After years and years of drinking, Sammy came to Retorno. He was finally ready to admit to his wife that he was an alcoholic. Sammy, father of three, works in high tech, is a former Hesder yeshivah student and an officer in the army reserves. Instead of enjoying his successes, he wasted an enormous amount of energy hiding his secret. No one would ever have thought that one so established, so solid, was incapable of waking up in the morning or going to sleep at night without drinking half a bottle.
Only during treatment did Sammy begin to understand that drinking was, for him, a “painkiller.” Only at Retorno was he able to connect to the emotional pain he’d been carrying all these years. He managed to hide his shattered inner world through various social activities. He was a youth group leader, an exceptional athlete, and everyone’s friend. When you’re on the run, you don’t have time to feel.
What was the source of this emotional pain? Back in Hesder, something happened that would change his life forever.
Toward the end of a long tour of army duty, it was a time of high security tensions. He witnessed, and participated in, activities that caused him and his friends to grow up overnight. He even lost two of his best friends.
And then came Purim.
Sammy went back to yeshivah. His Rosh Yeshivah said that you need to rejoice on Purim even when things are difficult. So the boys drank and drank and drank – because how can you be happy when inside you’re so sad? Today, Sammy knows that for him, drinking was a refuge. It doesn’t happen to everyone, but someone who goes into Purim with unresolved issues is at high risk for making the connection in his subconscious that there is a magic solution to his suffering.
Undoubtedly, for most people young and old, Purim and all its joy and even the widespread drinking will cause, at worst, a hangover. But there are those youngsters who meet the magic “solution” of alcohol and find themselves on a dangerous one-way street. The problem is that there’s no way of knowing in advance which youngsters they are.
We can’t change the drinking culture that surrounds Purim, nor can we change the mandate of “Ad d’lo yada” – “Drink until you don’t know the difference between ‘cursed is Haman’ and ‘blessed is Mordechai.’” But we can, perhaps, think ahead. Just as a month before Passover we begin to review the relevant laws, likewise a month before Purim we can talk about the dangers of using alcohol as a painkiller. This is an opportunity to share what’s really going on inside.
Written by Rabbi Eitan Eckstein, Founder and Director of RetornoPlease share this post!