Am I Being Selfish?

02/15/18

It is understood in the world of addiction recovery that addicts do not recover simply by stopping using their vices of choice. They must recover by building a new life that is no longer centered around their vices and triggers that lead them back to using. But many addicts are faced with feelings of selfishness when they focus on their own treatment and recovery.

Traditionally, if a person is selfish, they are thought to act from concern for their own welfare or advantage with regard for others. While using, most addicts are exceptionally selfish and lacking in remorse for the pain they inflict upon others. They put their addiction ahead of everyone and often blow up bridges in the process.  

In recovery, the addict is expected to evaluate every aspect of life and to make changes to improve the quality of life, and this cannot happen in a vacuum. Part of this recovery is recognizing the selfish behaviors of the past and trying to deal with the guilt and fear that are consequences of these behaviors.

If you are in recovery, you must do what you need to do to put yourself first. If you cannot take the time to care for yourself and redesign the life you want for yourself, you will never be able to break out of the selfish behaviors of the past. If anything, it is selfless of you to do the hard work it takes to understand the roots of your addiction and to keeping yourself living. Feelings of guilt and selfishness only weigh you down – your life matters, and you have to do what you have to do to be well. There is nothing selfish about that. Not only will it improve your health and well-being, it will positively affect those around you in the long run.

As you redesign your life, you will likely make some changes that are not supported by everyone else in your life, and that is ok. You must eliminate stress in your life, and part of living the life you deserve will require honest reflection. You may find that you need to change your career path if your job causes you anxiety or puts you in social situations not fitting to your recovery, even if it means a change in income or lifestyle. Co-dependency is often a symptom of addictive behavior. You may find that you need to make changes in your relationships if those relationships are not conducive to your new life. Again, this is not selfish – it is necessary.

Relaxation is central to recovery, and typically relaxation is not a group activity. You may find that you need more time to yourself to exercise, meditate, or educate yourself on the people, places, or things that trigger you to want to use. When you consider the vast amount of daily time you have spent abusing in the past, it is not selfish to carve out daily time for yourself to prevent you from relapsing.

Once you have made the necessary changes in your life, you will benefit because for you the first time in a long time, you will really be able to live. Understanding yourself and your addiction will unlock a world of opportunity. Those endless hours spent abusing can now be replaced with a brighter, more positive outlook wherein you can embrace those activities and relationships you are passionate about. You may want to enjoy reading, traveling, or making new friends – anything to broaden your horizons and nurture your soul. A life worth living is never selfish.

Once you have begun to flourish in your new life, you will want to evaluate your long-term lifestyle. You have learned your strengths and weaknesses, you know what situations you can and cannot handle, and you have dedicated yourself to sobriety. Now what? It is important that the recovering addict set goals. What do you want for your work and financial life? What do you want for your health and leisure life? What do you want for your spiritual and emotional well-being? The longer you are in recovery, the better your life gets. And it is not selfish, it is your lifeboat.