Hanukkah and the Miracle of Addiction Recovery

This is a writing sample from Scripted writer Ruby Sasha Alosbanos

Every 25th day of Kislev (which usually falls between November and December on the Gregorian calendar), Jewish people celebrate Hanukkah. This holiday commemorates the Jewish people's victory over their Seleucid oppressors. 

Also known as the Feast of Dedication and the Festival of Lights, this holiday has a deeper meaning to people who've known another kind of battle. And whose light refuses to die out in the face of grim darkness—people recovering from addiction.

Hanukkah: A Brief History

Around 200 B.C., Israel came under the control of the Seleucid king of Syria, Antiochus III. The Seleucid rule started well, with Antiochus III allowing the Jews free rein in practicing Judaism. 

When his son, Antiochus IV Epiphanes, ascended to the throne, life began to change for the Jews. He began to outlaw Judaism and imposed the worship of Greek gods and goddesses. In 168 B.C., his soldiers murdered many Jews. They also desecrated the Second Temple in Jerusalem by installing the statue of Zeus and sacrificing pigs within temple premises.

Due to these grave atrocities, Mattathias Maccabeus, a Jewish priest, and his five sons led a revolt against the Seleucids. When he died in 166 B.C., his son, Judah Maccabeus, led the rebellion.

Despite the Seleucids' military edge over the Jews, the Maccabeus group drove out the Syrian armies by relying on guerilla warfare. After taking control of their land, the Jews rebuilt the altar, cleansed the Temple, and lit the menorah. 

The Miracle of Hanukkah Didn't End There

Victory against such a battle-ready enemy is a fantastic feat, but the miracle didn't end there. According to the Talmud, when the Jews lit the menorah, they only had a scant amount of oil, enough to keep the light shining on the menorah for a day. To their wonder, the light kept flickering for eight nights, giving them ample time to make more oil and keep the eternal light shining.

This glorious event inspired Jewish sages to declare an eight-day festival annually to remember this miracle. And if you're waging a battle against addiction, the miracle of Hanukkah could take a deeper layer of inspiration for you, too. 

There Is a Way Out of Slavery

Addiction came from the Latin word "addicere" or "addictus", which means surrendering one's life. The term implies enslavement. And in many ways, that's what addiction is—a slavery to something. 

If there's anything that the Feast of Hanukkah should teach us, it's that you don't have to accept being in bondage as a constant reality. It was a trouble-free affair at the start of the Seleucids' rule over the Jewish people. And so it is with most addiction stories. It was a harmless pleasure. Something you can always break off if you want to. 

And then, like the Seleucids, it's no longer harmless. The habit became challenging. And before you realize it, it deceived you into complacency, thinking you still have control over it when you don't. 

Once you were enslaved, addiction began imposing its demands on you, making you think you had no choice but to succumb to it.

But that's not the truth. 

Hanukkah reminds us that you can always make that brave choice to fight. To not accept enslavement as a reality. To persevere even during the uphill battle. To stand victorious and claim what's rightfully yours. And in the same way the Jews rededicated the Temple, you'll be rededicating your life to your purpose.

Hanukkah and Recovery are Both Battles that Can Be Won

The menorah is lit every sundown—when darkness envelops the earth and during one of the coldest times of the year. When you are struggling with addiction, it would seem like you're fighting a losing battle. It's like overcoming impenetrable darkness. 

But then, the road to recovery often begins with confronting that darkness, no matter how painful it may seem. The first step of the 12-step program is about acknowledging that you were powerless over your addiction and that your life has become unmanageable. 

Only by descending into that darkness will light begin to have its purpose and meaning. Only after acceptance can you begin to make an honest and fearless inventory of yourself. And only in that darkness you can admit to God and yourself the exact nature of your wrongs, which are crucial steps in your road to recovery.

As you begin to behold light within that darkness, you will see that addiction, like the battle between the Jews and the Seleucid army, is a struggle you can overcome.

A Spark of Light is All It Takes

The Jews never had a highly-trained army and state-of-the-art weapons to their advantage. They only had one priest who stood up to the Seleucids' rule. And one is all it takes to defeat oppression.

, this concept of singularity is highlighted every year when Jewish families celebrate Hanukkah as they light the Hanukkah menorah one candle at a time. They start with one candle called the "shammash" and use it to light one additional candle every night. So by the end of the festival, all additional eight candles are lit using the light from the shammash.

One small spark can light a room. And one small spark can be contagious and infect others so they can be enlightened as well.

The road to recovery may seem bleak at the start. You have nothing but that sliver of hope to keep you going. Don't belittle that hope. Heed its call. Take it one step at a time. When you're deep into the journey, you'll soon see that you've made progress with the cumulative small steps you've taken.

Sometimes, the battle is not about taking a bold step and making a grand change. It's about taking that one small step—and slowly building momentum from there. It's not about waging one big battle. It's about fighting skirmishes every day and celebrating wins, no matter how small, as it comes.

If one brave priest can round up an army and if one small candle can gloriously light up a temple, that small hope in you can turn your life for the better. 

You Can Give Yourself and Your Family the Best Present of All

Aside from lighting candles on the menorah, spinning the dreidel, and eating latkes, Jewish families mark this festive holiday with gift-giving. Although not historically part of Hanukkah and therefore not a religious requirement, this practice first came about as parents realized that gifts could create immense joy for children around the holiday—pretty much like the Christmas tradition.

If anything, gift-giving underscores our innate need to bring joy and pleasure to the people we love. Although you might have outgrown those neatly wrapped gifts, the need to bring joy to those who kept believing in you even when you stopped believing in yourself will always be there.

So give them—and yourself—the best reason to be joyous this holiday. Give yourself the gift of sobriety.

You are Not Alone in Life's Fiercest Battle

By all appearances, the Seleucids make a formidable enemy. They have battle-tested soldiers that are heavily armed with the best weapons of the day. The odds are stacked in their favor. They should've won that battle.

But they didn't.

The Jews believed that Divine Power was with them. And that should be enough for them to believe they can be victorious even when circumstances say it's impossible. 

The same is true with you today. Once you admit you are powerless against addiction, you recognize your need for a Higher Power. You're best positioned to turn control over to a Higher Power. As you acknowledge that you couldn't kick that addictive habit on your own, you see your dependence upon the Divine.

When you realize you are not in this battle alone, you'll understand there's a wellspring of strength to help you overcome. You'll see that the power behind the Hanukkah miracle is the same power that can give you the miracle of addiction recovery.

Written by:

Ruby Sasha Alosbanos
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I love to travel and immerse myself in different cultures. I have written Lifestyle and Travel pieces for travel and tours sites, e-commerce platforms, and offline businesses over the years. In addition, my Biology degree and training in Practical Nursing helps me write Healthcare and Sciences articles.
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