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Chabad Lifeline blog

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

Marijuana led me to the psych ward

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This is not your typical marijuana story, but this was my reality.  

My first bad trip

Five years ago, I started experiencing psychotic symptoms whenever I smoked a joint or ate an edible (it was a daily occurrence).

I had been using for awhile. I tried other drugs but weed was my go to. It always gave me what I was looking for.

For many years it was good, but suddenly the paranoia started. It was terrifying but semi-manageable. Then came my first psychotic episode.

I lost complete control. My mind was active, hyperactive, as my body was shocked with paralyzing fear. I couldn't move a muscle. I couldn't scream. I felt like I was going to die.

My roommate found me and called the ambulance. That was my first trip to the psych ward.

Frozen in fear

I was kept there for a day or two, then they released me and I returned home.

I vowed I would never use again.

Boy was I wrong.

One week later I found myself on that same couch, paralyzed. Except this time, my roommate was out of town.

Inside I was panicking. My brain was racing. You can't imagine the terror of being unable to move. I tried reaching for my phone. In my head it was an easy task but my body wouldn't allow it.

After about an hour I snapped out of it. I thought things were going to be better but then I smoked another joint.

A way out

After six weeks of this hell and a few more visits to the psych ward, I was finally willing to go to any length to get my sanity back.

A doctor in the psych ward referred me to Chabad Lifeline. I was nervous, but when I got there, it wasn't what I had envisioned.

It was a home. Somewhere I felt safe.

My counselor at Chabad Lifeline prepared a treatment plan that included abstaining, weekly one on one counseling, random urine samples, and 12-step meetings including Marijuana Anonymous.

I did some research on CIP (Cannabis Induced Psychosis). I thought my story was unique but did you know that according to a recent study, 15% of regular cannabis users reported similar symptoms that I experienced? 

That was 5 years ago, and I haven't used or had a psychotic episode since.

My name is Jack, and this is my story.

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If you have a problem with Marijuana Addiction, please contact us at 514-738-7700 or via our "contact us" form.

A night to remember

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Addiction often comes part and parcel with mental illness, and for that reason we have partnered with the Au Contraire Film Festival over the last three years to present films that focus on addiction and mental health at the Museum of Fine Arts. Our goal is to draw out raw and important messages through the medium of film and the question and answer period following each screening. The cultural setting allows everyone to feel included, and provides dignity to people affected by addiction, giving them an opportunity to have their feelings validated through the presentation of issues they are going through in a non-clinical way.

This year, we screened three short films that focused on how addiction affects the family. RESET Director Arun Vir and her daughter Salma, on whom the film was based, joined Chabad Lifeline's Director on stage for an emotional Q&A period.

A dessert reception followed the screening in a beautiful room at the museum where 300 people of various backgrounds who care about our mission had a chance to mingle and connect with any of the 12 members of Chabad Lifeline's Clinical Team to find out about our programs and services.

Among those in attendance were Dr. Karl Looper and his staff from the Jewish General Hospital Psychiatry Department, Chair of the English Montreal School Board Angela Mancini and several commissioners, Dr. Laurie Betito, Tommy Schnurmacher, and community leaders.

Following the screening, we received much feedback. Some highlights:

"The film 'Reset' touched many pressure points for those of us who have been through the turmoil personally, as a parent or sibling. I had an involuntary shudder run down my back at one point, a tremor which reflected my intense personal identification with the story. One especially impactful part of the evening was the message at its culmination, at the end of the question and answer period. It was the message that the family has to be intimately involved."

"The short films were thought-provoking and gripping. As an addict, I feel that they did an excellent job of demonstrating to the public how addiction affects and disrupts families--the associated feelings of helplessness, stress, anger, panic, etc. Conversely, it also exposed the pivotal role family support often plays in helping an addict break their cycle of addiction. As an addict myself, I know all too well how difficult my addiction was on my family--it broke them down as much as it did myself.  Despite this, it was my parents' unrelenting love and support that ultimately proved critical in getting me into treatment and helping me to maintain my long-term sobriety."

"As someone who struggles with alcoholism and addiction, I found the evening (Au Contraire) incredibly accurate - providing insight into the mind of an alcoholic/addict. The things we do, say and think. The obsessiveness. The misery. The lies. The embarrassment and shame. 

"While you’re in the thick of your addiction you believe to be on your own in this impossible struggle. You are hopeless. Only through recovery do you realize that there are thousands of people just like you. People who went through exactly what you went through. Thought exactly what you thought and acted exactly the way you acted. 

"It was great for my girlfriend, who was in attendance as well, to see alcoholism and addiction portrayed in the words of other people. To see that I am not crazy. That I am sick. That I need to continue treating my disease for the rest of my life. The opposite of addiction, to me, is connection. Connection to yourself, to society and to God. Through these things recovery is possible. I am living it."

To see a collection of photos from the event, click here. If you know someone affected by addiction, please contact us at 514-738-7700 or by sending us an email.

Meet new Executive Committee member Michael Flinker

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Meet Michael Flinker, Chabad Lifeline's newest Executive Committee member. 

After graduating from Concordia in 1977 with a BCom and a major in accounting, Michael subsequently started FLS Transportation Services Inc with two friends in June of 1987. They sold the business in March, 2016 and Michael remained until Aug 2018, having built it into the largest logistics company in Canada, and the 20th largest in the USA.

Upgrading Chabad Lifeline's digital system

Michael and his wife Marcia are well-known philanthropists  in Montreal circles and their generosity has helped people of all backgrounds physically, mentally, and spiritually. They have financed massive projects for the Jewish General Hospital, Cedar's Cancer Foundation, Montreal Torah Centre, and Lower Canada College.

What drives the magnanimity of the Flinkers'? "My late mother had a great adage," Michael shared in a one-on-one interview with Chabad Lifeline. "She used to say that you have three obligations in life. One is to donate money to charity if you have the means to do so. Two is to put in time. And three: in a perfect world do both. I've lived by that credo all my life. I think when one succeeds in life, one has an obligation to put something back into the community."

This past summer, Michael's daughter Julie worked as an intern at Chabad Lifeline where she saw firsthand the life-saving work. "She called me one day, saying "Dad, they really could use your help," and that's how I got involved."

When Michael visited Chabad Lifeline, he sat in for one of the Open Meetings and was blown away. In a conversation with Rabbi Bresinger, Michael stressed the need to go digital. "I decided to buy the necessary computer hardware and software to enable them to best serve their clients. It was Julie's inspiration and influence," he confessed.

The secret to a good family

Michael and Marcia have four children, who are sources of great pride for the Flinkers. We asked Michael the secret ingredient for raising kids to be good people.

"My wife and I put in a tremendous amount of time with our kids," he shared. "My favourite activity is to hang out with my kids. I coached my two boys in hockey and baseball for over 10 years, and I ski with my kids every weekend. We hang out at our cottage and put a lot of time into our family. 

"Most people, particularly families that are well off, think that if you buy kids toys, that will suffice. But what kids really need is time, guidance, and love," he stressed. "I've always told my kids that if money was the key to happiness, then poor families would all be miserable and the rich would be ecstatic. But if you look at the poor families, their kids are often happier than the kids from rich families because the parents can't buy them toys they have no choice but to put in a lot of time, and time is ultimately what kids want and need. Our role as parents is to help develop their values, self-esteem, and self-confidence, and that will only happen if the parents put in the effort."

Giving people a second chance

Michael recently joined Chabad Lifeline's Executive Committee. We asked him what motivated that decision.

"I really like Rabbi Bresinger and Karen, and I'm really impressed with the work they're doing," he explained. "I've always been of the belief in life that people who mess up deserve a second chance. Chabad Lifeline is giving people a second chance, and in some cases a third or a fourth chance. People deserve a chance to rebound and get back on their feet and that's what they're doing". 

"Addiction is an area of society that is often overlooked," he continued. "Addicts are often regarded as people who put themselves in this predicament, so why should we we worry about helping them? For whatever reason they got into this predicament - and sometimes it's genetic, sometimes it can be an issue that they've encountered in their own family or workplace that drove them to do this - people ultimately deserve a second chance. We're all human, and we all make mistakes, but we shouldn't be punished for those mistakes for the rest of our lives."

No one wanted to become an addict

Michael was welcomed to Chabad Lifeline's Executive Committee by its Chair, Eddie Wiltzer. "We are thrilled to have someone of the caliber of Mike, who has done so much for our community, to join us and help save lives," said Eddie. "The addition of Mike to our Executive Committee comes at the perfect time, just as we are expanding our staff and our presence in the schools, and we are excited to have his experience and talents to guide our growth."

Michael had a heartfelt message about Chabad Lifeline's work for our readers. The impoverished man you see in the street eating a half-eaten McDonald's burger from a garbage can. It's not something he or she elected to do. They don't have a choice. Nobody wants to end up in a garbage can. "Until you're walking in another man's shoes, don't judge what they've done and don't judge how they've acted because you don't know what happened in their life."

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Michael will be present on Thursday, October 18, where we will be screening three short films on addiction, including an Oscar winner. You will also have an opportunity to hear firsthand from a recovering addict and her mother at a dynamic Q&A session following the screening. The films all focus on how addiction affects the family, and tickets can be purchased here. To read more about each film and watch their trailers, click here.

Too Much Yabba Dabba Doo

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In 1988, ABC aired the Flintstone Kids' "Just say no" special which taught children the value of saying no to drugs.

Ironically, my trajectory to cocaine addiction began with the Flintstones.

Well, Flintstone candies.

My cough syrup rage

I always did things in excess. I felt strong feelings, I delivered passionate statements, and I looooved my vitamins.

Remember those vitamins? I used to eat them like candy.

As I got older, I discovered grape flavoured cough syrup. Yum!

I wasn't able to moderate my cough syrup intake. My parents would hide the bottle but I would search the house until I found it.

I began faking coughs. My parents didn't know what to do with me.

I don't remember my teenage years much

My cough syrup mania lasted until I discovered alcohol. I was 12 when I had my first drink (my friend Gary S and I snuck outside to a nearby alley at a Bat Mitzvah party).

Alcohol was where my descent sped up. I was regularly in trouble at school and at home. I was hanging out with the wrong crowd, and I did plenty of stuff I'm ashamed of today.

When I was 16, a friend introduced me to cocaine. I was instantly hooked. My life went on hold. Looking back, it was one big blur. I was stealing and using. I was a mess.

Chabad Lifeline moves quick

When I was 24 I hit rock bottom and finally reached out. I called Chabad Lifeline. The person who answered the phone was a volunteer receptionist. I don't remember much of what she said, except "you never have to be alone again."

I never would be. I thought I would have to wait a few weeks for an appointment but my intake took place that very afternoon.

It was that day at Chabad Lifeline that changed my life path. I met Cindy*, who was around my age and was also in recovery. She took me out to eat, brought me to my first meeting.

I followed my tight treatment plan, and surrounded myself with good, healthy people committed to recovery.

Some important thank yous

I am four years clean as of today. I work in education and feel cleaner and healthier than I have ever felt.

I want to thank Chabad Lifeline for restoring me and guiding me to leading a meaningful and mindful life. I am proud to be part of the Chabad Lifeline family.

Rachel*

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*Please note: Names and some information has been changed to protect the privacy of the people involved.

On October 18, we will be screening a series of films depicting how addiction affects the family, including "Reset," "Mutt," and the Oscar-winning short film "Curfew." You can find out more information about each film and purchase tickets here

If our parents only knew...

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In November of '93, I was walking home from school and saw my best friend Kyle.

He looked haggard. Desperate.

"You got $500 I can borrow?"

$500? I was 13 years old! Plus, Kyle already owed me $25! 

"Scott, you gotta help me out. I'm in serious trouble."

Summer of fun

Growing up, I was a shy kid. I avoided the spotlight, afraid I'd make a mistake and get laughed at.

My birthday was in early August, during the second month of summer camp. Birthdays were a big event at camp. Attention is poured on the camper, who must give a speech and lead activities.

I preferred quiet birthday parties with my family, and stayed home each August. The summer of '93, Kyle didn't go to camp either. We were thirteen years old.

What an amazing summer! We spent hours biking to the old port, playing basketball, and hanging out at a local arcade. Kyle bought a BB gun, and we practiced shooting at targets in a secluded area near our homes.

At night, we snuck out and met up with friends. There was always beer, and sometimes porn too.

Kyle's transformation

It was at the arcade that Kyle met some older boys who seemed a little dangerous. They were seriously cool, masters of Tekken, Street Fighter, and Mortal Kombat. 

At first it was marijuana. We were shooting BBs at a sign when he pulled out a doobie and lit it up. He offered me some weed and I politely refused.

One week later, we were biking in Verdun, when he stopped in middle of the street and pulled a bag of powder out of his backpack. "Wanna snort some cocaine?"

It was 10:00 in the morning. "Dude, put that away! What's wrong with you, man?"

He lined up some powder on a can of coke. "Come on, Scott. Get out of your box and have some fun." He snorted the powder, then opened the can and drained the soda.

That night, he started bugging all of us for money. Over the next week, we barely saw him.

Skipping school

When school started, he didn't show. After a couple of days, I dropped by his house. He was high. "School is for losers, Scott."

Over the next couple months, I was swamped with school work. I asked his sister about him, tried calling, even visited his home. But his family always had excuses for why he wasn't available.

Until late in November, when I was on the way home from school and Kyle asked me if he can borrow $500. He looked confused. He looked terrified. And when I couldn't answer him, he walked away.

Next morning, I skipped school. Went to his Dad's office and told him I was concerned about Kyle.

Kyle's family had been in denial, but after my discussion with his Dad, they all sat down for an honest talk.

The reason I'm sharing this

What they discovered was that Kyle was in a lot of trouble.

A friend of Kyle's mom suggested they reach out to Chabad Lifeline which was then Project PRIDE. Kyle and his Dad met with Rabbi Fine, who started both Kyle and his family on the path to recovery and healing.

Kyle returned to school the next year, and only I and the school guidance counselor knew what he had gone through. Today, Kyle lives in Toronto with his family and we are still close as ever.

Why am I writing this blog post now? Because I saw that my friend was in trouble, I did something. I did what I could. I dropped everything and spoke to his Dad, even though I was a shy kid. I know that I saved Kyle's life.

To this day I support Chabad Lifeline because they were part of saving his life too. I saw firsthand how they helped him through his struggles with addiction, and his family through their pain. 

It's Chabad Lifeline's annual raffle and you can save someone's life. Get out there and visit the centre. Talk to Rabbi Fine or Rabbi Bresinger and hear firsthand how they have literally saved families.

And buy a raffle ticket. Your money will be used to help kids like Kyle. Kids who fall through the cracks and need a friend to help them get through their moments of pain.

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*Please note: names and certain details were changed to protect the privacy of the people involved. 

Helping kids year round

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What happens to kids affected by addiction being serviced in schools when summer arrives? The answer to that question was discussed at a recent Chabad Lifeline visit to Camp Amy Molson to meet the new member of our expanding team, Shauna Joyce.

Camp Director joins Lifeline staff

For the last 18 years, Shauna has been Director of Camp Amy Molson, which services youth of whom the large majority are living below the poverty line. She has worked in education for 10 years, most recently as Principal of Hebrew Academy.

"In my conversations with Chabad Lifeline, we spent a lot of time talking about the hidden victims of addiction, the ones living at home where the circumstances are difficult and people aren't aware or don't even know about it," said Shauna. "It was clear in our discussion that many of the clientele that we're talking about in the schools are attending my camp."

That realization sparked an idea. "We thought it was a good opportunity to bridge both worlds and provide a lifeline to campers which can be used when they get back to the city," Shauna explained. "Knowing that I would be involved with Chabad Lifeline was another connection to make so that the kids would be aware that a familiar face would be there as well."

An atmosphere of openness

At the camp, Chabad Lifeline Youth Counselors led workshops with the teenage campers and counselors in training. Some of the youth opened up and shared how they were affected by addiction, and several may meet one on one with our youth counselors after camp is over.

"We are very excited to add Shauna to our growing team," said Chabad Lifeline Director Rabbi Benyamin Bresinger. "Her education, experience, and passion in changing the lives of youth from the most vulnerable demographics fit perfectly with our mission."

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To see photos from our visit, click here.

We also visited Camp Bnai Brith and spoke to several groups of teens. Photos from the Camp Bnai Brith workshops can be found here.

How I beat my bullies

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Darkness.

That familiar pain in his forehead.

Patrick* opened his eyes. Where am I? What happened?

Another blackout. I need to lay off the vodka.

Patrick groaned. If the headache wasn't enough, the bruises from the last beatdown in school were throbbing.

Behind the curtain of a quiet teen

Patrick was sent to Chabad Lifeline back when we were called Project PRIDE. Bullied on a daily basis, he would drink himself into oblivion.

You would never suspect that Patrick had a drinking problem. He was smart, quiet and sweet. 

His home life was complicated. Patrick lived with his mother and three younger siblings. His father had overdosed on heroin and his mom worked long hours to support the family, leaving him in charge of dinner and bedtime.

Patrick was a 13 year old kid shouldering tremendous responsibility. Alcohol was his only safe refuge.

An emotional celebration

A school Guidance Counselor would save Patrick's life. She referred him to Chabad Lifeline and he met with one of our Youth Counselors.

Patrick would travel two hours for his weekly Lifeline visits. He went though dark periods, and Lifeline became his family. Through all his struggles, he always came back, and was welcomed with warmth.

August 11 marked four years of sobriety for Patrick, and he met up with Chabad Lifeline Director Rabbi Benyamin Bresinger and a couple of friends to celebrate.

"Rabbi B, all those years everybody at Lifeline was so warm and caring with me, no matter where I was," he shared at the gathering. "I learned to stop my inner voice from saying what the bullies would tell me, and being welcomed as family gave me the confidence to beat my own internal bullies."

Chabad Lifeline congratulates Patrick on four years of sobriety!

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

Patrick was helped thanks to the support of people like you. We are in middle of a raffle campaign. Please open your heart and purchase a ticket or two by clicking here.

Vodka in a water bottle

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I was a troubled child.

I was a short and scrawny boy, maybe because we never had much food in our apartment. 

I was constantly bullied in school. Like my Dad, I kept all my feelings inside. I never told anyone about the suffering I would endure in the playground after school.

Getting plastered at twelve

My Dad was a happy and docile drunk, and a depressed soul when sober. He spent all his money on alcohol and barely held a job.

I took my first shot when I was twelve and drank away the pain. It was a scotch, and it was the first time that I felt good about myself. I felt taller, better looking, and brave.

Dad found me on the bathroom floor, surrounded by my own vomit, and I was punished severely. Not for getting drunk. For stealing his bottle.

From that moment, I chased that high. Whenever I could, I would sneak a shot from Dad's stash and get smashed in my room.

Selling alcohol in high school

One day in grade 8, I poured some of Dad's vodka into a water bottle and brought it to school. That took me to a whole new level.

I started selling sips. Soon, I was selling water bottles filled with vodka. Wasn't too long until the school caught on and boy did I get into trouble.

They confiscated everything and threw me out.

Lessons learned

But they also did the best thing that ever happened to me: they required that I meet with a Chabad Lifeline youth counselor.

My counselor was amazing. She helped me look into myself and deal with the core issues that were really troubling me.

Looking back, I recognize that the reason I felt safe enough to open up for the first time was because the centre and the people in it were so welcoming and non-judgmental.

I finally had someone I can trust, and it was that relationship that really set me on the right path. 

Alexander* 

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For years, schools have been turning to Chabad Lifeline to help children affected by addiction and we have opened our arms to welcome and give them the guarantee that they never have to be alone again.

You can make an impact on kids dealing with some of the same hardships as Alexander by purchasing a raffle ticket in our largest annual fundraiser.

If you already bought a ticket, we greatly appreciate your generosity. If you haven't, please click here to buy a ticket.

Hiding my Mom's cocaine: Eden's story

 

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I was the hero of my family. 

A mother addicted to drugs, a father who had checked out. A brother who had withdrawn into himself, a sister with behavioural issues. I was 9 years old, doing great in school, but inside I was screaming. 

Then one day my Dad raced in my room, a bag of powder in his hand.

"Quick Eden*, hide this under your mattress!"

I knew exactly what it was. And that's when I became my Dad's closest confidante.

That's when the hero of the family became the rock of the family.

We never saw it coming

When my Dad lost his job, we had to downgrade. We moved back to Montreal, renting a duplex in Cote des Neiges.

It was a change of lifestyle. I was 6 at the time, but I remember the trauma. My Mom took it hardest.

At first she turned to drink, and we'd find bottles of alcohol all over the house. That lasted a couple of years. She went for help, but kept relapsing. 

I was oblivious. My Dad was always shouting at her, so I focused on school. On getting good grades. On my group of friends. I was managing. We were surviving.

Then she got into cocaine. 

The cocaine conspiracy

Back then my Dad cared. He once came into my room with a bag of cocaine, and convinced me to hide it under my mattress so my Mom wouldn't find it.

My Mom burst in minutes later, asking me where Dad had hidden her bag. And that's the first time I remember lying.

Over the next year, my Dad confided in me. I was his marriage counselor and his accountant. 

I watched him give up the battle, falling into a severe depression. Already, it was up to me to keep the house together.

My father spent all day in his room. My older brother locked himself in the bathroom with his game console, and my older sister acted out.

I kept the home clean. I cooked dinner, did the laundry, all while managing school projects and attending choir practice.

Rock bottom

Mom went missing for three days. I'll never know exactly what happened, but somehow she heard about Chabad Lifeline. She started attending meetings, and urged Dad to join her.

I was the youngest child, but I babysat my older siblings when they were gone. I was 11 years old.

One day my Mom brought me to Lifeline. Her counselor had prepared a healing plan and wanted the whole family involved.

I worked with Lifeline's youth counselor for many years. At first, I found Lifeline to be the only space where I could be myself. A safe space where I can focus on what I want, on my hobbies.

What I learned

Gradually we learned to work as a family. We're still a bit dysfunctional, and still getting help, but the responsibilities are no longer just my problem.

Why do I write this today? Because of Lifeline's raffle.

Thanks to Lifeline, my family is a family again. Thanks to lifeline, I can accept failure. I can recognize that I can't control everything, and I know how to say no and make space for myself and my needs.

I'm a young adult now. This year, I saved up and bought two tickets. I'm hoping you also buy a ticket.

Why? Because there are other kids out there in the same situation as I was in 13 years ago, and when you support Lifeline you aren't supporting just one person at a time.

You are supporting families.

Click here to buy your ticket.

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*Names and certain identifying pieces of information have been changed to protect the anonymity of the author.

 

Meet Julie, our summer intern

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Volunteering at Chabad Lifeline is a rewarding experience. For Julie Flinker, her summer internship may serve as a foundation for her future professional life.

Julie's involvement with Chabad Lifeline goes back to when we were Project PRIDE. Her father has known Lifeline Founder Rabbi Ronnie Fine and Chair of Lifeline's Executive Committee Eddie Wiltzer for years.

Last summer, Julie's best friend Hannah Eisenberg took an internship with us. " Hannah told me that it's free counselling for those in need, it's non denominational, and she found her experience very educational and hands on," related Julie. "I thought that would be beneficial because I want to apply for a Master's at McGill to become a psychotherapist and volunteering at Chabad Lifeline would be good exposure and good experience."

Julie has always wanted to work in counselling. "I enjoy listening to other people speak and I enjoy helping them to the best of my abilities," she explained, noting that addiction counseling is a niche area within counselling that she wanted to explore. "People are very vulnerable when they walk into places like Chabad Lifeline. They're counting on the counsellors to help them, and it's rewarding work."

As a volunteer, Julie's work is mostly reception, and as the first to greet people who walk into the centre, she has had an eye opening experience. "There's a culture shock when you start working here," she said. "I understood the concept but you have to be here and present to really experience what it's like and what the counsellors do in the day to day at Chabad Lifeline."

Julie is also working directly with Lifeline Director Rabbi Benyamin Bresinger on the upcoming raffle. "We're trying to implement and improve the marketing strategy for the raffle so we can have greater reach and sell more tickets, as well as make it more innovative than last year," she said.

Rabbi Bresinger noted that Julie has been huge help on all fronts. "We're so glad that Julie is volunteering with us for the summer," he stressed. "Her energy and empathy is going to make her an amazing therapist."

What has her experience been thus far? "It's been very rewarding work and it taught me that it's important not to judge people because everyone has a story. No one wants to be an addict and no one wants to be a slave to their addiction, and the fact that people are coming to the centre seeking help is a huge step in their recovery." 

"It's very important not to judge people and not to judge the centre," she added. "I think some people might think Chabad Lifeline, judging by its name, only caters to Jews, but it really caters to everyone, and I can see that just by working at reception. I see the diverse clientele that walks in there. That's why I think it's important to support Chabad Lifeline."

To purchase tickets for our upcoming raffle, click here.

To volunteer at Chabad Lifeline, click here.

Feature focus: Stan & Vicki Zack

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These days, Stan and Vicki Zack travel to spend time with their beautiful grandchildren.

This year, they celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. It is not only 50 years of marriage and starting and nurturing a family, but also 50 years of working together tirelessly to make the world a better place.

Today, Stan is in Arizona from where he made the time to speak with Rabbi Benyamin Bresinger, Director of Chabad Lifeline, over a Skype call offering his advice.

Before we tell you how they have helped Chabad Lifeline, we’d like to share with you his success professionally.

In 1972, Stan and two partners founded STS Systems, a computer company based in the West Island of Montreal. One partner was in charge of marketing & sales, another handled the legal & contract issues, whilst Stan took charge of the business’s inside operations.

“I probably hired the first 300 people in the company, and then I was smart and fortunate enough to build a human resource department,” he recalls. “I was still responsible for it, and if it was a senior person getting hired, I would get involved with the interview.”

When Stan and his partners sold the company in 2000, they had 935 employees, having achieved tremendous success during what was a very tough period of industrial growth at the time.

HOW IT ALL BEGAN

Stan and Vicki’s connection with Chabad Lifeline started at a meeting with Rabbi Ronnie Fine to discuss addiction. “We met him on Queen Mary with his sister Karen,” Stan recalls with a chuckle. “Rabbi Fine didn’t take any notes, and then we realized that she [Karen] was really the one that was handling things.”

The Zacks visited the centre on a Tuesday afternoon for the open speaker’s meeting, and attended several family group meetings. “When Rabbi Bresinger says that they really save lives, I could see with my own eyes what it was doing for people,” Stan stresses. “When we go back every six months or so we are really moved by participating and hearing the stories. People come with a problem with a spouse or more often with a child, and they’re throwing their hands up in the air, they feel there’s no hope. We can see how the group meetings are very helpful.”

CHABAD LIFELINE’S MENTOR & PERSONNEL GUIDE

Stan and Vicki’s support of Chabad Lifeline goes far beyond finances. Stan is a longstanding member of our Executive Committee and has offered his expertise and time in almost all of our human resources related matters.

Stan has interviewed almost every person Chabad Lifeline has ever hired. His experience in growing a company from 3 partners to almost 1000 employees and his care for what we do made him invaluable in finding the best possible talent to serve all those who walk through our door for help with addiction. “We had a fairly large company with a lot of employees so anything related to employee issues, I have plenty of experience in that,” he relates. “So when Rabbi Bresinger has an issue he needs to bounce off somebody, I’m happy to talk to him about it.”

“The staff that they have are very impressive people,” he adds. “An example would be Ruth. She's a goldmine. The young people they’ve been bringing in are all amazing!”

Finding the right candidate for the job and the right situation that works is very difficult. “Hiring for Chabad Lifeline is not like industry. They have a tight budget, so it’s hard to attract professionals with the salaries that they pay,” admits Stan. “They try to be creative, but the people who work there have to want to help and make a difference. They’re not there for the money, that’s for sure.”

GETTING OTHERS TO SUPPORT LIFELINE

The Zacks work as advocates for Chabad Lifeline, encouraging friends and acquaintances to support our lifesaving work.

“There’s some exposure through the raffle and the film festival, but that doesn’t really get people to understand what it’s all about,” Stan says. “Attending the meetings, sitting down with Rabbi Bresinger, Karen, and Ruth. We know of some situations where people went to one meeting and they became deeply involved, and also became donors.”

Their efforts and support of Chabad Lifeline are highly appreciated. “Stan and Vicki are most outstanding philanthropists dedicated to making our community a better place,” Executive Committee Chair Eddie Wiltzer remarks. “Their devotion to improving healthcare is exceptional.”

Stan leaves off with a message for our readers. “There’s still a stigma attached to addiction and most people don’t understand it until they have a need for help,” he stresses. “Chabad Lifeline does vital work. If people get involved, attend some meetings, and understand the philosophy, they will be moved. Chabad Lifeline is a hidden gem. It’s an organization that really does miracles.”

Thanks to Stan and Vicki Zack, we are able to do those “miracles” everyday, because of their financial support and  all the help in hiring the best people to make them happen.

Stan, Vicki, we can’t thank you enough for all your time, financial support, and dedication. Thank you!

These heroes ignored their son's calls for help

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Niagara Falls.

Powerful. Beautiful. 

A picturesque town. Its jail though, is nothing to look at.

For Jeremy*, trying to reach his parents through a collect call 14 years ago, life was about to get much harder.

A CROSS CANADA TOUR

Jeremy hung out with the "party crowd" of his high school in Montreal's West Island. Athletic, self confident and good looking, he was very popular.

It started with alcohol, then Jeremy found escape in drugs. An occasional joint of marijuana with some friends led to heavy drugs until he was out of control. His home life suffered and his grades dropped significantly.

Then Jeremy started disappearing.

The first time, he was found the next evening near the Jacques Cartier bridge. But things grew steadily worse.

A PARENT'S WORST NIGHTMARE

Neil* and Sandra* had heard of Chabad Lifeline after opening up to a close friend in recovery. They met with our Clinical Director and Family Counsellor Karen Bresinger MSW to discuss their son Jeremy. He was out of control, blacking out for days and reappearing with no memory of where he had been or what he had done. 

The suffering parents began attending our family program, receiving guidance, advice, and support. Then one day Jeremy went missing for a week.

It was 2:00 in the morning when they were woken by the long distance ringtone of their phone. Neil lifted the receiver. Police. From Niagara Falls, Ontario. Their son had just been arrested. He would be calling them soon.

When Neil put the receiver down, he started crying. He spoke it over with Sandra. Recalled the advice from the family counsellor not to accept collect calls from their son. Their son had to hit rock bottom. They could no longer continue to be his crutch. 

The phone started ringing. Long distance. The two clutched each other, fighting back the urge to lift it. Sobbing. Knowing their decision was the right one.

GETTING THE HELP HE NEEDED

Jeremy couldn't fathom the possibility that his parents wouldn't have his back. He kept calling. But no one picked up the phone.

In jail, he broke down. The breakdown led to a dual diagnosis (a condition of suffering from a mental illness and substance abuse problem). He was an addict with bipolar disorder.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 12% of those living with a dual diagnosis get the help they need for both disorders. That is why it is essential for someone with a dual diagnosis to be treated for both the addiction and the mental illness.

Jeremy returned to Montreal and started getting the help and healing he needed. At Chabad Lifeline he learned that he was not a bad kid. He was just a young man with mental health and addiction problems. 

With proper psychiatric care and our treatment plan working hand in hand, and thanks to the strength of his parents, Jeremy was able to turn his life around.

Jeremy has been in recovery for 14 years. He now runs a successful business in downtown Montreal. Last summer, he took his wife to see the majestic Niagara Falls. When he FaceTimed his parents from Canada's wonder of the world, they answered on the first ring.

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*Please note that names and certain details were changed to protect the identities of the people in this true event.

Lew Lewis invites Rabbi Bresinger to present to EMSB Guidance Counselors

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People don't speak enough about the children living with the addict.

The quiet child whose older sister keeps stealing her mother's medication and disappearing for days. The silent kid doing well in school but rocking his mother to sleep at night because she's a crack addict. The young girl with twelve bottles of alcohol in her closet that she managed to hide from her brother.

These are the innocent victims, and they often suffer silently. If untreated, they grow into people with serious underlying problems that affect their relationships and lives.

Rabbi Benyamin Bresinger is the Director of Chabad Lifeline. He recently developed a provocative PowerPoint presentation to bring awareness to the plight of these innocent victims.

Following two successful "innocent victim" presentations to an audience of 200 educators at the English Montreal School Board, Lew Lewis, EMSB's Director of Student Services, invited Rabbi Bresinger to speak to a team of 30 Guidance Counselors.

"On March 14, 2018, Director of Chabad Lifeline Rabbi Bresinger and Addictions Counselor Laurie Baum made an inspiring as well as very informative presentation to the EMSB Guidance Counselors on the issue of drugs and other addictions and its impact on adolescents," said Lew Lewis. "In addition, they spoke about the nature of the very valubale services offered by Chabad Lifeline and this was very much appreciated by all."

To view photos from the presentation event, click here.

Some people see this stuff in the movies. We see it every day...

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Eleven years ago Emma* and Gabriel* walked into Chabad Lifeline with nothing but two garbage bags filled with their clothing.

They had left their home after their son Jonathan* had been taken into child custody. They were in desperate need for help. 

What had been a 25 year cocaine addiction for both Emma and Gabriel rapidly escalated for the worse after experimentation with crack cocaine. This led to leaving work, owing money to bad people, and serious neglect of their 10-year-old son.

Montreal police had raided their house after neighbours overheard an altercation between Gabriel and shady debt collectors. Jonathan was swiftly taken into child custody. This was the wake up call they needed but knew they could not turn their lives around alone. Desperate to get their child back, they packed their clothes into two garbage bags and took a taxi to Chabad Lifeline.

"Coming to Lifeline was the best decision we ever made," said Emma. "It changed our lives."

Emma and Gabriel got involved in our treatment program for addicts. They followed the instructions of our treatment plan, which included individual counselling, group therapy, urine tests, and being involved in the 12 step fellowship.

They worked very hard at their sobriety and three months in, were able to reunite with their son, who entered and benefited from Chabad Lifeline's youth program. Addiction affects the whole family which is why we purposefully design programs for the whole family to grow and heal.  

Today, Jonathan is a McGill student on the Dean's List, working on getting into the MSW program. "I want to be able to help other kids who have gone through what I've gone through," he stressed. "And I see this is the best path."

We are extremely proud of Emma, Gabriel, and Jonathan, who took control of their lives and are role models for others struggling with the chaos of addiction.

*Please note: identifying information in this story has been altered to protect the anonymity of the family.

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