Tuesday, 03 January 2012

We become more needy as we heal!

by Dov (See all authors)

I have noticed a funny thing about the people I work with professionally (in health care): As they begin to improve, they start to complain about how bad off they are. It is just so frustrating as a person helping them, to hear them get more negative at the very time that they are finally starting to progress. Well, it occurred to me that as long as they felt so very limited, being very bad-off, they had no aspirations for normalcy. But once they started to see some improvement, they started to have expectations! But as they were still almost as limited, they were mainly left with frustration... Slowly as they actually improved, the hope grew that they would be better one day, but the emotional roller coaster is frustrating and pretty convincing, regardless of reality.

In recovery, I have seen this problem manifested in a very bad way: A guy comes as a shmateh. Soon, after surrendering to the truth about himself and actually doing a bit of recovery work, he becomes suddenly aware of what he forgot for so long: Normalcy. Though he is still very sick, he expects normalcy once he recognizes it. It's horrible to see: Just as he reaches the cusp of some real progress, has his first sniff of real honesty and freedom... he quickly comes to expect it! Like he made it happen in the first place! Forgotten is the pain and weakness that were the vehicles to get him here - he feels inherently 'strong' now! In common or pop-psych terms, we'd say, "Great! You are getting better!, Mazel Tov!" Self-confidence is a great thing to be sure, and normal people know how damaging and depressing it can be to be so focused on your defects. No argument there... unless one is truly sick. Let the sick man act as if he is normal and see what happens. But have him keep his illness in mind - and see how nice life gets - provided he takes care of himself accordingly instead of giving up.

Anyway, so the new-found expert soon falls hard on his behind (or more slowly but very badly) and often reacts by throwing away the entire derech - "I tried it and 'made it', but it failed me anyway!" The problem here is not lust - it is his pride. We are shmatehs, and will remain so, in some respect. Especially an addict. Just ask Reb Tzvi Meyer Zilverberg - he'll tell you that the greatest aspiration a yid can have is to be a ben melech, b'ni b'chori - and yet still be a shmateh! For most people this is a madreigah perhaps.... but for addicts I believe it is survival itself. We pray for humility not because we want it so badly, but because we need it.

We know we are on an endless road. Our freedom increases and it gets easier and easier to stay sober and to live the Good-Life - but at a price: we addicts can never become free of G-d. Our dependence on Hashem increases over time, not the other way around. To the average frummy this sounds well and good - but I cannot tell you how many of these same guys I have met who slip away from dependence on Hashem as soon as they start to get better. Funny, I have seen the very same reaction in religious goyim, too.

So, we actually become more needy, not more independent as we get better. An inconvenient, weird, truth. The bright side (especially as Jews) is that as the dependency grows so does the relationship. Ask any couple happily married for over 20 years and they'll tell you: Their dependency on the spouse increases while their independence as individuals grows, and the love becomes ever deeper and more comfortable. Same with Hashem, l'havdil. (A long time ago I posted a shtikk'l about how Hashem gave us all the relationships in our natural lives specifically in order to help us grow closer to him.) Addicts feel this more keenly than most folks do, I guess.