One Year in Elul
I grew up as a secular Jewish kid, who, like all of my friends, discovered around the age of 12 that there was a world on the internet that we weren't going to meet in real life for a long time. And, it seemed much easier than actually having relationships. Needless to say, this was a powerful tug. After 10 years of being motzei zera lvatala and watching things I am not proud of, I became a baal teshuva.
I went to yeshiva in Israel, where I finally learned how to learn, to daven, and to be a real frum Jew. However, in my room at night was a very different version of me than during the day. I felt ridiculous doing that and then heading down for Maariv.
I saw a few pamphlets about not being motzei zera lvatala from chassidim but they all seemed so intense, and since no one talked about it, how could it be as important as those pamphlets said?
Being that I had physical relationships prior to being frum, I figured it would be somewhat easier to solve this problem if I got married. I felt for a number of other reasons it was right as well, and apparently Hashem did too, since my zivug was the second person I dated. Things were great for a while. However, I still never really set any boundaries for myself. At one point, I logged onto GYE and read up a bit, and decided to fine myself $50 for each time I strayed. But that alone did almost nothing. I tried adding a filter on my browser, but could always get around it.
About a year and a half ago, I seriously installed filters and forgot the passwords (OpenDNS at home and another type at work). More than that though, I became a father!
One year after my son's bris, on Rosh Chodesh Elul, I strayed. After that, I decided that was it. I signed up for the GYE WhatsApp and emails and read them religiously. I started talking about this inyan with my wife. I didn't tell her specifically anything that I was watching or doing, but nonetheless she was very surprised and a bit hurt. But, as I started to share milestones in this journey with her, she began to understand. First 30 days. 90 days. 6 months. And this week is one full year!
She and I both understand now that it isn't just a "frummy" thing to do for me to throw out an un-tznius ad or to not want to listen to certain music or watch certain shows. It's protecting my kedusha and keeping my focus where it should be: on my wife, my kids, and Hashem. Since I started being clean, I've reached new learning milestones, feel like a much better father, and don't feel like a hypocrite in my life.
The biggest help was opening up about it and seeing on GYE that it was a problem that even frum guys have and learning on the site that there are tools to help.
I always thought that the Rambam in hilchos tshuva about committing to never sinning again was something I'd never reach, or even think that I could reach. But, if this journey has taught me anything, it is that just committing and taking actual steps towards kedusha can really have a lasting impact.