Jan 24: The Problem With Self

Recently I have been finding myself quite irritable, restless and discontent about my romantic relationship, life situation and day to day life. I feel like I work a pretty good program so even though this kept being the case, I was basically lying to myself saying I was ok and that other people around me just had issues. After all, I write a gratitude list everyday, I participate in meetings, I sponsor others, I have a sponsor, I go on Zoom, I listen to speaker meetings and step workshops, I pray, I meditate, I mean I am good right?

But that inner me was still all huffy and puffy… and at home the outer me’s body language was standoffish and attitudinal, my tone of voice had become sarcastic and apathetic…literally any time I “had to be” around other humans I would find myself acting like this. I even got in a few fights with my boyfriend where I really did not act recovered whatsoever. I cried like a baby, I stomped my feet like a toddler having a tantrum, I was accusatory and rude and took another persons inventory…more than once. The queen and the baby of my ego were in full effect in my romantic relationship.

But, I told myself, it’s just with him. Everyone else in my life I get along with great, everyone else in my life I’m loving, tolerant and kind to. So obviously I tell myself he’s the problem and I’m just gonna go along my merry way.

And for a while I’d been sweeping it under the rug with the exterior world of sponsor, friends, program fellows…just pretending life was a-ok, but behind the scenes really not being a very fun person to actually live around for my boyfriend, stepson, pets, or myself.

So one day, I decided to tell the truth about this newfound bitchiness of mine to my sponsor and some program friends. I received much experience, strength and hope and also um, my program friends helped set me straight. This in turn got me doing a lot of self examination and also re-reading the Twelve and Twelve and the first 164 pages of my Big Book. It’s astounding how much I forget even though I’ve read both these volumes so many times there are sections I have truly memorized.

As always, the readings are hitting home and certain passages have been turning points in thinking of myself less, and thinking of others more. Of admitting I am really just so powerless without Gods help, and that life sure does get unmanageable when I once again try to control the show. It constantly blows my mind how sneaky this disease is, how my ego or self-seeking behaviors can subtly get to work again. I swear there are moments in sobriety where I’m just as clueless as to this disease working inside me as when I was drinking. It’s like the Twelve and Twelve says in Step Two:

Few indeed are the practicing alcoholics who have any idea how irrational they are, or seeing their irrationality, can bear to face it. Some will be willing to term themselves “problem drinkers,” but cannot endure the suggestion that they are in fact mentally ill. They are abetted in this blindness by a world which does not understand the difference between sane drinking and alcoholism. “Sanity” is defined as “soundness of mind.” Yet no alcoholic, soberly analyzing his destructive behavior, whether the destruction fell on the dining-room furniture or his own moral fiber, can claim “soundness of mind” for himself. From Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions “Step Two” page 31-32

It has been a long time since I have had a drink or even romanced the thought of one. Over ten years I have in this journey of sobriety. But this disease of alcoholism still gets me, it still will make it very difficult to bear facing my irrationality.
My ego loves to try and convince me that I’m perfectly ok without Gods help. That if I just listen to my “self” and try and “run the show” based on “self propulsion” things will actually be just fine, thank you very much. Like if I’m irritated by my boyfriend that’s just my business, that’s nothing I have to concern God about, plus wouldn’t God of course just agree with me that he’s being an ass and tell him to stop?! Because wouldn’t God see what this man is doing to poor little me?

So following that line of distorted thinking…of course I have the right to roll my eyes, give short responses, stomp around the house, make rude comments, act passive aggressive, that’s all just fine for me to do because he deserves it, because poor me, this would really be how it would go in my head and I would really accept this as sane thinking and acting. Because if he would just act right, I wouldn’t even do any of this type of behavior, it’s his fault, he’s making me act this way.


See, the thing is, as an alcoholic, this almost always turns out badly. Like in my home, all my discontent with how things are and how we function, it was a big game of trying to control a person other than myself so that basically I could ignore myself and my problems, thus allowing my ego to reconstruct, distorted thinking to take hold, character defects to ooze out my pores. And that really is a huge problem because if left untreated….these unchecked distorted thinking patterns quickly turn to distorted drinking (and for me drugging and other self-sabotaging) patterns. So I really can’t live this way! My ego would always rather have drama and division than sanity and serenity and will somehow convince me that being a control freak and lashing out on others is actually helpful and kind. The Big Book gives my favorite example ever of this dilemma in “How it Works”:

…any life run on self-will can hardly be a success. On that basis we are almost always in collision with something or somebody, even though our motives are good. Most people try to live by self-propulsion. Each person is like an actor who wants to run the whole show; is forever trying to arrange the lights, the ballet, the scenery and the rest of the players in his own way. If his arrangements would only stay put, if only people would do as he wished, the show would be great. Everybody, including himself, would be pleased. Life would be wonderful. In trying to make these arrangements our actor may sometimes be quite virtuous. He may be kind, considerate, patient, generous; even modest and self-sacrificing. On the other hand, he may be mean, egotistical, selfish and dishonest. But, as with most humans, he is more likely to have varied traits.

What usually happens? The show doesn’t come off very well. He begins to think life doesn’t treat him right. He decides to exert himself more. He becomes, on the next occasion, still more demanding or gracious, as the case may be. Still the play does not suit him. Admitting he may be somewhat at fault, he is sure that other people are more to blame. He becomes angry, indignant, self-pitying. What is his basic ¬trouble? Is he not really a self-seeker even when trying to be kind? Is he not a victim of the delusion that he can wrest satisfaction and happiness out of this world if he only manages well? Is it not evident to all the rest of the players that these are the things he wants? And do not his actions make each of them wish to retaliate, snatching all they can get out of the show? Is he not, even in his best moments, a producer of confusion rather than harmony?

Over and over and over again these passages from the 12 and 12 and the Big Book produce humility and honesty from me after those episodes of life on life’s terms that get my ego roaring all over again. Indeed, I am irrational. Indeed, I am selfish and self centered. Indeed, this disease of alcoholism is cunning, baffling, and powerful.

But each and every time I find myself in a conundrum, in some sort of situation I really messed all up…The hand of AA is waiting for me, my sponsor will guide me, the fellowship will love me, the steps will save me from myself and the traditions will save us from each other. And for that, holy cow, am I grateful beyond words to take inventory, share it with my sponsor, recognize character defects, be willing and ask to have them removed and make amends to those I’ve harmed. Because it saves my life and keeps me from having to die an alcoholic death.

Thank you so much for allowing me to keep coming back, to keep growing, to keep learning with you one day at a time.

Please share on anything this sharing and these two passages from the Twelve and Twelve and Big Book bring up for you in your journey of recovery. For me, they have been two of the most powerful pieces of literature I have experienced. They lead me back to the solution, remind me that yes, it actually is ME that’s the problem or at least the thing I can work on for today.

Thank you for the honor of chairing this meeting.