We are each the main character — the hero — in our own life story, and we learn to see the world through this lens of “self.” This is true for everyone, regardless of their history with addiction. However, for alcoholics and addicts, this focus on self can be dangerous, even deadly.
The book of Alcoholics Anonymous says in no uncertain terms that selfishness and self-centeredness are the root causes of all our troubles. The book presses even harder on this issue saying, “Above everything, we alcoholics must be rid of this selfishness.
We must, or it kills us!” There are no mincing words there. This passage makes it pretty clear that we must do our utmost to “get out of self.” But how do we do this when our minds, and our society, urge us to be the center of our own little universe?
Understand the Hero’s Role in Life
It really is true — we are each the hero in our life story. This is an evolutionary adaptation to keep us alive, but for alcoholics and addicts, this normal instinct gets twisted and blown way out of proportion. Science has proven that we can rewire our brains over time and with dedicated practice. So we must engage often, even constantly, with working the 12-
Steps of recovery, attending regular meetings, and, wait for it — being of service to others! We will always exist in the world from our own point of view, but over time we can train ourselves to put others first. This might sound unsexy, but it is the key to real freedom and to getting out of self often enough to live a meaningful life of usefulness and happiness in recovery.
The hero of any story learns valuable lessons and then comes back to his home to share what he’s learned and, most importantly, to help people with his newfound powers. Recovery is exactly the same for alcoholics and addicts like us. We learn so much about ourselves, and we are given the tools to live successfully and freely. Our greatest gift to the world and the necessary task we must engage in to keep our recovery and salvation is service.
In a powerful statement, the book of Alcoholics Anonymous clearly outlines the real meaning of life: “Our real purpose is to fit ourselves to be of maximum service to God and the people about us.” We work the 12-Steps to get and keep ourselves fit, so we can do the really important work of life — serving God and our fellow human beings. This is a guaranteed formula for staying out of self, and staying in meaningful recovery.
The Service Side of the Triangle
Being of service to others is one of the three sides of the “triangle” — Unity, Service, and Recovery. These three things represent what keeps us happy, joyous, and free. Unity is meetings and our sober community. Recovery is the 12-Steps, healing and growth. Service is, well, service to God and people. A triangle collapses without all three sides, so they’re each equally important. Leaving any one element out will weaken us and jeopardizes our recovery.
It’s easy to see why meetings and the 12-Steps are so important. There wouldn’t be much of a recovery program without them. They provide us the direction and guidance we need to get and stay sober. Going to meetings regularly and consistently working the 12-Steps may seem like more than enough to keep us sober and in recovery. It can be easy to ignore the service element, but the triangle will fall without it.
Every time we work any or all of the 12-Steps, every time we attend a meeting, every time we do any of these things is another great opportunity to be of service. Of course, we serve ourselves in doing so. But if we keep our eyes and hearts open, doing these things can be wonderful opportunities to be of service to God and our community as well. And each time we do them, we can grow personally and help others — it’s a beautiful, interwoven cycle.
Doing the things that help us grow with an attitude of service helps others. Helping others contributes to our staying in recovery. Each time we grow, we get better at being of service and become capable of helping more. And on and on it goes, feeding itself in harmony. There is no limit to how much we can grow and learn, just as there is no limit to how much service we can perform or how much help we can be to the world around us.
Shifting Away from Self-Centeredness
This is a pretty dramatic shift from the self-centeredness that dominated us in our active addiction, but it is one of the most important journeys we can take in recovery. Perhaps we will never be totally free of selfishness, but there is incredible benefit to us and everyone around us with every step we take away from selfishness and self-centeredness. Each tiny step in the right direction takes us further from the waking death of alcoholism and addiction. Even heroes see the world through the lens of self, but what makes them heroic is how often they look past that for an opportunity to help and serve.
Active alcoholism and addiction can be paralyzing. Caught in such vicious cycles of self-destruction, it can become incredibly difficult to pull ourselves out of it. We all need help to break free of addiction and learn how to live life in recovery. At Jaywalker Lodge, we know the disease of alcoholism from personal experience and we stand in freedom from it, waiting to help you. Come join the fight. Call us today at (866) 529-9255.
As Chief Executive Officer Bill provides leadership and manage all day-to-day operations of Jaywalker Lodge, an extended care residential addiction treatment program for adult men.