Saturday, August 11, 2012

I'm A Serial Enthusiast

If this is what isolating looks like, I'm doing fine! I spent about five hours in shul today. My main website,, has been felled by an attack of malware and is currently blocked by Google. My feet still hurt from plantar fascitis despite four expensive trips to the physical therapist. I know they're getting better. I seem to be expending so much effort and money into just staying in place. I've spent all this money on security for my website and in switching to a different template yet it is in vain because of inadequate security on my host's end. I'm out about $200 I'll never get back. I wish I had produced some good writing over the past five days. I journal and journal but nothing compelling. I don't want to waste my weekly writing class. I need compelling human interaction. That's where I get good material. Man, I have friends who are just bottomless pits of need but there's nothing anyone can do for them. They'll have to hit bottom and then the pain will be so bad that they'll become willing to do the work, the therapy, the 12-steps, etc, that can restore her to sanity. I'm so grateful for my 16 months of 12-step work. I feel like I'm just scratching the surface of what the program offers. Why have I shifted the enthusiasm I used to have for Judaism to 12-step work? My behavioral and intellectual commitment to Judaism is as strong as ever, but I'm more sober now than ever before. Yes, I admit that I am a serial enthusiast. I'll pick something up for a few months, suck the life out of it, and discard it. Other things I pick up, however, such as journalism in eighth grade, have remained lifelong pursuits. I decided at the end of 1989 to convert to Judaism. Twenty years later, I felt sobered that the way I was practicing Judaism was not improving my moral character much. I was still miserable, filled with shame, fundamentally ill at ease with life, and largely alienated from the people around me. I went off all my medications (lithium, clonazepam, clonidine) in early 2009 (after going on them in 2001 and 2002). I felt that with the daily Alexander training, I did not need them anymore. I feel more creative without the meds. Since 1998, I've had about eight years of weekly psycho-therapy, and that has been a big help. I completed in December of 2011 three years of daily Alexander Technique teacher training. That was a big help. But what I want to wax lyrical about this evening is 12-step work for co-dependency, fantasy, sex and love addiction. So despite all my Torah and mitzvos and pyscho-therapy, I knew over the years that something wasn't right with me. Many times these realizations came to me painfully such as when someone I respected, such as Dennis Prager, said to me bluntly, you're sick. Part of me part of the time knew he was right. A lot of other people said the same thing. Sometimes when I'd awake around 2 a.m., I knew they were right. Sometimes when I Googled for particularly sick videos (never children!), I knew I was sick. At times I've felt in the grip of sexual compulsions that strained my self-control. My desire for sex would challenge my moral boundaries. I'd demean myself by getting with ugly girls I'd be ashamed to be seen with in public because I was so desirous of getting that release, that sense of oblivion. Twenty years ago, I thought that Judaism and ethical monotheism and the other teachings of Dennis Prager were going to be my cause but right now I mainly want to talk about 12-step work. After 20 years of Torah, my love for porn was unchanged. My desire to obliterate myself through sex with many different partners was unchanged. My feeling of getting high just looking at an attractive woman was unchanged. When I walk down the street and see my type, I forget everything else and for a few seconds or minutes or, surely not hours, I obsess that if I could just have her, all my problems would go away. Nothing else matters to me when I am in the grip of this fever. Since the age of eight, I think I've spent about 5% of my life in this kind of high obsessing over some member of the opposite sex who if she would only love me, all my problems would go away. So, this 5% number does not sound like a big deal, right? Only 5% of my time given away to harmless day-dreaming. But I fear that it reflects an inner sickness, an intimacy disorder. I had this Dennis Prager induced conviction that ethical monotheism was the best solution to the world's ills and that Judaism embodied ethical monotheism and that Orthodox Judaism was the only form of Judaism proved to be to sustain itself. Now I am sobered by how little this conviction improved my own behavior and quality of life and the behavior and lives of many of those around me. Orthodox Jews don't tend to be any more ethical than any other group of Jews. Devotees of ethical monotheism are rarely transformed. It now seems to me that goodness and decency are not usually available to direct assault. Telling yourself each day, "There is one God and his primary demand of me is that I treat other people ethically" strikes me as less effective on average than simply developing bonds. And what stops people like me from human connection? Deep-rooted patterns of shame, addiction and other baggage. If you are not a mentch, then you're will is probably corrupt, and simply willing yourself to be a mentch is unlikely to be effective. What can be effective is if you join a group of people who have the goal of developing their character. Community is a powerful spur to righteousness and to evil. Most of us don't see or hear God, but we can see and hear our communities, and they transform us in their image much more than we transform them in ours. There are probably people who can transform from bad to good through sheer will, but most people have to work a program.