Lust vs. Sex: "Lust" is a Motivation; "Sex" is an act

How can a married man avoid the "first sip" if he is obviously not celibate?

by Dov (See all authors)

Someone asks Dov:

Although lust and alcohol addiction are similar in many ways, I find that there is one big difference that I struggle with. For someone going through the 12 steps when he is an alcoholic, he can have the mindset that the 1st drink is too much and that he can never have that first drink. With lust though, although the mentality is that "I cannot have the first drink of lust", one must still encounter this facet of his life (having relations with a spouse), as opposed to alcohol where one can simply avoid the situation. If one is an addict how is he supposed to balance the two? It seems to be that the alcoholic has an easier time to deal with this, since the answer at the end of the day can simply be to remove himself from alcohol and all places that associate with alcohol. One can't do that with lust, since sex with a spouse is part of someone's life? What are your thoughts?


Dov Responds:

Sex is far from the problem. Lust is the problem - and also self-honesty.

Lust is just getting and can only be getting. It may involve doing stuff to another person, but its value for me is measured in only one way: How good it makes my body feel.

Sex however, is just an activity. It's not really a need - it is just an act. Eating is an activity, too, but it is also a need. We will die without eating. But we will not die without sex - especially not tonight! Yet I feel tonight! Don't I sometimes? What's going on here?

Sex is just an activity. It is not necessarily an act of taking, nor an act of giving. Neither good, nor bad. It is not necessarily only about me and how it makes my body feel. It is fertile ground for joy and adding to, - or can be done desperately for getting from. The quality and reality of what is going on in it depends completely on me and how much Hashem helps me.

So then, how can sex the problem? Clearly, we onlyproblem. Lust is not an act, but a motivation. Kavanah changes everything.

So the place that our change must occur is in the motivations we really have for living, for doing, for everything - if we really want things to be different. Scary? No need. Just a little, tiny drop of change is all that is needed, and it grows from there. As the AA's put it, "It's an inside job". Sure, plenty of adjustment to our activities and behavior are needed for inside change to occur, but the only thing that matters in the end is finally allowing ourselves to try for a change of our motivations. That's why 'acceptance' is so important - it will not work if it is not real to me or if I do not really need na'aseh v'nishma acceptance that we need here, but rather the kofoh aleihem hahar kgigis. Apparently, since He did that after we said "na'aseh venishmah", it appears that He agrees!


Dov, it seems you are saying that the reason why lust is so bad (as opposed to the act of sex with one's spouse) is because it's a completely selfish act?


Dov Responds:

Who said it's bad? Good/bad is a matter for religion.

All I am saying is that lust does not work. I cannot live successfully with it. Like the AAs discovered, "we cannot drink like gentlemen." Eventually, it throws us in the gutter.

That is the only thing that the recovery I am familiar with is concerned about: life just doesn't work with active addiction. And lust just doesn't work - for addicts. It may work OK for normal people, but not for addicts. We do not do well with moderation or controlled lusting. It eventually, ultimately screws us up and makes living impossible for us, and for the people around us.

And the answer that the program offers is getting not just faith, but a faith that really works, for a change.

Does all this make sense to you?

 

But for me, the reason why lust makes my life unmanageable stems from an inner conflict. This conflict is a religious contradiction for me. I have guilt and sometimes become depressed after acting out. The reason why I feel guilty and depressed is because the acting out prevents me from becoming the type of person I want to become. Is this a good enough reason for me to say that my life has become unmanageable? It seems that my issue stems from a religious belief, but for me, this religious belief is so important that I can't live like this anymore.


Dov Responds:

You know, I do not know that answer to your question because I haven't had that experience. I had tremendous inner conflict, but it did not stop me - in fact, I did not even get the help I really needed as a result of it. Perhaps you are getting it though. For me, the help I needed was a true change in lifestyle: I started coming out to other (safe) people about my problem, being fully open in meetings and with my sponsor, and actually coming to meetings with other perverts like me. That is when I started getting better. And in order to keep getting better, I need to become progressively more open with these people, and appropriately open with my wife - and really with everyone.

Now, I am not open about my addiction with everyone I meet, nor even with my wife - for example, I do not tell her "Sweetheart, I saw a woman on the train today who was so pretty that I am still dying to follow her to her car and talk to her." Not quite. I also do not share with her other crazy thoughts I have, like fear that I married the wrong person, fear of death, bewilderment about having purpose in my life or believing in G-d, or whether I am in fact and addict or not. Why should I share these things with her?

Truth be told, I used to try to share these very things with her - until she educated me that there is no sensible purpose in her learning about every crazy aberration in my brain - particularly if it will just scare her.

The reason I had to learn it (what to and what not to talk with her about) davka the hard way, was that I had been spending the past 11 years of our marriage lying to her and covering up and manipulating. Of course, I did not see what I was doing as that, but it was exactly that. So in the beginning, I wanted to do the opposite (generally a good approach to rehab) and tell her every tiny stupid thing, so I do not revert to secrecy and "the double life". Nu. I was wrong. Over time, I learned how to balance it a bit better - stupid crazy thoughts go to my sponsor and program buddies, while real life stuff goes to her. Generally speaking.

Make any sense?

 

It seems from your story that the next step that you would have had to take, would have led to loss of your wife, children, etc... For me, however, the next step is just not being able to live with myself. I know this will be a tough question to answer, but can where I be right now be considered rock bottom?


Dov Responds:

I do not see why it cannot be so. There are many alkies who have not lost jobs, are young, etc - and are going to meetings and are sober. Perhaps it all depends on how you treat yourself. If you take the measures indicative that you feel you are truly in deep trouble, then you will be OK. If you minimize it, then the denial will keep you in the addiction cycle.

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