July 3, 2022


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This rabbi uses his history of opioid addiction to help congregants – J. – The Jewish News of Northern California

For Rabbi Michael Perice, The hardest factor about counseling congregants Who've Relations Dealing w.......

For Rabbi Michael Perice, The hardest factor about counseling congregants Who’ve Relations Dealing with behavior had been hpreviousing again his personal expertise with substance abuse.

“I truly Desired to let people know Inside these conversations that I understand. And that i mightn’t Do this,” Perice sassist.

Perice, the spiritual chief at Temple Sinai of Cinnaminson, New Jersey, decided To vary that on Monday Evening time by informing his congregation the story of his 4-yr wrelaxationle with opioid behavior. He celebrated 10 yrs of sobriety in April.

Perice knew that sharing his story Wouldn’t be with out its hazards. A congregant might react poorly or lose respect for him after listening to about his wrelaxationle. However to Perice, breaking dpersonal the stigma Associated to behavior and probably inspiring somebody to get assist was Properly worth The hazard.

And mightbe most important, letting his congregation in on this An elemalest of his previous Is esdespatchedial to how he views his position as a rabbi.

“In some strategies, That Can be very particular personal and I can completely respect somebody’s exactly feeling like, ‘That is my enterprise, it doesn’t have an effect on what I do.’ I exactly feel about it in A particular method,” Perice sassist.

“My congregants notion me. Who am I to not notion them? I exactly feel like I’m honoring that notion by informing them one factor like this about myself, and I exactly feel that’s An important An elemalest of this, honoring the notion people have put in me.”

Using to ‘exactly feel regular’

Perice’s behavior started as many do: with a automotive accident, continuous again ache and a prescription for Vicodin.

The accident occurred in 2007 when Perice was an undergraduate scholar at Temple College in Philadelphia and on monitor for a automotiveeer in politics. Whereas the Vicodin assisted his again ache, he found himself wanting greater And greater doses as his tolerance for The distinctive dose elevated.

When his doctor tried to get him To Scale again, he started “doctor buying,” looking for new doctors to prescribe extra ache killers. Finally he bypassed the doctors alcollectively To buy tablets, till he was taking As a lot as 80 milligrams of OxyContin every day.

Perice sassist the tablets have been by no means about getting extreme.

“I used to be Dealing with melancholy and nervousness, like A lot Of people Inside their early 20s, and I exactly feel for some set off, As quickly as I might take opiates for this ache, It’d sound To solely calm me dpersonal,” Perice sassist. After taking tablets for a sure Interval of time, he sassist, “you’re taking it to exactly feel regular.”

As he started taking the greater doses, buying enough medicine to feed his behavior turned More sturdy. One Evening time in 2011, when his potential sources for tablets turned up empty and The primary signs of withdrawal started to hit, Perice grew determined.

He referred to as a frifinish who was additionally using medicine On the time and requested him if he had any. When the frifinish arrived an hour later, he launched a bag of heroin, a drug Perice had by no means used.

My congregants notion me. Who am I to not notion them? I exactly feel like I’m honoring that notion by informing them one factor like this about myself.

Although he was not spiritual On the time, Perice described what occurred subsequent as one factor of a spiritual expertise.

“I’m so conflicted on The biggest Method To Clarify This sense as a Outcome of I don’t want anyone To imagine that That is the biggest method it goes. However for me, it felt like a spiritual expertise. It felt like A strong expertise the place I used to be given An alternative To choose, a selection I felt like I had by no means had over the previous 4 yrs,” Perice sassist.

“Was that biochemistry? Was that God? Was that one factor else? I don’t know and truthfully, it’s not important. What’s important is that I felt it and it felt very exact to me.”

No matter it was, Perice sassist he “felt A relaxed sensation come over me the place I used to be In a place To exactly see myself for what I had Discover your self to be and what I might Discover your self to be if I went dpersonal this road. And in what was both The smartest choice in my life On reflection, but felt Simply like the dumbiggest choice On the time, I flushed [the heroin] dpersonal The relaxation room. And that’s As quickly as I referred to as my mom and father.”

The subsequent day, his mom and father Arrange an appointmalest with an behavior particularist. The doctor prescribed buprenorphine, A medicine that mitigates The outcomes of withdrawal And might assist relaxationoration.

Rejoining with Judaism

All by way of his relaxationoration, Perice went to work at his househprevious’s enterprise, a Jewish funeral house in Philadelphia. Although he thought-about himself a secular Jew On the time, Perice started To Wind up to be extra Considering about Judaism by way of his work On the funeral house and with its rabbis.

On a winter day when heavy snow blocked The path to the graves, Perice stored an aged woman agency as she watched her brcompletely different’s funeral from a automotive parked close by.

As they sat Inside the automotive, Perice requested The woman if she wanted To inform him about her brcompletely different. The woman sassist sure And commalesced recounting how she and her brcompletely different had survived the Holocaust. Perice requested if she Desired to say a prayer and The two recited the Mourner’s Kaddish collectively. Perice walked amethod from the encounter resolved to spfinish his life joining with people the method he had with The woman.

“I primarytain in thoughts strolling out of the automotive being like, what did I just do? And the method do I On A daily basis Do this?” he sassist.

Rabbinical school was not an apparent selection for Perice. Rising up in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, he had been a member of Congregation M’kor Shalom, whose rabbi, Fred Neulander, made nationwide headlines when he was convicted and despatched to jail for hiring two males to homicide his spouse.

The homicide turned Perice, 11 yrs previous On the time and already a self-described “rebellious Hebrew school scholar,” amethod from religion.

“I had my bar mitzvah at 13 and I used to be Sort of carried out with All of it,” he sassist.

However Engaged on the funeral house allowed Perice To fulfill extra rabbis and see the profession in A particular mild.

Perice Together with his spouse, Rachael.

After spfinishing a yr studying in Israel To reinforce his Hebrew expertise, Perice started studying On the Reconstructionist Rabbinical School in 2014. He graduated And commalesced working at Temple Sinai in 2020.

Perice sassist he had acknowledged since rabbinical school that eventually he Desired to share his story of relaxationoration Together with his congregation. However he was suggested by malestors, collectively with LGBTQ colleagues who had gone by way of The tactic of Coming out to their congregants, To not share his story immediately but To attfinish till he felt snug with the group.

Stigma and alternative

Now that he’s been at Temple Sinai for a yr, and having recently celebrated The ten-yr anniversary of his relaxationoration, Perice felt In a place to share his story.

Whilst he did, he was Aware of The hazards.

“There Could be some Individuals who find themselves unsnug with this. However my hope is thOn They will proceed to notion Inside the work with me and I May assist them work by way of whatever uneasiness They might probably have with this, as a Outcome of An elemalest of ceaseping a stigma is leaning into the discomfort of why do You are exactly feeling This method,” he sassist Monday earlier than sharing his story with congregants.

“I am not A particular particular person from the day earlier than you knew this to the day after. I’ve reprimaryed The identical. I’m Precisely the identical particular person you knew Each week in the past.”

Rabbi Mark Borovitz, the founding rabbi of Beit T’shuvah, a Jewish residential remedy center and synin the pastgue in L. a., sassist talking overtly A few historic previous of behavior May be treveryerous. Jewish communities Notably, sassist Borovitz, join Their very personal distinctive stigma to behavior.

“Jews are continuously and persistently making an try to enterprise an aura of goodion as a Outcome of we’re afrassist if we’re not good they’ll all come after us,” Borovitz sassist, referring to antisemites.

Harriet Rossetto, the Founding father of Beit T’shuvah and Borovitz’s spouse, sassist It Could be Far More sturdy for rabbis than laypeople to be open A fewddiction.

“You’re a rabbi, you’re Alleged to be An best picture of piety and propriety,” she sassist.

Rabbi Paul Steinberg

Rabbi Paul Steinberg, who leads Congregation Kol Shofar in Tiburon and is The author of “Recovery, the 12 Steps, and Jewish Spirituality: Reclaiming Hope, Braveness and Wholeness,” sassist a rabbi talking overtly A fewddiction might play a key position in reducing the stigma and disgrace Associated to behavior. And while some might react negatively to Perice’s story, Steinberg sassist, it might additionally deepen his bond Together with his congregants.

“He has The prospect to Permit them to into his coronary heart in A mannequin new Sort of method, that his coronary heart is extra spacious than whOn They might once have thought,” Steinberg sassist.

Johanna Schoss, president of Perice’s synin the pastgue, sassist she assisted Perice’s choice to share his story.

“I exactly feel it’s going to be a aid and a assist to A lot of househpreviouss,” Schoss sassist Monday.

In March, Perice and two completely different rabbis launched a decision to the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Meeting nameing for the movement to do extra To deal with the opiate disaster. Their recommfinishations ranged from growing the movement’s advocacy work, to taking steps To diminish the stigma round behavior, to creating assets To tevery communities A fewddiction.

A majority of the assembly adopted the decision Simply a few weeks earlier than Perice celebrated his Tenth anniversary of sobriety.

That vote, and the assist he acquired from his fellow congregants, impressed him To converse to his congregants about his story. He did so on a Zoom name Monday night attfinished by a quantity of dozen congregants, after which he sassist his telephone didn’t cease buzzing with messages of assist and love.

Perice’s spouse, Rachael, apprehensive about whether or not everyone would understand, but was relieved On the response.

“I felt pretty overwhelmed with the love that was coming in from the group,” she sassist Tuesday.

Following that constructive response, Perice hopes his story will encourage completely differents to get assist and To assist completely differents.

“We now Need to let people know thOn there’s nofactor incorrect with [you], there’s nofactor immoral, you’re not responsible of somefactor,” the rabbi sassist. “You’re caught in A very dangerous state of affairs And also you’d like assist to get out of it. All of us do.”