Do you want painful comfort - or painful peace?
Struggler: As you probably know, there is a woman from before I became a ba'al Teshuvah who is constantly available to me. I have had periods of being able to stay away and not have urges, but lately, I've gotten into the other kind of phase, the kind where I look at women on the streets, fall into internet shmutz, and then fight by the skin of my teeth not to call this woman. I've succeeded by willpower so far, but I feel so weak. Hashem seems to remove lust from me for weeks at a time while I'm busy with other things, but then suddenly - BAM - it becomes all-consuming and I'm battling it all the time. How do I "induce" Hashem to remove it from me now? I have lots of time on my hands, and lusting seems like so much fun! I think having the time on my hands is a lot of the problem. But now I'm in the problem and I need to get out without wrecking my life.
Dov: Are you an addict, or not? In other words, do you believe that you are a person with a strong desire - or that you are actually a sick person?
Struggler: I think I'm actually an addict, because I've done A LOT of things I never would have hoped or thought I would do. But the word "addict" isn't really in my vocabulary. I smoke cigarettes also, but I don't consider myself addicted, even though I blatantly am.
Dov: Well I am - as you say it so well - blatantly an addict, and use lust as my drug. I have progressed in my use and dependence on lust over the years and 'progressed' from one form of fantasy to another, one form of porn to another, one way of getting sex to another, and crossed line after line - to my utter amazement (shock, really)... So, if you have seen evidence of progression in your dependence on this precious garbage, that's one ingredient.
The next is powerlessness. Have you been able to control it? Meaning, have you evidence that you will be able to keep the progression from growing even further? Or is it simple that you will obviously keep progressing and you cannot do a damn thing about it.... By "control it" or "stop the progression from advancing" I do not mean "can you stop yourself sometimes?"
Struggler: By that standard, I'm certainly an addict because I've done really sketchy/seedy things that just aren't me. I've tried a lot and failed every time in the end, even if I manage for a bit...
Dov: Heck, we all did that a thousand times... only to plotz later on in even worse ways than we were fantasizing...
Struggler: I also feel the urge build up until I just want to "spaz out" and do ridiculously awful things...
Dov: Do you believe that based on your past and whatever else you believe, it is really a possibility that you will stop permanently, or remain at the same level and stay safe, quietly jerking off in your little corner and not bothering anybody? - or is it plain that, left on your own as you are, you will, in fact, do even crazier and stupider things and risk more of the normal good things of life like job, family, sanity, and friendships... just for your fix.
I know that I have felt that I will die without my porn hit, or without meeting this woman, or if I do not get this type of service done in this way, etc... I know it's all BS, but it feels quite real - so it is a problem we cannot just rationalize away. We cannot just say, "well that's silly and hope we won't give in". We will give in eventually, if we are addicts.
Struggler: I can only say that I've risked things and crossed all sorts of boundaries already, so its reasonable to assume that I will continue in the future without something Big happening. So are you suggesting that, as a first step, I begin to think of myself as an addict?
Dov: Well, how about reading the First Step's words and asking yourself at each chunk, "does this apply 100% truly, to me?"... Another thing you can do is read member stories in AA and see if you can relate. I do that still.
Struggler: My experience with the steps so far has been that I look at them and say, "Oh, that's so true" and then promptly forget that they exist for months.
Dov: I hear you about the steps. I need to tell you something very important. The steps are totally useless when studied, talked about and darshened. Totally. Doing "step study", as per my experience with the steps, is a complete and total waste of time and a destruction of the entire program - unless it is part of my direct work in livingaccording to each step, one step at a time. That needs to be done in writing, with a group of real people - in person - and on a daily, or almost daily basis. Actually, the in-person work needed to be weekly for me, but I need to be in touch on the phone with real people daily, at least. If I do not do this, I am dead.
As far as I am concerned, reading about the steps is poison for me. Really. Because doing that makes me feel inside that I have really accomplished something - that I am "working the steps", and that is a lie. And what's really soooo BAD about it is that it becomes a substitute for the real thing. Like carbon monoxide - it seems like oxygen, but it doesn't really help, so the person breathing it takes it into his cells and drops dead. It's the exact same thing with reading and talking about the steps and not actually making it my preoccupation with written work and meeting about how to put it into my behavior and thinking. For that I need to meet and be with REAL PEOPLE who are using the steps. The 'virtual' reaching out that many do on GYE is often just a sweet little shield that our shame casts up in front of us - it blocks all the light - just like feeling like 'Joe Program' by just talking about the steps does....
I am not criticizing you at all. But I know the discomfort of 'virtual only' recovery - I did it by reading books and virtually meeting with the author that way. It did nothing for me, and my life was basically in a shambles. I almost died twice and very nearly lost my marriage and job and other nice things. So what do you really want? Painful comfort - or painful peace?
Struggler: Based on what you've said, I think it would be sensible for me to convince myself first that I am, in fact, an addict. If I don't truly believe that, I'm never going to get started. Because right now, it just sounds like a lot of work that I don't feel like doing and isn't necessary. But I believe that in all honesty, I do need it because I am an addict.
Dov: The definition of an addict is from AA. It is in the simple reading of the first step: "We admitted that we were powerless over alcohol and that our lives had become unmanageable", meaning that (a) we do not have what it takes to control alcohol - we cannot "control and use it" - or "drink like a gentleman" - as others apparently can. And (b) that our lives cannot stay this way, because they will eventually be unlivable (if they are not impossible already). That's the 1st step as I understand it.