Easing Into Therapy
"It's basically there for peer support," Dauch says.
"It's not a treatment in itself."
JACS holds group meetings similar to AA, NA and
the others, except that participants in JAGS groups are
not divided by type of addiction. Family members and
friends also participate in JACS, while the other 12-
step groups have separate organizations, such as
AlAnon, for those affected by the addict but not
In the New York area and in some other communi-
ties, JACS holds retreats, lectures and communal cele-
brations. The authors of the study in the Journal of
Addictive Diseases are associated with JACS, one as a
member of the advisory board and one as a research
The Detroit-area JAGS, revitalized less than a year
ago, holds weekly group meetings based on the 12-step
approach as well as dinners and a few lecture-discus-
sions. Meetings were originally at Temple Shir Shalom;
now they are held at Congregation Beth Ahm.
At its weekly meetings, group members have been
working on AA's 12 Steps, one step at a time, says
Melinda Nagler of West Bloomfield, a recovering
addict herself and JAGS coordinator.
"People in the group tell me they don't get the same
feeling of family in AA or NA," Nagler says.
Like Paskel, addicts frequently have to hit bottom
before they seek therapy, says Emilie Dauch, director of
the addiction recovery program at Southfield-based
Jewish Family Service.
"We have a cavalier attitude toward what we put into
our bodies," she says. "It takes a long time for what
happens on the inside to show on the outside. That
fosters people's denial."
The standard way to maintain recovery from chemi-
cal dependencies or other addictions is the 12-step pro-
gram developed by Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and
used in Narcotics Anonymous (NA), Pills Anonymous
(PA) and numerous other groups. Recovering addicts
are welcome at any of these meetings, anywhere, and
sometimes go to a meeting every day.
However, most of these meetings have traditionally
taken place in churches. In addition, they frequently
begin with Christian prayer.
"Going to an AA or NA meeting when there's a cross
on the wall is a difficult setting for Jewish people, no
matter how religious they are," Dauch says.
For this reason, she joined with Rabbi Pinson and a
committee of mental health professionals, recovering
addicts and their families to form a branch of Jewish
Alcoholics, Chemically Dependent Persons and
Significant Others (JAGS). Founded in 1979 in New
York, JAGS is a voluntary mutual-help group for Jews
in recovery from alcohol and other chemical dependen-
Like the Friendship Circle Fellowship Program,
JACS brings Jewish people together to discuss their
lives, to celebrate Jewish events with other families and
to feel less alone in their struggle toward recovery.
Shir Shalom is home to the only AA and NA meetings
at any Detroit-area synagogues.
"Because we have AA here, because we've had JAGS
here, we know its an epidemic," says Shir Shalom
Rabbi Dannel Schwartz. "But most people in the cler-
gy are in denial about the problem."
Shir Shalom was founded 16 years ago — and has
housed an AA meeting for 15 of those years.
Rabbi Schwartz does not mince words when he
describes the effects of addiction: "It ruins families; it
sneaks up on people and assassinates them; it's
destroying the fabric of our families."
Especially in the case of alcohol, he is seeing
more and more people coming to his office for
help with addiction — and the people
are younger and younger.
"It's not unusual to see kids
under the age of 14," he says.
"Alcohol is readily available; it's
Marijuana use among
teens is a major concern
for George Surowy, an
addictions therapist who
works closely with Rabbi
"For some reason, par-
ents don't see marijuana
as addictive," he says.
"Maybe because it stays
in your body longer —
He was 17 and living in a friend's attic — without
the knowledge of the friend's parents — when he and
the friend were tied up and robbed at gunpoint.
"Finally, I called my parents," he says. "They'd said
they would pay for treatment. I was the only one in the
treatment center under 40 years old. But what I found
out was they were my brothers."
Despite having personal difficulties since then, Paskel
has never turned back to drugs, he says. He's been
tempted to drink ("I stopped using so young I never
legally drank," he says), but realizes that, with his
addictive personality, he'd better stay away from alcohol
- As part of his recovery, he has become more involved
with Judaism and conducts yoga-meditation services at
Temple Shir Shalom.
"Temples like Shir Shalom are opening their arms to
any psychotherapeutic issue," he says. "We've learned
there's an addict connected to every family."
Today, Paskel works as a therapist and yoga teacher.
He and his wife have two young daughters. "I want to
make sure my daughters know they are safe," he says.
"I'm teaching them there are problems in life — they
have to face them, not run away."
Commited To Wellness
you're never totally without it, so there are not the
highs and lows you might see with other drugs.
"In general, though, I don't think the Jewish com-
munity is any different from any other community as
far as addiction," says Surowy, who has many years of
experience at the Maplegrove Center in West
Bloomfield, the St. John's Healthcare System and in
private practice. "But the more affluent we are, the
more expensive the drugs we use."
Most recently, he's seen an increase in the smoking of
cocaine in suburban Oakland County.
Although Surowy agrees that addiction is an illness,
it's what he calls a "bio-psycho-social" illness. First,
there's a biological predisposition to addiction; then the
psychological element; and, finally, the society in which
we live — "a spoiled society where we want instant
Surowy and Rabbi Schwartz hope to begin a wellness
center for prevention and counseling.
Along with Rabbi E.B. "Bunny" Freedman, director
of the Jewish Hospice and Chaplaincy Network, Rabbi
Schwartz is working on adding education about drug
abuse to their program of pastoral education for the
The training would not equip rabbis to treat addict-
ed persons in their congregation, Rabbi Schwartz says,
"but to be there with them and for them; to know
what to look for; to know when you're being conned
and not being conned."
One time, a woman in his congregation came to him
asking for help with her husband, who, she said, never
went to work and was always on drugs. "Once they
came in to speak to me together, the husband said, 'I
don't know what she's complaining about — she's
FIGHTING on page 18
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