Letter: Please open your ears to our experience

I want to share a story, but to fully understand my feelings, I will share a little about my background first.

When I was sixteen years old, I went “off the derech” and was met with extreme adversity from both my family and the Lakewood community, until I finally left Lakewood when one “askan” told me if I stay he’ll make sure I have no job and no place to stay.

(I need to insert here I am in no way bashing Lakewood or there system of trying to help as you will see later on in the letter)

I made my rounds through Brooklyn and Israel and B”H found my way back to the truth and am married learning in Lakewood. Through these times I developed a relationship with a few teens going through what I went through. I never got involved with their family or school politics just being someone who understood was enough.

Until one of these kids was approached by a very well meaning yet naive gvir saying if he wanted to go to rehab he would sponsor it. My friends this kid wouldn’t know hard drugs if they were labeled. Yes he wore t-shirts and jeans and maybe even had an Hollister (g-d forbid) sweatshirt but he was no drug addict, An askan was contacted and an appointment was made with a leading therapist to determine if rehab was indeed needed. Another point about this kid is that he is a master manipulator (as most of these teens are) and will easily convince parents and askanim of anything. They are not fooled because they are naive or stupid but because we are a different generation and they really dont understand. I am not a teenager complaining about his parents, I am someone who went through it and am now looking from the other side, I am telling you, you do not understand. This boy went to the therapist and told him he does so and so amount of a certain drug. I knew this boy and I knew addicts, I lived with addicts, I watched two die in front of my eyes, this boy was no addict. I called the askan, I called the mother it fell on deaf ears… Why because I was young.. I was no therapist or askan.. I was just a kid. Well I was a kid who knew.

I was told no kid in their right mind would lie about needing rehab, rehab is not a fun place. Well I knew he would because I would. I knew that to him it was a badge of honor to stoop so low, to hit rock bottom. If you don’t understand why someone would do that well that proves my point. Again I am not against askanim or rehabs if needed. As to why there so bad is an entire different letter but this got his wish… He left rehab started drugs and has an extremely low chance of becoming frum again.

Hashem runs this world and this needed to happen but maybe it can bring out a point, I called and I cried and I told you what needed to be done but no one listened because I was not a professional. Well I have experience and this is one of many stories that I can tell you were parents and those trying to help messed up when all they had to do was listen, listen to you older son who went through it, listen to your older daughter when she offers advice about her sister, they may not be as wise as you, but they understand.

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  1. I believe the letter writer’s point is that people who have the advantage of years should open their minds to suggestions from younger people- be a lomeid mikol adam. That does not mean to blindly follow, but to actually listen and take them seriously.
    Though I thankfully do not have such experiences as the letter writer, I did feel the same thing in the field of shidduchim. Parents sometimes do not realize that their children’s friends may actually have good ideas. Sometimes I think it’s ironic that these same people trust their son/daughter to make their own decision… though that is a good thing.

  2. Perhaps reaching out to Amudim would have been the appropriate measure to take in this instance where the therapists & parents wouldn’t listen. Amudim could get their professionals involved.

  3. Thank you for writing this letter, but more importantly, thank you for being there for Lakewood’s children, for giving back so deeply.
    I found it interesting, because we are usually hearing about denial in regard to drug issues, people not willing to admit their loved ones need rehab, etc. etc. and this seems essentially the opposite. Maybe we’ve made strides? Have our strides taken us too far in the opposite direction?
    While I have never personally encountered this, I can only begin to imagine how painful it is to have your reality and experience ignored, so I want to say kol hakavod for trying and for reaching out further when those closer closed their ears.
    May Hashem help you continue to help others and may your own journey continue with strength, fulfillment and joy. And may all of the struggling children in our town find their own inner peace and spirituality and have the support and love of their family and friends.

  4. Very confusing letter. There doesn’t seem to be a major issue here either. Basically the teen said and the therapist agreed that rehab was needed and the author of this letter disagreed. Draw your own conclusion…

  5. As a mother of children that dress in tshirt and jeans,the saddest part to me is a confirmation of something that i have known for a while: don’t judge a kid by the way he dress. This kid in jeans and tshirt might not be off the derech just yet but he will become one because of the way ppl treat him.
    Unfortunately Lakewood as a whole has much less tolerance than most places for boys that are not dressed in black pants and white shirts. I would things should change and more boys would come back sooner.
    Thank you for bringing up the subject. We still have a long way to go.

    • if you read the comments about the guy who couldnt get his daughter into school you would understand that Lakewood still is trying to cling to the Lakewood that it dreams and hopes it can be which would tell you to move and find somewhere else to live…..sorry

  6. I’m sure the writer of this letter means well, but what is the point? To start asking every individual that went through a crisis their opinion?! It is VERY DIFFICULT to help people that don’t want to help themselves. Somebody faking the need for Rehab belongs in Rehab!

  7. The author himself says this generation knows how to get over on the previous one. Maybe he was fooled by this young fellow and the Askan picked up the ball and ran with it. Maybe this kid couldn’t con the therapist (not so easy for experienced ones) and the truth came out. Next stop: Rehab. Good move. He will need a lot of love and support, not least of all to himself. Addicts are ingenious at fooling others but more so themselves.

    • In rehab a person gets exposed to the other residents and he can learn from their drugged-filled pasts. People in rehab sometimes share their experiences in support group settings This can open a whole new world and introduce unsavory ideas to the uninitiated.

  8. I really hear this individual loud and clear. And yes, kudos for your work and devotion to this cause. Towards the end of the letter though you wrote a comment that really didn’t sit well with me. You wrote that his chances of becoming frum again are extremely low. I understand what you wanted to convey and why you chose strong language but the word choice isn’t hashkafically sound nor are we G-d. Sometimes people use language to strengthen their case, but this is someone’s neshama and if you really are as involved with this crowd as you say you are, then you have seen many people rise from the lowest of places amd return to the truth. Bracha vhatzlacha and tizku lmitzvos

  9. Thank you dear letter writer.

    Thank you for sharing your paonful experience.

    Thank you for using your experience to help others going through the same.

    Thank you for trying to bring awareness that not only does dressing “chilled” mean you arent a drug addict but also in bringing awareness that sometimes the non-professionals pick up on nuances too but often get ignored.

    I would like to say on the one hand that I am impressed that this boy had parents trying to help, a gvir trying to help, and a therapist he went to. Those are actually three steps above many situations.

    I also recognize the dangers of one not involved in drugs entering a rehab. Not only will they get the full blown education in the process but they will have to hit rock bottom to get anywhere. However the rehab can be crucial for one that is already addicted… at least to wean them off though it is very likely they will never bounce back to yiddeshkeit.

    It is a very hard balance to decide the right choice for an at risk young adult and I am sure his parents thought they were making the best decision even with your advice. They may have been wrong. We will never know. But you did your part and you tried. And all you can do after that is daven that this boy see the true light.

    I do agree with you though that often it would be a good idea for people to listen to the voice of those reaching out to them regardless of if they are young or old.

    Sometimes the younger ones are the most tuned in to the nuances. Thank you again.

  10. I have had experience with askanim being very helpful. However sometimes they don’t get it and actually are counter productive as they can’t understand. This applies to any area including shalom bayis and financial and chinuch.

  11. I know many teens/adults who wore/wear “jeans” that are a lot more stable and frum than many people who wear black&white. This is not only a Lakewood issue, sadly too many people these days overlook healthy living and exchange it for (what looks like) “frumkeit”. I know a lakewood man, married, father of a bunch of kids, black&white, hat&jacket, normal looking and everything. The guy doesn’t even put on tefillin everyday, forget about davening and learning. If I told you who it was you would fall off your chair if you know him. He told me he is addicted to his phone and all the juicy stuff it comes with. This has led him to being depressed and uninterested in anything “real” in life. He grew up (not in Lakewood) being taught that looking and acting frum is the most important thing so that’s what he does, he puts on the necessary show in order to survive. These days its very easy to fake it because no one has to know what you’re doing, it’s all private. Atleast the boy wearing jeans isn’t hiding and is honest with himself. These boys are more “real” than lots of “frum” boys I know. They’re not putting on a show and they come out on the other side more healthy and ready for life than a lot of their yeshivishe counterparts. BH this guy has now reached out for help but I’m sure he’s not the only one. To all of you out there hiding behind your black&white facade, get help before it’s too late because guess what? In the end the guy wearing “jeans” and living a healthy wholesome life is going to come out on top of your fake frum life. I’m not saying to change the way you dress and I’m not bashing the general crowd that is truly and honestly frum, I’m just saying that dressing frum and putting on a frum show will only get you so far, quit while you’re ahead. You know who you are.

  12. As someone that has been involved in helping kids at risk and actually going through the process of getting them in to rehab I’m very confused about this letter
    #1 Before anyone is admitted into any rehab there are simple blood work that can be taken to see what drugs if any are in the system. So how was it possible to con the way in
    #2 Since rehab is a huge expense and a lot of time and effort goes into working it all out why do you think an Askan , parent or gvir would want to do this if it’s not needed
    #3 If anyone has dealt with a drug addict or even with someone that occasionally takes drugs it’s very easy to see if he is or isn’t

    There are a lot of holes in this letter and there is really no point

  13. Ok everybody, calm down.
    I don’t have experience in this field or area. I just think there’s a great lesson to be learned, and that is as it stated in Maseches Avos; that a lomed mikol Adam is a maaleh…whether or not in this particular case the right decision was made is irrevelant. The point is that the writer feels he wasnt even listened to in the first place just because he was young…so everyone please consider everyone else’s opinions, and be open minded to accepting them, even if they don’t seem to be coming from a solid place….

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