Selfism - By Rabbi Twerski
We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.
There is much significance in the very first word of Step One: “We.” It is “We admitted,” not “I admitted.” The very first step is eliminating the “I,” effacing and humbling oneself. That is the beginning of recovery. Bill Wilson said that “alcoholism is self-will run riot.” Recovery must begin with the willingness to set the “self” aside.
It is well known that if an alcoholic stops drinking because of liver disease or fear of any other consequences, he is referred to as a “dry drunk.” While
cessation of drinking is, of course, important, the personality has not undergone any change, and the alcoholic’s behavior may be just as intolerable as when he was drinking. The “self-will,” which was manifest during the active drinking continues to dominate his behavior, to everyone’s chagrin.
Clancy, a recovering alcoholic with fifty years of sobriety, stated it succinctly. “My problem wasn’t alcohol. It was alcoholism, and when the alcohol was gone, the ismremained.”
The “ism” is the self-will. Unless the alcoholic is willing to relinquish the centrality of the “I,” admission of powerlessness and unmanageability is not feasible. This is why beginning recovery must be with “we” rather than “I.”
A neurosurgeon came to the physician’s recovery group, very angry. He had been ordered into treatment because he showed up in the Emergency Room under the influence of alcohol. This was in December. “There are parties all over the place. Why can’t I have a drink to celebrate the holiday? I can control my drinking”
A physician with several years of recovery remarked, “When I realized that I couldn’t control alcohol, it was a great relief. I had tried all kinds of ways to control my drinking, but none of them worked. Now I am a free person. I don’t have to fight a losing battle any more.”
Admitting powerlessness is a victory, not a defeat .
We came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
At an AA meeting in Jerusalem, one man said, “When I first came to this meeting and heard something about G-d, I walked out. I’m an atheist and I don’t want anything to do with a G-d-program.
“I came back a year later because I needed help. I told the group, ‘I’ll do anything you say, but just don’t push G-d on me.’ The group agreed, and told me that I had to get a sponsor.
“When the sponsor said that I have to pray every day, I told him that the group agreed not to push G-d on me. The sponsor said, ‘OK, don’t pray to G-d. Just pray.’ That made no sense. What do you mean, ‘Don’t pray to G-d, just pray?’ T he sponsor said, ‘Look, do you want to get sober or do you want to stay drunk? If you want to get sober, you have to pray.’
“I am now seven years sober. I don’t believe in G-d. I pray every day, because when I pray, it reminds me that I am not G-d!”
The selfist alcoholic cannot accept G-d because he believes himself to be G-d, omniscient and omnipotent. When he accepts powerlessness, he admits that he is not G-d.
The Torah says that Moses left the royal palace and went out unto his brethren and looked upon their burdens. The Mdrash states that he went among the Hebrew slaves and assisted them in their hard labor.
While sympathy is a fine trait, it is not enough. Moses wanted to feel the suffering that his brethren were experiencing.
The Talmud lauds Rebbe Zeira “who never rejoiced in the misfortune of others.” This is hardly the praise of a great person. Enjoying other people’s misfortune is reprehensible. The praise of Rebbe Zeira is that he could not rejoice in his own simchos as long as he knew that there were others living in poverty and distress..
A Chassidic rebbe saw his daughter and her friends being merry. He scolded them, saying, “Don’t you know that the baker’s child is seriously ill? How can you laugh and be merry when you know that others are suffering?
Addiction is a malady of “selfism.” Recovery requires mutuality.