We received an email from someone who has been working on himself very hard over the past nine months and has made excellent progress. However, with all his progress, he still feels very easily triggered in the street, and he feels that to some extent, he is not much more than a “dry drunk.” He posed to me a very fundamental question, on which I would like to ask the Rav’s advice.
Basically, the question is, if he were to take his struggle to the next level and join a Twelve Steps SA group, is there truly hope that through the program he would reach a point at which he no longer wants to lust at all? Can he achieve a level at which the “lust sensors” in his brain won’t go off like they do now? I
know that with alcoholics, this can be achieved with the Twelve Steps. As alcoholics wrote back in 1939 in AA (p. 101) about how they felt after recovering through the Twelve Steps:
Assuming we are spiritually fit, we can do all sorts of things alcoholics are not supposed to do. People have said we must not go where liquor is served; we must not have it in our homes; we must shun friends who drink; we must avoid moving pic- tures which show drinking scenes; we must not go into bars; our friends must hide their bottles if we go to their houses; we mustn’t think or be reminded about alcohol at all. We meet these conditions every day. An alcoholic who cannot meet them still has an alcoholic mind; there is something the matter with his spiritual status. His only chance for sobriety would be some- place like the Greenland Ice Cap, and even there an Eskimo might turn up with a bottle of scotch and ruin everything!
But is it the same with lust addiction? Can the Twelve Steps really change a hyper-sensitive arousal sensor in the brain, carved out by years of using stimulation? He is reluctant to join Twelve Steps groups because it would rock the boat again with his wife. He is, however, willing to take this major step if he knows that his thinking really will undergo a change. Could the Rav please give him/us guidance.
Rabbi Twerski Responds
As long as he is doing well, I would not change things in the middle of a winning streak.
Lust addiction, in contrast to alcohol and drug addiction, is more like food addiction. One can do without alcohol or drugs, but one cannot do without food. Similarly, there is a need for a healthy procreative drive in marriage.
The Talmud relates that the sages “captured” the yetzer hara and imprisoned it. The next day, one could not find an egg on the market, so they had to release the yetzer hara. Inasmuch as the yetzer hara is the source for healthy procreative drive, it cannot be eliminated.
The ultimate solution is for a person to work hard on increas- ing one’s yiras Shamayim and praying for siyatta deShmaya. There are no shortcuts.