Tool 9: A Leap of Faith- The 90 Day Journey
If slowly cutting down doesn't seem to do the trick, and we find after a while that it doesn't lead to a complete cessation of the addictive behaviors, we need to take a more drastic "Leap of Faith" and try to cut these behaviors out of our lives completely.
There was a recent scientific study that found it takes 90 days to change the neuron pathways created by addictive behaviors in the brain. It was shown that if an addict refrains from their addictive behavior for 90 days, they will find it far easier to stop the addictive thought patterns. Many similar scientific studies have shown that the more distance we put between us and the addictive behavior, the less hold it has over the neuron pathways that the addiction carved into our minds.
Members of the world-wide 12-Step groups (for overcoming addictions) are given a "red" recovery chip when they reach 90 days. We can also find the idea of 90 in Chazal. The Halacha is, that if one is not sure if he said "v'sen tal u'matar", he must repeat the Shmoneh Esrei. However after 30 days, one no longer needs to repeat Shmoneh Esrei when in doubt, because we assume that his mind has already gotten used to saying it. 30 days is 90 Shmoneh Esreis! Chazal knew that it takes 90 times of doing something to get the mind used to it. (The Hebrew letter “Tzadik” – which symbolizes a Tzadik who is morally pure, also equals 90 in Gematria).
We should be aware though, that this 90 day journey may not be easy. An addict will almost always experience withdrawal symptoms, and we may feel depressed, down and needy for stretches of time. We may occasionally find that the fight feels unbearable, to the point where we even feel a taste of "death". But these feelings never last for more that a few hours at a time. They come and go like waves. And no great feat can come without some Messiras Nefesh.
Knowing in advance that we may experience withdrawal symptoms will make it easier to deal with them when they occur. And if we believe, like so many of us have found to be true, that after 90 days we will feel much freer from the addiction, we can find the inner strength to hold out no matter what it takes! Indeed, so many people have reached 90 days already on our network, and they have experienced great subsequent success in finding freedom from their addiction.