Abuse and Addiction:
A personal reflection
Just a castaway
An island lost at sea
Another lonely day
With no one here but me
Than any man could bear
Rescue me before I fall into despair
I’ll send an SOS to the world
I hope that someone gets my
Message in a bottle…
Walked out this morning
Don’t believe what I saw
A hundred billion bottles
Washed up on the shore
Seems I’m not alone at being alone
A hundred billion castaways Looking for a home…
Message in a Bottle
By: The Police (1979)
I would like to share with your readers a message of hope for those in the Jewish Community who may be struggling with similar issues. I am an Orthodox Jewish male in my mid-thirties. When I was a child, I went to a sleep away camp where one of the counselors sexually abused me. The abuse went on for six years. When I went away to high school, I continued to be molested by a number of my classmates.
When high school ended, so did all the abuse. I began to struggle with depression, anxiety, anger, and self-hatred. I had concluded that the abuse was my fault, that I was a bad person, and that I was undeserving of anyone’s love. I told no one about the abuse and kept it secret. I began to feel utterly alone and hopeless about life.
When I began to talk about my abuse for the first time, my anger and pain reached its peak. I was suicidal and needed to be admitted to a psychiatric hospital. Upon being discharged, I still lacked the coping skills or therapeutic tools I would need to deal with my painful emotions.
This led to an increase in my acting out. My compulsion turned into watching pornography and then to visiting strip clubs. I had now developed a full-blown sex addiction. I spent thousands of dollars and hours engaging in my newfound pornography addiction. I was completely powerless and my life was unmanageable.
I began to reach out to rabbis and friends about my problem. One of their suggestions was to increase my Torah study and prayer… that didn’t work. Therapists and mentors encouraged me to begin dating; marriage with the right girl would help me. But meeting women and trying to force myself to marry only amplified my problem.
One day a friend told me about S.A. (Sexaholics Anonymous) — a group where I would be able to meet others who were struggling with sex addiction who have found a common solution to their problem. It took a lot of courage for me to walk into those rooms for the first time, but once I did I felt a sense of relief.
Although the meetings were helpful, I was still unable to get sober. I felt hopeless and alone, and death seemed to be the only way out. I had now been going to therapy for over seven years and was part of S.A. for more than five years, and I just wasn’t getting it. I continued to act out and was stuck in an endless cycle of pain, anger, shame, abuse and addiction.
Finally, when I was desperate enough and my life reached rock bottom, I left my community and went to a sex-addictions rehab facility. I spent many months as an inpatient and many more months in a transitional living program. The work and internal self-reflection was challenging and difficult. Being away from everything that I knew was terrifying, but I knew I had no other option…
I am writing you this letter because today (June 8th, 2012) I am celebrating one year of sexual sobriety!!! A miracle has occurred for me. There is hope. Recovery from sexual abuse and sexual addiction is possible. I am beginning to feel hope, happiness, self-worth, and a connection to others.
I am currently part of a 12-step community which teaches the part of the recovery process that includes carrying the message of hope and recovery to other addicts and survivors of sexual abuse who are still sick and suffering, and who continue to struggle with hopelessness, isolation, and despair. In my recovery, I have learned that I am not terminally unique. If others can recover and heal, then so could I, and so could you.
Sexual abuse and sexual addiction are very common issues in our community. There is no need to remain silent on this issue because resources are available for those who want to heal, grow, and recover from these wounds. There are many others who are part of an ever-expanding 12-step fellowship program. We are no longer alone.
Over the last year of my life I have learned many lessons. I am learning that I am a good person and that I am loveable. I’ve learned that it’s okay not to be perfect, that mistakes are part of human nature. I am learning the difference between religion and spirituality. Religiosity was a place where I was able to hide, avoid and deny my pain.
Today I am no longer in hiding. I have developed a new relationship with My Higher Power that is based on love and acceptance. As a result, I have learned to treat myself with compassion instead of judgment.
My message is that you can heal from abuse and addiction with honesty, commitment, patience, acceptance, courage, and a lot of hard work. One of the slogans of the 12-step fellowship is “it works, if you work it, so work it, you’re worth it.” You are not alone and you are worth it. If you take the risk, you will find many other people, just like you and me, who are waiting to love you, care for you, accept you, relate to you, and help you on your road to recovery.
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About the Author: We encourage women and men of all ages to send in their personal stories via email to firstname.lastname@example.org 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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