I'm Only Something If I am Nothing
Hi. I am new to this forum. I recently slipped (33 days ago) after a clean streak of about 400 and something days. It was through this forum that I managed not slip again. I found it helpful to find people from the forum to speak to on the phone. There are many very selfless people to be found here.
What made me slip after close to a year and 5 months? More than anything, it was that I was feeling strong and confident in my sobriety (which was really much more fragile than I knew). It happened when I ventured out of my "comfortable" Daled Amos. I didn't realize how unprepared I was to be away from my wife and my regular everyday routine. Man - I got clobbered, and the paper tiger was torn to shreds. You wouldn't believe, or maybe you will, how fast the obsession came back - and it was much much worse than I ever remembered it to be.
I went to an SA meeting (where I was staying) and an old timer shared that he has been sober for 21 years and yet he knows that his disease has worsened during this time. I wondered, how could this happen? How does he even know this, if he's been clean all this time? But since my slip, I think I can understand it now, at least a little bit on my level.
Something that that old timer said (he looks well into his 70's!) just resonated for me with real truth. He said that he still fantasizes, at times, about how quickly his sobriety would plummet (and even turn suicidal) if he had "a hotel room and a lot of time to use it". Something in me started to believe him. So, I started asking other guys with long-term sobriety about this idea that the disease worsens, even after so many years of being clean. They all agreed that it did.
You and I, together with lust addicts everywhere, should merit to learn from those who have so much more experience than we do in coping with this tricky illness.
Whether you want to think of sex addiction as Dov calls it, a "progressive" illness, or as Guard calls it, an illness that renders us increasingly "sensitive" albeit vulnerable to sexual stimuli, the phenomena exists and needs to be dealt with. If I can't accept, as Dov says, that this is a progressive and (potentially) fatal disease, then what am I to think when saying: "G-d, grant me the serenity to accept what I cannot change..."
When I fell 36 days ago, it wasn't only that smaller amounts of the same stuff made me crazy, it was also that I thought nothing of venturing into far riskier territory - in fact, I felt compelled to. Afterward, I thought, "oh, this is just me again... my unique craziness" - until I shared my experience with other addicts who are clearly greater than I am in wisdom. Sharing at a face-to-face SA group and over the phone with people was tremendously comforting and healing for me. It wasn't scary to have my experience validated and corroborated. On the contrary, it was normalizing and reassuring. I need to know the reality of my illness, because that is my greatest protection against this happening again. My greatest weapon against a "nuclear meltdown" at age 70, is ACCEPTANCE and SURRENDER to the reality of my illness NOW - as opposed to denying it. My illness just gets fat on nutrients like denial, rationalization, dishonestly, self-will, anger, and all my other defects.
The fall was B"H good for me, in a sense. I have had, as Guard and Dov both mentioned, a re-connection with Hashem. But what I think is helping me even more right now is a new appreciation for why people who have been sober much longer than myself are more frightened than I am to act out. I doubt that even people with a lot of sobriety would have taken the risk that I did, because they've already been through this learning experience and they understand the stakes a lot better than I do. I guess Hashem knew that my "bottom" (as in "hitting bottom") needed to be lowered a bit for me to take this more seriously.
Halavei I should redo the sixth step where we ask ourselves if we are "entirely ready for Hashem to remove these defects of character". I certainly was not entirely ready, and I'm still not entirely ready - but I am more ready than before. I have the chance now for a more solid sobriety, not just in days, but in quality. I know a little better now hopefully, what powerlessness really means. I have no weapons of my own to fight this. I can only merit to be mekabel the light of Chochmah and Sechel through restriction and contraction of my "intelligence, will, strength and power". The negation of these illusions are what gives us the Ultimate power, i.e. the power of Hashem. I'm only something when I realize that I'm nothing.
Isn't that the good old Jewish way? Becharvi Ubekashti, says Onkelos and Rashi, don't mean with my sword and bow, they mean with Tefilla! And the same idea is expressed in Telhillim: "For I trust not in my bow, nor shall my sword save me, but rather in those who praise the Lord all day long".