Monthly Archives: December 2010

Seven Sober Suggestions for New Year’s Eve


By Jaron Zanerhaft

With alcohol related traffic fatalities gradually on the rise, it has never been a better time to stay sober on New Year‘s Eve. Imagine stumbling down a dark sidewalk lost in the neighborhood of your friend who hosted a party or slithering your car through a maze of blurry pairs of neon headlights and angry horns that rush by with Doppler fades. This is not a night to sacrifice sharpness of your senses. But what can you do to keep your sobriety when our entire culture screams for you to break it? Here are a few suggestions to get your mind ready for tonight’s annual struggle:

  1. Take the countdown one second at a time.
  2. Stay around sober people. Often the company we keep influences our behavior.
  3. If you must go to a party where people will not be sober, offer to be the designated driver.
  4. Don’t drink the “punch.” Punch means alcohol. Don’t convince yourself otherwise.
  5. Have an accountability associate. Choose one of your sober friends who you will not be with on New Year’s Eve and make a commitment to call each other after the ball drops.
  6. Write resolutions. Considering positive improvements you can make in your life for the near future can effectively keep you grounded during the final frenzied moments of 2010.
  7. Host a gathering. Especially for those who fear going out on New Years, staying home is a good thing. You have a greater chance at being able to control your environment in your own home, and your guests will greatly appreciate your sober hospitality.

Good Luck and Happy 2011 from all of us at Beit T’Shuvah and BTSCommunications!

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My New Year’s Resolution? Don’t Shoot Heroin.


By M. Alexander

It has been about 10 years since I have made any New Year’s resolutions and I have never kept one in my entire life. Since I only have 5 months of sobriety and I am just now beginning the process of changing my entire life, I do not want to get ahead of myself. I want to make a resolution that I can keep for 365 days. I want to remember it on December 31, 2011 and be proud of my accomplishment.

My only resolution for 2011 is to have a better year than 2010, even if it is only better by one-tenth of a percent, one moment, one grain of sand. The beginning of 2010 was pretty terrible. I was working a job I didn’t enjoy, chasing drugs, and living a solitary, meaningless existence. I got kicked out of my house, I lost my job, I almost died. When I entered treatment, my life did not improve immediately. I was quite sick. My body was weak and every virus hit me like the plague. My heart and soul had been shielded and protected for such a long time that life itself was foreign to me. I went through a form of culture shock, “World Shock”.

Getting used to life and sitting through uncomfortable feelings has gotten both more difficult and easier as July has rolled into December. As the time between the present and my last drug grows longer each day, my shields are slowly dissolving; the feelings have become more uncomfortable, but my coping skills continue to improve at the same time.

In 2011, I will face pain, I will face loss, I will face sadness. I will prepare myself as best as I can for the inevitable and it will be a better year than 2010. I will not drink or use no matter what, for the entire year, one day at a time.

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How Gratitude Can Change Your Life


By Jaron Zanerhaft

Throughout my first Shabbos services at Beit T’Shuvah, a single quote wriggled around inside my head like an insipid pop lyric:
“Gratitude is the disease of dogs.”
-Joseph Stalin
I was resigned to contempt, bitter without cause, and suspicious of anyone who told me that I couldn’t figure something out myself. The decency and efforts of those around me at Beit T’Shuvah, however, wore down my resistance and showed me that whether or not I choose to be grateful to them, I wouldn’t last long denying the abundance of blessings in my life.
So how do you stay grateful? Studies confirm that gratitude in its emotional form depends on three things: the value of the help to the recipient, the cost to the benefactor, and the benevolence of the intention. Basically, you are most grateful when someone does something really important for you that was tough for them, and they did it for the right reasons. Simple actions such as recognizing the use of your senses and saying “thank you” can boost awareness of cause and effect in your life.
While gratitude is an emotion of the moment, a feeling of thanks felt in a specific situation, the frequency with which one can feel gratitude points to something more continuous than fleeting grace. In many 12-step programs, participants are encouraged to shed light on their character defects— inherent traits which contributed to their downfall. Then, we cultivate strengths. When considering positive traits which could aid in the development of an upstanding character, don’t overlook the impact of gratitude. Gratitude can be a trait, a characteristic incorporable into personalities. A person of gratitude is more prone to feel grateful in any given circumstance and therefore more prone to happiness and success. Instead of being just a person who feels gratitude, you can be a person of gratitude. The results of studies focusing on long-term gratitude suggest that taking actions such as keeping a gratitude journal and praying can lead to a greater degree of achievement towards personal goals, better physical health, and a stronger feeling of connection to others.
I have certainly come a long way since Stalin’s words echoed in my head. I can now identify gratitude as an essential component of my being. Though sometimes a struggle, I find moments to be thankful. Friday nights after cleaning up from services, I hold a small group where we pass around a candle and share what we are appreciative of from the past week. In these groups I’m fond of mentioning that, when a valuable object or investment appreciates, by definition, it increases in value. So, too, as we appreciate, our lives become more valuable to ourselves. Be grateful for what you have, and turn it into more than you could have ever dreamed.

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Family Intervention


By M. Alexander

If you have a loved one suffering from any type of debilitating addiction, an intervention might be the best course of action for you to take.  An intervention typically involves family, friends, and a therapist.  The intervention begins when the addict arrives at the meeting.  It is best if the intervention is not at a location where the addict can easily run upon figuring out that he has walked in on an intervention.

Typically, the addict will be surprised and might immediately go on the defensive.  One of the dangers is that the addict may feel tricked and trapped.  They may not think that they need treatment; they may get angry or withdrawn.  It is suggested that the intervention follow a format to minimize the chances of it going completely awry.

The therapist should begin by explaining why everyone is here; it is not to punish, it is because the family cares and wants the addict to seek help.  The therapist should tell the addict to let family and friends speak without interruption.  The family members take turns saying how their loved one’s addiction has affected their well-being (be careful not to accuse or point the figure; stick with “I” statements).  This should end with an imminent plan of action.  “If you want to seek help, we have a treatment program organized for you that you can enter immediately”.

Ultimately, it is up to the addict to choose whether or not he wants to begin recovery.  The family should set boundaries.  For instance “If you do not enter treatment, you can not return to our house.  We will no longer support your habit”.  Whether the addict agrees to treatment or not, he now knows the affect that his addiction has on family and friends.  A seed has been planted that may grow into an idea that will hopefully eventually result in action.

How would you react if your were faced with the realization that your life needed to change?

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A Drug Addict Teaching Torah?


A Sefer Torah, the traditional form of the Heb...
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By Jaron Zanerhaft

For most of my life, I have not been the son of a Rabbi. My father, a practicing attorney since the early 80’s, received rabbinic ordination from a Beit Din around the same time I left home for college. As a student, my father transferred to a secular school one year before obtaining his rabbinic degree, but his Jewish education had irrevocably shaped his soul. From this, I benefited immensely. When I was a child, my father would tell me stories most Friday nights after we lit Shabbat candles, filling my young mind with Midrash and Talmud. Every week, we would go over the Torah portion together, accessing every character and plot line. Torah became a part of me, a part that I denied in my days leading up to Beit T’Shuvah, a part that daily morning study here would soon revive.

I had started to grow accustomed to Beit T’Shuvah’s 7:00 a.m. Torah Study when one Wednesday, a couple of months after I arrived at Beit T’Shuvah, the person slotted to lead Torah Study didn’t show up. When it became apparent no one was coming, my friend Martin jokingly suggested that I give it a try. Of course, I didn’t realize he was joking and took his challenge seriously. “I can do this,” I thought to myself as I quickly scanned the text. The wisdom was right there in the words. All I had to do was be a conduit. I approached the podium and, with a straight face, began to speak. We covered the laws in Deuteronomy about finding lost property, and by the end of the hour, we had come up with an inventory of what people currently had missing in the house. While speaking, I felt alert and lucid, yet strangely calm. For a moment, my anxiety disorder subsided completely. I was in what we refer to here as “the flow state.” Not too long after, I worked up the courage to ask Rabbi Mark about a regular spot on the Torah Study rotation. He gave it to me!

I get a lot out of leading Torah Study. In front of the Beit T’Shuvah morning crowd, I am in my element. In high school, I participated in competitive public speaking, and I’ve been given the chance to recover that passion. I love analyzing texts, drawing meaning from literature to help me find a better way to live. I love teaching; I never learn as much as when I give my knowledge away. With the insight of the unique perspectives here, I even help my father write his sermons. Most importantly, however, the child inside me enchanted by Torah is finally being nurtured. Who knows? Maybe someday, that child will grow up to be a Rabbi, too.

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Mandatory Fun in Rehab… Is That a Joke?


By Ben Spielberg

My first few weeks in Beit T’Shuvah I was very disenchanted with everything going on. I wasn’t sure that I wanted to be in rehab, I had nothing but contempt for Alcoholics Anonymous and I couldn’t quite grasp why everyone around me seemed so happy, dancing and smiling all the time. So I wanted to leave. In fact, I tried to leave… and then again… and again. I packed up my belongings maybe ten times in the first week I lived here. However, I kept talking to other residents and they would convince me to stay for maybe a few more hours, or at least another day. Then came my first Sunday as a resident. A counselor came up to me and asked if I wanted to come to the movies. Yeah, like I had any money. “No, no, the house pays for it,” the counselor said.

So I went to the movies in a van full of about 15 other new Beit T’Shuvah residents. I had barely been outside in almost a week and I was so excited I couldn’t sit still—the surge of energy was almost overwhelming. While I was only outside of the house for a few hours, I realized that I hadn’t thought about getting loaded for the first time in 6 years. It was at this moment that I began to understand, in fact, yearn for sobriety. During the van ride home we all cracked jokes and there was a lot of laughter on everyone’s part. Until then, I had been under the assumption that recovery and sobriety in general, was completely monotonous and utterly boring.

It was a slow process and that day was the beginning for me. It was hard to recognize that a lot of what I assumed of the world was actually wrong—for instance, I can have more fun in sobriety than when drunk or high! This is the reason I decided to open up rather than pack up, this is the reason I stayed at Beit T’Shuvah. I realized I didn’t need to have alcohol, a line, a joint, or a needle to have a good time. Good quality laughter and an open mind were the beginning of a process that has inevitably helped me feel good about myself. And before I knew it, I became one of those residents smiling, dancing and happy most of the time.

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12 Things I Can Do To Stay Sober


By M. Alexander

  1. Don’t drink or use no matter what

Isn’t that it?  Do I have to do anything else?  I just won’t drink or use and then I will be sober.  WRONG!  This is one of the biggest misconceptions about drug addiction.  People ask me “why can’t you just stop?”  Because I do not know how to live without altering my mind and my body.  I do not understand normal coping mechanisms.  Not only do I use to stuff my feelings, but I also use so that I have the ability to feel.  It is a double-edged sword.  I use to wake up and I use to go to sleep.  I use to go to work and I use so that I can skip work.

Sobriety is impossible without implementing coping skills beyond “don’t drink or use no matter what”.  Yes, this is the rule that underlies the rest of the tools that I will list below, but it is impossible without the rest of the mechanisms that enable it to run.  It would be like a car with no gas, no steering wheel, and no engine.  From the outside it may look like a vehicle, but once I am inside of the car (figuratively and often literally the prison of a dry drunk) the only thing I can do is push it off a cliff.   So here is a list of some other tools I use that can turn the lemon into lemonade.

  1. Be Mindful of My Get Down.  Know what it is that I am doing, thinking, and feeling.
  2. Rigorous Honesty.  Silence in the face of a lie is the same as dishonesty.
  3. Be of Service.  Helping someone else gives me a reason to stay sober.
  4. Community, Community, Community.
  5. Surround Myself with the Winners.  Good people will have a positive influence on me.
  6. Sleep well.
  7. Eat well.
  8. Talk About My Problems.  Get over the notion that real men don’t talk about their problems, man up, and have a good conversation.
  9. Therapy.  I have a sick mind.
  10. Spirituality.  I have a sick soul.
  11. Get a Sponsor.
  12. There is no elevator to recovery.  There are steps.  No easy way out. No shortcut.
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