Mazal Tov to one of the greatest warriors on our forum known as Ykv_Shwartz, who reached 90 days
Yakov provides tons of Chizuk and inspiration for so many of us on the forum, and we are truly blessed to have him with us. May these "90 days" be merely a first step for him, in a life-time of Kedusha and divine service. May he truly merit to fulfill the words of the Torah: "And you shall love Hashem your G-d, with all your heart and all your soul and all your means".
Yakov posted on the forum:
This site has been my life savior. My whole being changed far more than I changed last year, when I managed to go for six months sober (before finding our network).
Among other things, I have been putting lots of focus on doing teshuvah, one step at a time. And I have also been going through the chapters on Teshuvah in the sefer Taharas Hakodesh.
I started the new z'man last week in kollel. It truly feels so good to learn Torah as a baal teshuva. My learning hit major heights last week. I still constantly ask Hashem to help me and protect me. I thank him all the time for assisting me in my growth and for removing my urges for lust.
In response to Sunday's Chizuk e-mail (#468 here) where we mentioned the story of Masya Ben Charash and Rav Amram Chassid, Yakov wrote us an e-mail:
Every few shabbosim, I read over the story of Masya. It is so powerful. (See Chizuk e-mail #46 here for the full story). I must always remind myself how important sh'miras eynayim is, and that if Chas V'Shalom a nisayon should occur, I should be ready to do anything to stop myself. The most amazing thing about these stories is how these Tzadikim were ready to do literally anything. Masya burned his eyes out and Rav Amram made an utter fool of himself. (See Chizuk e-mail #275 here for the story of Rav Amram).
When I was reviewing this gemara with my chavrusa recently, I asked him if he would be ready to make a fool of himself or burn his eyes out if a nisayon should occur. He did not know how to respond. I began to cry, and I told him: "if only we were on that madreiga!".
B"H, my shemiras eynayim has been at an all time high. I read the story to keep reminding myself of the great importance of shemiras eynayim and to alleviate any weakness in this area. In the past (as in a year ago) I focused on not looking at things that would trigger me. Now, I try not to look at anything on the street, even if I feel I have no desire to look. This takes great work, but with the help of Hashem, I have been successful so far.
Breaking an addiction requires more than just stopping the bad behaviors. If we are fighting something as strong as this, we will ultimately end up falling back into it unless we effect a true change in ourselves, and not just try to fight the behaviors alone. After all, the behaviors are only a symptom of an underlying and deeper problem.
I would like to bring a summery below of a letter that Yakov (Chasan Denan) once wrote to someone in answer to this very question:
"How do we effect a genuine change in ourselves?"
Yakov shared his response with me and wrote:
My response to him was built out of the first three steps of the 12 steps. Everything I wrote is based on experience, and I thought you might appreciate it:
Changing the underlying person is obviously a difficult task and I am still far from it, but I have come a long way. The concept of self-change is truly a lifetime goal, and for me to say I understand it fully would be foolish. One cannot understand anything in life until he experiences it. And so, being that I have barely tasted true self-change, I can certainly not say I understand it, let alone teach it to someone else. But I will at least attempt to begin to explain some of the guidelines, based on what I discovered in myself.
Yakov then went on to write an elaborate letter about this, but for our purposes today, I would like to try and summarize the ideas of Yakov's letter below:
To effect a true change in ourselves, we need to focus on two things: (a) maintaining the proper perspective, and (b) doing the proper actions.
a) Maintaining the proper perspective is very complex, but just for some examples, it includes:
- Having the correct perspective on what the purpose of life really is.
- Keying in on mistaken perceptions on life that we may have, that may be causing these behaviors.
- Trying to consciously correct those mistaken perceptions.
- Truly realizing that Hashem is in control.
- Having the correct outlook on marital relations, and understanding their true purpose in the world.
- Appreciating one's wife and family more.
And the list goes on and on... Proper perspective indeed requires much introspection.
b) As far as the proper "actions" go: For an addict, the main midah that needs fixing is "self-control". Although we always knew right from wrong, we couldn't control ourselves. Knowing exactly what midah needs fixing, makes it ultimately easier for us to deal with it. (There are other Midos involved as well, but this is the main one).
Knowing that it's not some kind of "sexual disorder", but rather simply a mida that needs fixing, is a liberating feeling. And when a person works on self-control in this area, they will find that they become a new person, and they will start to have self control in other areas as well. For example, not only will they learn how to hold back from the addictive behaviors themselves, but they will also learn how to control themselves and not dwell on bad thoughts that come to them. (As far as "how we can avoid the thoughts coming to us in the first place", this has to do more with perspective - see a. above).
So how does one work on self-control? Well, the biggest tools in this area are two contradictory perspectives, both of which are true.
I must believe that:
1) I was given Bechirah by Hashem and I can control myself.
2) Without Hashem, I can do nothing.
(See here for more on this seeming contradiction)