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  • Writer's pictureRabbi Benyamin Bresinger

"MY 13-YEAR-OLD DAUGHTER" - SARAH'S STORY


My name is Sarah, and I am a single mother and recovering alcoholic. Life has a funny way of bringing unexpected blessings, and for me, that blessing came in the form of the youth counselling program that helped my 13-year-old daughter, Emma.


It all started when Emma's behavior at school took a sudden turn for the worse. She was wracked with anxiety and having nervous episodes, and her teachers were expressing concern. I was drinking heavily at the time. My justification for it was simple: I didn’t drink every day, so I couldn’t be an alcoholic. And if I wasn’t an alcoholic, then Emma’s behaviour couldn’t possibly be a reflection of my own. These kinds of self-serving delusions seem ridiculous in the cold light of day, but left unchallenged they can persist for months, years, or even lifetimes.


It wasn't until the school recommended youth counselling for Emma that I began to question the stability of our family life. Her Youth Counsellor at Chabad Lifeline noticed the telltale signs of a distressed home. He asked to speak with me and gently shared that if I needed addiction counselling, it would be provided by Lifeline free of charge. I could start right away. My mind raced, searching for excuses, but I couldn’t summon any. I agreed to start the process.


To be honest, I had to power through a lot of feelings of shame to get through the intake process — the act facing up to my problem disabused me of more than a few illusions. I couldn’t fool myself any longer: the only reason I had been able to go on pretending I wasn’t an addict for so long was that I had used my daughter as a barometer. She would have had to speak up for me to acknowledge the situation I had created. And that’s not a fair burden to put on any child, unspoken or otherwise.


Thankfully, Lifeline not only provided me with individual counselling and group support but also offered integrated sessions that helped rebuild the fractured bond between Emma and myself. I learned that my journey to recovery was not only about breaking free from alcohol but also about rebuilding trust and healing wounds that I had inflicted on those I loved. Over time, I built up the strength to confront the roots of my addiction and develop healthier coping and communication skills. These are fundamental things, yet so many people never even consider giving them the attention they deserve.


As I continue with my recovery process, I often reflect on how I felt when I was pregnant with Emma. I held so much anxiety about bringing a child into a world filled with darkness, trauma, and tragedy, and looking back I never let go. The drinking was in part a symptom of that fear. But the further I go into the sobriety, the more I can see the light shining in. I am so grateful to be standing in what feels like a much kinder world alongside the person I love most.



*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 both Emma and Sarah 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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