Monday, 13 February 2012

Like a Babe in its Mother's Arms

Part 2/3 (to see other parts of the article, click on the pages at the bottom)

by Shlachter, Reb Shraga (See all authors)

The 90-Days vs. Rav Shlachter's Approach

A number of members from our forum go to Rav Shalchter for therapy, and his approach seems to sometimes conflict with various GYE approaches that we promote, such as the 90-Day journey. Rav Shlachter feels that trying to "beat" the addiction and "break the 90 day barrier" misses the point. For some people, this may simply be another attempt at control! Instead, he doesn't try to get his clients to go "cold-turkey" all at once, but rather to build trust and reconnect to life. This, he believes, automatically helps them cut down on the addictive behaviors over time, understanding that it won't help them anyway. (The 12-Step approach also follows similar principles by focusing on surrendering our "control" and learning to live with complete trust in Hashem, rather than on "not acting-out").

To clarify our position for everyone, I discussed this issue recently on the phone with Rav Shlachter and we exchanged ideas. Here is what I would like to share/clarify about the seeming conflicts in approach.

If you notice in the GYE handbook, the 90 Day approach (tool #8) is far before "Therapy" (tool #13). The handbook goes in progressive order. For many people, the 90-Day approach works very well. It puts distance between people and their addiction, and forces them to reconnect to life and fill the void of withdrawal with real living. It breaks the addictive pattern, and has been shown to work in many cases in our "virtual community" and on our forum. It is based on a scientific study that showed it takes 90 days to break an addictive pattern. This study was introduced to us by a renowned sex-addiction therapist, Michelle Rappaport, last year on Elya's conference call. See also this article for a similar scientific article that shows that the more distance we put between us and the addictive behavior, the less hold it has over the neuron pathways that the addiction carved into our minds.

However, what Rav Shlachter holds is true too. There is some element of "control" in trying to achieve 90 days. We may be replacing the need for control in our addiction with the control of achieving 90 days. And normally, as we saw in yesterday's article, you can't fight control with control. But, for those who are not as strongly addicted, the issue of 'control' is not as poisonous for them. Many people can do fine with the 90 day approach, even though it doesn't address the core issues very deeply. It helps because it breaks the addictive pattern and forces us into a new way of living - since we have no choice but to fill the void we feel with something else. And this is often enough.

Rav Shlachter's approach, however, goes under "Therapy" - which is tool #13 in the handbook. His approach is indeed easier and healthier for an addict in the long-term,BUT - it requires a whole new way of thinking. That is why it requires therapy (which the 90 day approach doesn't). Everyone can understand the 90 day approach, while Rav Shlachter's approach requires the internalization of some very deep truths about control and trust... To get there often requires real therapy sessions, and this is appropriate for those who have tried tools #1-12 and haven't made the progress that they had hoped.

Those in our community who have gone to Rav Shlachter for help, are those who weren't succeeding with the more standard approaches (tools #1-12). And I believe that their lack of progress was really a blessing in disguise.. Ultimately, those who internalize the secrets that Rav Shlachter explains - and the secrets of the 12-Steps - which can only happen through hard work, time, meetings, sponsors, sessions, money, etc... will indeed come out with more growth over the long term than the guys for whom the 90 Day journey worked right off-the-bat.

However, if you are currently trying the 90-Day-Journey, don't despair! If it works for you, then it means your addiction was less deeply engrained in your subconscious. It means that your soul didn't need to travel as long and as painful a journey as others may have needed. (And there's no reason to play sicker than we really are just so that we get the stronger treatment).

I would just like to point out for those who are indeed on the 90-Day journey: Don't make the 90-Days the goal in itself. Rather, it is a time-frame where we take a break from the addictive pattern in order to LEARN how to reconnect with our real feelings - and with life, and where we are forced to learn to fill the void (that the addiction used to fill) with real living. However, if we simply white-knuckle it for 90 days but don't learn these things, we may find the 90-Days a lot less affective than we had hoped.