Principle 2: Accepting that we need help
The first key to recovery is “acceptance.” We need to accept that we have a problem and that we need help. Otherwise, we will read through the Guard Your Eyes website and Handbook and say : “they aren’t talking about me.”
One member of our forum wrote to a newcomer:
I am considered by many people to be a Talmid Chacham. I tried every eitza there is, both with mussar, sifrei yirah and divrei chizuk. I tried to punish myself and I almost drove myself crazy in driving myself crazy, and in agonizing over how low I was. And the only solace I found was to sit in front of the computer and continue feeding my addiction. Listen up my good friend, you have come to the right place and you will be helped. And it will cost you a lot less than seeing a professional, and you might even be lucky enough to save your good name. But having said all that, you will only be saved if you admit you are an addict! I know it hurts. It hurt and it hurts me too. Yes, I am an addict. Yes me, the father, husband, Talmid Chacham and neighborhood Askan, is an addict. It still hurts me to write you these words. But we must admit it in order to be helped. If you want to keep on riding on the Teshuvah / Nefilla roller-coaster, be my guest. But you will just continue making more addictive behavior neuron pathways in your brain, which only get harder to reverse.
Some people are willing to “say” they have an addiction, but coming to terms with what that really means - and acting like they are ill and need help is another matter.
To quote the Big-Book of Alcoholics Anonymous:
“Acceptance is the key. The addiction is a disease and sobriety is not a matter of willpower. When we stop living in the problem, and instead live in the answer, the problem goes away by itself.”
Truly accepting that we have a problem may sound like a difficult step to take, but it is actually freeing to finally face the truth about ourselves and know what we are up against.
There is a common misconception among unmarried young men that marriage will solve the problem. As Rabbi Twerski always tells people, marriage does not solve the problem of addiction to lust; if anything it makes it even worse. Not only that, but once someone is married and doesn’t deal with this addiction, it can ultimately destroy the lives of many people instead of just one. When Chazal say that our wives help save us from sin, they are not referring to sins we brought with us into the marriage; sins that are already engrained in our minds from beforehand. The problem we have is not just a desire that needs to be calmed, but rather stems from what has developed (through our addiction) into a skewed attitude towards the act of procreation. When Chazal say our wives save us from sin, they are referring to normal people who also get attacks of lust once in a while. For such people, having a wife can save them from sin in such instances. But for addicts who have learned to use lust to fill a deep inner void and as a solution to all of life’s difficulties, their wives will never be enough for them.
The Gemara in Sanhedrin (75a) tells the story of a man who was so love-sick for a woman that he became mentally and physically ill. The Gemara asks why he didn’t marry her and answers that it would not have healed him once she was permitted, as the pasuk says (Mishlei 9:17), “mayim genuvim yimtaku vi’lechem starim yinam - stolen water is sweeter and hidden bread is more pleasurable”. This clearly shows us how marriage is not a solution to lust addiction, which is similar to the mental and physical illness that this man experienced. Even if we marry the most attractive person of our dreams, the insanity of lust will compel us to continue seeking more and more “stolen waters” to fill the bottomless cup of the addictive cravings.
Once we know that we are dealing with a lust addiction - which even marriage won’t solve, we are ready to accept our problem and begin to live in the solution, by exploring the methods that really work. In cases of advanced addictions, it will almost never help to simply try “harder” to fight the Yetzer Hara, to learn more mussar, or make ever more resolutions . With advanced addictions, there are methods that don’t work, and then there are tried-and-proven methods that do work. The steps that work are outlined in Part 1 of this handbook. There we can learn that it is possible to break free, no matter how far the addiction has advanced.