Turning Interest Into Action
As a person in long term recovery, I haven’t depended on drugs or alcohol to escape from my life since May 26, 2008. It doesn’t seem that long ago, but as of this writing it has been almost 10 years. In that time, I have seen many people get sober, and find recovery. I didn’t go to a treatment center, instead it was the rooms of 12 step recovery that brought me out of my addiction. What worked for me was abstinence as the key to sobriety and I believe in the disease model of addiction. But I have seen other standards work for other people.
One thing that I am clear about is that the key to success in staying sober and living a life of joy in recovery is to have a connection with something outside of ‘self’. I know my thinking did not get me sober. I know my addiction wasn’t logical and neither was my recovery. It came from somewhere else. As my addiction made me more isolated, my recovery gave me more connection.
I grew up in a mainstream Jewish suburban family. We were observant, in that we had weekly Shabbat dinner at home with family. A tradition that continues to this day. We were not un-kosher, but we only had one set of dishes and one set of pots and pans. I come from a typical family of American Conservative Jews. We were members of the synagogue, we had Hebrew school on Wednesday afternoon and Sunday morning. My uncles and cousins have been President of the Synagogue, I even went to the Hebrew Academy through 3rd grade.
No one, in my family or in my community would look at me and see an addict. And not just alcohol, which seems a bit more socially acceptable. I was an alcoholic as well. But my drug of choice, the one that took me down, was Chrystal Meth. Smoking pot and drinking, and cocaine, mushrooms, LSD, in the 80’s seemed innocent. I guess everyone thinks that their drinking and drugging is normal, until they get caught. Isn’t that really what everyone means when they say they hit bottom. Arrested, overdosed, busted by your parents or the school, job loss, marriage failing…. Whatever it takes.
Suddenly, you want to get sober.
I started to look for answers.
Given my history, you would think it would be easy for me to walk into 12 Step Recovery and find my seat and look to the steps and easily find my path. But, it wasn’t. I looked up on the wall, and thought, they don’t understand my God. My first sponsor asked me to keep my keys under the bed, so each morning I would be forced to get on my knees and could then pray. He didn’t understand how I pray. And yet after all these years, all this education…
I couldn’t find a God of my Understanding that would work with the 12 steps of recovery.
I called my Rabbi, frustrated… “I have an awesome relationship with God. I pray regularly, I study Torah, I go to services… The God of their understanding is Christian. The God of my understanding doesn’t work that way!” And he said to me, “Eric, you’re wrong. None of this makes any sense without a personal God. There would be no point to keeping kosher, if God didn’t care about you personally, none of the mitzvot, or Shabbat would make sense without a personal relationship with God.
There is nothing Un-Jewish about the 12 Steps”.
I’m lucky because I did have a personal relationship with God, and I had a Rabbi to ask for help. Not everyone is that lucky. For many people, the first thing they do when they realize they need help with their addiction or the addiction of someone they love is to sit down at their desk and ask Google,
“What do I do now?”
If they type “Jewish and Recovery”, what they find most is for profit treatment centers. They will find the few treatment centers that do in fact have programs designed for a Jewish client.
Which is great, if you can get there.
This is why we have started on The Jewish Path to Recovery.
We need a place where Jewish thought, and Jewish thinking applies to the problem of addiction. Our program is focused to embrace their Jewish identity and embrace community. We want to find Jewish recovery available right here, right now.
Treatment centers around the world are interested in helping clients find their connection with God. There are centers that speak of a generic spirituality and meditation, there are those that focus on the Christian belief in Jesus. There is a comfort in talking about no God or a toxic relationship with God. What is missing is the Jewish belief in God.
Our tradition goes back over 5000 years. We have a spiritual program that works. It has worked for generations and it will work for you. We must stop shying away from the conversation. Take the Torah and the lessons it teaches and apply them to the struggle with addiction. It's in the first commandment. “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out from the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.”
The traditions of Judaism have been a road map for ethical living. We build a community together to support and love each other. To be there in good times and in bad. Our faith has helped us weather many storms, and many hardships. At the Passover Seder we learn in every generation we were slaves in Egypt and now we long to be free.
I was a slave as an addict, and recovery has set me free.
Eric's Story and why we are here.