Thursday, 16 February 2012

The Powerlessness of an Addict

Part 1/6 (to see other parts of the article, click on the pages at the bottom)

 

by Dov, Duvid Chaim, GYE (See all authors)

Someone posted on the forum an excerpt from an article at livescience.com which he says reminds him a lot of the idea that an addict is "powerless" over lust. Here's the excerpt:

If you think you're generally good at resisting temptation, you're probably wrong, scientists now say.

"People are not good at anticipating the power of their urges, and those who are the most confident about their self-control are the most likely to give into temptation," said Loran Nordgren, senior lecturer of management and organizations at the Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University, in Illinois.

The result: Many of us unwittingly expose ourselves to tempting situations, leading to a greater likelihood of indulging in addictive behaviors.

The bottom line, Nordgren says: Avoid situations where such weaknesses thrive, and remember you're not that invincible.

 

Dov responds - and describes his own perception of powerlessness:

Yes, but I'd like to add that in the case of addicts - at least in my case, I can sit for a hour learning Sha'arei RMCH"L, Gemorah or Bnei Yisoschar (after asking my Best Eternal Friend to help me learn right, so I can get better and do His Will), daven a happy and tearful Mincha, and still end up acting out worse than I ever did before, ruining my wonderful life - all within an hour or less - if I choose to take a longer look (than Hashem arranged for me to see) at an inappropriate image/person I pass by. This doesn't have to happen - but it can. As the Ramban says in parshas Kedoshim; the change that overtakes a person from lust is shockingly powerful. (And he may not even be talking about addicts... Ouch).

I also totally reject the idea that the very change in my priorities and perspective that happens as a result of looking, proves that I wasn't really sincere in the first place. I believe that many addicts do sincerely desire to stop, but simply do not know how.

I also reject the idea that my insincerity is proven by the very fact that I took that extra look. Some may disagree, but addicts are really very perplexing, so I can't blame any of them for it.

As an addict, I have no defense whatsoever for even the very first "drink". I wish no reward at all for any victory over lust, as I give the entire credit to Hashem. Woe to me when I start to take credit for "beating the Yetzer Hara". I speak only for myself here, friends. But I have discovered that I actually - really - need Hashem's help for it.

And I do not need "encouragement" to stay sober any more than I need encouragement to breathe or to eat. (Nu, I'll still take some chizuk once in a while!).

I ask for His help each day for staying sober that day only, and he gives it to me - so far. I can't work for sobriety tomorrow any more than I can eat or go to the restroom for tomorrow.

So yes, we Yidden are generally advised to avoid nisyonos - as the article above explains, but for me with lust, it's even more than that. I avoid it because I'm an addict, and I know that the change that lust brings over me takes away all my free-will. It's very much like getting stone drunk; you really never know what you'll end up doing. The change I undergo from lust makes me miserable, useless and pathetic, and I do not want to go back there, cuz I'll die there. In spite of all this, I still would end up going back there if I relied on my own will-power, even with my very best thinking!

So thank G-d for sobriety today! He must love us so much!

Now I think I'll sit down and learn...

 

Why does Dov keep emphasizing our "powerlessness"?

I think that there are two main reasons why the 12-Steps are built on the foundation of the first step: "Powerlessness".

1) Once we know that we are powerless over lust, we finally acknowledge that we can no longer afford to struggle with lust at all - if we are to remain sober and sane. Once we take that "first drink", we are already on a slippery downward slide. We have no choice but to completely let go of it.

2) I just saw a story in the Gemara (Taanis 24a) that made me laugh. The Gemara says that there was a drought and Rav Nachman davened for rain and the rain still didn't come. When Rav Nachman saw that his prayers were not answered he began to bemoan and cry "take Nachman and throw him down off a high wall onto the ground!" (in other words, if Hashem doesn't answer me, I'm obviously not worthy - so remove me from my high status as a Tzadik/Amorah). And the Gemara says that Rav Nachman had "chalishus hada'as" - which means he felt a great disappointment, and right then the rain came! That really struck home a point, because it shows just how much Hashem loves us, yet he waits for our hearts to be truly humbled and broken before Him. Once we know we can't do it; once we acknowledge that we have no credit on our own and we truly feel that we don't deserve anything, THAT IS WHEN Hashem sends the salvation!