Resource Category: Substance Use Disorder and Addiction

Substance use disorders, colloquially called addiction, is a complex disease that affects the functioning of the brain and body. It involves craving something intensely, losing control over its use, and continuing involvement with it despite adverse consequences. Recovery from addiction is very challenging, but it is possible.

Among the myriad of traditions and prayers experienced on Yom Kippur, two stand out: fasting and repentance. For most adults, these are uncomfortable but benign practices whose pain is quickly forgotten when the fast is over. Unfortunately, the experience of fasting can be much more challenging for someone struggling with disordered eating. The rhythm of the holiday, with its large meals before and after the period of fasting, can be at best extremely stressful to someone in treatment for an eating disorder. At worst, it can be dangerous — both physically and emotionally. A person in recovery will often be assigned a structured meal plan of set portions at set times in an effort to establish a pattern of healthy eating. This schedule is crucial to their recovery, and disrupting this pattern at sensitive stages of recovery can be extremely harmful to the recovery process. Putting the brain and body into a state of deprivation can also be detrimental to the biology and chemistry of the brain.
An excerpt from Lucie Waldman’s book, The Jots of Becoming: A journey of hope and recovery. Available on Amazon in Kindle and print editions. This was written in anticipation of Chanukah, but its themes can apply more universally in recovery. The holidays, no matter what religion, are an extraordinarily difficult time for me and for most people with Eating Disorders because it often comes with changes in scheduling in treatment, different foods, and seeing different family members. All in all, it’s a lot of change.
As the Jewish people commemorate the miraculous victory of the poorly armed Maccabee army, we as therapists are acutely aware of a different uphill battle being fought daily – recovery from addiction – and the modern-day miracles being uncovered throughout the process. Here are three lessons we have gleaned from work with those in recovery from addiction that have helped inspire a deeper Hanukkah experience.