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August 20, 2014 / 24 Av, 5774
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Road To Recovery


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Dear Readers,

I do not regret the past, nor do I wish to shut the door on it. I am now able to understand, feel serenity and know peace. No matter how far down the road I have traveled, I now see how my experiences can benefit others. This is part of the Al-Anon/Nar-anon 12 promises that can be achieved by everyone who “works it.” But I am getting ahead of myself. Let’s start at the beginning:

I had a loved one who was addicted to pain killers, and his disease changed the course of my life forever. My name is Brocha, and I am a grateful member of Al-Anon and Nar-Anon.

About 10 years ago, my first husband a”h was badly injured in a fire. He was in extreme pain all the time and his doctors prescribed various painkillers. However, because he did not have a proper pain-management program and did end up suffering from a myriad of emotional issues, he continued using painkillers for longer than was necessary. So much so, that he developed a chemical dependency to the drugs and could not live without them. Unfortunately, he was not alone. There is a rapidly growing network of frum people who have become addicted to prescription medication.

Obtaining these pills is relatively simple; they are readily available in our shuls, breakfast shops and via private people. My husband used – and used a lot. He was involved in a number of car accidents and was seen at times walking in the streets without wearing proper clothing. He developed seizures and many other medical conditions. Ultimately, those drugs robbed him and us of his core personality.

Although I was living with him at the time, I spent most of the first year of his addiction in utter denial. I associated his behaviors with depression and continuously attempted to cheer him up. I went so far as to hide any difficulties I was having at work or with our children in order to protect him from things I felt were contributing to his depression. He went to doctors for seizures – they medicated him. He went to doctors for insomnia – they medicated him. He went to doctors for stomach issues – they medicated him. He went to doctors for depression – they medicated him…the list went on and on. You see everyone was treating the symptoms and not the underlying problem. Addiction is a disease and needs to be treated as such!

After about a year of my making up excuses for his behavior, a close friend sat me down and broke the news: My husband was an addict. I have to say I experienced a plethora of emotions – the greatest of which was relief that now all of his ailments had a central name… ADDICTION! I hoped that once the illness was defined, it would be easy to cure. In the end, all an addict has to do is stop using… right? At the same time, I was also terribly ashamed and embarrassed. In our community, addiction is still a dirty word. Although I was distraught, I was also sure I would combat this successfully. I asked all of his friends to stop ordering pills for him – he had convinced several friends to place online orders for him, and they had done so without realizing that more than a dozen other people were already placing orders. I began monitoring his computer usage and e-mail addresses and began canceling his on-line orders. I believed that if he had no access to these drugs he would be cured! I went from being naïve to downright foolish, yet my heart was always in the right place.

One night, while both high and depressed, he wanted to commit suicide. I hid his car keys, because I understood what he intended to do. He became so mad and increasingly violent to the point where he couldn’t control himself. That is when it became clear to me that I could not control his addiction, and began looking for help. I contacted an organization that works with both the addict and family members. They met with us and said that we both needed immediate help – my husband for the addiction and myself for what I was going through as a result of the addiction. Addiction is a family disease that affects everyone involved, and I needed to go to Nar-Anon and learn about my part of the disease.

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I feel so much shame about my disease and the pain I have caused my family and friends. I am trying to make things better now, and hopefully I will be able to beat this disease for good. As they say in the meetings: “One day at a time!”

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Dear Brocha,

Hello! My name is Dovid* and I am a Gambling Addict. I am 37 years old, with bli ayin hara, three wonderful children, and a special wife who is the source of my strength and recovery.

Dear Brocha,

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.

Dear Brocha,

As I write this letter I am overcome with emotions. Relief, fear, trepidation, elation…the feelings are all jumbled up inside of me.

Please allow me to back track.

My daughter, who recently turned 20, just left to rehab. After four years of denial, lies, manipulation, anger and chaos she finally admitted she has a problem with alcohol.

Dear Brocha,…

Today, I am a father of six bochurim b”ah. While I love and appreciate all of my children, unfortunately the Yomim Tovim aren’t filled with the good memories as in the days of yore. You see, one of my sons got involved with the wrong crowd, and at 16 he looks forward to Shabbos and Yom Tov as simply another opportunity to drink. Now that Sukkos is almost upon us, instead of joyfully anticipating, I am cautiously fearful about what Simchas Torah will bring.

Dear Brocha,

I am married for 5 years and am unsure how to proceed with my husband and his behavior. Our religion incorporates alcohol throughout the year and during life cycle events. Purim, Pesach, bar mitzvahs, weddings and every Shabbos kiddush (not to mention the kiddush club) all seemingly require alcohol as an integral and necessary ingredient. For my husband, it seems like there is always a “good reason” to make a l’chayim.

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:

Dear Brocha, Hi, I’m not sure how writing to an advice column can help, but I feel so alone and have nowhere to turn. My 25-year-old daughter is addicted to prescription pain killers (Percocet), and so far she doesn’t seem to want help or even acknowledge that she has a problem. About two years ago […]

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