Rabbi Benyamin Bresinger
Muted: Daniel's Story
It began with a sandwich.
About a year ago, I took a midday break from work to grab corned beef on rye with a friend. As I drove past a large popular shopping centre, I saw my son Brian.
He was alone. Leaning near the wall of the mall. In the middle of a school day.
Smoking a joint.
I exploded in rage. Parked my car and raced toward him, shouting. He saw me and bolted.
That was the first time I busted him skipping school to smoke up. Within a couple months, Brian stopped going to class altogether and turned our lives upside down. I wasn't on speaking terms with him.
My wife found out about Chabad Lifeline and we met with Karen for an intake. She asked a lot of questions and we spoke about our family dynamics. She asked about my habits. I lied repeatedly.
Conversation moved back to our son and I relaxed. Looking back, I wonder if she saw through me then.
After our initial intake, Brian met with one of Chabad Lifeline's Youth Counselors and began seeing him regularly. It took awhile, but we saw improvements. He returned to school. Things were looking up.
When the pandemic struck, Brian began meeting his Youth Counselor over zoom. He progressed as I regressed.
I'm ashamed to admit, but I've always had a drinking problem. Back then, I didn't see a problem with my alcohol abuse, despite the fact that it affected my relationship with my employees, my kids, and my wife.
With everyone at home, I got worse. I drank more and more. Brian must have said something to his Youth Counselor because my wife and I were invited to a zoom meeting with Chabad Lifeline.
Of course, I denied anything was wrong with me and turned the focus of the meeting on our son's improvements. Lifeline's Counselors were kind, and they kept gently hammering the message that no one should ever have to feel alone.
I felt so alone.
When the meeting was over, I needed a drink. And another. And another.
After probably going through more than one bottle, I felt that familiar wave of rage. But I also felt a deep sense of shame. I took every bottle of alcohol in my house and tossed it in the garbage. Then I went to sleep.
I slept in. Missed hours of work. Woke up with a terrible hangover. And realized I had a problem.
I very nervously called Chabad Lifeline. The phone call was as terrifying as the moment I proposed to my wife. I was shaking. My body was screaming at me to hang up. That I needed a drink. But I made it through the call.
I still can't believe how quick they moved. My intake was the next day where I found myself in a zoom meeting with an Addictions Counselor.
One of his suggestions was that I join a meeting. Of course, meetings were no longer in person. Instead, they were on zoom. But the shame was too much.
After several more meetings, I finally agreed to join a zoom meeting. With my video off. My audio off. And my name changed.
The meetings helped. They also allowed me to find something in common with Brian. We had something to talk about. We began healing together.
Eventually, my Addictions Counselor encouraged me to unmute, and I spoke at a meeting. It was a big step, "a brave step" to quote my Counselor, and admitting my problem in public wasn't as mortifying as I thought it would be. Instead, it was cathartic.
Several weeks ago, I took another brave step. I turned on my video and showed my real face. Again, the feeling was surprisingly one of relief. Recognition that I'm working hard on myself, meeting together with a group of people who are genuine and real, all trying to improve their lives too.
And I met people worse off than I am. I learned that I have much to be grateful for. I'm still learning. I have a long way to go. My son has a long way to go. But we've both been clean for months, and our family dynamic has changed. My relationships are getting better, as is my business.
My advice to you is that if you need help, reach out to Chabad Lifeline. What you imagine will bring you shame may actually bring you relief. Don't be afraid to ask for help.
And if you're too shy to show yourself, join a meeting anonymously (Chabad Lifeline even has Open Speaker's Meetings that everyone can join!). Turn off your audio, turn off your video, change the name on your zoom, and begin the path to healing.
Begin the path to your freedom.