Soul Sanctuary Beit T’Shuvah a long-term  treatment facility


An interview with Harriet Rosetto and Rabbi Mark Borovitz

Soul Sanctuary is a 28 minute documentary  film about Beit T’Shuvah a long- term  treatment facility which serves people with substance use disorders. The Hebrew translation of Beit is house and T’Shuvah is repentance and new response. Beit T’Shuvah offers people a comprehensive Jewish spirituality that includes psychotherapy and redemption through right action and community.  It was founded by Harriet Rossetto who also wrote the book Sacred Housekeeping:  A Spiritual Memoir.  Her husband Rabbi Mark Borovitz is the co-founder and the author of the books; The Holy Thief and Finding Recovery in Yourself in Torah.

Addiction is a life threatening illness with negative emotional, mental, physical and spiritual consequences. If left untreated it most frequently leads to premature death. Of the 30 million American who suffer from this illness only 15% have access to treatment. The rest are told to wait which accounts for many of the 122 people who die each day.

Here are excerpts from Soul Sanctuary.

What is addiction?

Harriet Rosetto – “I think that addiction is a spiritual malady. It is a void, it is an emptiness. It’s a lack of meaning and purpose that is painful,  they say things like”

“The experience of being in full blown addiction is very isolating. I was too afraid to die but I did not know how to live well.”

“My best thinking, my two MBA top of the line thinking got me in jail. That is where I ended up. So I finally had to look at doing something different and taking a chance and depending on a higher power maybe.”

” Addiction is a spiritual malady and before I came in that is the last thing I would have ever expected to be a part of my recovery. I thought that, to be honest with you I thought that I lived in an unjust world, there was no god and he was punishing me if there was a god.”

Soul Sanctuary“It is really difficult to live or accomplish anything when all that is on my mind constantly was drugs.”

Harriet Rosetto- “Miracles happen here every day.. I mean transformation is a miracle. The fact that people can come in hopeless and despairing and hating themselves and grow in love and in life and find connection with God is a miracle.”

Rabbi Mark Borovitz- When you walk in here what we tell you is that you matter. You belong, we want you, you matter.

After the initial shock people realize that Beit T’Shuvah is a place to recover their purpose and discover their passion. It is really a sanctuary.

Harriet Rosetto- “Addiction is not a shameful thing. I think a lot of people who have an addicted person in their family feel a sense of shame as if having a perfect child makes them perfect parents. You didn’t cause it, you can’t control it, and you can’t cure it.”

Question- It seems that people are  powerless over drugs because it is the most intimate relationship that an addict has.  Why does addiction occur?

Rabbi Mark Borovitz-  “Addiction happens because people are looking for a way out. A way out of emotional pain, a way out of physical pain, a way out of psychic pain, a way out of spiritual pain. And they feel that there is no way out so they have to check out. If I say, ‘how do I go through this psychic pain, how do I go through this emotional pain, how do I get through this physical pain then I come up with a whole different set of solutions.”

Question- There seems to be a lot of isolation and self loathing that goes along with addiction.

Rabbi Mark Borovitz- “Do you really think that and addict or an alcoholic, or a compulsive gambler, or an over eater, or a bulimic, or an anorexic, or a work alcoholic or somebody whose addicted to misery, do you really think they are not human-that you have to label them. It’s a human being that is struggling, wrestling, fighting, striving to be free of that disease. To be able to live fully and free.”

Question- You have seen so many people come through your program, do you have an idea of what the root causes of addiction are?

Harriet Rosetto  “I think that part of addiction is a reaction to the perfectionism of our whole culture. The fact that people are not allowed to express their sense of brokenness and their pain in the places where they are not ok. Addictions soothes them, substances soothe people who are in pain, who don’t feel worthy, who don’t feel good enough. I think that the message that a lot of us get is that … You are not good enough.”

Question- “I’ve heard it said that the opposite of addiction is connection and there was a study done by UCLA a couple of years ago where they were looking at all the different pieces that make Beit T’Shuvah work as a program and the part that most people agreed was the most successful part of Beit T’Shuvah’s program was the community itself.”

Harriet Rosetto- “Yes that is right.  Bene’ Brown said that to  try to fit in you have to give up pieces of yourself in order to be accepted. When you belong you can bring your whole self and find acceptance and I think that is what we offer here, a community of belonging.”

Question- The opposite of addiction is not recovery, the opposite of addiction is not sobriety, the opposite of addiction is connection. Right? . So when you feel that craving to feel connected to that relationship you have one that is positive that sees you for who you really are and not just a substance.

Harriet Rosetto-  “Yes, here at Beit T’Shuvah we look to be a beloved community and the Torah teaches us that the job of being a human is to integrate and not alternate between extremes and not to eradicate the dark or the shadow but to embrace it and to redirect it to right action. That’s really the whole message here and I think that addiction is the inability of people to integrate those parts of themselves.

Question- ” Nobody puts a needle in their arm and thinks OMG I am saving the world, you know you are doing something bad. So if it is a relationship, then the only way to change it is to find a different relationship, a more meaningful relationship.”

Rabbi Mark Borovitz- “And recovery is that more meaningful relationship. Recovery gives me hope, I have to live with hope and how do I get there? I get there through what a Jewish concept called t’shuvah. T’shuvah is where I do an accounting of my soul, a real inventory of myself. What I have done well and what I haven’t done well. Who has been impacted and how they have been impacted.”

Question- At Beit T’Shuvah you address the first recovery task which is sanctuary. First you have to feel safe, you have to trust. You have to come to a place where you want to grow and become better. .

Harriett Rosetto- “Yes people have to trust and the secret sauce here is connection to community and the relationships that people form. Addicts crave connection, everyone craves connection. I think some people have a more difficult time connecting . Addicts don’t connect that easily. But we all need places to go and people to be with where we are safe enough to go into those really dark places in ourselves and into our traumatic past in some cases.”

Question- Beit T’Shuvah provides the opportunity  to connect to people, especially those that are rebuilding their lives and rediscovering their passion or finding their passion for the first time. There is no paycheck that can match that.

Rabbi Mark Borovitz- “That’s right, so I get up every day and I say I am thankful to you O living and eternal King for restoring my soul to me with compassion, great is your faithfulness. I know that I am here by the grace of God.”

Harrie Rossetto- ” Because I decided to listen to the call and to have faith that there was a process that was greater than anything I really knew and that I had been sent to this mission has sustained me for the last 30 years.

Question- So you really are in the miracle business.

Harriet Rosetto-  Yes, and it doesn’t take long for people to get a sense of, this is ok, I like Beit T”Shuvah. I can see that I could have a life here without drugs or alcohol and it would be ok because otherwise why would you want to be sober if life is going to be dreary. I wouldn’t.

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