Thursday, 26 March 2015

Learning to Grow Up

by Dov (See all authors)

Someone writes to Dov:

I'm not totally at peace with lust during the day. Sometimes, I do feel like I'm holding back a beast that's ready to explode out of its prison. When I meet a girl I like, it's very difficult for me to ignore the sexual attraction element, just be natural and treat her like a friend. Being complacent after a few months clean and then falling prey to curiosity and looking at swimsuit models is also something I'm prone to.

It's not just a moral struggle - I've hit rock bottom before and I know I can't afford to relapse. The good news is that I'm falling less often as the years go by and 'flowing more with life'. Unlike you though, I just see the struggle as an enemy that needs to be brutally suppressed. Hopefully though with a few more years of growth and development I will have made even more progress. So as you say, "not to worry!"

Dov Responds:

The truth is that there is no "beast in prison", at all, but myself. I'll try to explain.

There are a few things that make me feel really miserable. But the most reliable of them all is acting out my lust. No matter how excited, breathless, and sweet it may feel, it always, always makes me feel just plain miserable and sick - before, during, and after. It is completely irrelevant to me why it makes me feel thus. It just does, and always has. And this is besides the results and damage it causes, like when I get in trouble for doing x,y, or z.

So, I have discovered that no situation is so bad, that it can not be made even worse by me acting out.

When I actively lust, all the other people in my life immediately become a pain in my butt (resentment of others and of the realities of life is planted in my mind and truly makes sense to me); avodas Hashem instantly becomes a dubious burden in my heart ("so of what real value is it for me as I am, anyway? Will Torah make me feel the way that skin makes me feel right now? No!"); I feel like a hopeless failure ("so why not be happy with just pleasuring myself full time?") ...more fear and resentment build from there. This is not 'rish'us' - it is sincere. Wrong, but sincere. That is why it is so confusing to us! We know we are good - yet our behavior proves we are very bad! ("Why me?") And through it, my addiction cycle is then strengthened much further, simply because my body knows how effective lust behaviors are at squelching all those pesky guilt feelings and crazy thoughts. And hey - it is my religious heart that wants them to be squelched at all costs! Resentment, fear, doubt, and desire - all them will go away as soon as I 'do it'. They always go away then... for a minute... as I have proven time and time again. Finally acting my lust out, was always a painful 'coming to my senses' and it returned to me that sincere desire to 'finally be good'. ("Hey, I may be surrounded by wreckage - but at least life makes sense again now! Phew! Familiar territory again...") But that stinks. Cuz enlightenment gained through addictive acting out is just temporary, of course. The sanity disappears as quickly as it came on - when I get 'thirsty' again... and again...

But I have had enough of that stupid cycle, and it sounds like you have, too. When can we finally hit bottom?

Do you relate? Do you remember?

I am trying to share the pain so that the struggle you refer to can be unmasked a bit further. It is not my friend, at all. Never was, and never will be. It makes me miserable, no matter how exciting it may make me feel. Misery.

So I have emunah peshutah now, that when I sense the sincere desire to get a better look at a magazine cover, the rump of a coworker or a woman on the train, etc., I need not go there. For it never worked for me in the past, really.

In other words, it is time for me to grow up.

That's my recovery.

And clearly, if the fight is made the focus, I will fail miserably. When I lust or resent, then I need to pray for these people to my G-d. He loves them all, right? Jew, gentile, tzaddik or rosho - He loves them, cares for them, keeps them alive with His 'life'. Correct? Why not join with Him in that love, and sincerely try to be helpful to these (His) people? And the first thing I can do for them is quit undressing them in my head (wanting to do that may be normal - for me - but doing that is violent and disrespectful). Always. The next thing I can do to help them and myself, is establish a right-sized relationship with them - which usually means to have nothing to do with them, at all, and just wishing them well. Like for birds in the park. But since they are people, I can pray for them to come to know Hashem... Hey, even Goyim ought to know and serve Hashem in the way that is right for them, obviously. I see my true friendship and love affair with Hashem as the greatest gift I have on this earth. (Do you?) And Hashem talks about that frequently in Torah and Novi. So I "Live and let live." Finally, I can do what all tzaddikim have always done for the b'riyah in general and for all people in particular: pray for them all, bless them all. As it is written, V'nivrechu b'cho kol mishpechos ha'o'adomo.... b'cho ub'zar'echo. For me to speak to Him m'umkah d'liboh on behalf of His b'riyos. When I did this yesterday (and again today) in response to attraction that I felt to the very pretty woman working next to me all day, I was able to work there and feel right about her all day long - which meant mostly to forget about her! That was a great gift and a great day, in my book.

Does this sit well with you?