Personal Story: Tug of War

The following piece was selected as one of the winners of this year’s Refuat Hanefesh Creative Expression Contest. It has been lightly edited. 



He’s following me. Every second of the day. He tries to tempt me, little by little but very quickly gains speed. Next to him, I am powerless.


Addiction. Such a simple word. Such a complex meaning.


It’s a constant game of tug-of-war. But he always wins. I try my hardest, pulling the rope with all my might, pulling for dear life. But he always pulls harder, pulling at all my senses, my very being. Yet the problem is that without him, I am nothing. I have lost my true identity to him. He has stolen it, hidden it away, deep, deep down in the depths of my soul, where no one, not even me, can find it. For now, my identity is him. Addiction. An addict.


My day is full of pulls and tugs at that rope. Fighting. Tugging to stop. But at the same time enjoying how he makes me feel when I give in. Good. Safe. OK. At peace. Happy. And then… Nothing. The pure bliss of nothingness. The oblivion which takes away all pain. Sweet nothingness where I feel free. Flying. Floating. Crashing. Because nothing lasts forever. Some things may abandon you at different paces, though. Some fade away, but others find you crashing down to reality at a terrifying speed, too fast to even realize what’s happening.


He’s not worth it. I know that. Because after crashing back down to reality, I’m stuck with not only the pain that I started with but also the realization that hits me bluntly in the face: You lost. Again. You gave in to him yet again. You stopped struggling, stopped fighting. You’re a weakling, a loser.
The truth is not as blunt and clear, and definitely not as fast to come. You did it! You managed to hold him off for four whole hours. Four hours means 240 minutes. 14,000 seconds. That’s a lot of struggling. To fight, to hold him off for that long, even though you knew that he would win, that ultimately it is almost not humanly possible to win without outside help? Do you realize how much willpower you have???


Sadly, that is one of the sides of addiction that most people (myself included) don’t usually see. Most people see the outcome: You lost. At the end of the day, he was able to control you once again. They don’t think about the struggle you went through to hold him off as long as you could. And holding him off is one of the hardest nisyonos (tests) a person can go through. Because he has tricks to make you fall, to stumble and succumb to him. He nags you to no end. He lets you feel the pain you’re in. And, if, by that point, you have not yet given in to him, he pulls out the winning card: withdrawal. Physical pain. Dizziness. You name it. Gehennom (Hell) on earth. No matter what you do, be it taking deep breaths to distraction, he doesn’t stop until you give in.


Addicts are not weaklings. They are not bad people. They are normal people with an addiction. It’s not their fault that they are going through this (although they may feel that it is). Addiction is a real concept. One cannot just “snap out” of an addiction, no matter how hard they try. It requires professional help and guidance as well as a lot of strength and courage.


I am fighting. Struggling. Trying to beat him at his own game. Trying to win, to break free from his iron grasp. Trying to get my identity back, my life, and my free will. Trying, but not yet succeeding. For it is a long and hard road, the road to recovery. It is paved with many battles, many tears and with much pain. It’s a road that bands to the right and then sharply curves to the left, a road full of hills and potholes. But at the end, it will ultimately lead to one thing, one precious thing that many take for granted: FREEDOM.


The freedom to breathe, to live, to think. The freedom to be me without him nudging me, trying to tempt me. The freedom to say no to him. Forever. I have yet to get to true freedom, but one day, I will beat him. For now, I am just taking each second as it comes. One day, I too will be a winner.


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