Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Doing what you need to do, today

by Dov (See all authors)

Hi Dov,

I have accepted on myself that I will follow the program to the best of my abilities regardless if I understand everything in it. After all, as you say, it is my best thinking that got me into this mess. But occasionally I do have a question I would like to ask and hope to get understanding and chizuk from it. So here goes.

Let me introduce you to a fellow named Yechiel. This Yechiel is an extremely self-centered, ego-centric, selfish, always looking out for number one type of guy. It is in his very bones. Even when he does for others it is in one of three ways. (1) give to take (2) give what must be given due to circumstance (father, husband etc.) but get it over, done with and out of the way ASAP (3) give but constantly live for and anticipate the next upcoming "me-time/pleasure moment".

Now due to a chain of events, Yechiel is being told that he must completely change his life, in effect create Yechiel 2.0. This new Yechiel will be the complete opposite of the old one. While unhappy with 1.0, he contemplates what 2.0 requires and a feeling of tremendous withdrawal arises. "Can I do this?", he wonders. "Do I even WANT to do this?". "But what's the alternative, more of the same?" "Can't do that either". So he is scared and wonders, "Are there people out there of the Yechiel 1.0 type, who have successfully made the journey from self-service to God/Others service and are living a new, fundamentally improved life? Of course there are recovering addicts, but have they come from such a selfish place as he has?

Dov, what would you say to Yechiel?

Best regards,

Yechiel 1.0

Dov Replies:

Dear Yechiel,

I'll just let you know that I am a self-serving, self-obsessed, egomaniac with a tendency to focus way too much on what other people think of me. It interferes with almost every department of my life. It drives me nuts mainly in shul and at work, and I need to do something about it.

At the same time (you may have read my story), my entire life is vastly different than it was 15 years ago - even than it was 10 years ago - and even very different than it was 5 years ago - all because I am not acting out with lust and also because I am using the steps (very imperfectly) in my daily life.

As of today, I live with my personal G-d (Hashem) much more of the time than I used to; I take my wife and kids' needs much more seriously and sympathetically than I used to; I have grown up a bit and take my responsibilities to others more seriously than I used to... all imperfectly and inconsistently. But it seems that the improvement I have made is all I really need in order to stay sober.

Here's the catch: It seems that as I go along, the deepness of the connection that I must to have to my G-d and to the people in my life naturally increases.

What was honest yesterday is not honest enough today.

What was G-d-centered yesterday is too self-centered today.

It just won't do anymore. If I remain the same I will be disconnected and I just hate that feeling.

I deserve better than that old slop. Besides, if I get uncomfortable enough, I'll eventually act out, right? And that's not an option any more, so I'd better work the steps! It may sound weird, but it's just the way it is. Recovery is an escalator you never really get off of. It may be slow, but you will keep moving up. You'll have to.

There is an Ibn Ezra on the struggles of b'nei Yisroel in the midbar in which he writes that our real problem was that we looked at what we would have to do to "make it" in Eretz Yisroel, and looked at how we were right then (eating the manna and living under the ananei hakavod), and we freaked out. Kind of like a pompous 13 year-old getting behind the wheel of a car or trying to live on his own. He just isn't equipped for the challenges of adult life. B'nei Yisroel didn't stay in today, and trust that by the time they got to Eretz Yisroel, Hashem would give them the growth they'd need to face those huge challenges. He's real smart, you know. But they still had that dependent slave mentality and could not imagine growing up and really being independent. We types do exactly the same thing. Our state in two, five, ten years from now is supposed to be rachok mitziur sichleinu (far from our imagination). So we give up on them - today! Thinking about it is just plain nuts. It's none of our business.

We need to do today's work and trust Hashem. Basically, we need to just get the heck out of His way, that's all.

So, consider quitting the "I've got to change myself into an alien" business and focus on doing what you need to do today to let go of today's fears, resentments and demands that are making you uncomfortable right now. That's what the steps, a sponsor, and recovery buddies are for. And that's what having a G-d is for, too,Hashem li, v'lo ira! He's for you.

Sound selfish? Well, as they say, it's about enlightened self-interest. I want to be useful, and I want to be sober. And the only way for me to do that is to be just a bit less self-centered in my actions, today. G-d (not me) will take care of the rest and will make the changes in my motivations as time goes on. That's it. It takes a little humility every day to let go of the heavy burden of "doing the avoda" and just live as His children. (Most of the fire really comes from shamayim - we just bring a little bit from our own, right?)

Love, (really)