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Dov's Story - and the Deep Lessons He Learned

This is a long piece by Dov, but well worth reading. If it's easier, print it out and read at your leisure. (See the bottom for a short summary of the main Yesodos that I understood from Dov's words)

GYE Corp. Wednesday, 01 February 2012

The issue of "addiction" vs. "Yetzer Hara, Aveiros and Teshuvah" has been discussed many times before on GYE, with me as a participant, too.

I love these issues, as they touch on the core of recovery for me and what it has done for my life, my wife's life, and the lives of my children.

I am absolutely convinced that if I had not surrendered to the facts about myself, I'd have continued down the exact same useless and deadly path I was on, for yet another 20 years or so, until I'd have died from it. And on the way, the lives of my wife and children would have been irrevocably damaged. That would mean another few generations of severe pain and chilul Hashem, too.

I became frum over the years of my adolescence, as do many. My parents are not what you'd call "really frum", but are traditional. Nonetheless, I chose to learn in a post high school yeshiva in Eretz Yisroel and continued after that in an unpaid kollel arrangement for about 3 more years after getting married, then went to school and am now working in a profession, learning (Torah) quite a bit on the side b"H, and helping raise a family.

That is what you'd have seen, had you seen me as a neighbor, in shul, yeshiva, etc. My wife knew me pretty much as that guy, too.

The truth was, that I was busy trying to get in as much lusting and acting out as I could - to remain comfortable, while doing all those "real life" things. Not that I was really seeing it that way. My attitude was that I was preoccupied with trying to stop!! Ha.

My inner preoccupation was not about tosfos, RMB"N, loving my wife and kids better,kiruv and doing for klal yisroel, or making a nachas ruach for my very Best Friend (Hashem, of course), at all. My struggle was in finally beating this damn yetzer hora that was torturing me. I was reading mussar seforim to try and overcome it, and I would cry in the shower after acting out almost every time. And my acting out drove me extra crazy, knowing in my heart that I'd never honestly be able to expect the non-frum yidden I was trying to be mekarev to give up their cheeseburgers, girls, and other "freedoms", as long as I was still using my favorite diversion, pleasure pill and stimulant, lust. I just couldn't seem to stop, and I knew that it made me a hypocrite. I was inescapably a hypocrite.

I read the Yesod Yosef that the kitzur suggests to use to stop from doing lust activities, searched many library stacks for articles in frum psychology journals on the yetzer hora and such, memorized much of messilas yeshorim, fasted occasionally, and cried in davening, especially in Eretz Yisroel while davening at kivrei tzadikim. I was into d'veikus (not just the album...) and expected to be close to Hashem, yet I felt confused and frustrated that I was continually "falling," as folks like to say it here.

I spoke to Rav Mendel Weinbach, The Steipeler, and other great people, my Rebbis in yeshiva, a few Rabonim in my town, went to a few shrinks under the pretense of "having marriage problems" (I had to hide behind the marriage issue to get my wife to be OK with me going to a shrink). Needless to say, by the time I was done trying to secretly do teshuva, I had a whole double life. I was a "normalish" frum guy on the outside, but a tortured yid on the inside.

To make matters worse, I viewed the lust problems I had - and the "teshuva" from them - as "the struggle of my life"; "My secret mission." At times, it placed me in a category above others, for I was "working on big things". I - as I see many do here on GYE - romanticized the struggle with the Yetzer Hara, as though it were some epic battle of good vs. evil that I alone could wage for the honor of Hashem. Some people go as far as to view whether they succeed or fail as something that will bring Moshiach - or delay his arrival, c"v.

If my attitude upsets you at this point, please at least give me a chance to explain. I understand that it does not sound like what most of us are told in yeshiva and s'forim:

I never got better until I saw that the extent and quality of my acting out was indeed, ill. The frum approach that I was familiar with was not working, and I could see that. The reason it wasn't working was not because I wasn't trying hard enough, but rather because there was something wrong with my approach. After all, Hashem's Torah is perfect!

And something was wrong with me. Not being absolutely sure what it was, I went to a shrink and laid out my entire acting out history, mind games, inner tortured life, etc. to the very last detail, and she suggested I go to a 12-step fellowship called SA.

I came to SA the next week and discovered that I was in a room filled with other people who were stuck in a pattern of using sex and lust in a way that was destroying their lives - and in spite of it destroying their lives, but many of them finally got out of it and stayed out of it. In other words, they were sexually perverted, but found a way to live differently.

A) I discovered that as long as I looked at myself as separate from the acting out, meaning: "I am a regular, healthy guy on the whole, but sadly have this terrible habit" - I'd never get better. [Dov is saying that it is not just a habit, it is a reflection of who we have become; i.e. we are 'ill']

B) By the same token, I discovered that as long as I remained absolutely disgusted with myself - which I was (and I was sure there was a whole litany of secrets I'd quietly take to the grave with me) - I'd also never get better.[We are not 'bad' people who need to become 'good', but simply 'ill' people who need to get 'better']

C) I discovered that whether or not the process qualified as "Teshuva", is something that I need to leave up to Hashem, for a change. Thinking into these types of things has always been just another way for me to feel a sense of control over my "madreiga". Now, Hashem gifts me with what you may call "madreigos", if He wishes to. I am getting better on His schedule, not mine. My business is doing His will for me today to the best of my ability, period.

I have no interest in being a big Tzaddik one day. Neither do I think about never acting out again! Thinking about "getting free of it, or never doing it again" was always poison for me. I live one day at a time.

"Asher anochi metzav'cho hayom" - only hayom. I believe that "now" is all that He wants from me. Really.

I don't ask Hashem - tempting as it is - for sobriety this week, or year, etc. I ask Him for today only.

You see, the lusting and acting out struggle was so intertwined in my development as a frum yid, that I believe it twisted my idea of Hashem, punishments, right and wrong, Teshuva, you name it. For if those things were not all screwed up, I ask you: How could I have ended up so messed up?

"Shlach al Hashem y'hovecha" and I send this entire pekk'el of "frumkeit/teshuvah/yetzer hora winning and losing" stuff onto Hashem. For I see that that was the pekk'el that was weighing me down all along.

The Dubno Magid has a beautiful moshol about packages. He teaches that avodas Hashem - if done right - is a relatively light package. After all: I'm doing what makes my Tatty so happy! What could be more natural and simple? Not easy but simple.

This was the opposite of my way back then. I dare not go back.

So, in acting out, either I am sick or a rasha - you choose. I pick sick. I did and I got better.

Was it my Yetzer Hara all along? Maybe. My beef is just that all the thinking and cheshb'ning of the "aveiro approach" got me sicker and kept me sicker.

Am I running away from the truth?

My answer is: No.

But, what difference does it make anyway?

Am I serving Hashem now? Yes.

Was I then? Not really.

I believe that I was really serving lust. I depended on it (kind of like bitachon), it took up my entire mind so often (like ahavas Hashem is supposed to), I did it in private (like my relationship with Hashem is supposed to be), and I protected my access to it by keeping it safe and secret - because even though I hated myself so much for it, I desperately feared losing it. Just try to force any addict to quit and see how long it takes him to feel absolutely desperate - after the bravado of "sure I can go without it" is over and done with...

I see little difference between being preoccupied with fighting lust, and lusting. For me, they inexorably lead to the same thing.

My job in recovery (after working my steps) is to focus on Hashem and being useful to Him. Anything else is a distraction, including lust/acting out. That's all. And I can't get distracted by lust, of all things, because if I do I won't be able to control it. So I can't struggle with lust any more than I can use it.

Recovery, in my experience so far, is about a different focus that the one I used to espouse. And that is why the "Yetzer Hara model" is useless to me and many other frum addicts who are sober today.

If saying such things is an aveiro, (to paraphrase Reb Chayim of Brisk) "I'd like to see the gehinom for it."

A disclaimer: There may be plenty of folks who are really not preoccupied with lust (or the struggle with it - same thing), who's lives are not being controlled by it, and who just act out occasionally and see no progression of their problem nor any powerlessness.

For these people, the normal Teshuva derech may be wonderful! The only question I'd ask them is why it has gone on for so long - if it has. I also wonder what poison the secrecy is putting into their relationships - especially the most important and far-reaching of all human relationships: their marriage. Funny, how that one relationship is sexual, and sexuality vs. lust is just where their problem lies... For after all, lust is not sexuality at all.

We need to be honest with ourselves, above all, for "v'yad kol odom bo," as it we say in Unesaneh Tokef - there is no way to run from the truth about ourselves, in the end.

Hatzlocha with everything. If I offended at all, you have my sincere apologies. I love you without any question. Hashem will take care of you as He takes care of all of us.

- Dov

Some lessons we can take out of this phenomenal piece from Dov:

We need to face the facts about ourselves before we can begin to heal. For a real addict, lust is no longer an "epic struggle" with the Yetzer Hara. It is a disease. We need to accept that we are not 'bad' people who need to become 'good', but we are'ill' and need to get 'better'. And our illness does not allow us to deal with lust at all, because we can't control it. Therefore, lust must not be treated as a "romantic struggle", but simply as a "distraction"; as it distracts us from being useful to Hashem. Our focus needs to be only on doing Hashem's will for us today, and not on "beating lust" (even for Hashem's Honor). Because if an addict focuses on beating it, he'll often just be pulled back into it. We need to leave the entire "Yetzer Hara struggle" and "Teshuvah issue" to Hashem. It's His business, not ours. We need to focus only on doing His will for us today, to the best of our ability.

I forwarded Dov's post to Rabbi Twerski and wrote as follows:

Dear Rabbi Twerski,

I would greatly appreciate if the Rav could read through this piece by "Dov"... Today Dov is sober in SA for over 10 years and he posts very wise advice on our forum almost every day. However, his approach may sound a little "strange" to some, as it "seems" to go against some of the standard things we are taught in mainstream Yiddishkeit (perhaps). That is why I'd be most curious to hear the Rav's take on the issue.


Rabbi Twerski Replied:

I think that Dov's statement that one needs to focus primarily on being with Hashem and doing what Hashem wants, and to stop preoccupation with the yetzer hara is valid. The rebbe of Kotzk said, "An aveira is like mud. Whichever way you handle the mud, you get dirty."



In response, "Yechida" posted on the forum a similar quote from the Tanya (volume 1, Perek 28):

"In response to a bad thought, do not reply at all, no argument or answer whatsoever, for he who wrestles with a Menuval is bound to become soiled himself (misnavel gam ken)."


In response to Dov's post, someone wrote:

I think it's an interesting approach. If one can do it, I think it is certainly ideal, but I don't think I have what it takes to do this. It's just not realistic for me to transform my thought process to that approach. Maybe if I work on it little by little I will eventually get there, but that is probably a lifetime's work, and frankly, I don't have that much time. I need freedom from lust NOW.


Personally, I think this approach is a lot easier and quicker than "struggling with the Yetzer Hara" all the time. We simply need to learn to ignore the struggle and say: "this struggle might be good for others, but I can't deal with it at all, because I am lust-addict. Instead, I leave the whole "struggle issue" to Hashem. It's His business. For me, lust is a distraction, that's all. It distracts me from my "outward" focus and from doing Hashem's will for me today, to the best of my ability."

The 12-Step approach that Dov is sharing with us, makes freedom from the addiction a lot easier than those who are always having epic-"struggles" with their lust (and ultimately falling).

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