The Celebrity Therapist

This week is the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah. A new year is always a time of renewal and hope, and Rosh Hashanah certainly is that. In its customs and traditions, too, there’s a lot about this holiday that resonates with the Law of Sobriety–whether you’re Jewish or not, religious or not.


This is the day when we take a giant step back and assess what we’ve been up to for the past year. Are we headed in the right direction? Do we even know what the right direction is? How deeply committed are we to the journey?


The traditions of the holiday are reminders of this sense of assessment and commitment. For example, there’s a custom called tashlich, which is reciting certain prayers near a river or other body of water. The water represents an obstacle in our travels. As the new year begins, standing next to the water in prayer is a renewal of our commitment to strive for our goals, despite the obstacles. Another part of the custom is to empty our pockets into the river and watch as our misdeeds of the past year symbolically float away. Letting go of them is what enables us to recommit to our goals and not let any obstacles stop us.


According to the book “Twelve Jewish Steps to Recovery” by Rabbi Kerry M. Olitzky and Stuart A. Copans, MD,  “Prior to the High Holidays, we take inventory and make amends. But once a year is not enough.  the goal is to be able to step back from everything we do and look at ourselves objectively.”  As Jews, or anyone else in recovery, it is our work to take inventory and make amends regularly.  In the Jewish Tradition we may not need to finish the work, but we may not walk away from it either.  We who are in recovery, can easily fall into denial and into an un-willingness to listen carefully enough to what others are saying.  One psalm reminds me of how the addicts work is never done. “It is not your responsibility to fully complete the work of repair, but neither are you free to cease from doing it.”  Pirke Avot 2:16


If you grew up going to synagogue on Rosh Hashanah, you remember the sound of the shofar, the ram’s horn that is blown in the holiday. It’s a very ancient, stirring sound, and the years when I don’t go to synagogue for the holiday, I have to admit that I miss it. There’s something about the sound of the shofar that stirs my soul.


And that’s not surprising, because that’s what it’s meant to do. The shofar is sounded in three different patterns. The first is tekiah, one long, clear note that is a call to turn away from our day-to-day routine and refocus on who we want to be. The next is teruah, a rapid series of very short notes. It’s a sound that leads us to integrate the thoughts and reflections that inevitably come up on the new year. Then comes shevarim, an anxious, sighing sound of three short calls. It’s the sound of our yearning to start again.


Finally, on Rosh Hashanah we get together for a festive dinner that includes dipping pieces of apple in honey. It’s a symbol of our wish for a sweet year to come. But the point of all that came before it, the prayers by the water, the shofar, the day of reflection, is that if we are on the right path and are committed to it, everything will be sweet. God, the universe, our higher power will see to it.


*       It was a quite a shock for audiences to hear that the actor, Michael Douglas, has Stage IV throat cancer. What was even more alarming was to learn that it most likely was caused by drinking alcohol and smoking.  At least three quarters of people who have mouth or throat cancer consume alcohol frequently.  Statistics also report that people who drink alcohol often are 6 times more likely to develop mouth or throat cancer.  In addition, people who both drink alcohol and smoke even have a higher risk than people who only use tobacco alone.

*       We are so bombarded with stories of young starlets like Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton getting arrested or going to jail due to some sort of substance abuse issue, it is shocking when a story hits the air waves related to an actor who is dealing with the health consequences of substance abuse rather than just the legal issues. 

*       I remember as a child my brother and I holding up large poster size signs saying STOP SMOKING as a way to get our parent’s attention.  Both my parents were smoking and thank god they quit over 25 years ago.  My father definitely had ramifications from his smoking when he had a heart attack at 51 and  later had to have open heart surgery.  He also suffers from emphysema.  What is so ironic is that my brother became a major pot smoker (quit 20 yrs ago) and I became addicted to cigarettes (quit 16 yrs ago) even though we were staunchly against our own parent’s smoking and we knew you could become seriously ill from smoking.

*       Again, it illustrates the insanity of addiction.  We will go to any length to deny the consequences of our behavior in our disease.  What is saddening is when I continue to see young, as well as older people, continue a slow death by drinking and smoking.  I am very sorry this has happened to Michael Douglas, as I would be anybody with this diagnosis.  Although, his doctors say   his chance of survival is 80% with eight weeks of radiation and chemotherapy.  That’s great news.

*       Five years ago before I began working in addictions, I was a hospice social worker.  I saw many families watch their loved ones as they went through the dying process from cancer and other life threatening diseases.  It is excruciatingly painful to watch someone die, especially some of the younger clients I worked with.  The ones that had the more peaceful deaths were those who had a spiritual foundation.  At least, that was my experience.

*       Although, this is very scary about Michael Douglas’s diagnosis, I hope it is a wakeup call for those who still suffer from the ravages of alcohol and smoking addictions.

*       Sherry Gaba, LCSW, is a Psychotherapist and Life Coach and Recovery Coach specializing in addictions, trauma, anxiety, depression, and helping her clients find their life purpose.  She is the author of “The Law of Sobriety: Attracting Positive Energy for a Powerful Recovery.”  She is a sought after speaker, and frequent contributor to anthologies, blogs, and newsletters.  Visit Sherry at for information about life-coaching programs, teleseminars, and webinars.

2 Moms and a Mic

2 Moms and a Mic ?

Get Ready as I join 2 MOMS AND A MIC September 1, 2010 at 1400 8 AM Pacific Time to discuss everything you always wanted to know about my new book, “The Law of Sobriety: Attracting Positive Energy for a Powerful Recovery.”

Science improves and saves lives, but the spiritual domain is where healing and happiness reside. In the book, “The Ego-Less Self: Achieving Peace and Tranquility Beyond All Understanding, the author, Cardwell C. Nuckols, Ph.D. presents the truth to you from his own life experiences. While it’s true that subjective experiences cannot be proven per se, there is a “knowingness” that comes from walking through the fire and coming out the other end that is of great, if not greater, value than scientific objectivity. The experience and knowingness gained from being a survivor–whether from addiction, depression, loss of a loved one, or other life-altering event–creates an opportunity for each of us to evolve to a higher spiritual plane. When seized, life’s tragedies become spiritual opportunities.

The ego is our “false self,” “mind,” or “small self.” It knows of no power greater than itself. It is self-serving and is constantly battling for survival or personal gain. It is always fighting or fleeing from some perceived fear. It will do whatever it takes to relieve itself of life’s “miseries.” But it always fails. Itself-destructive line of thinking can drive us into maladaptive behaviors designed to serve only the ego. To the ego, no one else matters. The ego is the source of all human misery.

In order for correction to take place–in other words, for joy to replace misery–there must be a change in character. There must be a simple but profound return to the Self–our Divine nature or soul. Reclaiming the Self brings spiritual healing and transformation. This is a book about healing. It is not about symptom reduction. The author shows you how the ego develops and how it causes all of the suffering in our lives.  He also endeavors to show you who you really are: the Self. The Self is God immanent and is the source of happiness and unconditional love. This book is about a journey of discovery. It is about a return to the Self.

With a broad range of spiritual influences, from the Bible to Zen Buddhism, the Ego-Less SELF sets out to deflate the ego to let the true self shine through. You will begin to learn how to get rid of resentments, surrender the ego’s unconscious programs for happiness, and employ simple techniques to increase contact with consciousness.  The book is available at

Sherry Gaba, LCSW, is a Psychotherapist and Life Coach in private practice and on Celebrity Rehab on VH1.  She is a frequent contributor to anthologies, blogs, and newsletters and a sought after speaker.  Visit Sherry at for information about life coaching programs, teleseminars, and webinars, and read her blogs at Counselor and The Law of Sobriety Blog with HCI.