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Tool 8: Cutting Down

by GYE (See all authors)

Tool 8: Cutting Down

If you've tried the steps above and you still find that the addiction is controlling you and causing frequent falls, it could be helpful to apply the battle-tactic of conquering and securing one territory at a time, instead of trying to conquer everything at once.

As discussed in tool #1, our sages have said: "There is a small organ in a man, if one feeds it - it is hungry, if one starves it - it is satiated". This is a very important Yesod to keep in mind, and it shows how much our Sages understood the nature of this addiction. The more we cut down, and the more distance we put between ourselves and the addiction, the easier it gets.

We can make ourselves red lines at first, and try to cut down as much as possible. If we would act out every day until now, we can try - for starters - to cut it down to only once every two days. If it used to be twice a week, we can try cutting it down to once a week. Or we can try making a strong resolution for a period of time, that besides for - say, one particular day of the week, we will not even consider acting out, no matter what. As we do this and learn to cut down more and more, we will find that "the less we feed it, the less we need it".

This tactic also teaches us not to use the addiction as an "escape mechanism" anymore. Very often, the subconscious reason that we became addicted in the first place was that we began to use the addiction as a kind of "escape" from the harsh - or difficult-to-deal-with realities of life. We used the addiction to sooth ourselves and medicate our feelings. But once we start to draw red lines and cut down on these behaviors with hard work and determination, we force ourselves to no longer instinctively use the behaviors to "escape" into ourselves. This causes a gradual change in our thinking that ultimately makes it much easier to break free completely.

Also, as we work on progressively cutting down, we build up our virtues. In the merit of saying "no" to ourselves thousands of times, Hashem will give us special divine assistance to ultimately find real freedom from the addiction.

The Gemara says: "Habah letaher misaayen lo - He who comes to be purified, they help him", and Chazal also say: "Biderech she'adom rotzeh leilech molichin osoh - in the way a person wants to go, they lead him". Why does the Gemara speak always in plural form: "they help him", and "they lead him"? The Maharsha explains that every effort a person makes creates an angel. And when the army of angels gets large enough, it has the power to help one overcome all the obstacles and lead him to where he wants to go!

Every time we say "no" to the addiction, a priceless coin is added to our spiritual bank. Even if and when we do end up falling, we do not lose what we had previously gained. When we have enough "spiritual coins" in our account, Hashem helps us to completely break free. (See Part 2 of this handbook for more on these important principles).

However, it is important to emphasize that these tactics will only be effective if our goal is to stop completely over time, by progressively cutting down more and more. But if we allow ourselves to become complacent by simply keeping our addiction "under control", we will remain addicted to these behaviors. And as we often end up learning later the hard way, addiction is a progressive disease. It doesn’t get better, only worse.

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