Going ‘cold turkey’ is often easier than trying to indulge in moderation

Guest post by Rivka Levy

I was thinking about what Rav Ofer Erez wrote about how it’s so much easier to completely abstain from something, than to indulge in it in a measured, limited way.

He used the example of food, and anyone who’s ever tried to diet, or to follow some sort of eating regime that cuts out certain types of food, like carbs or sugar, knows first-hand that it’s SO much easier to completely avoid unhealthy food than to eat just a bit.

Who can eat just 10 Pringles once the lid is off the tube?

Who can eat just two squares of chocolate?

Or a quarter of a donut on Chanuka?

Once most of us start, we have to go the whole hog, and until I read Rav Ofer’s piece on ‘self restraint’ I didn’t really understand what was going on. My problem isn’t so much restraining myself with food (although yes, I do tend to eat the whole chocolate bar on the rare occasions when I buy one) – but with the internet.

Addicted to the internet

For years, I was terribly addicted to the internet, and I found it very hard to put any sort of limit on the time I was spending online. In fairness, I had a full-time job at that point with awful deadlines, and my compulsion to surf and check emails every five minutes had a veneer of necessity.

But I was literally spending hours and hours and hours online, and I’d find it so hard to drag myself away from the screen – and this was years before Facebook addiction, Netflix, Youtube or any of the million other addictive time sucks that have now sprouted all over the web.

Whatever I tried, I simply couldn’t get a handle on my internet (ab)use. So there came a point, around 10 years’ ago, when I decided I had to go completely cold turkey on it. I told my husband we had to get the internet connection completely out of the house – and with God’s help, I stuck to that for around seven years.

Over that time, my only paid work was writing a column for another Breslov website, and I used to go to the library in my village once a week, surf all my favorite sites for an hour, then check whatever emails I needed to, and send off my stuff to my editor.

Having to deal with the internet again

But then, around four years ago our finances nose-dived, and I realized that one way or another, I had to be back online. I started up my own blog, tried to build a business around publishing my books, started doing a few other things, besides, to bring in a bit of money, and long story short, the internet was back in my house.

But not totally.

Instead of going the easy-to-stream-everything in five seconds WiFi route, me and my husband plumped for an internet ‘stick’ with a limited amount of bandwidth available each month, to try to curb my addictive tendencies.

And you know what? It is so much harder to be online a little, than to not be online at all.

Every single day, I’m having a fight to not let the internet eat my life, and I have to ask God for a lot of help to not keep wasting time looking at pictures of a fat George Michael.

Yetzers don’t deal in half-measures

The last thing I wanted to say about this whole ‘self-restraint’ and internet idea is that I was pondering about this whole push in some sectors of the orthodox Jewish world to have more images of frum women in our publications and online.

In some ways, I really get where the women behind that campaign are coming from, but after I read Rav Ofer’s post, I realized that yetzers don’t deal in half-measures. Today’s tasteful headshot can deteriorate so fast into completely untznius selfies, and an unhealthy obsession with external appearances, simply because it’s so much easier to be out of public view completely than to try to be ‘out there’ a little.

So for me, at least, I’m staying out of public view as much as possible. I have enough areas where I need to work on my ‘self-restraint’ without adding any more into the mix.

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