17 Sivan 5779 / Thursday, June 20, 2019 | Torah Reading: Shelach Lecho
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Crash Landing    

Crash Landing

Whether it was booze or weed, one of the two was in my system at any given time. I’d go to class high, always chasing that feeling of being buzzed...


Whether it was booze or weed, one of the two was in my system at any given time. I’d go to class high, and then socialize holding a cocktail. I was always chasing that feeling of being buzzed. Although I was often considered the life of the party, I never could hold a relationship, even when I wanted to. The society I grew up in taught that commitment is for losers. After all why commit when you can have someone new.


In those days my family life was nil and the only connection I had to my brother was through drugs. I felt that this was the only way we could hang out, when we were stoned.  On one such occasion we both smoked some marijuana. It was a terrible mistake. Instead of the relaxed feeling that so many describe, I was hallucinating and having a very bad trip. I felt very uncomfortable and unsure of myself. I doubted my importance, my manhood, my connection to sanity. My life was falling apart before my eyes. Terrible thoughts were filling up my mind as if the evil inclination had now taken full control. I’m too embarrassed to share those thoughts with you. It was a living nightmare that I couldn’t get out of.


When I woke up the next morning I realized that the trip never fully went away. I was now sober but still harboring those evil and worrisome thoughts about myself. Although I was completely secular and non-religious, my greatest fear was that G-d – if He was there - was abandoning me. After all it made sense, for the last three years at the time I was utterly disconnected to anything positive. It seemed to me emotionally that G-d simply had enough, and as a punishment I was to suffer with these distressing and destructive feelings.


That same summer, a group of friends and I took a trip to Prague. At the time I was still not clean from my partying ways but managed to find a day to visit the Jewish community there. I happened to find a Holocaust memorial museum which was surrounded by a Jewish cemetery which had been defiled by anti-Semites. As I entered the building I saw the large walls covered with names of all the victims who had been murdered in that town during the Holocaust. As I left I felt very strange and empty inside. What’s more is that immediately afterwards I happened upon a synagogue (the Maharal of Prague’s Synagouge). I entered and put on one of the paper skullcaps and sat down.


It was a good hour that I’ll never forget. I hadn’t been in a synagogue in years!! But I automatically could feel my soul crying out. My tears were streaming down my cheeks and before I knew it I was sobbing, paying no attention to the tourists coming in and out. I was pouring out my sorrow before Hashem. How could I live this way after realizing what my ancestors went through just because they were Jews? I promised myself then and there that I’d start to live a more connected life to Hashem.


I still couldn’t do anything about the nagging and repetitive thoughts that consumed me from that drug experience. But when I came back to the states, little by little I disconnected myself from everything that was responsible for getting me screwed up in the first place. I disassociated myself from negative people and avoided night clubs. I even started staying in on the weekends and I was in my early 20’s! Little by little I was creating boundaries in my life to make a new start.


Fast forward a few years and I’m now keeping the Torah. It all became clear, one day on Shabbat when I was doing my daily ritual of one hour's worth of personal prayer. It made complete sense why that terrible thing happened to me - to disconnect completely from all of the negative influences in my life. It wasn’t because G-d hated me, but the opposite. What was the result? I made every positive choice possible to live a better, more ethical and Torah observant path. But this all wouldn’t have happened had I not gotten that immense wake up call. Today I am living a very happy life with my wife and two children.


Dear reader you may have experienced drugs or are suffering from them or know someone who is. Just know that by following the advice laid out in Rav Shalom Arush’s books you can and will overcome any personal difficulties. I am a living example. Just hang in there, commit to the 60 minutes daily of personal prayer and review over and over the books “Garden of Emuna” and “Garden of Gratitude.” I promise you’ll see an amazing turnaround! I did…

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