Thursday, 12 January 2012

Reversed Order

by Dov (See all authors)

I have not found it to be true that one must first love themselves before they will be able to love others, as I have heard many people say. Nor do I buy that a healthy self-esteem is needed at all, in order for anyone to recover. Nor do I believe that I needed to feel forgiven, in order to save my life and actually learn how to stop being dependent on lust and acting out. Rather, in my own case and in that of others I know, the order is reversed. First I stay sober one day at a time no matter what, by learning to be honest with others, cuz I must. Then I do my steps and begin to give at least a tiny sliver of my life to G-d. Then, I come to see all my character defects. Only after being absolutely clear how powerful a force pride and fear are in my life, do I finally come to be comfortable with myself.

I could not comfortably look in my own eyes in a mirror until a month or so after doing my 4th step inventory the first time. I was sober a year and a half at that time, and discovered that I hated myself - until I came face to face with myself with all my warts and good qualities, too, and accepted the facts about me. I got right-sized and started to stop being so demanding on G-d, on my wife, and on anybody. I came to admit that my inner life is all - 100% - up to no one but me. Ein hadavar tolui ella bee, as they say, right? And the most essential ingredient in the entire thing was that I was no longer here to just feel better, but to stop acting out so that I might yet live.

It seems to me that saying that "v'ohavto l'reiacho kamocha" implies that healthy self-love is where we 'should' start from, and then extend that to lacking. 'Should's do not work very well for addicts anyway...

I think that nice idea is really just saying that the Torah describes the way it usually IS. Typically, people have tons of self-concern and self-love. So Hashem says to give that same concern and love to your fellow, too. It's not a recommendation for how to be with ourselves, really.

But those without self-love and who take poor care of themselves still have the mitzva to care for others and to treat them very well, I guess. But they are just weirdos... as many of us porn addicts and sex addicts are, after years of screwing around and hating ourselves and being so confused.

So I accepted a derech in the program that we quit worrying about fixing all that and that we avoid focusing our energies on regaining a positive self-concept. Instead, I am told to learn how to stay sober even though I may hate myself, to put my energies into being positive to others and treating them fairly and well. The result would then be a less self-centered me. And that me will be pleasant to live with.

The day I start to work directly on liking myself, I - a man who understands masturbation and total self-centered engorgement on erotic pleasure, will probably slip back into the garbage that got me this messed up in the first place. Leaving my self-image to G-d to fix (like I try to do with many other things in life) is a safer path.