Sunday, 11 December 2011

Sobriety is like Breathing; Recovery is like Living

Part 2/2 (to see other parts of the article, click on the pages at the bottom)
Does staying clean mean never making a mistake?

by Dov (See all authors)

There are a lot of fine Yidden out there who use lust every now and then, even though it is an aveira and upsets them deeply. It's not the end of the world - really. Boruch Hashem, they deal with it, do t'shuvah, etc. And that's normal. It's what all the sifrei teshuvah are written about. But that model does not work for me, at all.

As an addict, I see myself as much worse off than a normal yid: I have a disease. Should I take that first lust drink - even without masturbating or getting inappropriately sexual with someone - it may ruin my life. And that's because I am a pig about it - as soon as I use it, I need it. And then I use it more and more until nothing is left of me! Then I actually feel with every fiber of my being that I cannot live without it.

Life can be pretty good, I can truly love my G-d, my wife, children, and job - even be really frum... but once I start lusting, it may be all over: I may still risk and ruin it all just to get that fantasy. Then I will sincerely ask, "Why did I do it?!" I am absolutely shocked. I've been there before and it makes no sense. I believe only an addict can 'understand' the insanity. Of course, all this could change today and I am free to slip, ruin everything for lust, and eventually die from my addiction... really.

The following point is very important to me: I thank Hashem every day that I never intentionally hid behind the guise of tzaddik in order to fake myself (and others) that I was 'doing just fine'. In other words, I did not react to my own failures by simply 'going out there and being mekarev others'... in AA they call that "12-stepping". It means taking the focus off myself by putting it on others. Acting as though by being a louder mouthpiece for the Truth, I can convince everybody (and maybe even convince myself!) that I am really a 'very good boy'. I was told to lead with my weakness, just as the SA guys taught me to. The capacity to use "kiruv/passing the message" as a shield from my own conscience is demonstrated over and over if we just keep our eyes open. It always seems to be the politicians who are the most vociferously and viciously anti-gay who are homosexuals, themselves! And, by the same token, some 'rabonnim' are really screwed up. It is so painful. When it is revealed what sick stuff they were secretly involved with, it becomes apparent that the public and inner approval they were getting from their (often phenomenal) success in kiruv work was actually enabling them to morally tolerate their own horrifying lifestyle. (I believe that Chaza"l refer to this phenomenon when they say that Y'rov'om ben N'vat was a 'shakul'.) I encountered a few examples of this personally. Perhaps coming to know some of those people has actually been helping me to not follow in their footsteps... so far. It could all change. We get very desperate in addiction, don't we? I haven't the strength to fight that desperation.

One more thing along these lines. The temptation to keep my failures secret so that my effectiveness for others is not compromised - now that's a big Yetzer Hora. In the final analysis, I have to remember that: (1) I am not G-d - the truth about me is His problem, not mine... He'll get the job done for those people 'out there' without needing me at allshould they decide to dump me because I admit my failings; (2) the very best way for me to be helpful and demonstrate true Recovery is by being honest - even about my failures; and (3) My own sobriety and recovery comes first - before yours - and even before my 'duty' to help 'the masses'.