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Running When Your Clothes are on Fire

obormottel Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Someone wrote to Dov:

Sometimes, when I'm going through a stressful period, I can find myself masturbating in bed at night semi-consciously. Sometimes, I can stop myself before it gets too late, other times I don't fully realize what I'm doing and go the whole way.

Did you ever have this problem, and, if you did, is there anything you can suggest to help me cut this out? I do have to admit that I was curious a few days ago and also spent about 15 mins looking at pictures of models. Obviously I shouldn't have done that, but sometimes I think it just comes down to stress.

Dov Responds:

Dear chaver,
Thanks for sharing that with me. There is some very good writing on this sensitive topic in "Recovery Continues" by Roy K. I suggest you look at it. It does me good, as does most of that short book.

I found that, as my lusting decreased, I had fewer nocturnal problems, which felt nice. I discovered that when I was free of nocturnal lust issues, it made me feel good inside. Not 'holy' nor morally good, but simply at peace with myself. I guess I hate seeing myself as 'out of control', or at the mercy of lust (or any forces) and lusting like I used to, even in dreams. There were times when I felt - in dreams - an awareness of "no, that's not what I want" on an emotional level, and I recoiled from acting out in my dreams, as well. It is no "madreigah", at all. It's just the way we become naturally when we do this work. It is a comfortable, natural self-awareness that "this is not for me, period, whether it is right or wrong or feels good or bad, it is just is not mine, and that is the way I like it."

But just as it was for me when I became frum (around 11 years old): not switching lights on and off was very hard to remember in the first year or two.... but after a few years it became second nature. I imagine that even if I were in a dream and the idea of turning on a light came to me while I thought it was Shabbos - I'd recoil naturally - not from tzidkus, at all. Don't you feel the same way about Shabbos yourself? How about for lusting behavior like sex with ourselves? Is that in the same realm for you? If not, I'd wager it'd be a matter of time till it will be. Not to worry, I say.

Does this make sense to you so far? Is it addressing your issue?

I am saying that if your response to lust during your conscious hours is about becoming at peace instead of lusting - that is, with the aim being achieving peace with it and growing free of it as a result of that inner peace - then it will be just the same while you are asleep. Fighting it and beating it - or ignoring it (they are kind of the same, really) is just trying to 'run away' from it.

"Hevei boreyach min ha'avero kaboreyach min ha'eish" works great -unless the fire is on your own clothes! What happens to people who are actually themselves on fire, when they run? The fire follows them and their running only fans the flames! For an addict there is no running away, is there? You and I run - and the flames grow and we get burned worse and worse....till we finally drop. "Stopping and Dropping" means hitting bottom and giving the fight up completely to your Higher Power. I lost. The fight is over for me. If the flame - the addiction - is part of me, then there is only one rule that really works: Stop, Drop, and Roll. That is the way I like. Admit it in writing to myself and to another openly on the phone or in meetings, and surrender it by admitting that I obviously haven't the ability to fight it.Not because the Yetzer is so strong, but because I am sick. A nd I start to learn to roll right along with real life with my real G-d and with the real people around me. Growing up a bit through the steps in a fellowship of other losers at controlling lust..

But if the person sees it as purely a moral struggle - and the fact that he has the desire is approached as a defect in him to struggle against- then sleep will just be yet another battleground. Another place where he tries running. Good luck to him...

Our way is not to deny or keep fighting (and losing to) the lust - and certainly not to give in to the desire! But rather to finally surrender it openly to safe people who really know it themselves. To admit who and what I lust after and accept it, and admit it to others. To give it up. When I do that, I discover that I see it all differently. I am no longer afraid of the lust, nor of the women I lust after. I can let go of them, let go of the overpowering lust. I start to taste freedom granted by Hashem. He loves Emess that much. It is obviously a sweet, loving gift from Hashem.

If it is a specific woman that I lust after, then in recovery I can speak the woman's name in prayer to Hashem - for her sake, for they really are people. I can care for them in the appropriate way Hashem wants me to, and can eventually begin to see them as humans - like me. Fallible - not gods, frail - not gods, confused and weak, with problems - in other words: real people... just like me. They have no magic lust power any more, then. Before that, she did have power (for me)! Not any more. Now, I can feel sorry for her, as I can for most people including myself, when I think about the fact that we all have real bitter struggles, problems, life.... And then I can start to surrender my lust, my sleep, my dreams, my sex, my zera, my money, whatever I feel is in my possession -and my fear - to Hashem. And I get a good night's sleep without touching my eiver at all and without needing that erection, nor that fantasy. I do not want to touch myself in a sexual way, at all. I may still wish I could, but I accept that I simply cannot afford it, just like turning on a light in the dark room on Shabbos. Not gonna do it. I may have a desire to do it once in a blue moon..."it'd sure be convenient if I could turn this light on..." - so? So? So nothing. I always give it up happily.

Happily is the key, here. Addicts cannot afford to regret the fact that they desire stuff. Even outlandish and destructive things. It just is natural to us addicts, and therefore it is a fact of life. The way it is, and Hashem knows it and always has. Period. That fact of my weirdness is not something to run from, fight against or be ashamed of, at all.Wanting to turn on a light is natural. My body does not care and does not even know that it is Shabbos. It never will, as far as I assume. So I am lower than R' Pinchas ben Ya'ir's donkey. Sue me.