Tool 7: Making Fences
The addiction is more powerful than us, and if we try to fight it head on we will almost always lose. Once we are standing at the edge of the cliff, we are very vulnerable to falling off of it. Instead, we must stay as far away from the edge of the cliff as possible. Therefore, one of the most powerful tools in this struggle is making good fences.
One great way to make "a fence" is to create a list of things that we will do before allowing ourselves to fall. The list can be made up of various items, such as "call mother", say a Kappitel Tehilim, take a 20 minute walk, etc... Just pulling out the list and looking at it may already be enough to dissuade us from acting out!
In order to ensure that our fences are strong, we can use a very powerful tool called Shvuos or vows. Normally making vows is frowned upon by our sages as with someone playing with fire, but when it comes to girding oneself from this temptation, we find that making vows is praised by the Torah and by Chazal, as the Mishna says in Pirkei Avos: “Nedarim siyag la’prishus – Nedarim are a fence for abstinence ”. And as the Pasuk says, "Nishbati Va'akayeima, lishmor Mishpatei Tzidkecha - I have vowed and will uphold it, to guard your righteous laws". And also it says "Nishba Lehora Velo Yamir - oseh eileh lo yimot le'olam - He who swears to prevent bad and does not nullify... he will never falter". And Chaza"l also say that Bo'az swore to guard himself from transgressing when Ruth came to him in the silo at night, as it says "Chai Hashem, Shichvi ad haboker - In the name of G-d, lay here until morning".
However, as important and helpful as vows can be in fighting addiction, they are also spiritually dangerous. The addiction is very often more powerful than vows. Therefore, it is vital that we learn how to make vows in a way that will work and be spiritually safe. Instead of fighting the addiction head-on through the vows, we can make vows that will help us "walk around" the addiction. Do not make a make vow that you will not act-out or look at inappropriate material. Many addicts have tried this and failed miserably, because when under a lust attack it is very hard for our yiras shamayim to stop us. Rather, we can make a vow (for just a week at first) that before we give in, we will first have to do a list of things. For example:
I swear - for one week - that before I am motzi zera livatala I will do two things: (1) call a friend or family member and shmuz for at least 5 minutes and (2) take a 15 minute walk.
Alternatively, we can make a vow that if we give in we will have to do something after we fall, for example:
- go to the Mikva
- take a half hour walk
- give a donation to Tzedaka.
- do 100 pushups
Here are examples of two vows that we helped someone set up. After making these Shvuos he testified that he felt a new freedom in his life!
I swear for one month that if I am intentionally motzi zera livatala while fully awake, or if I intentionally obtain adult sexual material of any sort, digital or printed (i.e. DVDs or Magazines), or if I intentionally go to - or search for - any websites or web pages, pictures, videos, chats or forums, for the purpose of viewing adult sexual content or messages or facilitations of sexual encounters, or if I initiate contact with - or respond positively to - any woman other than my wife for a sexually related purpose, or if I partake of any illicit sexually oriented services of any kind, then I will donate $500 to GYE and tell _______ (a close friend) what I have done, for each day on which I do any one - or more - of these things. If I forget that I made this Shvuah and do one of these things, I will only donate $100.
2) I swear for one month that if I have any sort of sexual encounter with any person besides my wife, then I will donate $2500 to GYE from my next month's salary and I will tell _______ (a close friend) what I have done, for each day on which I do this sin.
See the “TaPHSiC method” below in Tool #10 for an even more powerful method based on this idea.
Vacations and Bein Hazmanim are situations that can be bigger tests for us, since there is more free time available and less structure. Such situations may require a more detailed set of fences and safeguards than usual. We can try to draw up a "Battle Plan" in advance, to plan for some structure in our days - as much as possible. We can set specific times for particular activities, such as learning with a chavrusah or other things that can keep us busy. It is very important not to stay in isolation, but to spend time socializing with family and friends. We can even draw up emergency plans of various activities that we can do, for times when we might start feeling bored or vulnerable, (examples might be to "read a book", "ride my bicycle", play basketball, etc...)
We can also draft a special "Bein Hazmanim" list of fences in advance, to help us avoid having to fight the Yetzer Hara head-on. Some of the fences could include:
- Setting up a filter on our home computers. (For help on how to approach this with your parents, show them this page).
- Not using the computer when alone in the room (or at least if no one is home).
- Setting ourselves time-limits on the computer (at least for non-work related activity).
- Making a list of websites that we are allowed to visit - and not visiting any other sites (at least when alone).
- Avoiding certain triggering places that we used to "hang out" at.
- Avoiding movies.
- Use the TaPHSiC method to put up a strong fence for yourself. Read about it here. Listen to a 10 minute recording that explains it here.
The secret to success in this area is learning where we are vulnerable and preparing fences in advance. We all need to learn our Yetzer Hara well, as it says in Mishlei (12:10): "Yode'ah Tzadik nefesh be'hemto - The Tzadik knows the nature of his animal.”