Tool 16: LIVE 12-Step Groups
In my case, focusing on my struggle as having to do with my normal “Yetzer Hara” (evil inclination) was a sure recipe for failure. It made me simply try harder and use new tricks, which never worked. The message of AA to me (through SA) was not about any of those. It was about accepting the fact that I am fundamentally different from non-addicts, and accepting that I am not a BAD person getting GOOD, but rather a SICK person getting WELL – with help from Hashem.
I had to accept that this disease had me completely beaten, just like cancer or diabetes. You don’t struggle against a disease, you get the treatment. Plenty of people don’t, and they die as a result. The standard “Teshuva” (repentance) thing did me no good at all, simply because it is not structured for crazy people. This was not just a “Ruach Shtus” (spirit of folly), it had become my standard of living.
I needed to first learn to get honest with myself and others. That took me about a year and a half of frequent program calls, regular meetings, work with my sponsor, and the 12-steps. And my recovery was still clearly a neiss (miracle). Just like Hashem cures people from cancer and other illnesses when the patient takes his or her medicine/treatments, I had to do the same, and He did the same for me. And Hashem continues to do it each day, because I believe that I would still use my addiction and continue to ruin my life, should I just get uncomfortable enough with living. Putting the steps into action every day, keeps me comfortable and sane (at least it has so far!).
I think that some frum (religious) people, especially those who feel strongly about either beating the Yetzer Hara (evil inclination) themselves as a supreme kiddush Hashem (divine sanctification), or who feel that the answer must be in the Torah if they only look hard enough, may have a hard time with my approach. But I doubt they would use a “Torah” approach with any other disease. For me, it was too confusing to mix mussar concepts with the 12 steps, particularly early on. It was toxic, actually.
Yes, I know that lust – i.e. using and acting on lust, is not exactly like alcohol, as it involves aveiros chamuros (serious sins), while drinking alcohol is not an aveira per se. Nevertheless, hanging onto the purely religious approach would have left me as I was for twenty years: looking for the answers with broken eyeglasses.
The way I read them, the 12 steps are about getting my eyes (mind and body) fixed and THEN getting frumer (more religious), not about getting frumer in order to stop. In fact, I got very frum, but the frumer I got, the sicker turns my addiction took! I grew quite disgusted with myself along the way, to put it mildly.
Please don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that any other approaches are wrong, I’m just sharing what worked for me. Even though the principles of the 12-Steps are Torah-based, AA, in my experience is a sanity-building tool, not a religious one.
Because I am a Jew though, after I started to gain sanity and some freedom from the compulsive acting out and lust-thinking, I was able to start growing, thank G-d, into the Jewish man that Hashem wants me to be. And the steps are a tool that I use to stay on that path now as well, one day at a time.