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  • Chabad Lifeline


Updated: Feb 9, 2022

I can still remember a point in my life when the idea of sobriety seemed like a cruel joke. I was addicted to alcohol and cocaine. I was a sex addict before I even knew what a sex addict was. I also suffered from an undiagnosed mental illness, which made it even harder to tell which end was up. Was I self-medicating or was my addiction creating the mental health issues? Could I even be self-medicating if I didn’t really know if I was mentally ill or not? I was in the dark.

My life was a maelstrom. I could come up with a million different projects to start, but I couldn’t follow through on a single one. Holding a job for any amount of time seemed inconceivable. I would use coke and booze to “stabilize” myself, but they just pushed me further and further away from any kind of solid ground. Worse still, my addictions made it difficult for psychiatrists to make accurate diagnoses, which in turn led me to become disillusioned with mental health care professionals.

I also engaged in indiscriminate sex. My desperate attempts to escape the loneliness and helplessness I felt just created more loneliness through shame and damaged relationships. Each time it seemed as though a solution to all my problems was being revealed to me. More than the sex itself, this is what I think I was addicted to.

As incidents like these accumulated, I felt more and more ashamed. As was my tendency at the time, I convinced myself that I could solve everything with a grand gesture. I packed a few possessions and abruptly moved from Ottawa to Montreal. But my problems followed. With there no longer being a need to keep up any semblance of appearances for my family and friends, I plunged headfirst into drug abuse. I felt psychotic every minute I couldn’t use. It became my entire life, and I thought about ending it every day.

One day, an old friend reached out to help. He had googled addiction treatment centres, and found one that was free and could see me immediately. My initial reaction was a bit cynical: “Why not go? Even if it doesn’t take, I can still tell people that I tried and they’ll stay off my back.” But the more I thought about it, the more I asked myself, “What if it works?” That idea, and the implication that the mess I’d made wasn’t some kind of life sentence, motivated me to make the call.

When I first arrived at Chabad Lifeline, I was terrified that my first meeting with a counsellor would fill me with shame and force my to relive the pain of my past in excruciating detail. Instead, I felt a tremendous sense of relief, because I knew that for whatever I had done in the past, I was now doing the right thing. We made a treatment plan that day, and I stuck with it.

I’ve been sober for four years years now. Getting clean also allowed me a fresh start seeking help for my mental illness. Lifeline put me in touch with a psychiatrist, and kept me together during the months I spent waiting for treatment. I’m on meds that actually work and I never miss an appointment with my doctor. The big difference is I now have the confidence of knowing that I will follow through with whatever I need to do. Because what I’ve really learned from all this is that I’m worth it.

*Names and details have been changed to protect the anonymity of those involved. Additionally, we would note that the reason we were able to attend to Janice immediately is because we are regularly expanding our staff in order to meet the growing demand for our services. As Chabad Lifeline is sustained through private donations, this entails significant fundraising efforts. Making a donation can help ensure that we can continue to provide timely care that can ultimately save a life or set a family on a better course, creating a positive ripple effect on future generations.

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