Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Can 12 Steps be used by non-Addicts?



The 12 Step program has so many worthy ideas about living life properly and connecting to Hashem. I wonder if there may be possible harm in non-addicts trying to subscribe to the "disease" and "powerless" model. Could these concepts possibly be counter-productive for non-addicts?


by Dov, Yaakov from GYE (See all authors)

Dov Answers:

I'm told by a CSAT friend of mine that the current opinion among many CSATs is that it's better to avoid using the 'addict' label and model with clients, at least initially, and that giving the label is potentially damaging for many who are not addicts (and certainly many who come to GYE are not addicts).

A funny thing promulgated by some long-time GYE members was the encouragement to liberally apply the advice (it is not AA dogma, but rather AA suggestion) of "Once an addict, always an addict" to any and all GYE forum members. Yep. But this advice is only appropriate or honest when applied to addicts, of course. The funny thing though, is that over the years I have almost exclusively seen that very advice being applied by the very same people who are eager to have all people on GYE use the addiction/recovery model! The two mantras taken together are a sad narrative: "If you deny you are an addict, that proves it must be true - and once you are one, there is no escape forever. So, stick around with us!" Weird. But this is no surprise, for whenever we lie to ourselves or to others, another lie is required in order to create a context in which the first one can continue to survive. AA and SA have never been subject to such things because we use attraction, not promotion. And that old example was promotion at its most desperate. I'm glad it's rare on the forum, nowadays.

Secondly, it has always been my opinion that the reasons that Torah, Chaza"l, and the Jews never came up with AA and 12 Steps Culture are, first: Because religion is not about needing G-d but rather about serving Him correctly and fully, as Sandy B has so eloquently explained. Second: Addiction is not about the Yetzer Hora, which is why learning Torah does not work to stop Heroin, alcohol, or lust addiction. And third: Since all the last 11 steps are only about abandonment of self into G-d's care, 12 Steps recovery is really only for people who will do that. Most people are normal and are b"H given the tools to succeed at life without consciously abandoning themselves to G-d. We can easily see that Hashem created the world in such a way that most people really do not consciously need Him - whether they are religious or not. Addicts are different because - if they have a 1st step, they essentially have no choice but suicide in some form (which many choose, R"l, and we see entire lifetimes go down the tubes in all addictions because of choosing oblivion). Addicts are only different because they have a terminal illness, our ego can finally break, and we can face the fact that we have no other sensible alternative than to depend on our G-d. If it were a true choice, we'd never do it. Only a 'kafa aleihem ha'har k'gigis' experience can enable us to 'choose' dependence upon our G-d. Oh, well, it is what it is.

And, to me, this is the very beauty and greatness of the frum yidden I know who are not addicts and yet still place themselves into Hashem's care! They choose to do that, and that's an amazing thing. I am frum too - but I obviously never started to seriously place myself into His care until my addiction forced me to do do so. Surely only a fraction of normal yidden do that, but I believe there are still bH many of them and I love and admire them so much.

I feel that applying 12 steps and some of the 12 step concepts to non-addicts twists both realities, mixing falsehoods into yiddishkeit by distorting yetzer hora/avodas Hashem into feel-good messages, and also makes a mockery of recovery by pretending that it is Torah when it is in reality only derech eretz and about self-honesty.

In the end, I just think that everyone here will choose to follow their consciences and do things the way they feel best equipped to succeed at them. Life is pretty short and we need to run with what we've got, it seems. Thanks for letting me share how I see addiction/recovery, and some of the 'why'.

Yaakov weighs in:

I would like to address the distinction that Dov brought above from Sandy B between religion being "serving G-d" and recovery being "needing G-d". In my humble opinion, the goal of religion and Torah really is "needing G-d". (I can give many examples from the Torah and Chazal to show this, but here is not the place). However, the Torah and Mitzvos is indeed about "serving G-d" so that we COME TO "needing G-d". They are really deeply connected. Let me try to explain what I mean:

The entire Torah and Mitzvos was given to us to help us step out of ourselves, as Hillel told the convert who wanted to learn the whole Torah while standing on one foot: "What you don't want done to yourself, don't do unto others - and the rest is a "pirush", go and learn it". That rule the most basic and fundamental level of stepping out of the self. It is the first step that an animal-based creature would need to take to become a spiritual-human. It is the root of the Torah, which is all about making us altruistic, to open us up to G-d's light. But the problem is, we can't really become altruistic on our own. It is against human nature and it requires a miracle. Normally we say "ain somchin al hanes" but I believe that when it comes to ruchniyus, we must rely on a nes. That means, at the end of the day, we will NEED G-D.

But the problem is, we don't FEEL that we really need G-d because we haven't reached true "Hakaras Hara". We don't see how selfish we really are, how big our egos really are, and how this is separating us from the light of G-d and true "life". It is only through much "serving G-d" and trying to reach true lishma over many years of doing Torah and Mitzvos, that we slowly begin to see more and more how much "ra" we really have, and how much we really "Need Hashem". We come to see we need Hashem to be able to succeed in doing even ONE MITZVA with true and pure lishma/altruism.

So to sum up. Religion is indeed "serving G-d", but it's purpose is ultimately that we should "need G-d". G-d doesn't need mighty warriors. He wants the connection. And the more a person needs someone, the more they feel a connection to them. Therefore, I believe that every Jew really needs the 12-Steps. The problem is though, that not every Jew has a step 1. And without a step 1, the rest of the steps are pretty useless. But if we would try to really serve Hashem with ALL our heart and kochos for many years, we would start to get a true "hakaras hara" and see that we simply cannot become truly altruistic on our own without a miracle. And at that point, we will have a step 1 and can benefit greatly from the rest of the 12-Steps.

So addicts are essentially very lucky, because if a person is zoche to a true hakaras hara, even in one area (lust or alcohol for example), they are already able to jump to the level of needing Hashem that would normally take tzadikim many years of work to get to. So an addict is lucky to see his step 1 clearly... But little does he realize that he is not much different than all of us. His addiction is simply a manifestation of self-will run riot. It is really his self-will that is the culprit here, not the addiction. And we ALL have that same self-will problem that he has, we just weren't zoche to see what a mess it makes of our lives like he was. That is why we need years of avodah and trying to serve Hashem before we can truly give up achieving true lishma on our own and realize we need Hashem. Indeed, very few are zoche to this...

Bottom line: We ALL need 12-Steps. But it doesn't work without a step 1, and normally, only an addict has a step 1. For a normal yid, It takes years of Avodah to achieve a step 1 in realizing that we are powerless over our "self-will" and "ego" without a miracle from G-d.

Sorry for the long drasha... I hope some of it makes sense.

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