For almost 20 years, an addiction crisis center in Montreal, Canada, has provided counseling, family support, financial assistance, intervention, education and aftercare to clients with any type of addiction. What makes the center unique is its spiritual focus: The institution, Chabad Project Pride-Centre Lifeline is a full-fledged Chabad House.

Founded by Chabad-Lubavitch Rabbi Ronnie Fine, who at the time served as a chaplain at McGill University, Project Pride emerged when Fine encountered more and more cases of students and their parents seeking help for drug abuse and other addictions. He took up counseling, brought in experts and eventually developed the drug crisis drop-in center that exists today. But what began as a drug addiction service quickly expanded to handle everything from alcohol dependency to behavior addictions with a holistic approach that focuses on the root causes of unwanted behavior.

Its clients include thousands of area residents of all ages, and religious and ethnic backgrounds.

Rabbi Benyamin Bresinger, who directs the center today, came to the project after developing a seminar combining elements of a 12-step recovery program with principles derived from Chasidic thought. The seminar attracted a following of people interested in exploring their Jewish roots, so Bresinger turned to Project Pride for the opportunity to put the philosophies extolled by his seminar into action.

"Carl Jung said spiritus contra spiritum, alcohol is countered by spirituality," said Bresinger. "This is the key to what we do here. Spirituality is what saves their lives. Chasidic philosophy is perfect for them."

According to staff and clients, the approach allows the center to save lives by developing intimate relationships with those seeking help. In addition to the typical functions of an addiction crisis center, small Jewish classes and holiday programs serve the needs of the clients' spiritual quests. The center's Passover Seder, for example, connects the Chasidic focus on the holiday's aspects of spiritual freedom with recovery.

Chabad Project Pride-Centre Lifeline focuses on providing spirituality to recovering addicts.
Chabad Project Pride-Centre Lifeline focuses on providing spirituality to recovering addicts.
"Addiction is known to be a spiritual disease," explained Bresinger. "People who are coming here are hungry, desperate for spirituality. They're coming to understand that their problem is a spiritual malady. They want to know what G‑d wants."

With more than 300 drop-ins every week, the center aims to develop personal bonds with each visitor. A full 40 percent of Project Pride's clients are non-Jews.

"Every day, we are bringing Jews back and teaching the seven Noachide laws to non-Jews," said Bresinger. "This is more than just handing out pamphlets, we're deeply involved with people's lives."

Jimmy Loten, 41, attributes his year-long involvement with the center to its philosophy of recovery.

"If there was no spirituality [at Chabad Project Pride], I don't believe I'd be involved in it," he said. "I'm very grateful this place is here."

For 26-year-old Yaakov, however, a Yeshiva student who had been suffering from addiction since his bar mitzvah, the center offered not only a path toward healing, but also new insights into his Jewish identity.

"It changed my religious perspective drastically," he said. "I have a whole different way of understanding Judaism now."

Similarly, 33-year-old Ryan, a non-Jew, found acceptance at the center in such a way that awakened his belief in G‑d.

"I come to Project Pride and I know I'll find G‑d," he said. "The presence of G‑d is valuable for my recovery. You don't have the power to overcome drugs and alcohol without G‑d.