Our Yiddishkeit Changes in Recovery
Rabbi Dr. Abraham Twerski sent us the following question:
So the main prescription for an addict is not 'an overhaul of his Yiddishkeit’; he does not need chizzuk to try harder or smarter; and he certainly does not need to focus on his character defects or on things like 'restlessness, irritability, and discontent' in order to finally surrender his drug and get sober! All he needs at first is to break down and admit he has failed, to admit to safe people explicitly and openly that he cannot continue using his drug, period. Normal people may sin - but for him it is a different issue. Sakanta chamira m'isura. He cannot 'drink like a gentleman', and cannot just re-join the Teshuva merry-go-round any more. He is an addict - not a normal person. He admits that it's not merely his drinking or sexual acting out that he cannot manage, but that it is his Life itself that is unmanageable by him. There is a reason that steps 4-10 (that refer to character improvement) are AFTER sobriety starts, not before. It is only through living sober at all costs, that an addict starts to see his character through honest eyes, at all. Therapists know that if the man in a rehab center is allowed to keep drinking 'a bit' every time the going gets rough in the therapy, he will never make progress, at all. The drug use must go first, in order for the dependency to ever end.
Sobriety is the first big surrender, for him (Step 1). Clearly coming to see that he or she is, in a way, crazy; admitting what he really demands from life, his G-d (and from his false gods, too), is step 2. Recovery of the Good Life begins with Step 3, and step 3 is only actually implemented by working and using Steps 4-12. The drug remains unnecessary, one day at a time. How could Torah and mitzvos have given that to the addict? Frum people who fight this reality are just telling the addict to stop and be like them - but he isn't. And he won't ever be just like them. Addicts - even after they get sober - need to live on a different basis than non-addicts do. We can rejoin the human race and be as frum as anyone, but we need certain basic perspectives to remain there, it seems. When others try to get us to deny it and sweep this under the rug, they are signing our death-warrant and condemning our families. Patience and love is needed here.
The frum sexaholic discovers that all along since he began his addictive behaviors, he was never just fooling other people - he was just as fake inside, to himself. Self-delusion and active addiction go hand-in-hand, like a horse and a buggy. To expect that his Yiddishkeit practices must have somehow escaped the delusional pattern of his life and need no rethinking - is naïveté. And for a non-addict to condemn the recovering frum addict who is questioning his sincerity and struggling to get more honest with himself regarding his Torah observance - is just cruelty born of the observer's own insecurity.
Each case is different, and frum addicts need understanding Torah guides to help them, not to condemn them. We are the liars getting well - normal Yidden are different. Our avodas Hashem will have to change, if our change is real. Boruch Hashem, my own experience has been that the changes led to a deeper, better, and more satisfying avodas Hashem. For it is now built on a bedrock of self-honesty, not on my old basis of just following the crowd.
Dov's "Captain Kirk Moment" post:
There was once an episode of Star Trek in which there was a time travel shtick, and the Kirk of the present, went 10 years into the past. Now, there was another Kirk then, too, right?
That was a big problem. The scientists told him that normally two of the same people cannot coexist. It just does not happen. But as this was an exception (it was a TV show and they were getting paid $15,000 per episode) as long as the old Kirk did not actually meet the present Kirk, all would be fine. However, if they actually met each other, the entire Time-Space Continuum would be 'ripped asunder' (c"v). Under no circumstances could they be allowed to meet!
Similarly, we addicts walk about for years and are tortured inside, for we know the dichotomy we are hiding. We are living two separate lives that cannot co-exist under any circumstances!
Those who got caught by their wives or children acting-out in addiction know exactly what I am talking about. They understand why getting caught was so effective for a time - the desire "to use" left them as a result of getting both personae dragged into the room at the same time. The horror of getting caught with my pants down by a co-worker, son, daughter, or wife is truly intolerable to anyone who has experienced it. Why?
Because the hypocrisy is mercilessly forced to come to a bitter end. The Time-Space Continuum has been ripped asunder. We look frantically for a place to bury ourselves. It's hell.
It is the two Kirks being forced to see each other by a third party - and only a party who knows both personae can possibly do that. Till that happens, we are all players. Lying a bit about the 'real us' to ourselves and to others.
Dov's "Nuclear Reset Button" post:
The "Nuclear Reset Button" idea is about how we often allow ourselves to fall in order to RESET our "state" to that of teshuvah and kedusha once again (similar to what they say in the 12-Step groups: "The only way we know to be free of it, is to do it"). Addicts unfortunately often thrive on that very honest state we do feel after acting-out, but no matter how holy we feel in that state, it is all part of the same sick cycle. The idea suggests further, that since we sincerely crave feelings of pure kedusha and hate the feeling of struggling with lust, we end up falling again in order to get out of the struggle and back into that holy, connected and honest state we often feel after a fall. It's one of the only ways we know of that practically guarantees plugging into kedusha and teshuvah again. It's a dirty cycle in which lusting for avodas Hashem and kedusha lead us to end up acting-out continuously for years and decades.