FROM ORI GOLDSTEIN, PRESIDENT & CEO OF JACS TORONTO
September 27th will always be my favourite day of the year.
That is a bold statement seeing as it is not the day I met my wife, got engaged or even the day that I got married. No, it is not the birthday of either of my 2 beautiful children.
So, what is so special about September 27th ? September 27th is the day I got sober. September 27, 2006 was the last time that I took a drink or a drug or placed a bet of any kind (I was addicted to gambling as well). That year, I spent Yom Kippur in a detox centre in Brampton in tremendous amounts of pain, as I began my journey of recovery. I had known “loneliness” before and I drank and used drugs to drown it out for many years, but this was a whole new type of loneliness. On the outside, you would think I was the furthest thing from lonely, I worked hard to put on that façade, but on the inside, I had never felt more alone. As I sat in the corner of my room that I shared with two complete strangers in the Brampton detox centre, I prayed harder than ever before.
I prayed for sobriety, to be free from active addiction.
I prayed from the heart (and a little bit from the machzor) remembering the tunes my father would sing, as he led the congregation for many years on Yom Kippur.
I cried more that day than I can ever remember, as for probably the first time ever, I genuinely asked my Higher Power to end the pain and loneliness which I had felt for so many years. Let me take you back for a minute to the summer of 2006. I remember walking into my parent’s house one day to visit (and probably to look for some money lying around the house that I could steal to buy drugs) and my mom said words to me that I still remember today. I remember it like it was yesterday. She said, “Nothing would make me happier than to see you happy and healthy.” With tears running down her face, I finally felt that I was given the opportunity to say to her that which I already knew myself, that I needed professional help. Although I still could not bring myself to ask for help, I agreed to see a therapist… but just once. The thought of living my life drug-free frightened me, to put it lightly. For two years already I knew that I needed help, but I could not muster up the courage to ask for it, lest people judge me, or even worse, think that I was “weak.” Fear of stigma (and a lot of ego) nearly killed me. In the summer of 2006, I went to JACS for the first time after failed interventions from family and friends and I finally admitted to myself that I was not going to be able to just stop on my own. I was a daily user of alcohol, cocaine and oxycontin. I spent my evenings (which more often than not turned into my days) playing poker and doing drugs in underground poker clubs, hanging out with people “like me” so my behaviours and drug use seemed “normal” and I rationalized to myself that I was doing just fine the way I was.
September 27th is the day, where every year I begin anew.
It is nice that this year, like many years, that it falls just between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, just as it did back in 2006. Rosh Hashana is the beginning of a New Year for the Jewish people, just as January 1st is that day for many others. I am not big into New Years resolutions, but I generally do have one goal in mind around this time of year. That goal is to be better this year than I was the previous year. To do so, I must be the best version of myself every day. I must take care of myself so I can be of maximum service to others. To do that, I must maintain my program of recovery, one day at a time. The JACS community, along with my family and friends give me the strength do that. I genuinely believe that I had to go through all that pain so that I can be the man that I am today, and I owe a large chunk of that to JACS.
Yes, at 12 years old, I chose to take my first drink as I was a curious kid but also suffered with, what I did not know at the time was, low self esteem. But I did not choose to become an addict.
Nobody really does. Some of us are just wired a little differently. In hindsight, it has proven to be one of the greatest things that ever happened to me as it has led me to where I am in life, sober. I am married to my amazing wife Rebecca, blessed with the two most amazing children and in my third year as the President & CEO of JACS Toronto. I am able to help "Save lives, Support families, and Strengthen Communities" every day, as the tagline of JACS Toronto says. Today marks 14 years clean from all mind-altering substances. In early 2007, within hours of landing back in Toronto after spending some time at a treatment centre in Florida, I attended a Thursday night, “Here to Help” meeting at JACS with my dad, and I have never left. 14 years later, I maintain my sobriety one day at a time, by attending recovery meetings on a regular basis and constantly working with newcomers, giving back freely that which was given to me. If there is one message I would like to leave with you today, it is this; “We keep what we have by giving it away.”
Some have time, some have treasure, and some have talent. Whatever it is that you have, make sure to give some away to help others in need and I believe that you too will be rewarded in your journey of life, just as I have.
During COVID, we have seen a tremendous rise in the need for JACS services. When you donate to JACS, you are saving lives in real time. To learn more about the services provided at JACS, please visit our website at www.jacstoronto.org.
Wishing you a meaningful Yom Kippur; a healthy and safe year ahead for you and your loved ones.