Addiction in the Jewish Community: What Can We Do?

Question—what can we do as a community to combat the issue of addiction? The first and most simple answer is talk about it. Like any other issue that a family or individual struggles with, feelings of isolation and shame compound the problem. For those struggling with addiction, not having others to talk to, not being aware of members of  your own community who are in recovery, worrying that you and your  family will be judged, rather than supported—these realities complicate seeking help and turning to your community for support. So, let’s talk about addictions.

Let’s talk about the numbers. Roughly one in four Americans will have alcohol or drug problems at some point in their lives according to the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse. Addiction rates in Jewish communities are about the same. Almost a quarter of a trillion dollars of the nation’s yearly health care bill is attributable to substance abuse and addiction. Half of our inmates meet the medical criteria for substance abuse problems.

Let’s talk about the faces. People in our community have been affected by alcohol and substance abuse. We hear the stories of grandparents raising their grandchildren, parents struggling to care for young children while in recovery, adults unable to find work or housing as a result of decisions made before they were sober, parents of adult children looking for answers and support, their life savings depleted through their efforts to assist their child. We also see the faces of those working everyday to maintain their sobriety, and the strength and grace that enables them to give back by helping others still struggling.

Let’s talk about what is being done. There are many venues for support. Numerous treatment options exist in our local community from hospitals such as Fairbanks for inpatient treatment to outpatient groups and AA. The Jewish community nationwide has responded in-kind. There are multiple resources that can be found online, offering support and guidance. Powerful books written by eminent Jewish authors such as Rabbi Abraham Twerski and Rabbi Kerry Olitzky provide support for recovery. Some communities have advanced to establish Jewish group homes for addiction treatment.

In our local community, we offer a JACS (Jewish Alcoholics and Chemically Dependent Persons and their Spouses) support group that meets monthly. JACS is designed as a supplement to the traditional AA/Ala-Non group with a Jewish framework. The group, facilitated by Rabbi Aaron Spiegel, meets at the Reuben Resource Center. Jewish Social Services, also housed at the Reuben Center, can provide information and resources, as well as, crisis support. For more information about JACS or other local resources, please contact Julie Sondhelm at 317.536.1473.


Add Comment