Friday, July 29, 2011

"They wanted me to go to Yeshivah but I said no, no, no."

"They wanted me to go to Yeshivah but I said no, no, no."

These were the lyrics to my Purim Idol song. It’s an annual event at the only Jewish rehab centre in the world: the Chabad Residential Treatment Centre in LA - where I served as Rabbi for three years. Imitating the popular television show, clients and staff would take to the stage.

When I arrived in LA I knew very little about drugs and addiction. When I left I had learned much, mostly from direct experiences and it is from that place (non-professional) that I write today.

Like many others I was saddened when I heard of the untimely passing of Amy Winehouse last Saturday night. Like many others I was not shocked.

To all those that asked whether she attended Saatchi Shul, sadly she didn’t. Not long after moving to London and becoming the Rabbi at Saatchi, I tried to reach out to Amy. So did many others, I have now learned.

We don’t know for sure how Amy died but we know she suffered from addiction: a destructive path that has taken the lives of many young and talented people

I remember when my close friend Josh overdosed, after a long year of sobriety. So many people were looking to take the blame. No one can be blamed, no parents, no doctors, no friends or producers. Some refer to addiction as a disease.

What then is its cure? If any?

What is it about addiction that those affected seem hopeless?

What does one do if someone they know has symptoms of addiction?

Rehab experts, psychiatrists, psychologists and hypnotists the world over have marvelled at the state of the mind the addict and come up with different “cures”.

The 12 step program is the most widely accepted. One of the most preeminent figures in America in the field of addiction is Rabbi Dr Abraham Twerski:

“The 12-step programs have been a very effective method of overcoming the scourge of a variety of addictions — alcohol, drugs, food, gambling, sex — and several others.”

In his introduction to Judaism and the 12 steps, Rabbi Twerski asks: “Are the 12-steps kosher? I think they reach the highest standards.”

If a friend or family member has questionable behavioural patterns, seek help for them, as there are places to turn.

There are many resources online and in London there is Drugsline Chabad, run by my colleague Rabbi Sufrin

Shabbat Shalom

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