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Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities – 1/02/09

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Dear Rachel,

I am writing in response to Hopelessly Entangled, the 21-year old frum single girl (Chronicles 11-14) who was romantically involved with a 17-year-old off-the-derech boy whom she has no intention of marrying. I have to share that I was in a similar situation. Here is how I managed, with the help of Hashem Yisbarach, to break free of my devastating addiction.

It is said of the yetzer hara, “Bipesach tachas rovetz” – sin lies in “the opening” (Rashion Koheles 4:13). This refers to a human weakness, shortcoming or deficiency that serves as an entryway for the yetzer hara to take advantage of.

Now, most of us have a sex drive, but that alone will not push a frum girl with no prior romantic experience into an affair with someone so utterly out of her league. Rather, he spoke to something that was missing in her life – like any other addictive substance that poses as the solution to some sort of void.

Although I cannot speak for her, I can tell you what was missing in my life when I found myself addicted to a lowlife at the age of 19. I had always been a quiet, well-behaved nerd who secretly envied all of those wild kids who made trouble and cut class. The young man was to me an invitation to finally join the ranks of the world’s carefree, badly behaved kids that I secretly imagined were having all the fun.

As a valedictorian with a rigorous career carefully laid out before me, I had been so busy résumé-padding for college that I had completely neglected my family and friends, as well as simply stopping to smell the roses. My emotional development was completely repressed beneath the endless schoolwork and extra-curriculars, and as a result I fell prey to the hormonal wham-bam of being involved with a bad boy, in desperation for anything that could make me feel again.

I also had had such a disciplinarian attitude towards myself that I think my addiction was a subconscious internal rebellion, my body going out of its way precisely to spite my willpower. To break free of my addiction, I had to learn a whole new system of self-control that was kinder, gentler and more maternal.

Mind you, it took a year of tumultuous soul-searching from the dark abyss of my disease for me to realize that these were the causes of my seemingly inscrutable addiction to something so obviously wrong, and about six months of working on myself to resolve these issues.

To the 21-year-old: There are few simple answers and absolutely no sympathy or emotional support in this world of knee-jerk moralizing and shaming, and there is always a lurking despair that can drive a person to abandon hope and just accept their addiction as is. Just remember that the greater the tzaddik, the greater the nisayon (test) and that other people have beaten this nisayon and are here to give you chizuk.

Hatzlachah with everything, and may you be zocheh to marry your zivug at the right time.

Been there and came back stronger…

Dear Been There,

A wise woman taught me that, taken to an extreme, just about anything will prove to be detrimental. What a blessing for parents to have a child who is studious and serious… and human. Let’s not lose sight of the fact that every human being, young, old or in-between, will benefit from some lightheartedness and down time.

Parents of children who bury themselves in schoolwork to the point of exhaustion and to the exclusion of any social interaction with peers and/or family members should insist on a diversion – whether it is in the form of a leisure activity or the occasional vacation. Ideally, both should be worked into everyone’s itinerary.

There are other scenarios that may drive a seemingly model young lady (or man) to take that uncharacteristic left turn. Sometimes parents are too preoccupied with their own busy agendas or large families to pay much heed to their elder, “mature” and self-reliant son or daughter. As a result, the attention-starved child can easily fall prey to the wrong kind of “notice” as s/he seeks approval denied him or her, albeit unintentionally, at home.

Amazingly, you’ve not only survived your ordeal but have gained extraordinary insight into what caused you to veer off course so severely. Your message is of great significance: Addiction can be conquered, hope must never be abandoned, and sufferers should be aware that others who have “been there” before have made it back – stronger and wiser.

One more scourge needs to be mentioned here: the Internet. Yes, the information highway has been a boon to mankind in myriad ways, but it has also unfortunately created a multitude of problems and caused the downfall of many a vulnerable soul.

Like you say, “there are few simple answers.” Short of sequestering ourselves on an island devoid of all secular societal influence, parents of young children need to be alert and aware and teachers must be adept at reading their students’ behavioral patterns. Above all, we should work on strengthening our faith in G-d and continually call on Him to protect our nearest and dearest from the ills that plague the earth’s inhabitants, as perhaps never before.

Thank you for sharing.

About the Author: We encourage women and men of all ages to send in their personal stories via email to rachel@jewishpress.com or by mail to Rachel/Chronicles, c/o The Jewish Press, 4915 16th Ave., Brooklyn, N.Y. 11204. If you wish to make a contribution and help agunot, your tax-deductible donation should be sent to The Jewish Press Foundation. Please make sure to specify that it is to help agunot, as the foundation supports many worthwhile causes.


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