My good friend Keith and I were recently chatting about ego and particularly how it affects those of us who struggle against drug or alcohol addiction.
Keith says that a lot of his clients who are struggling to stop drinking and drugging are getting caught up in the idea that quitting anything is a sign of weakness….that to walk away from a life of drugs and booze somehow makes the person “less than.” He is suggesting that this particular block to recovery is ego-driven.
Photo by h.koppdelaney
Of course I agree with Keith’s insight and I can see how this applied to my own situation: When I was still struggling with addiction, I suffered from what Narcotics Anonymous refers to as being “terminally hip and fatally cool.” I thought I was the coolest guy who had ever done drugs, and I thought I probably did more of them than anyone else had ever dreamed of doing. And packaged along with this attitude was the idea that I could just ride my addiction right into the gates of death, no problem at all, because that’s just how hard core I was.
Now obviously this attitude and this mindset is a bunch of baloney….that’s not who I am at all, and I can come to know this (now) on a really deep level if I get quiet and let my chatterbox of a mind slow down for 2 seconds. That cool attitude that makes us glamorize and glorify our drug use is 100 percent pure ego-driven madness. It is our mind–the voice that drives our non-stop thoughts–that convinces us that it is hip to use drugs, that it is cool to be as whacked out of our gourd as possible.
My guess is that this particular block to recovery is more prevalent among younger people, simply because their ego is more threatened by their peers than it is when they get older. So walking away from the “coolness” of drugs and alcohol when you are younger is especially tough. Young people might rationalize that “There is always time to quit when I’m older,” and that “Now is the time that I’m supposed to live it up and have fun.” But of course for anyone who is already a full blown alcoholic or drug addict, it doesn’t matter how young they are….the time to quit is now.
And what if you’re not part of the younger crowd? Ego can still get in the way. For some, failure to put down the bottle might come from old values such as “A man should be able to hold his liquor” or even the idea that “No one is going to tell me what to do” (including not drinking or taking drugs).
But the biggest blow to the ego comes from the fact that we tried to conquer our drinking and we failed. We are defeated by a bottle of booze that just sits on the shelf. It has become our master and the only way we can beat it is to ask for help.
How maddening is that? Walking into an AA meeting is like beating your ego with a sledgehammer. That’s why they call it surrender.
The alcoholic surrenders. They surrender themselves. And then they gain the whole world back. Seriously. You just have to let go.
Ego and helping others
Ever tried to convince someone to get help for their addiction?
What stops them from getting help? Why do they resist it so much?
Ego is the answer. The aversion to treatment or meetings or rehab or any kind of help is always fear-based. It is fear that keeps an addict or alcoholic trapped, especially if someone has offered them some help. The idea of facing life sober can be scary enough on it’s own.
It is the scariest thing in the world to walk into treatment; to ask for help. To do so is an admission that “my best thinking got me here.”
We are always using our best ideas about how to live our lives. (Why would we use our worst ideas?) So realize that the person who surrenders must admit and accept that they can no longer control themselves with drugs and alcohol–even in spite of their best efforts! And so they have surrendered and they have asked for help and admitted this to the world. That they cannot handle their drinking. That they cannot handle drugs. They, of all people, even though they have believed themselves to be an expert at drinking and drugging, have failed miserably at it.
This is a crushing realization and it would be interesting to see just how many people have overcome this obstacle and still managed to ask for help, versus all those who accept defeat and resign themselves to simply drink and drug until their last day.
Your ego is not worth it, folks. Squash the sucker and go get you some recovery!
What do you all think? Did your ego keep you from surrendering to the disease? Do you see ego holding other people back from surrender?