Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Tolerating Imperfection

by Dov (See all authors)

Precious things are not gained overnight. Yetzias mitzrayim was a big, fat, jump - a completely undeserved gift to us 49th-levelers. After the free jump, it was almost completely lost to us and we had to grow slowly from zero for 49 days before getting the Torah... then we lost much of it just 40 days later with our eigel.... Then we did some tshuvah and lost much of that by the complaining and those yummy quails... followed by more growth and d'galim and we were finally ready to go into Eretz Yisroel - only to lost almost everything with the meraglim... did a lot of teshuva again (the hard way, thanks to the ma'apilim) - only to have Korach's 'help' to almost lose the little they had left (a connection with Moshe Rabeinu)... Oh, boy. The goyim have an easy out: "Those Jews were losers!" Our version of the lesson is so very different, and has been borne-out by historical comparisons of our peoples: The really precious stuff takes time and is obviously worth the ups and downs of real life.

Time is needed, if we are to have any hope of actually growing into these lofty 'madreigos' we talk about. (I call them all Sobriety="Derech Eretz" - which is before "Torah" even begins.) We need to allow ourselves space to be screw-ups in many ways. Not in dangerous ways (like our addiction) - that obviously must stop (for today) for there to be hope. But as far as purity, living well, and happiness are concerned, tolerating imperfection means tolerating some ugliness in ourselves. And in others, too. We have some ugliness. Getting it out in the open is the only way I know to start to get free of it. Ignoring our ugliness may be encouraging, (as in, "you are such a tzaddik!") but it's still a lie. And I believe that lies get us nowhere.... or worse. They just substitute feeling better for getting better. Many of the folks I have met in meetings have been focused on feeling better, rather than on becoming more useful. They don't usually get much better.

If they only knew how great it feels to actually be able trust themselves and have some integrity for a change, they'd know that there is simply no contest here. Lust simply has nothing to sell. I am still an addict, believe that I am powerless and could lose it all tomorrow, but have still learned to trust myself to stay with Hashem and to use Him to stay sober and useful to Him and to His people today. And it's a great way to live so far.


Someone asks Dov:

"How can we tolerate our imperfections while working on them, without temporarily avoiding the problem by making ourselves feel better?"

Dov Replies:

I believe that when I first began to accept my imperfections without shame, I began to become freed from them. I found that looking at my face in a mirror was no longer a disgusting experience, soon after doing my 4th step inventory. It was a true discovery - totally unexpected. It was actually the last thing I expected, for I had always thought (as do many I have met here on GYE) that facing, writing down, and freely admitting my defects of character would be shaming and lead to self-loathing. Little did I know, that I had already been living with all those defects all these years, hating myself for it, and trying to run and hide from them!

The only thing really missing was acceptance of the facts about me by admitting them freely, even to others. I could then find it a bit easier to stop running from myself by hiding in lust, porn and masturbation adventures.

A bit counter-intuitive, no?

Someone asks Dov:

It sounds like, from what you are saying Dov, that if we are not feeling shameful of our own flaws, then the only real determination to change must be coming from a desire for something better.

Dov replies:

Whoa! Sorry for being unclear. I never meant to imply that shame over character defects was a good or useful thing. In fact, the shame is paralyzing for me, even more than the defect, itself. I also never meant to imply that the only way that I have hope of getting better (or staying sober) is to get rid of all my character defects. What I was trying to say was that getting rid of the shame of admitting them to ourselves and others is a necessary prerequisite for me to getting any freedom from them. I can never truly ask Hashem to remove it from me if I do not really accept that I've got it. And if I cannot admit to another person (or in a meeting) that I've got it, then I still consider it an aveira, not a chlo'ei hanefesh (as RMB"M puts it). If it is an aveira, then it is ugly and wrong - how can I honestly believe Hashem takes away aveiros - that, to me, is completely against bechirah! An illness or 'bad' middah, yes - but an evil choice I am making?! That is a matter for basic Teshuvah, not for Recovery as I know it.

... how can we be expected to step away from behavior that is pleasurable now, for something that will be pleasurable later after much hard work. Its just so hard to know what's really around the bend sometimes, and what is worth waiting for.

Understood, amigo. I'd never change for a future reward either, and never have. Others have 'accused me' of this though, just cuz I sometimes describe the wonderful things I have discovered in a life of recovery so far that were the fruit of years of slow change. But I never looked forward to get any of those things. They just fell into my life. Promise.

But when it comes to using lust, it is just so destructive that I did whatever was necessary to get the help I needed to avoid it. I was simply scared of ruining what life I had left after getting caught and exposed for who I really was.

Now, some of the fruits of recovery are a sense of gratitude for the good things in life (cuz they start to be more reliable), a feeling of integrity that cannot apparently be dislodged (I think it is Emunah, actually, that G-d is really here with me forever and always), and a sense of safety (that I am not that likely to flush my life down the toilet at any moment, nor to get arrested, and have no fear that I'll get caught in a lie). These gifts, once tasted, are precious, no? We try to hold onto them once we recognize them. That may be what you are referring to, I guess, as "the payoff in the future". Well, I never counted on getting any of those things, till I tripped over them. So I ask you: why look forward to getting anything more than just being sober? If that is not precious enough to motivate someone, then I just have a hard time relating. It just isn't what I experienced, that's all. An expert on recovery in general might be able to help, not me. All I have is my own experience which is very limited.

Single page