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Overcoming Addiction: My Personal Success Story

By on October 12, 2015

I am an example of a success story. But this is only the first chapter.

I grew up with everything a girl could ask for. But there was always this emptiness—a longing for something, anything, to lead me out of the darkness by which I was encumbered. I felt alone in my world. When I was eleven, I found out I was adopted and that my brother was not my twin. My already unbalanced world was flipped upside down, and everything looked like a lie. That was the beginning of what became my twenty-one year long battle with addiction. My addictive behavior would end up bleeding into every area of my life, taking with it every meaningful relationship, any semblance of self-respect I once had, all my money, and my sanity. I would end up in the hospital at thirty-two with a failing liver and eight days of detox—and who knows what else—to look forward to. I never would have thought Judaism would play a role in saving me. I never thought it would change me.

I was raised half Jewish and half Christian, and not a fraction of it made any sense to me. Neither of my parents were religious, and the exposure my brother and I had to either faith was in little sprinkles here and there during the “important” holidays. At fourteen, my religious practices changed almost immediately once my father hooked up with my soon-to-be, Jewish stepmother. As much as I welcomed the change, and as hard as I tried to embrace the Judaism surrounding me—I saw myself as an imposter who didn’t fit in. Where on earth did I come from? Where did I fit?

As the years went on, my addiction grew worse, and the further I drifted from any kind of faith in anything. The more lost I became, the more alone I felt. Alcohol was both my G-d, and my only friend, and drinking was my light through the dark. When my father died when I was twenty-seven, I turned to my reliable, toxic friend to take away my pain. But I wore the mask of someone who was just fine, and moved on with my life. All I was actually doing was slowly fading away.

I would stay up every night in a cold sweat, trembling and panicking and incapable of sleep. I was just waiting to die—believing I had no chance of overcoming my addiction. And even if I could muster up enough courage to ask for help, I would forever be labeled, “an addict,” and live the rest of my life with that stigma. What would my family think? Will I ever be hireable? What man would ever want to marry me? There was too much shame in admitting my problem, I thought. But the pain I felt… the all-consuming mental and physical pain was too much to bear. I knew things couldn’t possibly get worse as long as I was still alive, so when my brother asked me if I was willing to get treatment, I told him, “I have the will if you have a way to get me there.” The next day, he took me to the hospital to detox, and a week later, to rehab—a Jewish rehab called Beit T’Shuvah, which translates to: The House of Return. Needless to say, I was apprehensive. I didn’t have a G-d. I didn’t have any faith. Surely they would find out and send me home. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

When I came to Beit T’Shuvah, I had no idea how to tackle my social anxiety or make friends. My shyness was crippling, and my only solution to that in the past was a round of drinks (each one for me). After some time going to meetings and process groups with the other residents, and attending services in our sanctuary, things started to get easier. I, someone who never considered herself to be spiritual, found myself looking at spirituality through a different lens. What I learned at Beit T’Shuvah is that spirituality has a different meaning to everyone. To me, it’s human connection. It’s spending time with my father in my dreams. It’s writing poetry, and listening to the music that moves my heart and gives me chills. I discovered those things in sobriety.

I had heard horror stories about other rehabs—how some of them were cold and sterile, and military like. I realized how lucky I was to be where I was. I kept hearing, “Beit T’Shuvah is a community,” but I didn’t get it at first. But it is just that. It’s a microcosm of the world, with all the same moving parts, unique personalities, suffering, and hard work. You have neighbors and responsibilities, friends, foes, and teachers. There it was—the thing I wanted most but was always hiding from. Connection. And it came in the form of a community that accepted me for me, and told me that I matter. I wouldn’t have survived without that.

BeitTShuvah“Hold on” and “you matter” are two of the many sayings at Beit T’Shuvah. As simple as each is, the mere utterance of those four words can be more powerful than any meeting, or any book. I learned the meaning of T’Shuvah in the house that bares the same name—return. I could see the importance of taking responsibility for my life, and arriving at a place of acceptance of my past. I look at my life now, and I feel grateful. I have a job I love, doing something I love, and I am free in every sense of the word. In looking ahead to the New Year, I look back at my life. I ask for forgiveness. I forgive myself. I enter the New Year as if it were my first.

 

 

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About Jenny Sherman

Jenny Sherman is a copywriter at Creative Matters Agency, a social enterprise of Beit T’Shuvah, a non-profit addiction treatment center.