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This is a selfish program

I other day I was at a meeting when I heard someone say, "I not working with anyone. I need to work on me. I need to take care my sobriety, my health, my needs, afterall this is a selfish program."

But what does our Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous say about that?

Page 20, paragraph 1:

"Our very lives, as ex-problem drinkers depend upon our constant thought of others and how we may help meet their needs."

Page 97, paragraph 2:

"Helping others is the foundation stone of your recovery. A kindly act once in a while isn't enough. You have to act the Good Samaritan every day, if need be. It may mean the loss of many nights' sleep, great interference with your pleasures, interruptions to your business. It may mean sharing your money and your home, counseling frantic wives and relatives, innumerable trips to police courts, sanitariums, hospitals, jails and asylums. Your telephone may jangle at any time of the day or night. "

Page 14-15:

"For if an alcoholic failed to perfect and enlarge his spiritual life through work and self-sacrifice for others, he could not survive the certain trials and low spots ahead."

Page 62, paragraph 2:

"Selfishness, self-centeredness! That, we think, is the root of our troubles."

Page 62, paragraph 3:

"So our troubles, we think, are basically of our own making. They arise out of ourselves, and the alcoholic is an extreme example of self-will run riot, though he usually doesn't think so. Above everything, we alcoholics must be rid of this selfishness. We must, or it kill us!"

I always remember when I hear someone say, "This a selfish program", the words from the Joe and Charlie steps series:

"When I take care of God's business, God takes care of me."

For years I tried to stay sober and clean on my will power and my need to stop and could not. It was not until I started putting the needs of others ahead my own that things changed. When I focus my energy on helping the other person stay sober, God takes care of my sobriety. It took a tremendous leap of faith to practice this principle but, for many years now this has been my experience.


5 Responses

  1. Nik says:

    Whoever made the statement that they were not helping others because they need to help themselves did not understand the program but they were correct is the statement that “This a selfish program!”. Basically we need to help others to maintain our own sobriety so we are not selfless in helping others but rather selfish because if we fail to help others, we drink and eventually die. It’s kind of like someone putting a gun to your head and saying that if you don’t help someone every day, I’m going to shoot you. So when you help someone is that act selfish or selfless? Even if you truly want to help people and you would do it anyways then it is, at it’s best both a selfless act and a selfish act because you are still doing it in part to save yourself. But it could also be argued that if you are doing something that you want to do, like helping others, then you are getting something from doing it and thus it is, in part, a selfish act even if the gain is simply feeling good for helping someone.

  2. Michael Shepard says:

    My judgment of the selfishmess/selflessness continuum is based on whether I want to stay alive or not. I do not know if I was born one or if the behavioral environment shaped me into one. What matters is for me to stay away from alcohol at all costs. Therefore, if another alcoholic drinks, I am in a dangerous predicament. Ultimately, I keep myself sober. If anyone gets/wants credit, it is God himself.

    Calling it a selfish program is not wrong. Or right. However, if I am behaving selfishly, natural consequences will happen to me.

    Persons in positions of authority suggested AA attendance for good reason. I was a social problem without regard for others.

    One promise states “we will lose interest in self and gain interest in others”.

    This is the natural, positive consequence occurring as part of working with others.

  3. Angeline Moran says:

    Here is what Bill W. had to say on the subject.

    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. Without salvation — however we may define this — he will have little or nothing. For us if A.A., there is even more urgency.

    If we cannot or will not achieve sobriety, then we become truly lost, right in the here and now. We are of no value to anyone, including ourselves, until we find salvation from alcohol. Therefore, our own recovery and spiritual growth have to come first– a right and necessary kind of self-concern.

    As Bill Sees It pg 81

  4. becky gant says:

    I don’t know if it’s the same for everyone, but I don’t think the things I do for others are ‘selfish’ just because they help me keep my sobriety.

    I do those things, not because of some simple equation of ‘if I don’t = I die’. I do them because of the guilt and shame that I experience, the self hate, the loneliness, the irritability/restlessness & discontent that returns within me when I am not doing things for others.

    When I am making decisions based on only what benefits me, it feels WRONG. And it is my opinion that we alcoholics are extremely sensitive to that feeling.

    So I don’t want to help others just to save my own bacon. I want to do it because it feels right. Because some innate part of me knows it wants to do that.

    And that’s the part that isn’t selfish.

  5. Otilia says:

    I do not like those words “selfish program” I tought It was a bad translation to spanish because almost every day I hear it in my group I I do not like. Why selfish??? I think we must erradicate selfishness from our lifes. An alcoholic person was not selfish when he or she become one??Sorry for my english what I want to say in Spanish is No me gustan las palabras programa egoísta, yo pensé que se trataba de una mala traducción del inglés al español porque casi diario las escucho en el grupo al que asisto y no me gusta, ¿Porqué egoísta?? Pienso que debemos erradicar el agoismo de nuestras vidas o acaso una persona que se volvió alcóholica entre otras cosas ¿no fué por egoísta??

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