Due to a combination of ADD and what my neurologist termed a “massive traumatic brain injury in infancy,” in order to function “normally,” I require stimulants. lots of them. I take enough stimulants by prescription to launch a space station — the older I get, the more I need My doctor wanted to move me from my current stimulant to Methamphetamine (yes, it is a real legal medication)
I knew for years that stimulants focused me, slowed me down and increased my attention. If I didn’t have them, I was scattered, erratic, and so depressed that, as one specialist told me, “a good mood to you would be suicidal depression to anyone else.”
I took stimulants from the street and they worked. When my family found out, they insisted that I stop. I stopped and then I was told that they could tell I was on drugs because I was spacey, erratic, couldn’t focus etc. So, I went back on them and was praised for doing so well. It was crazy.
Two weeks before I entered Beit Teshuva, November 2004, I was living just off Crack Alley between Sherwood street and the Commercial Center, home of the Las Vegas Lounge, aka the transgendered center of Sin City.
I had been without my mental health medication since losing my insurance Oct 30th 2003, I was being evicted from my apartment for playing loud Mariachi music at 6 am every morning. (a false accusation, I assure you), my former roommate had stolen my identity and looted my bank accounts of every cent and committed bank fraud in my name. I was broke, mentally unstable, and had just walked downstairs to find my dog, Isis, performing oral sex on a girl named “Froggy” while a 19-year-old prostitute from Texas was shooting Heroin.
I didn’t invite any of these people over, and I had no idea they were in my home until I went downstairs
“Don’t get uptight,” croaked Froggy, “We’ll hit the house. She pointed to her purse on the couch arm. “There’s a quarter ounce there. Take it. It’s yours.”
I took it, turned, and went back upstairs to hide under the covers
Within the next few days, my Mariachi motivated eviction on the horizon, I moved my remaining valuables into the closet of someone else’s apartment down the street, and then stood in front of Sunrise Hospital and prayed with total sincerity.
“God, unless you have a better idea by 7 pm tonight, I’m going to do whatever it takes to be admitted to the psych ward.” I was serious. I had tried everything to get the medications required to keep me somewhat sane and neither suicidal nor dangerous to others. Nevada mental health refused me because “If you don’t take them, you can sell them.”
“I don’t want to sell them, I want to take them. I need them.”
“Sorry, we are forbidden to give anyone those precise medications.”
Well, It was approaching 7 pm, and I was ready to start smashing windows and babbling like a crazy person. Hell, the cops won’t shoot me, I’m not Black. At 6:45 pm my brother, Stan, called my cell phone. He’d been talking to my friend John Hill whose daughter recovered from her drug related problems at Beit T’shuva, a rather wacky odd-ball rehab run by a former felon turned Rabbi, his wife, and a crew of real life certified professionally trained counselors. Would I go? Sure, but I have to talk to them first because there are two things I need assurances of, or I’m opting for the psych ward.
- Don’t try to break my denial of my alcoholism, because I don’t drink, can’t stand the smell of alcohol, and I have a fear or drunks. from having been sexually abused by a guy with booze on his breath when I was 15. I went to a rehab in the 80’s where I was forced to lie and say I was an alcoholic. It was a dreadful experience, and I wouldn’t want to relive it.
- Help me get my mental health medications from a real psychiatrist
Okay, I’m ready to go to L.A when my transgendered pal, Adele, asks if she can walk my dog. Sure. She walked the dog and came back without her. Apparently, she left the dog as collateral for some meth she wanted on credit. She wouldn’t give me a straight answer on ISIS’s whereabouts, and I had to leave Las Vegas without her.
My first day at Beit T’shuvah could have been a disaster. I desperately wanted to do everything right, pay attention, and be the exemplary “student” or whatever I was supposed to be. I’m sitting in some group and someone is talking and I’m trying to pay attention when I get the first warning signs of a seizure – not a grand mal, but the little ones that don’t last long, but knock me out cold. They are going to think I’m nodding off from drugs, or that I’m not paying attention. I left the group and went up to my bunk and lied on my bed. When a counselor, Adam Mindel, came up to ask me why I left the group, I told him tearfully that I didn’t want to be humiliated by having s seizure. I was braced for insults and berating…but he said, “Oh, Okay. I understand. You just rest till you feel better.”
Wow. That was cool. Then they assigned me, my own professional counselor. This was an answered prayer. I feared some bombastic judgmental ex-drunk drill Sargent out to bust my denial and all that crap. Nope. I got Leonard Lee Buschel. Thank you, God!
Leonard was exactly what I needed. Someone who listened, rather than waiting for the opening to inject aphorisms and rehearsed catechisms from the Oxford Group via Bill W. We had a conversation, like two guys with similar interests and backgrounds will do when they meet.
We also were among the few adult males in the building who didn’t utilize “Fucking” as the English language’s universal modifier. In fact, while working in the kitchen I replied to a question from a “senior resident“ in a most polite and courteous manner. “Don’t fucking talk to me like that,” objected the equivalent of an upper classman, “I’m not some fucking intellectual like fucking Leonard Buschel.”
“I fucking concur with your fucking self-appraisal,” said I, mustering all my fucking sincerity.
I got my psychiatric meds, a custom crafted program of exactly what I needed emotionally, and best of all I got Leonard Buschel as my counselor. I never felt like he was trying to “fix me” or “change me” from whom I was prior to showing up there.
In the years prior to my Las Vegas meltdown, precipitated by a surprize divorce from my wife of 29 years, I established a firm and unassailable reputation for integrity as one of America’s premier investigative journalists. I entered the rarified ranks of such luminaries as Agatha Christie, Mickey Spillane, Quentin Tarantino and Jack Olsen when I won the prestigious Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America and was nominated twice for the Anthony Award at the World Mystery Convention. In both my private and personal life, I am, in the words of Secret Service Special Agent Lyle Workman, “A man worthy of trust.”
Of the many joys of having Leonard as my counselor, the most encouraging one was that he trusted me. This is very significant because many people, even counselors, can fall victim to assuming that everyone in a rehab is a liar and a thief.
One night, after Leonard’s shift, and before my bed time, we were going to go down the street to the Jazz Bakery. At the last minute, Leonard had to cancel and said that I had permission to go without him. “If anyone questions you, have them call me for confirmation.”
Sure enough, I was stopped at the door leading out to Venice Blvd.by the new female counselor who asked me “where do you think you are going at this hour?”
“Jazz Bakery,” I said. “Leonard has given me permission.”
The female counselor shrugged her shoulders with familiar minimum wage incredulity before calling Leonard for confirmation, and then saying, “Well Leonard has a reputation for doing strange things, and I guess he’s done it again. Ok. Go. Have fun.” The jazz band, by the way, was most enjoyable. Honestly.
After I was at Beit T’shuvah for maybe two weeks, Leonard gave me a pass to go back to Las Vegas to look for my dog. The rest of Beit Teshuvah’s counseling staff was drop jawed by this most peculiar deviation from established norms – I was too new to return to Sin City because the Temptations would lead me to a ball of confusion, and I would never return, no never return, and my fate would be unlearned.
Before I left, Leonard gave me his personal Sobriety Pin and asked me to bring it back to him and not lose it. I promised him I would and as I was getting my meds, it was easy to promise to stay off street drugs, too.
Leonard demonstrated the value of trust and reinforced integrity. I promised to return on the following Monday and test clean when I did. People were stunned that I kept my word — I am a man of my word, dammit.
Leonard’s best advice to me at Beit T’shuvah came at about three months into my four months stay: “Burl, you thrive around creative productive people, using or not. Illness is more contagious than health. I think this place has too much toxicity for you. I suggest we get you the hell of out here,”
I went from that conversation with Leonard to a meeting with SONY, and came back with a contract for a “tie in novel” to an upcoming motion picture. Yes, I delivered the novel on time and it did very well. Leonard and I remain friends, and I’m honored to work with him on the advisory board of Writers in Treatment, producers of the Reel Recovery Film Festivals, and publishers of the highly successful Addiction/Recovery E-Bulletin on which I serve as a truth seeking investigating journalist and occasional contributing editor.
I was blessed, honestly, to have Leonard as my counselor at Beit Teshuva. He rightly perceived that I was neither afflicted with alcoholism or the disease of addiction, and my drug problem was primarily a lack of the appropriate ones rather than overuse of inappropriate ones. – and instead of lecturing me on what to do or not do in my life, he, as a loyal friend encouraged me to successfully make decisions in my own best interest, and in the best interests of those whom I love. Nobody is perfect. Perfectionists seldom accomplish anything because nothing is perfect. Striving for excellence is successful because excellence Is attainable. If excellence were Leonard Buschel’s goal, he certainly attained it.
Copyright 2017 Burl Barer. All rights reserved.