T here wasn’t a sound in the room as Yocheved spoke. “No one besides me, my husband, and Karen knew about my double life. I believed my unhappiness was due to the self-restraint I was still exercising, and that I needed to become ever more uninhibited — to find bigger, better thrills.

“It was actually Karen who made me realize I was out of control. She wanted me to go to Europe with her, and I balked. We fought for the first time, and she pulled away. I completely flipped out. I became desperate to speak to her, would do anything to get her back. I worked out this whole elaborate plan to impress her, but she refused my calls.

“I was going crazy. So I embarked on a course of abandon and self-destruction. I was ready to leave my husband, leave any semblance of Yiddishkeit. I would do anything to make the pain go away. I had one foot out the door, but before I actually left my world completely, Karen called.

“I jumped at the chance to see her. We met, and she told me she’d begun to put her life back together. She told me she’s an addict, and that she’s dealing with it, and that I should come with her to groups.

“I was shaken to the core. Me? An addict? Impossible. I wasn’t using drugs, I was drinking here and there, but nothing serious. My other behaviors made me an addict?” Yocheved shook her head. “I stormed away from Karen, determined to live my new life without her.

“But I couldn’t. I needed her.

“For the first time, I felt suicidal. I decided I’d go along with her to these groups she was going to, just so I could be near her. Then after a few weeks, I realized she was right — I am an addict. Like the other women there, I was filling my emptiness with more emptiness. I was only ‘happy’ while I was interacting with the wrong people and engaging in outlandish behaviors, and the rest of the time I was miserable.”

Yocheved looked around the room. “The meetings gave me awareness. And I wanted to change. But it wasn’t enough for me. I couldn’t maintain my sobriety.”

A few of the teachers looked at each other. One raised his hand.

Reuven held out his hand, thumb behind four fingers — the ubiquitous Israeli sign for “just a minute.”

“Things got worse,” Yocheved continued. “I was out of control. Then I heard about Retorno, and decided it was the easiest way to get better. I’ve been here now eight months, and I’ve learned so much about myself, why I did what I did, what I was missing, what I tried to replace it with.

“I also realize that my parents were strict because they were afraid — not just about finding a good shidduch, but also about what would happen if I was exposed to the world. They didn’t realize that it was the suffocating, tight box that pushed me away, made me want to find out what they were trying to keep me from.

“I’ll be finishing my stay at Retorno soon. It’s exciting to be going home, but also scary. I don’t want to mess things up again.” (Excerpted from Family First, Issue 545)