There is a suicide every 40 seconds, in our world. In the time it’ll take you to read this, five more of Hashem’s children will be gone.
Double-Life sleeps all morning and cannot concentrate in Yeshiva; he is deeply in debt and worries constantly about panic attacks and sexually-transmitted diseases. His wife feels invisible in his presence. Her anguish is so profound, that she has stopped caring for herself, her household and her children. Their marital therapist gave them the number of an addictions expert for Double-Life to consult with.
The Therapist asked Double-Life if he spent a lot of time online. Surprised by the question he answered honestly that he looks at a lot of pornography. His obsession keeps him up all night. Although he sometimes “hates” himself for his behavior he has felt powerless to stop – it’s been going on for 10 years and now at the age of 24 he has decided that this is the way he’ll always be.
Therapist: It’s nice to meet you Double-Life, how can I help?
Double-Life: My wife and marriage counselor think that I need my own therapy.
Double-Life: Does your wife know about the pornography?
Therapist : Does your marriage counselor know?”
Double-Life: No. (Getting perturbed) What does this have to do with my marriage?
Therapist: When you lust with self and others, you are taking from your wife. Your wife feels everything that’s going on. And, if you’re marital therapist only knows about half of you, how can you expect him to help?
This disease thrives on secrets. The first step toward recovery is to bring the secrets out of the dark and into the light. Many other people with your problem say that the light of honestly and accountability have shrunk their problem down to practically nothing.
Double-Life: Oh you are making so much sense. But I don’t think I can stop. I like it too much. I always have. Besides I don’t know how my wife would react if she knew. It could really upset her.
Therapist: I feel like I’m talking to two people, Double-Life. There’s you and there’s the addict part of you. You sort of hear what I’m saying, but as soon as you even consider giving up the lust, the addict (who hasn’t heard a word ) says, ‘hey we can’t do this we’ll probably die if we don’t get our drug.’ That part of you is in such denial that it can’t see that your wife is already on the verge of a mental breakdown.
Double-Life: You’re absolutely right. Tell me what I have to do. I have to stop. I know it’s killing me and my marriage.
Therapist: Don’t despair, Double-Life. Rebbe Nachman says that if you can ruin you can repair. But it’s not going to be easy because you need to admit complete defeat.
Double-Life: What do you mean, I’ll have to admit complete defeat. I already don’t like the sound of that!
Therapist: I know, Double-Life. Admitting complete defeat means the ability to admit that you’re not able to fight lust by yourself. In fact you can’t even fight lust with my help. The solution is to not fight at all but rather to surrender to the reality that you now must stay away from everything that is presently triggering your lust – no matter what.
Double-Life: That’s rather severe isn’t it. I don’t like the sound of what you’re saying. What’s so different about me? Everybody flirts and lusts sometimes.
Therapist: Your right, many people are getting away with it. But you won’t, I can promise you that. Your addiction is already too strong.
Double-Life: You must think I’m a real rasha (evil person).
Therapist: My dear Double-Life. You aren’t a bad person who needs to become a good person; but you are a very unhealthy person who needs to get well. Is there anything else that you want to tell me about your problem?
Double-Life: (Hesitating) Well, sometimes when I can’t fall asleep, I like to get a little high and take a drive.
Therapist: Really. Where do you go?
Double-Life: I’d rather not say. Let’s just say, it’s not the best neighborhood. I need to have a little fun now and then. It’s not that I don’t love my wife. I really do. I just never cared for how she looks.
Therapist: (Looking at Double-Life straight in the eyes) Now listen here, Double-Life, I’ve spoken to a lot of guys like you. You’re really in trouble. The biggest problem that we have right now is that you’re not going to hear anything that I’m saying because you’re not sober in mind or body. You’re drunk on lust and it’s going to take at least 30 days for the garbage to clear out of your head enough for you to hear anything that I’m saying. Tell me honestly, have you really had enough of this double-life or are you just here to pacify your wife?
Double-Life: No I want help. I really do… believe me. What do I need to do?
Therapist: Double-Life I’m going to give it to you straight. You have a dual-addiction to alcohol and sex. You’re going to need a ton of support, much more than therapy alone can provide. The good news is that help is only a phone call away and it’s free. Take these phone numbers and get to some AA and SA meetings right away.
Double-Life: Oh, thank you so much. I’m going to follow your advice from now on. Thanks for meeting with me.
On Sunday morning, the therapist came home from Shul and sat down to have breakfast. About 40 seconds passed and the phone rang. It was Double-Life’s wife. “I know that you tried to help my husband, so I thought you would want to know. My husband was in a car accident last night – he was found dead.”
Double-Life was found on the dark side of town. There was a woman in the car with him. He had been drinking heavily, speeding and driving on the wrong side of the road. They were both killed instantly before the car burst into flames.
Most addicts do not continue with therapy and SA. Sexual Addiction is a progressive fatal illness. Driven by lust, the sex-addict is compelled to act in ways that go counter to his own values but cannot stop. Lies, secrecy, denial, deception and betrayal become a way of life. Eventually he loses his very self. There can’t be a happy ending without an iron-clad desire to get better, teshuva, and a support system of therapy and spiritual guidance.
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Zev Ballen, LCSW has been a practicing psychotherapist for 32 years. He is licensed in Israel and the State of New York. Zev has the endorsements of prominent Gadolei Yisrael such as the Nikolsburger Rebba, Shlita, Reb Yitzchok Fagelstock, Shlita, The Kasaner Rebbe of Forshay, Shlita, Rav Shalom Arush, Shlita, and Rabbi Lazer Brody, Shlita. He resides with his family in Jerusalem where he learns in Rav Arush’s Kollel and maintains a part-time practice. You can write to Zev Ballen at: email@example.com call him at: 845-362-8600 (US line) or 054-840-9499 (Israeli line).