Jewish Tradition and Alcohol
What problems do Jewish alcoholics face in recovery?
Alcoholism is universal, yet some in the Jewish community hold that substance use disorders are not a problem among Jews. This myth is now fading, but still, some Jewish families may hesitate to expose their troubles, to appear to fall short of a high community standard. Shame and guilt may compound the denial problem. These factors can cause some to feel isolated and to neglect seeking help and support—despite the fact that Judaism has such a strong ethic of service and solidarity.
Moreover, some Jewish people believe that the Twelve Steps are not com- patible with Judaism, when, in fact, many aspects of the Steps are very similar to Jewish teachings. Another stumbling block: Alcoholics Anonymous meetings are often held in churches, which may initially be a problem for those of non- Christian faiths. However, AA meetings today can also be found in synagogues as well as in secular settings.
How can you maintain your ongoing recovery?
Alcoholism is not a failure of moral character or willpower. It is a disease. It is not something to be ashamed of, but a disease to be taken care of, much like you would take care of diabetes. Addiction happens to people from all backgrounds and walks of life. Although people in your Twelve Step program may not share your faith and ethnicity, they do share the common story of struggling with addiction. Look for the common ground you have with others rather than seeing the differences.
Try to find a sponsor and a recovery support system of people that you feel safe with, that you can relate to. You may want to join an organization such as Jewish Alcoholics, Chemically Dependent Persons, and Significant Others (JACS). This organization provides a comfortable environment for Jewish alcoholics to seek recovery, and it supplements programs such as the Twelve Steps with Jewish teachings and traditions.
You’ve worked hard in early recovery; now it’s time to protect and plan for your ongoing recovery. Remember to work the Steps, utilize your sponsor and sober friends for support, and go to meetings; these things will help you develop and maintain a healthy, happy outlook and enjoy the freedom and peace of sobriety.
Jewish Alcoholics, Chemically Dependent Persons, and Significant Others (JACS) JACS is a part of the Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services. The JACS website provides articles on alcoholism written by rabbis, links to other sites about alcohol use disorders, and meeting locations.