Religion: harmful or helpful?

Religion: harmful or helpful?

Recently I spoke to an audience of some 50 men and women about how addiction affects their lives.

This time it was in the warm, glowing setting of a Jewish temple.  The event planners had billed the evening to eradicate “shame’ and “blame” about addiction and mental illness.  In addition to telling my story, a panel of six shared theirs.

What was so remarkable was that five people – both from the panel and the audience – revealed they had lost someone to an addiction.

At an AA or Al-Anon meeting this would be routine.  But in the sacred confines of a Jewish institution, such revelations are rare.

It’s been nearly 13 years since I’ve been on a surreal “journey” with addiction, one I never sought or saw heading my way.

Years ago a reporter for a Jewish newspaper chased me for an interview, claiming “Addiction in Judaism is so rare.” I suspected this has had to be wrong, and today I know it is.

What may be true, however, of many religions is that we hide that which we can’t face.  We are too proud to confess to our fellow congregants – or to anyone – that there’s something we perceive as hideous or unholy within our family.  In the small conversations before and after a religious service there’s no time to get serious, to share or reveal, or to cry.

After all, if we can’t confess before God, how can we confess to our neighbors?

But as the program that evening proved, there is hope that if we reveal what we seek to hide, healing can begin.

Or as my son reminds me often, “It dies in the light.”

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