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Discovering the Truth About Ourselves

Dov, who is over 10 years sober in SA, has been sharing with us his experience in 12-Step recovery for the past year or so. 

There has been some  discussion on the forum about the proper "approach" to recovery, and some people have tried to introduce alternatives to the 12-Step approach, such as more "rational" approaches based on strengthening our will-power and free-choice, or more "Torah'dik" approaches based on various Yesodos.

Dov saw this and posted the difference between "teaching" an approach - and simply "sharing" one's experience. Dov writes:

GYE Corp. Thursday, 02 February 2012

My experience bears out that sharing our insides, our hearts with each other, is precious. In fact, it is likely the only thing that matters. That can't be done though, when we have something to "prove", no matter how pure our intentions are. The heart just doesn't seem to open.

Discussing 'shittas of recovery' is very important to many people, but I have not met anyone doing well in recovery who has had the time or need to actually make that a major occupation of theirs.

When I say the words, "my experience", I don't mean anything like, "Hey, I'm telling you, it's the truth/the right thing to do/what you need to do - after all, I experienced it myself!" Quite the opposite, I mean to admit that I know nothing but what worked for me. So I can't tell you anything - I can only share with you. If you want what I have, I can share with you how I got it. That's all "sponsoring" is, as far as I am aware. There is no "teaching", per-se. This idea is repeated in AA literature many, many times.

The only reason I see fit to share my experience here on GYE, is that I have seen that it works for others who were interested, too. So if guys post that they have a problem with something I had a problem with, I share what I did to get better.

I love sharing Torah too, because I believe it's the truth for everyone. But recovery is totally different. The 12 steps are just suggested actions to take and motivations that recovering people can use to get better. And that's why I share my recovery with anyone who wants it. People in similar trouble as mine, have been helped by this. I do not tell them what to do.

I have heard so many addicts share that they have come to see that judgementalism of themselves and others has been a great part of their problem. I have met very few guys with many years of sobriety who are sure about a lot of stuff. Especially about something outside of their own experience. That attitude tends to get folks like us in trouble.

I have to post about my past and recent struggles, be they with lust or other stupidity (character defects) on a regular basis. Because I am not a teacher, Rebbe, nor an authority. I share my faults and foolishness along with the free gifts of Hashem and my successes, and it all helps others stay sober.

I'm not a shrink, just another lust drunk who was helped to find a way to start getting better, and discovered (as have many others I know personally) that this recovery opens his life of yiddishkeit to become what he (and his spouse) always dreamed it could be, and better.

A few months ago I spent a wonderful Shabbos with over 150 chassidish and yeshivishe yidden, rabonnim and otherwise. All 12-step lust recovery men with their wives. And often the wives, with their recovery, too. They do this twice per year. Attendance has tripled since few years ago when I first went with my wife and it will continue to grow be"H. The recovery was incredible there. We didn't tell each other what to do there. We didn't lecture about what we think everybody else needs to do. We just shared our pain in addiction, joy in recovery, what we have been shown through each, and listened to each other. We also had a great time.

Even AA and SA groups themselves have no central authority or leaders - we vote and agree on a text that shares our experience, we listen to speakers share theirs.

A Torah lecture is about the Truth, not about personal experience. And we heard Torah lectures before we were in recovery, too. But what we never had was the truth about ourselves. Once we started to get that, we could begin learning how to live with the Torah.

It seems to me that most other folks don't absolutely need that process. I do not pity them at all. To each his own, and how can I ever measure the significance or beauty of anyone else's avodah?

I don't know if there are any non-addicts who understand addicts. "Addicts helping addicts" is how I've heard old-timers in AA describe AA. And that means something very similar to the Torah concept of the Halacha being decided according to the basroi (later generations). Isn't the main idea of it, that application of Halacha must be done through the people of that generation because they experience that generation? In my rather unlearned opinion, this is similar to the success of AA. Addicts seem to understand each other - at least my sponsor understands me. I see it and hear it from the guys at meetings.

If someone is an addict, they must discover the true nature of their own problem themselves. They can't be told. It does nothing for them in the end, for they don't yet understand in their hearts that they have no other choice but to stop - even though they feel equally sure that they can't stop. If they still need to experiment, we have no choice but to wish them the best. All the speeches in the world not to drink, will not get them to really stop anyway, if they are addicts.

Any addict that I know has agreed with this attitude, completely. We have found that at the end of the day, we don't actually help addicts by reminding them about "what's right". In fact, in the case of so many who I know personally, the finger shaking only added more pain that needed to be covered up the only way an addict knows in his heart - which is to act out some more. Eventually they come to see that they must be ready to pay the piper, and their own bris with Hashem quietly and devastatingly calls out to them from their own insides: "Ani Yosef. Ha'od Avi chai?"

How is finger-shaking going to produce that?

It seems that I and every other addict I know needed to be absolutely forced to admit that the tools that they had come to rely on, don't really work after all. And I have only seen it come to us through trial and error.

I thank the Ribono shel Olam that I and many of my fellows in recovery do not need to go through any more experimentation today, in His great Chesed.