Why should we talk about sex addictions? What is so important about discussing domestic violence in the Jewish community? Do you know someone who lost legal rights to their children, or who had to be mandated for treatment for substance addiction? Why speak about addiction at all?
At Communities Confronting Substance Use & Addiction, our mission has always been to offer support to those struggling with substances and addiction, equip them with the knowledge and skills to cope with these challenges, and to create open dialogue in an effort to shatter the stigma associated with these issues.
Since our inception in 2018, we have been astounded by the multitude of people who have approached us with their own private struggles with addictions of all types, not just substances. We have received emails and phone calls from so many people (parents, siblings, spouses, children, grandparents) concerned about themselves or family members who are exhibiting signs of drug, nicotine, gambling, porn, internet or other addictions. We tell them, “You are not alone; this is an issue that affects our Jewish community,” but how would they know that if we don’t speak about it openly and honestly?
After one of our community events, we were contacted by someone with a very emotional plea to please talk about sex addiction. This person felt helpless and ashamed, and stated that if we think that substance addiction is subject to stigma, sex addiction is even more stigmatized in our community. It was a desperate cry for help, and we are responding. This was neither the first (nor the last) time that we heard directly from someone in our community struggling with this particular issue, and we realized it was time to take action.
We need to shine a light on all of these concerns and be candid and honest that they exist within our community, amongst our neighbors, friends and loved ones. We need to have conversations about these difficult subjects without shame or embarrassment in order to shatter the stigma associated with these matters and truly help those who are suffering.
The first step to getting help for oneself or a loved one is to admit that there is a problem. It is far from easy, but if these addictions and situations are not acknowledged and spoken about in the Jewish community, it is less likely that someone will admit to needing help. That person—your wife, father, son, cousin, sister—will continue to suffer in silence, feeling the shame and stigma too often associated with these issues, and will not get the support and help they desperately need. Without intervention, help and support, sufferers and their families experience worse outcomes.
We have seen firsthand how difficult it is to reach out, to say that you or someone you care about is struggling, to try to find treatment or support. We applaud the hundreds of people who have courageously reached out to us for help over the years. Sadly, so many of them express how isolated they feel. They believe that they have no one to talk to, nowhere to find support within the Jewish community, and that there is no one else struggling with these issues.
There is no shortcut to dealing with this. Whether you know someone personally affected or not is irrelevant. If you are a member of the Jewish community, then you know someone impacted by these challenges whether you realize it or not. We have a communal obligation and responsibility to help those in need. The only way to do this is to bring these topics out into the open and shine a light on these issues, allowing those who need our support and help the chance to come forward and break the silence.
To address so many of these concerns, CCSA is hosting another in our series of community educational programs aimed at eliminating stigma. “‘We Don’t Talk about THAT!’ Taboo Topics in Jewish Life” will feature subjects that are often “swept under the rug” and not spoken about openly within the Jewish community: domestic violence, sex/porn addictions and substance use addictions. Practitioners, therapists and advocates will provide firsthand accounts and discuss these issues that are so often treated as shameful secrets in our community. In addition, there are often legal challenges when a family member has any type of an addiction, which people often find embarrassing or difficult to deal with. There will be a session on legal rights and ramifications of substance use, such as how to deal with a family member who is arrested due to drug possession, mandating someone to treatment, or handling custody issues with a family member who can no longer care for their own children due to substance use issues.
While much of the focus of CCSA’s work is on substance use issues and addiction, it is imperative to reduce the stigma about ALL addictions and stigmatized issues in the Jewish community. We cannot solve these potentially life-or-death matters until we talk about them openly and honestly.
Please join us Sunday, December 12, 10 a.m. ET. This virtual event is free of charge. Pre-registration is required at: https://www.jewishccsa.org/upcoming-events.
Lianne Forman, a 29+ year Teaneck resident and a corporate and employment lawyer by training, is the executive director of Communities Confronting Substance Use & Addiction (CCSA), the organization she and her husband, Etiel, founded in 2018. Through their own family’s struggles, they founded CCSA to create greater community awareness and education about substance misuse and addiction in the Jewish community. CCSA’s mission is to eliminate stigma around addiction in Jewish communities through awareness events and facilitating evidence-based educational programming in schools for students and parents. Visit www.JewishCCSA.org for more information.