How it is to be an addicted Jew: A faith-based approach for addiction recovery

The phrase ‘addiction doesn’t discriminate’ has been used for years as a reminder that drug and alcohol abuse can affect anyone. People from all spiritual backgrounds and religions can find themselves in a trap of addiction.

There’re many faith-based rehabs in the U.S., and many treatment programs are designed specifically for people from the Jewish faith. These programs offer the same treatment methods as traditional programs that have proven their effectiveness and also incorporate the revival of faith as an important part of recovery.

Judaism and Addiction

Alcohol and drug abuse is not something the Jewish community is vocal about. But the mere existence of a Jewish drug rehab makes it clear that the subject is ceasing to be a taboo.

Due to the tendency to deny the reality of addiction, there always was a lack of statistics on substance abuse among Jews. It was long believed that religious Jews couldn’t face this problem.

Nowadays, these approach and belief are things of the past. The community is becoming aware of the issue of drug and alcohol dependence.

Rabbi Dr. Abraham Twerski discards the myth that Jews never drink alcohol or use drugs. He worries about the “growing malignancy” of substance abuse. If it remains ignored, the consequences may be fatal not only for the abuser. It can ruin families and ultimately destroy a whole community.

Twerski wants the Jewish community to no longer sweep Jewish alcoholism and drug use under the rug, but to acknowledge that the disease exists. He also encourages religious leaders to establish training programs for Clergy and other Jewish professionals to teach them to help people with problems.

Recovery via Spiritual Enlightenment

Treatment for the multilayered problems of addiction is based on altering the thought and the behavior patterns of the addict. Jewish rehab centers usually provide pastoral counseling that addresses the spiritual sides of the disease. It helps the patient to break an addictive pattern and develop spiritually oriented thinking and behavior.

Addiction results from a spiritual void in one’s life. So, the pastoral caregiver deals with the problem within a spiritual framework by making references to the Bible and Midrash. For example, the Israelite Exodus from Egypt is presented as a model for the escape from addiction to substance-free life.

Egypt (in Hebrew, Mitzrayim) literally means a “place of narrowness.” The Hebrews lived there in the slavery that endured 400 years. The word “addiction” comes from a root of the Latin word “addictus” which means “to give oneself over.”

Someone who suffers from substance addiction is enslaved. A person in this state has no control over life and is powerless. For each addicted Jew, the story of the Exodus from Egypt symbolizes the personal story of breaking free from his or her narrow place. In spite of the repeated temptations to backslide, they struggle until they reach the promised land of spirituality and recovery.

What Is a Jewish Rehab?

Jewish rehab programs contain the components of a traditional treatment program but accommodate them to the principles of Jewish faith. The programs combine the tenets of the Torah and the 12-step philosophy.

Inpatient treatment programs usually require the patients to live in the facilities at least for a month. These 30 days are dedicated to working with detox specialists, licensed addiction therapists, and psychiatrists.

When addicts become the patients of a particular Jewish rehab, they undergo a medical detox, like in any other traditional rehab. Detoxification aims to rid the body of the harmful toxins that have accumulated in the body during the abuse. Medical professionals supervise this process as detoxing from some substances can be dangerous for health.

After that, patients are evaluated by the therapist and physiatrist. They check them for other diseases.

The majority of Jewish drug rehabilitation centers offer faith-based programs that comprise spiritual modalities centered toward Judaism. Patients attend individual and group therapy sessions run by professional therapists.

Group therapy helps the recovering addicts to share feelings and experiences. They see that they are not alone in their struggle with alcohol or drug dependence. The therapy can also cover such topics as codependency relationships, relapse prevention, and anger management.

Other services that enhance recovery process include:

  • A healthy diet and regular physical exercising
  • Spiritual guidance and direction for individuals and their families
  • 12-step program based on the Torah
  • Praying and meditation with religious scriptures
  • Alternative types of therapy, such as art or equine therapy.

Most addicts involved in recovery understand the role of meetings, support groups, therapy and spiritual counseling in combatting addiction.

The Benefits of Jewish Rehabs

Getting addiction treatment at Jewish rehabilitation facilities has its advantages:

  • Faith-based approach: This type of rehab attracts Jewish people that are suffering from the same problems. Thus, a feeling of belonging starts to emerge and deep connections are beginning to form. Moreover, the programs provide counseling sessions founded on religious philosophy and therapies that meet the special needs of addicted religious Jews.
  • After-care support: When a patient successfully completes a treatment program, this isn’t over yet. Recovery from addiction is a lifelong process. Ex-addicts need assistance as they reintegrate into their usual life. A “sober living” program is available for approximately half a year or more. People learn to live drug-free or alcohol-free life and better manage the stressful situations that caused their substance abuse.
  • Sponsorship and networking: When people return home, they have an opportunity to get assistance from outreach sponsors and specialists. They also can work with addicts that are on the path to recovery and share their own experience with them. It creates a sense of being part of the Jewish community and a feeling of being helpful, thus increasing the chances of staying sober.

So, a Jewish rehabilitation center is the best choice for Jewish people. They renew their faith and get rid of addiction while living in a safe environment and communicating with professional staff and patients that share the same religious views.

About the Author

Thanush Poulsen is a health columnist from Denmark who closely investigates the problem of addiction. As today it is an issue of a rising concern, Thanush aims to increase people’s awareness of it to prevent an increasingly growing number of drug deaths and drug crimes.

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