Tuesday, September 30, 2008

It's a selfish program

"I can see why you are disturbed to hear some A.A. speakers say, "A.A. is a selfish program." The word 'selfish' ordinarily implies that one is acquisitive, demanding, and thoughtless of the welfare of others.

Of course, the A.A. way of life does not at all imply such undesirable traits.

What do these speakers mean? Well, any theologian will tell you that the salvation of his own soul is the highest vocation that a man can have......"

From As Bill Sees It

Before my wife left for her trip, we had a discussion about being selfish. She thought that I was being selfish for leaving her alone as much as I do. I shared about this in the home group meeting last night.

My wife is retired now and is home much of the day. She goes to meetings and has friends over. She also enjoys cooking and gardening. I work during the week and go to 3 meetings a week, two of which occur in the evening. I also row one night a week which means that for at least 3 days a week I don't get home until after 9 PM. And on the weekends I am on the sailboat.

So when looking at the time that I spend away from home, I can see her point. Yet, when I'm at home, she often is busy doing the things that she likes to do but my physical presence seems to be important.

I don't think that my wife is selfish at all now. She has come such a long way since joining AA. And I think that she has a valid point. I have come to enjoy the things that I do. During her drinking years, I felt invisible and in need of attention. I no longer feel that I have to be "around" all the time. And my attitude has improved dramatically. I used to feel angry and found fault easily with others and myself. Now, I feel happy most of the time and have learned to not be so serious or critical of myself or others.

So I am selfish with my time. But that selfishness has
helped me to become a better person who is able to deal better with the stresses of living with an alcoholic. I don't pay as much attention to those things that I "should" be doing anymore. The trick for me is to find balance in this state of recovery. I started off on one side of the pendulum swing, doing all this stuff for others and letting my mental well-being and spontaneity slide. And it appears I may have swung all the way over to the other side and started doing things for me.

Her remarks made me see that there is the mid-way mark, that I can still enjoy the things that I like to do but spend more quality time with her. I still seem to be afraid to give up those things that I enjoy (and that she doesn't want to do with me). So I'm not quite there yet but I'm beginning to ask her out for dinner more and take off time from work to be at home. I'm willing to do what I have to do to keep our relationship in balance.

My Higher Power continues to hold me accountable for my emotions and actions. I used to blame my alcoholic for all of my problems, but my growing awareness won't let me. Instead I have to take responsibility for my part.

Maybe we both are grieving the old way of life where I was always available to her at the expense of things that I wanted to do. I used to long for the time that she would realize how valuable I am and treat me accordingly. Now I've realized through the program that I'm much happier with myself and know my value as a person. And my guilt at keeping the focus on myself has diminished considerably. I'm going to continue to work towards balance as we meet on middle ground where we can both be comfortable.


  1. It is about finding the balance. You have written an excellent post on the give & take of a marriage. I can tell by your introspection you want to do the best for both of you.

  2. It's vital that we feed our own soul first - that way, we have sanity, serenity, and a peaceful spirit. This makes us more attractive as a companion. If I am feeling pressured by someone else's desires, I need to step back from them a bit. Sometimes I step back too far, or for too long, because I fear going back to turmoil, or I fear losing myself in that old dance of advance-retreat games.
    I strive for balance in all things, including intimacy balanced against my time alone. There are times when the only way I can truly find middle ground, is by examining my own motives - why am I refusing an invitation for closeness? Is it because I am tired, and have nothing to give, or is it fear-driven? If the latter, perhaps I can change my reply to the affirmative, and allow the other person to move closer.

  3. I'm finding balance is a hard place to get to. It's something I'm constantly working on.

  4. Blimey thats sounds complicated, you know i have never been in a relationship sober, so its hard to really think about applying it and having a relationship at the same time.
    Well I am sat here in my bedroom at home listening to the "Drugs Dont Work" by the verve, i feel really at peace with myself and the world.
    dare i say it feels "exciting" now! is that selfish, I still help who I can at work with CVs, I was listening to these "liberate your mind" podcasts the other night and it was really intrigueing.
    one was sheldrake on about AA and morphogenetic fields, saying the group gets its own field and could be considdered an intellegence in its own right.
    It really intrigued me, brought a lot of light on my world since then ive felt better.
    God syd im going on a bit, see u later

  5. I'm with everyone else, balance is the key.
    In early sobriety I was so angry, angry, angry. I had spent my entire life hiding my emotions and turning my anger inward. I had been at the "don't express emotions" extreme and was told by someone I trusted that it was very common for the pendulum to then swing way out to the other extreme and that over time it would return to a midpoint. It did.
    Life is good in the balanced area. It just take some time to get there.
    Patience and Persistence!

  6. The road gets narrow and requires more attention sometimes.

  7. To me balance and meeting in the middle is what relationships and life are all about. Good post.

  8. Oh, the greatness of that most elusive positionless place: BALANCE!

    We love it, we seek it, we find it, and that is our goal here in living the promised good life.

    It only takes Twelve Steps! (And Twelve Traditions?)

  9. How about bookmarking one night per week just for the 2 of you. Same night every week. Kind of a date.

  10. I find that kind of balance hard in certain situations. For example with this friend I am having difficulty with, I would like to find a middle ground. But with me I am either totally in or totally out and turned off.

    My best girlfriend (a different one) is the same way. We both grew up in alcoholic homes.....possible connection?

  11. I know the person who took that picture.

  12. Yes, it was from a famous group of photos taken by Mick Rock. I've always liked his work and wished that I had bought the book with his photos.

  13. Syd,I have much the same problem as you do. I spent alot of time being "available" for my spouse and his issues...then withdrew and drank over them...and now in recovery and taking care of myself I am trying to re-balance the relationship between my AA activities; my own personal activities and finding time for couple activities. Not easy.

  14. The hardest thing for me to understand was that my husbands recovery was all about him - and mine was all about me - it is difficult after living your life for so long in somone else's shadow to finally realize you can have your own things going on and it does not dimish the relationship at all - Thanks for posting about this - Cat

  15. I don't know, Syd. It sounds like you spend a lot of time away from each other. I can see why she may feel the way she does. I am sure my husband may be feeling the way your wife does right now though he never says so. I spend a lot of time away from our home between school, work and my children/grandchildrenand when I am at home I am either in a book, doing chores or sleeping. Your post made me realize that I need to put some time aside for him too. Bill was never married nor had any children before he met me and now he not only has inherited a wife but her kids/grandkids and all the stuff that comes with it. The man is clearly a saint.


Let me know what you think. I like reading what you have to say.