Moishe and Sarah, immigrated to Israel from N.Y due to their long standing Zionistic ideology. They arrived in their thirties with their two young daughters, Rachel 11 and Ariela 9, quickly adapting to their new life in Jerusalem. Each of them were able to acquire substantial employment and consequently purchased a house of their own with only a midsized mortgage, 5 years after arriving in Israel. They also gave birth to two more children along the way and as their family grew they felt overall satisfaction knowing that everything was seemingly going well and they were happy to be the parents of such wonderful kids.
The Winds of Change
Unfortunately, things were destined to change. As Rachel entered her teenage years she stopped being observant and eventually stopped attending school on a regular basis until she finally dropped out completely without even completing her Bagrut (high school matriculation).
Since Rachel was already over the age of 16 her parents were limited in their legal rights to influence and coerce her and could not force her to go back to school. She spent many days and nights hanging out at Kikar Tzion, in Jerusalem, an area notorious for drugs, alcohol and troubled street kids.
The parents tried everything in vain to save their daughter from her own self-destructive behavior. They tried involving Rabbis, Psychologists, police who were familiar with the family and a lawyer, all to no avail. Rachel would not cooperate, and became more and more uncontrollable and insubordinate. The parents had no control over her and the legal system worked against them by imposing many limitations on them regarding what they as parents could, or could not, do to restrain her.
Rachel found comfort in substance and alcohol abuse and she embraced it as part of her new life with fervor. There is even speculation that she was involved in some form of prostitution, as well.
One Saturday night Moishe, the father, received a phone call from a local hospital informing him that his daughter Rachel had been in a coma after drinking heavily and taking some ecstasy pills, as well. She was out of danger now but the parents were asked to come and pick her up since she was still considered a minor. The nurse told them that the social services had been notified about their situation.
It took a few days until Rachel was “back to normal”. Her parents were continuously questioned by the police and the social workers. Many of their sessions were fueled by accusations from the social workers of their apparent mishandling of their daughter and neglect of their overall parental responsibilities. The police had another agenda in their interrogations of Rachel’s parents. Apparently, Rachel was buying drugs from a dealer who the police were closely tracking and very interested in catching. Although the issue of where the money came from that Rachel used to buy her drugs remained unknown, the fact that she was indeed buying them was not in question.
Rachel would not cooperate with the police and therefore was indicted by force. She was brought before the courts to settle her liabilities. She was given probation for an entire year as well as a term of suspended prison time. Rachel’s dream of going to the army ended right there. Now with a criminal record, she was released before even being drafted. The parents had to scrounge up thousands of dollars to cover their legal fees and the entire family was in shambles.
Rachel used the house as her own personal amusement park. With the legal freedom that being 18 brings, Rachel was able to do as she pleased while continuing to be uncontrollable. All the while, she manipulated her parents’ own feelings of guilt to her advantage. Her parents were definitely having a hard time with Rachel’s behavior, feeling personally responsible for her fate and not being able to resolve their own feelings of parental failure and guilt. They were constantly being judged and told by those around them that if they had acted differently, Rachel wouldn’t have rebelled in such an extreme way.
The mother, Sarah, started going for therapy to help her deal with the stress in her life and home and more and more of the family’s funds were going towards helping her cope. All of this would soon grind to an abrupt halt when they would find themselves defaulting on their mortgage payments and having trouble even meeting the basic needs of their family.
Rachel felt badly about the situation but she just saw herself as a victim who was “trapped” in a vicious cycle of bad friends and bad decisions. Rachel readily blamed these friends, her parents, and anything just not to accept any of the blame on herself.
It took the family almost two years to recuperate. Finally Rachel moved out into a small apartment unit with a roommate. She was working to support herself as a waitress, and as she told her parents later, she wasn’t “clean” even though she was functioning.
The only factor that did not change was the guilt that was eating away at both of Rachel’s parents. They had lost their youthful happiness and started to become very agitated, angry and over-demanding of their other children.Sarah still in therapy convinced Moishe to join her as well, but it wasn’t until they started meeting many other parents going through the same things that they started to relax and release some of the weight they were carrying on them. Good thing they did because the guilt was taking over their lives and it was paralyzing and harming the entire family.
Rachel, now 23, is doing whatever she can to complete her Bagrut. She is a bright kid and will be able to finish without problem and with good grades. She is now clean and is working actively to support herself. Although she hasn’t come back home, she sees her parents and siblings regularly. Rachel has also consented to joining family therapy sessions with her parents.
Rachel will not tell her whole story. She has an active criminal record that cannot be erased for at least another few years. She will have difficulty finding a job but will eventually find something suitable for her skills and social limitations.
What went wrong:
Although we will never fully understand what went wrong, we do need to accept the fact that Rachel’s actions are her responsibility. Her decisions are hers, and hers alone. Nobody forced her to use drugs or to do what she did. It was her final decision to go the path she did in spite of all of the support she had from her parents.
We all try to do our best. There are situations in life where you lose control over other people’s actions. Sometimes there are no solutions and knowing who and where to turn to for help can make a big difference in the long run, if there is someone out there. Rachel made her own choices by deciding not to cooperate. Rachel made her own choices and now has to pay the price, even if only years later. Her own personal consequences are not the only ones since she also hurt her family and others who were close to her along the way. Her parents did their best and that’s all that can be asked of anyone.