May 22 2008
Alcoholics are renowned for being stubborn people who could use a healthy dose of modesty. Being humble is not on their radar. There is no standard template that defines ALL alcoholics, but they do share many qualities, most of which they’d be advised not to brag about. The most compelling character trait of most alcoholics is their selfishness. I’m speaking of selfish behavior that occurs before they do something about their drinking.
Selfishness and alcoholism go hand in hand since being alcoholic means you have total disregard for others around you. Alcoholics are beholden to no one or no thing except their next drink. They will sacrifice everything to see to their dependency and continued intoxication is their only goal. The longer this behavior is out of control, the worse it gets. This means leaving collateral damage in their wake such as broken relationships and families, financial ruin, poor and damaged health, lost careers and a future that is bleak with no prospects.
Someone once say that alcoholics tend to mature much slower than regular people while they are drinking. In fact they tend to stay fixed at the age they were when they experienced their first drunk. What other explanation for the bizarre behavior exhibited by heavy drinkers besides the chemical reaction facts?
Being selfish in recovery can actually be helpful when its purpose is to keep one focused on the mission of sobriety. However an alcoholic, particularly in early stage recovery, must make an effort to avoid the common defects of character they exhibited during their active drinking days – specifically about selfishness, the kind of behavior that makes you angry when things aren’t going your way. If being deprived of alcohol makes you bitter, (and it will) your tendency will be to take your frustrations out on those around you.
A recovering alcoholic has only one thing to be focused on and that’s their sobriety. Having said that, you have to think of those around you. Don’t be so focused on remaining sober that you let your emotions get the better of you. Yes you are going to feel physically lousy and jittery, and bitter with a short fuse. This is a good time to start displaying some remorse for your previous behavior. Instead of carrying a chip on your shoulder the size of Rhode Island, try presenting that side of you that has been absent for some time.
Be the person you want others to believe you can be – the person your spouse married and your children were proud of. If you hurt certain relationships, try and repair them. Don’t be afraid of asking for forgiveness if you wronged someone. This process of redemption will help you more than them. You will know who is deserving of an apology and the process of making it is what will benefit you. You may have much to make up for, as your life was out of control and you were selfish. Little else can have such a devastating effect on relationships as constant selfish behavior. You had an excuse, not a good one but grounds for your bad conduct. Those that need assuaging should receive it and this will help the process of regaining lost trust.
Self pity is for wimps. Period. You put yourself in the position you now find yourself in. No one held a gun to your head and said start drinking and don’t stop. Self-pity in recovery is natural, but is quite destructive and serves absolutely no useful purpose. It simply shows more perceived weakness by the perpetrator and a severe lack of confidence and inability to deal with adversity. It also represents a person’s idea that they are somehow a victim of their circumstances (in this case alcoholism), and they are somehow justified in feeling sorry for themselves and deserving of sympathy from others.
It does not set well when other alcoholics are heard making excuses for their abusive drinking, and in recovery accept no responsibility for their conduct. They behave the same way sober as they did when they were drinking excessively. How can they expect to improve emotionally and admit their actions were misguided in order to achieve healing? They can’t.
Enabling by others can have a disastrous effect on the individual in recovery. By offering sympathy to these self pitying, character deficient weaklings you are only setting them up to fail. A person in recovery is not only healing their physical body, but also their emotional state of mind. They will need to stiffen their spine for their future life free from alcohol when they will need those skills that may have been dormant for years in order to begin rebuilding relationships, careers and maturity. They need to start acting like emotionally stable adults they are.
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