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My Life is Over

obormottel Sunday, 18 June 2017

Dear Dov,

A woman wrote to us admitting that she did terrible things, lied a lot, and ruined her life as a result. Her children were taken away from her, she is on parole, etc... She is devastated, feels hopeless, and is racked by guilt.

Dov Responds:

Hashem loved her before she did those things, and loves her still. In some respect, she is far more lovable now, because at least now she is not fabricating, but taking some responsibility. It is a pity all around, and the only thing she can sensibly focus on now is taking positive actions to improve the situation for all parties. Every time the guilt comes in, it is her duty to think of something positive and helpful to do now.

1- She writes that she was/is in 12 step meetings. Is she getting help and sobriety from that problem right now? If she is an addict but not getting the help she needs to stay sober and grow in recovery day by day, then she has even bigger problems than her children being taken from her/being a parole, etc. Being an unsober addict is far worse than all the troubles she has had and has right now. If she does not realize that fact, then it is unlikely that she will ever get back a normal life. Normal lives are given back to addicts who are sober and working a program in sobriety. But if they are not recovering, then whatever good they somehow build or are given will soon be ruined anyway. So I'd say that is her first priority.

2- She has learned that she fabricates, she lies - even to endanger and potentially damage herself. She needs help for that issue itself. Her desire for acceptance and approval was her downfall and cannot be ignored. She will do it again. Her overpowering desire for approval will guide her behaviors more and more - or be converted into the opposite: absolute hatred of others. Either way, she will not successfully bond with humanity until she becomes a consistently and thoroughly honest person who's goal is honesty rather than favor in the eyes of others. And 'others' includes her children, family, and even G-d. When people try to gain favor in G-d's eye, that is really just an attempt to manipulate Hashem by bribery. That is not avodah. Avodah is the fruit of self-honesty. And for liars like us, self-honesty is only learned by being honest with others. "How can I practice those things day by day, hour by hour, now?", is the main question now. If that is not her goal, then program work she does will be tainted by the desire to impress others instead of truthfulness and self-honesty. How can she recover without real honesty?

3- Guilt is terribly painful and is 'the wages of sin', people say. But in recovery, it is actually a tremendous gift for her. A therapist once told me, Learn to make fear your friend." Same here. Each time the guilt hits her, she will end up finding herself wishing and eventually trying to escape, hate/blame others, hurt herself by wallowing in self-pity and sorrow, etc. Eventually that will lead her to lie yet more, to isolate more, and to act out sexually again. But she can definitely use every guilt pang to remember that there was only one thing that ultimately caused her this terrible pain she is in and all the damage: isolating, lying, and acting out sexually. Those things are her greatest and only true enemy.

This is not c"v to hurt her feelings, but rather realizing this can give her 3 priceless gifts: 1- Strengthening her joy that she is bH sober now, which gives her hope for any and all brocha; 2- The ability to feel how good Hashem is to her right now and helping even a person such as ourselves who did all these things; and to help her 3- let lust go of lust with a bit less pain the next time she fantasizes about "how nice it would be if...". All three of those are precious gifts that she cannot buy with any money. Only pain and her past acting out could have given these opportunities to her, bH, and this is Hashem's Will extending even through and using cheit. Wow, what a chessed. As long as honesty is her goal, fantasies of life being futile and 'all being lost' will be avoidable. For they are just the crying of the ego for 'what could have been' and distract her from 'what truly is'. The AA's have a prayer about this: "G-d grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference." I hope you can see how humility is the only way to really take that prayer seriously enough to mean it. Our self-absorption drags us mercilessly into the unchangeable past ('what I should have done') or into the future that we desire ('what could have been'). In both cases, the present is sacrificed on the altar of our ego, and lost.

We wish her hatzlocha and I am happy for her that she is seeming to be very honest now. Her honesty today is the kernel from which a good life can grow. Her present hope is all that really matters - all she has power over. Her life is not over, as long as she remains self honest. Things can and will improve for everyone if she makes the effort and the 12 steps is a great way to do that, if she chooses them.