Three elements that work
One of our Chizuk list members who we've been helping over the past few months, sent us yesterday a beautiful update to his story, which appears here on our site.
I am now clean for 90 days. As expected, the single most important factor in staying clean was and is a connection to Ruchniyus. However this doesn't happen by itself. 3 main factors helped me establish that connection. The beginning is "sur merah" – stopping the addiction and the downward slide. The goal is "aseh tov" – improving and growing in Torah and Yiddishkeit. And the common denominator is the process of self discovery through therapy. More specifically, here's how those 3 elements work for me.
1) After reading about other people's struggles and recoveries on the Guard Your Eyes website, I revealed my addiction to my Rav, a therapist and my wife. The last part was the hardest and caused the most excruciating emotional pain I have ever experienced in my life. B"H we have a good marriage, and not knowing how she'd react and whether I would cause irreparable damage to the relationship was a huge hurdle that I had to overcome. No one could make that decision except me. Some may say that causing her pain is unnecessary and keeping this from her is not dishonest because it's for her own good and you're "hiding" a positive thing…your recovery. This did not work for me and ultimately, telling her and going through a painful period has strengthened our marriage. This is also one of the biggest ongoing reasons to stay clean…I don't want to go through that again!
2) I began seeing a therapist on a regular basis. The root cause of the addiction has to do with avoidance of emotional pain usually caused by a difficult childhood with unmet emotional needs and unreasonable expectations. Identifying this, recognizing that there were/are emotional needs that are legitimate and that adopting certain unreasonable expectations without questioning them will cause pain helps make you self aware. And if you're self aware, you know when the Yetzer Horah is talking and can decide not to listen! Also, it helped me identify and begin to overcome my resistance to learning Torah. When you're told from a young age to "learn, learn, learn" and your emotional needs are not addressed, you hate learning and associate it with all that pain. However real Ruchniyus is individual, not the result of doing what you're told but rather the result of a real connection with Hashem. This helped develop the third component of my recovery…
3) I began to learn and grow in Ruchniyus. The primary method that works for me is Mussar but not the way it's usually thought of in terms of doing more and being more medakdek in Mitzvos. Rather, it's an emotional journey. I focus on absorbing the Hashkafah – what our purpose is in the world and how to actualize it internally. Whether anything changes on the outside or not is irrelevant! I'd be happy to discuss in more detail if anyone is interested (write to firstname.lastname@example.org to be put in touch).
Finally, the practical day to day steps that help me avoid a fall are thinking of who I am, what I'm about to do and the consequences (thanks to the healing hotline!). I have a written list of the consequences of acting out as well as the positive consequences of keeping clean that I review periodically or when feeling weak. Now that I've told some key people about my addiction, one of the consequences is the need to reveal any failures to them…and that's a strong deterrent. I've identified "good" activities, "bad" activities and "middle" activities and set up fences to avoid the risk areas. I remind myself to just get through today. And I remind myself not to get too confident. I'm vulnerable and may always be – and I can't let down my guard.
Looking forward to staying clean…not for the next 90 days, but "just for today" (as they say in the 12 step groups).
Elya K, who moderates the Jewish Healing Group comments below:
This is a beautiful story and makes our work worth every second.
I will say, if a person has a good relationship with their wife now, I concur that getting it over with, eliminates the secrets and lets you live a life of freedom. Marriage is a true partnership, with ups and downs. No one expects perfection. However guys, before you just blurt out anything to your wife, PLEASE speak to a professional beforehand to help guide you through it. It can be very traumatic for your wife and damage your relationship. Some people do it with a counselor in the room.