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.
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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 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.
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 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!