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"The First Day of the Rest of My Life"

A book in Hebrew called "The First Day of the Rest of My Life" has just come out in Israel. It was written by a frum Jew who suffered from a strong sexual addiction and who was able to break free with the help of the 12-Steps support groups. He wrote the book as a preventive measure, to try and help others break free from the vicious cycle of addiction. It is his hope that through his book, people suffering from this issue should not have to "hit the very bottom of the pit" as he did, before seeking and receiving help.

To order the Hebrew book (it has not yet been translated into English) click here.

In the coming Chizuk e-mails, I would like to bring excerpts from this book (translated or re-written from the Hebrew), as I think the book is a wonderful resource with lots of wisdom for people struggling with these issues. The lessons of the book apply to anyone working on this area, whether he has hit "rock bottom" or has only begun the decent into the cycle of addiction. In the coming e-mails, we will focus mainly on the lessons that apply to those who have not yet "hit bottom", since most of the members of this Chizuk e-mail list probably fit into that category.


To download the entire set of English translations as a PDF file, click here.

The book is written in the form of a fictitious story about a Rosh Yeshiva who was living a "double life", on the one hand leading a Yeshiva, and on the other hand caught in a vicious cycle of sexual addiction that had begun years before in his youth. He had tried countless times to break free but could not, until it reached a point where he stood to lose everything; his job, his honor and his family. He finds out about the 12-Step groups, and slowly but surely begins to rebuild himself and become a new man.

As the Rosh Yeshiva is well on his way to recovery, experiencing a new joy and freedom in his life, the Mashgiach of the yeshiva brings to his attention a boy named "Yerachmiel" that was caught having a sexual encounter with a boy from another Yeshiva. The Mashgiach is ready to throw Yerachmiel out of the Yeshiva, but he is shocked when instead, the Rosh Yeshiva calls Yerachmiel in for a long talk.

And so begins a saga of dialog between Yerachmiel and the Rosh Yeshiva in which Yerachmiel is transformed into a new person over the next year, through the Rosh Yeshiva's love and understanding, and the wisdom he had garnered from the lessons of his own bitter experience.

Tomorrow we will begin bringing insightful excerpts from the story IY"H. For now though, let me just leave you with one short excerpt from the book:

Every night, when his father would give him a kiss and tuck him in to sleep, he would say to him: "My son, Remember that tomorrow is the first day of the rest of your life".



In continuation of the story from yesterday's e-mail, Yerachmiel was caught having a sexual encounter with another boy and was called to the Rosh Yeshiva's office. As the Rosh Yeshiva waits for Yerachmiel to arrive, he reflects back to his own personal journey, remembering how he had been once so similar to Yerachmiel.
How I understood him. I was just like him in my youth, a sharp student... from the best in the yeshiva. "Especially talented" they said of me, and their expectations for me reached the sky. Understandably, I didn't want to disappoint my Rabbeim and teachers, for whom I was an endless source of Nachas and pride.
As I struggled in my efforts to actualize everyone's expectations, I wasn't aware of the deep pit that was opening up inside me. It was a pit of loneliness that just got deeper as time went on. My subconscious dealt with this by creating a wall of sorts, deep inside my heart. At first, this wall was just between me and myself, but as time went on, it became a wall between me and the rest of the world. I closed up inside myself, and slowly began to withdraw from life and from the world around me. 
And then on one clear day, a new friend entered my life: "Lust". The loneliness, which had been my lot in life for so long, suddenly disappeared like it never was. "Lust" made me feel more wanted and desired than ever before. I felt that I had finally found my true friend, a friend in times of need. Whenever things were hard or I felt down or lonely, "Lust" would appear to be there for me, as if to encourage me and give me a false sense of belonging and acceptance.
And so, as the years progressed, "Lust" accompanied me where ever I went. While everyone else had such high expectations of me and made demands accordingly, my dear friend "Lust" had no demands of me at all. All that "Lust" wanted was that I feel good and be comfortable, and forget the cruel world around me. In "Lust", I always found a listening ear, offering comfort and solace. 
All was good and well, until one day I discovered that this dedicated "friend" was actually the very thing that was not letting me make progress in life and achieve my goals. I asked "Lust" to give me some space and let me be a little bit, but "Lust" was not willing to accept this under any circumstances. And suddenly he changed his appearance. From a good friend in times of need, "Lust" became an unrelenting and cruel oppressor that dwelled deep within me and used my weaknesses against me - weaknesses that he knew better than anyone, often better than myself.


The Power of Accountability

In continuation of the story from the previous e-mails, Yerachmiel was caught in Yeshiva having an illicit affair with a boy from a different Yeshiva, and was called to the Rosh Yeshiva's office for a talk. Instead of throwing him out - as the Mashgiach had wanted to do, the Rosh Yeshiva is determined to try and help Yerachmiel, relying on his own bitter personal experience with the addiction. The Rosh Yeshiva begins by trying to engage Yerachmiel in small talk in an effort to get him to open up, but is met with little success. Instead, he tries a different approach and says:
"Yerachmiel, I want to tell you a story that happened in our Yeshiva a few years ago. We had a boy in the Yeshiva - let's call him Meir, who had a sharp mind and was one of the most talented Bochurim I ever taught. One day, a boy from the Yeshiva approached me and said that he had seen Meir hanging out in places that a Yeshiva Bochur should never be found.
When Meir was confronted, he denied it completely. I called Meir to my office and asked of him two things. One; that he should tell no one what I was about to tell him (that no one should say the Rosh Yeshiva allows hanging out in such places). And two; that if he ever felt a strong need to go to these forbidden places he should let me know before hand, and I assured him that if and when he asked, I would let him go. Meir nodded in agreement and left my office.
About two weeks later, Meir came over to me and asked to speak with me privately. Looking ashamed, he asked me for permission to go to that place, that in our first talk he had fervently denied even being there. I immediately praised him for showing the strength of character to stand by his word and tell me himself - before the deed. Understandably, I also stood by my word and gave him my approval; asking only that he come talk to me again when he came back.
And so he did. The next day right after davening, Meir appeared in my office and we made some small talk. And then I asked him, just out of curiosity, what was so interesting about that place he went. At first he tried to shy away, but after a few more moments of talk he finally opened up and told me that he had met a girl and that they meet there on occasion. I saw on his face that he was afraid he had taken too great a risk by telling me all this, but he was surprised when I asked him to tell me how they had met, and how long they were together.
As time went on, I gained Meir's full trust and he told me everything. I asked him to try not to meet with the girl during the times of learning, so that it shouldn't disturb his learning schedule. Together, we came to an understanding that he should only meet with her once every two weeks, and Meir agreed to this right away.
From then on, Meir would come to my office to talk on a frequent basis, and would speak with me about whatever was on his heart. My door was always open to him, and he always found a listening ear with me. With time, his need to meet with this girl became less compelling, until they finally separated.
Two months ago I got an invitation from Meir to his wedding. He is engaged to a special girl with good Midos and from a good home. I was very happy for him."

And so ended the Rosh Yeshiva his made-up story, hoping that the message to Yerachmiel had gotten across.

The Lesson of Today's E-mail

The Rosh Yeshiva was attempting to convey to Yerachmiel the "power of accountability" which can help a person break free no matter how low they may have fallen. If we can find someone (a good friend, Rabbi or even our wife) who we respect and who can be there for us with wisdom and understanding, we should take the opportunity to talk to them about our problem, and indeed continue to give them an update on our situation every week or so. This can ultimately prove to be an invaluable tool to help anyone break free.


The Vicious Cycle

The Rosh Yeshiva continues the story...

I was happy when the very next day after Mincha, Yerachmiel appeared in my office for a private talk.
"I'm so happy you are here" I said to him. "Please tell me what's on your mind".
"I have a serious issue and I don't know what to do with myself", Yerachmiel began - looking down at the floor, and after a moment of silence he continued: "I can't focus on my learning. I am plagued by sexual fantasies the whole time and they give me no rest. The more I try and rid myself of these thoughts and focus on learning, the stronger they get. Even now during Mincha - in middle of Shmonah Esrei, indecent images were flooding my head. What can I do?"
"You should know Yerachmiel" I replied, "that I would like to get up and give you a hug. You know how much the fact that this bothers you tells me about you? It means you are already on a high level. To many Bochurim, this simply doesn't bother them".
Yerachmiel looked at me in surprise and said "But the Rav has no idea what terrible things I think about! And the Rav says I'm on a high level?!"
"Why do you classify these thoughts of yours as bad?" I asked him. "The thoughts you have are natural. That is how Hashem created human beings, and the fact that you have these thoughts only proves you are normal".
"What? Everyone thinks about girls?" Yerachmiel refused to believe.
"What do you think, Yerachmiel? Was I not once your age?" I asked him. "Do you think I did not have fantasies? Of course I did. Everyone has sexual fantasies. Some people more, some people less. But we are human, not angels. Hakadosh Baruch Hu created the world in such a way that men and women are attracted to one another, and because of this people get married, have children and populate the Earth. But not everyone is bothered by these thoughts as much as they bother you, and that is already impressive".
"How can the Rosh Yeshiva say this?" asked Yerachmiel. "The Rosh Yeshiva still doesn't know me and doesn't know what bad things I've done. Not just the story that the Rosh Yeshiva knows about that happened in Yeshiva. I did many other things, even worse things, that I am embarrassed to even mention them".
"I want to tell you something, Yerachmiel", I said to him, "and it's important to me that you listen well". Yerachmiel strained to lift his gaze to me, ready for the worst. "What I don't accept about you is the fact that you keep getting down on yourself. Let me tell you what I think of you. I know you for a few years already and you are a sharp student with a good head, and one of the most talented boys in Yeshiva. Why don't you try and focus on the good things about you, instead of criticizing yourself the whole time? I want to ask you a question", I continued, "and I want you to answer me honestly".
"When, in general, do the fantasies come; when you are happy? After having a good Seder and saying a good Svara? Or at times you are feeling sad, down or lonely?"
"Usually when I am sad" answered Yerachmiel almost immediately.
"Good. So let's see what's going on. Basically, without meaning to, you are bringing these thoughts on yourself. Because as soon as you get down on yourself you become sad, and the sadness brings the fantasies, and this becomes a vicious cycle that is difficult to break away from. But the moment you start to look at yourself in a positive light, you will see that even if you have fantasies once in a while, they will come much less often".
Yerachmiel stood up and prepared to leave. I saw that he was trying to digest what he had just heard.
"You think I will let you leave here without a smile?" I said to him. The words had an immediate effect and a broad smile stretched across Yerachmiel's face. I stood up and gave him a hug and pat on the cheek, which was already blushed. Yerachmiel left the office with a good feeling.

The Lesson of Today's E-mail

"Getting down" on yourself after falls leads only to a vicious cycle of sadness, acting out, and more sadness. The first step to breaking free is to start to view yourself in a positive light and to keep an upbeat attitude no matter what.


Battle Strategy
(Part 1)

The Rosh Yeshiva continues
the story...

“This is not the Yerachmiel I know”, I thought to myself as I gave over the Shiur Klali in the Yeshiva hall. Yerachmiel, who usually doesn’t let any Svara pass him by - asking and joining in with his sharp mind, looked burnt out and closed within himself, as if only his body was here but he was somewhere else. After the Shiur, I came over to him and asked him how he was doing.
“I’m fine”, he replied unconvincingly, as if trying to brush me off. I knew that burnt look on his face only too well. After all, I myself had been in these situations countless times. And I didn’t intend to let it happen to him as well, I determined in my heart.
“Come with me to my office”, I instructed him. Yerachmiel escorted me down the hall, clearly unwillingly.
After a few moments of total silence, I decided to risk a calculated gamble. I asked him if he was angry at himself because of something he did and now regrets. His body language told me I was correct. Before I could get another word out of my mouth, Yerachmiel burst out crying as he murmured “I can’t do this any more! The Rav has no idea how much I tried to stand up to the test and not fall. I thought I would succeed, but in the end the temptation is always stronger than me. Why am I such a bad person? Why is my willpower so weak? Why can’t I ever succeed to overcome my urges, and instead only continue to sink more and more? The Rav is wasting his precious time with me - I am not worth it. The Mashgiach was right when he wanted to throw me out of the Yeshiva. I can’t learn Torah or even put on Teffilin after the things I do. I just want to leave everything - even Judaism!” he blurted out tearfully.
I gave him a few moments to calm down and then I asked: “Tell me Yerachmiel, my dear student, when an army goes out to battle, do they always win? Are there never casualties? People injured? Why do you start with the assumption that you must always win? Who says it needs to be “all or nothing”?
You surely remember what we learned: “There is no Tzadik on earth that does only good and never sins” (Koheles 7:20). Do you think you need to be more righteous than Avraham Avinu and Moshe Rabbeinu, that the Torah tells us that they too sinned?

The notion that you must always succeed actually turns you into easy prey for your Yetzer Hara. Did you ever think about it? Your evil inclination knows you a lot better than you know yourself. He knows your constant yearning for perfection and the high level of self-criticism you subject yourself to. Don’t you see how he is using your good qualities against you?
It is precisely these important qualities that are meant to allow you to grow and flourish, that are causing you to get down on yourself and enter into depression and hopelessness - to the point that you are talking about leaving everything, even Torah and Mitzvos. And why so extreme? Just because your Yetzer won you over a few times?
My dear Yerachmiel, maybe instead of focusing on those times you lost the battle with the Yetzer, we should start focusing on all the many times that you completely overpowered him? After all, you yourself told me just a few moments ago, that there were times that you won him over. Is this a small thing in your eyes, that you the small, were able to win over your crafty and cunning inclination, that dwells deep inside you and knows you inside out? If you would count, one by one, all the times that you won the Yetzer, and you would line them up against the times you lost, I am sure without the shadow of a doubt that you would immediately see you have the upper hand!

The Lesson of Today's E-mail

It's not "all or nothing". Winning a war is a process that is the sum total of many smaller battles; some lost but most won.

Battle Strategy
(Part 2)

The Rosh Yeshiva continues the story...

For a moment Yerachmiel lifted his gaze which was still cast to the ground, as if to signal me to go on.
"A complete victory" I continued, "is the sum of many small victories, and sometimes losses too. Let me bring you a parable from the battle field:
Many years ago there were two kingdoms that lived side by side. One was a very poor kingdom with a large population of people who struggled to get through each day. The second kingdom had much fewer subjects but was very rich, and the people there lived a high life style and knew no want. For many years the two kingdoms lived together in harmony, in spite of their vast differences.
One day, the king of the rich country died and his son rose to the throne. He was very unlike his wise and thoughtful father, and instead was aggressive, hasty and unrestrained.
One bright day he decided without any reason, that he would like to conquer the neighboring kingdom. He wished to show off his great strength, without thinking for a moment about the destructive consequences that his actions were likely to cause. His advisors tried to talk him out of it, but to no avail. In a well planned surprise strike, the young king managed to invade the territory of the neighboring kingdom with his large army.
At first, the people of the poor kingdom tried to show resistance. They fought valiantly with great sacrifice to protect their homeland. But when they saw that the enemy had already succeeded in conquering significant areas of their territory on the very first day, their spirit was broken and in a short period of time they surrendered.
The people of the poor kingdom thought that perhaps the new king would share his riches with them, but they were quickly disappointed. Over time, he pillaged even the little that they had, until the entire population were left starving and broken in body and spirit.
When the populace understood that they were destined to die of starvation and had nothing more to lose, they decided - especially those who lived on the border with the rich kingdom - to try a stealth incursion into the enemy kingdom to search for food. Under cover of night, they cut through the fences and tried to slip inside. But those who were fortunate enough to be saved from the guard dog's vicious teeth were quickly shot at by the many soldiers who manned the border. The few that managed to survive were caught by citizens and given over to the authorities who threw them in prison. And so, the people of the poor kingdom knew that their fate was sealed. They sunk into despair and self pity, and awaited their deaths.
Suddenly one of the older advisors of the king got up and said: "My dear people, instead of sitting and just waiting for our deaths, let's do something. We already saw that individuals who try to steal across the border doesn't work. Our only chance of success is if we unite and work together with wisdom and judgment. It's no secret that we outnumber the enemy by far. Let us use this to our advantage. We can choose an area on the border that is the least guarded and invade there with our thousands of men, women and children - men first, and the women and children behind us. It needs to be an area that is the right size for us to be able to insure that we can keep complete control over it for the long term. And then, with the help of the riches that we'll find there, we'll be able to firmly establish our hold on that territory and get stronger. Then when we feel secure enough, we'll go out and conquer another area for ourselves, and establish our hold there too. And so on and so forth, until the entire neighboring kingdom will fall into our hands like a ripe fruit.
"So the citizens followed his wise advice, and what do you think happened in the end, do you think they succeeded?" I asked Yerachmiel.
"I'm sure they did" answered Yerachmiel. "They acted with wisdom. They didn't try and conquer the entire country at once, because that would have failed miserably. But I really don't see how this is related to..."
"Good" I replied. "That is exactly what I was aiming for. The two neighboring kingdoms are our Yetzer Hara and our Yetzer Tov..."
The lesson of today's e-mail will be discussed in the coming e-mail Iy"h...

Battle Strategy
(Part 3)

The Rosh Yeshiva expounds on the parable (from the last Chizuk e-mail) for Yerachmiel:

The "two neighboring kingdoms" are our Yetzer Hara and our Yetzer Tov. One bright day, the Yetzer Hara decided to try and conquer you with a surprise attack of sexual arousals and fantasies - precisely at a time when you least expected it, as you were involved in learning in Yeshiva and were full of desire to get stronger and become uplifted in Torah and Middos.
When the Yetzer succeeded to make you stumble, instead of recovering right away and returning a valiant fight, you started blaming yourself that you let him win, and you sunk into self-pity and hopelessness. And this is exactly what let the Yetzer Hara continue to overpower you, until you finally surrendered to him unconditionally. This is just like those individuals in the parable who attempted an incursion into the enemy's territory that was bound to fail from the start.
But now you can start to act with wisdom, and instead of trying to conquer the entire territory right away - after all, you yourself understood that that won't work - try and conquer for yourself a small territory, but one that you will be sure you can maintain defense over it well. And then, slowly but surely you will make progress, until you will succeed to conquer everything back. Does this sound doable and reasonable to you?
"Y-yes" answered Yerachmiel, hesitantly. "But how do I do this?"
"The key is in your hands" I answered. "Tell me, from all the many temptations that you are tested with, which temptation would be relatively the easiest for you to overcome? I ask this even though I understand that even the smallest temptation, when it is facing you, is difficult to bear".
Yerachmiel, who wasn't ready for this question, thought for a few moments and then answered: "I think the easiest for me to overcome would be to undertake not to be with other boys".
Are you ready to take this upon yourself, that no matter what - and no matter how you feel, from now on you will not transgress the serious prohibition of homosexual relations? Are you able to undertake that on this one thing the Yetzer Hara will not overpower you?"
"Yes, Rebbe" answered Yerachmiel determinedly, "I am ready to take this upon myself fully".
"Wonderful" I answered, "you have just taken a big step. You have succeeded in conquering a small territory that your Yetzer will not be able to enter.
Now as you surely know, in a war - like in all wars, after conquering a territory one must barricade it well to assure that the enemy can't penetrate. Only after the territory is well fortified will it be possible to continue on from there and conquer additional territory.
Do you understand what you have actually done now? You have changed your strategy. Instead of conquering the entire territory, which everyone understands is impossible at this stage - and would only cause you to sink into depression and hopelessness, you have decided with wisdom, to conquer a relatively small area that you know almost certainly that you will be able to maintain vigilant guard over. And after you have succeeded in this mission - and you will succeed G-d willing, your self esteem will become strengthened, and you will see that this enemy is not undefeatable after all. And through conquering this one area, you will be able to make additional territorial gains.
"So we're clear Yerachmiel?" And I repeated again for emphasis: "for the time being you will focus only on guarding and fortifying this new territory you have conquered, without thinking about other territories at all. And this alone will be a big win for you."
Yerachmiel's countenance reflected that a big burden had been lifted from his shoulders. We set a regular time to meet in my office - once every two weeks. Yerachmiel's hand was already on the door when I said to him: "You should already know by now that I won't let you leave without your wonderful smile!". Yerachmiel smiled sheepishly, left the room and closed the door behind him.


Finding Replacements

In the next phase of the story (in the book "The First Day of the Rest of My Life"), the Rosh Yeshiva gives over to Yerachmiel the job of being in charge of the Otzar ha'Seforim (the library of the Sefarim) for the coming year. This wise step achieves many important objectives in helping Yerachmiel break free of his addiction and enables him to make a steady progress over the course of the Z'man (semester).
Self-Esteem Boost:
Being in charge of the Otzar ha'Seforim and the responsibility that this entails, serves to boost Yerachmiel's self esteem, which in turn enhances his positive self image and helps him break the vicious cycle of feeling down, acting out, feeling even worse and acting out again.
Staying Busy:
Yerachmiel's occupation with the new job serves the purpose of keeping him occupied and interested in what he is doing. This leaves less room in his mind and less time available for unhealthy pursuits.   
Healthy Fulfillment:
In doing something he enjoys, Yerachmiel is left feeling accomplished and fulfilled. This takes away the subconscious need to seek artificial sources of fulfillment, and it helps remove the desire to "medicate" his feelings of inadequacy through self-destructive pleasure seeking.
Reconnecting with Life:
Lastly, but perhaps most importantly, the new job gives Yerachmiel an opportunity to to open up and reconnect with life and the people around him.

It is a known fact that a person who is a "loner" (i.e. he spends most of his time alone and/or is closed up within himself), has a much harder time to break free from these addictions. One of the most powerful techniques for someone who is trying hard to break free, is to make sure that he constantly mingles with people, reconnects with society and remains an active member of the "club". Examples could include taking part in Shul or communal activities and spending more time with your family.

The Lesson of Today's E-mail

It is very helpful when trying to stop these destructive behaviors, to find healthy activities that we enjoy and that can keep us occupied and give us a sense of fulfillment and purpose. This helps fill the subconscious "void" that we were trying to satisfy with unhealthy pleasure seeking.

Find some new project/s that will enable you to express your creativity, find enjoyment and reconnect with life and the world around you. Some ideas can be found in our Kosher Isle (especially in Kosher Activities section).

Balancing Strategies
A big smile spread across Yerachmiel's face as he entered my office. It wasn't hard to notice the positive change in his mood over the last period of time. "I must say", I told him, "that since you took the job of the Otzar Ha'sefarim, there's almost no sefer that I look for that isn't in its proper place. You know how many zechusim (merits) you have because of this? I remember in earlier years that it sometimes took me a half an hour to find a particular sefer. How much Bitul Torah this caused! So first of all, a big Yasher Koach to you!"
"And now tell me: what's happening with the territory you conquered a month ago? Did you succeed in fortifying it well yet?"
"I have almost forgotten about that", said Yerachmiel with a smile. "Dealing with the Otzar Ha'seforim doesn't leave me much time for thought".
"Good", I said. "It's not necessary to think too much. The simple fact that you stood by what you accepted upon yourself and didn't stumble, shows that you have manually fortified the territory you conquered. And how do you feel about your continued progress?" I asked.
"Wonderful", answered Yerachmiel. "I must admit that in the past few weeks I am feeling really good about myself, and exactly like the Rosh Yeshiva said, it really did become a lot easier and I can't even explain why."
"I am happy to hear that. So which territory are we going to conquer this week?" I asked.
"The truth is, said Yerachmiel, that from a practical standpoint, there is already not much more I can accept upon myself B"H. I already don't surf the internet, I don't meet up with girls, and I don't look at p-rn anymore. The only thing that's really left - and it's the hardest thing for me -  is masturbation. In this area, I am not sure I can succeed to overcome it. I am very afraid to take something on myself that maybe I'll stumble in; because if I stumble, it can cause me to get down - chas veshalom - and return to square one. This could even jeopardize all my recent progress. What does the Rosh Yeshiva think I should do?"
"Before I address your question - which is excellent in its own right", I said to Yerachmiel, "I must tell you how impressed I am with your remarkable progress on the practical front. Not only have you succeeded to overcome so many temptations that in the past you never believed you could - which is already a great achievement on its own - but I also see that you listen carefully to your heart and understand your own weaknesses, and this is more important than anything else in this struggle.
"Now let's return to your question. Your fear that maybe you'll disappoint yourself is indeed in place, but nothing would happen if you would fall and get back up. This is 'part and parcel' of any progress. Moving forward and falling backward are both essential ingredients to learning how to deal with the Yetzer Hara. Like we already discussed once: 'Seven times the Tzadik falls and gets up again' (Koheles 7:20). But still, you are correct that this doesn't tie in with the previous strategy that we were employing until now, which was conquering small territories and fortifying them well, before moving on. Conquering terrain that we are not sure we can hold onto, does indeed pose a certain risk.
So let's look for a way to balance between these seemingly contradictory approaches: conquering one territory at a time and fortifying it before moving on - on the one hand, and on the other hand - making progress in spite of the fear of failure. So let's think: How can we still tread solid ground? I suggest that instead of you trying to give up masturbation altogether right now - something which at this stage (and I emphasize "at this stage") you feel is too hard for you, let's see if we can try to progressively minimize the amount of times you do it. For example: if you did it until now twice a week, accept upon yourself at this stage to do it only once a week; and so on and so forth. Only you can know the exact amount of cutting back that you can handle at this stage.
Know Yerachmiel, that Chaza"l say something very interesting about this desire. The more one feeds it - the hungrier it gets, and the less one feeds it - the more satiated it feels. So as you begin to cut back and see that it becomes a lot easier, you can try moving forward and cutting back even more - until you feel you can stop completely. Do you think you would be able to hold up to this plan?" I asked Yerachmiel.
"Yes, Be'ezrat Hashem", he answered. "This will let me make progress and work on  myself even in this area - which I don't think I'd manage to stop completely at this stage, and at the same time I won't feel that I am getting myself into danger".
"Wonderful! You see, Yerachmiel my dear student? When we search well, we can find a solution for anything, as Chaza"l say: 'If you struggled and found - believe'. I am happy that I was able to help you find a straight path to take in this struggle".
The Lesson of Today's E-mail
It is vital to balance between varying strategies in this struggle. Certain aspects of this addiction can be removed completely from our lives through the strategy of conquering, fortifying and moving on. But in some areas, we need to make balanced and careful progress before we can be ready for ultimate victory.

~ Special Announcement Below ~


The Phone Call

Almost a year into the Rosh Yeshiva's own recovery, he finds himself once again on the verge of a big fall. Lust has overtaken him suddenly, and he feels powerless against it. And just as he begins the process of falling to the depths once again, his cell phone rings...
At first, I chose to ignore it. In such situations I have no strength for anything, I don't want to speak to anyone; I cut myself off from the world. But for some totally unexplained reason, I picked up the phone and glanced at the number to see who dared disturb me in this critical moment. It took me a few seconds to register that it was actually him.
"Ribonno Shel Olam, why is this happening to me? From all people in the world - it has to be Yerachmiel? What does he want from me? He never calls me on his own, even though I did tell him again and again that he can call me any time he wants. But now?!" For a moment I thought that I wouldn't answer it and would get back to him later - after I finished taking care of myself, but something inside me decided otherwise. I pressed "Receive".
"Yes?" I said - without making it obvious that I knew who was calling.
"I'm so sorry to bother the Rosh Yeshiva", Yerachmiel began. Tears choked up his voice. "I simply don't have where to turn. I feel so powerless. Lust attacked me out of nowhere, without any prior warning, and the temptations I feel now are so strong that I can't overcome them. Why, precisely now when I'm in such a good place and feel so much better about myself, suddenly everything is turned around? I so much don't want to fall again because I'll know how I'll feel afterwards, but the temptations are stronger than me, I can't overpower them! Believe me Rebbe, I tried everything. I even reviewed in my head all the talks that we had in the past, but nothing helps. The Rav has no idea how hard it was for me to call".
He was silent. I could hear his deep breathing. "How, in Heaven's name", I said to myself, "am I to help Yerachmiel to do something that I myself cannot do? Yerachmiel is a thousand times stronger than me. How transparent am I being if I even try to help him! Chaza"l meant exactly my situation when they said 'Fix yourself before you fix others' (Baba Metzia 107b) and 'preach well and practice well' (Chagiga 14b). I'd better hang up and explain later that my battery died".

But something inside me called out: "Come to your senses! Take yourself into your hands! This is not the time for self-pity. Yerachmiel needs you now more than ever. You must get a grip on yourself and be there for him, because you are the only person in the world that can truly understand him". I closed my eyes and tried to distance myself from my situation and think about what Yerachmiel was going through at that moment.
"Yerachmiel dear", I began, "I know how hard it was for you to call me, and I am so glad you called! Regardless of what will happen, whether you fall or not in the end, the simple fact that you called proves to me once again that my good impression of you is 100% correct. You are a super-hero! After all, we spoke about how even if sometimes we fall, we win many more times, and what you did right now is a perfect example of that. Just by calling me, you have already won the Yetzer Hara. What did you think - that precisely when you are doing so well and are feeling happy and fulfilled, the devious and cunning Yetzer who knows you so well - will just stand on the side and surrender without a battle? Of course not! He knows your tremendous longing for perfection, and he understands that precisely now, a fall would cause you to get down on yourself and enter into a whirlpool of self-pity, from which the path to hopelessness and closing up is short indeed."
All of a sudden, the reality of what I had been in the midst of doing struck me. "Yerachmiel", I said quietly, "would it be Ok if I called you back in a few moments?"
"Sure" he replied.
I quickly hung up and realized something incredible. The Lust, which only a few moments ago had burned in me with all its strength, had disappeared as if it had never been. "What is a man like me doing here?" I asked myself. I stopped what I had been doing, gathered myself together and left the room.

This is the first time in my life that I left a situation like that without feeling deep regret and self-pity. This time I left with my head held high. I had been on the very edge of the abyss - and yet I was extricated. My heart filled with a deep sense of fulfillment.

I took back out my phone and called Yerachmiel back. To be continued...

The Lesson of Today's E-mail

The power of having a sponsor in this struggle cannot be underestimated. And often the partnership helps the sponsor just as much, if not more, than it helps the newcomer. (To try and find a partner/sponsor, download this questionaire and e-mail it to us at


Special Announcement

A big Mazal Tov to two of our members on the forum, "Ano-Nymous" and "Be-Holy". These two great warriors have reached the end of their 90-day journey and have earned a place on our "Wall of Hashem's Honor" chart.

According to scientific studies, it takes 90 days to change a behavioral pattern that has become ingrained in the mind through addiction. Once you pass 90 days, you have made the "Leap of Faith" and it becomes much easier. Let us all learn from their inspiring examples and begin a 90-day log of our progress on the "Wall of Honor" board of our forum.

We hope they stay with us and continue to inspire others on the forum for many years to come! We wish them lots of Hatzalacha, and in the great merit of undertaking Shmiras Ainayim and Shmiras Habris, may they be saved from all pain and worry in their lives.


The Phone Call (Part 2)

We continue the story from the past e-mails...

I took back out my phone and called Yerachmiel back...

"Hello Rebbe", answered Yerachmiel. I could sense in his voice that he had waited for this phone call with baited breath.
"I'm sorry I couldn't talk earlier", I apologized, "but now I am totally with you".
"The Rosh Yeshiva won't believe me", said Yerachmiel, "Rebbe must have special powers, because something incredible happened: as soon as we ended our conversation I started to feel a lot better about myself and the lust became much weaker. I don't have any rational explanation for this. It truly seems that just making the phone call did the trick. Now I feel a lot stronger, and I think that this time I'll be able to overcome it and not fall. For the first time in my life I was able to really fight back and prove to myself that I could do it."
"Do you see what happened here?", I asked. "The Yetzer Hara wanted to cause you to fall, and that would have caused you to close up and cut yourself off from reality. But you chose to do exactly the opposite. You called me, and the simple fact that you called, renewed your connection with life. And that is what took all the air out of the bubble of lust. Kol Hakavod to you, my dear Yerachmiel!

All Hashem really wants from us is to try. When we are facing a test that looks stronger than us and we feel we won't be able to overcome it, all we need to do is simply lift our eyes to shamayim (heaven) and ask "Father! Help me!" and immediately we will find new powers within ourselves that we didn't know existed before. Like Chaza"lsay: "Open for me a door the size of a needle head, and I will open for you doors that wagons and oxen can pass through" (Shir hashirim Rabba 5:3). Let's meet this afternoon in Yeshiva and drink Lechayim in honor of today's victory".
Yerachmiel obviously didn't know that I had my own personal victory in mind as well. "I'd love to", he answered, and as I hung up I thought of the words of Chaza"l: "Even if a sharp sword is on the edge of your neck, don't hold yourself back from divine mercy" (Brachos 10a). How hidden are the ways of Hashem! How Hashem wondrously worked things out so that two people standing powerless against an attack of lust, ended up helping each other to overpower the lust and win!

The Lessons of Chapter "The Phone Call"

Hashem just asks of us to do what we can, whether it means heartfelt teffilah in a time of a test, or getting an accountability partner who we can talk to when feeling weak. The addiction wants us to disconnect from life, but a partner in this struggle helps us reconnect with life and the world around us - and thereby prevents the falls.

When we do our Hishtadlus, we are wont to discover new powers inside ourselves that we never thought we possessed. Also very often, the very act of Hishtadlus causes the bubble of lust to pop, and it becomes much easier to deal with.


Understanding Lust
(Part 1)


In continuation of our story, Yerachmiel meets with the Rosh Yeshiva in his office that afternoon, to drink Lechayim and celebrate the victory they experienced that day over Lust.
The sense of victory and fulfillment were evident on Yerachmiel's face, but I noticed that in spite of this, something seemed to be bothering him. "Yerachmiel", I said to him, "I know you already well enough to sense your feelings, and the look in your eyes tells me that in spite of today's impressive victory there's something that still bothers you. Do you want to share it with me?"
He smiled sheepishly and said: "I can't hide anything from the Rosh yeshiva. It's true, there's something that I think about often, especially lately, and it bothers me a lot - but I have no idea why."
"That's why I'm here, Yerachmiel", I answered, "even though you are so busy with the Otzar Ha'sefarim lately, that soon I'll need to make an appointment with you before we can meet", I joked.
"I know and I feel that I've made great progress since our first talk, and today I'm in a different place altogether than where I was then", said Yerachmiel. "In one of our first talks, I asked the Rosh yeshiva if other Bochurim also have thoughts like these, and the Rosh Yeshiva told me that almost all Bochurim have fantasies about girls, and that it's natural. But what is difficult for me to understand and accept is, why is it so hard for me to cope with Lust, while I'm sure without any doubt that most of the other Bochurim in Yeshiva, even if they do have fantasies from time to time, don't have these powerful struggles like I do with Lust. Why does this happen particularly to me?"
"The question you asked now, touches on the very heart of understanding what Lust is and how it works", I told him, "and the fact that this bothers you specifically now, is yet another proof of your impressive progress. It shows you are mature enough to seek a deeper understanding of yourself - which wasn't possible when the lust used to burn inside you and require immediate gratification.
"And so, what indeed is Lust, and how exactly does it work? I don't know if you paid attention, but you were very specific in the way you expressed your question. You didn't ask me why you are tested sexually more than others, but rather why it is so difficult for you to cope with Lust.
"Let's think for a moment; what is the difference between a sexual drive and Lust. Let's start with the sexual drive, which is easier to understand. This drive is a strong need to engage in sexual relations of any form. It's a physical and existential need of man, by virtue of the fact that he is human. It's similar to many other physical needs like eating and sleeping, which a man, both as an individual and as part of mankind as a whole, could not exist without. This is apparently simple, and self-understood.
"But if this drive was only a physical-existential need to engage in sexual relations, all people should have the same sexual drive more or less. And the same goes for eating; if eating was only a physical need to keep us alive, all people should have more or less the same appetite for food. But it's not that way. The reality is, that the tests and drives of one person are not the same as the tests and drives of another. Why is this? Why is food an insatiable temptation for some people, while for others, a minimal amount of simple food is enough to satisfy them? And why do you for example, have much stronger tests in sexual areas than others have?
"Maybe", Yerachmiel ventured, "food and sex are really just physical and existential needs, but some people simply have bigger appetites naturally, while others are happy with little?"
"If this were true", I replied, "we would see that the same people that had strong sexual drives would also be particularly predisposed to eating lots of good food, and people who had less cravings for food would also have weaker sexual drives. But the reality shows that this is not so. There are some people with strong cravings for food, and others that have stronger sexual drives.
"What we can learn from this, is that each particular drive - whether it's for sex, food, or anything else  - must have an additional component that needs to be taken into account. Besides the simple physical nature of lusting for sex or food, there is an additional layer, which is deeper and more connected to the subconscious. Heightened sexual desire or uncontrollable cravings for food, are actually symptoms of a deep subconscious need, that for some reason, has still not reached fulfillment. This lack of contentment creates a kind of void inside us, something like a subconscious vacuum, which Lust immediately fills. This is then actualized in our conscious mind, through a powerful sexual drive that feels out of control.
"What we can learn from this in a practical sense, is that if we seek to understand the deep subconscious void that exists inside us and we learn to channel these powerful inner strengths in a positive and constructive manner, then automatically the lust - along with the sexual drive, will be significantly lessened".
"So the Rosh Yeshiva is saying that, as opposed to other Bochurim in Yeshiva, there exists a subconscious void inside me that hasn't been filled for some reason or another, and because of this, I suffer from stronger sexual drives than everyone else, did I understand correctly?" asked Yerachmiel.
"You are getting close", I answered, "but it's even deeper than that"...

To be continued...

Understanding Lust
(Part 2)

In continuation of our story, Yerachmiel in the midst of a discussion with the Rosh Yeshiva, trying to understand why he has trouble coping with lust more than other boys do. The Rosh yeshiva continues...
"You surely know what our sages have said, Yerachmiel: 'Whoever is greater than his friend, his Yetzer is greater as well' (Sukka 52a). If you think about it though, common sense dictates that the opposite should be the case. After all, one who is greater than his friend ought to have an easier time dealing with his desires. But Chaza"l say that the exact opposite is true. So with your permission, Yerachmiel, in order to understand Chaza"l's words better, I would like to take you as an example".
"Me?" Yerachmiel's eyes widened in surprise.
"Yes", I continued, my dear Yerachmiel, inside you lies a great and lofty soul that is destined to brighten the world with a light that is unique only to you. All that this soul desires is to surge forth through you, outwards into the world. For some reason though, it is blocked and can't succeed in being expressed yet properly. But because of its great strength, your soul can't stay corked up inside you for even a short amount of time; it must burst forth, and it looks for an alternative way to find expression. In you, it finds expression in the uncontrollable sexual drive that you experience. In other words; the strong sexual drive that you feel, is a physical expression of the power of your soul's character that is locked up inside you".
"I wish!", said Yerachmiel with a bitter smile. "Judging by the sexual urges I feel, I must have unlimited inner strengths".
"Yes, Yerachmiel, that's exactly what I mean", I said. "Now we can also understand better the words of Chaza"l: 'Whoever is greater than his friend, his Yetzer is greater as well'. The greater a person is, the more his soul's strengths require expression. And if the strengths of his character do not succeed - for what ever reason - to find expression in a constructive and positive way, they are forced to erupt forth in an negative way.
Yerachmiel was quiet for a moment and then spoke, weighing each word: "So in actuality, what Chaza"l are saying is that the Yetzer Tov and the Yetzer Hara are really the same inner force, and when we say the Yetzer Tov won - we really mean that our character's strengths succeeded in expressing themselves in a constructive and positive way. And when we say that the Yetzer Hara won, we mean that our inner strengths didn't find a positive way of expression, and that is why they chose a negative way out".
"Wonderful, Yerachmiel", I said, impressed. "I couldn't have expressed it better myself".

To be continued...


Understanding Lust
(Part 3)

In continuation of our story, Yerachmiel in the midst of a discussion with the Rosh Yeshiva, trying to understand why he has trouble coping with lust more than other boys do. The Rosh yeshiva continues...
"Another example comes to mind: 'water'. There are many similarities between our natural strengths and water. Like water, our inner strengths can't stand still for even a moment. When there's a blocked pipe, water will immediately seek a crack or a weak place to burst forth to the outside. And the stronger the water pressure is, the stronger the water will gush forth - exactly like when our individual strengths feel blocked - they burst outwards through Lust.
"Now you can also understand why lust attacks you mainly when you are sad or depressed. When you feel closed up inside yourself, your inner strengths feel blocked and the only way they can burst out is through an uncontrollable sexual drive. But this is not the case when you are feeling happy and connected to the world around you, because then, your many good inner strengths and qualities find expression in a positive way and they don't need to find alternative outlets".
"That is so true", smiled Yerachmiel. "From when I started to manage the Otzer Hasefarim and became more involved in the goings-on in Yeshiva, the drive became significantly weaker."

"Today", he added, his face full of expression, "my eyes have been opened to understand the battles going on inside me in a totally different light than I used to view them. This helps me accept my difficulties in dealing with lust on a daily basis and understand it better. But I still didn't receive a complete answer from the Rav to my original question: Why do I, particularly, have such a difficult time coping with my sexual drives, while I see that other bochurim don't have it so hard? Why do my inner strengths find expression by experiencing an endless sexual drive, while others struggle with totally different tests, like cravings for food, money or anything else?"
My heart overflowed with love for this young Bochur. I put my hand on his shoulder and said to him with a bright countenance: "That's a wonderful point you bring up, Yerachmiel. I thought I wouldn't have to get into that and I hoped you would be satisfied with what we said until now; but I keep discovering anew what a deep thinker you are. No idea can pass you by until you understand it till the end!"
"The truth is, there is another factor that we haven't spoken about yet and it needs to be brought into the equation as well, at that is - each person's particular character traits. As you surely know, every person has a unique nature and character. For example, there are those who get angry easily and others that almost never get angry. There are dominant people and others who just 'go with the flow'. Some people are very outgoing, while others are more introverted, and so on and so forth. Our inner strengths find expression - whether positive or negative - through our character traits".
"Perhaps this is most noticeable when choosing a job. One person chooses to be a doctor, another a lawyer - and so on. This doesn't mean that one person has more strengths than another, only that his nature is more suited to the specific job he chooses. Outgoing people will want to be more involved with society and will choose a job that reflects that, while more introverted people will choose a job that requires less human interaction. The character traits that are common to people with strong sexual drives are, like you have; for example, high creativity, endless love for people, spiritual sensitivity, and so on".
"So I hope it is clearer now why your particular character strengths find expression through a strong sexual drive. And by the way, sexual lust doesn't express itself the same way with everyone. One person's sexual preferences may be completely different than another's. It's actually sometimes possible to size up a person's personality and
psychological makeup based on his sexual preferences".
"Now I feel that I finally got a complete answer to my question", said Yerachmiel, "and it's also clear that if I can channel my inner strengths in a positive and constructive way, the powerful sexual drive that I suffer from so much will become noticeably weaker. But again I have a question. How do I do this in a practical way?"

To be continued...


Understanding Lust
(Part 4)

In continuation of our story, Yerachmiel in the midst of a discussion with the Rosh Yeshiva trying to understand why he has trouble coping with lust more than other boys do. Yerachmeil asks...
"So how can I put this into practice? How do I assure that my inner strengths find expression in a positive and constructive way?"
"A wonderful question, as usual. And like always, I would like to bring a parable to try and answer the question: A sick man arrives at the emergency room in a life-threatening state with symptoms of chest pain and shortness of breath and his situation is deteriorating by the minute. The best doctors gather around him immediately, and decide he is suffering a heart attack. They perform a catheterization, and on the heels of that procedure they roll him in for emergency bypass surgery. The surgery is a success, and after a period of recovery the patient is ready to be released from the hospital - but not before he gets detailed guidance from his doctors on anything that could be dangerous to his condition, as well as instructions on how to ensure healthy blood pressure, which medicines to take every day, and how to lead a healthy life style from now on - including prevention of stress, a regimen of exercise and a fat-free diet.
"Why do you think it was so important for the doctors to give the patient such detailed guidance on how to live? After all, they already dealt with the disease and he's being released already from the hospital?"
"Well, obviously", said Yerachmiel, surprised even by the question, "they want to make sure it doesn't happen again".
"Right", I replied. "In other words, you're basically claiming that had he been more careful to lead a healthier life style in the first place, and he would have found ways to release and prevent the build up of pressure inside his body, his disease could have very well been prevented in the first place. Correct?"
"For sure", answered Yerachmiel, "everyone knows that a stressful and unhealthy lifestyle are from the top causes of heart disease."
"Exactly", I agreed. "This means that a heart attack is not the reason for his disease, but rather a painful end result to having lived a misguided life style over time!"
"For sure", he replied.
"Now", I continued, "let's see how this parable can help us understand better the phenomenon of Lust. Uncontrollable sexual drive is similar to a heart attack. In this case too, if we don't stabilize the condition of the patient, he won't survive even in the short term. And even once his condition is stabilized, he needs a quick and comprehensive treatment, otherwise he won't be able to survive in the long term either. But then, when he finally begins to feel a lot better - to the point that he might even mistakenly think that he has been completely healed and has put it all behind him - precisely then, he must learn that he needs to change his life style completely around, and that he can never rest on his laurels.
"Back when we first started our talks, you were in a situation where the most critical thing was to stabilize your condition, because without that it would have been impossible to make any progress. Now that you are starting to feel a lot better with yourself, this is the time to deepen your self-awareness and start recognizing the many unique inner strengths that you possess. With proper guidance and much prayer and help from above, you will be able to channel the strengths you have in a positive and constructive manner, and return once again to a path of fulfillment and inner peace. For example, like you said yourself how managing the Otzar Hasefarim helps you a lot in coping with the lust".

The Lessons of the Past Few E-mails
"Understanding Lust" Parts 1-4

Part 1: Heightened sexual desire is actually a symptom of a deep subconscious need, that for some reason has still not reached fulfillment.

Part 2: The Yetzer Tov and Yetzer Hara are really the same inner force. The greater a person is, the more his soul's strengths require expression, and they will find expression in either a positive or a negative way.

Part 3: People with particular character traits, such as creativity, love for people and spiritual sensitivity, are more prone to seeking alternate expression for their inner strengths through a strong sexual drive (if these strengths are not channeled in the proper way).

Part 4: When dealing with addiction, it is vital to first stabilize the situation. Only afterwards, is it possible to deepen one's self-awareness and begin to recognize the unique inner strengths that he possesses. Once he understands better his inner qualities and strengths, he can learn to channel them in a positive and constructive manner through proper guidance, prayer and help from above.


The Daughter of the King
(Part 1)

A year goes by in our story... Late one night, the Rosh Yeshiva gets a phone call and receives great news. Yerachmiel is engaged to a special girl from a wonderful family!

The Rosh Yeshiva continues telling the story...

I hung up the phone. My heart rejoiced over the fantastic news that I just heard. The tremendous change that had overcome Yerachmiel in the past year was noticeable from afar. The color had returned to his cheeks; zest and happiness - that for a long period of time had eluded him - had come back to him in full strength. His job as the manager of the Otzar Hasefarim did much good for him, it helped return his self-esteem and gave him fulfillment. He was in over his head, in both learning and public service.
I felt like my own son had gotten engaged. I was so excited that I didn't sleep a wink all night; I couldn't stop thinking of the long journey that Yerachmiel had taken together with me over the past year. Who would believe that I would merit to see him building a wonderful home in Klal Yisrael in holiness and sanctity! There is no greater happiness than that.
The next morning right after davening, Yerachmiel came over to me, his face beaming. I hugged him warmly and wished him Mazal Tov properly.
"I have an unusual request from the Rosh yeshiva", said Yerachmiel.
"What can I do for you, my dear Talmid?" I asked, my curiosity peaked.
"The Rosh yeshiva once told me that I can come to him about everything and anything, and that his door is always open for me. Now I want to perhaps take advantage of this special privilege. Because of the special connection that I have with the Rav, I wanted to ask if the Rosh Yeshiva himself would perhaps agree to guide me in preparing for marriage. I know that the Rosh yeshiva doesn't usually deal with this and that there is a designated Rav who usually prepares the grooms in Yeshiva, but I would feel a lot more comfortable asking the Rav personal questions that I could never bring up with anyone else"...
Of-course, I agreed to teach Yerachmiel. How could I not? We made up to meet in my office twice a week during the afternoon breaks.
For a few weeks, we discussed all the aspects of Shalom bayis and learned in depth all the relevant Halachos of family purity. With only two weeks left to the wedding, when I felt that Yerachmiel already knew the halchos of niddah well and understood the nature of a Jewish home properly, I told him that the time had come for him to ask me whatever was on his heart. The look on his face showed me that he had been waiting for this moment for a while.
"How can I know that all the many sexual experiences that I had in my past, won't affect my ability to remain true to my wife in the long term?" he asked.
"This is an excellent question", I answered, "but before I answer you directly, I would like to focus on the differences between those sexual experiences you had in the past, and between a lasting and meaningful relationship that you would like to build now. I want to apologize in advance if the questions I will ask you now should cause you a little discomfort, but I have a reason to ask these questions. Tell me Yerachmiel, do you know what your sexual partners of the past liked to eat?
"No", answered Yerachmiel, "why would I? We never spoke about such things, it didn't interest me".
"So maybe you know what made them happy? Or what made them sad? I'm almost certain you don't", I said, and Yerachmiel nodded in agreement. "So in actuality, the only common denominator you shared with them, was that each of you wanted the other's body, with no connection to personality, goals or uniqueness. Correct?"
"For sure", answered Yerachmiel.
"In other words, you created in your mind a very large constraint factor, kind of like a huge umbrella, under which most people could fit. And when you go in the street and see a pretty girl, she can definitely fit the constraints that you set in your mind for potential partners to fulfill your sexual desires".  

Yerachmiel nodded in consent.
"Now", I continued, "let us think about the relationship that you are about to build, Be'ezrat Hashem. I am pretty sure that you already know what your future wife likes to eat, no?"
"Sure", answered Yerachmiel, "I even took her out this week to a Chinese restaurant".
"And did she share with you what makes her happy or sad and what her goals in life are?" I asked.
"Certainly", answered Yerachmiel, "we speak about everything openly, we don't hide secrets from each other".
"Great", I said. "In other words, you have connected with her as an individual, with all the unique ingredients of her personality. It is clear that what is common between you two is unique only to you two. So when you see another girl in the street, she has no connection to the intimate relationship that you have created with your bride".
"For sure, Rebbe, this is clear and obvious".
So let's progress onwards, and let me ask you another question...

To be continued...


The Daughter of the King
(Part 2)

We continue our story...

Yerachmiel is holding a deep discussion with the Rosh Yeshiva in preparation for his upcoming marriage. The topic on hand is; How can Yerachmiel be sure that the relationship he is building with his bride will not be affected by his addiction and his past memories and experiences.

The Rosh Yeshiva continues...
"Now let me ask you a question, Yerachmiel: Did you ever think it would be nice if you had a new, state-of-the-art car?"

"Sure, I wish!", answered Yerachmiel. "I hope that in the near future I'll be able to allow myself to by a nice car".

"I hope you succeed', I wished him, and added: "and what would you say to a state-of-the-art space-craft, like the United States has, or like other countries have built, that could take you and your bride to the moon and back, or just cruise through space whenever you felt like it?"

"Right!", answered Yerachmiel sarcastically, "I'm not some little kid that has totally unrealistic fantasies".

"In other words, you are basically claiming that we only desire that which we know we have some chance of attaining, but things we know we have no chance in the world of having, we don't covet."
"Right Rebbe, this is self-understood", answered Yerachmiel.
"Well, you have just explained the Even Ezra (Shemos 20:14) that asks: How could Hakadosh Baruch Hu command us in the 10 commandments: 'Thou shall not covet another man's wife'? It would seem that this is something out of our control! If we go in the street and see a woman, especially if she is pretty and attractive, how can we cause ourselves not to covet her? It's against the laws of human nature - which were designed to bring about an attraction between a man and a woman. It would seem to make a lot more sense if the Torah simply commanded us not to actually be with someone else's wife. And even this would be hard enough to fulfill, since the lust inside us sometimes threatens to overcome us; but at least on our actions we can try to maintain control. And yet, the Torah commands us straight out: 'Thou shall not covet', which means: Do not even desire it even in your heart! Is this at all possible?"
"To answer this question the Even Ezra brings a parable: The king of the land has a beautiful daughter, and whoever sees her is captivated by her beauty. A simple villager is going along his way when the princess's entourage passes him by and he catches a glimpse of her. Will he covet her in his heart? Or would he even seek another woman of her caliber to be his wife? The answer is clear: If the villager is not crazy, it is clear to him as the mid-day sun that the King's daughter can never be his, and he will therefore not desire her at all. It's only natural for him to desire that which he knows he has some chance of attaining, if even the smallest."
"The Holy Torah is teaching us here an important lesson in human nature: The moment we internalize that something is not relevant to us whatsoever, and it will never have a relevance to us in the future either, automatically we won't desire it. But if everything is an open possibility in our mind, when we don't differentiate clearly between what is relevant to us and what is not, when we think we could get anything - if only we tried hard enough to attain it, then we don't have even the smallest chance that we won't covet these things in our hearts."
"So now, let's return your original question. You asked if the many sexual encounters and experiences of your past will effect the relationship that you are building now with your future wife. The answer is simple: As long as the common denominator that you created in your mind is open wide enough to include almost every woman as a relevant option to fulfilling your sexual desires - as unlikely as it may be, but still a realistic possibility to you - then it will indeed be difficult for you to stay true to your wife in the long term. But if you are able to internalize in your mind, in a manner that leaves no two ways about it, that of all the women in the world, only your wife is permitted to you and you have no other possibilities - not even the smallest of the small - to be with a woman other than your wife, then automatically you won't covet any other woman, not even in your heart.
"And I'll bring you a proof to this idea from the blessings that we will say soon under your Chuppah, be'ezrat Hashem. One of the brachos says as follows: 'Blessed are you Hashem... who forbade the non-married to us, and who permitted the married to us through Chuppah and Kiddushin'. It seems that there is unnecessary repetition in this blessing. Why isn't it enough just to say 'who permitted the married to us through Chuppah and Kiddushin?' What is the point of specifying in the blessing also that which he forbade to us?"
"I think I know the answer", called out Yerachmiel. "Just like the Rav is saying, that it is only if we know without any doubt that all other women in the world are forbidden to us, that we can truly connect properly with the one woman who is permitted to us."
"Exactly!", I smiled in pleasure.

To be continued...


~ Special Announcement ~

We brought a new baby boy home today B"H, so I didn't have time to translate the next stage of our story yet. We hope to continue IY"H in the near future. You are all invited to the Shalom Zachor tonight! Please see this page on our forum to send a special gift for the baby :-)


For today, I would like to bring you a beautiful e-mail I received from someone who identified himself by the name "Shomer Bris":

Dear Guardureyes,

I am writing in regard to a recent email I received about your site. I happened upon your site a few months ago, but when I went back onto the site due to the recent email, I was hit with the full realization of just how special your site is. This incredibly important mitzva of shmiras habris requires all the publicity it can get. Unfortunately, due to the taboo nature of the subject, as well as the embarrassment in discussing such issues with friends or mentors is just not possible for some individuals. Your site has changed that. There is now a place for people to get help in this very difficult and important area. By promising anonymity for those who are undertaking work in this area, you have enabled them to reach unimaginable levels..

Shmiras habris is an area of my life that I have been working on for a long time, some times with more hatzlacha, some with less. About six months ago, I read a book called The Light of Ephraim, which is available in many sforim stores and online as well. This very readable English book explained every facet of this important mitzva, from what the exact nature of the sin is, how to target it and just how special being shomer habris is. Baruch Hashem I have been completely clean since that day.. It was not and is not easy by any means. But hard work really is the only way. The changes in my life have been immeasurable, as of the first couple of weeks of this undertaking. I will not go into detail, but for those of you who have done the same, you will agree. For those of you who are just starting out, keep it up, you will soon find out for yourself.

How did I make it this far? At the time it seemed impossible but, Baruch Hashem, I have a few friends who realize the importance of this mitzva as well. The six of us are unmarried bachurim, currently learning in a prominent yeshiva. Yes, it is possible to be shomer habris, before marriage and after. Together with my friends, we formed a group based on the idea that this is an important focus of our lives. We meet once a month to stress the importance and beauty of what we have undertaken, and also to make some pledges. The rules of this group require that if one falls chas v'shalom, we are required to inform all other members of the group and to pay a fine of 500 dollars to the tzedaka of our choice. The number is arbitrary and serves as a number that is a significant amount, yet doable. The members have managed to be shomer habris from one month to six months, as of today Baruch Hashem. Your amazing site offers many aspects of our group. Perhaps in the future a system of fines and rewards can be implemented as well. It all starts with accountability. If you have to answer to someone, it will be that much easier and becomes that much more real.

So where are you holding? One year? One day? Whatever it is, you are doing an amazing thing. In today's day and age, at times it seems impossible. IT IS NOT. Don't kid yourself. It will not be easy, but how committed are you? I challenge all who read this to try it for themselves. You can do it. Believe it because it is possible. I would suggest reading The Light of Ephraim and to spend some more time using all the great features the Guardureyes site offers. Get started now. Get an internet filter. Put in a password you won't remember. Commit to it fully. This will not be enough. You must make your own guidelines, but it's worth it. Tfilla/Prayer is ultimately the only way to really make progress. As we all know, unfortunately it is no simple task on our own, some of us have been trying to stop for many years. It's scary how strong the hold is, isn't it? You wouldn't believe what some sforim say about how difficult it is, but so much better for all of you who pull through. And you will. Ask G-d for his help, in regular tfilla and spontaneously throughout the day. You might have to beg for months. It is said that anything worth doing is not easy and it is certainly the case here.

I'd like to mention that R' Chaim Kanievsky points out in his the first volume of Krayna D'igrisah that anyone who keeps away from these forbidden pleasure is promised to receive the pleasures of life from other areas instead. Is there anything you are waiting for in your life? It's on the way as soon as you make progress in this area. Try it and see for yourself, the top spot of the wall of honor is waiting for your name.

Hatzlacha Raba. May Hashem help the creators of this site to continue to spread the importance of this mitzva, and to everyone who is working on this area.


For today's Chizuk e-mail, I would like to share with you a powerful five minute audio clip taken from a Shiur by Rabbi Shafier (

Click here to listen to the five minute clip.
(Or right-click and choose "Save Target As" to save it to your computer).

Click here for the entire Shiur.


A Revelation

(Originally posted on the forum)

Today I am going to reveal to everyone one of the deepest secrets to winning this battle. So make sure to read carefully:

The moment a person decides in his mind that no matter how much it hurts or how bitter it is - he will do it anyway, no matter what; the moment he is willing to suffer whatever pain it takes to succeed even if it feels like he is dying, an amazing thing happens: The struggle ceases to be difficult and it actually becomes EASY and SWEET! 

This is one of the most profound secrets in Avodas Hashem and it applies to any spiritual feat, including Torah learning. As the Pasuk says:
"Zos Hatorah Adam Ki Yamus Ba'Ohel - This is the Torah of a man who dies in the tent". Our Sages learn out from this that the Torah can only be acquired properly through someone who 'kills himself' over it. As soon as a person accepts upon himself the yoke of Torah to the point where he is ready and willing to suffer for it to the point of death; "ZOS HATORAH - THAT is the Torah", and then he merits to feel the true sweetness of Torah that by far exceeds any physical pleasure.

But whether it's Torah learning or conquering the Yetzer Hara, in order to achieve true freedom and joy in the divine service therein, we have to be willing to even feel a taste of death and still not give in. Once we achieve that, Hashem does an amazing thing and suddenly the struggle becomes easy and the person feels true joy!

With Torah however, it is understandably harder to achieve this high level because it requires doing; i.e. lots and lots of learning, getting up before dawn, going to sleep late, eating little and toiling day and night in Torah. This is indeed very hard and requires a huge leap of faith before it starts to feel truly sweet (see the Sefer Shomer Emunim). 

But when it comes to our struggle with this addiction, it is much easier to implement this secret. We don't have to do ANYTHING. It's all in our minds. We just have to STOP doing the bad things and accept upon ourselves that even if we feel like we are going to DIE if we don't give in, even if we feel such a deep void that everything we do feels like 'dirt', still, we accept the challenge of the pain and will not give in no matter what, then - and ONLY then, do we merit to feel the true sweetness and freedom from the Menuval once and for all!!

This is truly an amazing secret. Most people don't know this until they've achieved it. But now that we know it, it is much easier for us all to take that initial leap of faith!


"Esnachtoh" wrote on the forum:

This post really touched me. I will b'n print it out and read it before I think that I am about to H'Y give in.

"Ano-nymous" (who recently hit 90 days clean) wrote on the forum:

This is so true. It feels so great to be able to say that I BEAT this. I haven't come close to falling since I hit 90 (and even before that) because the desire just about fades away. It's unbelievable. Obviously I'm not letting down my guard, and I'm going to install a filter on my computer at home when I go for Pesach.


The "Vacht-Nacht"

Tomorrow morning is my son's bris be'ezrat Hashem, and we have the Minhag to (try to) stay up all night. We just made a "Vacht-Nacht" where friends came by to read some Zohar, say Kriyas Shema, drink Lechayim, bless the baby and wish us Mazal Tov. Only a few moments ago I bade the last of my friends good-bye. It is now after Chatzos (midnight) on this holy night - the night that tzadikim say a father can accomplish great things with his Teffilos and learning. Having been busy all day, I can't find anything more important now than to write a Chizuk e-mail to the 333 members of this Chizuk list. After all, what could be more precious in Hashem's eyes than helping strengthen Yidden in the area of Shmiras Habris - the very Bris that I will be entering my son into tomorrow be"h?

My dear beloved friends, brothers in arms, front-line soldiers in Hashem's army!

I wanted to take the opportunity of this auspicious time to ask all of you to accept upon yourselves one little thing tonight/tomorrow in honor of the Bris. It can be just one new fence or one small resolution in the area of Shmiras Ainayim/Shmiras Habris.

The Pasuk says
"Im lo brisi yomam valaylah, chukos shamayim va'aretz lo samti - if not for my "Bris" (covenant) day and night, the laws of heaven and earth I would not have placed".

Here are some BABY GIFT IDEAS that would truly shake the heavens in honor of my son's Bris tomorrow:

  • If you haven't installed a strong filter yet, see this page for step-by-step instructions on how to install a reliable filter in a way that will really keep you protected and feeling FREE.
  • Are "YouTube" and other such sites still allowed by your filter? They shouldn't be. Can you take the jump and sacrifice this to Hashem?
  • If you find you keep falling, have you considered accepting upon yourself to do something very hard every time you fall, like taking a 2 mile walk or giving a big monetary fine to Tzedaka (click here)? I promise you that if you accept this upon yourself, you will find that it's not as difficult as you thought it was to stay clean!
  • Have you tried giving yourself a little "pinch" each time your eyes stray in the street?
  • Did you try the anonymous free weekly 12-Step phone conference over here?
It's these little steps that make all the difference in this battle between those who ultimately succeed and those who give-up. Every little thing we do towards purifying ourselves in the area of SHMIRAS BRIS in our day and age is so infinitely precious in the eyes of Hashem!

I will be davening for all of us tonight - as well as by the Bris!

May Hakadosh Baruch Hu fulfill in us all the Pasuk:
"U'mal Hashem Elokecha es Levavcha ve'es Livav Zarecha, Le'ahava es Hashem Elokecha be'chol levavcha u'vechol nafshecha, le'man chayecha - and Hashem your G-d will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your children, to love Hashem your G-d with all your heart and all your soul - so that you may live!"

We have a new valiant warrior on the forum who goes by the alias "Ykv_schwartz". He recently wrote a very enlightening post to someone who had been clean for 90 days and then had a fall
(edited a bit for clarity):

There are some fundamental points that post-addicts must realize. I myself have gone six months completely clean with very few test along the way, and after that I fell. I have learned from my own mistakes what needs to be in place after "escaping" the claws of the Yetzer Hara.  

1) Firstly, the fact that you were able to fall back to it so quickly is a sign that your brain is not rewired yet.  I read that it can take up to three years to rewire one's brain. I have learned this lesson the hard way. My ultimate down-fall came in a very similar experience as yours, where I had access to open internet suddenly one day and the curiosity got the better of me, and I was gone. It was then that I realized that my brain has not really been rewired, some of the associations had been suppressed all those months, but they had not been erased.  So the first issue to understand is, that just because one thinks he is cured, he is not. We should realize and understand this.

2) The second issue is related to the first, and that is, that the life of a baal teshuvah is different than the life beforehand.  A few weeks ago, I was invited to a neighbor's get-together for the birth of their daughter. These neighbors of mine have a different level of observance than mine and their event was co-ed.  I walked in to say mazel tov and I saw men and women intermingled throughout this house. Besides the fact that I was mortified by the sight, I realized that this is not a place for me. It wasn't that I felt aroused by being there (B"H, I have greatly worked on myself in this area over the past few years), but I felt it was not even appropriate for me to enter just to say mazel tov.  So even though this neighbor of mine may get insulted or whatever, those are the sacrifices we have to make in life. So we need to be extremely careful what we do, where we go, etc. As a policy, I do not go to certain places. I even stay away from shopping centers if possible. To what extreme a person decides to take this upon himself is personal.  But the point is, that a baal teshuva has to make  changes to his life. He cannot think that life is back to normal again. This is a fundamental mistake I made. I felt "cured" and my guard was down, and before I knew it, it slowly made its way back into me.  

3) Third point: We need to not only make physical changes to our lives, but perhaps more importantly, we need to strive for heightened levels of kedusha.  As many on this forum pointed out,
"sur-me'ra - turn away from bad"  is not enough on its own, you also need "aseh tov - do good".  This means to begin building one's kedusha all around.  It starts by controlling one's body, which means not only controlling the movement of our hands - which by now, for some, has become second nature. But it also means working on stopping to intentionally allow erections to occur, and it means knowing how to react when that happens accidentally. One must realize there are prohibitions involved. Then one can work on not dwelling on fantasies, purifying one's mind, and it keeps going. The point is, to grow spiritually in general and in kedusha specifically. Again, this is personalized. One person may feel he wants to work on reducing his focus on gashmiyus in general. Everyone is different, but the principle is the same. It really all boils down to what someone posted recently, "what do I want out of life? To be a prisoner of my body or a servant of Hashem?". Truly accomplishing this, comes not only through the power of 'refraining', but also through the power of positive growth.

4) The fourth and final point I would like to make here, is a less well-known yetzer hara called "the yetzer hara of milestones".  There is a catch-22 that many of us here on the forum are faced with.  We all encourage ourselves to strive for the top of the ladder of 90 days. This is great, as it helps us stayed focus. But when a person hits a milestone in life, there is little voice telling him, 'you did it! great! You are the best! Now you could go back and do a little of that bad stuff again'. We must realize that milestones in life are not the end, but rather a beginning. When a person falls from his milestone (as I did), he did not mess up the past. But the yetzer hara of milestone makes us look at the past, not at the future. We hit a point and look back at our accomplishments and forget the future ahead of us. We forget that the milestone's only purpose was to prepare us properly for the future.


One of our members on the forum, "Boruch", used to be against the 12-Steps. He wrote long posts describing why he thought that the approach was anti-Jewish and counter intuitive.  One day, Boruch's therapist suggested that he try the 12-Step groups at least once. Boruch was ready to try anything to break his addiction once and for all, and agreed to do as his therapist proposed. And Boruch is the type, that when he does something, he does it all the way.

Today, Boruch goes to the groups twice a week, an hour drive each way. He has learned that the 12-Steps can help a person put the Mussar he has known all his life, into action in real-time.

Let's hear what Boruch has to say recently
(edited a bit for clarity):

I knew many mussar books and methods for fighting the Yetzer Hara. I knew them all, and yet in a moment of a test, it never occurred to me to practice any of them. Then I started attending 12 steps meetings and started calling members regularly. At first, when I had tests I did not call. Then, after a while I made my first call to a member while I was in the middle of a test. He asked me why I was fighting the Yetzer Hara and not working the steps. I was totally caught off-guard and was flabbergasted by how original his question sounded. I had been investing hours in going to groups, never once considering to actually use the steps to work through my trials.

So, I agreed to use the steps against future trials. The next test was not long coming and I got ready to surrender to Hashem. I said the equivalent of "OK, Hashem You win, from now on I am ready to do it Your way".

You see, the problem with fighting the urges is that it is counterproductive, it only increases the stress and pressures that feed the urge. Those who depend on emotional willpower and determination to win, will lose as soon as they can no longer maintain the ever increasing emotional strength needed to contain the urge. That's the power of surrender. Not surrender out of weakness, but surrender out of strength and wisdom. 

I was taking my addiction personally and it bothered me so much that when the urge struck, all the mussar I knew was out the window, and one way or another, it was almost as if, in my pride, Chas Veshalom, I was telling Hashem, "Get out of the way, while I take care of this one".

Then I joined the 12 steps group, and as I described above, through working the steps on my struggles, I came to realize that the urge to fight and confront the addiction with an all out emotional battle of wills, is as damaging as the urge to succumb to the addiction. That is when I understood that the best way to fight the Yetzer Hara was to nullify my will to fight the Yetzer Hara directly. I realized that I needed to surrender my will to Hashem's will. 

As the Rambam says in Hilchos Issurei Biyah 21:19:
"yasiya libo midivrei havai vehashchoso, veyifaneh ledivrei torah - Turn the mind from empty and destructive thoughts and channel them to words of Torah". Moving or turning the mind is a smooth process, no struggle at all.

So if we do it our way and it becomes personal, and we try and beat the Yetzer Hara on our own terms, we are asking for real trouble. But thanks to the 12 steps group I joined, I learned to do it Hashem's way. When a test comes, we resist the urge to struggle and we resist the urge to take on the Yetzer Hara, and instead we just immediately, absolutely and effortlessly switch channels to Torah (whether it is the Torah suggested by the Rebbe R' Elimelech in his Tzetel Koton, the drosho of Chazal on
"Venishmartem mikol dovor ra, shelo yeharher odom bayom veyovo lidei tuma balaylo- and you shall guard yourself from any bad thing; that one should not fantasies by day and come to pollution at night", whether it is another possuk or mammar Chazal, whether it is a Shiur on a cellphone, or a Rashbo or Ketzos that we remember), we just do what Hashem tells us to do, we focus on His Holy Torah for as long as it takes, and He will do the rest.


For our purposes - in the article below, replace the word "alcohol" with "Lust".

Your Alcohol or Your Life
Taken from here

New York - There's an old Jack Benny bit where a mugger jumps out of the bushes and says, "Your money or your life." Benny just stands there doing nothing until the mugger gets irate and shouts, "I said, 'Your money or your life!'" Finally Benny snaps back, "I'm thinking. I'm thinking."

In the Shema prayer we say (Deuteronomy 6:5), "And you shall love the L-rd your G-d with all of your heart, with all of your soul and with all of your might." The Midrash interprets "your soul" to mean your life and "your might" to mean your possessions.

In other words, you should love G-d even to the extent of giving up your life, and even to the extent of losing your possessions. The Midrash then asks, "But if the Torah already tells us to love G-d even to the extent of giving up our lives for Him, isn't it obvious that we should also be willing to part with our possessions for Him?" The Midrash answers, "For some people, their money is more precious to them than their life."

I guess the Torah was talking about guys like Jack Benny. But where does the Torah talk about me? I am an alcoholic. Where does the Torah tell me to love G-d more than I love to drink? Because, you see, for me, giving up my alcohol is like Jack Benny giving up his money. If you tell me, "Your alcohol or your life," my answer is, "I'm thinking. I'm thinking."
Let me explain to you what it means - to me - to be a recovering alcoholic. Repeated experience has made it abundantly clear that I can either have everything I ever wanted out of life OR I can have alcohol. I can't have both. If I work my program of recovery, all my dreams come true. If I have one drink, I turn my life into a living hell. But that's not what makes me an alcoholic. What makes me an alcoholic is that - for me - that's actually a tough call to make.

I suppose that since I am in recovery it means that, in the end, I keep deciding that my life is more important to me than my drinking. But that's not a decision that I arrive at without a great deal of daily deliberation. Whenever I am distressed - or sometimes even for no reason at all - I contemplate whether or not I should just go for broke, go back to the bottle and let all of the chips fall where they may. After indulging this perverse fantasy for a while, I ultimately decide that it's not a decision I'm prepared to make - not because I wouldn't like to, but because I can't live with the consequences. I know that I will just end up in so much pain that I will have to give up and - if I don't die or go insane first - go back to recovery again anyway. So I choose life. But it's not an instinctive choice. That's how messed up I am. Are you beginning to understand?

But let's get back to my question: Where does the Torah talk about me? Where does G-d tell me, the alcoholic, that I should love Him more than I love to drink?

I look at the verse again. "And you shall love the L-rd, your G-d, with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your might." "Soul" means life; "might" means possessions. Looks like I skipped over "heart." What's "heart"? What is "with all of your heart"?

The Midrash says, "with 'both' of your hearts - your inclination for good and your inclination for bad." I've got two hearts. Yes, I can relate to this. One heart loves G-d. One heart loves to drink. G-d wants me to love Him with the heart that already loves Him and with the heart that loves to drink.

But how can I love Him with the heart that loves to drink?

Why do I drink?

You know why I drink? I drink because it takes me away from "me." I don't like being "me." Not that I think I would be any happier being someone else, but I, for darn sure, don't like being "me." I like numbness. Mental numbness. My mind goes so fast. My brain won't shut up. The thoughts produce feelings faster than my puny heart can bear. Alcohol takes care of that. Drunkenness quiets the "me" and the less "me" there is, the better I feel. When I am really good and drunk, I have these beautiful moments where, suddenly, it doesn't even hurt so much to be "me."

In recovery I have learned that I can get from my relationship with G-d everything that I ever wanted to get out of alcohol. When I give myself up to G-d, it doesn't hurt so much anymore to be "me."

I guess that's really why I stay sober. I know that I said earlier it's because I am afraid of the misery and insanity and death that my drinking would bring. But that's not the real reason. Misery and insanity and death just aren't big enough deterrents to keep an alcoholic like me sober very long. They might be able to scare me straight for a while, but they're not enough to keep me sober day after day. No, the real reason I stay sober is because all I ever wanted from alcohol I can get from my relationship with G-d.

And do you know what it was that I wanted out of alcohol? Alcohol promised that if I could just get rid of "me" long enough, then in that quiet, I would somehow finally be "me."

I don't expect all of you to relate to this, but you can still humor me when I speak of the truth that I've found ~ that real life begins when you learn to love G-d with the heart that loves to drink.

Comments by Readers:


Wow, this is beautiful. Anyone who has suffered from addiction, like people who lose themselves everyday for hours on improper internet sites, can relate to this article so well. It really all boils down to this beautiful line above: "In recovery I have learned that I can get from my relationship with G-d everything that I ever wanted to get out of alcohol. When I give myself up to G-d, it doesn't hurt so much anymore to be "me."


That was one really fantastic article. So well brought out in a very personal way. If you look at sifrei chasidus, chabad or others, you'll see that they all talk about giving your psyche to Hashem. And in return, getting your psyche back. Pirkey Avos says that if you make G-d's will as your own will, then G-d will make His will as your will. Give your "me" to Hashem and He will give you back a real and very clean "me".


In Chizuk e-mail 423 above, "Boruch" described for us some of the methods for dealing with lust that he learned in the 12-Step groups. He discussed the technique of immediately and effortlessly switching the channels of his mind from Lust to Torah in moments of trial. Someone answered him though, that in a moment of Lust there are no 12 steps, there is only Lust.

Here is Boruch's beautiful reply on the forum (edited a bit for clarity):

You are certainly not alone, I heard something very similar from someone else as well very recently. He said that in a time of a test there is nothing else. Now, I was no different than you and him, and before I got involved and invested in the group, I too would have been unable to implement 12 steps in a moment of trial. And like you and him, the very idea of turning my mind over to learning Torah in a time of a test would have been an immense struggle. So on this we are very clear; by default, the idea of implementing anything in a moment of trial is extremely difficult if not sometimes unattainable.

Now how about the people who go to 12 step groups? Last night I went to a 12 steps meeting and listened to one non-Jew after another discuss how he had at one time been totally immersed in addiction all day and now thanks to the steps and the groups, whenever he gets an urge he just works through the surrender to their Higher Power. And they surrender in two ways:

1) They surrender themselves to do His will and not theirs, AND... 
2) They surrender to their Higher Power all expectations of ever achieving their cravings and lust.

They discussed how when that doesn't work, then right then and there - in the middle of a test, they call a fellow member from the groups, and if that doesn't help, they attend the soonest possible meeting. As one guy put it, if that doesn't work, he does all three simultaneously!

One guy put it beautifully; "If I can use the 12 steps to beat craving, addiction and lust, then anyone can".

Now we Yidden are holier than any of these no-Jews are, and we have Chazal as well, so how can they do something that none of us could do? 

I don't believe the answer is only because of group therapy. Group therapy indeed makes you feel heard, but it doesn't give you techniques and abilities you never had.

So what is the answer? From first-hand experience I can tell you that what is really going on in the fellowship is that you see and hear in the flesh people implement something that sounds very abstract, very remote, and seems unattainable. And when you see with your own eyes that even non-Jews coming from the lowest places are able to do it, and you see that they can keep it up for 5 years, 10 years, 13 years, etc... you finally realize that you can do it too, all you need to do is just join the groups and work the steps together with everyone else and get them from everyone else, especially the long haulers. 

The 12 step groups have, over years and years, been proven on the record to be the single most successful system at beating addiction, with the longest sustained recovery periods. So the question becomes, why would anyone who is serious about recovery rule out what has been proven over the years, and instead chart his own course?

Yes, excuses there are plenty. But real reasons there are very few. I myself was initially against both the steps and the groups. But deep down I was ready to go the distance. The proof is, that when someone I trusted and whose judgment I valued told me that I should do it, I did. No ifs, ands or buts. Because I wanted to do whatever it takes. As Guard quotes so beautifully from Rabbi Twersky, if someone has cancer, chas veshalom, what will they not do to save themselves?

You asked why I am so sure of myself if I only have 40-something days of sobriety. I am not sure of myself, but I am at least sure that I am using a proven method. 

No one is asking you to choose right now between either committing to joining the groups or ruling them out forever. But I believe we should all be a little more open, a little more ready to consider joining the groups, if and when the time is right.


Boruch's accountability partner, "Shomer", posted today on the forum:

I plan on attending an SA meeting in the near future (hopefully tomorrow). I am davening that Hashem should give me hatzlacha through this new medium. Boruch has bought the SA white book for me and I have started reading already. I would not have had the courage to go to meetings if not for Boruch, so thank you Boruch for your continued support. You are a tremendous asset to these boards and an inspiration to me personally. You certainly have followed through on your commitment to do "whatever it takes" to recovery and I tip my hat to you.  May you continue successfully in your journey to a lifetime of sexual sobriety and have much hatzlacha in all areas of your life.

I was hesitant about going to the meetings for privacy reasons, time constrains as well as personal hesitance (I am more shy than Boruch by nature). After this last fall however, Rabbi Twerski's statement that if a person had cancer, what would they not do to get better? Well, I humbly admit to all those here that I cannot do this alone.

May Hashem grant us all a lasting and enduring life of health, happiness, Torah, yiras shamayim and sexual sobriety.


(Today's Chizuk e-mail is double as long as usual, because tomorrow there won't be a Chizuk e-mail. So make sure to get DOUBLY inspired today!)


The Great Helplessness & the Great Light of Purim

In the past few days, I received an unprecedented amount of e-mails with cries for help, people who had fallen and felt they couldn't get back up, posts on the forum of despair, lack of motivation, etc... It struck me as odd that there should be so many in a row, all at once. But after thinking about it, I may have a theory as to why this is happening precisely now.

The holy Jewish soul is, by nature, in sync with the spiritual channels of the different times of year. According to Kabbala, the spiritual light that comes down on Purim is equal to the light that comes down on Yom-Kippur itself, but even higher, in the sense that on Yom-Kippur the light is without "Chasadim" (the attribute of Kindness) and can't be used, hence the fasting and five afflictions. However, through the Teshuvah that the Yidden did in the time of Purim, the light that comes down on Purim is with "Chasadim" and is similar to the light of the "G'mar Hattikun" (the World-to-Come) when all of Hashem's kindness will be revealed. That is why on Purim, unlike on Yom-Kippur, we are allowed to "use" this great light, and we drink, feast and rejoice with great happiness.

It is known that the greater the spiritual light is, the greater the vessels must be to receive it. A vessel, by its very nature, means a "lack" or a "void". As the Zohar says, there can be no light that doesn't come first through darkness. That is why today, before Purim, we fast the Ta'anis Ester. "Ester" in Hebrew means "Hidden", as the Pasuk says:
"Ve'anochi Aser Astir Panai ba'yom ha'hu- and I shall hide my face on that day" (which the Gemara says is hinting to the story of Purim). Today we fast, pray and do Teshuvah. This creates the "vessel" for the great light that will come down tomorrow on Purim.

The depression, lack of motivation and hopelessness that these servants of Hashem were feeling in the past few days more acutely, is - I believe - the "large" vessel that Hashem was preparing for us, that will be able to contain the great light of Purim.

As "Me" posted on the forum (based on Rabbi Nachman):

Esther is the attribute of "hester". This means that it is ALL hidden. This is the Megilas Esther, which means to be "Megaleh" the "Hester" - i.e. Reveal the Hidden.

Purim was preceded by the highest level of Hester, and this is what everyone is experiencing. The hester is so great because the Kedusha is so unbelievably awesome. Everyone is experiencing feelings of yiush, feelings that the big Y"H is running the show now, feelings that "what's the use", etc, etc. This is what Hashem does when the kedusha is SO great. He makes it "look" as if the Y"H, the big klipah is running the show. Hashem took Hamen, the klipah of Amalek, and raised him up up up, so high....Why? Because when the kedusha is so great, the absolute and complete fall of the impurity must be just as great, hence the raising up high before the eventual downfall. This is what everyone is experiencing right now.

The kedusha of Purim is so great. Even Yom Kippurim is not as kodesh as Purim. This is why it is only Ki' Purim - "like" Purim (i.e. close to, but not exactly). The kedusha of Purim is so great, that unlike Shabbos and the other Yom Tovim, there is no need to be M'kadesh the day, nor to refrain from Melacha. It does not need any shmirah from melacha in order to maintain its kedusha.

And, the entire yeshuah from the klipah was accomplished by the strongest of all weapons.....Teffilah. So anyone who feels the pain from the hester, it means they are right on target. Go and speak to Hashem - non stop. Use our weapon of mass destruction, the weapon of Mordechi and the Tinukkos Shel Bais Raban, TEFFILAH.

The Sefer Kav HaYosher says that Taanis Esther is a day that is very auspicious for one's prayers to be answered in the merit of Mordechai and Esther. But the things we can accomplish on Purim itself are even greater. On Purim,
"Kol Haposeach Yad Nosnim Lo - whoever asks is given"! (See this story about how this Jew was helped miraculously in his struggle with the Yetzer Hara on Purim).

So everybody, let's get drunk this Purim! When a person is drunk, they can laugh and cry at the same time. Let's get high, dance, sing, laugh and cry to Hashem. Happiness on Purim can bring down the greatest light of the whole year. And saying Tehhilim on Purim with real tears can accomplish miracles you never dreamed were possible!


Along a similar vein, we posted yesterday on the forum another deep insight:

It says by Amalek: 
"Asher Karcha Baderech". The Beis Ahron of Karlin writes that Karcha is a Lashon of:
Kora - a heavy beam. The Amalek inside us tries to weigh down heavily in our minds, making the struggle feel so "heavy" and difficult.
Kerirus - Coldness. He makes the hearts of the Yidden cold to Avodas Hashem.
Keri - impurity. He is always trying to find ways to defile the Jewish soul and get us to be Pogem the holy Bris.

Amalek tries to destroy our minds, our hearts and the holy Bris - from HEAD to FOOT.

On Purim we WON OVER Amalek. How? We give away our minds and hearts to Hashem. We get drunk. We don't think. We don't argue with the Yetzer Hara. We go ABOVE logic. This is the only way to truly fight the Yetzer Hara -
"lima'lah min hada'as - above logic". The Yetzer Hara consistently asks questions like Pharaoh did: "Who is Hashem that I should listen to him?" and "What do I have from my Avodas Hashem?" The Yetzer Hara cannot be answered with logic. Instead, as it says by the Rasha on Pesach: "Hakeh es Shinav - Knock out his teeth". Don't even get into an argument with him.

So to all of you who feel there's no hope. Amalek is trying his hardest at this time of year to enter our minds, our hearts and to get control over the holy Bris. Ta'anis Ester is the VESSEL for the light of Purim. The helplessness we feel now is the VESSEL for the light of the salvation that is about to come down. So daven with all your heart this Purim and you will merit to bring it all down


Whenever there was a strong Kedusha, it leaves a "void" in its wake when it leaves. That is why we eat Melaveh Malka on Motzai Shabbos, to counter this affect. And perhaps that is also why there is Shushan Purim. Otherwise, the great drop in Kedusha from Purim to regular weekdays would be too difficult to bear. Already someone posted today on the forum:
"Today I'm feeling very empty and alone. I guess it's a let down from Purim".

So my advice to everyone is twofold:

1) Make sure to rejoice a little on Shushan Purim as well. Eat a good meal, put on some good music, do something with your family, etc... This will help us adjust to the drop from yesterday.

2) Be aware that you may get these feelings now that Purim is behind us. Awareness that these feelings are normal, can help us be better prepared and also help to lessen the affect. Be ready to surrender your will to Hashem.


"Momo" posted recently on the forum:

GUE, not only have you inspired me to stay clean for 3 weeks, you've also inspired me to write poetry!

I was thinking of this idea yesterday and it helped keep me going during a challenging time I had. Perhaps if someone is feeling weak, they can remember some of this poem and it might strengthen them as it did me. 

~ I will not disappoint ~
by "Momo"

I will not disappoint my soul by listening to the Yetzer Hara instead of to her.
I will not disappoint my ancestors who risked their lives to remain pure and true.
I will not disappoint my GUE friends who believe in me, pray for me, and cry for me every day.
I will not disappoint Moshiach who is waiting for me to do Teshuva in order for him to reveal himself.
I will not disappoint my wife who prayed many prayers, and shed many tears begging HaShem to help me untangle myself from my depression, and reestablish a beautiful relationship with her, and only her.
I will not disappoint HaShem who has been patiently waiting for years for me to remove myself from the world of Tumah, return to Him, and affix myself to the world of Kedushah. 
And most important of all, I will not disappoint myself.
I will not disappoint, and therefore, I must not fall.
And Heaven forbid if I fall, I must pick myself up and continue onward.


Dealing with Depression

Some of the most common causes of the addiction to inappropriate stimulation and Lust are depression, anxiety or resentment. People who feel an inner void or darkness because of these emotional issues, either genetically or because of external circumstances, are more prone to feel a need to seek self-soothing behaviors to "medicate" themselves and make themselves feel better.

Also, for those of us who are struggling to break free of these unhealthy behaviors, there are often withdrawal symptoms that can be accompanied by feelings of a deep "void" or depression. It is important to recognize that this is normal and that if we get passed this initial phase, it becomes much easier down the line.

Today I would like to share with you all a few helpful things on the subject of dealing with depression and similar emotional issues.


Elya K - our 12-Step phone conference moderator - wrote once to someone about depression & resentment:

I have suffered from depression for over 30 years. I am now on medication, which helps me tremendously. I relate to your struggle about disappointment and have been there for many years. When I compare myself to others, I am constantly disappointed at the outcome because it never meets my expectations. When I trust that what happens to me is supposed to be good for me, then I can accept it and move on.
Resentments and anger fuel your addiction and depression. Depression is often ANGER TURNED INWARD. I held a resentment for over 30 years. Finally someone helped me get rid of it by telling me the following: Write a list of all the good things you can think of around those circumstances of whatever / whoever is making you angry (resentful). Look at this list every day for 1 month. Pray that the person you are angry with is blessed with the blessings you want for yourself (health, wealth, serenity, etc.). Explore what is causing you to be resentful and where you had a part in it. Realize that there is good in everyone, even yourself. By staying angry, you are just letting others control your life by keeping you depressed and angry. Depression and anger are well treated with medicine and therapy.
Life is full of disappointments, but if we look at them as opportunities for growth and learn the lesson they are teaching us, we move on to bigger and better things. I was bankrupt at 27 with 3 children. Slowly I built a company up and after 20 years I sold it for 1/2 a million dollars because I worked hard and never gave up.
Get the book "The 4 Agreements" and read it. If it doesn't change your life, I'll buy it back from you. If you go to movies, rent the movie "A Peaceful Warrior". Learn to live in the present moment. Forget the past, there is nothing you can do to change it. Don't be arrogant enough to think you can carry the world on your shoulder and change the future - or anyone else - for that matter. Forget the future. Live in the present. That's the key to serenity.
(To contact Elya directly for more advice, write to or call the Hotline).



Rabbi Yisroel Reisman

Click here for a small audio clip (4.5 min), an excerpt from a Shiur by Rabbi Yisroel Reisman, with some insights from Gedolim and doctors on dealing with depression.

The Shiur itself deals with these "personal aveiros" and is a MUST to hear for anyone who struggles with this addiction. To hear the entire Shiur click here.



Click here for an interesting interview on "Depression in the Orthodox Community" with Rabbi Nesanel Helfgot.



Yehudah posted on the Forum:

Being that p-rn is often associated with depression I would strongly urge anyone who is - even if only occasionally and very mildly - depressed, to consider a natural product called '5htp'. It helps raise serotonin levels in the brain and in my experience it is hugely effective, studies have shown that this natural compound is more effective than proscribed anti depressants, (see 'optimum nutrition for the brain' by Patrick Holford).


"Yehuda the Addict" Posted recently on
the forum:

I had a bit of a slip on Purim. I have not let it pull me down though, Hashem is still part of my life (in the past this would have led to a downward spiral), and I think I may even have learned from it.

One of the things that helps me is the acknowledgement that this is an addiction. This enables me realize that the buzz / rush / excitement that I feel when engaging in these things are simply chemicals that are secreted in the brain and I am addicted to them, and this helps put things in perspective.

This morning I already put this realization to practice I postponed my response to a trigger by waiting a few minutes and seeing it for what it really is. And low-and -behold, the buzz was gone!

Thanks to all of you once again.

Some Words of Wisdom...


There's going to be pain in life. Accept that. But it is up to you to decide which pain you want.

Do you choose...

  • temporary pain, or eternal pain?
  • healing pain, or the pain of the disease getting worse?
  • pain of failure, or pain of growth?


Don't look where you fell, look where you slipped.


I asked G-d to take away my addiction. He said: "My son, it's not for me to take away, but for you to give it up".


In Chizuk e-mail 401 we began bringing translations from the Hebrew book "The First Day of the Rest of My Life". We stopped after e-mail 417 because we had a baby boy B"H and I didn't have time to continue translating the book. Then came Purim, and again there wasn't time. So now we continue again where we left off. (The translations from the book will continue hopefully until the end of this week).

Background: Yerachmiel, who had once been addicted to unhealthy sexual behaviors and has since largely recovered, is in the midst of a deep discussion with the Rosh Yeshiva (the story-teller below) in preparation for his upcoming marriage...

The Daughter of the King
(Part 3)

"I have another question on this matter", continued Yerachmiel; "even if I am able to internalize that all other women in the world are not relevant to me at all and my wife is the only one permitted to me, how do I erase all the memories from the many sexual experiences that I unfortunately had in the past, which pop up in my mind morning and night without invitation, particularly in the least expected times? It could happen in middle of davening, or while I'm learning with my Chavrusah. Even yesterday, when I went out with my Kallah to a restaurant, suddenly in middle of our conversation, without any connection to anything, I found myself going over in my imagination one of the sexual experiences I had; and as much as I tried to get rid of these thoughts, they only got stronger. What should I do if such thoughts come into my head while I'm with my wife?"
I smiled to him. "Another wonderful question. Again this shows how seriously you are taking the responsibility of the new home you are about to build".
"One of the central factors of a person's personality is his memory, without it we couldn't function at all. But let me ask you a question. When these memories enter your head, in what context do they come up?"
"What does that mean, in what context? In a sexual context of course!"
"Obviously, Yerachmiel", I answered. "Let me rephrase the question; are these memories pleasant to you?"
"Unfortunately yes", answered Yerachmiel flustered, "they remind me of all the pleasurable experiences I had in the past, even though now I regret them very much".
"And when these pleasant sexual thoughts come up in your mind, do the thoughts of disillusionment, regret and sadness that these experiences caused you, come up in parallel as well?"
"Totally not", answered Yerachmiel pointedly, "only the memories of the sexual experience itself come up in my head".
"Did you ever ask yourself why? After all, we both know how much pain and suffering these deeds caused you. So why don't these feelings come up as well, together with the pleasant sexual memories? The answer is, that the human mind distinguishes between pleasant memories - which it chooses to keep, and unpleasant memories - which it chooses to push away and forget. Forgetfulness is a big gift, it's a divine kindness that Hashem does with us so that life can continue even after we underwent difficult experiences or loss. If we remembered everything, we wouldn't be able to function at all; we would be sad and depressed the whole time."
"So for me, forgetting is a double edged sword!", called out Yerachmiel.
"Not necessarily", I replied. "As long as your mind continues to catalog the sexual experiences that you had as pleasant, they will continue to pop up in your mind again and again. The only way to prevent this is to change the status of these memories, in other words; to turn the sexual memories from pleasant memories - which the mind wants to keep, to difficult and bitter memories - which the mind will try to forget.
"But how do I do this?" asked Yerachmiel.
"There's an effective and simple way", I replied. "From now on, accustom yourself that whenever sexual memories pop up in your mind, instead of trying to forget them - like you've been doing until now without much luck - try and remind yourself of all the suffering and pain that they caused you as well. This way, slowly but surely these experiences will be transformed from pleasurable memories which the mind wants to save, to difficult experiences that the mind will do everything it can to push them away."
"I am speechless" said Yerachmiel. "How does the Rav know all this?"
"On my own I wouldn't know anything", I answered. "But Chazal taught us: 'Thoughts of aveiros (sins) are worse than the aveiros' (Yuma 29a). But this is hard to understand. Is thinking of a sin truly worse than someone who does the sin? Think about it for a second; who is worse, one who does the sin in practice, or one who thought about doing it but in the end overcomes his evil impulse and doesn't do it?"
"Of course, the one who sins in practice!", said Yerachmiel.
"But Chazal are teaching us, that thoughts of sin do more damage to a person than the sin itself. Perhaps this can be understood in the context of what we just discussed. Chazal, in their great wisdom, understood that in the case of sins we did in practice, we can feel a strong regret afterwards and do Teshuvah on them, and these experiences will be ingrained in our minds as painful experiences that we would prefer to forget. But this is not the case with sexual fantasies, which - even if we succeed in overcoming our desires and not sinning - the fantasies themselves become ingrained in our minds as things we would have liked to do, and memories of these pleasurable fantasies can be ingrained in the mind for a much longer time."
I saw that Yerachmiel was trying to digest what I had just told him. Finally he said, "I have one more question, but I am embarrassed to ask it to the Rosh yeshiva".
"I suggest we finish up for now", I said. "Mincha is in a few minutes and it would be a shame to talk under pressure. How about you write down the question and give it to me tonight, after Maariv? This way you'll feel less uncomfortable, and be'ezrat Hashem tomorrow afternoon we'll work it out together".
Yerachmiel accepted the idea happily and went his way.



Pizza with Toppings

(Part 1)

I didn't expect this question. It caught me completely off guard. How, Ribbono Shel Olam, can I try to convince my dear student Yerachmiel that this is possible, when I myself find it difficult? After all, I deal with this particular problem each day with my wife at home! I recalled the difficult discussion that I had just had with my sponsor on this very matter only a few weeks ago. This is perhaps the most difficult issue that I deal with since I started my own journey to recovery last year. How can I talk about this with Yerachmiel?!

I didn't have much time to think about it, because Yerachmiel arrived in my office.
"Did the Rosh Yeshiva get a chance yet to read what I wrote to him?" he asked restlessly, while taking a seat and attempting to hide his anxiety.
"Yes, I read it. The question is excellent, as usual. It's truly not a simple matter, and the question again shows how much you understood the issues we discussed yesterday. But with your permission, before I address the question," - suddenly Hashem put words in my mouth - "let me preface with an introduction".
"As you surely know, there are two types of pleasures: physical pleasures, which include all the bodily pleasures such as eating, marital relations and others, and then there are spiritual pleasures like Love or learning. These two types of pleasures have completely opposite characteristics. The basic characterization of physical pleasures is, that at first the pleasure is very strong but the more we have it, the weaker the strength of the pleasure becomes. For example, if the Yeshiva's cook would prepare pizza for supper, I assume everyone would be very happy and the pizza would be delicious for everyone. But what do you think would happen if the cook made pizza every night?"
"We'd get sick of it", smiled Yerachmiel.
"Right", I said. "And if the cook still insisted to make Pizza for a week straight?"
"I would suggest that he at least use a different topping every day", answered Yerachmiel.
"Now let's think about spiritual pleasures. Let's take, for example, learning a sugya in Gemara. When do you have more pleasure from the sugya, the first time you learn it, or after a few times - when you are already proficient in it and are able to answer a question or say a good s'vara? The truth is, you in particular, Yerachmiel, are a good example of this. I've observed you a lot in the Shiur Klali, which - by then - you've already prepared the sugya well and know it backwards and forwards. And I've seen what pleasure you have from a good s'vara or a good answer! This implies, that with spiritual pleasures, the situation is exactly the opposite: The more we taste of it the stronger the pleasure gets. And the same goes for Love. Who do you think love each other more: a couple who have just met, or a couple who have lived together for many years?"
"Surely, the longer they are together and give to one another, the stronger the love grows", answered Yerachmiel.
"How wonderful that you already understand this!", I said.

"So let's take a look now at what happens when a couple gets married. According to what we just explained, they would apparently find themselves in a problematic situation at the very start. On the one hand, they want to retain enjoyable marital relations in the long term. But this is something that, according to what we just said, should not be possible, because marital relations are bodily pleasures - which grow less enjoyable with time. But on the other hand they want to love each other, and Love is something that grows with time.

So based on what we've discussed until now, it would seem that every couple that gets married is faced with an impossible choice: either they stay together for only a short time and enjoy their sexual relations while giving up on true Love, or they can opt to stay together for many years and merit a real love, but their marital relations will become less and less enjoyable as time goes on".
"It's a problem", summed up Yerachmiel with half a smile.
"But we know", I said, " that Hakadosh Baruch Hu loves us, and he created this world for us to enjoy, yet still, the Torah commands us to get married! Apparently there's a secret here and if we can figure it out, we can enjoy both worlds together: to remain together for many years, and at the same time, still retain the enjoyment of marital relations the entire time!"
"But that goes against all the rules we laid down until now!" called Yerachmiel.
"True", I said, "and now I am going to reveal to you the secret, and I believe that this secret can help us deal with your question". Yerachmiel gazed at me with full concentration and attention.

"We determined that with physical pleasures, the more we have of them, the less enjoyable they become. But this is only true if the physical pleasure is the purpose and goal unto itself. If, however, the physical pleasure is only a means to achieving a spiritual pleasure, then all the characteristics of the spiritual pleasure attach themselves to the physical pleasure as well, and as a result, not only does the physical pleasure not get weaker over time, but the opposite is true, it gets stronger over time!"
"But I don't understand, Rebbe, how can this be?" asked Yerachmiel.

"Let me explain", I answered.

To be continued...


Pizza with Toppings (Part 2)

"Let's take the example of the pizza again and assume that the cook would prepare exactly the same pizza every night. But then, he would reveal to you that he is using an ancient, secret recipe that he inherited from his forefathers, that the more one eats of this pizza the smarter and sharper they become, to the point that they will know the entire Torah and never forget a thing. But this is only on the condition that they eat the pizza without missing a single day, for one full year. Now if on one of those days someone would invite you to an expensive restaurant with juicy steaks, which would you prefer Yerachmiel? Would you prefer the delicious restaurant steak - or the pizza with the special powers that you already invested months into, and if you stop eating it for even one day you'll lose everything? I'm pretty sure that any wise person would choose the pizza, and he will also continue to enjoy it for the entire time - even without different toppings, because he knows that through it, he is attaining something very precious to him. The pizza for him is not the goal, but rather only a means to achieving an important and priceless goal; the knowledge of the entire Torah. And especially if he actually sees that the pizza's powers are beginning to work and his memory is getting sharper by the day; his love for the pizza will only grow as time goes on."
"So that's the whole idea: A couple decides to get married with the goal of building a home together and helping each other grow and develop. Their marital relations are supposed to be enjoyable, but they are not a goal in and of themselves, rather only a means to be able to share with each other and give each other pleasure. And when the relations are just a means and not a goal, then automatically, the stronger their love for each other grows, so will the pleasure in their relationships; not only will it not lessen with time, but it will grow with time. And that's why we don't just call it "sex" but rather "relations".
"But all this can only happen if it is very clear to both sides what is the goal and what is the means. However, the moment that marital relations become a goal in themselves, they immediately obtain the central characteristic of all other physical-bodily pleasures and are transformed from being "relations" to just plain "sex". And then, just like all physical pleasures, the enjoyment becomes progressively less strong over time. And as a result, the couple enters into cycles of disappointment, because they always remember the first time they were together and that first experience is always the strongest and most intense; from there on, the experience only fades in strength.
"So what do such disappointed couples do to get back the original thrill? Like with the pizza, they start searching for all types of "toppings". They try new, more exciting sexual experiences, at first together, but they quickly find that this too loses its thrill. And then they start, unfortunately, to search for it with strangers too, rachmana litzlan. Obviously, this causes their relationship to crumble, and the bitter end is almost certainly not long in coming."

Yerachmiel strongly related to this idea; especially when I spoke of the "pizza toppings". It was clear that he understood exactly what I meant. I smiled to him and said: "So now, let's get back to the question you asked: How can you enjoy "regular" relations with your wife for the long term, after you have already gone through and fantasized about so many different and exciting sexual experiences? Did I understand your question correctly?"
"Yes", admitted Yerachmiel abashedly.
"Basically, you have already tasted all the toppings and plain pizza doesn't even excite you any more, while your future wife has never even tasted pizza in her life!"
"But in light of the secret I just revealed to you, this is only an issue if your physical connection to your wife serves as a goal in itself, for your own personal pleasure and nothing more. In such a case, you can be sure that the memories of your many previous sexual experiences and fantasies will fill you with disappointment, because you won't find the same thrill as you had in the past. And if you try and take your wife - chas veshalom - to that same place as well, i.e. to the realm of fantasies and "extra toppings", your marriage is destined to be a complete failure from the start."

"But if you are wise and implement all that we have spoken about until now, you can be sure that true love will permeate your marriage always, and in addition to that, you will also retain the enjoyment in your marital relations with your wife for many years to come."
We were both silent for a while, and then Yerachmiel spoke: "I have one last question, actually - a request. Would the Rosh Yeshiva be willing to honor me with his presence at the wedding and be the Mesader Kidushin at my Chuppah?"
I rose from my place, came over to Yerachmiel and grasped his two hands with warmth: "I would never give up this honor for anything in the world", I said.
"Thank you Rebbe", replied Yerachmiel with tears in his eyes, "
for saving my life".


For today's Chizuk e-mail, I would like to review the lessons that we learned in the last two chapters of the book "
The First Day of the Rest of My Life". The first chapter was called "The Daughter of the King" and we covered it in e-mails 416, 417 and 430 above. The second chapter was called "Pizza with Toppings", and we covered it in e-mails 431 and 432 above. Both of these chapters deal with the issue of how someone who suffered/s from a sexual addiction can learn to have a happy and fulfilling marriage relationship with their spouse.


"The Daughter of the King" - Parts 1-3

Question: How can we assure that our past experiences won't affect our ability to stay true to our spouses for the long term?

Part 1 (e-mail 416):

It is important to focus on the difference between the meaningless sexual experiences of the past, and the lasting and meaningful relationship you want to have with your spouse. With past partners/fantasies you shared no common denominator other than lust, with no connection to their personalities, goals or uniqueness. However, your connection with your spouse is on an individual level, with all the unique ingredients of his/her personality. What is common between you both is unique only to you two. Other people you see in the street have no connection to the intimate relationship that you have created with your life-time partner.

Part 2 (e-mail 417):

Remember the parable of the simple villager and the king's daughter. Engrain in your heart that your spouse is the ONLY partner in the world that is permitted to you, and all other people are not relevant to your world at all. In this way, you won't even desire these things, in the same way that one doesn't desire a space-ship to travel to the moon and back each day.

Part 3 (e-mail 430):

If, in spite of the above, pleasant memories of past sexual experiences/fantasies still do come up in your mind - and they probably will; bring up together with them, the memories of the pain, disillusionment and suffering that these experiences caused you. This will help your mind to try and forget your past, and the memories will come up much less frequently.


"Pizza with Toppings" - Parts 1-2

Question: After all the past fantasies and experiences that we had, how can we retain enjoyment in the "plain" marital relations with our spouses for the long term?

Part 1 (e-mail 431):

With physical pleasures, the more we have of them, the less enjoyable they become. But this is only true if the physical pleasure is the purpose and goal itself. If, however, the physical pleasure is only a means to achieving a spiritual pleasure, then the characteristics of spiritual pleasures attach themselves to the physical pleasure as well, and as a result, not only does the physical pleasure not get weaker over time, but the opposite is true, it gets stronger over time!"

Part 2 (e-mail 432):

A couple gets married with the goal of building a home together and helping each other grow and develop. Their marital relations are supposed to be enjoyable, but they are not a goal in and of themselves but rather only a means for them to be able to share with each other and give each other pleasure. So by learning to focus on your "soul-connection" with your spouse and on ways you can give to him/her and bring your spouse pleasure - and not, chalilah, on the question of how you can "use" your spouse to fulfill your desires, then automatically, the stronger your love for each other grows, so too will the pleasure in your marital relations grow.

And to this affect, it is also helpful to always daven and entreat the Creator of the world to guard and protect your spouse, and to help you to make them happy.


And for some final advice from the author of the book in this area...

It is also very important to know, that there will surely come times where you will feel that in spite of all your efforts, you still find the struggle very difficult and hopelessness and sadness will begin to creep up inside you. At such times, remember that you are not alone. Hakadosh Baruch Hu is with you and is accompanying you on the path you have chosen to go on; the path of LIFE. If you remember and internalize this, you will find that the difficult emotional turmoil will quickly disappear.
By fulfilling all of the advice above, you are guaranteed that love will fill your home always, and in addition, you will retain enjoyment in your marital relations for all the years you are together.


Personal Advice from the Author of the book
The First Day of the Rest of My Life"


In Conclusion; On a Personal Note...
(Part 1)

Let's say I finally found myself a quiet corner where I can be alone for a few magical hours and disconnect a little from my day to day troubles, to refresh myself and get some new strength - what's wrong with that? What, I don't deserve to enjoy myself a little? Who does it bother exactly if I sit at the computer and surf porn sites and watch sex videos? When I imagine that I am one of the actors in the movie, I can actualize my wildest fantasies through them. And all this, without leaving the framework of my life, and without even doing such terrible aveiros like arayos and other prohibited sexual relations. And when I'm done and I got my pleasure, I return to the world of reality with one click of a mouse. What a wonderful solution!
So I thought. And indeed, at first this all seemed ideal. Things that used to stress me out and cause me sadness and depression suddenly stopped bothering me. My state of mind, which used to be unpredictable, became much more stable, until everyone - including myself - believed that I had become much more calm and pleasant to be around.
But this was all an illusion. In truth, instead of learning to deal with difficulties, disillusionment or even plain boredom, I chose to disconnect and run away. A process of withdrawal from life began inside me. Instead of building up my personality, communication with others or even work, I found an easy place to run - to the world of fantasy, enjoyable to my eyes and heart. And from there to complete surrender to fantasy and lust, the path was short indeed. Very quickly, I became a total prisoner, chained in the shackles of sexual addiction.
True, in life there are many difficult situations. Sometimes the pain is so strong that we feel we can't bear it anymore. And it's only natural that we should seek a magical corner of our own, where we can rest and sooth ourselves, without any criticism or demands; a place of warmth and love where everything goes; a place with no limits or prohibitions; and most of all, a place that gives us the feeling we exist and are alive.
This is exactly how tens and hundreds, if not thousands of our sons and daughters - all from ostensibly from "good homes", feel in the beginning. And before our astonished eyes, they sink into internet addiction, sexual permissiveness or any other type of addiction. (See this story from today's news for an extreme example).
However painful or surprising this may sound to you, they are 100% correct. What good reason do they have to give up on these powerful arousals and exciting temptations that they experience in the fantasy worlds that they create for themselves? They have long since learned to detest "self-righteousness" and stale preaching's of rebuke. They are sick and tired of hearing what they are supposed to - or not supposed to - feel. And more than anything, they can't understand how people who are supposed to love and accept them for who they are without any preconditions, throw on them, morning and night, their disappointments and hopes for them that never materialized. And if all that was not enough, they add insult to injury by using every type of manipulation to get them to feel guilty about the suffering and - "as if" - pain that they are causing them, while trying to instill fear in their hearts using graphic descriptions of the terrible suffering that awaits them in the world to come.

And all this, before they even had a chance to experience this world - even a little, and to feel the most important and vital of human emotions; feelings of belonging and acceptance.
Let me tell you a little secret that may sound strange to you. You too, in their place, would not act any different.
Disconnecting from the imaginary world of fantasy and sensual stimulation and reconnecting anew to life, can only happen in one of two ways:

Either somehow in the beginning, before things have gotten out of hand and they have caused irreversible damage to themselves, they will have the good luck to happen upon realistic, obtainable challenges and goals, and through them, they will find fulfillment and belonging. And only if these positive feelings will be stronger and more fulfilling than the imaginary feelings they created for themselves in their fantasy worlds, will they succeed in disconnecting from their destructive behaviors and reconnecting to life.
Or, chalilah, they will undergo what I and many others underwent. And that is, that they will wake up a few years too late from their sweet dream into the harsh reality of a life that is too difficult to bear, alone and hurting, and find themselves bound from head to foot in the chains of addiction. And only after many more wasted years of unimaginable pain, of hurting others and those close to them, of wasting time and destroying their souls, of creating cycles of lies and deceit in order to hold onto their "comforting" addiction, will they finally come to their breaking point. And then, and only then, coming out of feelings of utter helplessness and despair, will they be ready to totally surrender and give themselves up to the higher power, and through that, begin to reconnect to life.
It is indeed possible to prevent the fall into addiction in the first place. But to do this, one needs a creative and practical approach that includes, for example, finding realistic and easily obtainable goals that will give the potential addict feelings of fulfillment, existence and acceptance. And this will allow them to reconnect to life and use those positive feelings as a counter-weight against the never ending arousals and imaginary feelings of "existence" that the world of addiction offers them.


In Conclusion; On a Personal Note...
(Part 2)

The Moment of Truth

I reached my own "moment of truth" only after many long years - way too long - of unimaginable suffering and pain. Only then, when I stood completely alone opposite the mirror and looked myself in the eyes, I began to understand that if I want to live there's only one way for me to get out of my impossible situation; to take complete responsibility for my own destiny. But how? Firstly, by admitting to the simple yet painful truth: I am sick with a harsh disease called "addiction", and there is no chance for me to recover with my own strengths; I need help.
I pray and hope that the book I wrote (
"The First Day of the Rest of My Life") will find you a moment before it is too late, and that you will be saved from all the unnecessary suffering.
Like we said, the path to recovery from a strong sexual addiction - or any addiction for that matter, begins with the simple understanding and recognition that I am addicted and need help. But what to do from there? What is the next step? To whom do we turn for this intense - yet sensitive - issue?

Psychological Help

The subject of sex is intimate, sensitive and personal. In the religious camp, this subject is labeled as "Taboo" and guarded under a stamp of holiness and purity. It is very difficult for us to discuss these issues even with those closest to us, and it is especially difficult to reveal the deep, dark and painful aspects of our open sores before a stranger. This, on top of the fear that our secrets will leak out to the public and we will become a mockery and be scorned in everyone's eyes. 

All this and more: For addicts, their addiction is an existential need, like their air to breath. And therefore addicts will do anything - literally anything, and resort to any means, to remove anyone or anything in their path that wants to break through the protective walls that they built around themselves. In light of all this, it is very difficult for an external source of treatment to succeed.
So, if - in spite of the above - we have reached a willingness to take a gamble and reveal ourselves before another person with the hope that this person can help us deal with our addiction, it is vital to know to whom it is worthwhile to turn for help, in order to save ourselves from further grief and unnecessary expenses.

There are many therapists who claim to deal with the field of sexuality in general and addictions in particular, but there are few that truly do possess the tools to deal with this complex and delicate issue. Besides for professional training and much clinical experience, the therapist should also be someone with a highly developed self awareness and an intelligent and keen sensitivity. In addition to all this, it is preferable that the sex addiction therapist themselves have had personal experience in dealing with some type of addiction, whatever it may be, since the psychological processes in the various types of addictions are extremely similar.

From my own personal experience I have discovered, that even if in other fields of treatment the therapist need not have experienced himself the illness he is treating, the situation is different with addictions. The best addiction therapists are particularly those that have dealt themselves with obsessions and addictions, because only they truly understand inside out, the psychological processes of the addict and his method of thinking.


Today's e-mail is the final e-mail from the book
"The First Day of the Rest of My Life"

To download the entire set of translations as a PDF file, click here.


In Conclusion; On a Personal Note...
(Part 3)

Medical Help

Are there medical treatments that can help with recovery from sexual addiction?
The phenomenon of sexual addiction is fueled by two central components.
1. Compulsion - which is the main fuel of addiction, is responsible for a strong need to be in control. This does not allow any external source to break through our protective walls. There does however exist effective medical treatment that can reduce the flames of our protective system, thereby opening a door for a professional and trained body to penetrate the walls we have built and help us deal with the range of our deepest fears, many of which we are not even aware of. The therapist can help us progressively get to a place where we feel more secure, and can help restore our trust in ourselves and in the world around us. Only then, under close professional supervision - and not on our own, can the dosage of the medication be progressively lessened, until we no longer need it.
2. The heightened sexual drive of a sex addict is different from person to person. Modern medicine offers medication and shots that can suppress the sexual drive to the point of chemical castration. I do not want to get into in this complex issue, but it is important for me to emphasize that if the sexual addiction is harming others, as in cases of pedophilia or rape, it is forbidden under any circumstances to wait. One must seek urgent counsel with a psychiatrist and take immediate action to prevent the next victim.
On its face, it seems like a relatively simple solution to the problem of addiction: As soon as signs of compulsion appear, let the candidate for addiction take the magical medication against compulsion, go for psychological treatment - and presto, all is well! Could this be? In reality, medical treatments are not a simple matter at all. First of all, medications against compulsion do not take effect right away, but rather only after taking them consistently for a long time. Besides, they often carry side effects, and therefore they require psychiatric supervision and follow-up, both before and during the taking of the medications, and it is prohibited - and dangerous - to stop taking the medications at once.
And herein lies a common problem. Accepting to take medication under supervision for a long time, goes completely against the compulsive nature of the control-addict. We can't expect the compulsiveness to act irrationally honorable and allow itself to self-destruct so that the compulsive person can take the medication that is to fight against itself. And therefore, many times when people suffer from compulsiveness, even though they understand on a rational level that the medication can help them get out of their difficult situation, they still somehow manage to evade taking the medication, while using various lame excuses. And even when they do start the treatment, they often quickly stop, start again and stop again. Ironically, those who end up taking the medication for the long term, are usually those who have suffered to the point of complete surrender, as we discussed in the previous e-mail.

Support Groups

There are many support groups to treat the various types of addictions. These groups work according to the 12-Step traditions, and their most sacred principle is that of anonymity. In other words, the members of these groups introduce themselves only by first name and don't give out any identifying details about themselves, like where they live or work. They also accept upon themselves to discuss what goes on in the groups only within the framework of the groups. This complete and zealous guard over secrecy gives the addict a sense of security and is one of the most important tools in restoring his trust in himself and in the world around him.

To all those of you who recognize that you suffer from addiction, I strongly suggest joining one of these addiction support groups. There you will also find the literature that will teach you about the steps and traditions.


And as you have reached here [the end of the book], I am sure and convinced that Hakadosh Baruch Hu will help each and every one of you to find the best path to save yourself from yourself. And [as Rabbi Nachman usd to say]: "The most important thing is not to fear at all".

As long as the candle is lit, one can still fix... R' Yisrael Salanter.


Rabbi Ya'ir Shochat, author of the book "The First Day of the Rest of My Life", helps people today to deal with sexual addictions. You can speak to him for free on our Israel Hot-line (call from the U.S as well).

See this page for more info.

The above e-mails are excerpts from the book. To order the (Hebrew) book on-line
click here.

To download the entire set of translations as a PDF file, click here.


To download the entire set of English translations from the book

The First Day of the Rest of My Life"
as a PDF file with bookmarks

Be mezakeh the rabbim and pass the link or file on to your friends, Rabbeyim, Rosh Yeshivos, etc. The religious public needs to be made aware of the phenomenon of sexual addiction in the religious community and learn how to handle it in the most sensitive and effective ways.

Who knows how many "Yerachmiels" there are out there that can still be saved if only our community leaders, Rosh Yeshivos and Rabbeyim have the knowledge and wisdom that are revealed in the book and translated in this PDF file.


I want to share with you a beautiful excerpt from an eye-opening article that someone shared with me recently about the different type of 12-Step groups that exist today:

What the original AAs were shooting for - and what they aimed their program at - was not mere sobriety. That would have been the "common-sense" approach, the way of worldly wisdom, the reasonable-level-of-aspiration gambit. But the founders of AA were men moved by inspiration. They were coming at the problem with the uncommon sense of men under guidance.

The common-sense approach had already been tried and it had failed. If you set a drunk's level of aspiration at mere abstinence - "'Why don't you be a good fellow, use your will power; and give the stuff up" - it did not work. The poor candidate for reform was back drinking again in short order. The discovery that launched AA in the first place was that if an alcoholic were somehow to be rocketed into a state way beyond abstinence, if he were to achieve a real spiritual conversion, an utterly new relationship with God, then permanent abstinence would automatically occur as a blessed and life-saving by-product. That was how it happened with Bill. That was how it happened with Dr. Bob. That was how it happened with most of the first hundred members.

For the full article see here.


And "Be-holy" posted something along similar lines on the forum yesterday (edited for clarity):

B"H I am still holding strong and I hope everyone is gaining on their mission to be free. Things have been up and down recently. It's getting easier, but I still feel the y"h turning inside of me. Be that as it may, I sometimes get down when this happens. But yesterday it occurred to me; that contradiction within us is the sand that grinds away at the clam, producing a beautiful pearl. In other words, if we never felt down and were ALWAYS up, we would never really be pushed to grow. Therefore, those feelings shouldn't let us get down but rather make us aware of our present state, and show us on which areas we need to continue to work.

I truly believe with all my heart, that the only way we will ultimately remain happy when all is said and done, is to fill that void constantly with ahavas Hashem (love of G-d) and avodas Hashem (service of G-d) every moment of the day. The only way we will feel good in the long term, is not just from the sur m'rah (staying away from bad) - because that will wear off in time, but rather by aseh tov (doing good) by making every moment of our lives a connection to Hashem, every seder and every davening, and by maintaining a constant awareness that we can - and are - in service of G-d 24/7, be it on the street or in the house, etc...

Some may think that this is way beyond us, but think of it this way; Didn't our addiction cause us to always be on the lookout 24/7 for that girl on the street or more of that filth on the internet? This addiction was also a constant awareness, so now we can turn it on its head and use this "constant awareness" for the good!

We are fighting the Yetzer Hara who is a mighty warrior. He has the arsenal of knowing our nature better than we know ourselves! The only advice is to cling to Hashem, pour our hearts our to him and constantly find new ways to bring our divine service to greater heights. This is the only true, time tested answer to all of our problems.

With all my prayers and admiration to my fellow warriors, may tomorrow shine a new light on tzion and all of our souls yearning to "be holy".


To all those who suffer from Lust addiction, we highly recommend reading the "Big Book" of Alcoholics Anonymous. To download the full and complete 1st edition of the "Big Book" - with stories, printed in 1939
click here. (For our purposes, remember to replace the word "Alcohol" everywhere in the book with "Lust").

Today I want to quote from the "Big Book" where a man by the name of Bill is telling his story. Bill was one of the founders of the 12-Step program. (This program is used today to help thousands of people worldwide to break free of almost any type of addiction, including Lust addiction - see

Bill describes his cycle of addiction to alcohol over many years in painful detail, and how he had become so addicted that he was suicidal. His friends and wife were sure that he would be locked up and institutionalized. He had been in and out of hospital and declared a hopeless situation. He had completely given up on himself and had seen again and again how he simply had zero will-power in this area.

Until one day, an old school mate - who had been a drunk like himself, gave him a call and showed up at his door. His friend claimed that he had found "religion" and had completely turned his life around.

We quote here from Bill's own words:

My friend sat before me and made the point-blank declaration that God had done for him what he could not do for himself. His human will had failed. Doctors had pronounced him incurable. Society was about to lock him up. Like myself, he had admitted complete defeat. Then he had, in effect, been raised from the dead, suddenly taken from the scrap heap to a level of life better than the best he had ever known!
Had this power originated in him? Obviously it had not. There had been no more power in him than there was in me at that minute; and this was none at all.
That floored me. It began to look as though religious people were right after all. Here was something at work in a human heart which had done the impossible. My ideas about miracles were drastically revised right then. Never mind the musty past; here sat a miracle directly across the kitchen table. He shouted great tidings.
I saw that my friend was much more than inwardly reorganized. He was on a different footing. His roots grasped a new soil.
I finally realized that it was only a matter of being willing to believe in a power greater than myself. Nothing more was required of me to make my beginning. I saw that growth could start from that point. Upon a foundation of complete willingness I might build what I saw in my friend. Would I have it? Of course I would! Thus was I convinced that God is concerned with us humans when we want Him enough. At long last I saw, I felt, I believed. Scales of pride and prejudice fell from my eyes. A new world came into view.
I finally understood the full significance of a Godly experience that I had experienced once in my youth. For a brief moment back then, I had needed and wanted God. There had been a humble willingness to have Him with me-and He came. But soon the sense of His Presence had been blotted out by worldly clamors, mostly those within myself. And so it had been ever since. How blind I had been.
At the hospital I was separated from alcohol for the last time.
At that point I humbly offered myself to God, as I then understood Him, to do with me as He would. I placed myself unreservedly under His care and direction. I admitted for the first time that of myself I was nothing; that without Him I was lost. I ruthlessly faced my sins and became willing to have my newfound Higher Power take them away, root and branch. I have not had a drink since.
My school mate visited me, and I fully acquainted him with my problems and deficiencies. We made a list of people I had hurt or toward whom I felt resentment. I expressed my entire willingness to approach these individuals, admitting my wrong. Never was I to be critical of them. I was to right all such matters to the utmost of my ability.

I was to test my thinking by the new God-consciousness within. Common sense would thus become uncommon sense. I was to sit quietly when in doubt, asking only for direction and strength to meet my problems as He would have me. Never was I to pray for myself, except as my requests bore on my usefulness to others. Then only might I expect to receive. But that would be in great measure.
My friend promised when these things were done I would enter upon a new relationship with my Creator; that I would have the elements of a way of living which answered all my problems. Belief in the power of God, plus enough willingness, honesty and humility to establish and maintain the new order of things, were the essential requirements. Simple, but not easy; a price had to be paid. It meant destruction of self-centeredness. I must turn in all things to the Father of Light who presides over us all. These were revolutionary and drastic proposals, but the moment I fully accepted them, the effect was electric. There was a sense of victory, followed by such a peace and serenity as I had never known. There was utter confidence. I felt lifted up, as though the great clean wind of a mountain top blew through and through. God comes to most men gradually, but His impact on me was sudden and profound.
For a moment I was alarmed, and called my friend, the doctor, to ask if I were still sane. He listened in wonder as I talked. Finally he shook his head saying, "Something has happened to you that I don't understand. But you had better hang on to it. Anything is better than the way you were."

This good doctor now sees many men who have such experiences. He knows they are real.
While I lay in the hospital the thought came that there were thousands of hopeless alcoholics who might be glad to have what had been so freely given me. Perhaps I could help some of them. They in turn might work with others. My friend had emphasized the absolute necessity of demonstrating these principles in all my affairs. Particularly was it imperative to work with others as he had worked with me. Faith without work was dead, he said. And how appallingly true for the alcoholic! For if an alcoholic failed to perfect and enlarge his spiritual life through work and self sacrifice for others, he could not survive the certain trials and low spots ahead. If he did not work, he would surely drink again, and if he drank, he would surely die. Then faith would be dead indeed.
With us it is just like that.



In yesterday's e-mail (#438 here) we brought excerpts of Bill's story from the Big Book of AA. It was a very important and enlightening story, so if you still did not read it, we suggest you go back and read it first.
In continuation of this idea, I would like to share with everyone in the coming days, a series of posts from "Boruch" - who is working the 12-Steps into his life through the groups, where he beautifully explains how the 12-Step program relates to us all, as Yidden. We encourage everyone to read the coming e-mails carefully, because a deep understanding of how this simple yet brilliant program works can be the most powerful tool you will ever come across to beat this addiction.

Boruch writes:
I would like to share with you how I have come to see the 12-Step approach that was - after all is said and done, totally conceived by non-Jews.

The Maharshal in teshuvos (98) said that the author of the sefer hakrisus, the Rash Mikinon, had studied all of the hidden mysteries of Kabbala and yet, when he davened, he davened like a one-day-old baby.

What could a one-day-old baby possibly teach Rash Mikinon that he did not know from Kabbala?

I will tell you how I now understand it. There is knowledge in all its complexity, and then there is "Behavior". Someone who has all the knowledge of hilchos shechita but has never seen a shechita will have no concept of how to shecht. That is called shimush. Learning the behavior.

So knowledge of Tefila is in Kabbala, but learning how to behave? Rash Mikinon chose a one-day-baby as his model.

Why? There are two things about a one-day-old baby:

1) He is totally dependent on his parents and has no hope of taking care of himself.

2) He only has one option of self-expression. He cannot choose how to approach his problems, how to present them or what words and expressions to use. No complications. He just opens his mouth and cries. Straight from the heart, honest and direct.

That's how Rash Mikinon davened. With the same total dependence on Hashem and with the same simplicity as a one-day-old baby.

Now, if we wanted to visualize for ourselves the behavior of a one-day-old baby, we could walk in to any maternity ward anywhere in the World. The baby doesn't have to be Jewish. It could be a Mexican baby, a Vietnamese baby, it makes no difference whatsoever.

That's exactly how I understand the original AA groups and the 12 steps. The alcoholics of AA were just like the one-day-old baby. They were totally desperate, they knew that Hashem was their last and only hope and they knew how they needed to come humbly to Hashem for His help. They needed an approach so simple that even a drunk could get it.

Now, we Frum Yidden are not short on knowledge of how to Return to Hashem. We may not be Rash Mikinon but we do have Shaarei Teshuva of Rabbeinu Yonah, we do have hilchos Teshuva from the Rambam. B"H, knowledge we have in plentiful supply. And knowledge of hilchos teshuva we will indeed not find among goyim, as Chazal say "Torah bagoyim al taamin". But from where are we addicts to learn how an addict who is returning should behave? Certainly not from a one-day-old baby.

I have found that, as a Frum Yid, I can learn the behavior with which an addict should return to Hashem from the early founders of AA. I can learn a set of behaviors so simple that even this drunk (who is me) could get it and implement it.

Does it matter whether the AA founders were Jewish? Absolutely not. Whether they were American, Mexican or Vietnamese? Not at all. 

Certainly the AA founders wrote the steps in English and certainly they were to an extent influenced in some of their external presentation of the steps by their religion and culture. But in essence, the 12 steps represent a Path of Return to Hashem so simple that even a drunk could get it. And that's why it can work for me.

And I'm sure it can work for you too.


Today is Rosh Chodesh Nissan, the day Hashem said to Moshe "This month shall be for you Rosh Chodoshim - the head of all months". The word Chodesh comes from the root "Chadash - Renewal". Every month, the moon renews itself and the Jewish people - who are likened to the moon - are given a chance to renew themselves as well.

Well folks, today is the head of all renewals! It's the day for a new start. But not just any new start; rather a whole new perspective! I hope that yesterday's Chizuk e-mail about the one day old baby, and today's Chizuk e-mail below will help give us a new perspective altogether.

May Hashem help us all to be renewed and cleansed, like a Tinok Shenolad - a baby just born, in preparation for the great light of Yetzias Mitzrayim that is coming up in two short weeks.


In Chizuk e-mail #427 (on this page) we brought a poem by "Momo" on the forum called "I will not disappoint". Well folks, I am sorry to disappoint. After another series of falls lately, Momo posted another poem on the forum called "I am Tired":

I'm tired.
I'm tired of struggling every day with this addiction.
I'm tired of people who don't know me commending me on being "so strong" when I'm really not.
I'm tired of reading about people (including myself) rising and falling all the time.
I'm tired of fighting.
However, I remember how low I become and feel when I don't fight,
And that's even more depressing and upsetting to me.

I'm tired.



Dear Momo,

Welcome to the "addicts" club. We understand you perfectly. You are finally admitting that you can't do this on your own. Now you are only one step away from bringing Hashem into your heart in a way you never believed was possible. Momo, please hear me out. You are tired because you are fighting something larger than yourself. But when you learn how Hashem fights for you - if only you just want him to and need him to enough, you will finally know peace and serenity as you have never known before.

Let's see what our 12-Step expert "Boruch" has to say about this:

In SA, the working assumption from the beginning has been that whatever is true for alcohol and liquor is true for lust. They commonly read directly from the Big Book, replacing the words alcohol and liquor with the word lust, and replacing the word alcoholic with sexaholic.

I would like to share with you something I found in the AA Big Book describing the experience in the late 1930s of the newcomers who joined AA and worked the steps, p85 (I replaced Alcohol with Lust):

"And we have ceased fighting anything or anyone--even lust. For by this time sanity will have returned. We will seldom be interested in lust. If tempted, we recoil from it as from a hot flame. We react sanely and normally, and we will find that this has happened automatically. We will see that our new attitude toward lust has been given to us without any thought or effort on our part. It just comes! That is the miracle of it. We are not fighting it, neither are we avoiding temptation."

So that's the claim printed in 1939. Is it true? Well, I was most certainly fighting my addiction. I had been for 36 years. And losing. Then, before I had seen this piece in the Big Book, came SA and the day I called my sponsor. He told me to stop fighting, to surrender to my Higher Power and in a moment of temptation just work steps 1-3.

Of course, as many people on the forum have written, the last thing on their minds in a moment of temptation is 12 steps, let alone the presence of mind to use them. And I was originally no different. 

But I have since found that when I made my recovery the single most important thing in my life and I joined SA, when I took part in a weekly "Back to Basics" Step meeting that works through all 12 steps in 4 weeks in addition to a regular meeting, when I met and learned from people with 15 years of sobriety and more, when I was working the steps together with everyone else, much the same as soldiers march in step and find it easier to march together, then doing the steps became the most natural thing in the World. And before I had seen the piece in the Big Book I already had experienced that I no longer needed to fight. 

Are there other methods that are so effective in turning a losing fight into no battle at all? I can only tell you of one method like that; doing the 12 steps by working them with a sponsor and active 12 step group meeting attendance. If anyone else has another method with the same results, I would certainly be interested to hear about it. (Not because I am looking for another method. The 12 steps are helping me change in many areas of my life and I would not trade them in. But recovery from addiction is extremely important to me and I am interested in all things Recovery).

Now you may ask. Are the groups for everyone? Is the SA 12 step program which is directly and totally modeled on the complete AA 12 step program for everyone? The best way to know the answer to that is to read the first 164 pages of the Big Book. You can download it as a PDF or put it on your Palm OS device from this link.



Hitting Bottom while Still On-Top

One of the prerequisites to working the the 12-Steps, actually - the very first of the 12-Steps themselves, is admitting powerlessness. In AA there is a consensus that a person can only work the steps properly if they have "hit bottom". As the originator of the 12 steps himself, in his essays entitled, 12 Steps and 12 Traditions, writes in discussing the First Step (replace Alcohol with Lust):
Why all this insistence that every A.A. must hit bottom first? The answer is that few people will sincerely try to practice the A.A. program unless they have hit bottom. For practicing A.A.'s remaining eleven Steps means the adoption of attitudes and actions that almost no alcoholic who is still drinking can dream of taking. Who wishes to be rigorously honest and tolerant? Who wants to confess his faults to another and make restitution for harm done? Who cares anything about a Higher Power, let alone meditation and prayer? Who wants to sacrifice time and energy in trying to carry A.A.'s message to the next sufferer? No, the average alcoholic, self-centered in the extreme, doesn't care for this prospect- unless he has to do these things in order to stay alive himself.
Under the lash of alcoholism, we are driven to A.A., and there we discover the fatal nature of our situation. Then, and only then, do we become as open-minded to conviction and as willing to listen as the dying can be. We stand ready to do anything which will lift the merciless obsession from us.
However, there has been some serious discussion and debate recently on our forum (in this fascinating thread that has grown to already 6 pages long!) as to what exactly constitutes "Hitting bottom"? Does this mean that a person must stand to lose everything, their marriage, their job and their honor, and literally be suicidal, or is any person who is sincere in their desire to stop lusting and understands that they can't do it alone - a candidate for the 12-Steps Groups?
Today, our 12-Step expert "Boruch" posted on the forum what I think is the clearest answer to this question so far. He writes:
I just discovered our very issue discussed in beautiful clarity and detail in the essay 12 Steps and 12 Traditions (that we quoted above):
In A.A.'s pioneering time, none but the most desperate cases could swallow and digest this unpalatable truth. Even these "last-gaspers" often had difficulty in realizing how hopeless they actually were. But a few did, and when these laid hold of A.A. principles with all the fervor with which the drowning seize life preservers, they almost invariably got well. That is why the first edition of the book "Alcoholics Anonymous," published when our membership was small, dealt with low-bottom cases only. Many less desperate alcoholics tried A.A., but did not succeed because they could not make the admission of hopelessness.

It is a tremendous satisfaction to record that in the following years this changed. Alcoholics who still had their health, their families, their jobs, and even two cars in the garage, began to recognize their alcoholism. As this trend grew, they were joined by young people who were scarcely more than potential alcoholics.  They were spared that last ten or fifteen years of literal hell the rest of us had gone through. Since Step One requires an admission that our lives have become unmanageable, how could people such as these take this Step?

It was obviously necessary to raise the bottom the rest of us had hit to the point where it would hit them. By going back in our own drinking histories, we could show that years before we realized it we were out of control, that our drinking even then was no mere habit, that it was indeed the beginning of a fatal progression. To the doubters we could say, "Perhaps you're not an alcoholic after all. Why don't you try some more controlled drinking, bearing in mind meanwhile what we have told you about alcoholism?" This attitude brought immediate and practical results. It was then discovered that when one alcoholic had planted in the mind of another the true nature of his malady, that person could never be the same again. Following every spree, he would say to himself, "Maybe those A.A.'s were right . . ." After a few such experiences, often years before the onset of extreme difficulties, he would return to us convinced. He had hit bottom as truly as any of us.
Well, that should settle this argument once and for all. It is clear that anyone who sincerely wants to stop lusting and understands that they can't do it alone is a perfect candidate for the 12-Step SA groups. Because as soon as they have acknowledged in a deep way that they cannot succeed our their own, they have hit bottom just as truly as any of us. And let us encourage them to get on board now, while they are still on top! As Boruch so beautifully ended off:
Let the calling of the GuardUrEyes Forums be to raise the rock-bottom so that it is within reach of not only all the addicts here, but as the originator of the 12 steps himself wrote, even "young people who were scarcely more than potential 'holics."

Maybe this should be our new Motto :-) - Helping people hit bottom while they're still on top!


If the Chizuk e-mails of the past few days haven't been enough to convince everybody of the power of the 12-Step groups, I'm pretty sure today's Chizuk e-mail will do the trick.

We have two members on our forum, Boruch and Shomer, both of whom are over 40 years old and Talmidei Chachamim in their own right. They have been accountability partners with each other for a long time, and they researched and purchased together the best possible accountability filters - at no small cost.

And they had another thing in common as well. They were both thoroughly convinced that the 12-Step groups were not for them. As a matter of fact, when Boruch first joined our forum, he wrote pages and pages of posts against the 12-Steps, claiming that they were were counter-intuitive and had been born out of another religion, while we Yidden have Chazal who teach us clearly how to do Teshuvah.

Well, one day Boruch broke the news of his addiction with his therapist and was given the suggestion to try the 12-Step groups - just once. Boruch was determined to do all he could to break his addiction, and if that was what his therapist asked, Boruch agreed to try.

Today, Boruch is a changed man. He has become the most ardent advocate of the 12-Steps (as we have all seen in the past few e-mails of this series) and he is working the steps into his life through the groups with a passion.

His partner Shomer however, remained skeptical at first, to say the least.

I would like to share below a series of posts from Shomer's thread on the forum that I believe will be most enlightening. (I would advise anyone who has the time to read the entire thread, starting from page 9 over here. It is a truly inspiring thread and includes a deeper discussion on which type of group is right for you, as well as the story of how Shomer's wife found out - and what happened as a result).



After Boruch had been in the 12-Step groups for about 4 weeks and was trying to convince his partner Shomer to join him, Shomer responded on the forum as follows:

I have been struggling to overcome my addiction for years now. I have previously been an active member on the no-porn forums, at one point I was maintaining a blog about addiction through which I was approached by many competent individuals (including none other than GUE himself) and have reached out personally to Rabbonim (albeit in an anonymous manner).

Boruch on the other hand (and I am sure he will agree with this), although aware of his issue with P-rn addiction has been brushing it under the carpet for years now refusing to admit the severity of his problem.

After I had found these forums and taken the advice of GUE to install a filter and set up an accountability arrangement, boruch woke up one day (or to be more accurate one night after a binge P-rn session) and realized "hey, I have a problem too".  

Since that time (about 4 weeks ago) boruch has been extremely vigilant in researching and getting involved with the 12 step group he currently attends. I respect and admire boruch for this and am truly in awe of his willingness to travel and attend the meetings. I wish boruch only the best in his recovery, and in all areas of life for that matter, and am grateful for the friendship that he has extended to me for many years now.

That being said, I have and continue to believe that there are many paths to recovery.  I would certainly agree that there are common denominators to these methods, but I do not feel that the 12 steps are one of them.

Are the 12 steps effective, yes ... are the 12 steps the most consistent path to recovery, absolutely ... are the 12 steps for everyone ... I will quote the old boruch on this one ... absolutely not.

While the 12 steps may be the best choice for boruch, my decision to do it another way in no way constitute less of a commitment than boruch.

As things stand right now, I will bezras Hashem hit the 6 week mark tomorrow.

Apples to apples (and I use comparisons very reluctantly here), as far as what is lemaysa, I am running just a little bit ahead of boruch with regard to what can actually be measured.

My commitment is no less than his, my strategy no less effective and my resolve no less firm.


We replied to Shomer on the forum:

Shomer, whether you believe in the 12-Steps or not, the power of a GROUP of people who have realized that their very lives depend on doing whatever it takes to break free, and they are ready to change their lives and their entire way of thinking to achieve it - this alone is worth more than anything. 

So how about this? Promise us that if you have another fall - chas veshalom, you will try Boruch's groups at least ONCE.



Shomer replies:

GUE, you strike a tough bargain :-)  

It is my policy, however, not to make promises that I am not 100% sure I can commit to.

I will strongly consider, however, going to one of boruch's group if I fall again - an eventuality that I hope and pray does not come to fruition.

GUE, I again thank you again and again for your support/encouragement/chizuk ....



About two weeks later, Shomer posted:
I am sorry to disappoint everyone, but I slipped this past Sunday at day 53.

The bottom line is this. I was hoping that I could do this on my own, but in light of this last slip I acknowledge that going it solo might not be realistic. At the behest of GUE and my accountability partner boruch, I have decided to attend SA meetings.

It is only as a result of these boards as well as boruch's decision to attend meetings himself that I would even consider going.

As GUE is fond of quoting Rabbi Twerski ... this is a spiritual cancer and when someone r"l has cancer, what would they not do to get better?

I am ready to do what it takes bezras Hashem ...



True to his word, Shomer joined the groups.

Meanwhile, on the forum there has again been some debate as to whether the groups are indeed necessary for Frum Yidden who can't break free. After all, we do have some valiant warriors like "Battleworn" and "Yaakov" on the forum who are succeeding to maintain their sobriety without the 12-Steps.

Also, there has been some discussion on the forum about the fear that the groups are sometimes mixed and could be triggering to addicts.

Here is Shomer's latest post, after having been with the groups for two weeks:

I have been catching up on the chizuk e-mail's and reading through the 12 step thread and although I am certainly no authority, I would like to offer an opinion based on the 2 weeks that I have been with the SA groups.

1) Regarding women in meetings. I have been to 3 locations (2 non-Jewish) and have not seen a female yet. SA is a more traditional and conservative group and I believe the chances of encountering a women there are relatively small.

2) Based on my short experience, the groups themselves are VERY VERY powerful.  I think that yaakov and battleworn have been so successful using their own methods because they have managed to stay pro-active regarding their addictions.  I myself am probably not as disciplined as either of these courageous warriors and tend to "forget" about my addiction as time goes on.  What inevitably happens is that I end up getting sucked right back in. For me, I have come to realize that there is truly no other option.

Walking into that room day after day and listening to people that were sunk much deeper into the addiction than I was (prostitutes/affairs/same-sex) and have managed to stay sober for years is truly inspiring.

I truly admire and am envious of hero's like battleworn and yaakov and wish that I had their courage and ability to connect with our holy Torah to the degree that it supersedes our addictive tendencies. The reality, as has been demonstrated over and over again through the painful process of continual relapse, is that I cannot do it on my own. I am grateful for the SA program beyond what words can describe.  It may not be perfect, but it works.

Hatzlacha to all!


Stop Fighting! Let Go and Let G-d.

In Chizuk e-mail #440 on
this page (scroll down) we discussed how the 12-Steps teach us how to stop fighting and give up our struggles to Hashem. As "kookoo" (who is already 3 years sober through the groups) once posted on our forum: "I don't overcome it, Hashem does it for me".

But is this really attainable for most people? Well, let's take a look at some personal testimonies from our forum - not from a few months ago, but just from the past few days!


After yesterday's write up about Shomer (#442) , he posted on his thread:

Thank you GUE for the beautiful write-up in the chizuk e-mail. I hope to write more about the groups as time goes on, but at the moment all I can say is this:

Just after logging on to my computer right now, I inadvertently stumbled across an open hole in my filter that would have allowed me to circumvent my filter/monitor and surf as I please. Without hesitation or temptation I simply removed the loophole in my current filter. I can say with certainty that 2 weeks ago (before joining the groups) I would have at the very least tested the limits of this gaping hole and probably ended up falling. I literally feel like a new person and you can verify with boruch that I am not generally given to exaggerations.


And Miribn Posted on the Women's Forum:

I am happy that there is an interest in the Big Book and the 12 steps. This is the only way I am able to stay abstinent, both with my food addiction and with this addiction. In a few days I am celebrating 17 months of back to back abstinence from all forms of sugar, wheat and flour and volume. I would NEVER had been able to do it without OA. And once I was in recovery long enough with the food, I was clearheaded enough to start working on the lust issue. Its been now 35 days back to back abstinence and I feel liberated. I always felt that watching inappropriate material and other things put a wall between me and Hashem and now I am breaking that wall down one abstinent day at a time!  I want to be close to Hashem SO much - I beg of him every day to give me one more day of abstinence with food and with lust. I know that without his help I am totally powerless. I am So grateful to Hashem for this abstinence and I am treasuring it. I also wanted to add that were it not for me working on the steps and using the tools of the OA program, I would turn to other addictions as well. You hear many times how when someone lets go of alcohol or smoking they turn to the food instead... The 12 steps (when done properly) are a way of dealing with the root of WHY addicts turn to substances or other addictive behavior. I know that for me, I used it as a way to escape what ever is going on around me. 

One wonderful thing I learned from the 12 steps is to stop fighting. To just realize that I have no power over my addiction and that I am powerless, to realize that Hashem is the only one who can relieve my addiction and that if I just let Hashem take it away from me and beg Hashem daily to relieve me of this obsession then Hashem will! And Hashem truly does! I no longer fight, I just completely rely on Hashem, that Hashem will keep me abstinent!

I think that I have a natural tendency to want to control my life and other people lives and I also want to control the outcome of things. I like to plan out my day, week, month, year, life etc. I also have a perfectionist type of personality and an "all or nothing" attitude. This has caused me to turn to my addictions when things did not go my way. I was always a fighter and many times I fought with all my might for things to go a certain way. Learning to break this habit and realizing that I am trying to play G-d was a true eye opener. For me, I needed to learn to stop fighting and just let Hashem run the world the way He sees fit. I learned to accept.  To accept myself and accept others. I learned to accept my life and life's circumstances. I am learning and re-learning this every single day. But I know that because I let Hashem run my life now, this is why Hashem has granted me all these wonderful days of abstinence!

May we all have a wonderful and abstinent rest of the day!


Are Live Groups Necessary to Learn the 12-Steps?

In light of the
"12-Step Series" of Chizuk e-mails that has been running for the past few days, a member of the forum called "eme" posted the following question today:

"Is it necessary to attend meetings to follow the 12 steps?"

A member called "Yaakov" posted a reply to "eme" (edited):

I have done the 12 steps without the groups, so I can testify that it is possible to grow from the 12 steps without the groups. However, those who went to the groups will tell that you will gain a lot by going to the groups - as we saw how "Shomer" grew from the group setting (Chizuk e-mail #442). There are definitely advantages of doing it with the groups over doing it alone. But whether I did it the proper way or not, makes no difference. It gave me a framework for growth. So even if you decide that groups are not for you - for whatever reason (practical or other), the 12 steps can still be your address. I would advise though, to look at the Jewish version of the 12 steps on the Guardureyes website (over here). It is more direct for a yid trying to reconnect.  


In today's Chizuk e-mail I would like to address both eme's question AND Yaakov's reply. As usual, we turn again to Boruch - our "12-Step" expert - for some guidance.

A few weeks ago, Boruch sent me a very important article called "Gersham's Law" to read. I will try to summarize the article very briefly as follows:

The article outlines how, since the inception of the 12-Step system in the 1930s, there have evolved a few strains of 12-Step approach today; The Strong Way, The Medium Way and The Weak Way. Over the years, the 12-Steps have been watered down and have come to rely more on the power of the group's "social structure" as opposed to relying on the actual program - which was meant to be a powerful and life-altering spiritual experience. The article also charts a profound drop in the statistical effectiveness and overall recovery rate of the 12-Step groups, over the years. As the article states towards the end:

"AA worked in the first place because its Twelve Steps were a workable set of guidelines to spiritual experience. Growth of the movement made possible for a time a kind of parasitism in which partial practitioners and non-practitioners of the spiritual principles were able to feed off the strength of those who had undergone real spiritual experiences. But at this point in time, the parasites have already drained the host organism of a considerable portion of its life force".

(I would advise anyone who is serious about understanding the effectiveness of the 12-Steps to read the full article over here in their spare time).

After I had read the article, Boruch wrote me as follows:

Unfortunately, the basic problem - as described in that article - of "watering down the steps" has spread to us too. Let me explain.

Our instant-gratification society has ignored the original prescription of AA which was ALL about Group, sponsor and working the steps and has just taken the steps in isolation. Who needs a Group and sponsor if I can just read a list of steps on my own? Why, we can find lists of the steps all over the web and many think that there is some value in the steps on their own.

That is a fatal error. Not just because you need a group to implement the steps. But because trying to understand the steps in just a few sentences as it appears on the site (over here) is no less than trying to figure out the contents of the Mesilas Yeshorim without ever reading the sefer, just by looking at the 10 steps of R' Pinchos Ben Ya'ir (upon which the Mesilas Yesharim is based). Or like learning Hilchos Shchitah without ever having seen a real Shchitah. Can you become a Shochet this way? Of course not. That's why "Shimush" is vital for any Rav before he can pasken Halacha.

In the old days, it did not matter whether an alcoholic read the Big Book, or even whether he could read. He heard the Big Book in meetings, and his sponsor and many of his fellow members had read the book. He got the system that way. Today, many groups skimp on the readings, the sponsors themselves have not read the literature and so many groups have lost their way. Especially those who content themselves with just reading a list of the steps!

We need to go back to encouraging the old AA system of group, sponsor and working the steps. And for those who are not ready for that yet, we need to encourage them to read the Big Book

But we have not done that yet on Guardureyes, and we are paying the price without even realizing it. I can give you one excellent, well intended example of where we have totally lost our way. 

On our site we have The 12 Torah Steps (copied from What could be better than that? Torah and the Steps wrapped in one!!! The best of Bill W. and Breslov. It seems like the perfect combination. Self-help, spirituality and kedusha all rolled into one. And all in an easy, step by step guide.

I am going to say something that will sound extreme, but once you see it, it will be as clear as day. 

In producing the Torah Steps we have totally lost our way. We have shown that we never had the first idea of what the Steps are. We have turned the Steps into something they were never intended to be, into something that cannot work for the majority of Frum addicts. All because we did not read the Big Book.

When you read the Big Book you will see that the steps are all about Foundations. Foundations that are common to almost all religions.
They are not protim (details). None of them.
They are not even klolim (general rules). None of them.
They are yesodos (foundations). All of them.
They are Yesodos so basic, that most religions - with all their stupidities - recognize their universal truths. They are equal and applicable to every human being.

The alcoholic and addict needs to begin life anew. He needs to build new foundations for a new existence. He has to start his entire building over again.
(We will address "why this is so" in tomorow's e-mail IY"H). And for this, he needs yesodos - foundations, like Cinder Blocks. You don't use decorative ceramics for foundations, you don't even use regular bricks. You need Foundation Stones. You don't use klolim (general rules) for foundations, and you certainly don't use protim (details) for foundations.

"Abandoning Lust" is a foundation stone. That belongs in the steps of the sexaholic. That is clear and simple. It is equal and relevant to everyone.

How about saying tikkunim and mikva (as mentioned in the Torah steps)? As much as they are an integral part of the path to holiness, are these foundations that are so basic that all rational religions agree on them? Do they apply equally to all human beings?

Of course not. Even for those who practice them, they are not foundations. They are not even general rules, they are "details". It is like building a foundation on decorative glass. 

It is important to realize that in promoting these "lists", we undermine the whole building. Because the foundation of this tower that we need to fight the yetzer hara has to be steps so simple, so basic, that you can do all 12 steps wherever you are, in any time or place, without prerequisites of any inherent spiritual levels. Steps that are such foundations that everyone gets them, even non-Jewish drunks.

And the same goes for other details mentioned in the 12 Torah steps such as; stringencies within marriage, admitting sins to a Torah scholar, not gazing at forbidden sights, Torah study, yiras shomayim and shmiras hamitzvos. Of course we should aim for kedusha (holiness), but kedushah is the top floor. It is not the foundation. Woe to those who try and use their top floor materials to build their foundation. By all means, start working on holiness right now and today, build yourself an entire building if you can, from the foundations all the way to the top floor, in one day. But whatever you do, don't use your top floor as your foundation.

Like we saw in Chizuk e-mail #439 (on this page), the Rash Mikinon learned all the hidden secrets of Kabbalah, but how did he daven? Like a one-day-old baby.

We should indeed aspire to reach all levels of holiness, Fear of Heaven, Love of G-d and Torah learning. But how should we come back to Hashem? Like a simple drunk, using the 12 steps of 1939.

I think that this Pasuk in Koheles 7:29 says it best:
"Asher asa ha'Elokim es ho'odom yoshor, veheima bikshu cheshbonos rabbim - G-d has created man straight, yet they have sought many calculations (complications)".

The Yetzer Hara knows that once he can make it complicated he will win.

So let's keep it simple and return to what worked. Not lists of steps. Not changes to steps.

1) Encourage the way that worked and the way that still works if you do it, and that is; Group meetings, a sponsor and working the steps.

2) We need to encourage those who are not yet ready, to read core AA and SA literature. This will encourage the suffering addict to ultimately join an SA group and get the steps in the strong way, the right way and the way that works.


Why do addicts need to start from scratch?
A deeper understanding of Yetzias Mitzrayim

In yesterday's Chizuk e-mail (#444 here), we discussed how the 12-Steps give us a set of guidelines that are basic foundations of what it means to be a human being - created in the image of G-d. We also discussed that it is only after our foundations are solid that can we begin to build on top of them and discover what it means to be a Yid, and how we can achieve Ahavas Hashem, Yiras Hashem, Torah and Kedusha.

The question I would like to address today is, why do we addicts need to start from the very foundations? Who said we don't already have foundations? Why can't we focus instead on breaking free of the addiction by developing a closeness with Hashem through Torah, Teffilah, Mussar and Kedusha?

To answer this, I would like to quote Rabbi Avraham J. Twerski in an article he wrote recently on addiction, where he defines what it means to be an "addict":

The ultimate distinction between man and animals is not that man is more intelligent, but that animals are creatures that have no choice over their behavior. They must do whatever their bodies demand. They cannot choose what they should do. Man has the ability of self-control, to choose one's behavior, even in defiance of physical urges.

If a person loses one's ability to choose and is dominated by urges one cannot control, one is indeed an addict. Losing the ability to choose is losing the uniqueness of being a human being, and robs one of the dignity of being human. We pride ourselves on liberty and view slavery as evil because it dehumanizes a person. And that is exactly what happens when we relinquish our ability to choose.

We see from Rabbi Twerski's definition that what defines an addict is that he has lost his very humanity through his addiction. He has sunk lower than an animal.

Now let's hear what our 12-Step expert, Boruch, has to say about this. Boruch writes:

The way I see it, there is one yesod in Yiddishkeit that requires that we addicts use the 12 steps.

Most of us thought that we simply needs more Torah and more Kedusha, and that is how we will be saved from our Yetzer Hara. But as the Navi says in Yeshaya (55:8,9):

My thoughts are not your thoughts and your ways are not My ways, says Hashem. Just as the sky is higher than the Earth so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts higher than your thoughts.

The Rambam writes in Hilchos Talmud Torah (4:1):

One can only teach Torah to either a talmid that we know has appropriate behavior, or someone whose nature is not apparent (see Kesef Mishna). However, if a talmid is on a "derech lo tova" (a bad path) you do not teach him Torah. You first have to return him to the path of "tov" (good) and guide him to the path of "yashrus" (straightness). Then we check that he is sound, and only then do we teach him.

The Gemara in Shabbos (31a) speaks of someone who has Torah without Fear of Heaven:

Rabbah bar Rav Huna said; whoever has Torah without Yiras Shomayim is like the treasure keeper who has the keys to doors of the inner vault, but does not have the keys to the outer doors. How is he to get access to the treasure?

Rav Avigdor Miller Zt"l was once asked the following question. The sefer Chovos Halevovos constantly refers to our obligation of hakoras hatov (thanks) to Hakodosh Boruch Hu as being the foundation and basis for our obligation to do the mitzvos. The questioner asked, "I did not ask Hashem to create me, so why should I be grateful to Him?" Rav Avigdor Miller Zt"l answered that the Chovos Halevovos was only written for mentschen. It was not written for someone who is bichlal not a mentsch

His answer was clear. The Chovos Halevovos assumes a certain basic level of character. If someone is so ungrateful that he does have gratitude for his life - the greatest gift imaginable - simply because he never asked for it, then he is not even a mentsch.

The message of the above examples are clear. Torah, Fear of Heaven and Mussar all require, as the Rambam writes, a minimum level of behavior. They were written and given for mentschen

But as Rabbeinu Yonah says of the sinner in Shaarei Teshuva 1:10, and this is certainly true of the addict who has lost self-control:

How have I become like the animals?... and more, I have not even done as an animal, but sunk to even less then they...

So there is no point fooling ourselves by making excuses that we only need to give ourselves more chizuk in order to break free. 

The one thing an addict who wants to cure himself needs, more than any chizuk, is a hard dose of honesty and a sobering dose of reality. Without brutal honesty, the addict will never recover. So let us be brave and let us be honest. Yes, we need to say this loud and clear: "We have been less than animals".

And now that we have been honest, we need some more honesty and some real action.

How is the addict who has sunk below the level of an animal, supposed to get back to being at the level of a mentsch?

It is not his kedusha or his "top floor" that has a problem, it is not his Torah wisdom or his second floor either, and it is not even his first floor - i.e. his very Yiddishkeit, that is the cause of his problems. 

Rather his very foundations are broken. Not only is he not Holy, not only is he not a Talmid Chochom, not only is he not a simple Jew, he is not even a mentsch. For even a non-Jew should not be a sex addict. He is less than a decent non-Jew, he is less than an animal. 

And I will say it myself, as difficult as it is to say. 

I was an addict for many years until only very recently, and for all that time I was not a Kadosh, not a Talmid Chochom, not a poshute yid, not even a mentsch. I was less than a decent goy, even less than an animal. 

And when the foundations are broken, we don't use the top floor or kedusha to build foundations, and we don't use Torah to build foundations - as the Rambam says in hilchos Talmud Torah (above), we don't use mussar seforim that were written for mentschen, we need to go back to the very foundations that even non-Jews can understand, and start rebuilding from there. 

We addicts were missing the most basic foundations of mentschlechkeit. We need to find "foundation stones" so basic that even sex addicts and alcoholics get them. We need to understand what fundamental moral principles worked for addicts to help them recover. 

And the record is clear. In the first 20 years of AA, the addicts who were the most successful in recovery, used what AA literature again and again stresses are moral principles so basic, that every religion agrees to them. As the AA motto goes; "Keep it Simple".

That is how you build new foundations. With brutal honesty and absolute humility. 

Yes, let us be very honest here. "S'past nisht" for us choshuve yidden, many of whom feel we are Talmidei Chachomim, to admit that we have been less than animals. "S'past nisht" to admit that we need to recover like goyishe addicts. 

But Hakodosh Boruch Hu laughs and lovingly says: "Un s'Past yuh to be addicted to sex and lust?"

So dear brothers, I mean this from the very depths of my heart and I mean this out of love; let us stop fooling ourselves. 

Whether we have recovered entirely from our addiction, whether we are in active recovery without recent relapse, whether are in active recovery following a recent relapse or whether we have not begun recovery at all; By all means let us not wait another day to build a path of Kedusha, let us not wait another day, to build a path of Torah, let us not wait another day to build a path of Mussar. But we do not want our efforts to be in vain. A building without foundations can be torn down by the first strong wind. We do not want chas vesholom to be left vulnerable and risk loosing all of our efforts, Kedusha, Torah and Mussar to the first relapse.

So let us learn the lesson of the drunks of AA. "Keep it Simple". 


I would just like to add to Boruch's words in the spirit of Pesach. It seems to me that fundamental moral principles of the 12-Steps could be compared (in a sense) to Yetzias Mitzrayim. As we say in the Hagadah:

"Afilu Kulanu Chachamim, Kulanu Nevonim, Kulanu Yodim es Hatorah - Mitzva Aleinu Lesaper Bi'yetziyas Mitzrayim - Even if we are all wise, all understanding and we all know the Torah - we are commanded to tell over the story of our exodus from Egypt".

Why though? If we know it already, why must we repeat it?

Because knowing alone is not enough. We have to LIVE it.

"Chayav adam liros es atzmo ke'ilu HU yatza mi'mitzrayim - one is obligated to view himself as if HE himself left Egypt".

As Boruch wrote above, all the Chachma and Torah won't help us if we don't have the basic foundations. And that is what Yetziyas Mitzrayim is all about. To stop serving the Egyptians. To let go of their servitude and follow Hashem blindly into the dessert. To rely completely on Him and become a mentch once again.

And once we get those strong foundations on the first night of the Seder, we can start to count Seffirah and build ourselves up, step by step, until we finally merit receiving the Torah on Shavuos. And at that point, we finally become the Jewish nation - the nation of Hashem.



So what are the "basic foundations" already?

After yesterday's Chizuk e-mail (#445 here)
where we discussed how the 12-Steps represent the fundamental moral principles of what it means to be a "mentch", and how we addicts need to start again from the very foundations, Ahron sent us the following e-mail:

Another incredibly powerful Chizuk e-mail. Very compelling - I'm convinced and ready to become a mentsch! Now tell me the foundations that I can't find in mussar seforim? ... Please don't leave us hanging!

In today's e-mail, we will attempt to answer Ahron's question to some extent:

Dear Ahron,

The way I see it, the addiction is only a symptom of a larger "disease", which is a general "disconnect" from the very root of what makes us mentchen. The 12-Steps were designed to give a person a refreshed perspective of what it means to be a human being - created in Hashem's image, at a level so basic that even Goyim can understand. Once a person has these yesodos, they can go on to become true Yidden and great Yidden.
The truth is that ALL humans - especially Yidden, can gain a tremendous amount from the 12-Step perspective. After all, our addictions is only a "symptom" of the disease. Unfortunately though, many Yidden have this disease - even if they did not develop the symptoms that we did. So in a sense, we are fortunate as addicts to be FORCED to refresh our very foundations, because we know that otherwise we are finished.

So what ARE these "basic foundations" already??

Well, for us to be able to heal - and we MUST heal, we addicts must learn to completely surrender our lust to Hashem. Not only that, but we also learn surrender our RIGHT to lust, as well as any expectation of ever achieving lust. All of this is surrendered to Hashem so that we can heal. But this is a tall order. How can we, who have lost all control in this area, successfully learn to surrender all this to Hashem? How can we achieve a level of surrender so profound, that we no longer even need to fight to overcome lust, rather Hashem does it for us instead?
I think the answer can be found in two words that appear in the first Pasuk of Shema:
Hashem Echad. The unification of Hashem is perhaps the most fundamental and constant of all of the 613 Mitzvos. But what does this have to do with us? Let me explain.

This overriding Mitzva of divine unification is not just about believing that there is only one G-d. The Chassidic Masters have taught us that our entire lives, every second, and everything we do, should ultimately be an expression of Hashem's unity.

But How? As human beings, we have our own desires and needs, and this seemingly conflicts with Hashem's absolute unification. After all, if there is only Hashem and nothing else, why do I want to do my own things, things that often conflict with His will?

And so, in order for a Jew to learn to live his life as an expression of Hashem's absolute unity, it means that he has to learn to completely let go of self-centeredness and have Hashem in mind in all his deeds. And when a Jew does everything for Hashem's sake and not his own, then even his eating and his sleeping become expressions of Hashem's unity. And this is the underlying message of the 12-Steps:

"Completely letting go of self-centeredness"

And here are some of the fundamental moral principles that enable us to achieve this high level:

Dependence on Hashem. As addicts, we have no choice but to learn the deepest and most profound connection to Hashem. A complete "life & death" dependency on Him, analogous to the dependency of a one day old baby who is completely and absolutely dependent on its mother. We can see that David Hamelech expresses this type of connection with Hashem, again and again throughout Tehhilim. "Ke'gamul alei Imo - like a babe who suckles from his mother". Who had imagined that we could reach a level anything close to David Hamelech? But we can. We HAVE to.

Humility. Achieving absolute dependency on Hashem requires total humility. This is not hard for the addict, for he has completely surrendered and admitted that he cannot do it alone, and he knows this with 100% clarity. Through this admission of powerlessness, he is able to achieve a very high level of humility, analogous to Moshe Rabbeinu who said: "Va'anachnu mah? - What are we?".

Pure Faith. We are forced to quit playing G-d and let Hashem run our lives. We acknowledge that we are no longer in we control and give ourselves over to Hashem's care, to do with us as he sees fit. This leads to drastic life changes, not just in the area of the addiction. We are able to achieve a high level in fulfilling the Torah's commandment: "Tamim Tehiyeh Im Hashem Elokecha - You shall walk in perfect faith with the Almighty, your G-d".

Honesty. In order to heal, we are forced to learn rigorous honesty with ourselves, with others, and with Hashem - in all our affairs. This allows for a host of vital life-changes, such as true introspection, learning to discern when the Yetzer Hara/addiction is talking to us as opposed to the Yetzer Tov, and it also allows us to squarely face our faults and make amends wherever we have erred. We are able to reach a high level of the Midda of Emes, something that the biggest Tzadikim spent lifetimes to achieve. And as we all know, Emes is the foundation of the entire Torah. "Hakadosh Baruch Hu Emes, Ve'Chosamo emes - G-d is Truth, and his stamp is Truth".

These are some of the basic foundations stones, divided into 12-Steps, that help us learn to completely remove our self-centeredness. Through them, we develop a true willingness and desire to help others, with no thought of getting anything in return. And this is practiced in all our affairs, and with all those we interact with in our lives. Ultimately, this can spill over to help us reach the highest levels of
"Lishma" - living our lives and all we do purely "for the sake of Heaven".

But Ahron, it's easy to write these things down. After all, I did it in a half hour. But to learn to truly live this way takes the kind of life changes that can happen only through joining groups, getting a sponsor, and working the steps into our lives - day by day. In the groups, we learn to LIVE these life-changes by sharing hope and experience, and through helping others.
Now it's not that these things can't be found in Mussar, but it has a totally different affect when practiced as a group, as Rabbi Twerski writes over here. Also, please take a moment to see what Rabbi Twerski writes on this page in answer to Question #1 about why the groups are generally much more effective than Mussar.


Step 3 - The Core of the 12-Steps. How Does it Work?

Someone who we helped convince to join the 12-Step groups, sent us an e-mail recently as follows:

I've had good groups of days, but the big picture is still horrible. I truly hope and am optimistic that one day I will climb out and help others too, but as of today it seems everyone is pulling out but me, I am desperate, I cry to hashem 24/7, I feel so close to him sometimes, yet 10 minutes later I'm surfing porn again.
I am in the process of figuring out steps 1,2 & 3, maybe you can enlighten me. 
1. We admitted we were powerless over lust.

This is easy to understand. My willpower is getting me nowhere. However motivated I am, I am clearly powerless.
2. We came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

This is also easy, Hashem has the power to do everything. 
3. We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

I'm struggling to figure out how to implement step 3. Surrender to G-d means to do his will instead of your own will, so instead of looking at that pretty girl or going to that website, I look away because I surrendered my will to God's. I don't understand how this should stop me from my obsession more then the millions of other times I tried stopping what I was doing because God didn't like what I was doing and I was trying to surrender to his will.

Another person wrote us yesterday as well:

"How does giving it up to Hashem remove the desire? How does it work?"

Once again, we turn to our 12-Step expert Boruch. Here is his reply:

Firstly, my advice in general on anything to do with the 12 steps, is first to read the first 164 pages of
the Big Book as soon as possible. If you have a Palm OS device, click here. (Every time you see the word drink, liquor, alcohol or alcoholic substitute the words lust or sexaholic, as appropriate). 

Now, your question is how to do the Third Step. 

I myself had tremendous intellectual and emotional difficulty with this step. I didn't understand what the steps were about and I did not get any satisfactory explanation. However I was determined at all costs to get them, and BeChasdei Hashem I now have my own understanding of the real goal here, having worked on the problem for weeks and having broken my head on the Big Book.

So here is my selection from the Big Book that captures what really works for me. 

You asked how the Third Step is different than what you have done until now, that is "looking the other way because Hashem said so". 

My answer to you is that before we even get to what it is that you are supposed to do, let's first see if the Big Book description of the reaction of the "holic" who is working the steps on being confronted with his addiction, sounds different than your old approach.

Here's how the Big Book (Page 85) describes the reaction of the "holic" to the object of addiction, once he has internalized the Third Step (I have substituted lust for alcohol):

"And we have ceased fighting anything or anyone--even lust. For by this time sanity will have returned. We will seldom be interested in lust. If tempted, we recoil from it as from a hot flame. We react sanely and normally, and we will find that this has happened automatically. We will see that our new attitude toward lust has been given us without any thought or effort on our part. It just comes! That is the miracle of it. We are not fighting it, neither are we avoiding temptation".

Too good to be true?

Well, that's how it works for me when I do it right. 

The reason that we cannot do it that way on our own is because we hold on for dear life to all the cravings and desires and we only fight the behavior. 

So we crave and are addicted to the thought of the beautiful woman and only fight the "looking". That's one losing battle that Hashem does not want us to fight.

So how to do it right? Next time you see an alluring sight, don't fight it. Go through steps 1 through 3. And here's my suggestion of how to do it:

Just say these three things:

1) Hashem I will not fight, I will just surrender to You and do what You want me to do.

2) Hashem, as Dovid Hamelech said,
"negdecho kol taavosi - to you are all my desires", I offer up and give away all of my desires and craving to You. You can have my desires, I do not want them and they are my korbon (sacrifice) to You. Please take them away from me now.

3) Hashem, You do not want us to fight the Yetzer Hara head on. I am going to surrender to do what you want me to do, and I will change my focus immediately from what is tempting me to you and your Torah. I will forget the temptation totally. 

To help with this, I will say from memory, over and over.

"venishmartem mikol dovor ro - and you shall guard yourself from every bad thing".

And I will think of how Chazal tell us from that possuk not to think about thoughts that could chas vesholom bring to tumah (impurity, such as nocturnal emissions).

I will head for the most immediate learning opportunity, be it a beis medrash, Torah phone line such as kol Haloshon, a sefer on my phone or PDA, or a pocket sefer I carry with me.

But don't panic. And don't try to use the sefer or the Torah to fight it, rather just calmly work the steps in your mind and surrender, and do it Hashem's way.

If you cannot do this on your own, call your sponsor immediately. If that doesn't help, go to the soonest meeting.


If I can try and sum up Boruch's reply in just a few words:

Instead of retaining the lust and trying to give up our will to Hashem, we need to surrender the lust itself to Hashem!

As Boruch wrote to someone else:

An addict's strongest will is his lust, that's why he's addicted. And no matter what he says, he is not ready to give that up without a fight. If he says he will give up his will, he really only means that he will give up the acting out - but not his will.

What he really needs to do, is to be mevatel his rotzon to the rotzon Hashem (nulify his will to the will of G-d). That means giving up the lust itself, as well as all expectation of ever achieving his lust, to Hashem.


The Difference Between Chametz and Matzah
Understanding the Core of the 12-Steps

The 3rd step states: "We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him".

In the previous Chizuk e-mail (#447 here) we tried to explain how this works: Instead of retaining the lust and trying to give up our will to Hashem, we surrender the lust itself to Hashem!

Someone wrote us an e-mail trying to understand this better:

I think this Chizuk e-mail says it very well. The reason I find it hard to stop lusting is because I've abandoned the behavior but not the lust itself. But I read the explanation and practical application of Step 3 in the Chizuk e-mail and I can't seem to make it work. I just repeat the words of "working the step" in my mind, but my heart still lusts.
I find that I can avoid acting out by reminding myself of quite a variety of things, including, lately, that I'm not an animal and have the ability to choose. However I find it very difficult to banish the pleasurable feelings I get when seeing things in the street and the inevitable lust that follows.

In today's Chizuk e-mail, we will attempt to address this question.

The reason it is so hard to comprehend exactly how this step works reminds me of the difference between Chametz and Matzah. It takes only one second to make all the difference between the dough becoming Chametz or creating Kosher Matzah. Indeed, the words Chametz and Matzah have the same letters besides for the Ches and Hei. The difference between a Ches and Hei is only a dot. The whole difference between Chametz and Matzah is this Nekudah - this tiny point.

The Beis Ahron of Karlin writes that while we clean out the Chametz from our homes before Pesach, the true preparation for the Yom Tov is:
"To remove that bad Nekudah from our hearts and throw it deep into the sea, and to come closer to the good Nekudah. For automatically when one removes the bad point he is crowned with good, as we have said, and then Chametz turns to Matzah in the blink of an eye".
In the third step, the distinction between failure and success is indeed subtle, but it makes all the difference between Chametz and Matzah:

When we give up acting out while retaining the lust inside us, we are leaving the leaven inside the dough and it becomes Chametz.
However, when we give up the desire itself - the bad Nekudah - to Hashem, then we succeed in removing the leaven from the dough and it turns to Matzah - the bread of faith.

But How do we do this?

Once again, we turn to our 12-Step expert Boruch for guidance. Here is how Boruch puts it:
Banishing a thought that you do not want is very possible and very doable. However, banishing a thought that you do want is impossible. It is a contradiction in terms. It means focusing on the thought that you want to continue to think about, trying to stop thinking about it, and at the same time doing your very best to hold on to it.

The 3rd Step requires much more than a technique or strategy. It demands a decision that we should have already made when we took the First Step. 
I would like to elaborate a little on what Boruch means.

The first of the 12-Steps states: "We admitted we were powerless over lust - and that our lives had become unmanageable". At that point, a person makes a very strong decision. Not a decision to stop lusting - because he's tried that countless times and it didn't work - but simply a decision that he does not want to lust anymore. HE SIMPLY CANNOT CONTINUE.

Once a person admits powerlessness and has a very clear recognition that he cannot continue and does not want to continue, he will find it much easier (in step 3) to give up - not just his "acting out" - but the very lust itself to Hashem, along with his right to lust and all expectations of ever receiving his lust.

But if a person never experienced Step-One fully and he continues to hold on to his desire to lust, he will find Step-Three almost impossible.

The difference is indeed subtle, like the difference between Chametz and Matzah. But we must let go of this bad Nekudah first if we want to be able to leave Mitzrayim. Perhaps that is the lesson of why Hashem commanded us to get rid of the leaven and eat Matzah on Pesach. For this is indeed a prerequisite to breaking free of the bondage of Egypt.


Now that we've read this Chizuk e-mail, let's get back to work and continue scrubbing those Nekudos of Chametz out of our homes and hearts!


"Yetzias Mitzrayim"

Understanding the core of the 12-Steps

It's not for nothing that Hashem orchestrated events that our 12-Step series of e-mails should come out before Pesach. The more we understand the underlying message they represent, the more we can understand the underlying message of Yetzias Mitzrayim as well.
Those who work the 12-Steps into their lives claim that they no longer have to fight the Yetzer Hara; Hashem does it for them. The question is, why would Hashem do such miracles for someone who - until today - was addicted to the lowest behaviors and had all but completely forgotten about Hashem?

I think the answer can be found in the story of Yetzias Mitzrayim.The Yidden in Egypt had reached the 49th level of impurity. They had cried out to Hashem in utter powerlessness, and Hashem had heard their cry. But they didn't have any merits of their own. As the Pasuk in Yecheskel (16:6) says:
"Ve'at Erom ve'eraya - and you were naked and bare". So in what merit were they able to leave? As the Pasuk continues... "and I passed over you and I saw you wallowing in your blood, and I said to you, in your blood you shall live, and I said to you in your blood you shall live". The Targum Yonosan translates these two bloods as referring to the blood of the Pesach sacrifice and the blood of the Bris Milah that the yidden made before leaving Mitzrayim. So we see that the Yidden did indeed need some Zechusim before they were able to merit Yetziyas Mitzrayim. Let us try and understand what was unique about these two Mitzvos that enabled them to break free from the lowest levels.
Hashem told the Yidden to take a sheep and tie it to the bed post. The Beis Ahron of Karlin writes that the miracle was two fold. Firstly, because the sheep was worshiped by the Egyptians who saw their G-d being tied up as a sacrifice, and yet they didn't say anything. And the second miracle was, quote:
... "that the Yidden themselves did such a thing and gave themselves over with complete Messiras Nefesh for the faith and honor of Hashem. And this could not have been done in any other way, only with Messiras Nefesh. Because from such a abominable and disgusting place (like Mitzrayim) that the yidden were in, as it says "you were naked and bare", they could not have left from there to freedom only through this - that they were Mosser nefesh completely for Hakadosh Baruch Hu. And the Sefarim write that they tied it to the bedpost because that is the place where the strength of the Egyptians came from (sexual promiscuity). And even so, from the very place that the Egyptians took their strength of impurity, the Jewish people tied it there - with Messiras Nefesh for Hashem".
And this is what happens as well in Step Three of the 12 Steps. The person gives his will and life over with complete Messiras Nefesh to the care of G-d. And by doing this, he ties his animal nature to the bed post, completely surrendering all sexual desire to Hashem. And it is in this merit that he is worthy of the miracle that occurs afterwards when G-d removes him from Mitzrayim, and he suddenly discovers - as the Pasuk says:
"Hashem Yilachem Lachem, Ve'atem tacharishum - G-d will fight for you, and you shall be silent".

And this is also perhaps why the second blood was the blood of Milah, which again symbolizes the Messiras Nefesh that the Yidden had in guarding the bris and covenant with Hakadosh Baruch Hu.

As the Bne Yissachar writes (Derech Pikudecha):
"We have a tradition from our fathers that the Yetzer Hara desires more than anything to attack a person through sexual sins, because in this desire are included all the others".

Since sexual desire encompasses all other desires, by tying the sheep to the bed-post and by making a Bris Millah, both of which symbolize Messiras Nefesh in the area of sexual purity, the Yidden were in essence giving ALL their desires over to Hashem, and in this merit they were able to break free of the impurity of Egypt.
To sum up, for our purposes: The lesson of Yetziyas Mitzrayim, which symbolizes breaking free from the lowest levels of impurity and servitude to the Yetzer hara, is accomplished today just as it was then, by recognizing we are powerless and crying out to Hashem (Step 1) and by giving our lives and will over to Him with complete Messiras Nefesh (Step 3). And this is not so hard for us addicts to do, because we have no choice. We know that continuing down the path of addiction will destroy our lives, both in this world and the next.

So let us cry out to Hashem to open our hearts, and let us give our lives and will over to Him in a very real and basic way. For that is the message of Yetziyas Mitzrayim as the Pasuk says
"Zacharti Lach Chesed Ne'uraiyich - Lech Tech Arai Bamidbar etc... I remember the kindness of your youth, come after me into the desert". Let us feel as the Yidden felt then when they followed Hashem blindly into the desert; a complete dependency on Hashem - like new born babies.
Shomer recently posted on
the forum:

Perhaps the most shocking revelation to me personally, having come to the 12 steps out of the realization that I truly have no other option, is this:

The steps are not a self help program, they are not a psychological methodology, they are about making a connection with G-d in a very basic and real way.


The 12-Steps in Practice

Another great piece by Boruch explaining what the 12-Step groups provide that Musar Sefarim don't.

Addicts have a problem -- their addiction. I had a problem -- my addiction and my inability to overcome it.
Convictions got us nowhere. I had plenty of convictions. I was learning sifrei musar regularly and seriously for 20 years. Had I been in control, no doubt I would have done very well on convictions. But convictions solved nothing for me because I was not in control. That was the problem with my addiction.

I desperately needed a solution. I had tried willpower, filters, accountability software. I had told my therapist. And I was fast running out of options. And not long after I finally gave up the images for good in a fit of rage (as I posted on the forum), I discovered that my addiction was really to Lust.
It's like someone who every day eats a whole Pizza Pie for Breakfast, 30 hot dogs for lunch and 20 burgers for supper. The guy is absolutely convinced that he is addicted to junk food. Then one day, in deteriorating health, he decides with all his might that he is giving up junk food for ever. Never again. And next morning he finds that he is eating 10 bowls of whole-wheat cereal for breakfast, 30 bowls of organic pasta for lunch and 20 plates of roast beef for supper. He was not addicted to junk food, he was addicted to food.
And I was not addicted to viewing images, I was addicted to lust. And as much as I was off the images, I was unable to stop lusting and fighting, lusting and fighting. I had no control. And there was nothing in the musar seforim that could give it back to me.
When I learnt musar I was like a first-grader trying to learn to stop throwing things at the teacher by learning sefer Chovos Halevovos. And it was not working.
I am going to be honest with you, extreme as it may sound.
It was not Sha'ar Ha'Bechina that I was missing or Sha'ar Avodas Elokim.
I was missing Shaar "Al tehiy kibheimo" (The Gate of "Don't Be Like an Animal")
And I did not need the first grade level of Shaar "Al tehiy kibheimo", I needed the "less than beheimo" level. 

Something that was so simple, dumbed-down and foolproof that my Yetzer Hara was not able to complicate it.
Yes, I could understand the most difficult, complex and abstract musar, and even get very enthusiastic about it, but if I was going to be able to put anything into practice, it had to be short, sharp, to the point, and so easy that there could be no excuses.
Something that would take up no more than 10 lines and consist of no more than three action items.
Something ready to implement right away.
Something that the Yetzer Hara could not convince me out of, once I was determined.
And Here is the system that did it for me:

-- Joining an SA Group

-- Getting a Sponsor

-- Listening to your Group, following your Sponsor, and working the list below into your life:

1. Admission of powerlessness.
2. Reliance on a Higher Power.
3. Total surrender to God.
4. Moral inventory.
5. Admission of the exact nature of our wrongs.
6. Commitment to total change.
7. Prayer for wholeness.
8. Total willingness to amend.
9. Making amends where possible.
10. Continuing inventory.
11. Prayer meditation, leading to improved conscious contact with God.
12. Spiritual awakening, carrying the message and practicing the principles in everything we do.

In my experience, the difference between the 12 Steps and musar seforim is like the difference between an Alef Beis Sefer and the Chovos Halevavos. The Chovos Halevavos will give you much, much more. As long as you have mastered Alef Beis. 

But if you have not yet mastered Alef Beis then the Alef Beis sefer will give infinitely more, until you have mastered it and are ready for the next level, and ultimately for the Chovos Halevavos.

The same is true for the musar seforim. As Rav Avigdor Miller Zt"l said many times that the sifrei musar were written for generations in which even the worst of goyim were terrified of gehinnom. 

Says Rabbi Miller, Are most of us as terrified today of gehinnom as the worst goyim were then?

Certainly not. 

Unlike the worst goyim then, who constantly spoke about Gan Eden and Gehinnom, many of us find that we never even discuss Gan Eden and Gehinnom. And even if we do, it is usually all very abstract.

Why? Are we worse than the worst goyim then? Intrinsically no, however, we are victims of centuries of the arrogance of Scientists, the arrogance of inventors, the arrogance of business leaders and the arrogance of political leaders. And all that arrogance has had one result.

"rak ein Yiras Elokim bamokom hazeh - For there is no fear of Heaven in this place".

And so, as I quoted originally from Rabbi Miller, the sifrei musar all assume a basic minimum of Yiras Shomayim and kavod for Hashem that are way beyond us. They are far too advanced. It is like trying to get a pre-1A student to learn Rashb"o, it doesn't go. Even if he could understand the words, the content would be way beyond his scope.

And we remain stuck at first base until we do the Steps and they get us to be living with Hashem. And then - and only then - are we ready to start learning Orchos Tzaddikim, Chovos Halevovos, Mesilas Yeshorim... and the sky is the limit.

But until we get past Alef Beis, the musar seforim may be very informative but they are even more beyond our reach.


Just to add to Boruch's words, as we discussed in previous e-mails, the underlying message of these 12 Steps are the basic moral principles that distinguish man from beast. A set of principles so basic that even the goyish drunks of AA were able to internalize them and turn their lives completely around. And as we discussed in Chizuk e-mail #446 (here), some of the underlying principles are; A complete dependence on Hashem, a pure faith and trust in Him to care for us and take our lust away, humility and rigorous honesty.


A nice thought on Birchas Hachama from "Berditchev":

It takes the sun 10,220 (say that real slowly, ten thousand two hundred and twenty) days to come back to its point of origin. The sun dose not kvetch, complain, burnout, take sick days, or 'not in the mood' days, etc. It just keeps on going strong.... "S'MAICHIM B'TZAISUM V'SOSIM BIVO-OM, OSIM BE'AIMA RETZON KONAM - Happy when leaving, happy when coming, doing with fear the will of their creator"!!!

So even if a journey will take years or decades, don't give up. It may look dark, but it's really as bright as sunshine!