June 23, 2024
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CCSA to Host ‘Now What? How to Help Someone With Substance Abuse Issues’

Around 46% of Americans have a close friend or family member who struggles with substance use or addiction. When we expand this to include colleagues, peers or even members of our shul, chances are everybody knows somebody.

Addiction is a disease that affects every community – Jewish or not. As members of Klal Yisrael, though, we are all accountable for one another. But what does that accountability look like in practice?

Addressing the “Now What?”

CCSA was started as a direct response to addiction in our own family and the isolation, fear and desperation that we felt. When our family was confronted with this issue, we struggled to accept the “three Cs” of dealing with a loved one’s addiction: “I didn’t cause it, I can’t cure it, I can’t control it.” Feeling overwhelmed with helplessness and fear, my parents began frantically researching treatment options and getting professional advice on the subject.

Unfortunately, due to the shame and stigma associated with addiction, our family found very little communal dialogue and support for ourselves. This led to a very public event where our family told our story in the hope that no other family would feel alone like we did. This is also why CCSA has hosted a series of community events, aimed at increasing awareness, opening up these important conversations, increasing knowledge of resources available and helping people feel less alone. The goal: to eliminate stigma and save lives.

As we hopefully succeed in eliminating stigma and people are coming forward, though, the question becomes: “Now what?” How does one actually help someone who is struggling?

On April 18, CCSA is addressing the issue of “Now what?” by hosting a virtual event that includes a panel of Jewish leaders and professionals to address the various obstacles, strategies and options for getting someone help with an addiction. Panelists include Rabbi Dr. Benzion Twerski, Dr. Audrey Freshman, Rabbi Mordechai Willig and Dr. Moshe Winograd. Collectively, they will address halachic concerns, communication strategies and treatment options.

Stigmas, Hurdles and Complications When Getting Someone Help

Whether it’s a fear of judgment, not knowing about Jewish-specific resources or having children of shidduch age, Jewish individuals often face culturally specific stigmas and concerns. In addition to that, all sorts of issues arise when deciding how to approach a loved one or friend. What do I say? What can I do? How do I balance helping vs. enabling?

Beyond these communication and religious concerns, there are also many misconceptions and roadblocks that exist on a larger level. These misconceptions about treatment/recovery exist in society, the media and even in public policymaking and healthcare settings.

Some common misconceptions include:

Addiction treatment does not fall within the purview of the medical system.

Complete abstinence is the primary goal of treatment.

Therapy (or psychosocial intervention) will not be successful until someone is abstinent.

Addiction treatment medications should be avoided because they merely “substitute one addiction for another.”

A person needs to “hit rock bottom” for treatment to be successful.

The only type of “successful” treatment is a 30-day rehab.

Each of these assumptions is blatantly contradicted by research and evidence, and each sadly only serves to reinforce the stigma around the disease.1

Our goal in hosting this event is to continue eliminating the stigma that persists around addiction, shattering these misconceptions and giving our community the tools necessary to combat addiction on all fronts. CCSA’s mission is one of empowerment, education and awareness.

Community-Centric Options and Resources

Following the main panel, there will be a community fair highlighting specific treatment options with culturally appropriate, evidence-based modalities for Jewish individuals. Just like no two people’s addiction looks the same, no two people’s treatment or recovery will look the same either. Unfortunately, there’s no “one size fits all” solution.

That is why CCSA has garnered a group of trusted providers to talk through their specific programs and options. They will be there to answer any remaining questions about different types of treatment that exist, who treatment is for, how the process works and what Jewish-specific treatment looks like.

Presenting at the community fair will be Center for Living, Recovery at the Crossroads, SOBA, Transcend and Transformations.

We look forward to seeing you at the event. Pre-registration is available at https://www.jewishccsa.org/upcoming-events.

For more information on the event, please contact us at [email protected].

1. Richter L., Vuolo L., Salmassi M.S. (2019) Stigma and Addiction Treatment. In: Avery J., Avery J. (eds) The Stigma of Addiction. Springer, Cham.


Elana (Ellie) Forman is a graduate student at UPenn, researching public culture. She also works as the prevention outreach coordinator for CCSA, Communities Confronting Substance Abuse—a family-founded, not-for-profit organization. Ellie is a certified peer recovery specialist, and uses her own struggles with addiction (and recovery) to bring in educational programming into schools and Jewish communities, working towards shattering the stigma associated with addiction as a medical and mental health issue—and giving people the awareness, education and empowerment needed to combat addiction on all fronts.

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