I am not ready to tell you my real name. I trust that you will
keep it confidential. Just to put myself in context, I am studying towards a masters degree in law. I am an observant Orthodox Jew.
I fear that I have a possible addiction to Internet material, and it’s getting out of control. Whenever I connect to the Internet at home I have this very intense desire to look at inappropriate material. I feel terrible whenever I do it and feel sick afterwards, but I still do it. I feel intense feelings of guilt and self-loathing when I do it, but that does not seem to be a deterrent anymore. Although I feel this intense guilt and loath- ing about myself, I “enjoy” looking at these terrible pictures, and at the same time, I want to never look at them again. Short of great embarrassment, I am not sure what will stop me from doing this. I am fearful that if I continue, I can kiss a married life goodbye, and that is something that I want more than anything else. It’s also hard to reconcile my belief that I am a good per- son with the fact that I enjoy looking at such images.
Rabbi, I need to stop, and I feel that if I don’t, then it will develop into a shocking habit and will virtually destroy all that I have worked for. I lose my appetite when I do it, I am impatient towards other people, and my stress levels fly through the roof.
Over Yom Kippur, I was reading one of your books on alco- holism and I felt it spoke to me in some sense about any type of addiction. Please can you recommend me a book to read that either you have written on this type of subject or that someone else has written. I feel that religious books are generally not that well written and are unacademic. These books are written by laypeople thinking they are experts, and they tend to not directly relate to nondenominational Orthodox people like myself. If the author is a Lubavitcher, he talks about the Rebbe. If he is chareidi, well, he would be too fearful to write what needs to be written. I get turned off straightaway.
Your book is different — it speaks to everyone. If you have written such a book or know of a similar book or article that you can attach, then please tell me.
Do I need help? I feel I do, but I don’t know the number. Your email address is the only “number” I have. If I go to counseling, my mom would know about my possible problem.
Rabbi Twerski Responds
The campaign by some chareidi leaders to eliminate the Internet, even if desirable, is not realistic. While anyone with a bit of know-how can work around a filter, it can nevertheless be
of help to a person who is sincere in escaping from this quick- sand.
Have you seen the website GuardYourEyes.com? I believe it is of value, not only because you realize that you are hardly the only frum person with the problem, but also because there are helpful suggestions from people who overcame the problem.
I hope to contribute to that website when time allows.
Chazal say, “Tzaras rabbim chatzi nechamah — A sorrow shared is a sorrow halved.” I don’t know if it applies to this situa- tion. Yours was the fourth contact of its kind this week. Internet addiction has become epidemic among frum men AND women! If you have a fax machine, I can send you copies of letters just like yours.
You are right. Promises don’t help, and nedarim don’t help. Psychiatry and psychology are not of much help. It is very much an addiction over which self-control doesn’t work.
For alcohol and drug addiction, there are support groups of Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous. For lust addiction, there is SA.
A frum person will say, “There is no way I can expose my problem by going to a meeting.” I understand. There is a very fine, very frum young man who is in recovery from this problem. He’ll be glad to talk with you. He does not need to know your name. The most effective help can come from someone who has overcome this problem. I’ll email you his number. You can call him, and you will remain anonymous.