Rabbi Benyamin Bresinger
“I HAD GIVEN UP AT AGE 14” - DAVID’S STORY
When you’re a kid, you don’t really have an idea of what addiction is. Maybe you know that people drink for fun and certain “bad” people do drugs, but it’s sort of abstract. Growing up, I thought of my parents as fun people. They were pretty young when they had me, and being around as they threw parties at our place, it all just seemed like a regular part of life. I didn’t have anything else to compare it to.
I didn’t know it was unusual for my dad to regularly miss work because of “headaches.” He was so smart and funny, but he never really held any one job for that long. I thought all parents had screaming fights where they slurred their words and crossed all sorts of personal lines. I didn’t think of my mom as depressed and low-energy. She was just my mom.
From the age of 10 or so, I started taking on more responsibilities around the house. I did my own laundry. I made my own meals most evenings. My parents seemed to assume I was doing OK at school so they never really showed too much interest. They gradually started throwing fewer parties and had friends over less often, but they still drank heavily a few times a week.
Starting in Grade 8, my standing at school started to plummet. I had no discipline, I was distracted, and I started snapping at teachers who called me out. I started smoking pot with a friend after school because it made sense to me — it was just something that people did when they were unhappy. There weren’t any real consequences at home, so I just settled into a rut. I started to see myself as a “bad kid.”
After I was caught cutting class, I was sent to an alternate suspension program at the YMCA. One afternoon, there was a presentation on addiction by a counsellor from Chabad Lifeline. As someone who knew next to nothing about addiction, I was surprised by how much of my parents’ behaviour lined up with what they were describing. I approached the counsellor after the presentation and he set up an appointment for me to come to their Centre.
It’s amazing to have a space where you can really look at what's wrong with your life. I was able to get all the context I’d been missing to understand what was really going on with my parents - and how that had been affecting me. I needed a sane, responsible voice in my life, and now I had one. I hope my parents get that same help. I told them about Lifeline’s free addiction counselling, but I know it’s not my responsibility to fix them. I’m just grateful I have the chance to heal myself.
*Names and details have been changed to protect the anonymity of those involved, as the story was adapted after being told to a Lifeline staff member with permission to share. Additionally, we would note that the reason we were able to attend to David 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.