Occasionally, people in the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous will say that they work a selfish program or that A.A. itself is a selfish program. They may be seeing that A.A. has a focus on self-development and creating a personal relationship with one’s higher power, and from that alone, make the assumption that selfishness is part of the 12-Step program. This assumption, however, is far from the truth of the program of Alcoholics Anonymous. Alcoholics Anonymous suggests 12 steps be taken in order to develop a relationship with a higher power of one’s own understanding and to have a spiritual experience as a means of achieving and maintaining sobriety. This vital spiritual experience is deeply rooted in the destruction of selfishness. The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous warns, “Above everything, we alcoholics must be rid of this selfishness. We must, or it kills us! God makes that possible. And there often seems no way of entirely getting rid of self without His aid. Many of us had moral and philosophical convictions galore, but we could not live up to them even though we would have liked to. Neither could we reduce our self-centeredness much by wishing or trying on our own power. We had to have God’s help.” The loss of our selfishness is a core component to developing a relationship with our higher power, and subsequently having the vital spiritual experience necessary to achieving and maintaining permanent sobriety. If we hang on to the selfishness and self-centeredness that drove our thoughts and actions in active addiction, we will almost certainly fail in our goal of recovery from a hopeless state of mind and body. This destruction of selfishness becomes clear in the 3rd step of Alcoholics Anonymous, which states: “Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.” After this step, the Big Book makes several promises of what will occur as a result of giving up our selfishness: “Establishing such a footing we became less and less interested in ourselves, our little plans and designs. More and more we became interested in seeing what we could contribute to life.” This sense of altruism persists throughout the rest of the program, all the way to Step 12, which states, “Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.” When we get through the steps, we continue to practice love, tolerance, and altruism, free from selfish and self-centered thought, in all of our affairs. Alcoholics Anonymous is not a selfish program. At it’s core, it is quite the opposite. Selfishness is the root of our troubles, and we must be rid of it and practice selflessness at every opportunity if we are to remain happy, joyous, and free in sobriety.
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