Tool 3: Guard Your Eyes
It is important to realize that guarding the eyes is not just "Tool 3", but rather it's the cornerstone of all the tools. Without guarding our eyes, we continue to lust and feed the addiction, and no matter what other steps we may take, we are still acting like an alcoholic who takes small sips of whiskey to get his high. We have to learn to let go of lust and not allow ourselves to have that "first drink". There is no "drinking like a gentleman" for an alcoholic, and neither is there for us. Once we taste it a little, we are easily drawn back in and will often lose control.
Although we present this tool in the very beginning, guarding our eyes applies throughout all the tools. Even those who are more seriously addicted and are working already with the advanced tools of this Handbook will still need to guard their eyes. True "lust addicts" do not have control in this area. No matter how many years they manage to stay clean and no matter what steps they may have taken, if they are faced head-on with lust, they will feel powerless. We have an “allergy” to lust, and as the saying goes: "Once an addict, always an addict". As scary as this may seem, it really is not so bad. People who have a deficiency of iron in their body, even if it's a chronic condition, can still lead perfectly normal lives as long as they take their daily iron pill.
With the 12 Steps (Tool 15-16 below) we learn how to admit powerlessness and surrender our lust to Hashem. By following the steps of this Handbook, we can learn to keep the addiction completely in check, and lead happy and fulfilling lives. But we must never let our guard down. The number one symptom of this disease is that when we are faced head-on with lust, we cannot help lusting. And that is why the very first practical tool in recovering from lust addiction is to guard our eyes and avoid lust as much as possible.
It's a Process
As we discussed, guarding our eyes is the starting point, middle point, and the final frontier of this struggle. Even when we have already learned to control the more seriously damaging addictive behaviors, we may still find that it takes us yet another few years to learn how to fully surrender our lusting to Hashem and gain complete control over our eyes. So don't get discouraged if you break free of the inappropriate behaviors but still find it difficult to guard your eyes on the street. It is a process. But if we stay determined to get our lives and priorities back on track, we will see progress in this area, slowly but surely. And we must progress. Staying in the same place keeps us vulnerable to relapse, and if we don't try to move forward a little every day in learning how to guard our eyes, we will remain susceptible to being drawn back into the harmful addictive behaviors as well.