Each year my wife and I host an alcohol-free Purim seudah (festive afternoon meal) in the heart of Jerusalem for Jewish alcoholics, addicts, and their families. Throughout the day, dozens of costumed men, women, and kids come through our doors, ready to celebrate. The number increases every year, as does the percentage who are women, and the average age keeps getting younger. Just outside our home is one of the more raucous Purim street celebrations in the country, and it’s a special thing for addicts and alcoholics to have a safe space to celebrate along with everyone else, but from a distance. Here are some time-tested tips on how you can help alcoholics and addicts have a Purim that’s safe and same’ach (joyous):

  1. Acknowledge that Purim can be a really rough day for someone trying to stay clean and sober.
  2. Affirm that people in recovery do not like being around people who are getting drunk or high, because it’s so very tempting to join them.
  3. Remember that alcoholics and addicts who relapse often end up in the hospital, jail, or the graveyard, and it always starts with “just one.”
  4. Without knowing whether or not someone has a drinking problem, be sure to take no for an answer when anybody says “no thanks” to your offer of l’chaim. Don’t ask twice.
  5. Don’t ever say: “Hey, I know you don’t drink, but even on Purim? It’s a mitzvah!” I add this because of the astonishing number of people who have said that to me over the years, knowing that I don’t drink.
  6. Encourage the alcoholics and addicts you know to attend an alcohol-free Purim meal or event.
  7. Help the person get involved in enjoying the mitzvahs of the day: Hearing Megillah (and making lots of noise when they hear Haman’s name), sending gifts to friends, giving charity, eating a festive meal.
  8. Send him or her a mishloach manot basket. Sweets help with cravings, and a present shows that you care.
  9. Do not ask him what he does to be “unable to tell the difference between cursed is Haman and blessed is Mordechai.” If he asks you what he can do to achieve a state of oblivion, tell him he can take a nap.
  10. Have a Purim same’ach yourself, while recognizing that people can and do celebrate Purim joyously in different ways, and there’s something very special about getting high just on Purim itself.