Tool 16: LIVE 12-Step Groups
Trying to learn the 12 Steps without a group is similar to learning brain surgery from a book. Anyone who wants to become a professional surgeon must participate in hundreds of real-life surgeries before they may be qualified to practice surgery on their own.
Rabbi Avraham J. Twerski, who provides guidance for our network and is a world-renowned expert on addictions, has always advised those who contact him for help on this issue that the live 12-Step groups are the surest way to break free of any addiction. They have a very high success rate with even the most hopeless cases. Here is what Rabbi Twerski wrote to one religious person who had been struggling with the addiction for 20 some years, thinking that he simply had a much larger Yetzer Hara than most other people:
"Your case is not unusual. I say this because I can tell you what works and what does not work. Sexual compulsions come in a variety of ways, but the common denominator is that the person has a compulsion which he finds very difficult to resist. He tries all kinds of ways (like you did) but nothing works, including marriage. This kind of compulsion is essentially an addiction. The only thing that works, in my experience, is participation in a 12-step recovery program for sexual addiction. They have meetings everywhere, including Israel.
There are many excuses for not attending meetings. What happens if someone sees me? The bottom line is, if a person wishes to be cured from cancer, he'll do anything. If one wishes to overcome a destructive sexual addiction, nothing should stand in his way. Psychotherapy is the frosting on the cake, but the 12 step program is the cake. When you attend 12 Step meetings, you may be able to find the name of a competent therapist. Be aware though, that many psychiatrists and psychologists have not been trained in addiction.
The particular type of sexual compulsion does not make much difference. A beer drinker can be as alcoholic as a whiskey drinker. The core problem is the inability to restrain one’s self from doing something that one knows he should not be doing but appears powerless to control it. Quite a number of religious people have been able to do with the 12 step program what they were not able to do with mussar (religious ethical texts). Perhaps this is because of the group support. We may learn mussar together, but we don't practice it together, which is what happens in a 12 step meeting.”