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November 27, 2015 / 15 Kislev, 5776
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Road To Recovery


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.

Ultimately my husband did go to rehab, but left after staying for ten days. Naturally, he fell right back into his struggles with the drugs and our family nightmare continued. The next five years were filled with ups and downs. He went in and out of rehab. I had joined Nar-anon and attended meetings, however, life had become increasingly difficult for our children and me.

After much consideration, therapy, and discussions with rabbonim and professionals, I finally decided to give him an ultimatum – either he checks himself into rehab and stays there until they discharge him or he gives me a get. Sadly, he chose drugs over his family, a decision I am sure he deeply regretted until the day he died.

Addiction kills if left untreated. Its important to know that even in the “frummest” of communities closet addicts exists. People who are struggling with alcohol, drugs, gambling and many other addictions. Many families are struggling with experiences similar to my own. This series of articles will be dedicated to addressing both the addicts and their loved ones. It will be an advice column, a place where people can voice their questions and concerns and receive experience, strength and hope. It is our hope that this will help to remove the stigma in our community and empower those in need to hold strong while battling this treacherous disease. It works if you work it, so work it – you are worth the time and the effort.

Brocha Silverstein

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