Monthly Archives: December 2012

Tips for a Sober New Year Fun Fun Fun!!!


By: Chris Alvarez

Being sober during the New Year holiday is something many addicts and alcoholics have a tough time with.  This is one of the few days a year where it is socially acceptable for tax-paying, dog-walking, pay check-cashing, grocery store going people to act like drunken fools. Here are some tips that should help any addict or alcoholic stay sober during the holiday.

Sober Parties: Please don’t laugh. Ok you can laugh. Yes they are painfully awkward and most of the time its just a bunch of people standing around drinking Red Bulls, but they offer the addict in recovery a chance to socialize in a safe environment without the temptations of substances (besides cigarettes and energy drinks). However there are ways for one to go out and stay safe and sober.shutterstock_101105338

Sober Companionship: An addict or alcoholic can go out and celebrate with “normies.”  But it is advisable to only go out with someone who has more time than you, or go out with a group of other sober people so that you can watch each other. It may sound strange and intrusive but it could save your life.

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Sober Dances: This is just as funny, ridiculous, and awkward as a sober party but can be fun as soon as everyone decides to stop being shy (don’t hold your breath this could take a LONG time). Until that happens it’s just a bunch of sober people standing around drinking energy drinks. But that can be fun…

Hope this helps, if it doesn’t then don’t do anything. New Years is just another day, stay in and watch TV or something.

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David in Krakow


By David Gole

Having just arrived back from my trip to Poland, I have several experiences I am still reflecting on. While Warsaw was a very exiting city, Krakow is a different story. When I picture Poland I envision a lot of old buildings and snow. Krakow fulfills that exact stereotype in a way that it glorifies the past. During World War II, Krakow was virtually untouched by the Nazis with only a few of the monuments being rebuilt. In retrospective, my experience in Krakow was both joyous and emotional.

David Walking PolandPart of my trip was to learn about Forum for Dialogue Among Nations, which runs a program to educate high school students about Jewish culture in their town. The first day in Krakow, we traveled to the near by town of Wadowice, which is the hometown of Pope John Paul II and home to almost 2,000 Jews before the war. There we visited the local high school and engaged in what the students were learning about Jewish culture. The students asked us questions about America and wanted to learn more about what it meant for us to be Jewish.

Living in Los Angeles where a large percentage of the people I know are Jewish, I don’t really think about what it means to me. In this small town where the Nazis exterminated almost every Jew, to be able to come to this town was both a unique and special experience. After a short tour of the monuments around the town, we left an everlasting impression on these students and went on our way back to Krakow.

Along with the happy experience of meeting these kids, I also experienced one of the most horrifying things to ever happen on this planet – Auschwitz. The day we went to Auschwitz, we were on the bus before the sun came up. It was around -14°C and I was still cold with my 3 Layers of Clothing. When we got off the bus, the haunted feeling of being in a place where millions of people were murdered consumed me. In the first camp of Auschwitz, called “Auschwitzy One,” the first thing you notice is the infamous sign that reads “Arbeit Macht Frei” which means “work makes you free”. The barracks, which were intended to house 100 polish soldiers, were used to house 1,000 prisoners at a time.

BarracksAuschwitz one is also home to the only remaining gas chamber and crematorium. On the walls of the gas chamber you can see nail marks of the victims trying to claw their way out. Although Auschwitz one killed millions, it seemed like a cakewalk compared to Birkenau, or “Auschwitz Two.”

At Birkenau, the second camp of Auschwitz, everything is outdoors and the shelters consisted of thin planks of wood and tiny three level bunks, which they piled on as many people as they could on one bunk. The toilets were nothing but holes in stone benches and all of the prisoners were given a total of 5 minutes each day for everyone to use them. Only half of Birkenau still stands while the Nazis destroyed the rest of the camp during the Soviet invasion.

Gas ChamberThe most powerful experience I had was in the building called the Sauna. The Sauna is where everybody who worked in Birkenau got processed and where all of the paperwork was stored. At the last part of the sauna, my father, Cantor Joseph Gole, led us in the Kiddush to mourn the souls of the fallen and we followed with the singing of Hatikvah, the Israeli National anthem. By the end of the prayers, nearly everyone in our group was very emotional with tears in their eyes. In that moment, my father and I shared one of the most emotional experiences in my life as we walked out of the camp in an embrace both crying.

While the Holocaust was a tragedy in itself, there are two ways to view the aftermath. I can either see the Holocaust as the worst thing to ever happen to the Jewish people—an event that took several of my family members away. Or I can see it in a more positive light. Hitler’s goal was to kill off every Jew on the planet, a mission that was never complete. In that sense, we won. Today, Jews are now able to sing Jewish prayers in Auschwitz, which probably makes Hitler scream in his grave.

In a few weeks, I will be going on a birthright trip to Israel. With the knowledge I have acquired on my trip to Poland, I will have a better understanding and appreciation for the creation of a Jewish homeland.

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Filed under Community, Education, Gratitude, Incarceration, International, Judaism, Spirituality

REFLECTIONS ON WARSAW


 

By David Gole

I just got back from my 10 day trip to Poland, a journey that I’ll never forget. Before landing in Warsaw, I wasn’t very hopeful that I was going to have a pleasant experience. Being American and Jewish, I was unsure whether the stereotype of polish anti-Semitism were true or not and prepared to face prejudice remarks from the local citizens. I thought that all of the buildings would have a Russian-Soviet look to them and that the city would look very gloomy and ugly.

To say the least, the city of Warsaw proved me wrong. Everyone that I have spoken to in Warsaw has been very hospitable and friendly. From seeing the city, the architecture is comparable to that of a western European town in a way that was quite surprising. I really learned a lot in Poland. I learned about impact of the Jewish culture on Polish history and how to bring recognition to a society that has pretty much forgotten. While this trip is going to be an experience of a lifetime, it is very fast-paced and there is always something going on.

We walked through the old town of Warsaw to see the castle and other buildings, which had been restored after the war. We also went to site of the Ghetto where Nazi Germany fenced off the Jews and people with Jewish lineage from the rest of the city. After visiting the former location of the Ghetto, we had a meeting to learn about their plans to build a Polish-Jewish Museum and introduce us to the Chief Rabbi of Poland Rabbi Michael Schudrich.

On the second day of the trip we met with Dr. Maciej Kozlowski, who is an Ambassador-at-Large for Polish-Jewish relations as well as the former Polish Ambassador to Israel. Following the meeting at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the group had the privilege of attending a Ceremony to present Medals and Certificates of Honor to Poles who acted righteously toward Jews during the war.

After the Ceremony, I got a chance to meet with several politicians from Poland, Israel and the United States. That night, I attended a dinner where the Forum for Dialogue Among Nations presented their educational program and their plans for expanding it along the country.

On my last day on Warsaw were visited the Warsaw Rising Museum. There I was able to learn about the uprisings in Warsaw against the Germans in 1944 and against the Soviet Union 1970. At lunch we were able to sit down with Kevin Kabumoto, who is the Internal Unit Chief of the Political-Economic Section at the United States Embassy. Although the group drilled him with questions, he was able to answer everything with poise and confidence.

My memories of Warsaw are bittersweet. The fact that Warsaw was able to go through times of destruction and oppression and still rise up to be what it is now fascinated me. It is a good lesson to learn that whenever life keeps you down you can always rise up again.

Read the next blog about my time in Krakow.

 

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Filed under Beit T'Shuvah, Community, Current Events, Gratitude, International, Judaism, Spirituality, Uncategorized

I Feel Nothing


By: Chris Alvarez      

Yesterday one of my cousins died and I feel nothing. I don’t feel sad and I don’t feel depressed. I just don’t know how.

However I do know how to feel nothing. Well, I know how to feel this physical manifestation (being continuously out of breath like being punched in the stomach) of what I think is grief.

Luckily I can feel this “grief” and be sober.  This isn’t the first death I have experienced in my 11 months of sobriety it’s the third.  It’s strange what sobriety does to you.  If I were still drinking I would “appear” to feel so much more.  I would cry, I would mope, and I would act out.  But the amazing thing about sobriety is that I am exactly where I am supposed to be and if it means not expressing my feelings then that’s ok. I can accept my inability to express and feel my feelings.

The acceptance of something I cannot change is a big part of sobriety and dealing with grief. Mortality is something that cannot be changed. As a sober person I am forced to accept that.  Just because I can’t feel my feelings doesn’t mean I’m a bad person. It just means that I am human and have to eventually learn to deal with them.

Right now I deal with grief by not feeling. You might be different but that’s the beauty of being human.  We are all unique and we deal with life in our own different ways. Feelings don’t make you who you are. And that’s the beauty of being human.

If you have any stories about dealing with grief let us know.

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