Search results ({{ }}):

How can I make this Ellul different from every other Ellul?

GYE Corp. Tuesday, 21 February 2012

I was addicted to sexual thoughts, fantasy, pornography and masturbation. Every year, Ellul after Ellul, I would launch a full scale attack on my addiction, But sooner or later year after year, I fell and failed.

There were times I stopped in Ellul and did not even make it through Ellul. I would stop again for Rosh Hashana and sometimes not make it through aseres yemei teshuva to Yom Kippur. I would stop on Yom Kippur and not make it through Sukkos. Sometimes I did not even start getting stopped until Rosh Hashana came around. Sometimes I held out from sometime in Ellul for a month or even a little more. But one way or another, come Rosh Chodesh Cheshvan, I was back again to my addiction as if Ellul had never come.

I had tried mussar seforim; Shaarei Teshuva, Chovos Halevovos, Maalos Hamiddos, Orchos Tzaddikim, Sefer Charedim, Mesilas Yeshorim, Yesod Veshoresh Ho'avoda, Nefesh HaChaim, Cheshbon Hanefesh and Sifrei Maharal. I learned these seforim with absolute desperation and determination and tried to implement them and follow their instructions, but I always failed to get anything that would last beyond Rosh Chodesh Cheshvan. I listened to Rav Avigdor Miller's tapes and learned his seforim. I had a Rebbe who gave excellent mussar and I almost never missed any of his Shiurim. I cried out to Hashem every Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur and I was absolutely determined to make that year the last of my addiction, but all to no apparent avail.

Then on January 20th of this year I posted my Teshuva here on GYE. Bechasdei Hashem, I have been sexually sober, one day at a time, since then. What did I find in GYE that I did not find in all the mussar seforim?

Even more puzzling, 10 days after I joined GYE, I joined a face to face meeting of Sexaholics Anonymous (SA). It was there that I discovered not just how to avoid pornography and masturbation, but how to recover from fantasy and lust to the extent that on a daily basis they no longer interest me at all.

And through SA's 12-Step program I was introduced to Overeaters Anonymous (OA) and was able to lose 40 lb in 4 months. I was also introduced to Debtors Anonymous (DA) and today, for the first time in over 20 years of marriage, my wife and I have stopped borrowing money. We have a monthly spending plan that is in the Black for already three months, and we have stopped incurring overdraft fees after having racked up over a thousand dollars in overdraft fees in the year before we began our recovery.

What did I find through SA, OA and DA that I did not find in all the mussar seforim?

Looking back, I now realize that what I had found through GYE, SA, OA and DA was everything I had learned in the mussar seforim! But somehow, I had been unable to get it to work against my addiction. So why did it take GYE, SA, OA and DA for me to discover it?

The question of "Torah vs Steps" has been much discussed on this forum. At certain points I have added my own two cents to those discussions. I now believe though, from my own experience and from my experience working with other Frum Jews, that there is no "Torah vs Steps" at all.

Rav Avigdor Miller Zt"l was once asked whether it was OK to read Dale Carnegie's "How to win friends and influence people". He asked in return whether it was OK to read a Driver's manual.

Alcoholics Anonymous is not about morality: it is about recovery. It is about what works to keep the alcoholic sober.

If so, how does religion get involved? The answer appears frequently in AA literature. AA says that selfishness and self-centered behavior is what condemns the addict to relapse. Most people are neither 100% selfish nor 100% idealistic. Most people are somewhere in between. An addict, however, who indulges in outright selfishness, even if only some of the time, will, sooner or later, as much as most of the time he knows that he absolutely cannot afford to relapse, in a moment of emotional pain and crisis, he will be unable to distinguish true from false and he will go right back to his drug and relapse totally. That is the problem of addiction.

What is AA's solution? The addict must avoid selfishness at all costs and instead of looking to satisfy his own self-will he must constantly seek G-d's will. That way, crisis or no crisis, he will never get confused and "drink" again. One thing the addict knows -once he has accepted AA's prescription - is that G-d does not want addicts to go back to their drug. If an addict wants to recover he must constantly seek G-d's will. Of-course "constantly seeking G-d's will" is very religious, that's what the Mesilas Yeshorim in Perek 18 calls Chasidus. And that's where AA is religious.

How about selfishness for the non-alcoholic? Just like drinking for the non-alcoholic is no concern of AA, so too with selfishness. Most non-alcoholics will take a few drinks and then stop and nothing terrible will happen. So too with selfishness. Most people are disciplined and trained to some extent. Even in their more selfish moments, non-alcoholics will generally behave within reason, and even if in selfish moments they behave badly, they will not spin out of control in a self-destructive cycle. As long as these non-addicts can use their more idealistic moments to improve, they can become very religious and very good people.

Not so the addict. The experience of millions of addicts who have adopted the AA program is that living with selfishness - even part of the time, is a recipe for certain relapse and assured disaster. The experience of millions of addicts is that recovery can only be achieved by shifting to G-d's will instead of self-will.

That has nothing to do with religion. It is simply a fact of addiction and recovery. And that's a fact that I never knew when I learned the musar seforim. Yes, I knew all about Chasidus of the Mesilas Yeshorim. But I always thought that before I worry about Chasidus in perek 18 of Mesilas Yeshorim I first have to get Zehirus in perek 2 of Mesilas Yeshorim and avoid the outright aveiros I am doing in my addiction. Meanwhile, I was still operating on selfishness and I was doomed to relapse repeatedly. And all the while I was thinking, "First things first; first keep Shulchan Oruch, then get to midas Chasidus". I never realized that was all very true and fine for the non-addict, but for the addict it was a sentence to a lifetime of addiction.

Until - bechasdei Hashem - I found the AA program which taught me that if I wanted to avoid relapse, for practical purposes, I have to replace self-will with G-d's will. In teaching me that key fact, the AA/SA program is exactly like a Driver's manual or a Carnegie book. It is information about addiction, not opinion on religion.

So this Ellul I know that in order to keep from addiction I have to especially focus on what the musar seforim say about Chasidus. If I am not being mamlich Hashem (making Hashem king) to the utmost of my ability today, I am in danger of relapse. That's a preparation to Rosh Hashana and a kabolas ol malchus shomayim that I never knew would not only save me from my addiction - but give me the potential to become the oved Hashem (divine servant) that I always wanted to be.

"ClearEyes" answered Boruch as follows:

Boruch - great post. You have tremendous insight with this addiction. Please share with us some more!!!

I had the same Elul experiences as long as I can remember. Sometimes I would start earlier, sometimes later. Fall before Rosh Hashanna, after Rosh Hashanna, before Yom Kipper. I don't know if I ever made it to Sukkos. But this Elul is already different. Why? Because I have GYE. My Elul is already different. But the real answer to your question is another question. "How can I make this Tishrei different than every other Tishrei?" (Isn't that the point of Elul?) We need to stick with the cure. I guarantee anyone who stays with GYE through Tishrei past Yom Kippur will experience the Elul they always wanted - and more importantly - have the year and become the person they always wanted!!

Hatzlacha to all. Let's all do this together and elevate this experience to an even higher level. - Kisei Hakovod, here we come!!!!!!

Boruch replies:

Cleareyes, Thank you for your kind words of chizzuk. The truth is that there is more. The single yesod of the whole AA/SA program is replacing self-will with G-d's will. But the question becomes, "how do we make that happen?"

One possibility would be, for example, working the sefer Mesilas Yeshorim from the hakdama (introduction), through perakim 1-18. But there is a serious problem with that:

The Mesilas Yeshorim writes that while everyone can get to Nekiyus (cleanliness from sin), Perishus - (separation from this world) is not for everyone, and never mind Chasidus (a high level of divine awareness and piety). And he was writing for the Yidden of his generation who were far more pious than the Yidden in ours.

And even more problematically, he was writing for non-addicts. Perishus (separation) on anything - can be an almost insurmountable challenge for any addict. An addict in active addiction is often in "instant-gratification mode" on all enjoyments, even those to which he is not fully addicted. So if Perishus is difficult for the non-addict, it is not too hard to imagine how difficult it would be for an addict. For all but a select few, it is probably close to impossible for the addict to use Mesilas Yeshorim to get to Chasidus. But herein lies the problem. And addict needs Chassidus to stay sober (Chasidus is the idea of replacing self-will with G-d's will).

So what we addicts would really need, is a crash course on the Chasidus of the Mesilas Yeshorim for addicts. This may sound slightly similar to the goal of the Chasidus of the Baal Shem Tov, which was to have a basic form of Chasidus that works even for the most simple Jew. The problem is, we need a Chasidus that is both a practical program of action for the body and also a program of changing our way of thinking for the soul, in which the main idea would be to internalize the simple and essential "All for the Boss". And this program has to be something that even an addict could implement.

When I first came onto GYE back in January of this year, I was working with Rabbenu Yona Shaarei Teshuva and various maamorei Chazal. At that point I was flying totally blind on both what to stop (I thought I needed to stop the pornography and masturbation but had no concept that the real addiction was "the lust") and how to stop (I thought it was all about determination and willpower). I did not even have the first understanding of addiction itself. All I knew was that I had used everything at my disposal that I knew of, and that I was desperately praying that I should succeed in remaining clean for life.

Today I have come to believe that Hashem saw how clueless I was and He saw that somewhere within me there was a "pintele Yid" trying to return to his Father in Heaven. I have come to believe that in his great mercy and kindness, He chose me, not because I deserve it but because He had mercy on me, to allow me to put the 36 years of my addiction to good use by sharing my story with others.

I have come to believe that is also why He directed me in a miraculous way (with multiple "coincidences") to a very specific SA group that was at a very specific period of their growth, which enabled me to share a system of adopting a very simple, practical and basic level of Chasidus - so simple and basic that even a non-Jewish drunk could get started within just 4 weeks. No previous religious background, knowledge or idealism is required, no prior Emunah (faith) is required, in fact nothing at all is required except for a determination to go to any length to get sober.

And even greater than the kindness that Hashem has done for my eating and financial problems, and even more critical to my recovery, is this ability Hashem gave me to share with fellow addicts a foolproof system for addiction-free living that takes nothing more than a readiness to do whatever it takes. That's what I got from the 12 Steps of SA.

Single page