Wednesday, 01 March 2017

It's Not a Religious Problem

I am a 30 year-old Chassidic man who learns in kollel. Ever since I can remember, I have always been obsessed with desire for women of every type, denomination and variation. Over the years, I would masturbate in hiding. Gradually, it got worse and I started getting involved with porn on the internet. When that wasn’t enough, I started cruising beaches and then trying any massage or erotic experience, and worse - but I don’t want to go into more detail.

Over the years, I didn’t see it as a problem or as suffering. I thought that I was just having fun, doing what everybody else deep down would have loved to do, and that it was my wife’s fault because she was ugly. I always attributed the problem to religion - as if it was only a religious problem.

As time went by, I also began visiting kefira websites (blasphemy and atheism) and this gave me some “supposed” relief. But there was always pain after each affair. Once I’d finished with a woman, I would get angry with myself for doing it. I was ashamed - for my kids sake, for cheating on my wife, and for myself.

Over the years, I tried to find a solution but nothing helped, not learning Torah nor Chassidus. There was a period when I tried to find some relief in Breslov and Chabad. Even though they welcomed me and I felt good, I soon realized that this wasn’t the solution. I kept on giving in to the obsession, the secrecy and the hiding. I could be an angel at kollel in the morning and then do terrible things at night. Sometimes I spent entire nights on the internet!

For many years, I would get daily emails from ‘Guard your Eyes.’ I would occasionally open them up or go to the website but I was in such denial that I always told myself: “I’m not like these sick people. If I wanted, I could stop today.” I had a thousand excuses why I kept doing it. I thought that I was living the good life. I simply didn’t understand that all the escapades were just me running away from myself. All of the “using” was just a disconnect from real life. Every time I promised myself that I would never go back to the same situation, yet I’d be back there two days later. I felt miserable.

Until, with Hashem’s help, I joined GYE’s telephone support group and heard a share from an experienced member who was clean for several years. Amongst other things, he said that one of the things that finally broke him was that only moments after being inspired, dancing, and being close to Hashem at the Kever of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai in Meron, he would fall and be pulled back into his obsession. The ‘double-life’ simply killed him. I felt that he was telling my story and I started crying like a baby on the phone!

I listened to the shares for a few weeks but I still thought that I could do it on my own. Until one day, after a few falls on the computer, I finally broke and ‘hit bottom’ to some extent. I picked up the phone to GYE’s hotline (anonymously of-course, because for all you know it could be Mishmeres Hatznius who wanted to catch me) and the miracle started.

I was in such denial that that when the guy who answered the phone asked me how long I’d been preoccupied with this obsession, I answered that it was only a recent phenomenon. But that’s when it finally hit me that as far back as I can remember, all I have in my head is lust. It just shows up in different ways all the time.

I then realized that these desires were like drugs for me, and I discovered that there was a solution.

Somebody suggested that I go to the annual ‘GuardYourEyes’ Kenes (event) in Yerushalayim to see if it was for me. I decided to go for it. I got there and couldn’t believe my eyes. There were more than ten friends there from my Chassidus; some of whom I had known since my childhood. There were also well-known personalities, talmidei chachamim, roshei kollel, lawyers and psychologists. I was relieved though, that everyone there was an addict and that we were all in the same boat. But I was still shocked when familiar friends and well respected chassidim came up to me at the convention and shared the things they had done and the powerlessness they felt. The issues that I had kept bottled up inside me and struggled with for so long on my own... at last, here were others who understood me. The honesty and openness was contagious. I felt I had finally come home.

After the convention, I began to go to SA groups (a program for sex addicts based on the Twelve Steps approach). I discovered that this problem also affected non-Jews, and that it didn’t have anything to do with religion.

Since then, I am fortunate to have received the free gift of friends who are always ready to answer the phone, accept me and understand me. I also have a wife who loves and supports me, even though she knew nothing about me beforehand.

For the first time, I have a real connection to life without having to escape to drugs (despite small slips from time to time).

I am now fully prepared to submit to a Higher Power and to fellow members on this journey. I have participated in several Shabbatonim for members of the program. For the first time, I no longer feel alone or the need to escape. I feel at home.

Today is a year and 193 days that I have been clean, with the help of Hashem. I got back my life. I even got back my chassidic community that I had always complained about and wanted to run away from. I got back the Judaism that I had always tried to deny. And most importantly, I now have a real connection with G-d, a loving Father who accepts me unconditionally. He loves me like an only child. I have also learnt to speak to Him, to ask Him for things, and I want to do His will.

I hope that other young men and women who suffer from this, will be able to find the solution and get the help they need. And I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart because ‘Guard your Eyes’ saved my life.