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Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Addiction to 'Self'

"(O)ur troubles, we think, are basically of our own making. They arise out of ourselves, and the alcoholic is an extreme example of self-will run riot, though he usually doesn't think so. Above everything, we alcoholics must be free of this selfishness. We must, or it kills us! God makes this possible."
-- Alcoholics Anonymous, page 62 --
The "nature of our wrongs," our "defects of character," and our "shortcomings," as set out in Steps Five through Step Seven are, in essence, the same thing - they are all manifestations of the self-consciousness, or ego-identification, that seemingly separates us from everyone and everything in this world. This purely psychological "self" is the underlying root of all addiction, and its desires and the fears it creates must be overcome in a daily struggle if we are to attain, maintain and improve a "conscious contact" with the God of our understanding.

If we look at "the seven deadly sins" which Bill discusses in Step Seven of The Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions - pride, greed, anger, lust, gluttony, envy and sloth - we can see that all of these "sins" (or, better yet, thinking that has gone awry) are manifestations of an egocentric concern that the desires of the "small self" or "ego" will not be fulfilled. We are "proud" because we fear that we are better (or worse) than others, "jealous" because we fear the loss of someone or something we have, "envious" because we fear we will not get something we currently lack, etc.

The truth is, however, that it is impossible to stem the desires or quell the fears of the human ego. By its very nature - being nothing but a false mental perspective and identity driven by out-of-control desires and fears - our "small self" is divinely incapable of being satisfied. Thus, if we are to survive and flourish in recovery, we must find the means of moving beyond the ego's "false self." Self-examination, meditation and prayer makes this possible.

"Relieve me of the bondage of self," we pray in the Third Step Prayer. "I am now willing that you should have all of me, good and bad," we avow in the Seventh Step Prayer. And, in the Eleventh Step Prayer, we acknowledge that "it is by self-forgetting that we find."

Yet prayer, while in and of itself bringing great benefit, must be accompanied by continuing (and, ideally, continuous) self examination and the practice of meditation if we are to make the breakthrough that we so desperately need. It is through these interrelated disciplines that we become able to distinguish the voice of our small, egoic self from the higher awareness of God-consciousness, a consciousness which amounts to "a new state of consciousness and being."
[The Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, page 107.]

In sobriety, with the crisis of active addiction in our past, we must next confront our addiction to ego-identification, a confrontation that for most of us will result either from a tremendous act of grace or, perhaps more usually, from a profound crisis or intense suffering in sobriety. After all, we now no longer have the fleeting reprieve from such crises and suffering that we once found, however fleetingly, in drink and/or by drugs; and, if we are to truly find peace of mind and lasting sobriety we must need overcome the self-will that runs riot within us, tormenting us and hurting us (and those around us) by its corruptive action.

Our suffering, one noted author observes, triggers "an inner realization, a perception which pierces through the facile complacency of our usual encounter with the world to glimpse the insecurity perpetually gaping underfoot. . . . When this insight dawns, even if only momentarily, it can precipitate a profound personal crisis. It overturns accustomed goals and values, mocks our routine preoccupations, (and) leaves old enjoyments stubbornly unsatisfying."
[Bhikku Bodhi, "The Noble Eightfold Path: Way to the End of Suffering," p. 1.]

The antidote to the "small self" of the "ego" lies in the faith that "deep down within us" we can make a conscious connection with a Power greater than our egoic self-sense. "In the last analysis," we read, "it is only there" where such God-consciousness "can be found." (Alcoholics Anonymous, page 55.)

By refusing to react to the crises that try our spirit by further exertion of self-will, and by rather responding to such crises by application of the 12 Steps (particularly through a renewed emphasis on self-examination, meditation and prayer), we begin to overcome the addiction to self that lies at the center of all our difficulties, and we thus begin living a life of emotional sobriety devoid of the overbearing desires and fears of the ego.

1 comment:

  1. is very helpful...Thanks