April 19, 2024
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April 19, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

ALATEEN MARKS ITS FIRST ANNIVERSARY

Passaic—In Clifton last month, 35 people came to show their gratitude for an innovative Alateen program for Orthodox teenagers, including participants, friends and family. Alateen is a support group for teens with a family member, usually a parent, who is an alcoholic or drug addict. Two members spoke that night about how Alateen had changed their lives.

Rikki Wisotsky, a licensed clinical social worker, who helps out in Clifton and leads a Tuesday night group in Passaic for frum girls, said Alateen teaches kids how to understand addiction, how they need to react to the addict’s behavior and how to make the relationship better. “It gives them hope, coping skills and tools,” she said. The Passaic group will be marking its first anniversary in May and now has four to eight girls coming to sessions weekly.

Alateen follows a 12-step program similar to Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), the program for the alcoholics and addicts themselves. An addiction in the family usually causes a lot of trauma. When a parent who is normally the one children go to for guidance is the one responsible for the dysfunction, vulnerable teens feel lost and need to find help for themselves. Too often, the girls have addiction issues of their own including eating disorders.

Wisotsky thinks the internet has contributed to the troubled behavior of both adults and teens—and can be an addiction in its own right. “Before the internet, you had to know someone who could be a negative influence. Facebook friends aren’t real friends and they’re more available. They can put you in touch with the wrong people.”

While Alateen helps the children of alcoholics and addicts, “The Chill” in Clifton is giving support to teens who are struggling with other issues: emotional problems; religious doubts or parents who are sick, going through a divorce or having serious financial difficulties.

“The Chill” has separate boys and girls groups and meets at a shul in Clifton. Rikki Wisotsky works with the girls’ group, for eighth graders through high school, and her husband, Adam Wisotsky, also a licensed social worker, helps with the boys. Mentors from the community volunteer to work with the kids. Wisotsky said each group has speakers and activities geared to their interests, followed by a hot dinner.

Said Rikki, “For the girls, we had someone teach them about make-up, and next we’ll be talking about skin care. My husband gives the boys guitar lessons and they’ve had martial arts classes.” On Friday nights, there is a rotating Oneg Shabbat at the homes of host families.

The Alateen Tuesday night meetings in Passaic take place at Tifereth Israel, 180 Passaic Avenue. For more information about “The Chill” or Alateen, contact the Wisotskys at 973/249-7435.

By Bracha Schwartz

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