| Personal Accounts |


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Addiction is swallowing some of our best and brightest. No longer a few individual voices; this has become a communal cry of pain. These voices tell the stories of those who bear witness to addiction’s gritty costs giving a glimpse of the battles they fight daily. Five women who have a relative grappling with addiction share the pain of being on the edge of the whirlpool unable to pull out the person they love. 


Where There Is Love There Is Hope

Tikva Ben Shalom

I lie in my daughter’s bed holding her as she trembles with withdrawal symptoms from yet another drug relapse. Tomorrow she flies to a new facility. Maybe it will be different this time. I’m on a tilting Ferris wheel of raised hopes fearful of having them dashed yet again.

Her body nestles into mine as she slumbers and I’m reminded of my little girl of years ago — my little blonde bundle as she nursed her rosy body sweet and healthy. Now I gaze at her tears coursing down my face her pain-wracked body relaxed at last long tresses strewn about her face thin and pale. An old song pops into my head from a long-ago childhood place.


Where are you going my little one little one?

Where are you going my baby my own?

Turn around and you’re two

Turn around and you’re four

Turn around and you’re a young girl going out of my door

And the verses continue:

Little sunsuits and petticoats

Where have they gone?

Turn around and you’re tiny

Turn around and you’re grown

Turn around and you’re a young wife with babes of your own.

Whenever I played this piece on the piano I’d become teary-eyed. The lyrics spoke to me of the transience of life and of the preciousness of those fleeting scenes of childhood.

I stroke her wan face and I remember that little girl and I yearn to hold her with the same confidence in my ability to protect her and assure her of a beautiful future. I’m mindful of how fragile she is and how completely powerless I am to protect her from the pain that’s her constant companion.

I used to think that if I just knew the perfect parenting formula or consulted with the top professionals I could locate that foolproof formula: a solution to the paradox eluding us and others as well in these troubling times. I now know that it’s the One Above Who holds the key to her recovery and this painful journey too is part of His perfect plan.

What is it like to live with addiction?

It is heartache that never goes away — it sits in your chest taking up residence heavy and unmoving. It is fear constant fear that rises unbidden at all hours of day and night. Sometimes it can be pushed aside and you can actually go about your business. At other times the fear is like a balloon inflating slowly bit by bit until it fills your innards so tightly you are certain you’ll burst from its paralyzing grip.

Addiction sucks out the joy of a beautiful day the pride you ought to experience in your healthy family members who are involved in the ordinary tasks of daily living. Addiction attaches itself like a lingering stench accompanying you wherever you go tingeing everyday affairs with its pervasive odor with the sense of things not being right not ever being right because something’s always missing.

The beauty of the grandchildren, their sweet innocence, is tarnished. The deep contentment we were meant to feel for those children living lives of purpose and productivity is diminished. The loving relationships we so cherish, even those, must stretch to override this black hole of anxiety and insanity that always accompanies those who live with addiction. The mental energy necessary to overcome this burden is immense. I feel like a person with no skin, living unprotected and unsafe. An innocent comment from a colleague, an old melody, a sight or smell, can reduce me to tears, reminding me of the child I once knew, who radiated sunshine and happiness. 

You learn to insulate yourself from regular experiences. You don an inner bulletproof vest to keep the reactions at bay, when “regular” friends talk of graduations, seminaries, camp positions, and job opportunities their children are embarking upon. We, who walk in darkness, wonder if we will ever experience those things again. We’ve forgotten that we walked those roads many times with other children. Maybe we, too, were less than sensitive, making general references to successes, achievements, and milestones, which to those in pain seemed elusive and unattainable. Straddling hope and despair; being afraid to hope that maybe this time it will work  — maybe this time she’ll be ready to face the demons that hold her captive. Maybe this time someone, somewhere, will open the door to her heart and free her from the blackness that has pulled her away from all whom she loves. Being afraid to hope is almost as bad. Without the belief that a Power greater than ourselves can restore us to health, life feels not worth living. We must believe that better days will come; we must trust that there is meaning in all this pain. Faith and trust become our tools for survival. 

Faith, that we can withstand these challenges and survive intact, and trust, that the Almighty has a plan, not only for this child, but equally for all of us living in the radius of her misery. Addiction saps your energy. You are a shadow of yourself, someone who moves about, doing what she has to, but barely. It is crippling and pervasive. Marriages suffer. Spouses are in so much pain; the child’s well-being occupies the first, middle, and last topic of every conversation. The married children vie for attention, taking an undeserved back seat, often harboring resentment at this sibling who has managed to intrude into their lives, kidnapping their loving parents as well, rendering them incapable of focusing on anything but her. Along with family dysfunction comes guilt, bales of it, for the innocent children who must witness the daily drama, for our emotional unavailability, for the sadness that just never goes away, for the pain we carry, for the pain we exude, the pain that lingers everywhere we turn. Addiction can bring anger and rage. White, hot rage at the losses we must endure, while our bewildered neighbors look on. Do they shake their heads and whisper about us behind their closed blinds? Do they see what is happening to our once-pristine home?

Rage and shame take turns, pushing us more into ourselves, making us shun “regular” simchahs and events, fleeing the feeling of being different, defective, unwhole, and unhealthy. Addiction is a host of recurring ghosts; ghosts of the past, when you lived in a halcyon world of goodness and safety. When you believed that if you lived life accordingly, you could rest assured that all would go well. Ghosts of the efforts that you could or should have made that might have made a difference. Ghosts of the dreams you were sure would be yours and the experiences that were just waiting for you. Ghosts — imaginary, yet so real, so compelling you can almost touch them; but they are not yours, not meant for you, at least not for now. Addiction is lies. Lies that you learn to live with, always doubting whether the truth you are being offered has even an ounce of credibility. Pretending to trust the promises, you act the role, but you are never really sure; having to guess and second guess if she will really come through, or will you be let down once again? Addiction is being afraid to count on it, always setting up a backup, because the pain of being disappointed is just too much to bear. Addiction is financial overhaul. The staggering costs of therapies and treatments that are critical components in the healing process. However, not only are these services required for the individual dealing with personal trauma, but most often family members living in the vicinity of a suffering loved one require the support of such services, as well. The astronomical expenses of rehabilitation facilities can send even the most financially secure families into a tailspin. Being forced to raise huge sums of money creates immense stress for families who can neither afford to foot the bills nor bring home their loved ones, who so direly depend on these resources. Addiction is prayer. Born of desperation, we have learned that our heartfelt pleas can pierce the Heavens. We have learned that when all else fails, when we feel we have explored every option out there, our Father in Heaven resonates with our pain, and He is the only One upon Whom we totally rely. It is not in the hands of the doctors, the therapists, the specialists, or the philanthropists; the One Above alone can provide the recovery and respite we so long to experience. 

Last is the grief, the sense of mourning that fills your heart and soul. The quantum effort it takes to trust that things could change, to work on your own issues and your own recovery from the throes of doom, gloom, and disaster. The emotional energy that must painstakingly be diverted into healthy outlets, to survive the crushing void of where you are, instead of where you thought you would be, without losing hope, because without hope neither they, nor we, can survive. Without hope, no recovery can occur and no miracles can happen. Thankfully, there’s much to be hopeful for. There are wonderful organizations and support groups offering comfort and encouragement to families in crisis. Community resources have been created, and caring professionals have risen to the challenge. Still, there have been deaths too numerous to count, in this past year alone, on account of drug overdoses. We are fighting a brutal battle and we dare not become complacent. These exquisite souls possess a beauty no amount of suffering could ever extinguish. In their pain lies all of our pain  — the ache of this seemingly endless exile, the loss of the grandeur and glory that was once ours. We long and pray to return to those days, as we long and pray for these special souls to find their peace and return to the land of the living.

I’m Fine Really

As told to Shoshana Schwartz

My mom and I used to be close. Real close. I’d tell her all my secrets share my hopes my fears. My favorite times were when we snuggled up on the couch together just me and her. I felt loved warm protected. I felt I knew that I was really important to her; I was an integral part of her.

It didn’t happen overnight. But slowly day by day things changed.

It started with Aron my older brother. I’d be in my room doing homework or listening to music and the screaming would start. My dad would be yelling at Aron and my mom would start crying. The topic was always the same: Aron was drinking. A lot. He’d yell back bang a few things my dad would yell louder and my mom would cry harder. Eventually someone would slam the door and it would suddenly grow as silent as a graveyard.

The quiet was worse than the noise.

It grew even quieter because Aron stopped coming home in the evenings like he used to. He’d wander in at three or four in the morning or stumble in as my dad returned from Shacharis. Sometimes I’d wake up in the dead of night to thunderclaps of anger ringing in my ears boomeranging around my room. I’d climb further under my covers trying to stuff my pillow into my ears to shut out the bitter fighting.

I remember sitting together with Dini my little sister on her bed in the middle of the night holding and rocking her trying to calm both of us. We held each other like two frightened passengers in a flimsy storm-tossed boat with no captain. And no life preservers.

The air in the house always felt thick. Heavy. As if I were living inside a thundercloud. I never knew when the pressure would grow so intense that everything would explode again.

The atmosphere was poisoning me. So I withdrew. I let the rain wash over me let the clouds come and go. I grew apathetic toward my family creating an emotional barrier between myself and everyone else. I tried to keep an eye out for Dini to shelter her from the worst of it. But my parents Aron and my older sister Yehudis were just shadows in the periphery; they barely registered on my radar.

I missed talking to my mom. I missed having the whole family sit around the Shabbos table. I missed… having a family. But stepping back was the only way to survive. I knew that if I wasn’t strong I’d get sucked into the maelstrom.

I kept my nose squeaky clean. I pulled straight As cleaned up after myself and stayed out of everyone’s way. I didn’t leave a footprint. I developed a knack for leaving a room just before a high-pressure storm blew in.

I had created a bubble for myself. I began to think nothing could penetrate that bubble.

And then Yehudis tried to kill herself.

My dad broke. Through the whole Aron thing he’d been furious. Solid stalwart unbending. He tried to whip Aron back into shape with demands for better behavior and promises that he’d toe the line. “How can you do this to yourself?” was the line I so often heard rip through the air and ricochet off the walls. But Yehudis’s suicide attempt her first of several and the drinking and drug use they discovered had preceded it was a blow beyond anything he could handle. When his strength crumbled so did any remaining feelings of security I’d had. I was more than devastated; I was paralyzed.

My mom tried to hold herself together, tried to smile, to be there for me and Dini. She’d come to my room, ask if I wanted to talk, but I always said no thanks. She said it was okay to cry, and I told her I was fine. I really did want to talk to her, more than anything, but I couldn’t add to her burden. And honestly, it wasn’t like it used to be, when I used to share everything with her, when I knew she was there for me. Instead, I felt like she was asking because she felt she had to. 

Because it was her job as a mother. Because she didn’t want to “lose” another one. I knew that if I’d talk she’d listen, but that a part of her wouldn’t be in the room with me; a piece would be out there, with Aron and Yehudis. I withdrew even more. I didn’t have any more energy to look after Dini, and she, too, drifted to the sidelines of my life. I kept myself super busy with school, and I threw myself into my music. I sang all the time and started composing my own songs. I hung out a lot with my friends. They basically knew what was going on, but I didn’t make a big deal out of it. Every family has issues — these were mine. When things got so bad they couldn’t get worse, Aron enrolled in Retorno’s outpatient center, and soon after Yehudis attended their residential program. 

Change was in the air. Aron wasn’t just abstinent, he was becoming rational and focused and kind. He even started to make little lighthearted jokes. With his burgeoning stability, and Yehudis’s absence while she worked on her stuff, the quiet at home grew less ominous. After years of turbulence, I didn’t trust the calm, but it gave me some degree of hope that things just might return to normal someday. Unfortunately, “normal” wasn’t on the horizon. My grandma took a bad fall, and a slew of new needs popped up on my family’s radar screen: She needed to stay with us, she needed physio, and for some reason she “needed” to be involved in every single thing that transpired in our house. Under her watchful eye, little frictions blew up into major issues. Aron was interrogated about his comings and goings, Dini was treated to a nonstop commentary about her eating habits, and time and again I was yanked back from the sidelines. Stepping aside was no longer enough; I had to become even more invisible. When Yehudis finished her program, there was a goodbye party at Retorno, which the family attended, and everyone was given a chance to speak. 

One after another, the girls in her group and all the staff talked about how much Yehudis had grown, how much deep emotional work she had done, how so many aspects of her had healed. When it was my turn to speak, I opened my mouth — and a torrent of sobs burst forth. I couldn’t say a single word. My mom understood, maybe for the first time, that there was a lot more going on for me than I’d let on. She made it a point to be more available to me, asked more questions, showed more interest. But I’d managed without her this far, I wasn’t about to start leaning now. Besides, it’s not that everything was all perfect in the family. Aron was stable, but Yehudis still had plenty of work ahead of her. She had a new set of friends, and she stayed clean, but there were still emotional ups and downs especially since she, too, had to deal with Grandma’s ongoing presence. 

As Yehudis leveled out, I graduated high school and went to seminary in another city. It wasn’t just a year of gaining hashkafah and growing in yiras Shamayim, it was a process of learning to understand me. Together with the help of a therapist, I started to get to know the one person in my family who never made any noise: me. Now that I wasn’t surrounded by constant drama, I took a close look at my life and spent a long time asking myself who I am. I started to tune into the quiet both outside and in, and to enjoy that quiet. I’ve always been an introvert, but instead of disconnecting from others, I was learning to connect to myself. I examined my relationships with all my family members. I realized, for the first time, that I was holding in a lot of anger, especially toward my mom. As young as I was, I had so well understood how impossible her situation was, had so well identified the anguish she’d been suffering, that I could never bring myself to add to her pain by sharing mine. I blamed her for not pushing past my reluctance, for not shouldering my burden as well. I blamed her for her superficial questions, her half-hearted attempts to connect. I felt sad. Misunderstood. Forgotten. And when she started to remember me, I no longer wanted to be remembered. It was too little, too late. 

Looking back, I wish I’d known that I didn’t have to be so perfect. That even though I’m not an addict, I also have a right to my parents’ time and attention. That it’s okay to ask for help, and if the right person isn’t my mom, then maybe there are others who might fill in. This is the message I try to get out to teenagers. I volunteer twice a week in a center for kids at risk. I’m a big sister for them, and I’m going for my certification in addiction counseling. I want to be there for these kids. Not just when there’s drama, but also after the drama dies down. Because once the storm passes, you’re still out on the water, and you always will be. That’s not a bad thing, it’s a reality. With a solid boat and a couple of life preservers, you can handle the waves.

Shoshana Schwartz is an addictions counselor and therapeutic horsebackriding instructor at Retorno. She is the author of Three Steps, first serialized in Family First, about addiction.


Dark and Light

Lili Grun

Dearest Ima,

Thank you for the card.

I found it as I was rummaging through the box Abba had made of all the junk from your pocketbook and your dresser. I’d been sifting through it asking myself what to do with your Delta frequent flyer card your little sewing kit and just as I was wondering if I was going to stumble on yet another stash of the fat white pills that became — and eventually took — your life I found it.

It had beautiful flowers along the edges and written in the center was the motto we say in my Al-Anon program for family members of alcoholics the Serenity Prayer: “G-d grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.”

I sat on the floor mouth agape. How many many times had I uttered this prayer as I helplessly watched you fade away in a stupor of pills and alcohol? You didn’t go to a program and you didn’t know I went to one. Two therapists we are and we never once discussed your addictions. Was that a terrible mistake? Does it matter now? Where did this card come from? I turned it over. On the back more flowers another quote: “Make yourself familiar with the angels and behold them frequently in spirit; for without being seen they are present with you.”

You are present with me Ima. You’re my mentor and my spiritual guide still only now I can reap the benefits of your presence and your wisdom free of the chaos of your addictions.

Living with you was to have the rug pulled out from under me over and over and over again. You’d light up proudly at my accomplishments and exclaim “Ahh! You got it now! Climb to the tippy top like a monkey!” “You could be a professional organizer!” “I’d bet you could publish this!” “What did your teacher say? Everything I expected her to say! You’re conscientious and sweet and write beautiful poems!” Then you’d get drunk and follow me around the house threatening to return my puppy to the pound to cancel my birthday party to cut all my hair off when I’m sleeping .

You were the most responsible, sharp driver one day, and driving drunk to the supermarket with me the next. You were the most generous mother, buying me the coolest, funkiest outfits from that little French boutique in town, always making sure I had what was “in,” taking me for a real bunny coat every winter in Macy’s so we could have matching furs. You never looked at price tags. 

Then at night, after your gin and tonic, you were the most withholding mother, shoving me away when I wanted to cuddle up while you read, telling me, “Uch! You smell!” You rescued every animal you could, from the skin-and bones white dog you untangled from the brambles and lovingly deloused all night, to the baby raccoon you fed sugar water from a bottle in your bed. Then when you were drunk, you’d shove tranquilizers down the dogs’ throats because you couldn’t deal with them underfoot. Your faith was loving and unwavering, the bracelet that never left your wrist saying it all: “Hashem li v’lo irah.” 

The hurricane would never flood the house, the plane would never crash. “Hashem will take care of us!” Simple as that. You’d step out onto the porch in the morning light and smile, “This day Hashem has made, let us be joyful on it.” But when you were drunk, we had to review your will over and over and over, because you were probably going to die on the way to that conference next week. You brought loving, enthusiastic excitement for Shabbos and Yom Tov preparation to our home, singing Hallel songs while you cooked and inviting me to lick the baking bowls. And then you’d ruin the meal with your drunken rages. 

You abandoned me. But your wisdom, generous spirit, and simple faith, despite all of your struggles, did not, will not. I adored you, and I know you adored me. Your illness also blessed me with the special angels that led me to, and through, my codependence recovery. They are with me forever as well. I reached into the box once again, and pulled out a ziplock bag. 

The Israel soil you always brought to burials. I’d been searching for it high and low the day of your levayah. The bag… had my name written across it. I will empty it onto your grave at the hakamas hamatzeivah, and I will hope that you’ve finally found the serenity that eluded you in This World.

Your Daughter. 

Circle of Support

Ruchama Jacobs

“Ma I don’t know how to say this but Shiffy is drinking way more than she should.”

“What do you mean? I thought you need to drink a lot in Israel.”

“No Ma not water. Vodka.”

“Vodka? What are you talking about?!”

Were we in denial? We’d had our struggles with Shiffy over the years but a drinking problem?! As weeks stretched into months and months into years we became acquainted with the world of detox rehab halfway houses therapists mentors relapses overdoses and a world that had always existed on a different planet. We were a happy healthy ehrliche family. This couldn’t happen to us. Except that it could. And it did.

A friend nudged me to join a support group for frum mothers of addicts. But it wasn’t for me. “I’m okay. I’m strong. I’m handling it” I kept saying. I would just undertake to say Perek Shirah every day. I’m a private person. I’d never be able to deal with a group situation. Besides I was embarrassed I didn’t know who else would be there and anyway I was doing okay.

Except that I wasn’t. Then the day came when I found myself bursting into tears with no provocation every two hours and I finally realized that I wasn’t so okay. I called my friend and asked her to let me know when the next meeting was.

I felt better after I made that call. Actually attending was another thing entirely. As the meeting approached I tossed and turned at night. What should I say? Who would be there? Would I be making a relatively public statement about something that we had kept so quiet?

The clincher came when I spoke to Shiffy. “It’s a great idea Ma. I’m going to AA meetings and they really help me. If you’d go to these Al-Anon meetings you’d understand more and feel better. My friends at AA (I cringed in my head at this phrase) whose parents go say it’s a really good thing.”

The conversation did nothing for my menuchas hanefesh but it did firm up my decision. If Shiffy wants me to go I’ll go. Not for me; why would I do something for me? But for her I’d do it for her.

So I went. Mainly I listened. Yes there were people I knew. Some I knew and was shocked they were there. Some I had known or suspected that they were dealing with addiction. Some I met for the first time. One thing I felt right away. These women understood. They had been there. Judgment wasn’t in their lexicon.

Back home my husband who was very wary asked “So nu how was it?” “Interesting ” I replied. “I’m not really sure what the point is but I did hear horror stories that seem even worse than ours so I guess there should be nechamah in that. It could be worse. But you know what they really want to make this work and they need people to come so I guess I’ll go again.” For them not for me. Of course I continued going, and I very quickly realized that I was the one who needed it. I realized that I wanted to go for me, for my family, for my daughter. Can I say that it changed my life? You wouldn’t know it from looking at me. But slowly my husband, my family, my daughter, and even I realized just how crucial this group was for me, for them, for all of us. It wasn’t just the loving support, understanding, and humor from other mothers who understood, really understood. It wasn’t just the sharing of names so that we could daven, really daven, for each other’s kids, because we really got it and we cared. It wasn’t just the bonding with women from all across the frum spectrum. 

Addiction is an indiscriminate plague. Differences disappear: We’re all mothers whose dreams for our children have been shattered and battered beyond recognition. All of these elements were important, but more vital than all that was that I began the process of educating myself, and bringing it home to my husband. I learned as I never learned before. I learned like my child’s life depended on it. Because it did. Here are just some of the things that I learned: I learned about the nature of this disease called addiction, and that this disease has many forms: alcohol, heroin, over the-counter drugs, oxycodone, gambling, marijuana, and more. I learned the three “Cs” (plus one). I didn’t Cause it. I can’t Control it. I can’t Cure it. But I can Contribute to the problem if I don’t know the correct way to deal with it. I learned that there are methods to deal with it. They’re not guaranteed, but they’re effective. I learned to, “Let go, and let G-d.” I learned to be grateful. 

I learned about enabling and how to avoid it. I learned about the role responsibility plays. I learned that there are as many “reasons” as there are children, but at the end of the day it doesn’t really matter what “caused” it. What matters is how we deal with it. I learned that I needed to work on myself to be really okay, or everyone in my family suffers. I learned coping tools that help me in every area of my life. And so much more. And, with Shiffy’s help, I’ve realized that all the things I was doing were somewhat off the mark. Once I realized that I couldn’t fix Shiffy by lecturing, by bribing, by manipulating, and not even by showering her with positivity and love, I took a different path, but with the same goal. I tried fixing her using spiritual tools. I’ve since learned that the only one whom I can fix is myself. Now when I daven, when I do mitzvos, I try to focus on my relationship with Hashem, rather than what I want Him to do for me. I’m not there yet, or even close, but I’m working on a complete acceptance of His Sovereignty, trying to do His Will, rather than trying to get Him to do mine. It’s been almost a year now, a rocky year, a good year. We’re all in a much healthier place. For that I thank the Ribbono shel Olam Whose presence I feel more strongly every day, and Who sent me His sheluchim in the form of the therapist who runs the group, the organization that sponsors it, and my friends who are always there for each other. We’ve by no means reached the end of this journey. I still say my Tehillim, and my Perek Shirah, still get brachos, and still keep working on trying to become somewhat worthy of His rachamim, but I try to keep the focus on the knowledge that He runs the world and He knows what’s best. 

I know that I’ve grown from this nisayon, and hope that future growth will come easier. With the help of this group I’m calmer, no longer in a frantic frenzy, and I appreciate that the path we are taking to do our hishtadlus in dealing with this issue is the right one. Even when we needed to take an approach that was extremely frightening for us, we were able to maintain our equilibrium because I’d already heard from the other mothers in the group about how crucial that very step had been for their own children’s recovery. Recently my daughter, Shiffy, expressed it. “Ma, you know, if not for your group and your learning how to react to my craziness a few months ago, I’m not sure I’d even be alive today.” If you have a child in this or a similar heartbreaking situation, stop running from “do-gooder” to “do-gooder” gathering suggestions and trying to find the reason why this happened. You need guidance from someone who’s been trained and who’s been there. You need education from a professional. You need support from women who understand where you’re coming from and where you’d like to be. And like the addict, you need to surrender your will before His.


A Matter of Trust

Henya Klein

It’s very hard when you don’t completely trust your husband.

There’s always that doubt in the back of your mind like an annoying sound you try to block out but can’t not completely. When he says he’s traveling for work or going to a shiur or going to see a friend you think Is he really?

What can you do though? I guess you can ask him. “Yes I’m really going to learn” he’ll say. Of course he’ll say that. He’s not going to say “Actually sweetheart I was lying.” So you nod and return to the dishes or the laundry or the kids or lesson planning and say a silent prayer that he’s not doing anything that will cause your life to fall apart.

That’s what it’s like every day being married to a recovering addict. Oh it gets better of course. There are therapists and support groups — tons of support groups! They teach you to manage anxiety to focus on yourself to let go to not accept the unacceptable. But there’s a point I don’t know when when you stop for a moment and realize that you may not ever trust your husband fully. And that’s sad no?

Even if his words match his actions for a year. Two years three years. Even if your toddler can make an impressive tower out of the sober coins he finds in the night-table drawer. Even if even if. So what do you do exactly? You ask the women in your support group. “Just focus on today ” they say “don’t worry about if you’ll trust him a year from now.” “It gets easier.” “Just keep focusing on yourself.”

It’s helpful the support group. Except for sometimes when you feel like you’re going skydiving and the instructor tells you “I don’t know if you have a parachute so good luck ” and then pushes you out of the airplane. And you hope you have a parachute but you don’t really know. Just like you don’t know if your husband is using or stealing or cheating. Just like you don’t know if you’ll have to sit your kids down one day and say “Abba doesn’t live here anymore.”

Oh that’s rough. That’s too hard to think about. So you lock it away in a box near the annoying sound that you can’t block out. The tiny red flags that wave that bring up memories when triggered that make you feel like your life can change for the worse at any moment any moment at all.

It’s hard when he travels. It’s hard when I see triggering behaviors. It’s hard for me it’s hard for him. So why write this? I guess because when everything first happened I felt so alone. I thought I must be the only frum woman with a husband in rehab. I must be the only frum woman with a husband who is struggling in recovery. I must be the only frum woman with a husband celebrating his first year sober. I must be the only frum woman who is dealing with this.

It’s not all bad. He’s a good man. He’s compassionate and patient and loving. He wakes up early on Shabbos to play with the kids and let me sleep. He takes off work to show up to every school event, every baseball game, every recital. He’s validating and objective and funny. He’s so many great things! He’s also open and willing to get and accept help. He didn’t argue at his intervention. He humbly hung his head, willing to go into treatment. I’m grateful for that, I am. I’m grateful for every moment. I should focus on that, right? 

Yes. I should focus on today. Today he is sober. He took out the garbage. He made breakfast. He grew crystals from the science kit with the kids before going to work. He asked, “Can I pick up dinner so you don’t have to cook?” He picked up the dry cleaning. He didn’t complain that the house was littered with toys and crayons. I take a deep breath. The red flag in the back of my mind fades away. It’s okay, I think. Another deep breath. Maybe I don’t trust him one hundred percent, but that’s just today. That’s just today.

(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 531)


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