Are men naturally self-centered? Sure. Are women? Yes, though they may express it differently. What does it even mean to be self-centered? Mostly, it seems to mean that we are human. We are more worried about ourselves than others. We focus more on our problems – real and imagined – and any of the drama that goes along with them. And even those of us who are more focused on others and their problems are often doing it so that we can get something out of it – feel better than the other person, feel better about ourselves, or any number of other machinations that sometimes belie the seeming selflessness of others. What is clear is that few people are as focused on themselves as we people with addictions are – focused on our pain, on our needs, and our wants. What we deserve and what we will never get. Fear often seems to be at the root of it. Fear has an amazing ability to convince me that what is not real is real. The more I focus on how I feel and the thoughts inside of my head, by definition, the more self-centered I become. While self-awareness is critical to my recovery, self-obsession is disastrous for it. It does not matter how long I have been in recovery – should I start to worship my emotion-driven perception of the world then I will inevitably be inviting unnecessary suffering into my life.
The road to misery begins in the self. The discipline of working the Steps and applying the principles to our lives teach us how to be selfless in our service to others. What does it mean to be of service? Being of service is sacrificing our immediate needs and wants in order to serve a greater purpose. Every time I do this – without exception – I forget about myself and my petty, annoying, and peevish problems. One of the best, and probably hardest, ways to be of service is to go out of our way for others – with no expectation of acknowledgment or reward. Maybe we even do it anonymously. But in recovery something happens – sometimes in spite of ourselves – and we lose interest in our selfish pursuits and gain interest in our fellows. We realize that the freedom of recovery lies in our commitment to service and that which is bigger than us. We are not saints, however, as they say; it often takes a long time to eliminate all of the cancer of self-centeredness. But we grow and our world expands as we join hands with those around us. We get to be a part of the community once again.