The Long Journey Home
I grew up in a Modern Orthodox home. During my childhood, I spent many hours in front of a television and watching movies which exposed me to a constant barrage of sensual images.
In high school, I was able to access movies of a very explicit nature and I became obsessed with them. My mind was filled with thousands of indecent images (to put it mildly), and I was spending most of my time either watching or fantasizing about them.
My body may have been in shiur, in the beis medrash or davening, but my mind was not. From the outside, no one knew that anything was wrong. I was considered a model student. I have since learned that this is very common, perhaps even the norm rather than the exception, for lust addicts.
I reached the age of shidduchim and thought that getting married would solve my problem. I have found this to be a very common misconception. I married a fine Bais Yaakov girl, and for a short while I was leading the normal life of an avreich. Again, this was short lived. Slowly but surely, I was being drawn more and more to images and fantasies.
Not too long after our marriage, we got a computer with Internet. Needless to say, things got much worse. I now had access to endless images and videos. When I had the opportunity - I would often be in front of the screen. There were ups and downs. At times, I was able to focus on my learning and be clean for a couple of months, but invariably I would fall back. I was up and down like a yo-yo, and this went on for years.
I entered the working world, which gave me more opportunities to sit in front of a screen. At first, I was afraid to look for anything indecent for fear of being caught. Over time, I became less and less fearful. On a slow day at work, I could spend hours looking at thousands of images.
I was progressively getting worse. I was taking bigger and bigger risks both at home and at work. I figured I would get caught eventually. There was no way I could hide forever. And indeed, after hiding for over 20 years, and for over a decade of marriage, one night, my wife caught me.
That moment, and the days that followed, were the most painful moments I have ever had to endure. My world came crashing down, as did my wife's. I was in a daze and my wife did not know what to do with herself.
Talking wasn't always easy, but it was necessary for our relationship to recover from a major blow, and for me to recover from my addiction. She didn't understand how I could have fooled her for so long. How could she be sure I wasn't just fooling her again? It was very painful for me to have lost her trust. I knew that I had to be completely honest with my wife. I could not bear to lose her trust again.
One day, quite by accident (read: hashgocho pratis), I found Guard Your Eyes (www.guardyoureyes.com). One of the first things I found there is a handbookof tools and attitudes. I found it to be very enlightening and I shared my newfound knowlege with my wife. We both began to understand what I was dealing with at a much deeper level. It was was a catalyst for new discussion and understanding between us.
One of the most important lessons that I learned was that lust was not the problem, it was the solution. I always thought that I had a teiva problem. I tried to stop many times using sheer will power and making kabbalos - what I'd call the standard teshuva model. The real problem though, was a living problem. Life was just not bearable (for reasons I will not go into here) and my solution was to use lust as my drug to numb the pain. I needed a different model for change. I needed to address the root of the problem.
I had a start, but I was still very confused. Did I need to see a therapist, perhaps join a 12 step program? I joined the anonymous forum where I could open up and ask questions to the GYE community. There were so many people there just like me. There were people from every age and background, all with different stories, and yet, in a way, all with the same story. They were all so supportive and encouraging. I had a new family. One that loved and accepted me unconditionally.
I made some friends on the forum. I called a few on the phone and even met one in person. After much thought, I finally decided to join one of the anonymous 12 step phone conferences. It was uncomfortable for me, and even more uncomfortable for my wife. I was sharing my darkest secrets with, for the most part, complete strangers. But, it was something I felt I had to do.
Openly sharing with others was the single most powerful step I took towards recovery. I began to accept myself, and life became more bearable. There was a Father in Heaven who loved me despite my flaws. I was not defined by my imperfections.
Although it was difficult for my wife, she couldn't help but notice the tangible results. It wasn't simply that I had stopped doing aveiros. I was becoming a different person, a calmer, more patient, and more giving person. GYE had given me the tools, and a wonderful network of people, upon which to build a strong foundation of recovery.
This Shabbos is my 4th anniversary clean. GYE has helped me beyond what I can describe in words.
Chaza"l tell us that Tisha B'av will one day become a yom tov. One day, we will recognize that everything, even a catastrophe the magnitude of the churban habayis was a blessing. The day my wife caught me was my personal Tisha B'av. It was a time of shame, sadness, and intense pain. With a lot of bitter tears, hard work, and help from GYE, it has become a yom tov. It has been a catalyst for growth and a closeness to my wife that I could not have dreamed of. As my wife herself said, "I would never have asked for this, but I feel so much closer as a result." Life has never been sweeter.
GYE has tools for every person, whether you just need some chizuk in shmiras aynayim, or you are a full blown addict. The tools for success are there for your taking. There is no need to suffer any longer.