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  • Writer's pictureRabbi Benyamin Bresinger

“THE RABBI'S WORDS SEEMED CRUEL” - MAYA’S STORY


“Let me ask you a question: where is your son right now?”


I had just called Chabad Lifeline to ask for help for my 35-year-old son, who struggles with alcohol and cocaine addiction. Since he moved back in with us during COVID, I’ve begged him countless times to seek treatment, but he always tells me he’ll look into it and then goes right back into his old habits.


I was surprised to have my call answered by Lifeline's Director, Rabbi Bresinger. He listened to me as I told my story, and was now asking me about my son’s whereabouts. I was not expecting this question. I hesitated a bit before deciding on telling the truth.


“He’s in our guest room, sleeping,” I replied. I didn’t add that he was sleeping off a late night out, but looking back I don’t think that would have been a major shock to the Rabbi.


“He’s sleeping," repeated the Rabbi. "When was the last time you had a good night’s sleep?"


I started to object, but instead I kept listening. The words seemed almost cruel, but I couldn’t help but notice that his tone wasn’t.


“You are going along with the illusion that you can save him or destroy him,” the Rabbi said. "There is no specific order of things you can say or do that will fix his situation for him. I know this sounds counterintuitive to everything you feel as a parent, but it’s not within your power.”


I didn’t respond, but I stayed on the line. My head was filled with thoughts of the years of torment watching my son’s demons overtake him. I had never given myself the space to consider getting help for myself. I was concerned only with putting out the fire -- I never considered that it was burning me too.


“If he calls in, we absolutely can and will help him,” he continued. "But you’re the one calling, and we want to help you regardless of what he does. People in your situation rarely get the support they need, and that’s a big part of the work we do here.”


That was a year ago. I enrolled in a Family Group at Lifeline run by about a week after that fateful conversation. Run by Karen Bresinger, these meetings became a source of hope and resilience for me. Surrounded by people who had experienced the same pain, I learned about setting boundaries and detaching with love. My fellow group members shared their experiences dealing with the emotional nightmare that comes with loving an addict, and being fully honest -- in front of the last people on Earth who would judge you for it -- was incredibly cathartic.


Accepting that I cannot make my son (or anyone else) change has made a profound difference in my life. I love my son and I always will, but I’m not going to try to live his life for him. Every day, I work on letting go of the illusion that I can. And to all the mothers out there struggling with the same heartache, I urge you to seek help and, when in doubt, remember: you are not alone.


*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 Maya 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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