When my husband and I began making plans to visit Israel, about 2 months before the trip, one of the first things I did was look online for AA and NA meetings. No matter what other exciting aspects of the trip we were planning, I knew that getting to meetings would add another dimension.
Having been in recovery for many years, the principles and the connections in recovery are very important to my everyday life. By maintaining both, finding ways to remind myself of some of the basics, as well as stay connected, I not only don’t consider drinking or drugging, but I maintain my spiritual fitness.
Remembering that even good stress is stress, I get to deal with a variety of stresses when traveling. Diverse and changing environments, hotel rooms, unfamiliar foods (I LOVE this part!), meal times I don’t always get to choose and close quarters with family are a few of the differences; oh, and time changes; Israel is nine hours ahead of our time here in Colorado, an opportunity to adjust my internal clock!
When looking for meetings, I found that the cities of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem had many more than the smaller towns and rural areas, as in the U.S. In a country with a population approaching 8 million, nearly half of them in the Tel Aviv greater metro area, there were astoundingly few meetings. Cities of comparable size in the U.S. have meetings every hour of every day and in many sections of town. We are so blessed to have the degree of available recovery we have!
Interestingly, the meetings in Tel Aviv were held in a bomb shelter! (We decided that by going to one of the English-speaking meetings held during the few days we were in the city, we would clearly avoid getting bombed! Sorry, could not resist.) A.A. meetings in Russian and Hebrew as well as meetings in English were available nearly every day; only one weekly English-speaking N.A. meeting was available…good thing I am not picky and am willing to go to any meeting. Fortunately, I qualify for most of the 12 step meetings they make! Kind of like my using…put it in front of me and I am capable of abusing it; put it in front of me and I will attend it, definitely get something and hopefully give something!
There were about 15 people at the meeting we attended and they were very appreciative to have visitors from the U.S. Several members were American but had either immigrated to Israel or were temporarily working there; one was Canadian, one Swiss and others representing various nationalities including local Israelis. Since the “meeting after the meeting” is always important to me, we took advantage of the beautiful weather and stayed outside in the park where the bomb shelter is located to chat…before going for gelato.
Here is some of what we were told…I am just the messenger, but the locals seemed well informed:
Alcohol is an enormous problem among the Orthodox Jews as well as others in Israel.
Few seek help, as alcoholism and addiction are still considered “moral failures.”
Secrecy surrounds families where there is alcohol and drug abuse, often accompanied by domestic violence.
In Orthodox families, women are sometimes oppressed and rarely seek help.
Again, we are so blessed in the U.S. We have availability and access to recovery. Inpatient and outpatient programs are in every state and meetings are everywhere and free! Of course, there are still some with archaic thinking, some individuals who do not acknowledge the disease aspect of addiction, but we are making progress. This does not seem to be the case in other places in the world. I have been in Muslim countries where there are no meetings, in Jordan where there is one a week in the entire country, and now in Israel where there are very few. I encourage all of us to be thankful and to do anything we can to spread the word that there is recovery: As one of my favorite N.A. tee-shirts says, The Lie is Dead, We do Recover!
Next time: Meetings in Jerusalem