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  • Rabbi Benyamin Bresinger

The mouse that saved my life: Naomi's story


My name is Naomi and I am an addict.


My drug of choice is heroin. It's potent and it helps me escape reality.


This is the story of the worst relapse of my life, and the rodent that helped me find the road to recovery.


My rebellion


I became an addict at a very young age. I come from an abusive home. My parents were always arguing, throwing things.


My parents never told me they loved me, and I never felt like they cared about me. And as a teen, I rebelled. I found myself a boyfriend who was five years older than me, and mixed with the wrong crowd.


If my rebellion was a cry for help, my parents didn't hear me. They couldn't care less if I got home completely smashed at 3am. As long as I stayed out of their way.


One night, after an evening spent drinking at a friend's house, I asked my boyfriend for a lift. "Go drive yourself home," he laughed, tossing me his keys.


I was 15.


Getting hooked


I woke up in the hospital, my back in agony. I had swerved off the road on a side street and collided into a tree. I've lived with the pain ever since.


During that time, I was given medication to manage the pain. When my doctors began weaning me off the pills, I sought them elsewhere, and within a couple of months, I was hooked on heroin.


I don't like to remember much about the next few years. At some point, I lived on the streets. Begging for change at busy intersections. I recall getting arrested in La Ronde for some incident involving another ex-boyfriend. But it took a death to shake me awake from my daily nightmare called life.


Coming clean


A close friend overdosed. At her funeral, I made up my mind. I would finally get clean. I'd tried to sober up in the past, and it had never lasted more than a day. But watching earth thud with sickening finality on my friend's casket made me realize that no one would be at my funeral. And I wanted a life.


I don't remember who gave me Chabad Lifeline's number but I called and they helped me. I learned to deal with my inner pain and to live a healthier lifestyle.


It took years but eventually I got completely clean, met a good man, and started a family.


The pandemic


For years, even before the pandemic, my husband was an antivaxxer. When COVID started, he joined those demonstrations you may have seen downtown and he was strongly against anyone in my family putting anything into our bodies (perhaps he was overprotective of me - worried that getting vaccinated might somehow make me relapse).


We didn't wear masks. Spent time in close proximity with friends. Broke curfew.


When my husband got COVID, it started with small symptoms. We dealt with it as if it was the flu. Boy were we wrong.


The sniffles. The fever. The loss of smell. The vomiting. The shortness of breath. Passing out in the car.


Had we gone for help earlier, perhaps he wouldn't have suffered so much. He ended up spending two months in the hospital.


Meanwhile, I was stuck at home with a three-year-old and an eight-month-old.


Isolation


I became terrified of catching the virus. I quarantined at home for two weeks, then remained home for another month. I had my groceries delivered and when they arrived I wiped down each item with strong sanitizer before use (even vegetables!).


I worried all day. I only saw my husband and friends over zoom. I wouldn't even let my toddler go out onto my porch! I was under stress all day and somehow I managed to hold it together until my husband got home. Then I cracked.


I walked outside for the first time in 9 weeks and returned home at 4am. I wasn't high. I had gone through a mental breakdown.


My husband was worried sick. He had waited up for me.


The week or so was a blur. I refused treatment, and I became a burden to my husband (who was still recovering from his illness). Eventually, he took the kids and moved into his parents' home.


The mouse


For the next month, I lived alone. In denial about my mental health, which had taken a deep dive.


One evening, I was sitting on the couch when a mouse darted past.


I shrieked. I stared around at my living room. The squalor. The mess. The neglect. The empty high chair. The books on recovery. My phone.


Once again, I called Chabad Lifeline and again, they were there for me.


I spent a month in the psych ward and thank goodness I'm back home with my family. Seeing a psychiatrist. An addictions counsellor. A marriage counsellor. Going to meetings. Living a healthier lifestyle.


My house is clean. Once again, it is a home to myself, my husband, and our kids. Together. The mouse was killed by a trap.


A message


I'm in the process of recovery and I know that I am a victim of what has been called the "second wave." COVID isn't gone, but it has brought about a huge mental health crisis, and mental health often comes with addiction.


For the first time, I bought a ticket for Chabad Lifeline's raffle. Because I'm learning to give back. To express gratitude. I'm glad a place like Lifeline exists. And I urge you to support them too, whether they were there to help someone you love (including and especially yourself!) or you've heard about their work.


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Please note that certain people and identifying parts of this true account (including "Naomi's" name) have been changed to protect the anonymity of the people who went through this experience.


Please join Naomi in supporting us through our raffle, which ends a week from today. Get your tickets at https://www.chabadlifeline.com/raffle

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