Those of us in recovery often hear the expression “it’s a selfish program”, but if you belong to a 12-step program, you know that The Promises say “self-seeking will slip away”. What is the difference?
In my opinion, we say our recovery program is selfish because our first priority is our sobriety. We may turn down invitations because we believe the people or situations will threaten our recovery. We avoid old “stomping grounds” for the same reason. We learn to set boundaries for ourselves to protect that which we have worked so hard for – recovery. We also have a desire for self-improvement, we want to be out of trouble and regain the respect of others. We focus on self-care and get healthy physically, emotionally and spiritually. In this sense, our recovery is all about us – in some ways appearing “selfish”.
Some self-seeking characteristics are grandiose in nature – the “all about me” attitude can be evident in a lack of consideration or empathy for others. It becomes attention-seeking behavior. Of course, everyone likes to be the centre of attention at times. For those of us in recovery, we often used attention seeking behavior to cope when we were actively using or drinking, usually because of low self-esteem, loneliness, or to feel valuable. We often felt alienated from the rest of the world.
Once we get clean and sober, we find healthier ways to cope. We overcome our character flaws – we stop associating our own self-worth with the opinions of others, our self-esteem increases and we don’t need to be the centre of attention because our achievements speak for themselves. We have faced challenges head on and take pride in that.
By ridding ourselves of the self- seeking behaviours, we are free to think about the needs of others – we become selfish about our recovery, that’s true, but we also become less self-absorbed and begin to put the needs of others ahead of our own.