Torah Perspectives on the 12 Steps

 

In recent years the twelve step program has become widely accepted and utilized both in Israel and in the Jewish world as the most effective way to understand the addictive experience and recovery.

The Nachat Ruach model integrates the 12 step approach when treating a wide range of addictions including:

  • substance abuse
  • eating disorders
  • gambling
  • internet

Beyond the standard 12 step orientation, the Nachat Ruach model has added six additional Torah based concepts that supplement the classical program.

These include:

1. “Beloved is Man who was created in the Divine Image.” (Pirkei Avot 3:18)

חביב אדם שנברא בצלם, חיבה יתרה נודעת לו שנברא בצלם שנאמר: כי בצלם אלוקים עשה את האדם

The concept that each person is created in the Divine image is the foundation of a Torah-based psychological theory of man’s nature, and this should in turn be the basis for developing positive self-esteem for everyone. This is even more important for addicts. Dr Twerski stresses that “low self esteem is a major source of addictions.” From this understanding, it is clear that an important goal in the treatment of addictions is to improve self esteem. Concept One addresses this practical issue of recovery. Already in the first chapter of the Torah, it is taught that man is created in the Divine Image. “God created mankind in His own image, in the image of God He created him, male and female He created them.” (Genesis 1:27)

ויברא אלוקים את האדם בצלמו בצלם אלוקים ברא אותו זכר ונקוה ברא אותם

The psychological implication at the core of the Nachat Ruach treatment model is that each individual has intrinsic value and unique potential, as one created in the Divine image regardless of his current achievements or problems. This basic truth is seen to be particularly important in contemporary society where most people have “absorbed” the belief that self esteem and self worth are highly associated with one’s actual achievements. Also, there is a tendency to define oneself in relation to limitations that he or she might have, as seen professionally when clients are labeled according to their diagnostic category. In contrast to over-identifying with one’s problems, the Torah believes that: “The soul in its essence always remains healthy and pure.”

The Torah obviously doesn’t deny one’s “issues” but sees them as external to one’s deepest inner self. Thus, a main goal of the NR treatment is to help the client know this intellectually and internalize this truth unconsciously, and from this place rebuild a healthy self esteem. For example, the Twelve-Step program correctly requires an addict to continue to say, “I am Joe Smith and I am an addict, clean for the past ten years.” This is necessary so the addict won’t “fall back” into denial, which is the first step to relapse. The Nachat Ruach approach clearly recognizes this requirement of the program. However, it encourages the recovering addict to say as well, “I am Moshe Cohen and I am an addict, clean for the past eight years. I am also a Jew created in the Divine image.”  When a Jewish addict says this, he is recognizing that he has intrinsic value, positive potentials and the possibility to grow.

Practically, the Nachat Ruach formulation means that while an addict should never forget that he has a “chronic disease”, he doesn’t have to and should not define himself only in terms of that disease, but he should also recognize and affirm that his unique Divine spark, which is his essential self, is always clean.

2. “Taste and see that G-d is good. Happy is the Man who trusts in him.” (Psalms 34:9)

טעמו וראו כי טוב האשרי הגבר יחסה בו

3. “Rabban Gamliel used to say Find yourself a Rav.” (Pirkei Avot 1:16)

רבן גמליאל היה אומר עשה לך רב

4. “And the study of Torah is equivalent to them all.” (Gemara, Masechet Shabbat 127)

ותלמוד תורה כנגד כולם

5. “You shall be Holy, for Holy am I, Hashem your G-d.” (Leviticus 19:2)

קדושים תהיו כי קדוש האלוקיכם

6. “Do not return to Egypt”(relapse prevention) (Deuteronomy 17:16)

לא-ישיב את העם מצרימהלא תוסיפו לשוב בדרך הזה עוד

We have seen the Nachat Rauch approach to be very effective with hundreds of clients over the past 20 years. Many had previously been in conventional programs that didn’t integrate a Jewish dimension. Most reached Nachat Ruach searching for a way to incorporate Torah spirituality in their recovery and stressed that this gave them more motivation and tools to stay clean.

 

The Nachat Ruach treatment approach is the first to utilize Torah based faith and spirituality in a professional setting.

In recent years a unique multi-dimentional approach to deal with Internet addictions including their impact on marriage has been developed. This approach is discussed in detail  in the Nachas Ruach book.