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Happy Hanukkah

This week we are hosting some Hanukkah parties for some of our favorite guests with mental illness and/or addiction. We’ve invited speakers and are plying everyone with potato pancakes and other treats. So far, the response has been tremendous. C.R. and I have learned we aren’t alone in thinking the Festival of Lights has special significance for those in recovery.

In the spirit of Hanukkah, we’d like to share some insights into the holiday’s enduring (over 2100 years) observances, which might be relevant to you, PsychCentral reader:

8 Days (and the 8 branches of the Hanukah menorah): Isn’t it amazing? Around the world, wherever you go, 7 days is a complete week. In this fractured world, the 7 day week is something we can all agree on. But what is all this fuss about the 8th day? The 8th day is the start of a new week, a new octave, etc. After the seeming end, the 7th day,  comes a new beginning. Despite it’s similarities to the beginning of the last week,the 8th day brings with it new potential. In Judaism, 7 represents the utmost in the natural world, 8 represents the utmost in the spiritual.

In recovery, 7 represents practical achievement. For example, for addicts it might mean maintaining a period of sobriety. For those with mental illness, it might mean managing triggers and symptoms. But 8 represents more. 8 comes after we reach inside ourselves, making recovery so much a part of who we are that we can reach beyond the material achievements of recovery into the spiritual.

Light (Hanukkah is also called the Festival of Lights): You’ve been sober for a while. You’ve reached down inside yourself and found that hidden light inside.  That light is potential, hope, love, etc. Once you connect with the light inside and it is shining brightly and steadily, you might be able to share it, shining it out into the world.

Is that light your ability to connect with others? Does your path include some volunteer work or extending a helping hand to the people you meet? Is that light a talent? Can you use it to bring joy into the world? We’re huge fans of PsychCentral blogger Chato Stewart, who uses his sense of humor and artistic talent to shine his light outwards, connecting with others.

Togetherness (Hanukkah is a time families and friends get together, eat good foods, sing songs and play games): If you know someone in recovery from mental illness or addiction (or if you are in such a place in recovery yourself), you can become a partner in wellness. Which reminds us of PsychCentral blogger Kate Thieda’s aptly named blog, Partners in Wellness.

We’ve blessed to see numerous people in recovery becoming true partners to others at all stages of the recovery spectrum. Perhaps you’re able to do some “inside trading” and speak about your experiences with others who are going through similar issues.

Deep Fried Foods (Potato Pancakes, Donuts and other fried foods are symbols of the miracle of the oil of the first Hanukah): No, we’re not kidding. Although there is an ancient, mystical reason we eat fried foods,  that’s outside this blog post’s scope.

Fried foods are delicious, whether your taste runs to latkes (potato pancakes), tempura, donuts or french fries. Fried foods are a special treat. However, when we indulge in them constantly instead of now and then, (as we do on Hanukkah), our bodies rebel.

For each of us, there is something in our lives that is our “deep fried food.” Our personal DFF isn’t anything overtly dangerous like an addictive substance or dangerous behavior, but still, with repeated exposure, it becomes dangerous for us. For some people their DFF might be more obvious, such as sleeping-in. Once in a while sleeping a bit late is a pleasure, if we do it daily, it can really disrupt our lives.

For some, their DFF might be harder to shed light on. For example, C.R. loves reading. But she readily admits that books become escapism and fuel a tendency to procrastinate. Because reading is generally considered to be a good thing, sometimes we overlook what, when and why we read. For C.R., it’s easier to just sit at home with a good book than complete projects that are important to her.

Perhaps your DFF is helping others. Now, that sounds really strange, but the truth is, some people become embroiled in other people’s problems to such an extent that they avoid dealing with their own stuff.

Only you know what your DFF truly is.

Anyway, here’s a special bonus, a traditional recipe for potato pancakes (latkes).

Potato Pancakes

5 large Idaho potatoes, peeled and placed in bowl of cold water

2-3 eggs, beaten eggs

1 large onion, finely chopped or grated

2-3 heaping tablespoons of flour (you can use gluten free flour if you like)

Sea salt, pepper to taste

Organic Canola oil or other tasteless oil

Homemade applesauce and/or sour cream (we like them with salsa)

Shred potatoes in food processor, or grate by hand. Place in large, clean dishtowel and squeeze out as much of the liquid as possible, the drier the potatoes the better. In large bowl, mix potatoes, beaten eggs, onion, salt and pepper.

Heat enough oil to rise up about 1/4 inch on sides of pans. It is hot enough when a piece of tester potato turns golden in about 1 and 1/2 minutes. Use two or three skillets. Using a ladle, spoon about 1/4 cup batter into oil and repeat. Cook until golden. Drain on paper towels and serve immediately with applesauce, sour cream and/or salsa. You should get anywhere between 30-40 potato pancakes.

Happy Hanukkah

Richard Zwolinski, LMHC, CASAC & C.R. Zwolinski

Richard Zwolinski, LMHC, CASAC is the author of Therapy Revolution: Find Help, Get Better, and Move On Without Wasting Time or Money and is licensed in addiction and psychotherapy with over 25 years experience as well as a consultant to organizations and companies in the fields of mental health and addiction. He is the executive director of an outpatient behavioral health program. Learn more about Richard here.

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APA Reference
& C.R. Zwolinski, R. (2011). Happy Hanukkah. Psych Central. Retrieved on January 18, 2020, from


Last updated: 23 Dec 2011
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