Judaism and Drug Addiction

Judaism and Drug Addiction

I recently officiated at a funeral at the Hebrew Free Burial Society for a Jewish man who had died from drug addiction. He had forsaken his family decades ago, leaving a trail of pain.

I went and started reading about Judaism and drug addiction, and learned a lot from a piece by Rabbi Dr. David Nesenoff, who is the founder of the Center for Jewish Addiction Rehabilitation. The addict, Dr. Nesenoff says, is all about selfishness. It is a nasty dangerous business of self indulgent, egocentric narcissism. The user is devout and devoted; it is his religion. And it’s not a two-day-a-year religion for him. He is orthodox about it. Every minute of the day he is either using or praying to be using. And he will sacrifice his own family. He wants to be high and then get even higher; he wants to be the highest. Which essentially means no one and no thing can be higher. That is his goal and the purpose of his life.

Does Judaism have anything to offer in the recovery of those battling addictions? Dr. Nesenoff does not pretend that Jewishness is the shining key to unlocking the elusive chamber that contains the treasure to finally healing the addict forever. In reality, he says, Judaism is the gateway solution; it helps to transform one’s life by discovering the actual purpose of why we are here. The practices, Torah, texts, stories, deeds and mystical teachings are all about negating one’s self-centered plans. The negation occurs by serving others; and by serving the highest entity Who is higher than the mortal seeking to get high. The spark of connection is initiated by doing the mitzvah and the ongoing contact is extended through continued acts and teachings that define one’s very purpose in life. Was the whole world created, and survived over the
centuries, for me to be born and wake up this morning in order to get wasted? Better to say that there is a deeper meaning as to the very purpose of my life; so I shouldn’t waste it.

I only wish the gentleman I buried could have met Dr. Nesenoff.

Rabbi Scolnic