It’s an interesting and seemingly contradictory truth, but selfishness can accelerate our addiction, or accelerate our recovery. It all depends on the way you define “selfish,” and it can make all the difference in how successful you are in recovery.
Redefining “selfish” in recovery
1: concerned excessively or exclusively with oneself: seeking or concentrating on one’s own advantage, pleasure, or well-being without regard for others
2: arising from concern with one’s own welfare or advantage in disregard of others
Notice that it says without regard for others. As recovering addicts seeking to create a more empowering definition of “selfish,” the first thing to realize is putting our recovery first is actually in the best interest of others, not just ourselves.
The primary goal of recovery is to get and stay sober, in a well-rounded way that can ideally help others as well. This means that whatever you have to do in order to stay sober, should come first, and it is selfish only in the sense that it puts you first, but it is in order to benefit yourself and others, not without regard for them. Viewing this in a big picture way is valuable, because otherwise guilt may accompany our recovery efforts, and guilt won’t help our cause.
Selfish vs. Selfless
Why is it important to be selfish, and put our own recovery first? Isn’t recovery about being “self-less?”
Great question.The answer is, there is a time for everything. While we may be able to be of some service to others early in our recovery, this will only be in certain capacities, and the scale will be tilted towards receiving help from others at this time. And this is only natural. The fact is being selfish in recovery, and caring for yourself enough to put a goal that is larger than yourself first, is the first step towards being selfless in more meaningful ways down the line.
Living with others
A number of problems may come up when you take this healthy stance of selfishness early in recovery.
Some people will see it as a sign you haven’t changed, and will use this as an opportunity to say you need to change further, even though what they’re suggesting could endanger your recovery, and actually is only to benefit their own selfishness. Remember, it is not selfish in the negative sense, to not give in to other’s selfishness! If they’re not putting your recovery first as well, then what they expect of you comes from their own agenda, and not your best interests.
As a recovering addict, you’ll likely go through a number of changes that others might interpret as selfish, or that you might even wonder about yourself.
Is it selfish to get a different job if my current one is too stressful?
Is it selfish to break out of a relationship if I know it’s toxic (particularly if they’re still using)?
It’s not a bad thing that you want to know if your decisions and actions might be hurting others. In fact, it’s great you’re thinking about others altogether. But now is the time to revisit the number one priority we set out in redefining “selfishness,” and ask ourselves the most important question:
Will making this change give me a better chance at successful recovery?
If the answer is ‘yes,’ you know what you should do. You also know this type of selfishness is perfectly fine, and includes benefits to others along with it.
Why is all of this important?
By making choices that support your recovery first, you not only give yourself the best external situations for success, but you send a signal to yourself about your own changed priorities. This is important because you need as many things working in your favor as possible for successful recovery. You can think about the ways that both you and others will benefit from these healthy decisions to be selfish, by thinking about the damage that was done to yourself in others during your addiction. The end of this damage alone is beneficial, but you can also add to it by taking this time to nurture yourself. Then, what you have to offer on the other side of recovery makes it obvious why you took the time you needed.
Looking at the long-term
A number of lifestyle changes may be needed in order to achieve sobriety, but making it your number one priority, and doing anything needed to achieve this, will make the decisions along the way much easier. These changes might include changing jobs or leaving relationships as mentioned, or something exciting like going back to school, or moving into a new living arrangement. Luckily, as you redefine your internal compass based on beneficial values and priorities, it will point the way towards a destination worth heading to.
Contact us today to learn more about why being selfish is the best thing you can do for both yourself and others.