The Selfishness And Self Pity of Recovering Alcoholics

Alcoholics are renowned for being stubborn people who could use a healthy dose of modesty. Being humble is not on their radar. There is no standard template that defines ALL alcoholics, but they do share many qualities, most of which they’d be advised not to brag about. The most compelling character trait of most alcoholics is their selfishness. I’m speaking of selfish behavior that occurs before they do something about their drinking.


Selfishness and alcoholism go hand in hand since being alcoholic means you have total disregard for others around you. Alcoholics are beholden to no one or no thing except their next drink. They will sacrifice everything to see to their dependency and continued intoxication is their only goal. The longer this behavior is out of control, the worse it gets. This means leaving collateral damage in their wake such as broken relationships and families, financial ruin, poor and damaged health, lost careers and a future that is bleak with no prospects.


Someone once say that alcoholics tend to mature much slower than regular people while they are drinking. In fact they tend to stay fixed at the age they were when they experienced their first drunk. What other explanation for the bizarre behavior exhibited by heavy drinkers besides the chemical reaction facts?


Being selfish in recovery can actually be helpful when its purpose is to keep one focused on the mission of sobriety. However an alcoholic, particularly in early stage recovery, must make an effort to avoid the common defects of character they exhibited during their active drinking days – specifically about selfishness, the kind of behavior that makes you angry when things aren’t going your way. If being deprived of alcohol makes you bitter, (and it will) your tendency will be to take your frustrations out on those around you.


A recovering alcoholic has only one thing to be focused on and that’s their sobriety. Having said that, you have to think of those around you. Don’t be so focused on remaining sober that you let your emotions get the better of you. Yes you are going to feel physically lousy and jittery, and bitter with a short fuse. This is a good time to start displaying some remorse for your previous behavior. Instead of carrying a chip on your shoulder the size of Rhode Island, try presenting that side of you that has been absent for some time.


Be the person you want others to believe you can be – the person your spouse married and your children were proud of. If you hurt certain relationships, try and repair them. Don’t be afraid of asking for forgiveness if you wronged someone. This process of redemption will help you more than them. You will know who is deserving of an apology and the process of making it is what will benefit you. You may have much to make up for, as your life was out of control and you were selfish. Little else can have such a devastating effect on relationships as constant selfish behavior. You had an excuse, not a good one but grounds for your bad conduct. Those that need assuaging should receive it and this will help the process of regaining lost trust.


Self pity is for wimps. Period. You put yourself in the position you now find yourself in. No one held a gun to your head and said start drinking and don’t stop. Self-pity in recovery is natural, but is quite destructive and serves absolutely no useful purpose. It simply shows more perceived weakness by the perpetrator and a severe lack of confidence and inability to deal with adversity. It also represents a person’s idea that they are somehow a victim of their circumstances (in this case alcoholism), and they are somehow justified in feeling sorry for themselves and deserving of sympathy from others.


It does not set well when other alcoholics are heard making excuses for their abusive drinking, and in recovery accept no responsibility for their conduct. They behave the same way sober as they did when they were drinking excessively. How can they expect to improve emotionally and admit their actions were misguided in order to achieve healing? They can’t.


Enabling by others can have a disastrous effect on the individual in recovery. By offering sympathy to these self pitying, character deficient weaklings you are only setting them up to fail. A person in recovery is not only healing their physical body, but also their emotional state of mind. They will need to stiffen their spine for their future life free from alcohol when they will need those skills that may have been dormant for years in order to begin rebuilding relationships, careers and maturity. They need to start acting like emotionally stable adults they are.


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5 thoughts on “The Selfishness And Self Pity of Recovering Alcoholics

  1. I have recently separated from my BF of two and a half years, who is alcohol dependent and also takes valium daily to sleep (a habit that stretches back over 20 years, I found out recently). He is also a heavy smoker (at least 40 cigarettes a day). The irony is he that he works in mental health area and regulary treats people for addiction related problems. He is apparently a caring person, but has extremely low self esteem and reacted aggressively (verbally) throughout our relationship when I broached the subject of his drinking and pill taking (this mixture is potentially fatal) and its effect on our relationship. Promises to cut down on drinking and stop smoking have never been met or, after some initial effort, have lapsed. I admit that at times I have enabled his problems.
    He has had two disastrous previous marriages – not helped I would imagine by the aforementioned problems. In each case he has firmly placed himself in the role of victim to his (in his words) manipulative, neurotic and money grabbing former wives (he earns very well). I recently found out he was having an affair with a younger girl who works in the same area of mental health and split with him immediately. Phone conversations following this split consisted by insults directed at me (accusations of taking financial advantage of him – history repeats itself), lashings of self pity concerning him and incoherent rationalisation of his actions. On top of all this he told me the relationship he was (or still is) having “wasn’t even that serious” but if he feels like sleeping with young girls he will. He´s told me he’s now joined a gym, has cut down on drinking and is going to psychoanalysis sessions and is “on the way to recovery” (why is me telling me this?). I am slowly recovering from this sad episode, but really wonder if my ex is really capable of recovery and facing the very real, long term problems he has.

  2. I am tired of hearing alcoholics described as charming rogues. I left a well paid job because both my boss and a work-colleague were alcoholics. They displayed all the classic character traits: selfishness, jealousy, childish self-pity, mood-swings, memory loss (and false memories), vindictiveness… need I go on? Oh yes, and the shaky hands in the morning (I say “morning”, but they’d both weigh in late after I’d already done several hours of work on my own), followed by non-regulation extended lunch breaks at – you guessed it – the bar. Due to the stress of working with them, I was drinking so heavily I was in danger of joining them! Now I am stress-free and down to a bottle of wine with meals at the weekend. Poorer, but healthier and happier.

  3. I never knew that selfishness could be the core of alcoholism. I have long dealt with this issue in my life, by attracting drunken partners (thanks Mother!!) and now have come to the stage in my mid 40’s of realising a whole lot of issues about why I am attracted to these kinds. But what has eclipsed me all these years of relationships with alcoholics is that they were selfish and i was the enabling giver. Now I get it. They are truly takers in this life, and people like me are the givers. Thats why you normally see these two traits pairing up. I must be still looking for something when I feel I have to give give give all the time, especially to the takers. I remember once dating a man who was such a lovely sweet giver, like me. And I couldnt wait to end it. Now I know why. Its a long journey to discovering your inner mechanisms that attract you to the so called disease. BTW-I dont subscribe to the idea that alcoholism is a disease. I believe it is a behaviour. Maybe the discussion about whether it is a conscious or unconscious choice should be the focus. But a disease? No physical scientific evidence exists to make a causal inference there. Sure, there are associations, but I am going to rely on behaviourism in my understanding of this rotten destructive epidemic called alcoholism. So for the last year or so I have been silently employing the notion that my partner is just totally and wholly selfish. And all the signs are there. I have resigned myself to realising this fact, and just decided to google “alcoholism and selfishness” and now see that in fact there are others who have already made this conclusion. At least the penny dropped with me finally!

  4. Hey. I think its funny its amost a sacrilege being angry at alcoholics, after so many things readen like “it’s not their fault”, “it’s a desease”, “it’s not them, it’s the desease”. But the truth is that, also, you read, most of the time, after what i have read and heard, it is only when the partner says “it’s me or the alcohol” when they get their asses up and move to recovery. So, how could that be a desease??
    I found the whole range of alcoholics treats disgusting: the self-pitty, the hand-shaking, the permanent manipulations attempts based on self pitty for hand shaking (“i hate that!”, he says). The loss of memory, the memory gaps, the lies, the alcohol stinking, the exagerated and associal behaviour, the cinism, the lack of hygiene, the stupid center-of-the-universe-complex. The cheating, the buying us for complete reards who doesnt know they lie. I hate everything. The way he says he needs me for recovering, and afterwards hides cans of beer he just bought in the middle of recovery.
    The incapability of realising for themselves: “i am only one more. i am not special. i am just another one, same as everybody else”. Whilst the rest of us fight, even under pressure, in stressfull lifes, they complain on their lifes. I cannot stand hem. I just agree in that they are totally selfish. Thats all. Nothing more and nothing less.

  5. Abby so nice to read what you just wrote. I too am a recovering alcoholic. 8 years now. I hurt alot of people with my drinking but thank God today through just doing the right things I have the most important people back in my life and the days of my drinking are rarely mentioned, and only to praise me for how far ive come.

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