Profiles in Recovery
Rabbi Menachem Schoenes


Losing his mother at a young age, Schoenes dulled his grief with alcohol. “The bottle became my friend,” he says. Drinking led to other pain-numbing drugs, and by 19, he was homeless, struggling with multiple addictions, and suicidal.

“My turning point was when I was ready to jump off of a five-story building in Brooklyn, New York,” Schoenes says.

Instead of ending his life, he began the hard work of recovery –
immersing himself in treatment, and the fellowship of a 12-step program.

Today, Schoenes is nearing five years of sobriety. “I am okay today with who I am, and if I allow the wreckage from my past to define me, I would be defeated,” he writes on his recovery blog. “So I think my message is to empty your garbage daily and stop carrying around stuff from your past. We can’t take back yesterday, let alone the things we did weeks ago. All we can do is the next right thing and try and help someone else out.”

Day Job:

Orthodox Rabbi in Baltimore, Maryland

What I lost to addiction:

In active addiction I lost my family, friends, feeling of being a human and a desire to live.

At my worst, I was:

Homeless. I was arrested on three occasions as a result of addiction.

What worked for me:

I spent two months in an inpatient rehab and started going to 12-step meetings. I work the 12 step program to this day.

Thoughts on acceptance:

Many of us, when we hear the word ‘acceptance,’ we think of submission.  But acceptance can also be an expression of will, a conscious decision that some things we cannot change.  New options present themselves as we shift our focus from changing the impossible to changing what we can.

Advice to my younger self:

Do not start drinking or using drugs.

When cravings come:

I use meditation, and open contact with my Higher Power and after that I call people in the program until I reach someone.  I also try to go to a meeting and be of service to others both in and out of the program.

On my schedule today:

Writing a Gratitude list, meditation, meeting with my sponsor to go over a fifth step, and going to a 12-step meeting

Best advice for newbies:

For people going to a 12-step program, get phone numbers of others in recovery, a sponsor, listen and remember to just take it one day at a time.

How I cultivate gratitude:

Gratitude is no cure-all, but it is a massively underutilized tool for improving life-satisfaction and happiness.  I was not always this grateful person, however, I managed to transform my life, and so can you.

I start each day writing down 10 things I am grateful for. They can be small things or big things. Throughout the day, I add to that list and read it over before going to bed. At first, it may be hard but over time it gets easier and easier.

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