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  • Rabbi Benyamin Bresinger

How Marina Barr has been destigmatizing addiction on Instagram


Some people are born leaders. Others give of their time. And then there are those who inspire others by leading and yet finding time to volunteer.

Last September, Marina Barr attended Chabad Lifeline's film screening at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. After hearing Lamar Odom describe his battles with addiction, Eli Nash detail his descent into chaos, and his wife Fraidy recount her experiences as someone affected by addiction, Marina decided to lead. To volunteer to help destigmatize addiction.


After the screening, Marina met with Chabad Lifeline's Director Rabbi Benyamin Bresinger who invited her to visit the centre and sit in at an open speaker's meeting.


As Marina got more involved with Chabad Lifeline, she decided to follow them on Instagram. But before hitting that "follow" button, a thought struck her. "What if my friends see that I've followed Chabad Lifeline and think that I'm an addict?"


That was immediately followed by a realization. "Wait a second, I am contributing to the stigmatization! And if I am afraid to publicly follow them on social media, how many others feel the same way?"


This led to an idea, and the proposal of a new project: filming a series of videos aimed at destigmatizing addiction. "There is so much stigmatization associated with addiction, but it shouldn't be that way because everyone goes through their own problems," said Marina. "I knew that change had to happen, and it was important to spread the message that no one should fight addiction alone. That's when I figured that perhaps by introducing the future generation of leaders to the topic of addiction, people would be more open to talking about it, and that's where change starts. Opening up a conversation without any judgment is something all of us can do together."


A natural leader, Marina reached out to a large group of friends to coordinate the videos. "Everyone knows someone fighting some sort of battle, whether it's addiction or something going on in their personal lives," she said. "Since my goal was to create a conversation about addiction, I opened a discussion with my friends and they immediately got onboard with the idea."


Shira Aflalo, Vanessa Aronovici, Ilana Mamane, Aviva Smith, and Anabelle Tapiero joined Marina in shooting short, easily shareable videos that highlight the stigmatization and inform people affected by addiction that they don't have to suffer alone.


Thanks to Marina's videos, Chabad Lifeline's Instagram following has grown significantly. "Someone recently messaged me asking if I saw what they had posted in their Instastory," she shared. "She wrote, 'I never would have thought about what they brought out.'"


You can help destigmatize addiction by giving us a follow on Instagram.


"What we're doing is opening a channel to so many more people to see what amazing work Chabad Lifeline does, and discover that you don't have to go through addiction or really any problem alone because there are incredible places like Chabad Lifeline that are there to help you," said Marina. "I'm quite proud to be helping raise awareness. I’m excited for the future and what’s to come."

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