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Torah or the 12-Steps?

GYE Corp. Tuesday, 28 February 2012
Part 1/2 (to see other parts of the article, click on the pages at the bottom)

GYE Writes:

We all know that Chazal tell us how Torah is an anecdote against the Yetzer Hara and that learning Torah protects us even during the times that we are not learning. The question is, why didn't our Torah learning protect so many of us in our struggle with lust addiction? And what secrets do the "12-Steps" have that our (obviously defective) approach to Torah learning wasn't able to give us? Are the 12-Steps just a "technique", or do they hold some intrinsic "holiness" as well?

In a lively discussion on this thread on the forum, members debated and shared their enlightening and inspiring views about how the 12-Steps and Torah learning are not at all mutually exclusive in our struggle with Yetzer Hara.

Although there were so many amazing posts on this topic, I would like to share today one of Dov's posts. I chose Dov because his addiction was one of the most advanced of anyone on our forum, and yet, he's sober already for 11 years!

Besides for being quite a Talmid Chacham, Dov's honesty, humility, wisdom and hashkafa are inspiring us every day on the forum.

We love you brother Dov. Don't you EVER leave us!

Dov writes:

Hi Brothers!

Although I use the 12-Steps in my recovery, I do not accept that I have fallen off the wagon and am lost from the derech Hashem for me.

The advanced level that my addiction reached - and the ensuing 12 steps, seem to be - in retrospect - the only way I could have "found Hashem and myself". Yes, perhaps if I had learned more Torah and had had more mesiras nefesh I may have merited to accomplish the same thing without the steps, but this is not the way Hashem did it for me! I did try, and lost. I choose to believe that this was my destiny. It may not be yours, but so what?

What my experience has taught me is that I - and many others I know - learned Torah rather well while they were addicts. I gave a shiur in Mishna for Kiruv while in the midst of the very worst part of my addiction, sometimes even acting out the very same night. Some people (like me) would either learn Torah and soon afterward shock themselves at how fast and far they could fall; or first fall deeply and very soon afterward feel a religious high. Sadly, the high gave me a kind of "condolence" for my acting out, and in the long run it allowed me to "save face" enough to continue my stupid struggle. Here was a man proudly standing against a tsunami wave; what an idiot.

But I did not know any better and I really thought that I was supposed to struggle and be patient. Patient - as my relationship with my wife deteriorated under the weight of my mounting secrets; Patient - as I became well-learned in my twisted brand of "avodas Hashem" that was all about a new kind of "veHachayos Ratzo Vashov": looking at porn, lying, chasing lust, more lying, hiding and acting out, and then I would come (really) screaming and crying to Hashem, "Take me back!" Ach and Vei. Not exactly the type of "Ratzo Vashov" that the Malachim are doing around the Merkavah, is it?

So no, learning Torah as an "active addict" did not seem to "protect" me from my addiction. If anything, it made it worse at that time.

However, I do not accept that most people are addicts. I do not accept that Dovid Hamelech struggled with addiction, though he surely knew of it like he knew of every other type of suffering, L"A. I do not think that normal people are really made for the 12 steps, as presented in the AA literature. The actual implementation of the Steps (i.e. "working them" - not just reading them) usually seems to be unnecessarily heavy for normal people.

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