Every young man's struggle - or addiction?
Thank You for you amazing website.
I am trying to figure out if I am an addict. I had one year in yeshiva I didn't masturbate for about 7 months, and a few times I went for a week or two without it. I know that according to Halacha you are not allowed to, but how is this possible? The sexual drive that Hashem gave us is like the need to eat. Am I wrong?
It’s just scary to think what’s going on today. I don't know if there are statistics but I would imagine that 75% - probably more - who have smart phones are addicted, or when masturbating, they are using their cell phones…
I was thinking that for today's generation the reason why we say Shema 3 times a day is not for Shema Yisroel - it’s for the posuk "Velo Sosuroo..." You can't have Shema, you can't have V'Ahavata, etc. etc., without “Velo Sosuroo” - controlling our eyes - which for today's generation is the biggest test that Jews have ever faced. This test is effecting the Frum Community big time! The Shtetel used to save you, your Rebbe used to save you, etc... But today, you can have a kosher smartphone in one pocket, and the Treif one in the other pocket!
But we can't give up, we have to educate, we have to speak to our families and students with love, not making them feel like garbage about this topic. But, honestly, I don't see solution to this problem unless Moshiach shows up a lot quicker.
I am a mature adult and an addict who knows sex desire, masturbation and porn at least as well as this young fellow does. I know powerlessness, and failure, and frustration. At the same time, I am also clean for a day at a time over 19 years now, and know the other side, as well. I could not have found any persistent success on my own and I needed to find recovery together with other real recovering people in SA - but as a teenager I was always alone, always hiding big secrets, always 'fighting the good fight' as an unsung battered hero.
In other words, I was deeply ashamed, confused, and self-absorbed with my own little problems as if they were 'the end of the world.' A touch grandiose. But in some respect, very much like many adolescents.
And I relate 100% to what this fellow writes. And he's really very good at this stuff.
I want to suggest a possibility here. It may be that his perspective that the main benefit (tachlis) of Krias Sh'ma now being for the "Lo sasuru", demonstrates why he is having this degree of problems with masturbation desire in the first place. And it also may clarify why Yiddishkeit will never succeed for him as a good weapon to change that: He is misusing it. I will try to explain how:
We know that the halocha is that the first posuk of Sh'ma is the ikkar - all rishonim and acharonim agree with this. Furthermore, the only halachik significance of the third perek of Sh'ma that he refers to, is actually the mentioning of Yetzias Mitzraim.
Nothing about 'lo sasuru.'
So G-d seems to think that the main words in Sh'ma are "Sh'ma Yisroel, Hashem Elokeinu, Hashem Echod." Those words basically mean, "G-d is perfect, He is what everything is really all about, and that is a good thing." But the valiant bochurim who are locked in mortal combat with their own desires usually differ with G-d on this detail. They (we) think everything is really about us and our struggles. And it is a 'gita-v'yadah bo'in k'echod'-kind of matter, meaning that it goes hand-in-hand with the problem itself. Being that he is so sex-focused (and sex-struggle focused - same thing), he naturally sees the main benefit or point of Sh'ma as saving him from his nemesis sex desire... but that is obviously not the main point of Sh'ma, at any rate. In the world of this well-meaning and sincere struggler, not only is G-d mistaken about what the ikkar posuk is (for G-d says that we are yotzei the mitzva d'oraiso of Sh'ma without saying the posuk of 'lo sasusru' at all, according to all rishonim), but it further makes it seem that G-d has also failed to give us a good weapon... for: how well is this working for 75% of people, as this fellow estimates it? Not very well, it seems. But isn't it strange how the Torah seems quite the dud here? Something's just gotta be wrong here. Torah can't be that weak!
Now, when I see problems that seem to be this 'impossible,' I suspect that they are not really natural, but rather manufactured in the mind. We all know that the worst way to fight an obsession is to obsess about fighting it, correct? Well, that is precisely what he (and many people like him) are doing. And as so many of our chaveirim do, he drags yiddishkeit 'down with the ship' as well, by misusing it to fight the problem that he created. Like a man in a shipwreck desperately clinging to a beautiful bronze statue of a life raft, he sinks. It was a beautiful piece of art - but not meant to keep him afloat in water.
Yes, there is a problem of sex desire, and yes, the smartphones feed into this... but his estimation of 75% (basically everybody you see, and certainly all goyim I bet he assumes) as being frequent masturbators and relatively constant porn users, is just more of his issue of seeing sex everywhere. Just as he sees Sh'ma as being mainly relevant because of sex desire, he also sees all people as being sex-absorbed, and 'nems' it all as a dovor poshut. He is seeing Sh'ma as being sexually-focused. This is his problem. But Sh'ma is about shifting our focus from self to G-d. And by making Sh'ma about sex, he makes Sh'ma part of his problem, instead of part of the solution.
This is why he has such a problem letting it go and sees letting it go as being completely impossible and also why he ends up 'throwing it' all on 'Hashem sending Moshiach and just coming and saving us from ourselves'... it's just so hopeless, no? Well, we need to recognize that - again - everything in his cheshbon is about sex and desire and the success or failure at controlling sex and desire. In other words, everything is all about him. That is a distortion of reality that only a self (or sex)-obsessed person will come to. And seeing the problem everywhere actually comforts the person. Can you see how this is a comfort for him? It keeps sweet schmutz front-and-center, still touching it, it's still here, still part of his life. Struggling with it all the time is actually the sickness itself. Like other love-hate relationships, the point is that it remains a relationship!
Surrender is the opposite of that, of course. To the obsessed person, actually opening the hand and letting it go is horrifying. That's why they do not do it. It's not the 'power of the temptation' at all. It's the fear of not having the connection to it, even the connection of 'fighting' with it. To be locked in combative embrace with it, is the next best thing to having it. Actually, in some ways, it's even better! For all along people (and our conscience) can think we are bitterly fighting our 'enemy.' I hope this is pretty clear and simple. Maybe too simple.
But the truth is that there are many, many Jews and gentiles who are clean - and not necessarily for religious or even moral reasons. Many clean ones are non-addicts who are growing up and have come to see that there is a wide and very real world out there. That the world and reality is not all about us and our struggles, desires, etc. And that is part of the message of Sh'ma. Certainly, not everything is about sex - even on the street - contrary to what the media would have us believe. It is actually scary to discover that sex is just a small part of reality and life, and even marriage. To really accept that. I can feel the aversion to that acceptance, somewhere within me. I know that fear of the truth, too. But, b"H, because of recovery, I live with that awareness pretty well most days.
And then there are the addicts. Many addicts are clean. Usually, that is only because we need to be - like me and my addict friends in recovery. But that's another matter beyond the scope of this reply. For this fellow is probably not an addict at all. He is probably quite normal - yes, normal people masturbate and use porn and normal people sin. But even for them, the issue is usually the ego, not 'desire'. And the ego is very easily dressed in religion. And obsession is usually an excuse to stay engaged with one's beloved. This is as true with lust/fantasy as it is with resentment/hatred, etc, etc. Letting go is the key, not battling. Battling is pure ego.
Sex and porn are actually not as big a deal as we sometimes imagine it must be, in the average life of the overwhelming majority of people. It is certainly not as pervasive as adolescents, who recently discovered their sexuality, tend to think it is. Usually, they need to get over it. You are sexual being just as everybody else is, congratulations. Now get on with real life, man. Real life is about a whole lot of things that have nothing to do with sex. Just as the Sh'ma is. Very little to do with sex, Sh'ma. Read it and let go of yourself a bit and get busy with real living. Hashem wants us to do that every evening and every morning.
This is frightening for a young masturbater/'shmiras haBris warrior' to accept or even to imagine, I know. Sometimes the fear shows itself as a hatred for people who spell out reality. But you can accept it and live in reality one day at a time. For you are a very good man, Bewildered.