DENNIS BROWN, MA, NCACII, RAS, CSAT
Executive Director, SUBSTANCE ABUSE PROFESSIONAL (SAP)
The Ness Counseling Center, INC.8512 Whitworth Dr.Los Angeles, CA 90035 --- Organizationdbrown@thenesscenter.org
I have been working in the field of addictions Addictive Behavior for over thirty-five years, twenty of which I worked in The Chabad Residential Treatment Center. I am now Director of an Outpatient Center, The Ness Counseling Center, Inc. in West Los Angeles. A note to our readers, addictions are real and these addictions do not discriminate between, race, religion, rich or poor, male or female, they are pathologies of human behavior which none of us can claim immunity from in our subconscious or conscious state and none of us are invincible when it comes to inner workings of our daily life.
As an Addictive Specialist/Counselor with over 35 years of experience I can tell you that there are many addictions: we have substance abuse addictions, consumer addictions, physical addictions, sexual addictions and emotional addictions. They are all self reward addictions directly linked to the Reward Systems in the brain, they all in one way or another lead us to a synthetic feeling of well being.
While working in the field, I remember one mom in particular; when upon being told that her son was an alcoholic she said “thank G-D, he could have been a drug addict”. This unfortunately, is a common misconception in the Frum/secular community; the idea that one addiction is better than the other, or that one is more ‘socially’ acceptable. This thinking opens the doors for vast ill “social norms” amongst the masses, When applied to the frum community the bar is raised even higher, leading to ‘optimal denial’.
The religious community creates a vacuum of privacy and unspoken social shames that are hidden, at all cost, under the illusion that ‘addictions’ and their pathologies are problem of the secular, non-Jewish world and just don’t occur in the frum world. This denial perpetuates the cycle of abuse, forcing the victims to remain silent all in the name of avoiding an idea that when you remove all the veils of our individual scared religious communities, you are left with the belief that frum Jews walk on water? In the end, you have human beings susceptible to human behavior.
In short, suffice it to say that our community suffers from the worst symptom of any addiction, DENIAL. It is the myth that someone who gives Tzedakah and wears Tzitzit is somehow a holy individual in the community that could never do wrong, never abuse his wife or children and never sexually abuse one in the community! It is as if to say that the religious community does not ‘suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune: that somehow, we as religious Jews do not suffer from the same addictions, diseases as the secular world, that G-d made us different.
It is a hypocritical and cynical attempt to maintain a facade of perfection, when in fact that when the day is done and we close our doors we are human beings susceptible to the same thoughts and desires as the rest of the population. One of the things we seem to overlook and forget is that our religious leaders are not perfect, do not ‘walk on water’ and are prey to the same human desires as the “outside world.”
I remember when a Rebbe was caught here in California for molesting students in school, at the school meeting there was a mother who had the audacity to say that the children should be punished for ruining this Rebbe’s career. even when he clearly admitted the crime! He spent a year in jail and was supposed to register as a Sexual Offender, however he did not as there several people in the community who raised money and helped him to flee the country.
What do we say to those children, victims of these abusers, whose innocence and lives have been scared forever, to what end do we continue this synthetic cycle, if it does not put to shame those in the religious community who live a life of faith and goodness, it in fact separates the religion from the man.
Several years ago I worked with a Chabad Shaliach who was one of this same Rebbe’s victims when he had been a young student in a yeshivah in Brooklyn, New York. There were questions about him (the Rebbe) then, however all we managed to do was move him around, there was never a healthy resolution for this victim or others. So do we continue to count one life more valuable than that of another? I say not, in the world that we live inside and outside of the borders of our religious communities we have an obligation to walk the walk and talk the talk.
Even in the Sheva Mitzvot Bnei Noach the 4th commandment Prohibition of Sexual Immorality, do we not shame our very own breath of life to not see the truth of behaviors. The times are changing, the world becomes more integrated as each day passes, it is our duty to our very own belief of T’shuvah that we get out of Denial. We must embrace the sincerity of addiction so as we may find the path to recovery.
Around twenty years ago I remember a woman who had reached out to all of the agencies within reach in the Los Angeles area with he plea for help as she proclaimed that her husband was abusing her, she was told “go back home and we will investigate”. Failing to listen or protect her, her husband beat her to death. We failed her and her children.
I see the denial happening time and time again as an Addiction Specialist. As we continue to fail to meet our social responsibilities, and our human responsibilities . We neglect our most precious possessions, our children. We must stop looking at the uniforms and costumes/masks that we go through life with, we must stop looking/worrying about how we will be seen by others and must start looking at how our shameful secrets affect our children, (their neshamah’s and Yiddishkiet)
Mitzvah, you shall not worship an idol…
Mitzvah you shall pay money for any loss you cause anyone to suffer…
Mitzvah you shall have to appear before a Judge to determine your innocence…
Mitzvah you shall not lie to protect a wicked man or woman…
Mitzvah you shall not join a majority, multitude or mob to do evil…
Mitzvah you shall not corrupt justice…
Mitzvah you shall treat a stranger humanely…
We must come out of the dark, we must take our religious teaching and bring them to life…all of them…we must come to the reality that we are all human beings.
When do we say enough is enough?