Unless you have been hiding under a rock, you will know our country faces a drug addiction crisis taking the lives of seven people every hour, 175 people per day. In personal terms, it is almost impossible not to know someone who is either in treatment, recovery or has died due to this horrific epidemic. Our family is no exception.
A little over 18 months ago, my wife and I received a text informing us that a family member of ours was in a “life and death situation” and required our immediate attention. We hurried to a horrible scene. Fortunately, we were able to intervene and save our family member. A few hours later we spoke to a substance disorder specialist who directed us to an excellent rehabilitation facility in Pennsylvania called Caron.
Considering how many people suffer from substance disorder, we were surprised to find a space available. Fifteen hours later we arrived at Caron where our family member would be safe and receive the necessary treatment. Two weeks later, we attended Caron’s Family Educational Program known as FEP. Over five draining days filled with education and intense family therapy we became better informed about how to cope with the debilitating and insidious disease known as addiction.
The program began on Shabbat. We arrived on Friday afternoon. I clearly remember thinking to myself, instead of attending shul with my friends and sitting at our usual Shabbat table, my wife and I sat alone in the guest house in Pennsylvania, thinking, “What in the world are we doing here?”
At the time we did not realize this was just the beginning of our recovery journey. After 28 days of intense detox treatment and guidance from the experts and professionals at Caron, a highly structured sober living facility was the next step. Fast forward to 18 months later, this family member has graduated from the recovery program, has a steady job, lives independently and occasionally joins us for Shabbat and holiday meals. We have fared better than most.
Yet we live also with the idea of “one day at a time” with no guarantees. Which is true for everyone really. At just a moment’s notice, life can thrust any of us into a challenging situation, one not of our own making. Before entering the recovery process, I honestly thought the motto was a silly throwaway line. As I go through it, I have come to appreciate the wisdom and comfort of this phrase.
Early on in the recovery process we were taught that healing depended on us working on our own recovery. Initially, I thought, “Who me? I’m not an addict. I don’t use drugs. What are they talking about?”
We were told over and over that addiction is a family disease. If you want to be helpful to your family member, start focusing on your own recovery. Shortly after our five days FEP, we located a weekly family support group that we attend almost every week. We have joined other people who have experienced devastation and suffering at the hands of this disease. The drug of choice is not important. Weekly, people share their heartache, fears, and anxieties, as well as stories of success and joy.
Regardless of how much time any of us invests in recovery, we sadly accept and understand that there are no guaranteed outcomes. We have come to learn we can’t force others to be well, and that the desire to heal must come from within oneself for long-term, successful recovery to be possible. At the same time, my wife and I have learned we are not powerless over our own recovery. We can attend meetings, connect with others, seek professional guidance, educate ourselves and — yes — go on with our lives.
Sharing our family’s story and offering guidance and support to others is part of the recovery process for both of us.
Rabbi Moshe Drelich is a local Jewish educator. A community-wide program on addiction and substance abuse, sponsored by Adumim, which helps Jewish families in crisis, will be held on Feb. 2 at 8 p.m. at the Riverdale Jewish Center, 3700 Independence Avenue. For more information: email email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.