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How I understand the issue of addiction

By Rabbi S.


I believe that an addict can heal and become a struggler. I believe that it is easier than it seems. It can’t be done alone, GYE is needed. GYE has all the tools necessary but they need to be modified to be used well.

obormottel Friday, 24 August 2018
How I understand the issue of addiction

I believe that an addict can heal and become a struggler. I believe that it is easier than it seems. It can’t be done alone, GYE is needed. GYE has all the tools necessary but they need to be modified to be used well.

The definition of addiction is clear. But then we need to be able to pinpoint what the first step out of addiction is and then the next step and the next, until one can say now I am just a plain old struggler - but not an addict.

Allow me to share a powerful attitude which I have gleaned from the numerous emails.

There are triggers. They are all over. When we look up, when we look down, when we cross the street, when we go shopping; it doesn’t even have to be a sight, it can be a thought that pops into our head.

As an addict, we must acknowledge the trigger and make sure it doesn’t lead to acting out. The main tool that is mentioned is let go and let G-d. This works but it is still a big challenge.

I would like to suggest a change in attitude. The Yetzer Hara has us convinced that once I am confronted with a trigger, I’m done for. This is not true. As long as I haven’t acted out, I haven’t acted out. The trigger is not my fault (usually), there are just inevitable sights and thoughts and situations. My reaction to them is the issue and it’s not a foregone conclusion just because of the trigger.

This attitude change can work based on another fundamental attitude which is all over the GYE emails.

It is not lust that is the issue of an addict, it is stress management. It is the headiness of the escape from reality with all its pressures, inconveniences, and hard work that lures the addict. Once this is internalized, one can face any pressure and say to himself, 'yes, I feel pressured, I got into a bad mood, so I need to deal with it or wait until I can rest, relax or do something to release the pressure, but lust is not what I want and it will not help.'

Let me share another powerful upside-down way of thinking which I think is the real truth. It is not the trigger that triggers the acting out. It starts before that. One who wants to act out needs a trigger to stimulate him. It is very hard to act out without any trigger. This means that what starts it all is the internal desire - which may be subconscious - to act out. Then comes the scanning for triggers, and then the acting out. But the acting out is really a result of the desire more than the trigger.

This is the source of the difficulty and frustration for an addict. He thinks that he is out of control because each trigger brings him to act out or to a mighty struggle to not act out. What is really happening is two simultaneous thought patterns going in opposite directions and it is painful to be caught in the middle. On the one hand, he knows that this is not allowed and that although he is faced with the trigger, he is still not allowed to act out. On the other hand, he can’t control the urge and as time goes on, it eats away at him and he feels compelled like a drunkard to just do it. Facing the I-know-I-shouldn’t-but-I-still-must is very frustrating. Once we understand the root of the problem, there can be a solution.

This compulsion is due to the fact that deep down this is what he was looking for in the first place, he enjoys the release which acting out offers but needs the trigger to get him going. Now that the trigger has arrived there is no stopping it.

Therefore, to solve the issue one must convince himself that this is not what I want. I do not want to act out. It destroys me and I don’t really get it anyway. I am a religious Jew and my G-d forbids it in His Torah. I have better things to do in life (make sure you do).

If one can get this conviction into his head, then he will not be subconsciously scanning for triggers. When a trigger comes up, it will just be a nuisance. I don’t want this, leave me alone. This is the step a struggler takes, as opposed to the addict who is powerless against the trigger (because it is really his own will that makes him powerless).

If we can quantify these steps and help addicts to acquire them, then maybe we can actually heal addicts and not just help them deal with their issue.