A Particularly Wrenching Torah Talk

It’s not uncommon for me to pour my heart out on Torah Talk (though most of the time I hide behind my cynicism). Tonight was particularly painful. I told the truth about a letch who hit on girls during kiddish and groped them — against their will! — in the kitchen while a guest at Shabbat tables (during 1994, 1995) and made them cry.

On the one hand, I feel I am oh so noble to confess my sins publicly. On the other hand, I know that by spreading word of my cruelty far and wide, I’m recreating the painful ejections of my past.

We train people on how to treat us and I keep training people to reject me.

I am driven to recreate painful dramas from my furthest childhood, no matter what the harm to my present. I feel in the grip of certain self-destructive compulsions.

No matter where I go, there I am.

The one good thing about the frequent moves of my childhood was that they kept giving me a chance to get it right. I’d move to a new country and before the internet, nobody there knew I was a loser. For a few weeks, I could even be a curiosity. I had an accent after all.

Then the ugly truth about me would inevitably reveal itself and I’d be back in the unpopular crowd (or, at best, I’d be the least popular of the popular crowd).

Occasionally good people would adopt me and shlep me along for weeks or months or even years (the Muths at Pacific Union College, the late Lane Van Howd in ninth grade, Shannon Anderson in twelfth grade, Cathy Seipp 2001-2007, rabbis), I had the illusion that I had changed for the good and could now live on a higher plane. But this borrowed functioning always ran its course, leaving me in that familiar slough of isolation and despair.

At age 12, I thought that running marathons would get me lots of attention and transform my social status. I envisioned myself setting world records. I’d be the next Derek Clayton (the Australian world record holder for the marathon).

I finished five marathons in seventh grade, but my fastest time was four hours and fifteen minutes.

Discouraged, I started training twice a day, averaging more than 60 miles a week.

At a race in San Francisco, I met Derek Clayton. “I’m going to break your world record,” I told him. “I’m training twice a day. Ten miles a day.”

“At your age,” he said, “you should be running track. Run the mile. Don’t run long distances yet. Your body can’t handle it.”

In my next race, I was on track for a 3:30 marathon at the 18 mile mark but felt wretched. I dropped out. Knee trouble over the next few years (Osgood-Schlatters disease) ended my running career.

I took away from my 18-months of running long distances an unshakable belief in my ability to discipline myself to achieve anything I wanted.

Running hadn’t led me to prestige or to records or to fame, but I’d gained some friends (one is still my Facebook friend, David Nieman), some focus, and some taste of achieving goals through hard work.

In high school, I thought that by displaying my journalistic talent, I could get lots of attention and transform my social status. It did not work.

I envisioned myself becoming the next Dan Rather but vocal trouble limited my radio career (from 16-21) and I never made the next step to TV.

The more I worked on my voice during these years, the worse it got. I quit in utter humiliation and felt a quiet burn over the next two decades until I started studying the Alexander Technique in 2008. By 2011, my voice troubles were gone and I’d love to get back into radio and give it another shot.

A few years ago, I sent a Facebook friend request to my former news director at KAHI/KHYL radio, Pete DuFour. He’s yet to respond. I find it frustrating that I haven’t stayed in touch with anyone from these years.

Working in radio news between 1985-1987, I got to interview U.S. Senator Alan Cranston, Los Angeles County supervisor Mike Antonovich, Boston Celtic Larry Bird, San Francisco 49ers coach Bill Walsh, Dallas Cowboys coach Tom Landry, Randy White, and Vanna White.

I never earned more than minimum wage at KAHI/KHYL. I didn’t get any dates from radio and little fame, but I always had the sense I could be huge if I just conquered my vocal trouble. I was unshaken in my belief about my potential greatness as a journalist and as a scholar.

In college, I thought that by achieving straight As and preaching Marxism, I could get lots of attention and transform my social status. It did not work.

I envisioned that being a Marxist would make me chic on campus and get me laid. It did not happen. Not even a little bit.

Marxism was the greatest acting exercise of my life. For about two years, I acted as though the opposite of what I truly believed was true. I read dozens of books on Marxism and learned to talk the talk (OK, at times I really believed there was something to Marxism).

I was terribly amused when I told people from 1987-1989 that I was an “atheistic communist.”

This ability to enter the thinking of those inimical to me served me well as a blogger when I ventured into hostile territory and spoke to people I hated in their own language and allowed them to feel I was on their side.

After discovering Dennis Prager, I thought that by converting to Judaism, I could jettison an unwanted self and recreate myself as a righteous man who received lots of attention and transformed his social status. It did not work.

I envisioned that converting to Judaism would allow me to let go of my lifelong habit of using people, that I would become righteous and normal and that I would marry and have kids and be a respectable part of a holy community and a blessing to those around me.

I thought that by moving to Los Angeles in 1994 and getting close to Dennis Prager, I could transform my life. It did not work. I just perpetuated my lifelong habit of first idealizing and then devaluing.

Dennis Prager is the most significant of all the substitute father figures I’ve adopted. I’m not quite sure why I do this. My relationship with my own father is perfectly fine. Still, in high school, I noticed myself at times wanting to spend more time with the fathers of my friends (such as Robert McKee, Joe Hamelin) than with my friends (Kevin and Scott).

Dennis was just the ultimate father figure. He was wise and good. A great role model. I wanted to be close to him. I wanted to work for him. I wanted to take his values to the world.

My break with Dennis was the most significant rupture of my life. I lost all the friends we had in common. Distraught, I entered psycho-therapy (and have been in it ever since). I wanted to understand why I was destroying my most important relationships.

One day my therapist explained that I had learned so much from Dennis, that I wanted to show him what I could do. From that day on, I stopped wasting my therapy time talking about Dennis and the friends we’d had in common.

By leaving Dennis, I was able to do my own thing, and, at times, to do it brilliantly. I wrote what I wanted without worrying about how my work reflected on Prager.

From now on, my writing would come first for me. That had become clear. I’d sacrificed all my friends to write on Dennis. From now on, I would sacrifice everything to write what I wanted. I would not let anyone or anything hold me back from pursuing my life purpose. All loss would be bearable if I could just craft a true sentence.

I envisioned that working for Dennis Prager would be my path to meaning, to excellence, and to normality.

When that part of me died, other parts of me came alive.

From 1994-1998, I thought that by attending Aish HaTorah, I could remake myself like many of its baalei teshuva (penitents), and transform myself. It did not work.

I envisioned that I might marry and have kids and be a part of the warm, loving Aish community. I dreamed that I would leave my compulsions behind and be 613 all the way.

I didn’t quite make it, but the sweetness of what I tasted was not forgotten, and even though Reform Judaism was easier, I soon made my way back permanently to Orthodoxy because that was where I knew the best people.

And in the various Orthodox shuls of Pico-Robertson, I met many people who like myself had been m’kareved (brought closer) by Aish but had since moved on.

In 1995, I thought that by writing on the porn industry, I could get lots of attention and transform my social status. It did not work.

I envisioned that I would become a best-selling author and quickly move on to other more socially acceptable topics. Instead, I got stuck in the salt mines of porn for most of 1995-2007.

While it was not the topic I wished for myself, and while it was the only way I found to make a living writing, I found many compelling stories during my time in XXX. There was rarely a dull day. Porners may not be polite but they are hilarious.

In 1998, I began years of psycho-therapy. I thought I could transform myself. It did not work.

For years, my therapy was largely crisis management. It helped to stop me from completely destroying myself by holding me accountable. Every week I had to check in and share what I was doing and we would talk about how that compared to what I wanted for my life. How did my deeds compare to my stated ideals? I had converted to Judaism. What did that mean for my choices?

For years, I used therapy as another forum for showing off. Eventually, however, I reduced the acting out in my sessions, reduced the boasting about the details of my sex life, and began to talk about my true feelings of shame and loneliness.

In 1999, I began homeopathy. I thought I could transform myself. It did not work.

For the first couple of months, I felt like I was leaving Chronic Fatigue Syndrome behind but then it returned with a vengeance. I kept consulting my homeopathic doctor until about 2003, when I gave up.

In 2000, I began attending Young Israel of Century City and was befriended by a prestigious man. I thought I could transform myself. It did not work.

I envisioned myself becoming like those around me at YICC — successful in Torah and successful in the world. But I had taken the easy route to infamy and confused it with lasting success. I was not in the same league as these guys.

Booted from Young Israel of Century City in June of 2001, I began attending Beth Jacob. I thought I could transform myself. It did not work.

In August of 2001, I began attending Chabad Bais Bezalel. I thought I could transform myself. It did not work.

In August of 2001, I quit writing on the porn industry. I thought I could transform myself. It did not work.

I envisioned myself making the same impact on Hollywood with my writing as I had made on the porn industry with my blogging. That didn’t happen.

In October of 2001, I began attending Bnai David-Judea. I thought I could transform myself. It did not work.

By this point, I was so shell-shocked by this point by my multiple shul ejections and from feeling like a pariah around my community of Pico-Robertson, that I retreated from most of those around me and became increasingly isolated in the shul.

In September of 2002, I quietly began writing on the porn industry again. This time I had no illusions and only wanted to get out.

I did not use my full name of “Luke Ford”. I was just “Luke” or “Deep Under Cover” or some other such name.

In October of 2007, I stopped writing on the porn industry. I thought I could transform myself. It did not work.

In July of 2008, I took up the Alexander Technique. I thought I could transform myself. I thought I could become more successful with women. It did not work.

In January of 2009, I took up Kundalini Yoga. I thought I could transform myself. It did not work.

In May of 2011, I began 12-stepping for sex addiction. I thought I could transform myself. It did not work.

In December of 2011, I began teaching Alexander Technique. I thought I could transform myself. It did not work.

How come complete strangers can read my thoughts and know that I am no good?

A doctor emails: “You do realize that from the outside, it appears over the last few days that you had a hypomanic episode followed by today’s depressive appearing posts? Might you require attention for some bordeline bipolar issues? I mean this seriously.”

I discuss the weekly Torah portion with Rabbi Rabbs Mondays at 7:00 pm PDT on the rabbi’s cam and on YouTube. Facebook Fan Page.

This week we study Parashat Tazria (Leviticus 12:1-13:59) and Parashat Metzora (Leviticus 14:1-15:33).

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).
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