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.
The 90 days need to be taken “one day at a time”. We can’t eat or sleep today for tomorrow, and we can’t stay sober for tomorrow either. One addict who is already sober for 20 years likes to say, “Just for today, I won’t act-out even if my backside falls off!” (And guess what? It never did! :-).
A key motivator to making it to 90 days is to realize the painful alternative. If we keep falling, we may be struggling for the rest of our lives. On the other hand, if we make it to 90 days without any falls, although the challenge will never go away completely, it will be so much easier afterwards. Isn't it better to struggle for the next 90 days than to struggle for the next 90 years?
GYE created a 90 Day Chart system on-line, to help us track our progress. We sign up and put in our first day clean, and then we have to update our status at least once a week - otherwise our name becomes red on the chart. If we don’t update for two weeks, our name falls off the chart. As we progress through the 90 days, we advance in levels and receive “virtual rewards” and e-mails of encouragement. This system is a huge motivator and is helping many people discover that they truly can live without lust! Check out the 90 Day Chart on our website and see for yourself how many people are currently on their way to 90 days. Join the success by signing up today, or print out the 90-Day Chart to keep track of your progress off-line.
We also have a special chart called "The Wall of Hashem's Honor" for those who have already made the 90 day journey, and thank G-d it is growing all the time as well.
Also, to help us on this journey and provide a framework of group support for the duration of the 90 days and beyond, we set up a special "Wall of honor board" on our forum where we can post a log of our journey, every day (or every few days).
There are even 90-Day "Accountability groups" on the forum, where between 5 and 10 members get together and take the 90-Day journey together (using a special "group count", being separate from our own personal counts).
By using the forum for our 90 day journey – and beyond, we will get tons of chizuk and be an inspiration to everyone else in the community as well. It also helps us track our progress over time and provides a certain amount of accountability among the other warriors, whom we quickly come to view as our "spiritual family"; after all, we don't want to let them down! Also, by joining the community on the forum, we obtain the ability to strengthen others as well, which in itself is a big factor in recovery (see tool #14 below).