By Beth Fishman PhD, Program Manager, JCFS Chicago Addiction Services
Addiction and addiction recovery are realities in our community; they always have been and likely will be into the near future. Until recently many people in the Jewish community denied that addiction was a Jewish issue. Now there is a much greater recognition of how addiction challenges our own. However, many Jewish families still express deep feelings of isolation when confronting addiction in themselves or their loved ones.
There are so many ways, large and small, that each of us can support Jewish families struggling with active addiction or in recovery, to bring them out of isolation and into the loving support our community offers. Here are some ideas:
- Educate yourself about the chronic medical disease that is addiction. The old stigmatizing understanding of addiction as a weakness or moral failing can easily be replaced with our current understanding of the genetics and neurobiology of addiction. Invite JCFS Chicago to speak at your home, your synagogue, or your organization.
- Learn about the needs of Jewish families when a loved one is in addiction treatment, early recovery, or is still active in their addiction. There are many ways we can support parents, children, siblings, grandparents, and spouses of these individuals; our support of the family ultimately translates into support of those in treatment or recovery. JCFS Chicago can guide you and your friendship circles or community groups.
- Tell your own story; there are many of us who have a loved one touched by addiction. If you are comfortable sharing your story with those who currently struggle, that connection can instantly remove the damaging sense of isolation many experience. That connection may help you as well!
- Encourage your synagogue or other Jewish organization to be mindful of the needs of those at risk for addiction or who are in recovery when planning fundraising events, lifecycle celebrations, and social gatherings. Simply including an enticing non-alcoholic alternative is important, as is supervision of alcohol service so underage participants do not have easy access. Moving the focus from the alcohol onto other elements of the gathering such as service work or connection among participants can help families in early recovery feel comfortable participating.
- Suggest that a peer recovery support group such as SMART Recovery or any of the 12-Step fellowships be offered space to meet in Jewish locations. JCFS Chicago can assist with this process.
- Become an active ally by attending Jewish community events in support of our recovering members, such as the recent Hanukkah party hosted by JCFS Chicago or the upcoming Community Recovery Seder hosted by North Shore Congregation Israel. By joining our email list, you will hear of many such opportunities.
Each one of us can take action; together we will create a community of caring to surround and support every one of our members in need.
JCFS Chicago’s addiction and substance misuse services help Jewish individuals and their families find support within their community and receive education on treatment resources.