Saving Lives

This Is What We Do When We Are Saving Lives

We opened with the preamble written for the group, in part this:

Welcome to The Shalvah Program of Congregation Neve Shalom.
Shalvah means “serenity” in Hebrew.


Shalvah is dedicated to teaching the strategies to help individuals, their families, friends, and communities, work themselves free of the problems associated with addiction. Shalvah teaches an integrated approach, combining spiritual and psychological resources, acting as a bridge between the recovery model and the daily spiritual remedies of Judaism and other traditions.

Shalvah was organized in 1998 as a project of Congregation Neve Shalom, to claim the healing work of recovery for the synagogue.


The purpose of this meeting is to connect traditional spiritual resources with the Twelve Step model.


There are no rules, only guidelines. We try to allow participants to do their own work and talk through their stories in their own ways. We are not here to give advice, we believe if we trust the process, the room we create for the truth to rise is always helpful.


We have an hour for speakers, teachings, sharing, and let us also welcome silence. We will consider silence a form of meditation or prayer.


We will use only first names here, and as always, we respect confidentiality. What we say here will need to stay here.


Our speaker that night was N who in a week will celebrate thirty two years of sobriety.  I first met him when I was working at the hospital where he went for treatment. He told a fearsome story; low bottom, many serious suicide attempts, complete physical and spiritual dissolution. He came to the crossroads: life or death. He chose life, went into treatment and next week he will celebrate thirty two years.


It was the dance with suicide that many in the group picked up on. There was much to say about suicidal thoughts that night.


N said in his lead: I committed suicide incrementally by booze and drugs for years. One night I went into the bath tub, thought I would just lay me down into the water, take a few gulps and breaths, a peaceful death. It wasn’t like that. My body fought me and I couldn’t do it.


I even asked this guy I knew to borrow his gun, N said. Yeah, imagine, with my history of drugs and alcohol; do you mind if I borrow your gun for a night?


A sister of someone in the group did get a gun and she’s gone. I wondered how this was playing in his mind. When he spoke: not a good day for me. Thoughts of suicide. Depression. Couldn’t get myself up and going. Didn’t make my appointments today. That’s today. Tomorrow another day. Glad I’m here.


Many in the group talked about the hope in N’s story. So low, thirty two years later he has a life. I have a great life, N said, a wonderful wife, good work, many friends, and I put my sobriety before everything. The program is first for me. Everything follows from that. Service. That’s the first thing for me now: to help somebody else. I do a lot of that, I think.


He closed with this: If I can get it, N said, anyone can get it.


Somebody else spoke about how difficult it has been for her husband this week to keep his sobriety. Try to get him to the meeting, someone said. He’s gotta be here.


She said, thank you all for reaching out to him. Pray for us. I need your prayers.


I called him the next day. He had been regular with us, until two weeks ago. A couple of rough weeks, he told me. When I’m sitting alone in my car in a parking garage with a bottle of vodka – that’s not a good neighborhood.


No, not good.


I’m doing all that lone wolf stuff.


The worst thing to do is to retreat into your self. Whatever you’ve been doing, do something different. If you’re not calling your sponsor, call him more. If you’re not going to meetings, go to more meetings. Just get out there, get out of that bad neighborhood which is your self right now. You need to show up. Come to the meetings. No matter what.


He said he would and I told him I would be calling back. I’ll be at the meeting next week, hopefully things will be better.


However it is, I said, come to the meeting. Make that first, I said, thinking of the speaker N who gave the talk he missed.


Make the meetings, I said, make the meetings first. Come any way you can. Show up. Anything is possible when you show up.

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