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Addiction Is Not a New Issue for Jewish Community

I read the recent articles publicizing a local forum on addiction in the Jewish community (“Addiction and Substance Abuse Can Happen to Anyone,” April 12, 2018; “An Open Letter to the Orthodox Community: Don’t Say No to Drugs,” April 19, 2018). I found those articles somewhat missed the mark. Alcoholism, drug addiction and recovery are not new issues in the Jewish community.

As an observant member of the local community with over a quarter century of continuous recovery in 12-step fellowships, I can say that I know of numerous other Jewish people from all denominations that have found long-term sobriety in the same rooms. In fact, Rabbi Dr. Abraham Twerski started his treatment center in Pittsburgh more than a quarter century ago, and he has also written books about 12-step recovery. Chabad rabbis have also written articles on the Chabad website, and one Chabad rabbi has also written books about 12-step recovery from alcoholism and drug addiction. For over a quarter of a century, another Chabad rabbi has reached out to the Jewish patients at a drug treatment center in Pennsylvania. I could go on with numerous other examples, but my message is simple: The Jewish community is not in denial about addiction and recovery.

Rather, the 12-step programs were started over 75 years ago with the foundation of anonymity as the guiding principle on which these programs have been successful. They are based upon a principle of attraction and not promotion. Members do not publicize their membership nor their success in recovery not because they are ashamed, but because they respect the anonymity of the fellowship.

My message to anyone struggling with alcoholism or drug addiction is simple. You have an incurable and fatal disease. If you do not treat your disease with an established treatment method, the forecast for your disease is jails, institutions and death. If you refuse to treat your disease, you will not always be able to select a Jewish jail or institution. So, why focus on your terminal uniqueness? If you had cancer or heart disease, would it matter if your physician was an Orthodox Jew or had treated a lot of Orthodox patients? You would select your physician based upon his or her experience and track record of success. Therefore, after a Jewish person is discharged from a treatment center, their focus should be on finding a 12-step program that has a track record of success and then following the program of recovery as members with long-term recovery are doing. There really should be no need to isolate oneself in Jewish organizations that do not have a long-term track record of success in treating alcoholism and drug addiction.

Annie A.

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