"The First Day of the Rest of My Life"
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.
order the Hebrew book (it has not yet been translated into English)
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,
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.
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
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
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
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:
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
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
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
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.
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."
so ended the Rosh Yeshiva his made-up story, hoping that the message
to Yerachmiel had gotten across.
The Lesson of
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
Rosh Yeshiva continues
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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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.
The Rosh Yeshiva continues the
“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
“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
“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!
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.
Lesson of Today's E-mail
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
"So the citizens followed his wise advice, and what do you think
happened in the end, do you think they succeeded?" I asked
"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
"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
Rosh Yeshiva expounds on the parable (from the last Chizuk e-mail)
"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
"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
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.
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).
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.
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
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
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
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).
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
"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
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
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
"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
The Lesson of Today's E-mail
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
this questionaire and e-mail it to us at
A big Mazal Tov to
two of our members on the forum, "Ano-Nymous"
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.
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)
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
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
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
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.
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
"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
To be continued...
In continuation of
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
"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".
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
"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
"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
"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
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
"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
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...
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
"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
Heightened sexual desire is actually a symptom of a deep
subconscious need, that for some reason has still not reached
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
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
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
The Daughter of the King
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
"I have an unusual request from the Rosh yeshiva", said Yerachmiel.
"What can I do for you, my dear Talmid?" I asked, my curiosity
"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
"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
"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
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
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
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
"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
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":
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
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 (www.theshmuz.com).
to listen to the five minute clip.
right-click and choose "Save Target As" to save it to your
Click here for the entire Shiur.
(Originally posted on
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
This is one of the most profound secrets in Avodas Hashem and
it applies to any spiritual feat, including Torah learning. As the
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;
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.
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
that I will be entering my son into tomorrow be"h?
My dear beloved friends, brothers in arms, front-line soldiers in
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:
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.
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!
tried giving yourself a little "pinch" each time your eyes stray
in the street?
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!
Did you try
the anonymous free weekly 12-Step phone conference
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,
- 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
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
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,
turn away from bad" is not enough on its own, you also need
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
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
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:
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"
Your Alcohol or Your Life
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
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.
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
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,
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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-
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
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.
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,
Haposeach Yad Nosnim Lo - whoever asks is given"!
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 -
- 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
- 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
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
not only have you inspired me to stay clean for 3 weeks, you've also
inspired me to write poetry!
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
will not disappoint my soul by listening to the Yetzer Hara instead
of to her.
will not disappoint my ancestors who risked their lives to remain
pure and true.
will not disappoint my GUE friends who believe in me, pray for me,
and cry for me every day.
will not disappoint Moshiach who is waiting for me to do Teshuva in
order for him to reveal himself.
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.
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.
most important of all, I will not disappoint myself.
will not disappoint, and therefore, I must not fall.
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:
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.
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
email@example.com or call
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 for an interesting interview on "Depression
in the Orthodox Community" with Rabbi Nesanel Helfgot.
Yehudah posted on
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
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.
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...
pain, or eternal pain?
or the pain of the disease getting worse?
failure, or pain of growth?
Don't look where you fell, look where you slipped.
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".
Chizuk e-mail 401 we began bringing translations from the Hebrew
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
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
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
"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
"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
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
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
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
"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
"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
"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
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" -
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
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
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
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.
- 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
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
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
Personal Advice from the Author of the book
First Day of the Rest of My Life"
In Conclusion; On a
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
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.
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
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
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
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...
The Moment of Truth
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
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?
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
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.
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
First Day of the Rest of My Life"
To download the entire set of
translations as a PDF file,
In Conclusion; On a
Are there medical treatments that can help
with recovery from sexual addiction?
The phenomenon of sexual addiction is fueled by two central
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
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
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.
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
Rabbi Nachman usd to say]: "The most important thing is not to fear at all".
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
this page for more info.
The above e-mails are excerpts from the book. To order the (Hebrew)
To download the entire set of
translations as a PDF file,
To download the entire set of English translations from the book
First Day of the Rest of My Life"
a PDF file with bookmarks
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
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.
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
And "Be-holy" posted something along similar lines on
the forum yesterday (edited for clarity):
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.
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!
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
yesterday's e-mail (#438
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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 of struggling every day with this addiction.
tired of people who don't know me commending me on being "so strong"
when I'm really not.
tired of reading about people (including myself) rising and falling
all the time.
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.
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
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
Hitting Bottom while
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):
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
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):
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.
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
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."
this should be our new Motto :-)
Guardureyes.com - Helping people hit bottom while they're still on
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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!
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
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
of Chizuk e-mails that has been running for the past few days, a
the forum called "eme" posted the following question today:
it necessary to attend meetings to follow the 12 steps?"
A member called "Yaakov" posted a reply to "eme" (edited):
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
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:
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
(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
www.jewishsexuality.com). 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
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
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
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
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
has created man straight, yet they have sought many calculations
The Yetzer Hara knows that once he can make it complicated he will
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
2) We need to encourage those who are not yet ready, to read core
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":
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
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):
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):
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
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
But as Rabbeinu Yonah says of the sinner in Shaarei
Teshuva 1:10, and this is certainly true of the addict who has
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
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
That is how you build new foundations. With brutal honesty and
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:
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.
adam liros es atzmo ke'ilu HU yatza mi'mitzrayim -
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
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
After yesterday's Chizuk e-mail (#445
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
In today's e-mail, we will attempt to answer Ahron's question to
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
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.
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.
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
- What are we?".
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 -
shall walk in perfect faith with the Almighty, your G-d".
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.
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
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.
am in the process of figuring out steps 1,2 & 3, maybe you can
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.
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
Once again, we turn to our 12-Step expert Boruch. Here is his
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
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,
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.
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
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:
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.
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
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:
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
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
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.
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
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
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!
Understanding the core of the 12-Steps
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
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 -
you were naked and bare".
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
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
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
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
Lach Chesed Ne'uraiyich - Lech Tech Arai Bamidbar etc...
remember the kindness of your youth, come after me into the
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
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:
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
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
And Here is the system that did it for me:
-- Joining an
-- 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
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
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
Says Rabbi Miller, Are most of us as terrified today of gehinnom
as the worst goyim were then?
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
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":
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!