddlers, they were immediately scooped off the ground by patrolling parents. As preteens, parents made angry calls to administrators when their child got in trouble. And as teenagers, mommy would call teacher and work out an extra-credit bargain to erase the minus that must have been mistakenly placed on the upper-right hand corner of the otherwise perfectly formed A. This same child—the one who doesn’t learn how to fail— will never be able to succeed.
There is undoubtedly a connection between the pressure to succeed and the suburbanization of drug addiction. Addiction often stems from the inability to cope with discomfort. For many, it is easier to escape than to deal with pressure, easier to give up than to try and not succeed. Suburban children do not know how to cope with a family dinner unless they have an iPhone under the table and they do not know how to get a “C” on a quiz without catastrophizing. The current system, cosigned by parents and teachers, must be changed. This is not to suggest that children should be removed from Harvard-Westlake and sent to the hills of Topanga so that they can bring home a coyote for dinner. But it is possible that these hill children would turn into more successful adults than the Harvard-bound 6 year old who, as you are reading this, is stuck in a 40-by-40 cell learning conversational Latin.
November 7, 2012 | 11:27 am
Posted by Ben Spielberg
There have been two events in my life in which I have found a phone.
Four years ago, I was in line at a bagel shop. I was squirrelly and sweaty and my foot would not stop tapping. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a shiny BlackBerry sitting on the counter, unclaimed. I walked up the counter and I smiled; I flirted and winked and as I ordered “one everything bagel with butter,” I slid the entrancing BlackBerry into the front pocket of my greasy and tattered jeans.
The phone began to buzz and beep and make stupid mechanical noises. I licked the butter off of my bagel and threw the rest of my meal in the trash. While walking away, a teary-eyed blonde woman approached me and asked if I had seen anyone with her brand new BlackBerry. I negated her question and walked away. The phone continued to ring, vibrate, and yell 8-bit tones at me until I dropped it into the hands of my dealer the next day.
Six months ago, I was on a hike (and coincidentally, just as sweaty as I was in the bagel shop). My feet were tired; I was thirsty and annoyed. On the ground, there was an abandoned iPhone. It was dirty and the screen was cracked and the battery was almost dead. After asking people in the surrounding area if they knew the owner, I took up the duty of returning the phone to its rightful owner.
It was not as simple as one may think. The iPhone’s language was Indonesian (of which I am not fluent) and there was a passcode required to make phone calls. I wiped the dirt off, gave it a full charge, and waited for the high-pitched blips and twangs of one thousand phone calls and text messages. There were none.
The next day, I managed to access and text six or seven foreign numbers from the phone. Moments later, I received a call from a not-so-foreign number (323) and was greeted with excitement, joy, and praise. The phone belonged to a nine-year-old boy who was heartbroken to have lost it. They picked it up the next day and brought me Indonesian cookies in celebration of my efforts. The cookies were disgusting (I ate all of them), but I felt good about myself.
We practice T’Shuvah as an action, but it doesn’t have to be a monumental action. T’shuvah can be taken in microscopic doses; administered in small strides to make the world a better place. The major differences between these two experiences is not that one happened “in addiction” and one “in recovery.” The difference is that one involved doing the next right action and one did not. My actions six months ago did not offset the actions I took four years ago, but I can still do the next right thing--one trendy cell phone at a time.
November 6, 2012 | 12:45 pm
Posted by Cantor Rachel Goldman Neubauer
In my experience, Beit T’Shuvah is the sort of community where it’s hard to fit in unless you are either aware of or are in the process of becoming aware of your dark horses and battling them. And no, those dark horses do NOT need to include alcoholism of some sort (hopefully you have picked up on this from previous blog postings.) However, since every human being has at least one demon that they struggle with, it’s actually a pretty easy community to become a member of—maybe the easiest and most inclusive of all—and your membership hinges only on your level of openness. Since I am, first and foremost, a proud member of the Beit T’Shuvah community, I will introduce myself like this:
Hi my name is Rachel and I am a perfectionist (amongst other things, one of which being the acting cantor at Beit T’Shuvah). How did I come to that conclusion, and why is that relevant to Beit T’Shuvah?
I started singing at a very young age, and hit a professional level when I was only 11. By the time I had finished high school, I was on a path to train to be an opera singer as a permanent career. What had started out as an extracurricular hobby that made me smile turned into the end-all be-all purpose of my life by the time I hit college and declared myself a Vocal Performance major.
There are so many aspects in the music world that are terrifying. In the classical world, perfection is constantly sought after and applauded. In the recording world, perfection is even electronically manufactured and therefore expected as a norm. For me, when I took the hobby and passion that had grounded me and handed it over to this world of demanding perfection, I was completely unprepared. Nothing could have more greatly demonstrated to me how un-whole I was. The only thing I was aware of in my early college days was this: anything less than perfection made me feel unequivocally unworthy, and I was supposed to be ok with that. As soon as things got even the slightest bit difficult, I started to drown. My body and my mind could handle this constant striving to be perfect, but my spirit could not. I thought it was my singing voice that was my curse and for many years had stopped singing altogether, but I now know that it was buying into this belief that was being shoved down my throat—this belief that, if I tried hard enough, I could be perfect.
Letting go of this belief could very well have been as hard for me as it is for a junkie to kick heroin. The thought of being perfect and chasing after its possibility is alluring, intoxicating, and incredibly addicting. And it is just as false as the belief that drugs will make everything better. Being in recovery from perfectionism, though, is just as rewarding to me as I witness any other recovery to be (and I get to witness a lot of recovery).
Though music is back in my life, I no longer buy into perfectionism. Instead, I put my stock into knowing that I am ok as I am, no matter what. No longer do I have some impossible standard that I hold myself to or perceive others to expect of me. And that, in my opinion, is also redemption.
November 5, 2012 | 10:46 am
Posted by Yeshaia Blakeney
I was one of a handful of people at Beit T’Shuvah asked to write a weekly blog from my perspective as a Jew in recovery. This is the first shot, an introduction if you will. Before I introduce myself, I want to speak about what this task brought up into my consciousness. I wondered why the Jewish Journal was interested in our perspective. I believe there is dead knowledge and living knowledge. Recovery is the process of change and renewal, transformation and growth; in short the process of keeping life fresh and connected. This relates to the practice of Judaism which at Beit T’Shuvah we label “relevant Judaism” (not that you’re practice is irrelevant I’m sure it means something to you!). Relevant Judaism is living knowledge; living tradition applying the spirit of the Jewish tradition to everyday life where it is most needed. My Rabbi, Mark Borovitz, is continually preaching about the poor the widow and the orphan as examples of that need. It is in the problems and tragedies of living, those of us who are hurt, forgotten and lost, that this recovering relevant Judaism becomes alive. So I imagine the Jewish Journal wanted our perspective because the recovery movement at Beit T’Shuvah has breathed new life into the practice of Judaism, and has different insight into what it means to be Jewish. M. Scott peck in his sequel to his bestselling book The Road Less Traveled describes addiction as a spiritual disease. He believes this to be so because in order to recover from addiction one is forced to wrestle with all that they are in the depths of themselves. As Rabbi Hillel taught: “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? And when I am for myself, what am 'I'? And if not now, when?"
So who am I? I’ll let you know after I’m dead. However, I can give you some background information, some memories, some facts—a short story. Yeshaia Blakeney. Yeshaia named after the prophet Isaiah. Blakeney is English; it is the name of the slave master who ran the plantation that my ancestors on my father’s side worked. I come from slaves on both sides, my Jewish ancestors were enslaved Israelites thousands of years ago, my black ancestors were slaves to Americans a few hundred years ago. My own slaveries have been to Alcohol and drugs, women, fame and fortune, and a misplaced urge to transcend. Not to mention being a slave to our current society’s ills: injustice, moral paralysis, violence, mindless entertainment, distraction, fundamentalism, image, racism, sexism (and all the other isms we have categorized since the beginning of the enlightenment) and disassociation from ourselves, each other, and G-d. “The old G-d is dead,” Nietzsche famously said (of blessed memory (G-d not Nietzsche)). He has been replaced by YouTube and if Nietzsche had known that, he would have tried to revive him. I digress (one of my favorite things to do). Back to me, my parents are both Harvard Psychologists, which gives you little insight into who they are but seems to get people’s attention none the less. I am the Rabbi in training at Beit T’Shuvah, fondly referred to as the “Rappin’ Rabbi” because I am a hip hop MC and have been rapping since I was 11. The Rabbi part is because I’m studying to be a Rabbi, specifically the next head Rabbi at Temple Beit T’Shuvah. I am 31 years old. I am married to a wise successful entrepreneur named Emily and we have two daughters: Eden, our six year old, and Stella, our two year old. I am an alumnus of Beit T’Shuvah which means I went through the program because I had the kind of problems that our society frowns upon and sends you somewhere to deal with (unlike greed, or workaholism which our society rewards). I am pretty radical and impulsively honest and am uncomfortably comfortable writing this much about myself. (Do you ever think about how if you put something online it’s there forever? Scary, fortunately were not (here forever that is)(except in the world to come of course!)). I can’t wait to talk about addiction, politics, philosophy, and G-ds great drama that we call life with you. And your feedback and comments are welcome.
G-d bless you
November 2, 2012 | 1:21 pm
Posted by Beit T'shuvah
Russell Harrison is the perfect example of a simple truth—you can’t judge a man based on his past. In fact, if you simply met Russell today it would be a near impossible task to guess at what his life had been like up until the past year. Before he got to Beit T’Shuvah, Russell had served 27 years on a life sentence. He’s a man who freely admits that he has made mistakes and isn’t ashamed to try and change his circumstances.
After years of being stuck in a convict mentality, Russell is now a beacon of redemption and hope. His jovial spirit permeates through everyone he encounters. In fact, the only thing more powerful than Russell’s spirit is his voice. It’s a voice that booms out during every song of every service. “I’m adamant in services because that’s my longing for the light that I had lost,” he says. For Russell it’s all just part of his daily journey back towards faith and away from certainty.
Officially, Russell is part of the Maintenance staff at Beit T’Shuvah. He’s been out of prison for a year and has lived at Beit T’Shuvah for the past 6 months. Unofficially, he holds a far more important title that is shared throughout our entire facility; Russell is a “grateful member of the community.” The truth is, Russell is more grateful than most people. “You try not to dream too big when you’re inside because you don’t know life is ever gonna be that good again,” he says. “For years I had no hope, no soul, no spirit…faith has been the only way for me to get all those things back.” Now Russell uses faith and mitzvah to put some of that light that he took away back into the world.
For anyone who ever thought, “I’ve gone too far,” or “my life is ruined and over,” Russell is a flesh and blood embodiment of the fact that it is never too late to live well. According to Russell, “There are things you have to do in order to live well. Making amends is a continuous obligation and even though sobriety is the lynchpin of my life, faith is what provides me with wholeness and holiness.”
Just remember that no one is ever too far-gone to become the person they dream of being.