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Chabad Lifeline blog

The Night my Son Went Missing

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I lived in silence for years. I lived in misery for years.

My husband was an alcoholic. My husband is an alcoholic.

There were signs when we dated. He partied hard. We got drunk often. We were young, and it was part of the fun.

We moved in together and I realized his drinking was a problem. He needed the nightly "shots" of scotch. 

He was a giggling, messy drunk, and he cleaned up after himself, but most nights I went to bed alone. Still, I reasoned it had to do with the pressures of growing a business. I thought it was part of the road to success, that when we "made it" and could relax, he would no longer need the booze.

We married and had a son, Brett.* The business grew and we moved into a beautiful home in Westmount.

The drinking got worse.

He'd go out for a night with the boys and wouldn't return until 5:30 AM, the time that he used to wake up. You would think his business suffered, but somehow it continued to grow. We prospered, but our family was broken. I felt like I no longer knew my husband, and I worried about Brett.

When my husband was sober, he was a good father to Brett. As Brett grew, the two would go out together on ski trips every weekend. Initially, I wondered if he was able to stay sober in the mountains, but Brett assured me that it was under control.

Then came a night that changed our lives.

Brett went out to play hockey with some buddies. He was 16 years old at the time. We expected him home at 11:00 but he never showed.

By midnight I started calling his friends. I found out that someone had brought vodka into the locker room after the game and the boys had been drinking. Brett had gone through "at least one bottle," according to a teammate.

My husband was asleep on the couch. I tried to wake him but he wouldn't stir. 

I drove to the arena. It was locked. Somehow, I got in touch with someone from the city who opened the rink. Brett wasn't in the locker rooms or bathrooms. His hockey gear and cell phone were in one of the locker rooms.

Finally, I woke my husband in a panic. We called the police. We waited at home, worried sick. Later, we drove around Westmount and downtown, trying to find Brett in his favourite hangout spots. We entered bars, visited homeless shelters. Nothing. We returned home to wait.

We spoke. I cried. Screamed at my husband. We argued for awhile, until my husband broke down. Admitted that he was an alcoholic. That he needed help.

At 5:30 in the morning, we got a call from a random number. Brett had woken up in Lasalle. He had no idea how he got there.

By then, our extended family had joined the search. When we notified them that Brett had been found and was safe, my husband's brother reached out and advised us to visit Chabad Lifeline.

We went as a family and started healing as a family. 

Chabad Lifeline is where my husband finally confessed to a past trauma he had kept hidden for years. It's where I learned to become strong, and take charge of my own life. It's where Brett grew as a person.

Eight years have passed since that terrible night. We have our struggles but we take them on as a family. I don't know where we would be if not for Chabad Lifeline.

Every year, I buy raffle tickets from Chabad Lifeline. This year, I plan on selling some as well. If this story touched you, please click here and put "Amy" as the solicitor.

Chabad Lifeline helps hundreds of families like mine. They help the addicts, their spouses and children. They are the only place in Montreal where you can get help without having to wait. Be a part of saving families. Buy your ticket.

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*Please note that names and certain details in this story have been changed to protect the anonymity of those involved 

Meet Vari Stock PhD

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She's from Thunder Bay, she's a cyclist, and she's directing a stop motion animation film. Meet Vari Stock PhD, Chabad Lifeline's newest member of the team.

We sat down with Vari for a quick conversation in her new office.

Q. Where are you from?

A. I'm originally from Toronto. I came to Montreal by way of Thunder Bay. I lived in Thunder Bay for nine years before moving to Toronto. So it was either move back to Toronto where it's really expensive and everybody's angry all the time or move to Montreal where it's affordable, there's a really good quality of life, and I just have to learn French. 

Q. Et comment ca va?

A. I'm very slowly learning French.

Q. We love hearing praise about our city, especially when comparing it to Toronto. What are the major advantages of Montreal?

A. The cost of living is lower, and you also have tons of free activities like street festivals here that are just available on the streets mostly during the summer, but even in the winter time. It's also more bicycle-friendly here, which I really like. The parks here are fantastic. The art scene, the liveliness of the French and the politics.

Q. What led you to becoming an Addictions Counsellor?

A. Chance. When I was doing my stage for my bachelors in social work, I had applied to work with a parenting program because I thought I wanted to work with parents and young children. That wasn't available, and I ended up working in a youth addictions program, and found that I really love working with youth.

Q. Why?

A. Because they're fun and really open. They're still interested in the world. Their bad habits aren't totally cemented into their life so there's a lot more leeway. They haven't shut down as much as what you can see with adults, which can be much more difficult because there can be many years of addictions or trauma and all sorts of experiences that make it much harder for adults to make changes in their lives, whereas youth have this advantage of being new.

Q. What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

A. I enjoy riding my bicycle a lot, and making art. Right now I'm focusing on learning stop motion animation. That's fun.

Q. Awesome! Stop motion animation is difficult! What's the film going to be about?

A. The purpose is to make a short animation to make my dissertation research, which was with youth, accessible to community workers and to teachers. It's on the ways that we can make our programs more accessible and inclusive.

The teachings that I got from my participants were related to building relationships based on love, being authentic, building trust and having trust in people you work with, having humility when you come to the work that you do, and critical reflection, taking the time to look back on your own practice and see the ways that you can do better or where you're not hitting the target of what you intended to be doing.

Q. You've been here a couple of weeks. What's your current role at Chabad Lifeline?

A. So far this summer, I am working with a few youth individually on various issues in terms of kids who are affected by substance use or have their own issues with substance use. I'm also helping facilitate a new youth group that we're trying to get off the ground, and helping facilitate our Open Speaker's Meeting Thursday evenings. Starting in the fall, I'll hopefully be in some English Montreal School Board High Schools working with any kids who get directed my way.

Q. In your limited experience here at Chabad Lifeline, what do you find makes us unique?

A. I really value Rabbi Bresinger's opening teachings at the beginning of our weekly team meetings. I think it sets a really nice tone for the meetings, and it creates a nice welcoming and thoughtful environment where you're encouraged to reflect on yourself and your impact on the world.

Jordan's story

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When I was a kid, I loved playing hockey. I was quick on my skates, had an accurate shot, and hustled every shift. I wasn't the best player on my team, but I was a top-line winger.

Until it all fell apart.

I was 12, entering a new season and things felt off. My shot kept missing the net, my pass receiving was weak, and I regularly found myself just out of position.

I couldn't figure out what had happened and I started making changes. I got a different stick, wore different equipment, even tried a different diet, but I slowly dropped down the roster.

And then one day in class I was asked to read something from the board and the letters were too blurry to read. My teacher asked me if I might need glasses.

That question changed everything. After going to an optometrist, my life got back on track.

Sometimes, one question - the right question, can change a life. And the right question at Lifeline changed mine.

A Lonely Party Animal

I made a mess of myself in my teenage years. Drinking, drugging. I was the life of the party but always lonely.

My drug and alcohol addictions lasted into my early 30s. I made everyone close to me miserable. Ruined one relationship after another, until there was no one left but me.

Alone. As I knew I always was.

But something clicked. At my lowest point, I realized it was the booze and the drugs, and I sought help.

Five years ago, I was brought to a 12 step meeting. I sobered up. I wasn't happy but my life started improving. After 10 months of sobriety, I relapsed hard. I crashed.

One Question that can Change a Life

One month of my life that I barely remember. I lost everything I had rebuilt and soon I was at rock bottom again.

Somehow I dragged myself out of that muck and contacted Chabad Lifeline, an organization I had heard about. To my shock (no one else does this), they scheduled an appointment for an intake that afternoon.

I met with Ruth, who had a lot more questions than what I was used to. But one question stood out.

She asked me if I had a porn or sex addiction.

Oh, the shame.

I had arrived ready to talk about my drug and alcohol abuse but that question stopped me in my tracks. I must have spent a good minute trying to get a hold of myself.

Finally, I opened up. I told Ruth about my porn addiction.

The path to connection

Ruth sent me to Jennifer for an assessment. That's when I found out that my drug of choice is porn. Not alcohol or all the other stuff. 

Somehow, my trauma from the past and my growing pornography use in my teens set the fuse for a full-blown addiction to drugs and alcohol. But none of them dealt with my real problem. My trauma, and my porn addiction.

After much debate, I opened up about my porn addiction to my girlfriend (now my wife). I'm lucky she stayed with me. I joined Jennifer's group and started a new treatment plan.

My girlfriend also came to Lifeline and became a client of Karen, who deals with partners of addicts.

It's been a journey. All four of us have sat together (Jennifer, Karen, my wife and I) numerous times, and traveled to a path of connection and freedom.

And I'm proud to say that I've been sober for three years from all mind-altering substances and behavioural addictions.

Sometimes you need the right people asking the right questions. Thanks to Chabad Lifeline, I am happier and more connected than I've ever been in my life.

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Jordan's story is a common one. Too often, the addiction is treated and not the cause of addiction (or even the primary addiction). At Chabad Lifeline, we are fortunate to have one of Quebec's only Certified Sex Addiction Therapists, Jennifer Kotry

To find out more about porn and sex addiction, click here. If you are concerned about yourself, a partner, or friend who may have a porn or sex addiction, send us an email and we will set up an intake within the next day at no cost.

We have just started our annual raffle, which is our largest and most important fundraiser of the year. If you are able to sell tickets as a canvasser, please send me an email and may G-d bless you with tranquility, contentment, and success.

*Names and certain details in this story were changed to protect the anonymity of those involved.

*Photo used for this story is not Jordan

Becky's Story

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I was a junior counsellor at a popular overnight camp in the Laurentians.

Camp was a blast. At some point during the summer (this was 11 years ago so I don't remember exactly which point), a couple of people from what is now Chabad Lifeline visited camp to talk to us about addiction.

I knew about drugs and alcohol from TV (and from experiences with my Mom at home). But I never felt like they applied to my situation. Yeah ok, drugs are dangerous. But what does that have to do with me?

Chabad Lifeline's workshop slammed home. Hit me in the gut. They brought this guy, probably 5 years older than me, who shared his story. It wasn't similar to mine but he looked us in the eyes and told us we sometimes had to face our demons. He mentioned his parents and something struck. My heart started hammering.

There was this period of time that probably lasted 10 minutes at most but to me felt like hours, where the Counsellors and the guy in recovery took questions and comments. That's where I opened up a bit. I asked questions related to my situation, and they answered to the point. Without beating around the bush. I discovered that I was an "innocent victim" and that I had to seek help.

That evening, I called my mom and begged her to call Chabad Lifeline for help.

Next morning, my mom called Lifeline. That very afternoon (!), she met with an Addictions Counsellor.

My mom has been in recovery since (and I joined the youth group to get support for me). She's has some setbacks but she works hard and a couple months ago celebrated 5 years of continuous sobriety for the first time.

Adults often look back at their experiences in camp with warmth. For me, a visit from Chabad Lifeline saved my family.

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During the summer, kids are more laid back. School's out, and camp is fun. People are more receptive to meaningful messages.  

We've been taking our philosophy on the road to summer camps since the '80s, delivering the atmosphere of our Tuesday Noon Speaker's Meetings in which vulnerability is welcomed and we lead with our weakness, creating a safe space. Our workshops are effective and have saved thousands.

For 30 years, we delivered presentations to schools. Last year, we started placing Addictions Counsellors in the EMSB to serve as integrated members of the school support staff. In the past 12 months, we reached over 4,000 students in these schools.

The success of our school program has led to a new camp program in which we will be placing our Youth Counsellors in various overnight camps two days a week to work on awareness, prevention, and to support children affected by addiction.

To see our camp services flyer, click here.

Please note: names and some factual information in the story has been changed to protect the anonymity of the people in the story.

Game over: how gaming affected my health

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My name is *Dean.

I was always a gamer. Since I first discovered the Xbox and Playstation, I was hooked.

For my 8th birthday, my Dad got me my own gaming console and I became an expert. I got so good at NHL '10 (note: a sports game) that friends would come over just to watch me score over 100 goals every game!

By the time I was 14, I was hooked on immersive gaming, I had joined a guild, and I had become a respected member of the online gaming community. No one suspected I was a young teenager.

From the start, gaming affected my grades. I would pretend to go to sleep, and after my parents checked in on me I'd silently continue my dynasties. It also affected my real world relationships, and as I spent more time gaming, I lost my friends.

School was a daze. I have no idea how I passed exams because most of the time I was itching to leave.

My health began deteriorating when I was around 13. I suffered from insomnia and migraines, and I became extremely irritable. I actually only discovered my insomnia issues when my Dad threw out my console and I spent five nights wide awake, tossing and turning for hours.

At some point, the addiction intensified. I had to be the first to try out every new game, and I wasn't available to the world until I had beaten the game.

And then "mobile gaming" became a thing. All of a sudden I was able to download games on my phone and play them anywhere I'd like. My parents couldn't catch me, my teachers didn't know what was going on. It was so easy to escape the real world and dive into the fantasy world of online gaming.

Looking back, I had my entire family somehow wrapped around my controller. Their lives revolved around me.

Then I got a serious panic attack.

It happened while I was playing Darkest Dungeon, which is a hardcore game that ironically tracks the stress levels of your heroes.

I was seized with fear. I could hear my own heartbeat, which was pounding. I had trouble breathing, and I started sweating. I thought I was going to die.

It lasted about 10 minutes and was very intense.

A couple days later, a Chabad Lifeline Addictions Counsellor and someone in recovery came to my school and made a presentation about addiction. The guy in recovery shared some of his experiences and mentioned in passing that gaming is also an addiction.

I still wasn't sure, so I asked about it in the questionnaire they handed out at the end of the presentation.

The Counsellor called me the next evening and we chatted for awhile. We then met for a one on one discussion, and over the course of several sessions I recognized that gaming was ruining my life.

I am still on the path to recovery and it is difficult but so worth it! But I'm pulling through, thanks to my school Guidance Counsellor and Chabad Lifeline's Addictions Counsellor.

In fact, today I'm celebrating 90 days gaming free.

I haven't had any more panic attacks, I'm less irritable, and my migraines have definitely lessened.

If you know someone who spends all their time gaming, reach out to Chabad Lifeline. Ask them to put you in touch with an Addictions Counsellor, and get your life back on track.

Level up your life.

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This story is another example of how our collaboration with the English Montreal School Board pays off. Please note that to protect the identity of the student with the gaming addiction, the name and certain identifying details were changed.

Read more about internet, smartphone, and gaming addiction here.

I want to thank the teacher who caught me vaping

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In Quebec, it's illegal for kids under 18 to buy pods, juice, or pretty much anything related to vaping.

Think that stopped me? Ha!

I got hooked on vaping in the school bathroom. My buddy Gabriel knew a dealer who had no problem selling to 15-year-olds.

Man, I got hooked.

Vaping isn't like cigarettes. There's no lingering smell. No evidence whatsoever.

Vaping was a nice thrill for Gabriel but I couldn't get enough. I was vaping before school, at every break, and after school.

In January, I was vaping alone in a school bathroom during class and a teacher walked in. I was completely busted. I think my heart literally stopped.

But that was the best thing that ever happened to me. I connected with Chabad Lifeline's Addictions Counsellor here in school, who gave me tips and tricks to stop smoking.

I'm still dealing with my vaping addiction but I want to thank my teacher and Addictions Counsellor for their help.

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If you or someone you know is struggling with vaping or an addiction, contact us. We'll set up a no charge, immediate, and confidential appointment with one of our Addictions Counsellors and get you on the path to recovery.

70 EMSB parents attend film screening at Vincent Massey Collegiate

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Staff at Vincent Massey Collegiate were blown away by the parent turnout for an after hours screening and panel discussion on the documentary Screenagers, organized by Chabad Lifeline.

Did you know that kids spend on average 6.5 hours a day on screens and that doesn’t include classroom or homework screen time? That boys spend on average the equivalent of 1.5 days on video games every week? Recent studies have shown that screen time increases dopamine production and causes behavior that mimics addiction

"Screenagers: Growing Up in The Digital Age" is the first feature documentary to explore the impact of screen technology on kids and offer parents and families proven solutions that work. The film explores the use of screens in schools, boys and video games, girls and social media, and the risks of addiction.

Over 70 parents joined school staff for the after-school screening which was followed by a panel discussion with Chabad Lifeline's Addictions Counsellor Jason Stein, Chabad Lifeline's Special Projects Coordinator Shauna Joyce, EMSB's Drug Abuse Prevention Consultant Sandrine Aschour, Vincent Massey Collegiate Guidance Counsellor Vanessa Zappitelli, and EMSB Psychologist Janet Perlis.

Following the screening, numerous parents reached out to Chabad Lifeline to participate in our services. Two of them joined our Parent Support Group.

"I think it was a great opportunity to have an open dialogue about not only the signs and dangers of screen addiction; but also about how with the appropriate boundaries and usage, technology can be utilized as a powerful tool to facilitate learning when it comes to today's teenagers," said school Guidance Counsellor Vanessa Zappitelli.

To schedule a screening and panel discussion for parents and staff of your school, send us an email or call 514-738-7700. 

80 powerful presentations at the EMSB

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Do you remember getting educated about drug addiction?

Those long, boring presentations where someone droned on and on about how your life can get screwed up if you take drugs? The ones that you all laughed off?

At the English Montreal School Board, those monotonous lectures are now relics thanks to their innovative partnership with Chabad Lifeline.

Leading with vulnerability

According to a recent study by Closing the Addiction Treatment Gap, 1 out of every 10 students will grow up to be an addict. The addiction may be alcohol, drugs, pornography, internet, gambling, sex or gaming and it usually develops during the teen years.  

Chabad Lifeline's school presentations are unique. Over the past 30 years they have been developed to encourage student participation in creating a safe space for open communication. The goal of these presentations is to provide information and resources to those in need.

Each school presentation opens with an interactive dialogue about a subject that is often taboo. Chabad Lifeline's Addictions Counsellors openly address questions about addiction and detail the harm addiction causes biologically and socially.

School staff are then asked to leave the room and a guest speaker shares their experiences with both addiction and recovery, what led them to go from experimentation to self sabotage. Their honest depictions of pain and loneliness often lead youth to connect and share their fears and experiences. 

The presentation and dialogue is open, without speeches or video. The speakers create an environment where authenticity is celebrated and usually leads to frank discussion.

At the end of each school presentation a questionnaire is handed out. Students can privately share feedback, disclose if they know someone affected by addiction, or provide their contact information if they'd like to speak confidentially with a Chabad Lifeline Addictions Counsellor.

Saving lives

Chabad Lifeline's collaboration with the EMSB has literally saved lives and helped families learn to deal with the disease of addiction. Here are some samples of children who were helped thanks to these presentations (names and certain identifying information have been changed).

Mark's* father was a raging alcoholic. His mother was unable to cope with the chaos and Mark took charge of the home, helping his siblings get to school, cooking dinner, and paying the bills. Filling in a questionnaire at one of our school presentations led to Mark, his siblings, and mother receiving the help they needed to learn how to manage their lives.

Chantal* asked to meet an Addictions Counsellor in private following one of our presentations. She lived with her Mom, a drug addict. Not only were we able to guide Chantal but her mother recently began a treatment plan for her addiction.

Nick* opened up at one of our school presentations, courageously admitting that he was worried about his addictive tendencies. He later disclosed that he had never thought he was on the path to becoming an addict until he heard the young recovering addict speak and recognized the similarities in their experiences, particularly their feelings.

"I would once again like to thank you for our partnership this school year," said Marco Gagliardi, Principal of Rosemount High School. "I believe that our partnership is truly a benefit to our students. Your counsellor has been working closely with students throughout the year. She has been consulting with them on a variety of addiction problems to giving workshops on dealing with anxiety as well as anything else that comes up in between. Although some of these skills are taught through the school curriculum it is a valuable experience for our students and staff to work with a professional and hear it from a different voice both during and outside of class."

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To find out more about our school presentations, click here

My kid found me looking at porn

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It wasn't a problem to stop. I stopped hundreds of times.

It was staying stopped.

Some of you readers may struggle with an addiction to pornography. If you're like me, you can't help it. You need that rush.

Please, PLEASE seek help. Your wife will somehow find out. Your KIDS may find out.

Mine did. Here's what happened.

I was introduced to porn at a young age. Some people can look at porn and move on. But I got hooked. I needed porn.

For 20 years I struggled with porn, and it affected every relationship I had, especially romantic ones. No one could ever measure up.

I got married without my wife ever knowing about my porn addiction. I wouldn't admit it at the time, but despite having an amazing spouse, I felt incredibly lonely. I lied to her every day.

Smartphones made it even worse. Porn is so easily accessible.

I swore it off so many times. I made so many broken promises to myself. But it took one moment to change everything.

I arrived home for lunch. My wife was at work, and our home computer is located in my office. I had no idea my 14-year-old son had returned home from school because he was feeling ill.

I was watching a video... I can feel my face heat up in shame as I write this. I am literally shaking from embarrassment.

I was watching a video when my son walked into the room to ask me something.

It happened so fast. There was no time to shut off the screen. He said, "ewww, Dad!!" and ran out.

The next few days was the worst time in my life. My wife accosted me about my behaviour. I tried to lie my way out of it. It took a couple of days for me to admit that I had been hiding my addiction from her from day one.

To her credit, she stuck with me and I am grateful every day for that. She found Chabad Lifeline before I did, and started getting help.

I had always been lonely, but I had kept up a facade. Now, I had nothing to hide behind. My son avoided me and my wife didn't trust me.

I finally admitted that I had a problem and sought help from Chabad Lifeline. Thanks to Jennifer and Karen, I have been progressing. We're now working on getting our son to come to Lifeline.

Please, if you suffer in secret from a porn addiction, PLEASE reach out to Chabad Lifeline. You will get real help, and everything will be completely confidential. You will stop feeling alone.

Do it before your spouse finds out. Do it before your children find out. Most of all do it for yourself.

Miracle at McGill: Meet Genevieve

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Autumn at McGill. It was a windy day on campus. Students pulled up jacket lapels as they sloshed through piles of multicoloured leaves. 

In the warm office of McGill's internship field coordinator, Genevieve Malouin sat nervously. Hoping against hope that she would be sent to work at Chabad Lifeline.

The coordinator looked at her file. "I'm sorry, Genevieve, but we selected someone else for Chabad Lifeline's internship."

One week earlier

The McGill career fair. Close to 50 tables set up. Students milling about, holding steaming mugs of coffee. 

Chabad Lifeline's Clinical Director Karen Bresinger and Addictions Counsellor Jason Stein were sitting behind their table when a young student approached excitedly.

"I can't believe it," she gushed. "I just sent in my internship request and asked to be sent to Chabad Lifeline!"

Karen and Jason were delighted. "We chatted for a good ten minutes," Karen recalled. "She asked about our services and our internship, and we got to know her better. She was exactly the kind of intern we were looking for."

Genevieve was thrilled. As a second year student, she hadn't planned on visiting the career fair. But she was excited to make a connection with the place she wanted to work. Was it coincidence that she had bumped into the staff of the very place she wanted to work just days before they would select their intern, or was it fate?

From Luxembourg to Quebec

Genevieve Malouin is originally from Luxembourg, a small country located between France, Germany, and Belgium. When she was 16, her family moved to Montreal. "I wanted to go back," she admitted. "But over the years I slowly started to realize that maybe Luxembourg isn't the place for me, and I've made more of a home in Montreal."

Bill 101, which states that if neither of your parents had gone to an English speaking school in Canada, you are obliged to go to a French speaking school, meant that Genevieve had to attend a French school despite the fact that English was her first language. At first it was difficult, but then she discovered others who were in the same boat, and joined an English-speaking social circle. 

 

After graduating High School, she applied to the correctional intervention program at John Abbott. It took two tries but she was eventually accepted into the program, which included an internship at a halfway house working with ex-convicts. "Since I could remember I was always interested in working with people, in helping people," Genevieve said. "I knew that that was what I wanted to do, working in the judicial system. That's my niche."

Selecting Chabad Lifeline

Genevieve wanted to get a degree she could use in the judicial system, and joined Concordia's Human Relations program. But the unstructured style of study wasn't a fit for her, particularly coming from correctional intervention. 

After a couple of months, Genevieve decided to apply for McGill's Social Work program. "I was told how hard it was to get into, and people advised me to set the expectations lower but I decided to try. I sent in everything they needed, telling myself that if I don't get in, I'll just finish my degree in Human Relations."

To her delight, she was accepted immediately, and two years later, sat down with her McGill internship field coordinator. "I had found out that Chabad Lifeline was an option," she recalled. "I know a few people who came to Chabad Lifeline, and they told me how great it was. I've always been interested in addictions, and people from the prison system often are dealing with addiction. If I want to better be able to help them, I need to have a better understanding of what addiction is. I saw this as an opportunity to learn about the field."

During the interview, Genevieve made clear her desire to work at Chabad Lifeline. Then a few days later, she met Karen and Jason after deciding on a whim to drop by the career fair. "I told them excitedly that I had put them down as my first choice for an internship and they told me they hoped to see me there. I took a few pamphlets from the booth that I still have, and I left."

It's always worth asking

When Genevieve found out she would be placed in another organization, she was disappointed.

But she wondered why it didn't work out with Chabad Lifeline. "I told her about how I had spoken to them at the McGill career fair, and I was really excited and they also seemed really excited to meet me."

The field coordinator looked up. "Oh, that was you they were speaking about!" 

Turns out, Chabad Lifeline had mentioned a student they had met and wanted as their intern, but they had forgotten to take her name.

Everything fell into place. The field coordinator decided that Genevieve and Chabad Lifeline were meant to be, and moved things around to ensure Genevieve was placed at Chabad Lifeline.

Internship work

At Chabad Lifeline, Genevieve attends Tuesday's open speaker's meeting at noon, and co-facilitates a group for families. She also sits in on intakes, and does psycho-social work with clients. In addition, she leads school presentations together with Chabad Lifeline's Youth Counsellors.

Her experience at Chabad Lifeline so far has changed her perspective on addiction. "I plan on eventually getting a Master's in Social Work, and I'd like to go for a certificate specific to addiction," she said. "I didn't think I would before I started my internship here, but I'm learning so much about the field and I find it fascinating. Especially here at Chabad Lifeline where we help the families of the addict, which has been a real eye opener for me and such a great experience. Karen is my supervisor and she is the Family Counsellor. She is amazing.

"The family aspect sets Chabad Lifeline apart. From what I see and hear, not all organizations see addiction as a family issue. They usually see it on an individual level and I think Chabad Lifeline is unique in the sense that they get everyone involved, using a "how can we all help" approach. It's more of a community change."

 

Blackout freakout: my son's gaming addiction

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My son Josh* was a typical teen. Doing ok in school, hanging out with friends, playing hockey and baseball. At home, he did his weekly chores, teased his younger sister, told us about his day over dinner.

He didn't really understand the concept of moderation, but we never saw it as a major area of concern.

For his thirteenth birthday, we got him a gaming console and he loved it. His friends came over on rainy days. Gaming was a social activity.

Then he went into hibernation.

At first he was missing meals. Then his friends stopped showing up. His marks started going down.

He isolated himself. And he got aggressive anytime we told him to stop or moderate. Soon, every conversation we had was related to his gaming. And they were mostly arguments. Then he stopped showering.

His marks plummeted further, his relationships with friends and family deteriorated, and he was always agitated.

Then came the blackout.

It happened on a cold winter weekend. We were eating dinner without him, as was our new custom, when the power went out. That's when we heard a primal yell. It was followed by a couple moments of silence, and then the sound of smashing glass. Screams, and more loud crashing.

I rushed to his room and burst in, using my phone as a flashlight. 

He was shrieking in anger. The room reeked. His bed was overturned. He had smashed his lamp. Pushed over a bookcase.

When he saw me, he began shouting at me. SWEARING at me. Throwing things at me.

I told Josh that it was only a blackout. That he could continue his game when the power returns. "When?" he demanded.

"I don't know," I responded.

That's when things got scary. It was like I had pressed a button. The change was instant.

The moment he realized he didn't know when he would be able to play, he got anxious. He began physically shaking, and he started crying. I'd never seen him so distressed.

I assumed that the power had gone out as he was about to win an important game, but I would later find out that he had just started playing.

As I watched my son shake with anxiety, I knew we had a serious problem.

My husband contacted an acquaintance whose son had experienced similar issues. That led us to Chabad Lifeline.

I knew computer games could be addictive, but I had never heard of gaming addiction until I visited Lifeline. I met with Karen, the Family Counsellor, and she gave me the information I needed.

I sat down with my husband and Josh and we came up with a plan. Josh joined Lifeline's youth program and he meets with his Youth Counsellor once a week. We joined a parenting group and see Karen once a week.

Josh's grades have started improving, he's getting more involved in our family life, and he spends time outdoors with friends. We owe our thanks to the wonderful Youth Counsellors and staff at Chabad Lifeline. We feel like we got our son back.

My message to other parents is: don't ignore the warning signs. If your child is isolating him or herself, it can be an addiction. Reach out to Chabad Lifeline. Reach out for help. Because help is out there.

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Chabad Lifeline currently has 7 Addiction Counsellors dedicated to youth.

If you or someone you know may be affected by a gaming addiction, reach out to us. You never have to be alone again.

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*Please note that names and certain identifying details have been changed to protect the privacy of the individuals in this story. 

33 years later, Rabbi Bresinger returns to college

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Chabad Lifeline started on a college campus. Recently, our Director Rabbi Benyamin Bresinger returned to his alma mater for the first time in 33 years.

We sat down with Rabbi Bresinger to discuss the reason for his return, what has changed at Concordia, and the time he laid a mattress in his school office.

Q. What brought you back to Concordia for the first time in 33 years?

I was asked to participate in a panel on addiction that Concordia University was putting on for winter orientation, to build awareness around addiction and recovery, and inform students about services and resources in the city.

They recognized that we are one of the top organizations in Montreal on the forefront of building awareness and tackling the stigma of addiction so they reached out to to see if I could discuss how society can address the needs of addiction.

Q. What did you talk about?

I spoke about the approach that we have at Chabad Lifeline, which is a non-judgmental, abstinence-based, 12-step friendly, individual counselling and group therapy, outpatient program. I explained that we are unique in that we provide immediate access, no waiting list, and no cost to anyone coming in for an intake and screening. We are also connected to tremendous resources in the city.

Q. Did you address any questions from the audience?

One of the questions asked to the panel was the role of spirituality in recovery. I spoke about my background, and how I came to pastoral counseling. As a student from Rabbinical school, my interest was piqued when I was first introduced to the 12-step community back in the early '90s. I shared how I was taken by the spiritual integrity, the rigorous honesty, and the importance of developing a relationship with a higher power, which are the core beliefs of the 12 steps.

As a Jew involved in the Jewish community's spiritual growth back in New Jersey where I was assigned by the Lubavitcher Rebbe, those core beliefs intrigued me. My wife also got involved and went back to school where she got a Master's in Social Work with a focus on helping family members of people with addiction.

It's interesting. I left Montreal in 1986-1987, the year I graduated Concordia. As soon as I graduated, I traveled to Jerusalem to study in Rabbinical school for the first time. It was my first real exposure to Judaism, and from there I gained an appreciation and passion for learning more about my Jewish faith.

Then, three or four years later, I was introduced to the 12-step culture and my two passions together became integrated in my personal and communal work. 

Q: Does Chabad Lifeline only help Jews?

Absolutely not. It's for everybody, and although we are a Jewish organization, we see addiction as a disease, and therefore must be treated by professional clinicians without a religious bend.

Q. Is it true that you haven't been back in 33 years? 

I passed by the hall building downtown and once looked in the window, but I haven't been back. No reunions or alumni gatherings. I did get a letter from the President of the University last year congratulating me for the communal work I'm doing as an alumni. That was really nice. 

Q. You graduated Concordia in which program?

Political science. I was always interested in the study of power. Political science is the study of the ability of A to make B do C. Then in Rabbinical school I discovered that ultimately there is a greater power, and He - A, has us - B, do his will - C, to produce the ultimate destiny of humanity.

Q. What was your experience like in Concordia?

I was in student government. I had some very special relationships and mentors who were university professors. One of them in particular was instrumental in me traveling abroad, which led me to Jerusalem. He was actually a Lebanese Arab named Dr. Henry Habib, who was Chairman of Political Science.

Q. What was it like returning for the first time in 33 years?

When I was a student, there were no cell phones, let alone computers. The biggest difference for me was that there was a lot more sitting space on the floors. I took our "you don't have to be alone again" flyer and posted 20 of them all over the building while I was there, at least one on each floor.

One thing that amazed me was that I was curious about how I would be seen as a Chassidic-looking Jew walking around Concordia. I walked up and down each floor to put up the posters, but barely anyone looked up from their screens. No one looking up at all is a totally different experience than when I was there. We didn't have screens.

When I was a student, I spent a lot of time on the Loyola Campus. I had an office there, and I put a mattress on the floor of my office and slept there. That building I believe has since been demolished. When I go bike riding, I pass Loyola, but I haven't been inside.

Q. After the panel discussion, did anyone come over to talk to you?

Several people. As a matter of fact, four people Chabad Lifeline has helped were in the crowd. They are now students at Concordia, and they came to the talk. It was nice seeing them.

Others also approached me, and after the talk, we got a few phone calls from students reaching out for help. What's great is that moving forward, we are working on meeting with the Concordia Counselling Centre to do a presentation and help them understand how to help people with addiction who come to them for counselling.

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Read a detailed report of the panel discussion from the Concordia Link here.

If you would like Chabad Lifeline to present to your school, company, or group, send us a message here.

8 months of hell

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It was the worst of times.

Eight months of hell.

It started with a shock. My son Mike* got suspended from school for possessing drugs. He was 15.

We were aware that he hung out with the wrong crowd. But we had no idea he was using drugs.

Mike hung out at home for a few days, then he suddenly disappeared.

We called his friends, but no one knew where he was. After several hours, we got a text from Mike. He was in a Walmart bathroom, sick as a dog. He had been huffing nail polish.

Huffing is a way to get high. People get hooked to sniffing items with chemical vapors. Huffing is also called inhalant abuse, and Mike had gotten addicted to it quick.

The next day, my wife found Mike unconscious in his bedroom. Over the next few days, we threw out all our glue, markers, and cooking spray.

Mike continued huffing. In stores. In public places. Wherever and whenever he could.

Our lives turned upside down. Mike would disappear for days at a time. We got no sleep, calling his friends, searching store bathrooms and empty stairwells, racing from hospital to hospital.

This went on for 7 months. I lost my job. My wife developed heart problems. Our other children started acting up.

Finally, we called Chabad Lifetime and joined Karen's family support group. We never thought our lives could change but the support from the facilitators and the other parents in the group were a massive reason we were able to survive as a family.

We learned how to detach from the insanity. We learned boundaries. When to give, when not to give. Which rules to enforce and how to enforce those rules.

When we set up the boundaries, we were able to resume our lives. Chabad Lifeline's family counsellor gave us resources that we passed to Mike, to reach out for help when he was ready. 

We got the help we needed, and we owe this to Chabad Lifeline's family support group.

It was the worst of times. And thank goodness it's over.

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Chabad Lifeline's family support group has helped hundreds of family members get through the most difficult of times. That is why we have decided to start a new parent support group in the evenings (every Monday from 5:45 to 7:00 PM starting January 14th).

If you are concerned about your child possibly engaging in destructive behaviour, please call Gabriella at 514-738-7700 or send us an email

Wish I had known

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Home is supposed to be a safe space.

It wasn't for Eric*.

His father was an abusive alcoholic. His mother had serious anxiety issues. His older brother was a violent wreck with a big mouth.

Eric never knew what to expect when he came home. If his Dad was around, Eric faced drunken aggression. If his Mom was there, she would be crying in her room - unable to leave to work because of her nerves. If his brother was home, it was because he was kicked out of school for fighting.

When more than one family member was home, it was pure chaos. But it was Eric's normal home life.

When Eric was 17, he got ahold of his Mom's anxiety medication. Xanax. He started using Xanax more and more and eventually it got out of control. He started hanging out with some bad friends and within a couple of months he was drinking and using serious drugs on a regular basis.

His friends called him the garburator because he would eat, drink, and smoke whatever he got his hands on. He would do anything to block out his feelings.

After three years of hell, Eric finally admitted that he needed help, and was admitted into an inpatient treatment centre. After 5 weeks, he came out clean and sober, feeling better than he'd ever felt in his life.

He moved out of his parents' volatile house and into a shared apartment with one of his friends, a young man named Joel* who was addicted to cocaine. 

Eric decided to go back and get his high school diploma. For about a year, he struggled and managed to hang on to his sobriety.

But then the pressure from his diploma and his work got to him and he fell off the wagon. His old feelings, the victim thinking returned and the only way to shut the inner voices was to go back to his old solution, blotting out his existence the best he could with drugs and alcohol.

A couple months later, Eric's Dad showed up at his apartment. He looked wearier than ever, yet paradoxically healthier than ever. Eric's dad had found recovery and it had changed his life. He had joined a 12-step fellowship and was celebrating one year of continuous sobriety.

He had come to ask forgiveness. To make amends.

When Eric's dad left, the old feelings returned with a vengeance. Eric felt anger. Remorse. Pity. He wanted his Dad's recovery to be real. He wondered if it was. He was an emotional wreck. He didn't know how to manage his feelings.

Eric went on a using binge, and died of an overdose.

He was an artist. A kindhearted person. My roommate. My best friend.

My wake up call.

His death made me realize my own path of self-destruction. His death made me seek help.

Eric's Dad was at his funeral. He looked distraught. Beaten.

But he was still sober.

I asked Eric's Dad where he'd received the strength. The help. "Joel, come with me to Chabad Lifeline."

My path to recovery began seven years ago at an Open Speaker Meeting in Chabad Lifeline.

 I am alive today because of Eric. Because of Eric's Dad. Because of Chabad Lifeline.

Someday I may share my own story but today I want to to tell you Eric's. I know that Eric could have been saved had he found the family I found at Chabad Lifeline.

Because Chabad Lifeline isn't just a house. It's a home.

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As part of our growth and commitment to being accessible, we are expanding our services with NEW EVENING HOURS including a new Open Speaker Meeting on Thursday evening at 7:00 PM.

For the first time, we will be available to meet with clients on Thursdays from 5:00-7:00 PM.

In addition, we will be starting a new Parent Support Group on Monday evenings 5:45-7:00 PM. Check the flyer for details.

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Please note: names and certain identifying details have been changed from this account to protect the anonymity of the people this happened to.

From downtown east side of Vancouver to the halls of the EMSB: Meet Gabriella

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She taught English in Japan, worked with at-risk youth in the hardest hit area in Canada in terms of addiction, and opened a wildly successful company with just five dollars. 

Meet Gabriella Anderson, Chabad Lifeline's new Youth Counselor. Most of Gabriella's work at Lifeline is in schools throughout Montreal, but we caught her at her desk recently and sat down for a quick chat.

Q. Tell us about your background.

I'm from Vancouver. I completed a bachelors of commerce in the University of Victoria. A school project challenged me to start a company in ten days with five dollars, so I dreamed of this VIP card called a party pass I would sell to students that would get them access to clubs, bars, and parties as well as discounts in local restaurants. Where I made most of the money wasn't selling the card to students. It was ad revenues. Each company that was part of the card paid to be on the party pass. It started in Victoria, then expanded to Vancouver and Whistler.

It pulled me into the party lifestyle, and eventually I got tired of the scene, so I sold the business and moved to Himeji, Japan where I taught English for two years in a school. 

Q. How did you get involved with addiction work?

In Japan, I realized that I had a passion for working with kids and youth but I discovered that I didn't want to be a teacher. I decided to go back to school and complete a Master's in counseling with a specialization in youth.

Part of my master's was doing a practicum in the downtown east side of Vancouver, which is where my passion for addictions work ignited. I was working with at-risk youth as well as the children of parents struggling with addiction and that became an area of focus for me.

Another reason I'm drawn to addiction work is that I have a number of family members whose lives have been touched by addiction.

Q. How did you get to Chabad Lifeline?

Love brought me to Montreal. The love of my life lives here, and we had planned for me to move sometimes around the new year. Then we were sitting together one day and just for fun out of curiosity, we decided to look at the job market. We thought, "is it possible that me, as an English speaker, could get a job in the field I want to be in, in the city of Montreal?"

We looked through some job postings. Chabad Lifeline was one of the first ones I saw that was a perfect match. I thought it was a long shot and I sent my resume. Less than  hours later, the Rabbi called and wanted to interview me. After our interview he wanted to hire me, so the process happened a lot more quickly than I had expected. I got to come here in a matter of weeks rather than months, and it's the best thing that has ever happened to me. I'm so grateful to be here.

Q. What do you find makes Chabad Lifeline unique?

It really feels like home here. It's very welcoming. I noticed as soon as I walked into the building how comfortable it is to be here, and I think that's a good sign because it's important for people to feel safe, especially when going for counseling.

I think that's unique and special. It doesn't feel clinical or like a doctor's office.

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We are proud to welcome Gabriella to our ever expanding Clinical Team. She meets with youth at-risk in four of the fifteen school that we service.

If you know any youth that could benefit fro our professional, non-judgmental, and warm youth team, please contact us

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