Sunday, 22 January 2012

12-Step Workshop With Harvey

Part 2/5 (to see other parts of the article, click on the pages at the bottom)

I had the unique opportunity to join a 12-Step workshop with Harvey, one of the founders of SA (Sexaholics Anonymous)... He's sober for 26 years from a raging sex addiction that was completely out of control. Harvey is Jewish and semi-religious (he puts on teffilin every day) but he said that he definitely believes in miracles, because splitting the Yam Suf was "easy pickin" compared to G-d getting him sober :-)

I took some notes from the talks, and I'd like to share some of the wisdom that I heard from him. Here are some of the things he said:

by GYE, Harvey (one of the founders of SA) (See all authors)

Sharing with Others

The disease lives in secrecy. The more secrets, the more insanity; the less secrets, the less insanity.

In religious circles there's a lot of shame, because we think we should be better, so "if I still do these things, I must be bad". We need to understand that although we do shi*y things, we're not sh*t. There's a big difference. We do sick things because we're sick, not bad. We're sick getting well, not bad getting good.

We're so used to shame, that if we try to let go of shame, we feel uncomfortable. Like someone who is used to folding his arms one way, if he tries folding them the other way, he'll want to put his arms back the way he's used to. But if he folds his arms the new way for long enough, he'll get comfortable with that, and the old way will become uncomfortable. It's easier for us to call someone AFTER we fell because we're so used to shame. We're so used to saying to ourselves, "oh, I'm such a bad guy, such a loser, etc..." Instead, we need to get rid of the shame and call BEFORE we act out and admit "I want to look", "I want to act out", etc... That's a lot harder, because we're not used to letting go of shame. We are used to "poor me, poor me... pour me a drink", as they say in AA.

The book "Recovery Continues - The Joy Response" explains that we have a disease that is connected with temptation. We want to drink it in with the eyes. When we call someone and admit that we want to act out, we get a joyous feeling. We are able to transcend the temptation.

All humans have sexual desires. But an addict's natural instincts have gone WILD. When we share our obsession with someone else, it stops it from going wild. A burden shared is half as heavy. My thoughts are so heavy, but once I share them, they are much lighter and not as hard to carry, and then they just leave...

Truth & Falsehood

My disease lies to me with the truth. It tells me lots of 'true' reasons why I need to do various things that I know could lead to relapse. But I'd rather die than live the way I was living before, so I have to recognize those "truths" as lies.

The disease lives in our heads. When I'm "thinking", I'm behind enemy lines. We need to turn off our minds and listen with our hearts. The truth is not what I tell you, it's what you tell you. When we listen with our hearts, we will hear what G-d wants us to hear.

We Have the Tools

In Yiddish there are two words for eating, "Essen" (eat) and "Fressen" (Pig out). In the religious community, we are taught from youth to transcend the "Fressen" by making a Bracha before eating. The Bracha helps us take the animal instinct to a new level. And the Bracha for us is automatic, we don't even need to think, it just comes out of our mouths before we take that first bite.

In the same way, and addict needs to learn to automatically say a prayer each time he gets a lust hit or sees something triggering. It needs to be automatic: "G-d, may I find in you what I seek in that woman", or "G-d, let her be freed from her lust", or "Thank you G-d, for reminding me I'm still an addict".

The religious community has these tools already. We grew up with them. But for some reason there's a "block" that tells us "these tools belong in Religion, not in Addiction". We need to learn to use those same tools in our addiction.

Keeping It Simple

This is not Talmud. There's no need to figure out our addiction with our heads. We need to listen with our hearts and keep it simple. The disease lives in our head, but the program doesn't work unless it enters our hearts.

The legendary football coach, Vince Lombardi, once gathered his team at half-time when they were doing very poorly and said: "Guys, we need to get back to the basics". And he bent down and picked up a football and said, "This is a football".

Don't think too much. Keep it simple. Just for today, don't do things that lead you to act out - NO MATTER WHAT.

Euphoric Recall

When we have a lustful memory of something we've seen or done, it's called euphoric recall. That's bad for our disease. But we tend to remember only the good parts. We need to try and remember the bad parts as well, and associate the memory with the bad parts. And the bad parts are the real truth, because if it was so good, why did we need it again so soon afterward? When we eat a good steak, we don't feel desire for another good steak for at least a few days! So why do we need it again so fast? Because the bad parts, like the time we wasted, the smells, the money, the damage we caused, that is the REAL truth. (Remember the smells of the feet, the smells of the semen, the smell of the floor cleaning agents they use in those porno stores)...