While Chanukah happens only once a year, the message of the holiday is one that carries month over month and can, in many ways, mirror the themes of recovery – hope, dedication, faith and persistence.
I reflect back to Chanukah 2012. It was a Friday evening, just before dark. We had 20 Caron patients surrounding the menorah at our home. I was attempting to light the shamash (the candle used to light the other eight candles of a Chanukah menorah) but it wouldn’t catch. I tried again and again. The patients began to get impatient and some provided recommendations on how to move the process along. One even suggested moving onto the next candle. That was not an option as there is a certain order to which the candles are to be lit. After several more attempts, the candle finally lit.
That evening we took this as an opportunity to talk about recovery and how each soul, like the shamash, needs to be reignited. Reigniting your soul is a difficult process with many obstacles and distractions to overcome. But with patience, dedication and perseverance you will be led in the right direction. This is the cornerstone of what Chanukah is all about. If you are dedicated to the process, eventually your light will shine.
A few days ago, an alumnus who was one of the patients at that Chanukah dinner called to remind me of that night. He said, “I remember standing there and how impatient and aggravated we were all getting. The story of that night has stayed with me and I think of it often.” He told me that when he was a patient he didn’t have hope in himself but sensed that all those at Caron involved in his treatment trusted in him and had hope for him. He treasures that faith as it has helped him to remain sober to this day.
One could compare the family system with the candles of the menorah. Families oftentimes need to be relit as they are intertwined with their loved one’s addiction. Family members are the shamash – the one all the other candles are lit by. The shamash is something in the background, the lighter, the servant – but without this light you go nowhere. We need to be a light unto others. The lighting of the candles during Chanukah exemplifies a universal message not just for people of the Jewish faith. It is relevant for anyone who lives the struggles, life and the hope that comes along with it. Chanukah resembles the story of recovery.
The miracle of Chanukah may have happened thousands of years ago but its message is something that can be seen in recovery every day - that there is hope. Chanukah is the celebration of the triumph of good over evil and light over darkness.