The Twelve Promises of Alcoholics Anonymous
"We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellow man…"
Alcoholics Anonymous, page 84
Selfish things. The American Heritage College Dictionary might break this promise down to read, "the loss of interest in a way of living that is characterized by concern only for myself." In other words, if I am living by selfish things, I make my choices on how I will have from the stand-point of "what’s in it for me?" I do not be my decisions on how it will affect you. I may have a clear picture of how it will hurt those I claim to love, but that will not determine my choice. I will do what I want to do. As Norman Grubb says, "to hell with you, I will be for me," Satan’s trademark phrase. Here the Big Book promises us deliverance from selfishness, IE..(and this is the proviso that goes with every promise) we are willing to work for it. How does that work?
First, there has to be a clear recognition of what we are like in our selfishness. Proverbs 18:17 says, "The first to present his case seems right, till another comes forward and questions him" (NIV). The Living Bible states it another way that clarifies it. "Any story sounds true until someone tells the other side and sets the record straight."
That was what happened to me. Someone had to confront me with the fact that I wasn’t what I thought I was. In AA this is referred to as a "splat," or "hitting bottom."
I had always thought I had a big interest in my friends. I did not realize what true interest was. The interest I showed at that time was, "How can I make them like me, be impressed with me, think I am a good guy, etc.?" I was always aware of a niggle in my insides that I wasn’t honest, but I did not wish any change. What I was doing appeared to be working. Sometimes I would think, "Should I tell them the truth; should I tell them what I really think?" But I would always end up with, "No, they might not like me any more; they might get mad at me and heaven forbid, that would ruin my image as a good guy!" I was also looking down my nose and thinking, "I would never do a thing like that!" Or, "I’ll never be like that!" (Here let the record show: everything I promised myself I would never do, or people I would never be like, I have done and have been.)
By my view, I was a good guy, unselfish and caring. I thought I was just "a good ole boy." I visited my friends in jail, took them things they needed (when it was convenient for me). I would lend them money. (Never mind my family did without that week, at least I looked kind and generous.) I would loan items to others, take them places I didn’t want to go, all with a resentful attitude, but thinking I was being "a good per:son" Then I would go home and have a "few" beers to quiet the irritability that was now raging inside.
I didn’t want to see how I was turning my hack on my own family, never giving them my time, addicted to my job and my "good ole boy" image that cost them their husband and father. I never thought of what my image was with them. I didn’t buy my children what they needed nor did I pay their dues at school on time. I let them suffer the humiliation of teachers fussing at them to "get their money in" for school needs when they had no way of escaping the shame.
If I didn’t get the instant gratification of someone patting me on the back and telling me what a good guy I was, I would just wait until the threats became serious before I took action. Let the wife and the kids answer the phone, collect the mail, and deal with the bill collectors. I hid in my addiction.
What I didn’t know and needed to learn was that I had no power to do any different. "The fact is" (and fact means "having demonstrable existence," so this is not an opinion) "that most alcoholics, for reasons yet obscure have lost the power of choice. We are without defense against the first drink" (Alcoholics Anonymous, p. 24). Page Forty-four confirms that we are "suffering from an illness which only a spiritual experience will conquer." What I needed to learn was what the root of my problem was. Alcohol was not my problem. It was how I handled my problems. My real problem way my selfish, Satan-operated nature.
"Selfishness-self-centeredness! That, we think, is the root of our troubles" (Alcoholics Anonymous, p. 62). If I prune all the limbs off of a tree, I will have succeeded in making the tree branch out in many other ways. If I stop drinking, hinging, starving, controlling, etc., without getting rid of the root of the problem, it will come back in greater strength. As the Big Book tells us, my view of self-centered self "must be smashed" Getting a true picture of myself was the only way I learned to hate the selfishness enough to lose interest in it.
Now I had a void that would be filled. Like the negative to the positive, once the interest in selfish things was lost, I found it filled with interest in others–a new, Christ-operated nature that has as its main desire being a laid-down life for others. This is the key in this promise. When I lose interest in myself, it is because I am too busy thinking of others, if I am truly "working" the steps. And I must do this to maintain my own recovery.
"Every day is a day when we must carry the vision of God’s will into all of our activities. ‘How can I best serve Thee–Thy will (not mine) he done.’ These are thoughts which must go with us constantly" (Alcoholics Anonymous, p. 85).
This promise is fulfilled by the "spiritual awakening," the change from selfish Satan to selfless Christ. It is maintained by the simple principle expressed in the foreword of the Big Book: "…strenuous work, one alcoholic with another, was vital to permanent recovery."
Anonymity is a fundamntal tradition in AA. However, the writer welcomes any questions or comments, which may be sent to the magazine office.
More Articles from The Intercessor, Vol 11 No 6
- Here We Stand
- Out of the Whirlwind
- Editor’s Note
- Minnesota Fellowship Weekend
- The Letter to the Romans
- Moving Out of the Wilderness
- Excerpt from The Intercession of Rees Howells
- British Autumn Conference
- A Look at a Book
- The Mailbox
- God’s Promises
- To Think About
- New Light on the Twelve Steps
- Tape Talk
- Moments with Meryl
- Questions & Answers
- Which Side?
- Words to Live By