Lifelong sobriety is the goal most would associate with the addiction recovery programs. Thus, it is about having abstinence and remove harm reduction and ego. Nothing is so great a threat to recovery as an overblown ego. As addicts, people have more than the average amount of experience with this.
Let’s consider ego and pride to be essentially synonymous. When speaking of pride or ego, we don’t refer to the natural pride in a job well done or the proud feeling that overcomes us when our children bring home an A or a football trophy. These are natural warm feelings and generally speaking, they don’t endanger us.
The ego is the voice that tells us we’re better than everyone else, that we know better than everyone else, that we don’t need help. In fact, we don’t have a problem and that we certainly don’t need help at all. We’re always right; we’re always best. This kind of pride sets us in opposition to others and to our very selves. It must be conquered if we’re to get well.
Ego reduction is not diametrically opposed to self-esteem. Good and healthy self-esteem assures you that you have skills and talents that you’re worthy of friendship and love, and it helps you to take delight in the general business of being a human. Ego assumes superiority and pushes you to set yourself above others to demand love and attention and to take what you feel you have coming.
In our consciences, we know that our pride-fueled actions and attitudes aren’t right. Though we position ourselves as the best, we often experience a deep sense of inferiority. These disturbing truths about ourselves actually destroy our self-esteem and push us further into drug and alcohol addictions.
There’s no way to recover from addiction without simultaneously recovering from our grandiosity. The pride has got to go, or the drink never will. The addiction treatment recovery steps are designed to cultivate humility and a right assessment of ourselves.
While humility might not be such an appealing prospect, we come to learn that true humility doesn’t match up with our former stereotype. The word humility conjures in our minds the images of weak and dependent people, exactly the kind of people we weren’t and certainly didn’t want to be. Uncertain about the whole humility thing, we proceeded with the addiction treatment program anyway.
In recovery, we learn that humility isn’t what we thought it is was. Instead, it meant owning up to the fact that our lives fall apart, and we must take responsibility for it. It meant admitting powerlessness and looking for real power. It means the willingness to examine ourselves and the past and confess it to another and go before those we harmed in a spirit of reconciliation. It means learning to take a more honest assessment of our strengths and our liabilities. It means the willingness to serve others and receive that service in return.
Humility is a marker of strength, so we no longer hide behind our high opinions of ourselves and hope we can convince others to think well of us. We no longer conceal our faults and failings, and we’re honest. We feel free of the compulsion to drink, and we know it has so little to do with us. Finally, we start to learn the meaning of grace and gratitude.