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Chabad Lifeline blog

Some people see this stuff in the movies. We see it every day...

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Eleven years ago Emma* and Gabriel* walked into Chabad Lifeline with nothing but two garbage bags filled with their clothing.

They had left their home after their son Jonathan* had been taken into child custody. They were in desperate need for help. 

What had been a 25 year cocaine addiction for both Emma and Gabriel rapidly escalated for the worse after experimentation with crack cocaine. This led to leaving work, owing money to bad people, and serious neglect of their 10-year-old son.

Montreal police had raided their house after neighbours overheard an altercation between Gabriel and shady debt collectors. Jonathan was swiftly taken into child custody. This was the wake up call they needed but knew they could not turn their lives around alone. Desperate to get their child back, they packed their clothes into two garbage bags and took a taxi to Chabad Lifeline.

"Coming to Lifeline was the best decision we ever made," said Emma. "It changed our lives."

Emma and Gabriel got involved in our treatment program for addicts. They followed the instructions of our treatment plan, which included individual counselling, group therapy, urine tests, and being involved in the 12 step fellowship.

They worked very hard at their sobriety and three months in, were able to reunite with their son, who entered and benefited from Chabad Lifeline's youth program. Addiction affects the whole family which is why we purposefully design programs for the whole family to grow and heal.  

Today, Jonathan is a McGill student on the Dean's List, working on getting into the MSW program. "I want to be able to help other kids who have gone through what I've gone through," he stressed. "And I see this is the best path."

We are extremely proud of Emma, Gabriel, and Jonathan, who took control of their lives and are role models for others struggling with the chaos of addiction.

*Please note: identifying information in this story has been altered to protect the anonymity of the family.

Feature Focus: Karen Dubrofsky

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Today we'd like to introduce you to one of Chabad Lifeline's guardian angels!

Karen Dubrofsky.

In the world of philanthropy, Karen is one of the rare few philanthropists who support non-profits because of a genuine desire to helping those in need, even though they don't know the individual on the receiving end uplifted by their donations.  

Fundraising with Cookbooks

Karen and her husband Lionel have advocated for numerous charitable causes, raising significant funds supporting causes they believe in.

In 2007, Karen authored a cookbook titled "Montreal Cooks: Recipes from Montreal's Finest Restaurants," raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for gynecological oncology at the MUHC, despite the fact that she had no connection to women's cancer.

Over the next two years, Karen met with world class chefs across Canada together with photographer Fahri Yavuz, leading to the publication of another best-selling cookbook featuring over 90 recipes: "Cooking with Canada's Best: Signature Recipes from our Finest Chefs." 100% of the proceeds were donated to the Kilee Patchell-Evans Autism Research Group at the University of Western Ontario, even though Karen had no personal connection to autism.

Her third cookbook was titled "Nourishing Friends: Recipes for a Healthy Life." Released in 2013 and co-authored with Chef Gigi Cohen, the book delivered 115 flavorful budget friendly recipes with a focus on vegetables and grain, and was one of the few cookbooks certified kosher by the MK Certification Agency. Sales of this popular book raised a significant amount of money for the Alexia and Anthony Calvillo Fund for the Cedars CanSupport Program.

In total, Karen raised over 1.5 million dollars for the three organizations! Something to be very proud of, not only because of the nominal figure, but the creativity and dedication she put into creating these meaningful cookbooks that in turn touched thousands of lives for the better. 

When in Florida...

Karen's connection to Chabad Lifeline began in Florida, where Executive Committee Member Heleena Wiltzer asked her what she's got planned for April. Heleena invited Karen to Lifeline's Open Speaker's Meeting on a Tuesday.

"I didn't really know what I was walking into," Karen recalled. "What struck me was the number of youth in the meeting."

At the meeting, a young man poured out his story with an open vulnerability, relating his continued struggles with addiction and his path to recovery. Karen stuck around to chat with others after the meeting, and was asked to help launch Chabad Lifeline's first annual film screening fundraiser. She immediately accepted much to our delight!

She became an integral part of the Chabad Lifeline's Executive Committee, ensuring the success of Lifeline's raffles and film screenings. She has raised tens of thousands in support of Lifeline, even though she has no personal connection to addiction.

"I think there's a tremendous need for support of those affected by addiction," she stressed. "It's a taboo subject that flies under the radar and most people try to sweep things under the rug. There's a need for it and Chabad Lifeline is a well run organization doing amazing work, particularly with the youth."

Chabad Lifeline Director Rabbi Benyamin Bresinger expressed his gratitude to Karen for her support. "A significant portion of the monies brought in by the film festival comes from Karen and Lionel Dubrofsky's efforts and philanthropy," he said. "Karen's wisdom and experience coupled with her passion for making the world a better place is something that inspires me every time we talk."

From all of us here at Chabad Lifeline, Thank you Karen!


We encourage our readers to attend a Tuesday Open Speaker's Meeting and see for themselves the impact of addiction. If you would like to make a donation and support our lifesaving work, click here.

Feature Focus: Certified Sex Addiction Therapist


Jennifer Kotry MA CSAT is Chabad Lifeline’s Senior Clinician. Originally from England, she spent several years here in Montreal before moving to Toronto where she lived for 30 years. She studied at both York University and the Adler School, where she gained her Master's Degree in Psychology.

Her last position before moving back to Montreal was with Bellwood Health Services, an addiction rehabilitation centre in Toronto. She describes the training and experience there as "monumental" in laying her foundation for addiction and trauma work.

“I started as an intern at Bellwood, and then I was hired as family counselor,” Jennifer recalled. “I graduated to group therapist, and then took training in trauma education and sex addiction.”

Professional Training in Sex Addiction

Jennifer was fortunate enough to train with Patrick Cairns in the United States, eventually becoming a CSAT (Certified Sex Addiction Therapist).

Patrick Cairns is a Psychologist and Researcher as well as a recovering alcoholic and sex addict who is very open about his past. His first book, written in the 1980s, is called "Out of the shadows: understanding sexual addiction."

Since then he has written many books and research articles on sex addiction and has led fairly extensive and ongoing research on the issue.

Cairns created a treatment protocol on sex addiction. His theory is that sex addiction can be defined as a relationship with sex rather than people, and that sex addiction manifests itself in a myriad of different and complex ways. He was the first clinician to name this as an addiction. He has been instrumental in advancing addiction research, and making addiction professionals aware of it. He is the founder of IITAP (International Institute for Trauma and Addiction Professionals). This organization now offers training worldwide to professionals.

Quebec’s only working CSAT

In 2010, Jennifer decided to return to Montreal to be closer to her family, and met with a psychologist living in Montreal who had been involved with Bellwood. “my goal and dream in coming to Montreal was to open up a full sex addiction practice, and she suggested I sit down with Chabad Lifeline, which at the time was Project PRIDE,” she recalled. “I met with Rabbi Bresinger and Karen, and we hit it off immediately - clearly a meeting of the minds.”

At the time, there was limited help and 12 step support for sex addicts in Montreal. “Chabad Lifeline has really done a great job in expanding the treatment availability, support, and meetings for those suffering from sex addiction.”

Jennifer is Chabad Lifeline’s Trauma and Sex Addiction Therapist. She is currently the only working CSAT in Quebec. “I am a consultant and supervisor to the staff on anything related to sex addiction,” she explained. “I also consult on trauma and addiction, but my main role is running the sex addiction department. I see clients both individually and in a group format, and I also cofacilitate a partners of sex addicts group with our Clinical Director Karen Bresinger. I’m a clinician who works hands on with the clients, demonstrating a treatment modelbased on research and experience to treat this very challenging issue.”

Jennifer’s philosophy

Sex addiction is about manageability and consequences due to one’s actions. “This isn’t about someone exploring their sexuality, watching pornography, masturbating or paying for sex,” explained Jennifer. “None of that is necessarily an indication of sex addiction. It’s when the consequences - both external and internal - of a person's actions seriously impacts their life. Examples of external consequences are when others such as their partners and families are in great distress because of it, their marriage or relationships are threatened or over, they lose their job and in some cases are in legal trouble. One of the more damaging internal consequences is disconnect and a loss of self, yet they are still not able to stop. This is when they start to realize they are in trouble.”

Clients who meet with Jennifer for the first time undergo an intake, history, and several assessments. “Through the assessment and history, I gain a clearer sense of what is going on for them, and offer a full treatment protocol.”

"A cornerstone of the treatment is a period of abstinence from ALL sexual behaviour for a period of time – at least 90 days. Clients often react with horror at this suggestion," Jennifer reflected with some amusement. "After picking themselves up off the floor, I explain that this method has been proven to work and it’s a commitment to the process. That’s how it starts."

During the abstinence, repressed memories sometimes surface, or more commonly those memories they have been medicating become more evident. “We then get to the root of the problem,” she explained. "I tell clients that this isn’t about trying control anyone’s sexuality. It’s about freeing the addict from the proverbial monkey on their back. To let them decide on their sexuality and not have their sexuality control them."

The abstinence, however, is just a step in their treatment journey of recovery from this serious problem. The recommended treatment includes, as noted, a period of abstinence, group therapy, individual therapy, and 12 step participation in an S group fellowship.

The partners of sex addicts are strongly encouraged to follow a similar protocol. Jennifer openly states, "sex addiction is a tough nut to crack," but following the recommended treatment can and does indeed work.

The Chabad Lifeline team

Jennifer is involved in clinical team meetings where client cases are discussed. Chabad Lifeline’s staff works together to form the best possible treatment plan. Her insight as a sex therapist is invaluable to the team and those reaching out for help.

“A huge advantage is the team and the feeling that I can bring challenging cases to discuss and they are all processed by the team in an environment that is accepting, non-judgmental, and professional.”

So Jennifer's dream of a sex addiction practice in Montreal has indeed become a reality!

It called to his soul


The painting depicts a woman standing behind a child, who is placing a coin in a charity box. A portrayal of innocence. Purity. Kindness.

It's a work of art.

Gabi* was at Chabad Lifeline's Open Speaker's Meeting in the Carole & Andy Harper Group Therapy Room one recent Tuesday at noon, and the painting, standing prominently on the front wall, called to his soul. Gave him comfort.

After the meeting, he asked his Addictions Counselor Ruth about the painting. What was happening in the scene.

She explained that the artwork had been painted by Haim Sherrf, who donated the masterpiece to Chabad Lifeline. It depicted a daily Jewish tradition of dropping coins into a charity before one asks for his or her own needs.

"Giving back is part of the healing," she advised. "Getting out of yourself and thinking of someone else is an important part of Chabad Lifeline's philosophy and treatment."

That's what led to our charity box initiative.

Local artist Veronique Aglat painted a colourful mural of a man stuck inside the charity box calling for help, and the boxes have been distributed to restaurants, offices, homes and stores throughout Montreal.

We encourage everyone to place a coin or two in a charity box every day and to think about the wellness of others when they do so. Together, let´s make the world a better and safer place.

Due to the fact that we receive no government funding, every loonie placed in one of our charity boxes goes directly to helping save lives.

If you would like a Chabad Lifeline charity box to use in your kitchen, dining room or office, call 514-738-7700, private message us on social media or email us and we'll drop one off for you.

*Note: Gabi is a pseudonym


Lost in a hallway of the Jewish General Hospital

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A woman.


Slurring her words.

Lost in a hallway of the Jewish General Hospital.

Then a man swam into vision. Looking down with concern. "Is everything ok? Can I help you?"

Edward Wiltzer is Chairman of the Board of the JGH Foundation, a position that puts him on campus regularly. He was rushing to a meeting and saw a young woman in distress. Stumbling. Slurring her words.

He stopped.

Her name is Jody*. She has three children. Divorced. Struggling to survive financially. Struggling to survive emotionally. Struggling to survive her alcohol addiction.

She had driven to the hospital, drunk. She knew she needed help. She had reached rock bottom but couldn't find the courage to ask.

Mr. Wiltzer brought her to emergency and asked if she wanted help with her drinking. 

Mr. Wiltzer also serves Chair of the Executive Committee at Chabad Lifeline. He would miss his meeting, but a life was at stake. Three childrens' lives were at stake. He called Chabad Lifeline, set up an intake meeting, and guided Jody to Chabad Lifeline's door.

He saved her life.

Jody has spoken at Chabad Lifeline events. She has shared her story. She has been clean five years and counting.

But the story isn't over.

This week, Chabad Lifeline's director, Rabbi Benyamin Bresinger, received a phone call.

Ever since she was a child, Jody had always wanted to be a nurse. To help others. But she had an internal fear. Her brain couldn't work out math problems. As part of training, she would have to take a math course that would require difficult calculations.

Her therapy at Chabad Lifeline helped her overcome the fear and get into a nursing program.

The reason for the call? She had received the results of her first math test. Her score? 96%.

Jody will be reading this email. We wish you the best moving forward and we know you will make a great nurse, with empathy for every future patient.

We know this because your life was saved thanks to the empathy of one man who stopped in a hospital hallway.

*Names and some information has been changed to protect the anonymity of those in the story. 

Arriving in school drunk


Kate* was a shy, reserved 14-year-old high schooler with good grades and an interest in music. No one imagined that she was drowning inside.

Until one day when Kate showed up to class intoxicated. Slurring her words and acting out.

As Chabad Lifeline had recently established a staff presence on campus, the school Guidance Counselor arranged a one on one session with our Youth Addictions Counselor.

Kate opened up. Her mother had a very serious drinking problem and it affected her home life, her relationship with alcohol, and her self-worth.

After several meetings, we met Kate's mother and provided both her and Kate with individualized treatment plans. 

Kate is no longer alone, leading a chaotic life. She still meets regularly with our Youth Counselor and has developed close friendships with her peers. Her mother is doing well at Chabad Lifeline and their house has become a safe haven, a home.

Chabad Lifeline is here to help anyone affected by addiction. We are in the community and in our schools, educating, counseling, and working on prevention. 

If you know someone affected by addiction, contact Chabad Lifeline by phone at 514-738-7700 or by email


*Names and some information has been changed to protect the anonymity of those in the story. The image is a stock photo from the Ferreiro Project.

Meet Laurie Baum: new Youth Counsellor at Chabad Lifeline

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After collaborating with the English School Board of Montreal since 1989, we have taken a big step and hired a new Youth Counsellor who will be present in five alternative schools across Montreal on a daily basis.

Laurie Baum M.Ed holds a Master's degree in Counselling from the University of Ottawa. She comes to Chabad Lifeline with many years of experience at high schools working with adolescents in the area of social services. Laurie uses a non-judgmental approach to connect with youth and provide clients with ongoing support in reaching their treatment goals.

Laurie will meet one on one with students who have been flagged by school Guidance Counsellors and will also spend time at Chabad Lifeline working with our comprehensive youth department.

In addition, she will present cases at our twice weekly clinical meetings so our team can develop a plan to provide the best possible care for the youth and those affected by addiction.

A letter to my parents

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Dear Mom and Dad,

I'm sitting here crying as I write this. I need you to know a few things.

My one year anniversary of being sober is coming up. I've worked very hard on myself to try and find out where my behaviour came from.

I want to say I'm sorry. I'm sorry for trying to blame you. I'm sorry for hating you.

You are not at fault. You never were.

I am in recovery today thanks to you.

Sticking to your ultimatum is what made me seek help. I was alone and broken. I hated you with a vile passion but now I'm grateful.

I'm 11 months and 27 days clean thanks to your uncompromising, steadfast resolution. I loathed you at the time but looking back I'm really grateful you had the support from Chabad Lifeline and were able to do the right thing. It must have been the hardest thing you've ever done.

Dear Mom and Dad, I love you.

I always will.


Note: this is a copy of an actual letter. Certain identifying details were removed.

Parents, would you like to hear from experts and young addicts in recovery?

On November 30th, Chabad Lifeline will be hosting a free educational initiative where you can ask questions to our Family and Youth Counsellors, as well as young recovering addicts who will recount their struggles during adolescence.

No cost but pre-registration required.

Scott's story: "The disconnect is killing me."

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Hi, my name is Scott* and I am a porn addict.

I'm writing this knowing that someone in my situation may be afraid to ask for help. I thought I would take this secret to my grave.

I was first exposed to porn when I was 12 years old. But while my friends were able to move on, I just couldn't get those images - the ones showing "pleasure", the ones hitting my brain with dopamine - out of my head.

I needed more. And I found them. On my phone.

Every night (and sometimes during the day) I was awash in a fantasy world. I was on my cell phone but the disconnect was killing me.

Things got worse in college. I started failing tests. I wasn't sleeping. I was missing classes.

I turned to a student counselor, who had the insight to send me to Chabad Lifeline. I can tell you, this saved my life.

I was given a treatment plan and joined Lifeline's sex addiction program.

I had dropped out of college but over the summer I've been preparing and have been accepted back into college. As of today, I'm four months clean and I'm looking forward to a full year ahead.

If you are reading this and have experienced some of what I've gone through, call Chabad Lifeline. They've been discreet, they've been amazing, and for that I'm very grateful. Don't be afraid to reach out for help!

Note: Scott is a pseudonym used by the author of this blog post to protect his privacy.

David's story: "She was the cause of my Dad's suicide"

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The pressure on his shoulders.

"I'm 18 but I'm afraid to leave her alone."

As part of Chabad Lifeline's school outreach program which sees thousands of kids a year, our youth team travels to schools to educate and discuss addiction and those affected by it. Five years ago, the following message appeared on the post-presentation questionnaire:

"My Mom has been an intense alcoholic and crackhead for around 20 years. She ruins the lives of all the men she dates. She was the cause of my Dad's suicide. She's impossible to talk to because she makes false assumptions and sticks by them and I don't know what to do. I'm almost 18 but I'm afraid to leave her alone."

The student, David*, left his cell number.

Our youth coordinator called David who came to Lifeline for an intake, eventually receiving counseling and joining our youth group. He recently sent the following email to Rabbi Benyamin Bresinger, Director of Chabad Lifeline:

"Hi Rabbi, I'm in a different place because of you guys at LL and especially the youth group," he wrote. "I learned that my job is to be the son of my mother, not her father. Thank you."

*Names and identifying details from the true account have been changed to protect the privacy of the individuals involved. 

Part of our mandate at Chabad Lifeline is to help youth affected by addiction. If you have any questions or know someone who can use our services, call 514-738-7700 or contact us through our Facebook page.

8 valid reasons why you haven't bought a raffle ticket

So you haven't yet bought a ticket supporting Chabad Lifeline's raffle? (if you already purchased a ticket, thank you so much!)

Here are:

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8. I've been in an underground bunker for the last six months and haven't heard about the raffle.

7. I already bought tickets so quit hounding me!

6. I've been stuck on the road for the last 3 weeks trying to get home through all these construction sites!

5. The check is in the mail.

4. My dog ate my entire email inbox.

3. I was about to buy a ticket... But then my mother called.

2. My wife has been in labor for the last week.

1. I won last year's $15,000 raffle and currently live in Ibiza.

Those are all perfectly valid points. However, consider these:

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8. At Chabad Lifeline, the cost for an addict in crisis is $2,250 for 12 months of help vs. $25,000 for 30 days at a rehab or hospital.

7. Addicts in crisis can find themselves on a waiting list through the public system, wasting valuable time. Treatment at Chabad Lifeline is both immediate and free, supported by your generous donations.

6. At Chabad Lifeline, we focus not only on the addict, but on their family and dependents, who often suffer in silence.

5. Incarceration keeps addicts off the streets at a cost of over $100,000 per year, with high recidivism numbers. The success rate for addicts after leaving Chabad Lifeline's 12 month program is over 50%.

4. At Chabad Lifeline, a team of seven professionals meet twice a week to discuss each client. In the public system, clients are often seen by one professional, who focuses on dealing with the current issues at hand.

3. Chabad Lifeline has a department dedicated to helping youth, both youth-at-risk and the ones coming from families.

2. Chabad Lifeline goes into schools to connect with the youth. In fact, this year we will be expanding our unique programming in schools.

1. Because we have helped so many. Watch testimonials from school officials, organizations we work with, and people we have helped.

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Short on money? Buy "half" a ticket or pay it out over time.

Having problems online? Call 514-738-7700 and purchase your ticket over the phone!

Like our Facebook page.

Feature focus: Medical Doctor & Addiction Specialist


"My relationship with Chabad Lifeline has evolved beyond collegiality into friendship," said Dr. Jean-Francois Boivin in a recent chat. "What I value most in terms of things you don't find too often is the teamwork. The fact that I can come here and share my views on patients and also receive the feedback from others and we work together as a team around the patient."

Often, in the field of addiction, whether substance or behavioural addictions, we find we call comorbidities, the simultaneous presence of two chronic diseases or conditions in a patient. For example, depression may be present, but there might be other problems such as hyperactivity which must be dealt with as part of an effective treatment plan.

With this in mind, Chabad Lifeline reached out to the Herzl Clinic years ago to collaborate and allow a physician and addiction expert to be consulted by our staff when we have a client we feel should be assessed for disorders such as depression, physical health and the like. They put us in touch with Dr. Boivin and a friendship was born.

Direct research on street kids 

When Jean Francois Boivin was a student looking to major in molecular biology, he discovered epidemiology and public health and its research piqued his interest. As time passed, Boivin moved toward statistical research of epidemiology, studying the causes of cancer and unwanted side effects of medication.

In 1981, he graduated Harvard with a doctoral degree in epidemiology and in 1990, he finished Chis studies at the Universite de Montreal as a physician and specialist in community medicine. In the mid-nineties, Dr. Boivin began researching street youth in Montreal, the health of homeless kids. This research led to an interest in substance abuse and addiction among the street kids.

"We worked with all of the key resources that offer services to street youth in Montreal," he recalled. "Through them, we accessed street kids and took blood samples as well as did various surveys on their health, filling in questionnaires on their habits and backgrounds."

"One of our findings was that there is a very high mortality rate among these kids. About 10 times higher than what you would find among youth of similar age in Quebec," he continued. "We felt that there were infections like HIV, overdoses, hepatitis, and higher suicide rates which brought about the huge mortality rate."

Returning to clinical practice

Dr. Boivin has served on various scientific and policy committees such as the Scientific Council of the Québec Research Institute for Health and Occupational Safety (1997-2001), the Scientific Council of France's Mutuelle générale de l’éducation nationale (1999-2002), and the Advisory Board of the CIHR Institute of Health Services and Policy Research (2004-2008).

He was a consultant and examiner for the Faculty of Medicine of Kuwait (1998-2002). He is currently a member of the Québec Regional Advisory Committee of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada, the Fellowships Affairs of the Royal College, and the Board of Directors of the Canadian Center on Substance Abuse.

10 years ago, Dr. Boivin returned to clinical practice. "I wanted to see the people who were behind the numbers we were working on and I wanted to return to the clinical encounter," he explained. "Eventually it became something I felt I needed to do. Because I had been in research for so many years, I took a year off and had to relearn the clinical skills, so I spent one year at the St Luc Hospital which is a large addiction centre relearning how to be a doctor with a focus on addiction medicine due to my work with street youth."

Joining Lifeline's team 

Dr. Boivin joined the Herzl, where they have an addiction clinic, and joined Chabad Lifeline's team as our addiction specialist, making himself available for Lifeline clients who need assessment and treatment for clinical disorders. "We also have access at the Herzl Clinic to a psychiatrist who will conduct in depth assessments of our patients, and I can send patients from Lifeline to a psychiatrist for a one shot in depth assessment for more complicated cases," said Dr. Boivin. "With the information from the psychiatrist, we can guide the treatment plan for the patient."

Dr. Boivin regularly meets with Lifeline's clinical team to discuss cases they are working on together and to share different perspectives and update treatment plans accordingly.

In addition, Dr. Boivin advises on topical subjects such as the current harm reduction debate, and shares his expertise in physical medicine. "For example, I remember early on someone at Lifeline asked me to explain the distinction between Hepatitis A, B and C," he recalled. 

In addition to his duties at the Herzl Clinic and Chabad Lifeline, Dr. Boivin is a Professor in the Department of Epidemiology & Biostatistics at McGill University. His expertise and guidance have helped save the lives of countless clients of Chabad Lifeline.

Support our team as we reach the end of our raffle campaign. Purchase a ticket here.

Lea's story: a shocking letter

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Partners of addicts can be in the dark for years. Sometimes, the opening of an envelope can turn your world upside down.

After 14 years of marriage to her high school sweetheart, Lea* came across a notice of foreclosure from the bank. She confronted her husband who confessed to a gambling addiction that led back to poker games in CEGEP. Their inheritance and life savings were gone.

Lea was distraught and moved into her mother's home together with their children. A friend recommended Chabad Lifeline and we made sure she wasn't alone and the children received support during this crisis. We also met with her husband and set out a treatment plan for him to follow.

The family is back together, building their life again on a foundation based on honesty and good values. Lea now helps other women deal with the catastrophic shock of codependency.

"My family was torn apart and thanks to Chabad Lifeline and good friends, we've made it through the crisis," admitted Lea. "We're still working on paying back my husband's debts but more importantly we are dealing with the addiction together."

In next month's newsletter, we will address and define codependency, and discuss the enabling of addicts and the importance of setting boundaries.

Please note that Lea is a pseudonym and certain details were changed to protect the privacy of the family.

We are in middle of a raffle campaign. Click here to support Chabad Lifeline and allow us to continue helping families like Lea's.

Feature Focus: Family Counselling

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Karen Bresinger MSW from Rutger's University in New Jersey, is Clinical Director and Family Counsellor at Chabad Lifeline. She has extensive experience counselling family members dealing with addiction, working with co-dependency, and she directs the treatment program for addicts and families.

“Family members of addicts are usually the first ones to call us seeking help for someone with addiction issues, being that addiction includes a lot of denial,” explained Karen. “They are the first ones to see the problem and call in crisis, asking how they can help their family member.”

Karen’s work involves educating the family members on what’s helpful. And based on research, what’s most helpful is for them to get help for themselves.

One of the best forms of help is to join a group of people facing similar challenges, which has been proven to be the most effective way to help with dealing with addiction for both the addict and the family members, being that they see that they are not alone. “There’s a sense of connection when someone is with other people, and that’s really helpful,” said Karen. “We offer individual counselling and therapies for the parents, spouses, children, even grandparents of the addict, as well as groups they all can join.”

Counselling family members of addicts often involves advising them to look at their own behaviour and see if anything may be enabling the addict. “The three C’s are very important,” Karen explained. “Family members need to know that they didn’t Cause it, they can’t Control is, and they can’t Cure it. Many family members come in thinking they can do all of the three.”

Family members are guided through psychoeducation and group support in learning the many aspects of addiction and healing.

“What makes Chabad Lifeline unique in this area is that regardless if the addict is coming for help or not, or if they’re getting help with Chabad Lifeline or elsewhere,” said Rabbi Benyamin Bresinger, Director at Chabad Lifeline. “We see support for the family as essential because they are also suffering.”

Chabad Lifeline also tries to give family members tools to support the addict in reaching out for help as well, and with Lifeline's team working together, can offer a complete service where the addiction counsellors, family therapies, and youth coordinator can get together under the same roof on a regular basis to aid the family on a path of complete recovery.


Feature focus: intake

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It can take years for someone affected by addiction to finally come for help. We see how important creating a warm, welcoming and non-judgmental environment is.

This lifesaving atmosphere is embodied by Ruth. “It’s Ruth’s smile and love that saved my life,” said Donna K.

Ruth is an Internationally Certified Alcohol and Drug Counsellor and Certified Canadian Addiction Counsellor. She has been an Addictions Counsellor at Chabad Lifeline since 2002.

Ruth had been counselling addicts independently for many years. “Fifteen years ago, I walked into the centre and offered to help,” she recalled. “This was always a passion for me and it evolved into a career. I love this place.”

Ruth is responsible for the intake, screening and assessment. “I will usually see a client the same day or maximum within 48 hours,” she said. “That’s for an intake, but a person can come in immediately and tap into our vast resources and never have to be alone again.” 

Intake involves filling out paperwork which includes a confidentiality form, the client’s contact information and a brief history. The client then fills out a questionnaire that screens for multiple addictions. “Very often someone comes in for an alcohol problem and the screening and intake will reveal that they also have other issues that have never been addressed.”

After the initial meeting, she meets with the eight members of our clinical team to come up with the best treatment plan possible.

Ruth also leads an open speaker’s group, coordinates volunteers, and serves as a liaison with the recovery community. “I love watching people get better,” she said warmly. “Seeing them show up and then go from darkness to light is very rewarding. I love our clients.”

Ruth’s non-judgmental, hospitable manner is vital to the healing process of everyone who has been helped by Chabad Lifeline. It actually saves lives.

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