About six years ago I ran into my old friend John Sullivan on my way to an AA meeting. The once shady Venice Beach, CA had transformed into an upscale neighborhood, yet John wasn’t having any of it. He was aggressively panhandling from wealthy hipsters at the intersection of Abbot Kinney Blvd. and California Avenue. Although I admired the spirit of what he was doing (making yuppies feel uncomfortable), it was obvious John was deep in the throes of addiction and needed help. He had the physique of a wayward marathon runner (gaunt) and that air of loopiness brought on by only the most potent street drugs. I gave him a short 12-step pep talk and 20 bucks. I guess I hoped John would remember something I said as he ran to meet his dealer, twenty-dollar bill in hand.
A few years later, I saw John at another AA meeting, but this time he wasn’t panhandling outside. He’d gained probably 50 pounds and had obviously gone through some sort of spiritual awakening and completely turned his life around. My uplifting words from a few years back surely had something to do with it, right? Wrong. He didn’t remember seeing me that night. My eloquent get-sober pep talk? No recollection. That 20 bucks I gave him? Nada. So what saved John?
He was an inspiring contradiction—a junkie who was no longer shooting heroin, who’d gotten sober at a Jewish Rehab despite his Irish Catholic roots. The place was called Beit T’Shuvah, its doors were open to addicts from all backgrounds, I learned.
As time went on, I’d bump into Sully every now and again at the local AA meetings. He was continuing to get his life together in every way- he’d married and was working for Beit T’Shuvah, that great rehab that had saved his ass. He wasn’t a one-year wonder (an addict who relapses after a year clean/sober). He was really doing it.
CUT TO: Present Day, Los Angeles CA.
John Sullivan is the Creative Director and Founder of BTS Communications (BTSC). They’re a legit, growing ad agency who handle marketing and communications for Beit T’Shuvah and clients ranging from The American Diabetes Association to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, whom John had a long standing relationship with… as a formerly frequent inmate.
BTSC has a staff consisting of full-time professionals, resident interns from Beit T’Shuvah, and the occasional volunteer worker (myself). BTSC is a unique company. They offer top quality marketing services to their growing list of clients, both for-profit and non-profit—and they help people within their own doors by mentoring and training recovering addicts in a real-world professional environment. BTSC helps create both brand success stories and human success stories.
Impressive, Sully, very impressive. You’ve come a long way. So, can I have my 20 bucks back now? Just kidding.
- Charlie Patterson
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