Accepting the invitation to speak at the JACS (Jewish Alcoholics, Chemically Dependent Persons and Significant Others) Retreat Big Meeting on Friday night came almost automatically, but my stomach had been fluttering for a number of days. I’m a teacher by vocation and have done public speaking to various types of audiences. I taught English, dancing, and Yoga to adults, adolescents, and children. I spoke on topics related to the Holocaust, instructed teachers on how to teach writing, presented for JACS at school events, and held discussion groups for singles. But speaking at this retreat seemed the biggest challenge.
The task was daunting because of my own expectations. I have often felt frustrated as I sat listening to a speaker. Invariably the speaker meandered through an account of his/her story of addiction and when time was running out, sprinted through the recovery part of the story. It’s not that I’m unwilling to listen to the beginning of the saga, but I always wished for more of the ESH. I wanted to hear how this person coped – what did he/she do to get through each day? I wanted my speech to only spend a little time on the beginning of my journey, sweep through the horror with minor references, and focus on my recovery.
Before speaking, collecting hugs helped calm my pre-speech nerves; it was so good to be among ‘Jewish recovery family’. When I made my way to the podium, I looked out at the faces, admitted my nervousness and recovered my serenity. I told the story of finding JACS when my brother and my family needed help. I explained how the JACS program had helped me come to terms with my father, an abusive marriage, and a teenage son at risk. I was grateful to share with my friends at JACS how I was helped and became who I am today.
I shared with them what I learned:
- Relax, G-d is in charge.
- Asking for help is not a sign of weakness – it is a sign of strength.
- Creating boundaries is not only O.K. – it’s often essential.
- I am a person of value.
- When I give, I gain so much more.
When I finished speaking, the response was overwhelming. Friends lined up to hug me and thank me. As the weekend progressed, people I barely knew, and some I had never met, stopped me to thank me for sharing my story. The most asked question was: “Can I get a copy of that list you read?”
Writing the list of what I learned at JACS was enriching for me. It forced me to encapsulate what G-d and JACS means in my life. So I really want to thank the people who decided I should tell my story. The opportunity presented my greatest speaking challenge to date. I knew that somewhere at that retreat was at least one person who would be helped by hearing my story. I wanted it to be clear; hoped my heart would speak to his/her heart. My message reached out. Never did I expect to touch so many.
A Note From The Jewish Board & JACS
If you or someone you know is affected by alcohol or substance abuse, we can help. For more information, call us at 212.632.4600, or email us at JCSRecovery@jbfcs.org.