The wise man who is my mentor described selfishness like this: “I want what I want, and I want it now.” What I wanted was to stop hurting.
For those struggling with alcohol or another substance, what we want is to change how we are feeling, and we want that right now.
“I’m hurting. Make it stop!”
Those substances provide, or at least used to provide, a way to numb complicated feelings. They gave a temporary and immediate solution to things we felt powerless to change.
Why is this so damaging? After all, I’ll feel better, right? Surely the people around me want me to feel better, too, don’t they?
Perhaps. But what happens under the influence of these substances? What does it do to the other people in our lives? Would we want to be friends with or be married to the person we’ve become over a period of use? How did we end up with so many consequences? Are we on any path that likely has a meaningful or positive outcome? How can we go on like this? If our life is the sum total of our actions, how do we feel about ourselves?
If we are honest, answering makes for more negative feelings that need solving, doesn’t it?
It made me thirsty.
It used to be fun, but now it’s a mess.
The details of our situations may be different, but the long and short of it is that we behave badly. We manipulate people, lash out, we are inconsiderate, we isolate and become cut off from those who care about us. We may be violent though that is not in our sober nature. We often become unfaithful or unreliable. We cannot control our emotions, or perhaps we break the law and there are consequences. The list grows over time.
Make it stop. Now.
“I want what I want, and I want it now.” I want to stop hurting. Right now! The feelings of others, my health, and consequences be damned.
That’s what seems so selfish. We drink or use to stop thinking about it, yet it results in more of the same pain for ourselves and others. To get relief, we dig the hole deeper.
And now we’re trapped.
If you have the disease I have, drinking or using is our remedy, and our gravest problem.
The solution seems obvious. Stop doing that! Stop being so selfish!
But I found I could not, no matter how badly I wanted to. My depression and self-pity were deep. I hated waking up in the morning. Every day I swore I would stop drinking and change my behavior, and therefore my life. Funny thing, though… I couldn’t get that done. Every day I drank again to solve that most difficult problem of how I felt about myself, the people around me, and my circumstances. Things didn’t improve on their own.
Eventually, I was just drinking and I didn’t even know why any more. I just knew I wasn’t able to stop.
Identify with this? If so, you may caught in a trap you cannot escape alone.
Life is not like that anymore. There is a solution. Reach out. Call. Just ask. Those of us who have been burned before are lined up wanting nothing more than to carry water to people whose lives are on fire.
We love it. It changes how we feel.
*Originally published as a guest piece for Solutions of North Texas, August 8, 2016