There seems to be a common misconception that when one stops drinking and using, that we will out of nowhere become these perfect people. I think as alcoholics and addicts, we have an inner need for perfection, thus, this thought process. I mean, we are only bad when we are drinking right? Mehhh, maybe not so much.
Although getting sober is a huge accomplishment in itself, just stopping isn’t always enough. We still suffer from the hopeless state of mind unless we do something about it. Getting sober, without working the steps, means that we are only throwing away our best known security blanket and not finding a newer, better one.
But the steps are where the real work starts, we must take action. This action will consist of us facing and actively working on our character defects. Lets face it, WE WILL NEVER BE PERFECT, but we can definitely be better. Since we are human, and to human means to be fallible, even if we follow everything we are taught in AA, there will still be times when we resort back to our selfish and self-seeking patterns. To the core the alcoholic/addict is self-centered. The only difference between addiction and sobriety is that today, our selfishness doesn’t rule us anymore, and we have the ability to change.
In active addiction we are consumed with selfishness. We have no regard for others and rarely feel remorse for our brutal behaviors. Our favorite words are me and mine. When I was drinking, I wanted nothing to do with anyone unless I was receiving something from them (usually alcohol, drugs and/or money.) I was oblivious to the feelings of others and how I affected them because all that mattered was me and my booze and drugs.
For example, while using, my parents completely supported me. I had a roof over my head, food in my stomach, tv to watch and loved ones to ignore. I completely took advantage of my parents and their naive concept of what was best for me. I stole virtually everything in the house, and when that wasn’t enough, I manipulated them for money. I was constantly visibly intoxicated with erratic and bizarre behaviors, even in front of younger siblings and their friends. I was completely uncaring of how I affected them because I mean it when I say this, NO ONE else mattered to me.
After years of being in and out of treatments, being kicked out of the house then weaseling back in, self-harm and health issues, I decided to make a change. My unhappiness had reached a boiling point. My options were clear, die or get sober. If I stopped, my issues would go away. I’d stop hurting myself and those around me. It is said the core of our disease is self centeredness and being selfish creatures by nature, I was naive to think I would completely change overnight. I abstained from mood and mind altering substances for a while, but didn’t work a program. I remained miserable and selfish.
After a few years of going in and out, never listening to suggestions, not working a program, and just darkening the doors of meetings, I still hadn’t figured out that the problem was me. Of course it wasn’t, how could it be?!
One day, my friend was having anxiety and instead of trying to help by really truly listening to understand, I said : “Can you please stop! your anxiety is giving me anxiety.” A completely selfish statement. But this is real life. A friend was having trouble and I made their trouble about me.
This realization, that I could not even hold a conversation with a troubled friend, well and a few more relapses, made me realize that indeed, I WAS THE PROBLEM. My constant worry about how I looked or what others thought of me or what I thought of myself, was getting me nowhere. I had to do something. For the first time, again, after my selfishness took me out onto a brutal run, I got on my knees and surrendered to… whatever God would listen. I didn’t want to be this way anymore. I didn’t want to be miserable to be around, I didn’t want to have to constantly think of what to say next or how to get the spotlight, or not get the spotlight and then get upset when people didn’t give it to me (catch-22, a real deal alcoholic over here).
So I took the damned suggestions I was given. I stopped guilt tripping my parents into handing me over money, I got a job and supported myself. I got through my steps and started helping other people. At first, I liked helping them because it made me feel better. Eventually, I liked helping them because I could see that it made THEM feel better.
For the first time in my life, I was able to reach my hand out and expect nothing in return. I still fall short sometimes… but today I know it is for a reason; I am not on my spiritual game. So I started making financial and verbal amends to my family and friends, despite how scared or anxious I was about it.
I see and feel myself growing everyday. I’m not always perfect, but I know that I am trying to do my best, and my best today is by being there for others. I will never be perfect, I will always be the completely imperfect alcoholic that I am, but as long as I am willing to face and accept my defects and have willingness to change, I am going to continue getting better. Although I will never be 100% selfless, I don’t have to be 100% selfish anymore.