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The Inner Wiring of an Addict

Why do I have to accept that I am an addict, won't I be able to learn to control it at some point?

GYE Corp. Thursday, 08 December 2011

Someone asks Dov:

I am trying to understand the psychological factors in sexual acting out. I am, as far as I am aware, a popular, respected and emotionally balanced person. I grew up in an emotionally stable home and environment, and I cannot recall anything specific which might have affected me negatively. There does not seem to be any "deep" cause for an addiction, nor do I do such terrible things. I mean, don't all sexually healthy men "enjoy" looking at women, and have "pleasure" from masturbation? So why am I different? Why do I have to accept that I am sick and that I am an addict? Won't I be able to learn to control this at some point?

Dov Responds:

I believe that we cannot think ourselves into rightliving - we can only live ourselves into right thinking. Therefore, I put very little value on your figuring out why you - an intelligent, generally mature and good-hearted frum man - do some stupid, immature, and amazingly self-absorbed selfish things... and repeatedly... and apparently cannot stop. Wrapping my head around my problem is the first poison and the most ridiculous 'lock on the door to integrity' that I have ever knew. So I got rid of it, by surrendering to the reality that I - a masters-educated and 6th-year+ beis medrash guy (and father of three) - had indispensable lessons to learn from a man who probably couldn't read the NY Times and has what I consider a primitive understanding of G-d... but is SOBER and in recovery.

The years I spent reading article after article in Jewish Psych Journals (etc) about "The Yetzer Hora and Freud's Id" and rummaging through teshuvos about sexual hashkofah and learning the Yesod Yosef (as the kitzur suggests) - all to try to package my problem in a sensible (and perhaps controllable) package... availed me nothing but more years of acting out my lust, and more damage and lying. It sounds to me that this is basically what is behind your question.

Has it helped you stop, at all? If not, I'd consider setting your brain aside and just following directions of those who came before you to sobriety. If it has, then why are you asking?

I, too, came from a home with two happily married parents who loved me and did all they could for me, didn't molest me, gave me good schooling, and am a generally popular and functional guy. So?

I 'found myself' doing things in a progressively damaging, cyclical and reliable pattern. I had a habit that forced me to hide and lie and eventually there were many things that I was sure I'd take to the grave. Things I'd done that my kids (and wife) would never believe I had done. No, I had not gone to prostitutes... but imagine the shock at having my kids actually watch a video of me, with my wide-eyed, hand-shaking sneakiness as I open the 'People Magazine' or Newspaper at work, peruse it for the target story or images, eventually to sneak into the bathroom nonchalantly - trying to hide my heated anticipation - and masturbate to the fantasies in my mind... the totally self-absorbed and childlike excitement... imagine them watching me do all that and really know it all... the look on my face all the way through, and the lying as I cover up my tracks. Talk about g'neivas da'as.

Is this 'normal'? Perhaps. But do I hate it? Yes. That is all that matters. Why am I doing things that I hate? I guess it is because they make me feel so good. But, then why do I keep doing them even though they make me feel so miserable that I cry about it sometimes and eventually come to a place like GYE - or in my case, to a room full of recovering perverts in SA? My acting out would always bother me terribly - but quitting was always temporary.

The point I am trying to make is that just because there is no apparent severe abnormality in my background nor in my psyche, I can still be a real screwball. OK, there are many addicts with rough backgrounds... true. But I have discovered that it is not the outward things we experienced that made us as sick as we are - it is the inner response we perceived that did the job our parents could not do. They did not make us sick - we did. Our nature did. There are probably as many addicts who have brothers who are addicts, as there are who have brothers who are not addicts... same parents. Rabbonim who have six kids who are awesome ("next gedolim!") - and then there is that one son who smokes, gets arrested a few times, and is mechalel Shabbos r"l... What do we say? "They grew up in a horrible home"? I don't buy that. I do buy that this child had inner wiring that interpreted stuff in a way that made life hurt too much. Frumkeit, as beautiful as it is - just could not patch up our pain, or confusion, or fear. It was no match for fantasy-enriched orgasm in my case - and apparently in yours, as well.

So what do we do now? Point to the all the alcoholics who were beaten as children? My point is that while we had a normal looking outer life, inside, we were being beaten. Inside, we interpreted things as being darker than they really were - until the bright light of warm and luscious fantasy blew it all away. And we were hooked. It gave us something that Hashem did not. Later, we discovered that our wives could not give it to us either. Right? And we kept doing it.

And we will keep on doing it till the price gets too great to afford.

I bless you that such a time will come speedily and in our days. Why not set the cheshboinos aside and consider the first step right now? Im lo acshav - eimosai?