“As a kid, I always felt half a step off,” said Rabbi Mark Borovitz, CEO, Spiritual Leader and Head Rabbi at Beit T’Shuvah addiction recovery center in Los Angeles. “I was always trying to fit in, but could never find the path.”
Born in Cleveland, Ohio, Mark Borovitz always tried to be a good son, good brother and good friend. Instead, he grew up to become involved in a 20-year life of crime.
At the age of 14, his father passed away and Borovitz found himself in need of supporting his family as the oldest child still living at home. This began his life of stealing and hustling as part of an illegal underworld society.
It started with petty thievery but soon enough Mark was getting comfortable with breaking the law. “It gave me a feeling of being someone important at a time when I felt like an outsider,” he says.
Borovitz’s illegal actions soon led to bigger crimes like selling stolen goods for the Cleveland mob, all while keeping most of his family and friends completely unaware of his double life.
After one year in college, he dropped out and decided to move to California. There, he was in and out of jail, but it wasn’t until he was arrested in 1986 that his double life changed forever.
One day while sitting in a jail cell Borovitz was suddenly, as he describes it, “struck sober.” He told his wife not to bail him out and asked instead for books on the teachings of Judaism. He then began to study the Torah.
To this day, the rabbi cannot specifically pinpoint the reason for this monumental life-changing decision. Somehow, he believed that spirituality and religion were the only passageways to him getting out of his true prison: himself.
His Jewish studies in prison began his process of realizing that both reason and faith are necessary for recovery. Unlike other addicts and inmates, he embraced Judaism before embracing the traditional 12-Step program. As he says, “Most people get help for their addiction first, but I have always done things a little differently.”
Free at Last
Today, 27 years sober, Rabbi Mark devotes himself to helping others live a path of wellness. Beit T’Shuvah, translated as the “house of new responses,” currently supports about 140 recovering addicts and cultivates a culture of spiritual community and looking within. As the addiction crisis grows, Rabbi Mark iterates that “above all, connection is necessary for every human being. At Beit T’Shuvah we connect people, resources and faith for a positive outcome.”
In order to work towards long-term success, Beit T’Shuvah’s recovery program is a comprehensive one that works in three steps: primary residential treatment, extended residential treatment and off-campus transitional living. There are several unique alternative therapies offered to residents as well. This includes surf therapy, yoga, fitness training, meditation, art therapy, music therapy with recording studio session, organic gardening and a training program to run the LA Marathon.
The family is also recognized as a key component on the journey to sobriety at Beit T’Shuvah. Just like the addict, family members must be able to facilitate new responses to their loved one’s behavior. Beit T’Shuvah’s program guides each family through the process of recovery using unconventional methods such as family immersion weekends and a parents’ focused Al-Anon group.
A Continual Chapter
As far as Rabbi Mark’s current life in sobriety goes, he still puts in work every day. Through a daily inventory, he personally explores what he is doing well and where he has room to improve. His latest book Finding Recovery and Yourself In Torah: A Daily Spiritual Path to Wholeness, due later this month, is focused precisely on this day-to-day support and realization that every moment is a learning experience. As he reminds everyone, including himself, “We must remember that all we have is this moment,” he states. “We must forgive ourselves.”
From mobster to spiritual leader, Rabbi Mark can now safely say that he is no longer trapped between two worlds. Instead, he has managed to take a pair of very polarizing experiences and conjoin them into one singular, healing message that satiates not only his own soul, but an entire recovering community’s as well.
Finding Recovery and Yourself In Torah: A Daily Spiritual Path to Wholeness is now available for pre-order on Amazon.