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The Cheftza & the Gavra of Lust

Dear GYE,

I got two contradictory messages from reading your emails. On the one hand, Dov says that lust is under greater control during the later stages of recovery, but you say that a mild sight that was NOT a trigger yesterday DOES become a trigger today.  Which is correct?

Bewildered by Lust

obormottel Thursday, 27 August 2015

Dear Bewildered,

Good question, I asked this of Dov once. The answer is, that we get MORE sensitive to lust triggers when we LET IN even a little bit of lust. However, we are LESS PRONE to letting it in at all because we recognize how poisonous it is for us. So even if a very triggering woman walks by, it gets easier over time to simply ignore her and not let the lusting to START.... (But if we do start taking peeks at her and lusting, we will find ourselves triggered faster and feeling more powerless - over time).

And here's Dov's answer:

You are equating improperly dressed women, porn, etc, with lust.

But they are two completely different things. One is in me (my reaction, wishing for partaking, feeling it out, enjoying it and using it), and the other is out there - reality - "pretty women". They exist, and they are not lust themselves. My daughter is a pretty woman - she is not lust, and no one can transform her into lust. R' Chayim zt"l might say that one is a din of a cheftza (porn laying in the street, a pretty neighbor's wife, jogger, etc), and one is a din in the gavra (lust - what you or I may do with it).

The recovering person's ability to accept that distinction is what makes the difference in the reaction itself! As long as a sexaholic is very sick, he automatically sees a pretty woman herself as a lust 'thing'. That is what she really is to him, as far as he can tell. It's his truth. So his tolerance to her presence is very, very low. Her very presence is a painful problem! He lusts for her and does not stop. Great shows of willpower are noble, but silly - for his reality is twisted. It's not a matter of willpower or yir'as Shomayim - he is just nuts, and sees pretty women as what they are not - as sex objects. All he can do is hold his breath... eventually he will fall.

But in recovery, we pray for these people by name, we work our steps for sanity, and admit our lust to each other openly, and surrender it... and we begin to see these people and things as what they actually are: people and things... not 'lust objects', unless we 'make' them into that to us. Slowly, pretty women become real people and we can function with them at work, see them in the supermarket, etc. and tolerate them. For there is nothing to 'tolerate' - they are, b'ikar, people.

That is why none of the steps are about "how to hold back." After the 1st step (which is about the problem), none of them mention anything about sobriety. All the solution steps (2-10) are only concerned with achieving sanity ("a Power greater than ourselves that can restore us to sanity"). Because the addict's main problem is neither alcohol nor lust, but insanity. And it is the gift of sanity that allows a recovering person to connect with integrity to people around him and to his G-d, and have the vital spiritual awakening (step 11) that makes lust, alcohol, or heroin unnecessary - the gift of long-term recovery.