Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Should Eating/Sinning Addictions Be Treated Like Addictions?


I wrote in a previous post about how the compulsion to do aveiros/eating/etc. should be considered an addiction, and handled with as much seriousness. I was very interested to hear the following report on the various kinds of addiction that exist, besides just for drugs, cigarretes and alcohol. This aired on the Leonard Lopate show on WNYC, the local NPR affiliate. I think it definitely adds to the discussion.



-Dixie Yid

(Picture courtesy of yumsugar.com)

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7 comments:

Shorty said...

Compulsions versus addictions...there is a fine line isn't there?

We may feel we can't control ourselves, like simply eating desserts out of boredom or feelings, but then that can easily turn into an eating disorder

the same with aveirot - we can tell "white lies" to hide the truth, or someone can be a compulsive liar...or theft...someone may steal "for attention" or there are more serious stealing addictions...

I guess the key is to determine whether a person is in the pre-addict mode, and to catch it early...like any disease!

The somewhat less severe compulsion can be "cured" with a little self awareness and motivation, whereas the more severe addiction needs a great deal more intervention...

(sorry! some random thought there)

A Simple Jew said...

I haven't listened to the report, however I was curious to know what other types of addictions were mentioned...

DixieYid (جنوب يهودي) said...

Shorty, I'm not sure what one should define as a "compulsion" versus an "addiction" either. However, in either case it is both true that one "cannot help himself" and that one *can* help himself. One can't help himself in the sense that, as the gemara in Kiddushin says, If Hashem does not help a person, he cannot overcome his evil inclincation. One must turn to Hashem and daven for success and help in overcoming his yetzer hara. In this sense, he cannot help himself, but he can succeed with Hashem's help if he turns to Hashem. But on the other hand, having an addiction is not an excuse to keep doing something. Recognition of the addiction to sinning/eating/etc. is a means of defining how seriously one must take his reformation process. So one can help himself in the sense that he can get to working on davening and taking steps to change his nature.

ASJ,

Well I would suggest listening to the report. It was very interesting. One addiction that is focused on there, that I didn't mention in the main post is "sex addiction." Which, as I understand it, means getting sexual gratification through any means other than one's spouse.

-Dixie Yid

micha said...

Along these lines is the expansion of the 12 Step program from AA to other venues: Overeaters Anonymous, SAA, etc... (I have hashkafic problems with 12 Step, but that's off topic.)

I would draw a line based on Rav Dessler's notion of a nequdas habechirah (decision point). In Michtav meiEliyahu, he describes free will to be like a battle front. Where the yeitzer hatov and yeitzer hara collide, there one requires conscious thought to make a decision. For one person, that might be over shoplifting. For another, cutting corners on their taxes. For someone else, the line might be someplace far more positive. Each person has their struggles.

And each struggle moves the battle front, changes the bechirah point. Such that each success makes a repeat more likely. And the decisions progress in a positive direction.

I would use the concept of compulsion when the desire is beyond the bechirah point. The person is a victim to the impulse, really incapable of winning that battle at this stage in their life process.

If it's withing the bechirah point, then it really shouldn't be treated like a disease. That's abdicating on one's responsibility to seek sheleimus (wholeness) by viewing oneslef as a victim.

KNLAD

With prayers for peace,
-micha

Shorty said...

I think in both cases, one needs to get help in whatever form that takes (a group, a book or ...)

But to get help, one must decide they want it/need it and want/need to be different.

There must be awareness of the act itself, but also of our weaknesses, and a weakness isn't an excuse. I just read the lesson of one Rabbi, that just because you can't attain the highest peak, doesn't mean the journey itself isn't worth it.

You will never know if you can "make it" unless you try.

micha said...

I don't know if "Shorty" disagrees with what I wrote or was commenting on something else, so to clarify.

I'm not so much talking about whether or not one goes it alone. Rather, whether someone is positioned to feel out of control, a victim of a disease (addiction), or not. If the person is out of control, best they face it and ask someone to take charge, to seek a custodian. However, if you can assume responsibility for one's own life, it's better to seek help.

If Hashem wanted perfect people, He only would have made mal'akhim. We exist because He wants people who are working on being better. "It is not for you to complete the work, neither are free to desist from it." Calling something an addition is positioning oneself "lehibatel mimenah", to rest from the work of self improvement by blaming circumstance or giving up more control than appropriate.

Again, KNLAD. I am touching on an issue that very much divides Mussar from Chassidus (and particularly Breslov). Does one work on oneself and pray for help (Mussar) or is one's primary self-improvement exercise to ask Hashem to guide your life, and we are the assistants?

-micha

Anonymous said...

There is a huge huge amount of people dealing with food addiction, or compulsive overeating, and are walking around overwheight due to a cause no one would ever assume or understand. I myself am a food addict and it is hell kept in check or out of control, depending. More often women, and I would say at least as common as anorexia and bulemia if not more. The frum world needs to develop techniques and support systems for us.