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A New Look at Addiction and Recovery in the Jewish Community

By October 29, 2018 Uncategorized

Religion can be an important component for many in recovery. You don’t have to have God as a higher power, but many have turned to their religious beliefs to help them get sober.


In many religious communities, addiction is often still a dirty little secret, which is why it’s now something that is being confronted head-on in the Orthodox Jewish community.


The Religion, Addiction, Recovery and Rehabilitation Connection


NBC just ran a report on addiction in the Orthodox Jewish community, and as one rabbi told the network, “The Orthodox attitude about drug problems is to stay quiet on the issue,” which is something that clearly has to end.


At least one person in recovery told  NBC, “The more Orthodox Jews that end up seeking help, it just raises awareness in general in the community.” This source came back from a hideous heroin addiction. A year and a half after she hit bottom and got sober, she made it her mission to raise awareness in the Orthodox community. She also wants to break down the wall of denial that exists between those suffering from addiction, and those who don’t want to acknowledge the problem.


One rabbi who is working to turn around attitudes about addiction said, “If we can even just save one life, as the Talmud says, you’ve saved an entire world.”


This rabbi launched his own support group that helps people in the Jewish community deal with addiction and mental health trauma. His organization helps people from the ages of 13 to 71, and he’s also noticed a generational shift in attitudes towards addiction and recovery, saying that younger rabbis “get it.”


Religion, Addiction, and Awareness

There are many rehabs and recovery programs that are geared towards people of all walks of life. And when you Google search Jewish recovery programs, it’s remarkable how many will pop up.


While the twelve-steps are the foundation of the recovery process, other rehab programs are also geared towards the Jewish Orthodox traditions.


As one rabbi noted on My Jewish Learning, treatment helps tackle a person’s addiction, while a rabbi can address a patient’s spiritual needs.


As this rabbi explains, “The pastoral caregiver can frame addiction in a spiritual context by using biblical and Midrashic images,” like telling stories from the bible in the context of addiction and recovery.


“Addiction to substances is slavery,” this rabbi continues. “Addiction is a state in which one is powerless and out of control. The story of the Exodus from Egypt is also the personal story of each addicted Jew emerging from his or her narrow place, tempted repeatedly to backslide, but struggling always to reach the promised land of recovery, serenity, and spirituality.”


Analogies can certainly help people visualize the recovery process, and get many to get their heads around the concepts of the recovery process. Thankfully addiction, sobriety and recovery are now things that are spoken about openly in many areas of the Orthodox Jewish community, and while being religious is not a requirement of recovery, it is indeed helping many who need to turn their lives around.