MAILBAG: Don’t Pretend This Crisis Doesn’t Exist

When people are struggling, it’s incumbent upon us as a community to help them. When there’s a serious, family- and life-threatening issue at stake, it is our duty to shed light on it and raise awareness about it.

Because of this, I am really upset.

Last week, your website and others showed photos from the grand opening of a first-of-its-kind rehab center for those struggling with alcohol and substance abuse. It’s a great thing to have in Lakewood and I’m glad it’s here.

For others, however, it was an opportunity to complain. They don’t have a problem with the rehab center itself, but rather with the idea that its existence should even be announced.

“Addicts will know about this center, so why do we have to promote it?” they ask.

Their problem with its opening being announced is that it is an embarrassment for the community that we need a rehab center, so why shine a spotlight on it? Wouldn’t it make more sense to keep quiet about it?

At face value, you might think these people have a valid point. But they don’t.

As a licensed alcohol and substance abuse coach, I can assure you with absolute certainty that addiction is one of the worst – if not the worst – crisis our kehilla faces. People think of addiction as someone who is helplessly sticking needles in their arms all day. That’s not the case.

We unfortunately have more than enough of those people in our community. But the biggest issue is the widespread and growing addiction to alcohol.

It has become completely accepted to be downing gallons of booze on a random weekday. On Shabbos? Forget about it. I’ve been to many kiddushim that had more bottles of alcohol than people. And this problem is not just among adults. Yeshiva bochurim see what the adults are doing and are getting addicted themselves without even realizing it.

It’s become fashionable to be a wine and booze connoisseur. Nobody bats an eyelash when there are people getting seriously high on alcohol on a Tuesday night. And we give no thought to how many people in our community are now heavily addicted to alcohol.

Do you not know how serious this is? Those addicted to alcohol usually don’t know it until it’s too late. Because it’s become so accepted, by the time they get around to taking care of it, the ship has already left the port. It’s too late. Their families are wrecked and their physical health is hanging on by a bare thread.

This is adversely affecting countless families in Lakewood, Jackson, Toms River, Manchester, and beyond. And yet we’re not talking about it. There’s nobody for these people to turn to for help because nobody cares. They have no concept that what they’re doing is killing them because nobody even acknowledges the crisis of alcohol addiction.

Because of this, it’s extremely important – even critical – that people know about this new alcohol and substance addiction center. It’s smack in the middle of Lakewood, making it easy for addicts to come by for help. It will help reduce the stigma of “addiction” and help them be willing to turn to professionals for help. But most importantly, it will put in the limelight the serious issue of alcohol addiction in our community.

Broadcasting the existence of this center is not just a “changing of the times” where bad things are allowed to be publicized. No. It’s an acknowledgment of the reality we are facing, it’s a coming to terms with the fact that so many people in our community need help. That’s a good start.

The next step? Create a stigma about excessive drinking. That will literally save lives, marriages, and entire families.

A local therapist

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  1. There are other issues that are swept under the rug in the community. I was glad when I saw this that finally was announced. Hopefully more things also get addressed

  2. Dear therapist who wrote this letter,

    I wish you would have signed your name to the letter.


    Shim Frankel, LCSW
    Addiction Specialist

    • I agree. If as a professional you can’t sign your name you’re full of it. Grow some guts and stop hiding behind anonymity and put your money where your mouth is. Otherwise you’re just a big talker like everyone else. I on the other hand am just a commenter. Hence anonymous.


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