Q. We posed the following question to Rabbi Avraham J. Twerski:
Dear Rabbi Twerski,
One of the members of our forum who goes by the name "Jack", is 49 years old and has been struggling with this for 38 years. Jack was on the "Jewish Healing Group" phone conference once in the beginning of Elul, when the therapist on the line mentioned a recent study that found that it takes 90 days for a person to change the neuron paths in the brain, and thereby change an ingrained thought pattern. The therapist claimed that the study found, that if a person was able to refrain for 90 days from a certain type of behavior they had become accustomed to, it would become much easier afterwards to continue. At that moment, on the phone-line, Jack decided to start his journey and aim for 90 days. He is already past 60 days clean with the help of all the wonderful people who offer support on the forum and with the help of the Live Hot-line, and by keeping in daily touch with me as well.
Many people on the forum - myself included, find Jack's story to be a real inspiration. I put Jack's time-line up on our site and it can be viewed here, and his thread on the forum can be viewed here.
Yesterday Jack wrote me the following:
I'm DEPRESSED - i feel like I lost my BEST FRIEND!! The porn made me happy. There's nothing that can replace that for me. I am empty inside now. I spoke to Elya last night, and he listened to me. There's nothing that makes me as happy as those images on the screen, and now that i gave that up, i don't know where to turn for happiness. I'm having a rough time of it. jack
I know that the Rav has much experience in this area, and if the Rav has a few minutes to give him some pointers, it could prove invaluable to saving him now and also help provide direction to us as well.
Thank you very much!
Rabbi Twerski sent us a fax with a reply for Jack:
Before Rabbi Twerski's reply came in, we attempted to answer Jack as well.
Your cry is one of pain. Your struggle is real. We understand you so well. We have all been there.
I decided to write Rabbi Twerski for you. I told him a little about you, and I posed your question to him. We will see if he has time to answer.
Meanwhile, let me give you some pointers.
1) First of all, this piece of Tehhilim (37) has a lot of secrets in it to beating this great enemy. We need to learn to fulfill the words of David Hamelech; "Le'hisaneg Al Hashem", to replace the other false and fleeting ta'anugim with TRUE ta'anug, pleasure that has a KIYUM, pleasure that is tied to TRUTH, such as Torah, Mitzvos, Spirituality, and even the pleasures of Shabbos, the good food, zemirros, resting and being with the wife. We need to realize that the porn offered only temporary happiness, but it leaves an even deeper void afterwards. "He" claims he is your best friend, but he wants your soul.
2) The second part of this beautiful piece of Tehhilim says "Gol al Hashem darkecha". This is the core of the 12-steps. Realize you can't do it yourself. Let Hashem fight for you. David Hamelech says "Roll your ways on Hashem, trust in him and HE WILL DO". This is perhaps the greatest secret to winning this battle.
3) Hold out to 90 days Jack. No one believes more than you do, that after 90 days it gets a lot EASIER.
4) I would listen to an interview that Rabbi Twerski once gave to Arutz Sheva that can be found on this page of our site, where he discusses the meaning of true inner happiness.
5) I would suggest you consider going back to therapy for a while if you need to. Therapy can help you find the underlying causes of this "void" you feel, which stem from a difficult childhood, depression and other ailments that you may have suffered from in the past. Finding these underlying causes would help you in two ways. A) You would realize that it is not the "lack of porn" that is causing this feeling of "void" (that is just your "best friend / biggest enemy" talking). B) There are tried and proven ways to deal with these underlying causes. Once you work them out, the void disappears on its own.
6) In certain cases, medication, such as SSRIs or antidepressants can be very beneficial for someone with a history of depression and addiction. With little side-effects, these medications help take the edge off the "void" you feel. Obviously, you would need to be evaluated by a psychiatrist for this.
7) Hashem is with you Jack. You didn't come down to this world to find happiness in Porn. You came down to this world to have a connection with Hashem. And he makes it hard only so that we should cry out to him and have a connection with him. (See #262 on this page for more on this Yesod). It is only when we have tried everything and we have come to the conclusion that we CANNOT do it with out his help, that is when we have a true connection with Hashem, and that is what he was waiting for all along.
But it can take time until we really KNOW and FEEL that we have no one but Hashem to help us here. It can take struggle after struggle. Only when we have done all we humanly can and still can't beat it, that is when we KNOW without doubt that only Hashem can help. And that is when the yeshuah comes. So the harder it is, the closer you are to KNOWING this, the bigger your connection with Hashem is, and the closer you are to being helped by Him once and for all.
We'll see if Rabbi Twerski can give us some more advice for you. We love you Jack. Let us, me, Elya, Mevakesh, and all those on the forum, be your new "BEST FRIENDS". We truly mean your good. The other "best friend" is just waiting to get his paws on your soul and drag you down to She'ol tachtis.
After getting our replies, Jack continues to ask for practical ways to fill the void:
Thank you very very much. But where should i look for happiness? who will give it to me? Something has to fill up that hole. What's my first step? number one...
You're a smart guy Jack. You want practical steps.
Well, Rabbi Twerski wrote to you something very profound. He wrote two important Yesodos.
1) As long as a person is getting a "High" from other things, he does not SEARCH for where his happiness can really be found.
2) True happiness is achieved when a person fulfills that for which he was created.
Based on this, I would say that step #1 is to realize you can't go back to this. Forget it. It's not an option. It's your biggest enemy and he is PREVENTING you from finding where your TRUE happiness lies.
Step number 2, is to search for REAL happiness by fulfilling that for which you were created. ONLY THAT will bring you true happiness and fill the fake "void" that your enemy makes you feel as he struggles to come out of the grave and drag you down with him.
For step number two, get the book Rabbi Twerski suggested, "Happiness and the Human Spirit". Also, we all know that we were created to connect to Hashem through his Torah. Start at this page. Scroll down the page for tens of amazing links to fill your life and mind with the life-giving waters of Hashem's sweet Torah.
Also, by stopping these behaviors, you are FULFILLING WHAT YOU WERE CREATED FOR. This alone should fill you with joy, as you yourself wrote many times, and I quote a few of your comments here:
Day 16: thanks to you, my life is better. i can speak to my kids about yiddishkeit without feeling like a hypocrite. i can sing zemiros at the shabbos table without feeling guilt. i can shake the rabbis hand without saying to myself - 'if he only knew'. ok, i'm doing the work, but you are there, which makes all the difference between now and prior to now.
Day 22: dear all, in today's yom, it says 'Hashem knows the thoughts of man that they are HEVEL. this brought to mind a beautiful vort on koheles. it says there that everything is hevel.why is it important for us to know this? because we have to look at the things that Hashem made forbidden to us - that they are hevel.in other words, don't feel so bad that they are forbidden to you, because they are hevel anyway.if hashem didn't let you have something that was really wonderful, that would be a reason to complain. but He didn't do that. He only made osur to us things that are really bad for us, so dont feel bad about this and dont complain!
Day 49: When i was with my wife, it was REALLY special. it was just like they say - you're waiting for the right time - that's what Judaism is - waiting for the right time. and it was really a special, special feeling for me.
Day 52: you know what we sang this simchas torah? we sang baruch elokeinu shebaranu lechvodo VEHEEVDELANU MEEN HATOIM - WE ARE separate from those that are mistaken!! hashem separated us from them!! you know what else we sang? ashreinu mah tov chelkainu - how good is our portion!! noone in shul could know what my kavanos were at the times we were singing that - but everyone here knows. the first clean simchas torah in my life! i'm feeling so much better at not having to hide from my friends, my rabbi, my chevrusas, my wife, my kids, my work colleagues, who else? anybody on the street who, when they see me, think i 'm a religious jew. but now, i dont have to hide, and it makes life so much better.
Don't we know halacha is for our benefit?? G-d cares for us, and he wants us to do the what's good for us - uvacharta bachaim - choose life, He says in the TORAH. but we have bechirah, and this is the only way that life can make any sense. because without the struggle, there can be no reward.
so, everybody, fight on, and enjoy the results, because this IS what Hashem wanted, and wants for us.
today, friday, is day 52!! i'm surprising even myself. i'm with all of you in heart and soul.
Jack gratefully responds.
I'm sorry I'm causing you so much anguish. but if WE (not me but WE) are successful in this, it will be what should have happened 49 years ago. but Hashem doesn't want it that way, he wants us to struggle, to attain reward. he didn't want me born into a religious family, he didn't want me to be raised the right way. He didn't want me to have everything right - He instead wanted me to seek you out, and to grab onto your coattails, and grab i did. But I'm tugging at you, making you work extra hard for me, someone you don't even know. If i pull through this, I'll come out on the other side a new person. I still cant believe you want to do this for me - a total stranger. So, forgive me please for making your work so difficult, i will not disappoint you. Please stay with me through these hard times, because i have nowhere else to turn. My tears are running down to the keyboard. Thanks friend, jack.