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February 27, 2015 / 8 Adar , 5775
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Road To Recovery

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Dear Brocha,

Thank you so much for being brave enough to share your story. I am getting chizuk just from reading about your journey. I know my husband and I need to go to a meeting, and we will. Let me tell you my story:

My 20-year-old son lives at home. He has some learning disabilities; however they never affected him socially. In school he was always “one of the guys.” However, now that his friends have graduated they are all either in college or Beit Medrash. He went to college for one semester then dropped out. He now has two jobs, and I am proud of him.

While I was cleaning his room last week, I found some marijuana. My husband says he has smelled it for the last couple of weeks. I am a child of the sixties, and some of my friends did experiment with drugs and today they are productive citizens. I am left with a lingering question, is my son an addict or just experimenting? If he is an addict I would like to get him help. He has so much potential and I don’t want him to waste his life, yet I don’t want to accuse him of being an addict and jeopardize our already fragile relationship.

Caring Mom

Dear Caring Mom,

Unfortunately many teenagers who turn to drugs do so because they do not have the proper tools to deal with their emotional pain. If a teenager feels he is inadequate, and is unable to go to the same school/college/yeshiva as his friends due to a disability, if he does not realize that he is blessed with many talents that his friends do not have, and the pain gets too strong to bear, he (or she) can turn to drugs.

At this point, only your son knows if he is an addict. In the beginning most people feel they can handle the drug use, yet after a while it is the drug that is handling them. They lived to use, and now use to live. An addict’s life becomes controlled by the drugs.

We all have preconceived notions about what an addict is. There is no shame in admitting to being an addict once he begins to take positive action. If he can identify his problem then he can begin to identify his solution. The following is an abbreviated list of questions that if your son can answer honestly will help him define whether or not he is an addict.

1. Have you ever used alone?

2. Have you ever manipulated or lied to a doctor to get a prescription?

3. Have you ever stolen to get drugs?

4. Do you avoid people who do not approve of your using drugs?

5. Have you lied about what or how much you use?

6. Have you put the purchase of drugs ahead of your financial responsibilities?

7. Have you ever lied about how much you are using?

8. Have you ever tried to stop or control your using?

As I said before, whether your son is an addict or not is a question only he can answer. The actual number of “yes” responses to the above questions is not as important as how he feels inside and how the addiction has affected his life. Addiction is an insidious disease that affects all areas of the addict’s life.

When he firsts reads the questions it might be frightening for him to think that he is an addict. Most addicts will try to rationalize saying, “I’m different and I know I use drugs but I’m not addicted.” However, if he is an addict he must first admit he has a problem before any progress can be made toward recovery.

These questions, when honestly approached, may help to show him how using drugs has made his life unmanageable.

Addiction is a disease which without recovery ends in jail, institution or death. Addiction robs people of their pride, self-esteem, family and even their desire to live. If your son has not reached this point he doesn’t have to. There is a way to bring the rock bottom up to him, thereby encouraging him to seek recovery. Although an addict is not responsible for his disease he is responsible for his recovery.

Since addiction is a family disease, the family needs to seek recovery. I strongly recommend you and your husband attend a Nar-Anon meeting as soon as possible.

Take care of yourselves and each other,
Brocha

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Thank you so much for your column and for shining light on this matter.

Addiction has been gnawing at the souls of our community for a long time. Yet, it still remains a disease that is swept under the table.

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