Good evening and thank you for showing up and showing us that you value the work of Beit T’Shuvah. This is our 18th Gala Event; Chai in the Jewish tradition, a celebration of life. You, our donors and friends have given us life and we have brought 1000’s of addicts back to life through an integrated program of Jewish Spirituality, Psychotherapy, 12 Steps, Creative Arts, Mindfulness and Mind Body Strategies.
Over the years new addictions and new combinations of addictions have mushroomed and spread quickly through cyberspace…internet and internet porn addictions, a rise in compulsive gambling, cutting, choking, starving and stuffing, hoarding and stealing and the most recent; an addiction to misery.
There is a unifying theme beneath the symptomatic manifestations of these diverse addictive behaviors. All addicts talk about experiencing feelings of emptiness, hopelessness and purposelessness. A “hole in the soul” which they try to fill with substances and sensations. This “hole in the soul” I believe is the result of distorted perceptions and beliefs about what it means to be human. They measure themselves against mythical standards of perfection mistakenly concluding that they are not good enough and that they don’t matter. They view themselves and the world as all good or all bad (either/or, black and white thinking) fluctuating between grandiosity and self loathing. They compare their insides to other peoples outsides believing that fixing the outside will affect the inside…if they look good they will feel good. They pursue pleasure over purpose, perfection over passion.
We see the same “hole in the soul” in the teens we meet through our Prevention Program. The more they have the more they want and they are never satisfied. They equate self-worth with net worth believing their value is determined by how they look, what they have and who likes them. They feel entitled to success without effort, fearing they will never measure up to their own, their peers or their parents expectations.
People with no identifiable addiction also experience the “hole in the soul”. Many of them have gotten everything they wanted and still feel that something is missing…”Is this all there is?” Instead of substances or sensations they have compulsively pursued perfection, or more accurately images of perfection. I think we are collectively addicted to images of perfection, creating icons upon whom we can project our need to be perfect, deifying them when they fit the image and demonizing them when their human feet of clay are exposed. We do it to ourselves, our loved ones and our heroes.
Frank Rich, in an article in the NY Times entitled Tiger Woods, Person of The Year called this idolatry, image mongering, lamenting how easily we have been bamboozled by the fraudulent images of Tiger Woods, Bernie Madoff, Eliot Spitzer, Ted Haggard, John Edwards and even Barak Obama. I think the genesis of our collective hole in the soul is the shame we feel about the shadow parts of ourselves that don’t fit our image of how we want to be. The “hole” is the space between self and self-image.
There is an urge in the psyche toward wholeness and authenticity that cannot be denied. Wholeness is Holiness. Wholeness begins with accepting that to be human is to be flawed – broken – pulled by opposing inclinations (Yetzer Tov the Good Inclinations, Yetzer Hara, The Evil Inclinations) Our challenge as human beings is to wrestle honestly with our conflicting selves in order to reconcile them so they work together rather than against one another to destroy. All of us have a “shadow” self; a part of ourselves we would rather not be…lust, greed, gluttony, envy, sloth, anger and pride.
If we don’t accept the part we’d rather not be our only other option is to hide from ourselves or to project our disowned parts onto others and blame them for our imperfections. Jewish wisdom teaches that both Good and Evil come from G-d. We don’t have a “devil that made us do it”. We are responsible for our actions.
The way to wholeness is right action…Do the next right thing no matter what you feel. This is the essence of Jewish psychological and spiritual wisdom…What is in our Hearts should be on our lips. And if not now, when…