In 2020, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 93,000 people died from drug overdoses in the United States. That represents an increase of 30 percent from the prior year and makes it the deadliest year for U.S. drug overdoses in recorded history. When it comes to alcohol, CDC statistics show 12 percent of adults aged 18 and older had at least one heavy drinking day in the past year.

Many, if not most, Jews think these statistics don’t apply to them. But when it comes to mental health and substance misuse, no individual or group is immune. The Jewish community wrestles with these problems as much as the rest of society does.

Still, even some who admit there is a problem or who have experienced it personally find it difficult to talk about these issues. The shame and stigma that persist keep people from speaking out and seeking — or offering — help. As a result, our families, our friends and our community are suffering privately and lack the information necessary to address their struggles. If we reduce stigma and let those battling with addiction know they are not alone, we can break the cycle of addiction and save lives. 

Recognizing  the importance of collaboration when it comes to solving this community problem, several Jewish nonprofits are coming together for a day-long Spirituality & Wellness Summit on Wednesday, August 11, 2021, at the Atlanta Evergreen Marriott Conference Resort in Stone Mountain, Ga. The Wellness Institute, a program of the Rohr Jewish Learning Institute (JLI), will host the Summit  in partnership with the Blue Dove Foundation; the Berman Center; HAMSA, a program of Jewish Family & Career Services (JF&CS); Jeff’s Place, a program of Chabad Intown; and other community organizations.

The  program will unite clergy members of all faiths, academics, behavioral health clinicians, addiction counselors, community leaders and the broader Atlanta community around spiritual practices that have been shown to facilitate wellness and recovery. Attendees will learn about the latest research involving the impact of spirituality on wellness and recovery, hear from practitioners who have successfully incorporated evidence-based spiritual practices into treatment plans and listen to the inspiring stories of individuals who discovered spirituality on their journey to wellness. The Spirituality and Wellness Summit has been approved for 7.0 credits for addiction counselors by the ACADBGA and GACA.  

The Summit will include a session on #QuietingTheSilence (#QTS), a platform developed by the Blue Dove Foundation to help eradicate shame and stigma through open conversation and storytelling. The foundation, a nonprofit addressing mental health and substance misuse in the Jewish community and beyond, hosts #QuietingTheSilence programs at schools, synagogues and community centers nationwide. The Summit’s #QuietingtheSilence session will  feature personal stories from Jason G. and Adam K. about their journeys of recovery. 

Jason’s story:  Jason desperately wanted to beat his addiction but couldn’t find a program that worked for him. After running into a series of roadblocks to getting into treatment, Jason realized it was time to turn to Judaism. That was the start of his journey of recovery. At a spirituality-based treatment center, Jason learned Torah for the first time and gained sobriety through what he has come to view as a new relationship with G-d. Before that time, Jason said taking drugs was as close as he came to a spiritual experience.

Adam’s story:  Looking at this handsome, successful attorney, no one would imagine him as an addict. He kept his problems hidden until he knew he had to face the truth: He needed help. Since becoming sober, Adam has transformed his addiction to advocacy and serves on the board of directors of the Blue Dove Foundation.

By hearing stories from people who look, live and act like us, we learn we are not alone. In addition to personal journeys from lived experience, the Summit will address topics including:

  • Spirituality and the Twelve Steps
  • The role of faith leaders and communities in mental health and addiction recovery
  • The neurology of spirituality
  • Effective spiritual techniques used in recovery treatment
  • Emotional sobriety
  • How spirituality improves resilience
  • Jewish mindfulness

To learn more about the Summit, please visit wellnessinstitute.org/summit. To inquire about joining the Blue Dove Foundation delegation at a discount rate, please contact info@thebluedovefoundationvisit.

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