Dear Rav Dr. Twerski,
I received your email contact information from the tzaddik at Guard Your Eyes. I have a tremendous amount of respect and awe for you and your knowledge in both the Torah and secular world. I have read several of your books, and am enamored by your all encompassing knowledge and daas Torah.
I feel that after seeing and speaking to several therapists and not having had a successful diagnosis or treatment, I would very much like both your professional opinion on my case, as well as a p’sak halachah (even if you need to consult with a posek). I am reading through your book Getting Up When You Are Down for the fourth or fifth time, and I would like you to get a feel for my situation so you may give me some insight.
My frum therapists told me that after an initial diagnosis of MDD (major depressive disorder), they believe it has turned into bipolar disorder, with some ADD and body dysmorphic disorder thrown in. Please help me, Rav Twerski. I stand just a few days before Rosh HaShanah, and while I have greatly improved since this letter below was written a couple of months back to the GYE website, I NEED your guidance. Thank you and best wishes for a kesivah v’chasimah tovah, l’alter chaim tovim u’leshalom.
The woman then posted the original email of her story that she had sent to GYE, which describes the story of how she fell into a relationship with Moshe, a married man, which then spiraled into a full-blown lust addiction. Below are some excerpts:
All of a sudden, I couldn’t function again, I tried to overdose, I lost my job and didn’t want to leave my house. Then, something snapped, I could no longer live in the deep, emotional, suicidal pain (by the way, I was on Remeron and Paxil), so I turned to some guy friends to talk to. I started not caring about halachah as much (as opposed to before when I felt morbidly guilty about my indiscretions).
I started finding frum guys online to talk to and then I met up with some of them. It was like someone had stolen my brain and replaced it with an immoral, uncaring, non-Jewish one. My soul became corrupted, and I fell deeper into it.
The psychiatrist re-evaluated what was going on and diagnosed me as having ADD and bipolar disorder and put me on Depakot. I was out of control. I again wanted to kill myself, because I am in such a state of limbo, this disease is controlling me, I want to be free from pain, and I don’t want to trade my soul for that. I cannot even listen to reason. I know logically
I am wrong, and I don’t even for a second deny the truth to every word of the Torah, but my thinking has so clouded my pain and emotion that like a drug addict, I take what I can get to prevent from feeling sad again.
I know aveirah goreres aveirah, but I am obsessed with guys. I used to be one who wanted stability and to always do the right thing, because I grew up in an immoral and unstable family life, but now I am a loose cannon. What is my status? HEEELPP ME!!
A true bas Torah with a blackened heart
Rabbi Twerski Responds
What began as a rather straightforward diagnosis has be-come a complex problem. Moshe was your cocaine or heroin, very much an addiction problem. Had it been addressed as an addiction, you could have avoided the complications.
Every reaction you describe of being separated from Moshe is that of a drug addict who is deprived of his drug, and the great delight when Moshe was in contact with you is the “high” that the addict gets from a fix.
There is a “pleasure center” in the brain, and it can be activated by alcohol, food, drugs, gambling, lust, or even a nonphysical relationship. If this center is repeatedly stimulated, the desire for the stimulus increases and control becomes very difficult. A variety of psychiatric symptoms may develop, but treatment may be ineffective unless the addiction is addressed.
Willpower is notoriously ineffective. The best way to overcome an addiction is the Twelve-Step Program. Although there is a Twelve Steps lust addiction program, I don’t think it is appropriate for you because you may be too vulnerable to the men who are there. Instead, you may go to the Twelve Steps Overeaters Anonymous program, even though you do not have an eating problem. Whenever you hear the word “food,” you substitute, in your mind, the word “guy.” Unless the addiction is overcome, nothing can give you pleasure or relief from misery other than the drug “guy.”
The strength of the Twelve-Step Program is that if one works the Twelve Steps sincerely, it gradually brings about a change in one’s character and personality. When the addiction is brought under control, your feelings for your husband may return. Now you are under the domination of the cocaine-heroin-men addiction, which can completely distort your feelings.
You may benefit from reading Self-Improvement? I’m Jewish! in which I show that the Twelve-Step Program is essentially a mussar-type program for recovery. But reading a book is not enough. One must have the support of the group in the meetings. Again, I think you can benefit from OA, even though you don’t have a food addiction.
The question of the permissibility of being with your husband must be addressed by a competent posek.