The role of religion in addiction treatment

a loved one’s addiction. Part of the group’s success is each member’s ability to open up without judgment, Jones said.

“People are able to be absolutely brutally honest and transparent, and they know they can do that because they’re not judged,” she said. “I think right nowThanksre more open and accepting to recovery and addicts than they are of other things.”


There is a widely held myth that Jews don’t abuse alcohol, Ivy Kopstein told Haaretz.

Kopstein, an addictions service coordinator at Jewish Child and Family Service in Winnipeg, Canada, told Haaretz, a Jewish news publication, that it may stem from a feeling of group pride and solidarity, due to “wine [being] a religious symbol that is first drunk early in life, and [the existence of] family traditions and views about the appearance of being drunk.”

But the Jewish community has been taking steps over the last decade – and more specifically the past three years – to talk openly about addiction after living in denial of substance abuse problems, said Beth Fishman, manager of the Jewish Center for Addiction in Chicago.

“I do think that there’s still a lot of denial and shame and stigma in the Jewish community about addiction, but it’s getting better,” Fishman said. “It used to be that the Jewish community just flat out denied it was an issue. Education and community outreach has really helped change that.”

The Jewish Center for Addiction, developed two years ago within Jewish Child and Family Services,  raises awareness, provides education and offers support services for addiction and substance abuse.

“I don’t believe Judaism is a program of recovery, it’s a religion, but there’s so much overlap between the 12-Step program and Jewish values that it’s very easy to apply Jewish prayers and practices,” Fishman said.

Fishman often works with people in long-term recovery typically for three years or more and offers workshops on Jewish meditation, writing Jewish healing prayers and adapting Jewish theology to recovery programs like the 12 Steps.

“Everyone touched by addiction has some healing that needs to be done,” she said. “Whether it’s you who’s using or a family member.”

But whether or not someone weaves Judaism into their recovery program, she said, is entirely up to them.

“I don’t think it’s necessary, but if they want to bring those two elements together, that can be very important,” Fishman said. “Sometimes you’re split into two people, where you feel like you can’t talk about addiction in the Jewish community and you can’t talk about Judaism in your recovery community.”

The Jewish Press and Mothers and Fathers Aligned Saving Kids helped bring the two worlds together with a conference in December that discussed addiction within the Jewish community.

The conference linked addiction to a person’s search for meaning in life. It focused on the philosophy of the late Viktor Frankl, a Holocaust survivor and psychiatrist, who developed a theory that finding meaning in life is the most powerful motivating force for a person.

“I think the organized Jewish community has made huge strides in addiction awareness, but there’s no doubt that it’s still a tough space to be vulnerable,” Fishman said. “The more that we can create Jewish communities that are open for healing and for people to be their real selves, the stronger and healthier we all will be.”


Ali Almuktar of Dearborn, Michigan, can’t remember ever talking about addiction and substance abuse with his parents, but growing up Muslim, he said, it was an unspoken rule that drug and alcohol abuse… (continue reading)