Hebrew name: Chavah
Currently living in: Salem
Alma maters: Epstein Hillel ’03, Swampscott High School ’07, North Shore Community College ’18
Job: Behavioral health technician
Favorite food: Sushi
Favorite music: ’90s alternative, but currently obsessed with Billie Eilish, The Chainsmokers, Hobo Johnson and Halsey
Favorite TV shows: “Shameless,” “American Horror Story”
Favorite travel destinations: Colorado, Nice
Places you want to go next: Croatia and Greece
Favorite North Shore spot: My house
Favorite Jewish person not in your family: Rabbi Yossi Lipsker
Favorite Jewish holiday: Hanukkah
What was your Jewish background growing up?
I grew up in a Conservative family, and I went to what’s now the Epstein Hillel School. From a young age I was instilled with Jewish traditions, and very immersed into Jewish society, and I don’t think I knew anyone who wasn’t Jewish until I was like 14. I’m just starting to get back more into connecting with my Judaism – I think it helps a lot that I’m getting married in June and my fiancé’s Catholic, and he’s very interested in learning about it, so it pushes me to get more into it. I will always consider myself traditionally Jewish and my fiancé and I want Jewish kids as well.
Could you talk about your battle with addiction?
I am a recovering heroin addict. I struggled with addiction between 18 until 28, and in January, I’ve been three years clean. When I was in high school, I experimented with alcohol and weed – I didn’t do hard drugs, but I noticed I got drunker than everyone else, and I couldn’t stop once I started. I didn’t feel good – I guess I just hated myself, and didn’t think I was worth anything. I just wanted to feel better now.
After [a gap year in Israel after high school], I moved back in with my parents, and I started hanging out with the other kids from Swampscott, and there were pills. The first time I did an opiate I thought, ‘Oh my god, I’ve been waiting my whole life to feel this good’ because it made me feel comfortable in my own skin. Eventually, it became an everyday thing and I got really deep into it, and long story short, once I was doing Percocet really heavily, heroin was the next step, because Percocet got too expensive. I went to detox probably 15 times, and I just kept leaving and doing the same thing over and over again and I had a boyfriend that was also using with me, and it was just a big mess. Eventually I had just had enough, and I was finally willing to listen and pay attention to what I was being taught in treatment centers. I’ve been off heroin and Percocet since 2013, but it got a little complicated. I got back into Aderall and other pills. Eventually, I thought, ‘I’m gonna die,’ and this is where I had a higher power spiritual awakening that really changed the direction I was going in – something stepped in the way, because it’s very hard to get out of that place. Most people who are using don’t. I truly believe everything happened for a reason. I think everything that’s happened in my life needed to happen to get me to who I am today, and every time I went to treatment, even though I didn’t stay clean after, it was like I got a new puzzle piece, and I kept getting new puzzle pieces until I can complete a puzzle.
Did Judaism or the Jewish community play a role in your recovery?
Being in recovery, they ask you to find a higher power, and I definitely connect that back to Judaism, and my spiritual side. I feel like I was raised really well with my Jewish faith, and I had something to go back to, whereas I feel a lot of people have a hard time finding spirituality when they get clean. But I definitely think there’s an idea that this can’t happen in the Jewish community. I’ve heard people say to me, ‘What happened? You were raised in such a good Jewish home.’ Even my parents, the first time they brought me to detox, they were like, ‘Our child doesn’t fit in here,’ but I did, because I needed help just like all the other people who were in there.
How is your work as a substance abuse counselor?
It’s hard and amazing and exhausting and draining and beautiful – it’s everything. I work in a really awesome, laid-back treatment center where it’s not so much black and white, and the boundaries are different than most, and where I work, we’re allowed to tell our clients we’re in recovery, too, and share our own personal stories in order to help them. I love helping people, and it’s what keeps me clean, and I help people in my real life as well. I have to help people to fill my spirit to stay clean.