All About Drugs and Alcohol

Talking About Drugs and Alcohol…

By: Dan Wolf, Director of Houghton House Group of Treatment Centres /MA Psych


Educating parents and children about alcohol, drugs and other vices is a difficult task. Historically, many approaches have been adopted ranging from scare tactics, experts talking about peer pressure, talks by addicts in recovery and more recently a level of resignation that perhaps moderate use is the most reasonable approach. In this article, I would like to draw on the wisdom of various highly respected religious leaders. In my opinion, this is more helpful than defaulting to personal opinions or theories that are often developed simply to justify dysfunctional behaviour.


The Sense of Belonging

On a general note, I would like to emphasise that both the research and my years of experience dealing with substance abuse indicate that the most important tool a child has today is a sense of belonging to a family unit. An environment in which they grow up knowing that their parents prioritise their success, education and wellbeing above all else. This of course requires parents to be present both physically and emotionally. The less available parents are, the more reason there is to be concerned when children resist their influence. However, when sound foundations are in place there then exists the opportunity to set parameters. These boundaries provide the family with a level of stability that is necessary in what often feels like a very turbulent environment. Under these conditions, it then becomes possible for parents to say no without the panic that they will lose their children in the process. Zoom discussion Recently on the subject with Dan Wolf 


The Weight of our Responsibilities

Dan Wolf on drugs and alcohol rehabilitation centre Johannesburg rehab Top Best Drug Rehabilitation Centre in Johannesburg alcohol gambling and drugsAt a fairly recent community convention, held in 2018, the question was put forward to two highly influential religious personalities. What is the Old Testament perspective regarding smoking weed? Once something becomes legal, does that change how a person of faith looks at it?
Rabbi Elya Brudny was the first to respond. The Rabbi emphasised that the consumption of Drugs and Alcohol indeed any substance that distorts a persons’ ability to think clearly is very dangerous. Calming the conscience and not feeling the weight of our responsibilities as people should be avoided. A clear mind is required to ensure that we remain appropriately guarded and inhibited. Rabbi Brudny distinguished between consuming a cold beverage of choice that is not necessarily for the alcoholic effect and the ingesting of a chemical substance that impacts significantly on brain functioning. He concluded by saying that he can’t fathom what the legality has to do with it. The second speaker, Rabbi Yosef Elefant, adopted a particularly strong approach. Firstly he highlighted how concerning it in fact is that this is a relevant and important topic that requires addressing in the context of the convention. He explained that when a person puts their intellectual functioning at risk, they are compromising what fundamentally defines them as human. To let go of the reins that hold back the horse, we are not just letting go but we are in fact denying the Godly Spark that exists within each one of us. He concluded by saying that this type of behaviour should not be justified or tolerated in our communities. He emphasised that it is not just a question of addictions but rather a question of who we are and what we are as a “productive member of society”!


Drugs and Alcohol are Cunning, Baffling and Powerful

Hearing these strong views expressed, I felt gratified. However, as a professional working in the field of addiction, it was not a huge surprise that the topic of substance abuse was being discussed at such an auspicious gathering. It is well known by any member of the recovery community that drugs and alcohol are cunning, baffling and powerful and certainly capable of finding their way to the centre stage. What I believe is most relevant and the very least to be taken away from the above views is that our communities should not fall in line with a culture that normalises the use of drugs and alcohol. We cannot afford to underestimate how vulnerable we are as individuals and if not ourselves then perhaps the person across the table.


Dysfunction and Destruction related to Addiction

According to Rabbi. Dr Abraham J. Twerski, deep-seated trauma is not a prerequisite for the dysfunction and destruction related to addiction. In many instances, quite the opposite is true. Individuals from healthy environments very often have high expectations of themselves and at the same time within each of us, even the most accomplished, there exists a self-destructive instinct. As Rabbi Twerski explains, Freud called this instinct the “death instinct”. In the world of psychology, we speak about “acting out” behaviour and in the context of the 12 Step Fellowship, this phenomenon has been termed “the addict”. Rabbi Twerski elaborates that it is that part of us that obstructs our level of awareness, limits our insight and very often underestimates our abilities. With the strength of a delusion, the individual then develops an inaccurate self-perception that results in strong feelings of inferiority and inadequacy. This subtle process is what often makes us vulnerable to what may begin as harmless recreation, Drugs and Alcohol may end up causing“powerlessness and unmanageability”.


In conclusion: Do not be Confused

Recreation and relaxation should not be confused with diversion or an ongoing need to disengage with reality and look for an exit. I think it is of great importance for us as parents and children to accept that a healthy lifestyle includes good health, exercise, relaxation, but most importantly, the undiluted acceptance that we are required as people to face our challenges and through these opportunities, actualise potential.


The way Forward from Drugs and Alcohol

Lastly, the way forward is not necessarily as dramatic as people may anticipate it to be. Individuals who go off the rails, with the correct structures in place, a bit of humility and gratitude, begin to shift. A fundamentally healthy person does not feel at ease in the throws’ of a self-destructive cycle and when they receive the appropriate support, they may then begin to develop insight into themselves.

This is often experienced as liberating and an opportunity to move towards emotional, physical and spiritual wellbeing.


By: Dan Wolf, Director of Houghton House Group of Treatment Centres /MA Psych


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