How I Reached 600 Days Clean
Yesterday, by the grace of Hashem and the help of the SA fellowship and GYE, I celebrated 600 days of sobriety! Thank you, Hashem!
I've been on GYE for almost a year now, mostly in the chat rooms, and seeing that I've chatted with dozens of people here (even acquiring 2 sponsees through GYE recently), I figured I should properly introduce myself and give over my ESH (Experience, Strength, and Hope) letoeles harabim, for whatever it's worth.
I'm a grateful recovering sex/lust addict, with a mainstream yeshiva background, married for almost 17 years with a bunch of kids BH, living on the East Coast, USA.
My lust addiction manifested itself into extreme binges of porn, movies in general, sexual fantasy, voyeurism along with compulsive masturbation.
I was a "late bloomer" and only started masturbating 3 years into my marriage. It was a particularly stressful time in our marriage and after I acted out once I was drawn in and from then on, I was totally consumed by the urge and the enjoyment that it brought.
I was a "periodic" - on and off of sobriety all the time. Would go act out for a week, then try to stop, which would last 3 weeks, then fall and binge for 5 days and stop for a week, and the cycle continued. Other than Elul and Tishrei, I basically could not go a whole month without having a serious acting out binge. Usually, I would start off with innocent pics or innocent movies or after an extended period, it was just a "second look" that progressed and spiraled downward rapidly and then would continue to be obsessed for days till the wee hours of the morning, until it was no longer enjoyable. I would often have a DVD player, a laptop, and a phone running at the same time, and I'd be browsing for the "good parts" (even risking my life to watch while driving long distances). Then, when I finally had enough or came to my senses temporarily, I always went through the following ritual: I would immerse myself in a mikvah, and I would try to stop, usually by telling or begging G-d that this would/should be the last time I had watched this stuff. Sometimes I was sober for a couple of days and many times it lasted a few weeks and then the depressing cycle would start all over again.
I travel a lot for work and in my acting out days I would often disappear for days at a time and park my car in some random parking lot, stock up on DVD's, also watch movies online and, of course, porn for entire days without stop, along with masturbating many times a day. I would watch until my eyes closed, sleeping in my car in less-than-desirable neighborhoods, and then wake up in the morning and start all over again. This happened numerous times. I was completely disconnected from society and even attending a social function, like a wedding or bar mitzvah and coming in contact with the outside world was uncomfortable for me.
I just couldn't stop. The only thing I thought I enjoyed and the only thing I craved was to watch movies and porn and masturbate.
I couldn't work normally for years. I thought my life was somewhat manageable because my abilities enabled me to compensate and "get by" but it really wasn’t manageable. About 5 years ago, I started my current job, which was my 4th job/business opportunity in a period of 5 years. I have a lot of skills, business acumen, and talent but I just couldn't focus and keep a steady work ethic. Prior to my current position, I had landed a great business opportunity and became CEO and partner of a large business with 200 employees. I started strong but eventually caved in to my addiction and my business went to hell within 18 months. I was left with tremendous debt, losses of several hundred thousand dollars, shame, and financial ruin.
As time progressed into my addiction, I was progressively finding ways to make the acting out more enjoyable. Just the hours of time I spent searching for specific fantasies that would get me my fix, was insanity in and of itself for a responsible father and breadwinner. But I was a Sex Drunk and the urge for my fix was soooo powerful!
I wanted to stop, or I wanted to want to stop many times so I would get filters on my internet devices that I used regularly but either I'd find ways around it or I'd have other devices within reach that were unfiltered so whenever I was weak or tempted slightly I would always cave. I always left "lust bottles" (SA equivalent of leaving bottles of alcohol) hidden around the house/office.
I even tried some drastic measures like fasting for 40 days in a row, TWICE within 2 years, hoping that in the merit of this kind of repentance and sacrifice, Heaven would grant me the strength and divine intervention I needed to stop - but nothing helped!
Eventually, I went to a sex addiction therapist, and he wasn't of much help for me either except that he suggested that I start going to SA (Sexaholics Anonymous) meetings. So on Thursday, Aug. 25th, 2016 I went to my first SA meeting and thankfully, one day at a time with the help of Hashem, I have been sober ever since.
Today, I'm a grateful recovering sexaholic. I (and countless others) find SA and the 12 step program to be an incredible way of life, not just a method of breaking the cycle of addiction. I'm now able to be "grateful for life," to enjoy even the little things in life, to accept myself and love myself with all my weaknesses and defects of character and to have a real and constant relationship with my Loving Creator.
Growing up, I never had any normal or healthy relationships with my parents or siblings for various reasons and, naturally, my marriage was in shambles prior to recovery. After a few months of sobriety, I disclosed to my wife, and our relationship has turned around 180 degrees! My relationship with my kids is also improving on a steady basis. My work ethic has come a long way and my finances are in order more or less, BH.
I still have plenty of challenges in my life, BH, that I now see as opportunities for growth but the emotional pain and hopelessness that I constantly felt during my acting out years has completely slipped away.
FELLOWSHIP. I don't know of anyone who is not in a fellowship that knows the true definition of real friendship. I used to love social gatherings and mingling with friends and different people and thrive on that type of environment (probably was another form of escaping real life for me) but today those gatherings are no longer really enjoyable due to the fact that the relationships and friendships from those encounters are all fake or just surface-deep. In contrast, I love my SA friends. We all know each other through and through, and support each other through thick and thin. I can share with them the darkest secrets without being judged and they can sense when I'm not in a good place.
My recovery work helps me to stay spiritually fit to the point where I no longer need to battle with the urges and temptations on a daily basis, unlike in the past. I speak to my sponsor on a regular basis and I have 5 sponsees that I work with, who help keep me spiritually connected. My dedication to Torah and mitzvos has also improved through the 12-step program. On the seldom occasions that lust urges do creep in, with the help of my Loving Higher Power (aka the Ribono Shel Olam), I am able to address them immediately, surrender them to Him and move on very quickly.
These days I go to about 5 live meetings per week and spend 2-3 hours in daily actions of recovery (i.e. phone calls, step work, GYE chat, fellowship, prayer/meditation, DSR etc.).
I started frequenting GYE once I was already sober for about a year and I keep coming back here to practice my 12th step - to carry forward the messages of 12-step living and to give back and help others to recover.
I spend a lot of time with SA guys and through GYE - with people all over the globe. Through the GYE chatrooms, I've had many inspirational and fascinating conversations with Jews and non-Jews from Australia, Portugal, France, Sweden, India, Chile, Israel and all across the USA.
Several weeks ago I met with a GYE member while visiting the west coast which was his first face-to-face meeting with someone in recovery and yesterday I had a long conversation by phone with a GYE member in the UK that is going through a rough patch.
Above all, the most gratifying GYE story for me so far happened just 10 days ago. I was schmoozing with some guys after an SA meeting at my local home group and somehow I mentioned about my having tried to fast for 40 days twice etc. Suddenly, a newcomer to SA who had overheard my conversation, turned around and asked me if I frequent GYE? After I answered in the affirmative, he told me that he is sure that he chatted with me on GYE about 10 weeks ago (I had mentioned about this exact measure of fasting in our conversation then) and that because of that conversation he became inspired to make a serious commitment to recovery and joined SA. Now he is sober for 75 days for the first time in his adult life, he is working the steps with a sponsor and, with the help of Hashem, he is on his way to a happy and free life that he had never dreamed possible!
Finally, if you think my ESH may be able to help you in some way please feel free to reach out (don't be shy) and send me a PM here or chat with me in the GYE chat rooms - I look forward to it!
Thank you for reading my story and may Hashem bless all those on GYE and in the greater recovering community with the strength to live a life of spirituality, healing, and recovery!!!
Very Truly Yours,
P.S. I'm not worthy enough to feel like I have a recipe for success but I can tell you my recovery method that's worked for me, which I've broken down into "12 Steps."
1. Waking up and focusing on getting through today. Putting program first before work, family and anything that was a high priority for me in the past.
2. Prayer, prayer, prayer (verbally and meditation throughout the day).
3. Being brutally honest when it's hard/embarrassing. Looking for ways to humble myself.
4. Make at least 5 meetings per week on average.
5. Phone calls and surrendering when feeling deregulated for any reason. Lust is never a good option.
6. Hourly alarm reminders on my phone to think about connection to God.
7. Working through the steps, doing a thorough DSR and reading and reviewing all SA related books.
8. Fellowship. Hanging out and interacting with the fellows in person and in chat.
9. Staying away from major triggers. Consciously not looking when out in public. No movies by myself other than cartoons or completely kosher.
10. Steer away from getting any highs - in order to avoid the lows that follow (including intense religious practices or intense praying).
11. Helping sponsees and in general looking for acts of service, in program and out.
12. Recognizing the goodness of God, the miracles of the program and the joys of life and sharing them publicly.