Working from the bottom up

Part 1/2 (to see other parts of the article, click on the pages at the bottom)

by Dov (See all authors)

There was a discussion on the forum recently about using Mussar and "Sifrei Yirah" to break free of this addiction. Although this may work for people who are not deeply addicted, it rarely works in more serious cases. "Dov", who has 18 years of sobriety through SA, wrote a very profound post on this topic which I wanted to share with you all.

Dov wrote:

The main contribution of the 12 steps; their goal, is at the end: "Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps..." Most of what I hear and experience in gaining this "spiritual awakening" i.e. a deeper connection to Hashem, is focused on getting myself out of the way and letting Hashem take over.

Yosef Hatzadik represents the middah of "Yesod" and the Torah tells us that when he tried to do things himself;"vehizkartani lifnei Paroah - mention me to Paroah" he ended up remaining in prison for another two years, but when he said "bil'adai, Elokim Ya'aneh es Shalom Paroah - it's not me, it is Hashem who will answer the well being of Paroah", then he rose up to become king in Mitzrayim!

It seems that the "12 Steps & 12 Traditions" indeed state this as the goal of the steps. In the seforim, on the other hand, teshuva, tikkun, emunah/bitachon, turning my will and life over to Hashem in accepting His Torah (and His better judgement!), and the myriad of levels in keeping the Torah and mitzvos, are all inexorably intertwined. This is good, as it brings yidden to living with Hashem from within their very weaknesses, and it shows us how the Torah and mitzvos are relevant to everyday life. Actually, they ARE for everyday life... a beautiful and powerful way to live!

BUT... it has a weakness for some addicts like me. You see, the addiction short-circuited my avodah (divine service). Like many GYE folks here, I was already frum before being out of control with lust, and my addiction continued to grow tremendously within the framework of my frumkeit, even as I thought I was growing frumer! That is a tremendously painful and confusing way to live. Definitely some variety of gehinom...

In recovery, I accepted that I could not just try harder (or smarter) to use my obviously defective version of yiddishkeit to overcome the addiction. (Every person operates per their own personal understanding of emunah, Torah/mitzvos, there is no gold standard).

For me, Yiddishkeit - especially with all the deep and beautiful aspects of teshuvah, avodah, and tikkunim - was like driving in an eighteen-wheeler at 100 mph! I was just not able to do it. It was too frustrating and complicated. My brain was too messed up, my ego and self-obsession was blocking out too much of reality, and I had the monkey of my sins on my back all the way. Life just drove me crazy. All the "one day at a time" talk in the universe was not enough to make me comfortable enough not to need to reach out for my drug. And it bothered me: "Why isn't Hashem taking care of me?! Why do I seem to absolutely need to reach for this shmutz? (we all feel we really NEED it when acting out, right?)"

I had to learn to get off the tractor-trailer and onto a bicycle. Same path, just in smaller steps and slower, and working them from the bottom up so that they are real and not separated from the heart any more.

But I needed direction for this. It meant the basics (yes, of yiddishkeit), but packaged in a way that let them become real enough to naturally affect my thinking, for they obviously had not till now.

GYE writes:

Wow!

Next we will bring the rest of the excerpt from Dov's post, where he talks about how the 12-Steps helped him to learn "the basics (yes, of yiddishkeit), but packaged in a way that let them become real enough to naturally affect my thinking".

And I just want to bring the following two sentences from Dov again for extra emphasis because they are so profound and they really sum up what the 12-Steps are all about:

"I had to learn to get off the tractor-trailer and onto a bicycle. Same path, just in smaller steps and slower, and working them from the bottom up so that they are real and not separated from the heart any more".

Don't we all wish we had learned Yiddisheit like that when we were young? If we had, I believe we'd all be big Tzadikim today. But sometimes it takes an insidious addiction for us to finally start to learn the basics!