Looking for drug rehab in Israel?
Check out this program! When asked what his addiction is, Rabbi Eitan Eckstein, founder and CEO of the world-renowned Retorno International Jewish Center for Prevention and Treatment of Addictions, readily confesses. “I am addicted to addicts,” he says with a wry smile, “and I am still not clean.”
Jewish recovery from addiction is possible through this unique center. Originally established in Mexico, the religious rehabilitation center was relocated to Israel in 1998 and now resides on a picturesque hilltop in Givat Shemesh. Retorno is highly acclaimed for its unique holistic approach, incorporating the meaning of twelve-step recovery programs with various forms of therapy, most notably horse therapy, and addressing the emotional, psychological, and spiritual issues that led to the addiction.
The story of Retorno
It all began some twenty years ago, during a stint as the local rabbi of an affluent Jewish community in Mexico. Rabbi Eckstein was approached by a wealthy member of the community, who revealed that he was grappling with cocaine addiction and that he was in dire need of help. Having no prior knowledge about addictions, Rabbi Eckstein promised to research the topic and get back to him promptly. Unfortunately, the man died from drug overdose within a few days. At the funeral, the deceased man’s young daughter handed Rabbi Eckstein a letter personally addressed to him from her father. Inside the letter was an open check and the dying man’s final request that no more people die from the “white monster” called cocaine. Thus was born Retorno, which means U-turn in Spanish – an accurate metaphor for the miraculous turnaround experienced by hundreds of men and women, adults and adolescents from around the world, who have graduated from the center’s unparalleled recovery program.
Residential drug rehab in Israel
Retorno’s primary campus in Givat Shemesh boasts two therapeutic communities – that is, residential settings run by ex-addicts for ex-addicts, with specific treatment stages that reflect increased levels of personal and social responsibility: one for youth aged 13-18 and one for adults, altogether amounting to approximately 100 patients. The clientele hails mainly from middle to upper class backgrounds (as opposed to the stereotypical slum areas), and the center runs a special division to accommodate its international, English-speaking patients. In addition, Retorno operates a separate outpatient clinic in the nearby Beit Shemesh, which treats about 150 patients.
The center treats various forms of addiction, mainly drugs, alcohol, and gambling, but also less common compulsive behaviors, such as sex, eating disorders, internet, co-dependency, and even people-pleasing. According to Rabbi Eckstein, an addiction does not begin as a problem; rather it is a solution to an existing problem, which over time evolves into a problem in and of itself.
In his popular book Whatever You Choose, Rabbi Eckstein explains the addiction process using a brilliant analogy of a compass whose base has been damaged: the compass can attach itself to a magnetic field and restore the function of its needle while completely distorting its alignment and ability to indicate the proper direction, hence creating a false perception of balance and stability when in effect the compass is flawed. Thus, the addict is a person who suffers from an emotional void resulting from either childhood abuse, trauma, or any form of severe emotional pain, and he or she seeks to fill that void with a substance that will provide instant relief. This “solution” induces a figurative state of vertigo, in which the addict is unaware of his or her dangerous predicament.
Equine therapy for addiction
Rabbi Eckstein has designed an innovative therapeutic approach that follows the standard twelve-step program to assist addicts in their long and arduous ride to recovery – quite literally. An expert and certified instructor of bareback horse riding, Rabbi Eckstein dons his cowboy hat and riding boots and guides the patients through a unique journey into themselves, using the center’s herd of horses to mirror and release the riders’ bottled up fears, resentment, and emotional pain.
What’s the success rate for drug addiction recovery?
When asked to gauge Retorno’s success rate, Rabbi Eckstein is unequivocal. “A hundred percent success with anyone we succeed with, and a hundred percent failure with anyone we fail with. That’s our policy.” Retorno’s chairman, Professor Shlomo Eckstein, the Rabbi’s father and former chancellor of Bar Ilan University, is more forthcoming. For patients who have made it through the initial three-month acclimation period, he claims, the success rate is relatively high, ranging from 60%-70%.
Helping addicts, one at a time
Rabbi Eckstein prefaces his plans and vision for the future with an allegorical tale. A philosopher was once strolling on the beach when he came upon a boy who was bending down to pick up starfish washed up from the sea and throwing them back into the water. The boy explained that he was doing this in order to salvage the starfish so that they did not dry out in the sun and die. Gazing at the expansive shoreline and the hundreds of starfish washed up with each passing wave, the philosopher questioned whether the boy was not engaging in a futile and meaningless activity. The boy stooped down, picked up another starfish, threw it into the vast ocean, and replied, “That is the significance. That starfish.”
Rabbi Eckstein continues, “A prominent businessman once asked me, ‘Where do you want to reach?’ I replied, ‘I want to reach one more person who needs our help, now. That is all.’ I didn’t start a factory for drug rehab. I started a factory for helping people. And if someone comes to me tomorrow and says he is addicted to scratching his ear, so be it. I will find a way to help him.”
Perhaps that is the secret of the magical “lifestyle drug” called Retorno: the genuine warmth, concern, and “obsessive” desire to help others that is radiated by Rabbi Eckstein and trickles down to the devoted team of counselors, psychologists, and social workers. As Avi, an ex-drug addict and current inpatient at Retorno, passionately asserts in an observation strikingly resonant with Rabbi Eckstein’s earlier words: “Retorno is a factory for saving lives.”