By Yedida Wolfe
Frannie Sheridan kept her true identity secret for 35 years. Raised as a Catholic, Sheridan found out she was Jewish when she was nine. Her parents were Holocaust survivors; her father insisted his wife and family join the Catholic Church, hoping that hiding their Judaism would keep them safe. The double life did not agree with the family. Each one reacted in his or her own way; there was much tension.
Decades later, Sheridan healed herself through telling her story… in a comedy show! For example, Sheridan’s father Bernie asks his wife: “Liesel, did you tell her [the children’s teacher, a nun] we were Jewish?” And her mother answers, “No, Bernie, of course not… I told her we were goyim!”
The upcoming Tammuz issue of the N’shei Chabad Newsletter features Sheridan’s story, alongside two other features where ending secrecy relieves pain, and eventually brings healing.
The editorial staff solicited articles from leading experts in the field of addiction to shed light on the addicted and their enablers: the friends and family of an addict who, often unknowingly, act destructively.
Rabbi Dr. Abraham Twerski cites the Talmud: “It is not the mouse (that steals the food) that is the thief, but rather the hole (where the mouse can hide) that is the thief” (Gittin 45a). Together with the famous dictum, “Whoever exercises mercy where strictness is required, will eventually be cruel where kindness is required” (Kohelet Rabba 7:33), Twerski adds that this idea encompasses “virtually everything that has been written about the enabling phenomenon.”
Basically, “enabling” is a cover- up and can refer to doing things for others which they should be doing for themselves. Zalman Nelson LMSW shares the story of a wife who cleaned up her husband’s nightly alcohol and cigarette fests, feeling neglected and powerless. When she wasn’t home one evening to clean up after him, she worried the house would burn down from his smoking while drunk. Instead she came home to find him sober. Her transformation caused a shift in her alcoholic mate, and marked the beginning of their long road to recovery.
A checklist of questions can help readers identify their own potentially enabling behaviors: “Have you ever paid bills that someone else was supposed to have paid? Do you refuse to delegate, since nobody else is as reliable as you, or it’s just ‘easier’ to do it all yourself, though you’re exhausted and overworked? Have you finished a job or project that another adult in your life failed to complete? Have you accepted part of the blame for someone else’s substance abuse or behavior?”
Rabbi Shais Taub answers a wife who’s discovered her husband’s addiction to viewing inappropriate images on his phone. He writes, “One can develop a deep uncertainty about what’s true or false, right or wrong, when living with someone who has an active secret he is trying to protect.” Offering advice on how to recover, Rabbi Taub suggests the betrayed wife “no longer view your personal stability as being dependent on or even related to anyone else’s behavior.”
Dr. Deb Hirschhorn relates the story of an addict who had second thoughts as he robbed a medicine cabinet searching for drugs. The addict is Dr. Marc Lewis, a neuroscience doctoral student (who was kicked out and then readmitted when he got clean), who describes one moment when “A voice – one of my voices – sounded like it was on my side. You can’t do this to me! I deserve a chance to live. For a moment it’s as if someone – perhaps just me – has to come help out.” Dr. Hirschhorn calls this inner voice the “neshamah,” the soul, the “part of us that is connected to Hashem.”
A recent N’shei Chabad Newsletter fan posted on Facebook: “It’s a totally different kind of read: refreshingly honest on hot button topics, and stories that I share with my kids.”
In the upcoming issue, the 20-year anniversary of Gimmel Tammuz is discussed in three articles, by Sarah Hein, Chaya Shuchat, and Tova Edelman (“Shlichus Notebook,”) each with its own unique voice, perspective and insights.
Read more about breaking the cycle of addiction, Frannie Sheridan’s journey (and comedy show), and a woman’s agony when her brother with whom she’s very close turns out to be a child molester and goes to prison, in the Tammuz 5774 N’shei Chabad Newsletter, available in Crown Heights stores, by subscription, or via Amazon. Visit www.nsheichabadnewsletter.com to find out more.