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

GYE Corp. Tuesday, 21 February 2012
Part 2/3 (to see other parts of the article, click on the pages at the bottom)

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.

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