Someone I Know is Struggling with Substance Use: Now What?

“Around 46% of Americans have a close friend or family member who struggles with substance use or addiction. When we expand this to include colleagues, peers, or even members of our shul, chances are everybody knows somebody.”

CCSA was founded with the mission of creating stigma-free Jewish communities through awareness, education and programming regarding substance use and addiction.


Because of this, CCSA has spent a lot of time focusing on communal efforts to confront the issue of addiction. But what about individual efforts? What can we do as family members? Friends? Neighbors? Colleagues?


We’re all accountable for one another…but what does that accountability look like in practice?


Addressing the “Now What?”


CCSA was started as a direct response to addiction in our own family and the isolation, fear, and desperation that we felt. Thinking back to our roots and core purpose, it’s important for us to remember what sort of resources or conversations would have been helpful to us at that time.


When our family was confronted with addiction, “we struggled to accept the “three Cs” of dealing with a loved one’s addiction: “I didn’t cause it, I can’t cure it, I can’t control it.” Feeling overwhelmed with helplessness and fear, we began frantically researching treatment options and getting professional advice on the subject.”[i] Unfortunately, due to the shame and stigma associated with addiction, our family found very little communal dialogue and support for this disease.


Since its inception, CCSA has hosted a series of community events, aimed at increasing awareness, opening up these important conversations, increasing knowledge of resources available, and helping people feel less alone. The goal: to eliminate stigma and save lives.


But even once the stigma is shattered and the conversations are approached on a communal level…around 46% of Americans have a close friend or family member who struggles with substance use or addiction.[ii] When we expand this to include colleagues, peers, or even members of our shul, chances are “everybody knows somebody.” So what can one do to help?


On April 18, 2021, CCSA is addressing the issue of “Now What?” by hosting a virtual event that includes a panel of Jewish leaders and professionals to address the various obstacles, strategies, and options for getting someone help with an addiction. Panelists include Rabbi Dr. Benzion Twerski, Dr. Audrey Freshman, Rabbi Mordechai Willig, and Dr. Moshe Winograd. Collectively, they will address halachic concerns, communication strategies, and treatment options.


Stigmas, Hurdles, and Complications when Getting Someone Help


In our work at CCSA, we often hear heart-breaking stories of people who don't feel they have anywhere to turn. Whether it's a fear of judgment, not knowing about Jewish-specific resources, or having children of shidduch age, Jewish individuals often face culturally-specific stigmas and concerns. In addition to that, all sorts of issues arise when deciding how to approach a loved one or friend. What do I say? What can I do? How do I balance helping vs. enabling?


"Just like nobody's addiction looks the same, nobody's treatment or recovery will look the same either. Unfortunately, there's no "one-size-fits-all" solution."

Beyond these communication and religious concerns, there are also many misconceptions and roadblocks that exist on a larger level. These misconceptions about treatment/recovery exist in society, the media, and even in public policymaking and healthcare settings.


Some common misconceptions include:

  • Addiction treatment does not fall within the purview of the medical system

  • An adequate qualification to treat addiction is to have experienced addiction oneself

  • Complete abstinence is the primary goal of treatment

  • Addiction treatment medications should be avoided because they merely “substitute one addiction for another”

  • If medication is used to treat addiction, it should only be used in short-term settings or for detox purposes

  • A person needs to “hit rock bottom” for treatment to be successful

Each of these assumptions is blatantly contradicted by research and evidence, and each sadly only serves to reinforce the stigma around the disease.[iii]


Our goal in hosting this event is to continue eliminating the stigma that persists around addiction, shattering these misconceptions, and giving our community the tools necessary to combat addiction on all fronts. CCSA's mission is one of empowerment, education, and awareness.


Community-Centric Options and Resources


Following the main panel, there will be a community fair highlighting specific treatment options with culturally-competent, evidence-based modalities for Jewish individuals. Just like nobody's addiction looks the same, nobody's treatment or recovery will look the same either. Unfortunately, there's no "one-size-fits-all" solution.


That's why CCSA has garnered a group of trusted providers to talk through their specific programs and options. They'll be there to answer any remaining questions about different treatments that exist, who treatment is for, how the process works, and what Jewish-specific treatment looks like.

Presenting at the community fair will be Center for Living, Recovery at the Crossroads, SOBA, Transcend, and Transformations.


We look forward to seeing you at the event. Pre-registration is available at: https://www.jewishccsa.org/upcoming-events


For more information on the event, please contact us at time2talkaddiction@gmail.com


For more information on the CCSA blog and/or contribution process, please reach out to Elana (Ellie) Forman at eforman.ccsa@gmail.com with "CCSA Blog" in your subject line.


[i] https://mishpacha.com/alone-no-more/ [ii] https://www.addictioncenter.com/addiction/addiction-statistics/ [iii] Richter L., Vuolo L., Salmassi M.S. (2019) Stigma and Addiction Treatment. In: Avery J., Avery J. (eds) The Stigma of Addiction. Springer, Cham.

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