One of the first members on the GYE website shared how he had hit rock bottom with his addiction and had written to Rabbi Twerski for help in 2005. Here are some excerpts from that story.
Broken, threatened with divorce, and yet not believing I could ever stop, I had finally “hit rock bottom.” I wrote to the renowned religious psychiatrist, Rabbi Dr. Abraham J. Twerski, the author of many books and a leader in dealing with alcoholic addictions, and I asked him if there was anything I could do to
Ybreak free. Here is what he answered:
Your case is not unusual. I say this because I can tell you what works and what does not work. Compulsions come in a variety of ways, but the common denomi-nator is that the person has a compulsion that he finds it very difficult to resist. He tries all kinds of ways (like you did), but nothing works, including marriage. This kind of compulsion is essentially an addiction. The only thing that works, in my ex- perience, is participation in a Twelve Steps recovery program similar to that of Alcoholics Anonymous. This is called either SA or SLAA, and just as AA treats alcohol addiction, this program treats lust addiction. They have meetings everywhere, including Israel. You should be able to locate a meeting via the Internet.
There are many excuses for not attending meetings. “What happens if someone sees me?” The bottom line is, if a person wishes to be cured from cancer, he’ll do anything. If one wishes to overcome a destructive addiction, nothing should stand in the way. Psychotherapy is the frosting on the cake, but the Twelve- Step Program is the cake. When you attend SLAA meetings, you may be able to find the name of a competent therapist. Many psy- chiatrists and psychologists have not been trained in addiction.
The particular type of compulsion does not make much difference. A beer drinker can be as much of an alcoholic as a whiskey drinker. The core problem is the inability to restrain oneself from doing something that one knows he should not be doing but appears powerless to control it. A number of religious people have been able to do with the Twelve-Step Program what they were not able to do with mussar. Perhaps this is because of the group support. We may learn mussar together, but we don’t practice it together, which is what happens in a Twelve- Steps meeting. Read the books.
There is a book, Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, which describes the Twelve Steps. It’s worth reading. Although it was written about alcoholism, one just substitutes the particular compulsion in place of “alcohol.”
Rabbi Twerski’s answer made me realize for the first time that I was dealing with a serious addiction. I bought the books he suggested and began to learn about conquering addictions. I also asked him about going to these groups possibly being chillul Hashem for a frum person. He responded:
One person’s secret is also the other person’s secret. People at the meetings, being aware of the compulsive nature of the problem, do not consider it a chillul Hashem. My contact for the frum person is a very chassidish man (shtreimel and white stockings) who has had a good recovery. If you wish, I can put you in touch with him.
Today, I am happy to say that I have been free from the addic- tion to inappropriate material and committing aveiros for more than three years. About two years after breaking free, when my wife was about to give birth, I became afraid again. So I gathered the courage and wrote again to Rabbi Twerski again asking him for advice on how I would possibly manage. Here was his answer:
At one time, it seemed like two hours was impossible. You progressed so that two weeks of abstinence is possible. Continue the methods you are using, but instead of thinking “six weeks,” think, “Just today I have to control,” and that is feasible. You can’t do anything today about what is going to be tomorrow, so don’t take it on. In SLA they tell you that the only success is by taking just one day at a time. Hatzlachah.
To my own amazement, I made it through the six weeks! Obviously, I was extra careful to guard my eyes during that time, and it really helped a lot. This major test did a lot to prove to me that I was truly free from my insidious addiction. Today, I have learned to guard my eyes wherever I go. I have learned to give up these crazy desires to God. I feel so free today, com- pared to the obsessed and compulsive person I used to be.