Dear Rabbi Twerski,
We have a girl on our women’s forum who was addicted tolooking at inappropriate things on the Internet and committing aveiros. She never went farther than that, baruch Hashem, and was a spiritual girl and top of her class in everything else. But she had this dark secret. (I wonder how many “good girls” have these secrets today, R”l…) Anyway, since she found our network almost a month ago, she has been clean and guarding her eyes very well. She doesn’t even watch movies anymore at all. She’s been very inspiring to us all, and to the other girls and women on the forum.

Recently, she started going out with a good boy from a top yeshivah, and she is afraid of telling him about her past “addic- tion.” She sent me the following letter, and asked me if she has to tell her date — at the risk not only of losing a great shidduch, but also of the word spreading…

I did not want to take responsibility for answering this question, and so I am passing it on to the Rav. I hope the Rav can guide us on this, because it is an issue that comes up often on our forum. Some of the guys on our forum are dating at the same time they are making a strong push for purity. What guidelines can we use for deciding if they have to tell their dates or not? What level of addiction is considered a “disease” (and should be told), and what level could be considered normal “teenage” struggles that most — or many — guys have?

Rabbi Twerski Responds

There is an adage, “You’re only as sick as your secrets.” Revealing information that may ruin a shidduch is understand- ably very difficult, but keeping it secret creates a constant anx- iety and a barrier to mutual trust and sincere communication. Marriages have enough problems without adding secrets.

In the case of alcohol or drug addiction, we generally tell people to avoid even getting into a relationship before one year of solid recovery and with the approval of one’s sponsor. One month sobriety is hardly a beginning.

There are many variables. How long was the addiction? Does the person still have urges?

Whenever one decides to tell, one should say, “I must tell you something about myself, but it is with ‘bal tomar.’ You must promise not to tell it to anyone else.”

The girl’s email to us a few days later:

Hodu laHashem ki tov!

Wow! I cannot even believe that last night happened!

From the beginning: He picked me up at 6:45. We went to a park. It was gorgeous. I felt like Cinderella — willow trees and little bridges over lakes. We were having a great time and then he started discussing tachlis, deep and heavy hashkafah and worldviews. We sat down on a bench near the lake under the moonlight with an old-fashioned black lamp next to us. All of a sudden, he starts discussing the Internet and how bad it is. I knew that he didn’t have any issues with it, because he had told me last time that he gave chizzuk to another bachur about it, and he felt so bad for him.

So I started thinking that I really trust him and that I’m never gonna have a better opportunity to bring it up. It was the right atmosphere, we were already discussing it, and I don’t know — Hashem just gave me this feeling like it was a good time. So I took a deep breath, and here is how it went:

Me: So now I have something I want to discuss with you. (He’d been bringing up the topics.)

He: (smiles) Yeah?

Me: Okay, before I tell you I need you to promise me that you won’t tell anyone, no matter what happens between us, okay?

He: (listening seriously) Okay.

Me: I’m really nervous to tell you this. I had very big prob- lems with the Internet. I read things that I shouldn’t have and watched things that were definitely inappropriate for me.

He: At home?

Me: Yeah…not only… I don’t want to go into details about it. Baruch Hashem, I got in touch with the Guard Your Eyes website, which really helped me out. This is a part of my past that I am not proud of, and it was the darkest part of my life. This site helped me get over it and even set me up with other frum girls who are also dealing with this issue, and we speak every day as sort of accountability partners. We tell each other what’s going on, give each other chizzuk, and make sure that we don’t slip up or act out. Baruch Hashem, it’s a part of the past, and funnily enough, this whole nisayon made me closer to Hashem. I davened so hard to get out of the situation and Hashem sent me help. I never told anyone this and I’m shaking that I’m telling you now.

He: You never told your parents?

Me: No way! They have no clue. But I trust you. I wanted to tell you, and I didn’t want there to be any secrets between us.

He: You know, this is just like I was telling you the other night about that boy. Doing a bad thing doesn’t make you a bad person. Even if you lose a battle, it’s okay! We’re fighting to win the war and we’re up against such a powerful enemy. It’s like a regular person fighting a world champion boxer! You should know that boys have this much harder.

Me: Yeah, so I’ve heard.

He: I’m happy that you told me, and you shouldn’t think for even one second that I think less of you for it. Just the opposite! I’m really happy that you told me. Don’t worry about it at all! Okay? You are not lowered in my eyes even a drop!

Me: I can’t believe this. Thank you so much for being so understanding! It means so much to me! I’m smiling from ear to ear! (And I was also on the verge of tears of happiness!)

The rest of the night is a happy blur…

Thank You, Hashem! I felt You holding my hand the entire time and sitting next to me and hugging me tight like a little child in her parent’s arms.

How can I ever thank you enough? No words can suffice to express my heartfelt gratitude. I’m crying with thanks, and

my heart is bursting with joy as the tears run down my cheeks. The sechar that you will get for this is not describable in mere human terms. I owe you my life, my happiness, and my rela- tionship with this boy and Hashem!

May we share simchos together very soon! Thank you!

Rabbi Twerski was impressed with how it turned out and responded:

I think this is a significant triumph. I would like to use this story as an example to show people how being truthful and not concealing secrets can succeed.