Lust Addiction is a Disease
"Gesher Tzar Me'od" asks:
How is acceptance of lust addiction as a disease not a "cop out" for a responsible person not to take responsibility for his actions? I realize that there is a difference between a one time aveira and a constant behavior pattern, but that still doesn't do it for me. Can someone help me here, because this a major hashkafic issue preventing me from proceeding.
The fact that I have an addiction is no more than a fact... like its day outside now... or that Winter follows Autumn... I looked at how I was behaving, where my rational thought was throughout the process, what risks I was taking to feed the addiction, what methods I have tried and failed in beating it, etc... I looked at the totality of the situation and realized that I am exhibiting all the signs of a heroin addict.... It's as plain to me as the nose on my face, and it's something I can't deny if I want to be honest with myself....
But for me, identifying what I have as an addiction was really step one into taking responsibility and getting better... I think it actually takes a lot of very hard work to overcome an addiction, much more work than just trying to stop a nasty habit... So for me, identifying it as an addiction woke me up to the hard work I need to put in to get it right... This included doing stuff I never in my life would have even considered doing before I identified what I have as an addiction... So I don't think its a cop out at all....aderabba. Identifying your addiction is step one to treating it... And that's what the 12-Step prayer means when they ask Hashem to "give me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, and the courage to change the things I can"....
A lot of my struggle in the past was trying to push the wrong buttons, buttons that cannot be pushed at all, buttons that were glued shut with a pound of Crazy Glue.
Trying to 'be good' by sheer willpower for an addict just doesn't work. Once the lust hits and your body is affected by it, it is an almost forgone conclusion that there will be trouble. The buttons that needed to be pushed were available before that slide started, and the struggle is to gain the awareness and take action before you start sliding.
Identifying it as an addiction does not take away your responsibility for any actions. Rather it gives you the knowledge of which buttons to push; buttons that work.
Remember also that understanding and gaining clarity are luxuries we can't always afford. Someone who is drowning does not really care about how the aerodynamics of a helicopter work, he just wants one to get him out of the water.
If a technique works and it can pull you out of the garbage, then grab it now. Understand it later.
"Sick Man Getting Well" writes:
When I accepted Lust as an addiction, it was the first time I was ready to take responsibility for my actions. Until that point I always choose to explain why I was acting out. It was the fault of family, work, yeshiva, parents, friends, the president, etc. At the point that I came into SA and accepted that I have an addiction and that there are very simple steps to take to stop acting out with Hashems help, I was finally becoming a responsible person.
I too agree with you that people take the word "addiction" and apply it to pattern of behavior. However, if someone is actually getting help for those behaviors (gambling, overeating, watching movies, debting, etc) what do I care what they call it? As long as they have gone for help and can find freedom from the bondage of those behaviors!
I can't speak for SA, but for me, recovery was taking responsibility for my life. Today I feel so much better because of it.
I have had some bad habits and difficult situations in my life that I managed to conquer and get through with sheer will power.
Then I met lust. I tried everything, I challenged myself, I berated myself, I made one ultimatum after another; one resolution after the next. Me, the one with the iron will, steely resolve, but nothing worked.
What have I found to work? Something completely counter intuitive. Rather then will power, it's been just the opposite; saying, "Hashem, I can't do this! I'm sorry, but I've messed myself up so badly that I can't get past this by myself. I need You to carry me, to do it for me. I am powerless in the face of this yetzar hara. Please help me."
So call it addiction, call it what you will. All I know is that looking at it that way gives me a fighting chance.
"Gesher Tzar Me'od" (who asked the original question) responds:
Everyone's replies have been very helpful for me. And I hope maybe there are others out there who haven't verbalized it but are grappling with the same issues. If it helps anyone else, I will feel that it was worth all our effort and time.