Thursday, 29 December 2011

Dov's Advice to a Non-Addict

Part 1/2 (to see other parts of the article, click on the pages at the bottom)
I don't think I'm an addict but can I ever end my stumbles?

by Dov (See all authors)

A typical struggling Yeshiva guy wrote to Dov for advice. (He had not progressed to a real addiction level yet). Here is some of what he wrote:

"I guess I would say that my ratzon does not meet up with what I intellectually know and want. After Yeshiva, when I first "stumbled", I felt awful. But as time progressed, I don't feel bad anymore. The worst thing is that after years of reading material and trying to stop, I do not see an end in sight.


Dov Replies:

I am no expert, of course, as I am just a powerless addict. My addiction takes me so far from reality in my mind, and so far from real relationships with others, and so far from any kind of acceptable behavior - that I react by isolating, hiding, and lying. The guilt of it becomes a weight that I cannot carry and I finally gave up, allowed the truth to come out to safe people (other sick people like me), and allowed Hashem to help me for a change. Till then I did not allow Him to help me (though I asked Him for help hundreds of times). I just was not at all ready for the help I really needed. It didn't hurt enough yet - but all that changed a few years later, thank-G-d, when the pain became unbearable. And here I am.

So, who am I to have an opinion on what's right for you to do about your problem? We are different, you and I. I am a drunk, plain and simple. I tried to get better but just kept getting worse, it took over my mind and eventually my life, and progressed further and further. I do not know if I ever experienced what you describe. Maybe I did, when I was between 11 and 15, maybe I was already sold to it from the very start. I do not know.

In any case, what you describe sounds to me like what Chaza"l refer to as "keivan sh'ovar odom aveiro, eventually na'aseh lo k'heter" (when a person continuously transgresses a sin, it becomes to him as permitted) - k'heter means just that: he does not fight it any more, for it really becomes acceptable to him. His 'religious' mechanism no longer has any grip on it and fails completely.

Furthermore, since sexuality is part of what it means to be human, especially in the case of a young man, it is quite common to experience overwhelming desire for sexual feelings and to employ fantasy in our minds. The masturbation follows quite naturally and predictably. So, that needs to be admitted: Though it is bad for me and not what Hashem wants for me, I do have a netiyah toward this, as many others do. It does not make you a rosho. Now deal with it.

Learning how to deal with this tayvoh - for a normal yid/person - is becoming a Jewish man. You are building yourself, here, right now. Really. Putting our sexual energy into our learning and doing Chessed for others is exactly what Hashem wants. That is obviously what Chaza"l mean when they say "keivon shepogah b'cho menuval zeh, moshchei hu l'veis hamidrash" - take Him with you and use your body for Torah and maysim tovim. Look in R Wolbe's sefer Alei Shur, for example, for more on this (at least that's how I understand him). And that's Odom ki yomus baOhel - it's surrendering the natural lusts a bit and is a bit like dying. In the Ohel. The pleasure of learning, of horveh-ing in Toah and maysim tovim needs to be where we feel the vitality, the connection, the fulfillment. The Kitzur advises just this, if you read it carefully. And see the hakdomah to the Eglei Tal, too, about simcha in learning.

While I am at it, I will throw in an enthusiastic plug for any and all writings/tapes from R' Tzvi-Meyer Zilverberg Shlit"a ("Divrei Chizzuk" on the chumash), and for Rav Itamar Schwartz's series, "Bilvavi Mishkan Evneh" (especially his sefer - translated well into English - "Da Es Atzm'cha - Getting to Know Yourself"). All are life-changing and deal directly with our personal connection with Hashem and with appreciating our avodah, our struggles, and our lives in general as G-d's people.