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“Jews Are Not Drug Addicts”

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Addiction is one disease that has no preference in religion, race, age or ethnicity. Anyone can be affected by addiction and it happens in every culture. Addiction, despite what many people fail to believe, is, in fact, a disease.

However, for some reason, we do not treat drug addicts or alcoholics as sick people; instead, society often shames them. Nobody in their right mind would ever shame someone for another illness such as cancer, for example, but it is almost acceptable to shame an addict. The truth of the matter is, if people are chemically and physically addicted to a substance, they cannot stop using. An alcoholic or a drug addict is a sick person suffering from a fatal disease and more than anything, needs love and support. In many religions, cultures, and ethnic groups, if someone is addicted to drugs, they are looked down upon and pegged as a hopeless, pathetic person.
 
As a kid in my teenage years, I experimented with drugs and developed a habit early on. I was a full-blown drug addict by the time I was 18. Growing up in a primarily Jewish community and being raised a Jew, I often heard “Jews are not drug addicts” and “Just put the stuff down.” This statement, “Jews are not drug addicts,” is just not a true one. Anyone can be a drug addict or an alcoholic, because heroin or crack cocaine addiction or alcohol abuse don’t discriminate.

The Jewish community that I grew up in was very close knit, meaning everyone thrived on gossip. So if someone was an addict, everybody knew and often judged. The common solution for this, however, is brushing the issue under the rug. Thankfully, this didn’t stop my family from taking action and getting me into treatment. By the grace of G-d, I am sober today and have maintained my sobriety for about seven years.
 
From my experience with being Jewish and in recovery, I have noticed a lot of support from members of the Jewish community. My uncle took me to my first meeting back in 2010. He is a recovering crack cocaine addict and before I even knew what drugs were, I noticed crack cocaine addiction signs in his behavior.

One of the first contacts I had with someone in recovery (Alcoholics Anonymous, or AA) was a man who I knew from Monday night school. In high school, I went to Monday night school at my temple every Monday and was shocked to discover that the youth group leader was an active member of AA. He approached me at one of my very first meetings and pointed me in the right direction. He helped me become part of the Jewish recovery movement along with other great people in AA.
 
The most amazing gift I received from AA is that it made me believe that there is a higher power again. That there is a G-d out there and much like the Jewish faith I believe in, a G-d of my understanding. Even though I thought I had a strong belief in G-d before, I really had no idea. All of my prayers were foxhole prayers, meaning they had no actual value to them. When I became sober, I truly found out the meaning of real prayer. See, I grew up learning Jewish values and beliefs but I only started applying them when I got sober. Being a good Jew is all about being genuinely a good person and that is also what AA is all about.
 
They say in Alcoholics Anonymous that if you work the 12 step as thoroughly and as honestly as possible, you will be rocketed into the fourth dimension. When I first heard that, I thought it was blasphemy, but after working the steps, connecting back with my religion, and helping others recover from addiction, I am living in this fourth dimension.
 
Through AA and various spiritual experiences, I have noticed a difference on how to view a higher power. G-d was always there, for but for a long time, I neglected him, not the other way around. In AA I learned to seek out his measures every day.
 
Jewish values became important to me as well. Since I have been sober, I have been back to Israel twice and even spent an extended amount of time there. I have never felt closer to G-d than when I was praying at the Western Wall. The AA meetings out there were special and I learned so much from that opportunity. Shabbat dinner was more important to me than ever before and I truly think that whole experience made me to closer to G-d.
 
Jews are drug addicts. It is a harsh reality we need to face. It is insane to believe that this horrible disease just skips over our people. Instead of this stigma “Jews are not drug addicts,” we need to change the mentality to “Jews are drug addicts. Now let’s help them out.”
 
Bio: Ben Emerling is interested in writing, helping people with their recoveries, and playing and watching all types of sports.

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