May 22 2008

The Selfishness And Self Pity of Recovering Alcoholics

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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14 responses so far

14 Responses to “The Selfishness And Self Pity of Recovering Alcoholics”

  1. Sandraon 13 Aug 2009 at 1:27 pm

    I have recently separated from my BF of two and a half years, who is alcohol dependent and also takes valium daily to sleep (a habit that stretches back over 20 years, I found out recently). He is also a heavy smoker (at least 40 cigarettes a day). The irony is he that he works in mental health area and regulary treats people for addiction related problems. He is apparently a caring person, but has extremely low self esteem and reacted aggressively (verbally) throughout our relationship when I broached the subject of his drinking and pill taking (this mixture is potentially fatal) and its effect on our relationship. Promises to cut down on drinking and stop smoking have never been met or, after some initial effort, have lapsed. I admit that at times I have enabled his problems.
    He has had two disastrous previous marriages – not helped I would imagine by the aforementioned problems. In each case he has firmly placed himself in the role of victim to his (in his words) manipulative, neurotic and money grabbing former wives (he earns very well). I recently found out he was having an affair with a younger girl who works in the same area of mental health and split with him immediately. Phone conversations following this split consisted by insults directed at me (accusations of taking financial advantage of him – history repeats itself), lashings of self pity concerning him and incoherent rationalisation of his actions. On top of all this he told me the relationship he was (or still is) having “wasn’t even that serious” but if he feels like sleeping with young girls he will. He´s told me he’s now joined a gym, has cut down on drinking and is going to psychoanalysis sessions and is “on the way to recovery” (why is me telling me this?). I am slowly recovering from this sad episode, but really wonder if my ex is really capable of recovery and facing the very real, long term problems he has.

  2. anonon 29 Oct 2009 at 3:12 pm

    I am tired of hearing alcoholics described as charming rogues. I left a well paid job because both my boss and a work-colleague were alcoholics. They displayed all the classic character traits: selfishness, jealousy, childish self-pity, mood-swings, memory loss (and false memories), vindictiveness… need I go on? Oh yes, and the shaky hands in the morning (I say “morning”, but they’d both weigh in late after I’d already done several hours of work on my own), followed by non-regulation extended lunch breaks at – you guessed it – the bar. Due to the stress of working with them, I was drinking so heavily I was in danger of joining them! Now I am stress-free and down to a bottle of wine with meals at the weekend. Poorer, but healthier and happier.

  3. Paton 04 May 2010 at 6:40 am

    I never knew that selfishness could be the core of alcoholism. I have long dealt with this issue in my life, by attracting drunken partners (thanks Mother!!) and now have come to the stage in my mid 40′s of realising a whole lot of issues about why I am attracted to these kinds. But what has eclipsed me all these years of relationships with alcoholics is that they were selfish and i was the enabling giver. Now I get it. They are truly takers in this life, and people like me are the givers. Thats why you normally see these two traits pairing up. I must be still looking for something when I feel I have to give give give all the time, especially to the takers. I remember once dating a man who was such a lovely sweet giver, like me. And I couldnt wait to end it. Now I know why. Its a long journey to discovering your inner mechanisms that attract you to the so called disease. BTW-I dont subscribe to the idea that alcoholism is a disease. I believe it is a behaviour. Maybe the discussion about whether it is a conscious or unconscious choice should be the focus. But a disease? No physical scientific evidence exists to make a causal inference there. Sure, there are associations, but I am going to rely on behaviourism in my understanding of this rotten destructive epidemic called alcoholism. So for the last year or so I have been silently employing the notion that my partner is just totally and wholly selfish. And all the signs are there. I have resigned myself to realising this fact, and just decided to google “alcoholism and selfishness” and now see that in fact there are others who have already made this conclusion. At least the penny dropped with me finally!

  4. fosteron 28 May 2010 at 11:22 am

    my wife was an alcoholic from and early age, she lied cheated and even stole money from us, she neglected the wishes to stop drinking from me and her children, it wasnt until the children matured past her that we all could walk out and leave her as we did, she like her alcoholic rage was angry and threatening to us, we took away her dependant family, it was then after she started to realize the monster she had become, she went to treatemtn in florida, and has been sober for a year, but her mental state is still that of a child, her abilty to think in adult ways, show feelings emotions to both me and the family are very lacking, the kids and i still are in the same house we moved into and she ius still in her house, she cannot underdtand what is wrong or the adult need to want to repair or make things right with her family, the common sence, good judgemtns , passion , feelings tears etc are just not there, yes she is sober but still the same empty hull of a human being, its sad to see her like this and still watch the suffering from the children both over the age of 20 but still the years of pain and devastation she has done, repair for them is needed for them to try to enter into a normal relation ship themselves. theropy for them is a must, funny how the addict cant see what all they have done to those around them and try to make mends

  5. fosteron 28 May 2010 at 11:24 am

    as a grown man i am tossed between my vows to god and my own needs to be happy, i have stood by her trying to be there for years but amd also trying to stay away from being a co dependant, its like i am a father figure to her, not a husband nor a lover

  6. angelon 15 Jun 2010 at 7:56 am

    I am just also coming to realisation that the Man I have been dating for the past 2 years has all the traits of alcoholisim but just not the drink ..he justifies his behaviour, blames me for everything, has deliusional thinking ..secretly believes hes a war hero ..is constantly smoking, eating chocolate and drinking coffee. He is off alcohol for over 4 years but is not in a recovery programme ..so behaviour is same… I am now getting out of this and hardening myself to him. Behaviour like this will never change unless the person sees the errors of his ways …so time to move on ..and find a person who will love and care for me as I know I am capable of great love for them…

  7. liloloon 12 Oct 2010 at 2:04 am

    Hey. I think its funny its amost a sacrilege being angry at alcoholics, after so many things readen like “it’s not their fault”, “it’s a desease”, “it’s not them, it’s the desease”. But the truth is that, also, you read, most of the time, after what i have read and heard, it is only when the partner says “it’s me or the alcohol” when they get their asses up and move to recovery. So, how could that be a desease??
    I found the whole range of alcoholics treats disgusting: the self-pitty, the hand-shaking, the permanent manipulations attempts based on self pitty for hand shaking (“i hate that!”, he says). The loss of memory, the memory gaps, the lies, the alcohol stinking, the exagerated and associal behaviour, the cinism, the lack of hygiene, the stupid center-of-the-universe-complex. The cheating, the buying us for complete reards who doesnt know they lie. I hate everything. The way he says he needs me for recovering, and afterwards hides cans of beer he just bought in the middle of recovery.
    The incapability of realising for themselves: “i am only one more. i am not special. i am just another one, same as everybody else”. Whilst the rest of us fight, even under pressure, in stressfull lifes, they complain on their lifes. I cannot stand hem. I just agree in that they are totally selfish. Thats all. Nothing more and nothing less.

  8. Linon 13 Mar 2011 at 11:05 am

    I am very conflicted as I have been in a relationship with a very smart successful man who is a physician. Yet he finds any excuse to have a drink of wine or a beer every day till I get discussed then he stops drinking during the week or around me but once he is away from me he pours it I to him. He hides his life from me doesn’t Share much of anything of his thoughts or life. Conversations revolve around plans for trips together or events. Then I find myself reading his emails just to find out what is going on. Ive caught him in the past philandering with other women but denigns it. He makes plans for things days or weeks in advance and doesnt clue me in till the day of. He’s secretive lies and drinks to medicate due to some by polar tendancies.
    I’ve turned into someone that I do not like as a result of putting up with his behavior.

  9. Jenon 15 Dec 2011 at 12:29 pm

    Thank you for coming out and saying what no one else would say. I’ve lived with an alcoholic and drug addict through multiple stints in rehab and relapses and years of treatment for the last five years. I get so sick of hearing “he needs to think of himself right now” and “support him.” When has he thought of anyone but himself? His selfishness got us where we are now (the bottom, again) and now he’s allowed to be selfish in recovery too? Thank you for speaking the truth!

  10. Abbyon 04 Jan 2012 at 10:07 am

    As a recovering alcoholic, I feel much empathy for you all. It may be hard to believe, but it is a disease of the mind, body and soul… but, like many diseases, it can heal. I watched my mother murdered when I was seven, but didn’t begin drinking till I was 35 and continued to drink till I was 47. Everything I had worked at… was lost by the time I hit bottom, and I truly didn’t care if I lived or died.
    An alcoholic is not going to change until they decide they want to live. Most never get there, but some do. Save yourself. Sometimes we drunks can only see the light when all have left us.
    If an alcoholic is truly on the path of recovery, you will know. We can only get sober by hard, consistent work, and the results are wonderful.
    It’s a baffling disease, but miracles can happen. In the meantime…. WALK AWAY if you can. If they are on the road to recovery, over time they will prove themselves and work ceaselessly to make amends.
    Good luck to all of you and I am truly sorry you have suffered. Take care of you and if you need help, you may want to try al-anon.

  11. Douglason 22 Jan 2012 at 10:00 am

    I am not a physician nor am I a mental health worker. I am, however, an alcoholic, who by the grace of God and fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous will celebrate 30 continuous years of soberiety tomorrow.

    I have nothing but praise for the program and its followers as it was one of those who has interceded on my behalf on many occassions. Our fight is, as with all others, with ourselves. Alcohol is the most powerful drug that there is and has gone to ruin more lives than any other. We take the drug and the drug takes us…

    Personally, I feel that there needs to be a great deal more information and support available to the new person coming in to the program. This issue is always tenious as a new person is sometimes simply seeking a brief respite from their alcoholic self destruction and will soon wish to return to the haze.

    Like a newly released offender departing the stiff parameters of incarceration, alcoholics require a great deal of support coming out of the confusion. Do we feel sorry for ourselves? Sure we do…but that will fall away as we learn to walk again with our heads up and our hearts full. I have seen pure unadulturated love pass between a sponsor and a gratefull recovering alcoholic.

    From what I have read, alcoholism has its roots in depression. Most recovering alcoholics continue to experience severe bouts of depression, disphoria and many other clinical conditions relating to detox and withdrawl.

    These conditions may continue into sobriety as they are in fact the root of the alcoholism to begin with. If and when we turn seriously to this or any other program for help we must receive a proviso from someone that soberiety is just the beginning and that true maturation and stability will require constant introspection and self examination and that recovery takes time and that we are always in recovery. AA accepts and encourages the utilization of medical assistance through the use of professional workers.

    Some of the conditions we endure transpire during a time when we had no language and were capable of expressing their effect and repercussions only by emotion. I have discovered this through years of hypnotherapy. Alcoholism is a very treacherous master.

  12. Leighon 29 Jan 2012 at 10:10 pm

    This is specifically for Douglas and for anyone to else to comment on or urgently give me advice as I am in despair and don’t know where to ask – I’m in a relationship with an alcoholic for almost 8 months, who has been sober for 30 years now and is very active in AA, meaning he has to go to at least 3 meetings a week aside from sponsoring other alcoholics, which will take time from me and a future family if we get married. He has said that he is so much a better person now than he was when he was not into AA.

    Now we’re at a difficult time – to decide whether to end the relationship or not because he has told me that AA will ALWAYS be his priority, and NOT ME, because AA saved his life among other things, and that I will just have to accept that.

    He has said that his 1st marriage failed when he prioritized his wife and family, and not attending meetings or doing AA stuff as he should have and so he doesn’t want that to happen again. I could not make myself agree — If I’m going to be his wife – I should be his priority along with our future children, if any. I’m not an alcoholic and I don’t fully understand the disease and from the little that I know, I would not also deprive him of the benefits nor take AA away from him because that is what’s helping him; but to be told THAT doesn’t seem to make sense or even sound right.

    I am in love with this man but I am scared about the quality of our married life or how our family life would look like if he wouldn’t be home so many nights a week or maybe even when I need him, because AA is priority. It’s bad enough that he is a very busy man at work and have to go out of town some. Will I be raising our child by myself more often than not? Do alcoholics in AA really make AA their 1st priority over his/her spouse and children? Am I wrong to want to be assured I and his children are his priority? Am I being selfish?

    Enlighten me please. Thank you.

  13. Bridgeton 24 Feb 2012 at 2:37 pm

    Abby so nice to read what you just wrote. I too am a recovering alcoholic. 8 years now. I hurt alot of people with my drinking but thank God today through just doing the right things I have the most important people back in my life and the days of my drinking are rarely mentioned, and only to praise me for how far ive come.

  14. Michael Pearlman, M.D.on 27 Feb 2012 at 7:49 am

    Regarding, Leigh’s comment above: 
    ‘Now we’re at a difficult time – to decide whether to end the relationship or not because he has told me that AA will ALWAYS be his priority, and NOT ME, because AA saved his life among other things, and that I will just have to accept that.’ 

    ‘Enlighten me, please. Thank you.’

    Leigh, you have hit upon the operative phrase, ‘Enlighten me’. To explain, a precept common to A.A. Members is the following, ‘The only relationship you have to worry about is that with your Higher Power!’ 

    Further, consider the idea that we are not human beings trying to become spiritual, we are spiritual beings having a human experience!

    While you may or not consider active involvement in a twelve step program, please consider joining your partner’s journey toward a more ‘enlightened’ way of being, toward a  fuller awareness of your shared spiritual path. Choose to align with him on this spiritual journey and you will both see your relationship with new eyes.

    Michael

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