Author: Justin Mckibben
Is it really a selfish program? We often hear that recovery is a selfish program, and that we addicts or alcoholics need to take the time to focus on and do things for ourselves, but is this kind of thinking really the best way to recover? Personally, I can see where the idea of self-worth and self-discovery are important, and how we need to grow in our personal development in order to effectively change our lives, but I disagree with the term ‘selfish program’ because in my experience recovery is largely based off of what I’m willing to do for others.
Recovery IS Humility
Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it is thinking of yourself less! A huge part of recovery is humility, and that means accepting our faults and our mistakes, but also it means being grateful and appreciating others and the blessings we have in our lives, and about making the needs of others a priority in our lives because gratitude is in the actions we take to show our thanks.
Humility is not a selfish thing. We generally learn we are helping ourselves to be better people and recover from drug or alcohol addiction by respecting and loving others, and this may seem like a selfish thing because we get something out of it, but when we develop true humility when we can step outside our ego and value others.
Recovery IS Making Amends
An important step in recovery is our ability to take an inventory, admit our wrongs, and make amends. In this respect we obtain a stronger understanding of self-worth that is primarily built up around our ability to clear away the wreckage of the past by righting our wrongs and stepping into a new light. Making those amends helps us with self-worth, but the program of recovery teaches us that it is only possible when we are truly willing to do for others.
So maybe you say you’re just setting things right with others for a selfish reason? At the end of the day you’re still contributing to the wellness or happiness of another person, and it is most effective when done genuinely and honestly. My sponsors– sponsors- sponsor always says “the action precedes the understanding” and sometimes in this case we have to take action to help others before we realize the value of doing so.
Recovery IS Doing Service
In the rooms of recovery there is plenty of volunteer work to be done. Now this opinion may vary depending on who your sponsor is, but it was made clear to me that in order to consider myself working an active 12 Step program of recovery I had to do step work, and I needed to do service work for the good of the fellowship. In my experience doing service work in any capacity in the rooms of recovery is essential to my program.
Doing service work is another way that we take the focus off of ourselves. 12 Step literature tells us that we as addicts and alcoholics are notoriously selfish, and as we change our worlds from revolving around ourselves and our substance abuse we make efforts to contribute something to the fellowship that gives us the tools and the support to do so. In doing service work we become accountable, and at the same time conscious of how we affect others. Another thing my sponsors-sponsors-sponsor says is that “lack of action affects other people” and this makes sense in this respect. So the more action we put into our recovery, the more we ultimately have the ability to help others.
Recovery IS Carrying the Message
In 12 Step fellowships we are told that our primary purpose is to stay clean/sober and to carry the message of the recovery to the alcoholic/addict who still suffers from the disease. So basically our purpose in an active program of recovery is to help ourselves by helping others, so that we can ultimately help others, who will in turn do the same and help countless others.
The way I understand it is like this: by being given the gift of my sobriety (which was only possible for the alcoholic/addict of my caliber by striving to be humble, make amends and do service) I am given the opportunity to try and show another person who struggles like I did how they can do the same. If you are in recovery, and you help others by making amends and doing service, and you teach someone that life-style and they follow it, imagine how many lives can be touched by the positive energy of just the 2 of you alone!
Now magnify that, by trying to help as many sick and suffer alcoholics and addicts you can. After all, we are told that nothing ensures lasting sobriety like intensive work with others. So the longer we work our program of active recovery, and the more people we do our best to influence in a positive way to keep ourselves growing and humble, the farther the reach of that positive and loving energy extends. How can setting into motion a chain reaction of loving and recovering energy be selfish?!
Recovery IS Separate from Self
Sobriety gives us so much, and some may say that at the end of the day we still do the positive things we do for others for the end result. The ends justify the means. I am not saying there is no hint of ‘self’ in the program, but that is because human beings, especially alcoholics and addicts, are selfish by nature. WE are selfish, RECOVERY is not. We may be taking some action initially because we want our self-worth or independence back but the actual program of recovery, the 12 Steps, the service work and the spiritual experience, these things are NOT selfish.
In the beginning our motives may be all about us. We may only be interested in focusing on how to improve our lives, and how we will change and grow. People may tell us that we cannot be concerned with how others in recovery are recovering, or we should not be focused on our families or friends and their needs. This may be true to some respect, but that is because we cannot begin to help others in a safe and effective way without first having some sobriety.
We cannot save others who struggle with sobriety, we cannot fix everything in our families, and we cannot make everyone else happy regardless of how clean and sober we are. Accepting that is important. However by working a program of action, and taking the necessary steps for recovery from addiction or alcoholism, we help those people as best we can, and in that way we help ourselves. By separating ourselves from ourselves and our selfishness. Once you have a program put your hand out to help someone because it is through sacrifice, service, and spiritual growth and principles that we can be saved from ourselves.
Sometimes it is important to focus on working on yourself, but there is a difference from self improvement and being self-absorbed. Addicts and alcoholics need to be sure to know the difference between self-worth and selfishness, and to learn that doing for others is the best way you can save yourself from yourself and your addiction. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135. Just because you want to recover for yourself does not mean it won’t mean the world to the ones you love.