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Hart Peikoff


By Hart Peikoff, October 19, 2011, re-run February 14, 2013


[*Editor's note:  Hart Piekoff passed away recently at the age of 69 and to honour his memory the  Winnipeg Jewish Review is re-running this article he wrote] 

The Jewish notion that alcoholism is a gentile problem is an old baba’s mysseh. We can’t make the problem go away by turning our backs on it. To quote Virginia Satir, a pioneer in the field of family therapy who was internationally acclaimed as a therapist, educator and author, it’s necessary “to see and hear what is here, instead of what should be, was, or will be.”

Hundreds of people in Winnipeg’s Jewish community are suffering needlessly because they are in denial or are embarrassed about being alcoholics/drug addicts or prescription medication abusers. The Jewish community has to recognize their addiction and those who are addicted have to acknowledge it, a duty as powerful and as important as passing on Judaism to their children.

They will be liberated when they face the discomfort of being known as alcoholics etcetera and come forward and receive assistance for themselves and for their loved ones. There is no shame in addiction. The shame lies in refusing to address the problem head on. I know that we all want to appear to be healthy, wealthy and wise. G-d forbid our friends and family learn about our substance abuse. And we think it would be even worse if this information reached the general public. Well, let me share a secret with you. Most in our community know who is doing what and with whom. Surprise!

I suggest that a little short-term discomfort is definitely worth long-term internal peace. If you’re an alcoholic in denial, go to a mirror in your house in private and look into your own eyes and acknowledge the truth. That alone will move you forward and you will experience a release of internal pressure the likes of which you have not experienced before.

Sitting back and doing nothing except getting worse brings on stress that kills the soul. You know how difficult it is to get a 100-kilogram ball rolling on a flat smooth road. But once it begins to roll…!

It’s critical that everyone understands that substance abuse and its ugly sister, addiction, can happen to anyone. The difference between them is that substance abusers don’t feel the same compulsion to use and usually don’t experience the symptoms of physical withdrawal that addicts do.

If your child is in a group of friends who use alcohol or drugs and decides to quit, the pressure on him or her will be enormous. For the child to have a chance of winning the war to quit, it’s wise to sever relationships with the group. Of course, this is extremely difficult. But it’s worth it. The choices made now can take you to places you don’t want to go to and can last a lifetime.

Remember that addiction and substance abuse are interruptions in your life. Try to remember when it began, what was happening in your life at the time. This state is simply a growth stop. And as you probably know, the Torah supports 12-step programs. They work if you work them.

Hey, this isn’t about perfection. It is one beat at a time. In other words, start with one of the tips suggested above. I know in my heart of hearts that when you choose to take the high road, you will prevail.

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Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.