Friday, June 1, 2012

Writing and Writers: Gary Goldstein

Writer’s Block airs every Tuesday, at 9 a.m. MST on KFUN/KLVF, streaming live at 


Jew in Jail, the story of 
recovery one day at a time

Before Gary Goldstein was convicted following the commission of three robberies, he worked for major broadcasting and production companies in New York. Since his release from prison in 2004 after serving a six-year sentence, he has written a book about his recovery from various addictions and the trials he endured while incarcerated. Jew in Jail is a story about the triumph of the human spirit. He is a writer, motivational speaker, and one-man band playing the music of hope.

Gary was raised in Brooklyn, an over-achiever who wanted everyone to like him. His athletic skill led him to be a favorite pick for sports teams and after-school pick-up games at the park. Even though he had no interest in drugs and alcohol, it wasn’t long before he started taking part in the after-game beer drinking and occasional marijuana toke.

“I was a follower. I just wanted to be liked,” he said, so he went along with what was happening around him.

As an intern at a broadcast station in New York while he was in college, he found himself watching all kinds of professional and other sports. “I thought I had it figured out and started making bets.” One thing led to another and before long he was deeply in debt, using drugs and generally out of control. Following his arrest and conviction he was faced with a six-year prison term and a big wake up call. He thought he was on the road to recovery and did well for a year and a half after being released from prison in 2004. One day he decided one drink wouldn’t hurt, that he could handle it.

“That was my final relapse, I hope. I just woke up one morning and asked myself, what am I doing? This is not what I was born to do. I walked into an outpatient drug clinic and signed up. I  attended  for a year and half, six more months than was required, and now I’m president of alumni association. Now I’m helping other people.”

Gary goes wherever he’s invited to talk about the danger of addiction, but his message is really about hope. Addition is a disease. “I’m in remission, but like the program says, I live one day at a time. I tell myself, listen I can go the next 24 hours. I get through that day and say it all over again.”

The perception that Jewish people are bright, success oriented and typically above doing drugs and alcohol is stereotyping from a different perspective. Gary said he took a lot of ribbing, was discriminated against and received negative comments from guards and fellow prisoners because he was a Jew in jail. “It’s not like this was something I chose to do (being a substance abuser who ended up in jail). He also figured out that it’s nothing to be ashamed of. He knew he had an illness; he asked for help. “I knew I needed help. See, here I was, a tough guy from Brooklyn, I could handle it, but addiction is the heavyweight champ of the world, the undisputed champion waiting to pounce. I couldn’t do it on my own, nobody can.”

Gary’s motivational speaking is intended to reach out and help others, but he said it helps him as well. When he gives back, he gets something in return, healing and focus.

One of Gary’s most heartbreaking moments came when he learned of the death of his father while he was waiting for the legal system to take its course. “I couldn’t go to the funeral. That’s something I live with my whole life.”

 Jew in Jail, was written to help others, and to honor Gary’s father, who, along with his mother, stood by Gary through everything. He began writing while he was still in prison, keeping a journal in which he recorded his thoughts and experiences. He said after the first couple of years he started to regain self-esteem. “It helped me see the progress I was making.

What he’s learned about himself is the he is a decent human being and that he didn’t have to please other people to be happy. 

Jew in Jail is available on Gary's website,

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