Tool 16: LIVE 12-Step Groups
Dov, who is the head moderator of our forum today and runs a virtual 12-Step group and phone conference on GYE, is sober in SA now for over 14 years. When Dov first found our network, he posted his story and shared his experience. We can all gain a lot from reading what he shared:
For years and years, I had thought I was just plain “bad”, at best pitied by, at worst despised by, Hashem. I was, in fact, doing severe aveiros (sins) and failing miserably at being an eved Hashem (servant of G-d). I knew that life was not supposed to be this way, but I always seemed to fall into trouble and act on my compulsions. As a result, my emunah (faith) that avodas Hashem (divine service) was really possible for me, was very low. That continued for over ten years.
Then I got married and it got much, much worse for yet another ten years. I went to a few different therapists and spoke with a few Rabbonim, usually under the pretense of “having marriage problems”. The real problem was, of course, that I had a double life and it was driving me crazy. Some of those people were a little helpful to me, some quite the opposite. I even called Rabbi Twerski (in 1991 or ‘92) who told me exactly what you report here on your website: that I probably need a 12-step group. I couldn’t do that though (I thought), because my wife would find out (I couldn’t hide going to weekly meetings!!). Also, I felt that the whole complicated recovery thing would “cramp my style”. I resigned myself to thinking that the best I could hope for, would be to die at a ripe old age with a big, giant, ugly secret in my safekeeping.
About six years later, I finally hit bottom. It became clear to me that I was getting only worse, never better, and that if I would take even one step further down – which I felt I HAD to do – I’d have to leave everything behind; my family, my self-respect, my community, the Torah and mitzvos, and even give up on any struggle for a connection with Hashem… In short, everything I defined myself and life by, was “up for grabs”.
I saw no way out and was terrified. I had been terrified many times before (usually by getting caught or fearing getting caught), but this was different. I knew it had nothing to do with getting “caught” by anyone. Even alone with myself “uncaught”, this life became unbearable.
I went to a therapist the next week and told her my story, and she suggested I go to SA meetings. Having no choice I took her advice, and after doing the first of the 12-Steps (admitting powerlessness) and sharing my story with others, it became clear to me that I was actually very ill. I have been going to SA meetings ever since and have been helped directly and indirectly by Hashem – Who I now know as my Best Friend – to stay sober so far. My davening (prayer) and learning went through a long cold period (for about 3 years) soon after getting sober, but with lots of help and a few years of patience, it finally turned a corner, and now, like my marriage and my life in general, the davening and learning are better than I had ever dreamed they’d be. I often have some awareness that I am really, comfortably, living with Hashem.
Of course, I still have plenty of problems and have ups and downs, but they aren’t as big a deal as they used to be, and there is always this “background music” of hope, telling me it’s going to be alright.
Here is my point: The traditional AA approach saved my life. By this I mean, the AA message that I have a mental illness of addiction (to lust), a spiritual disconnect from Hashem and from people, and a physical allergy (to lust) that will eventually kill me. Immoral lusting in any way, makes my life completely unmanageable and makes me useless to others. Many other people appear to be able to use lust a little without suffering as I do. For them it is just a “moral failing”, while for me it leads to a downward spiral of insanity and failure, just like alcohol for an alcoholic.