“I felt bad that I had worried them like that, but in my self-centeredness it had simply never occurred to me that they cared that much.” (Alcoholics Anonymous, 445)
Addicts are plagued simultaneously by an inferiority complex and a superiority complex. Though these defective personality traits seem like opposite sides of one coin, they aren’t. Here’s why: in either case, the individual is embracing an extremist, exclusive position—he or she is either the best and the greatest or the lowest and the worst.
Rather than taking a position of being one among many with some good qualities and some negative traits as well, the addict sets himself apart—no one can understand him because he is too low, too depraved or too far beyond help. He believes that no one cares about him and so it doesn’t really matter what he does. On the other hand, he may see himself as beyond reproach, smarter than everyone else, and again, beyond help, because he is too complex or superior to be understood or aided by the rest of us mere mortals.
Identity Of Delusion In Addiction
Recovery is an exercise in ego reduction. We no longer get to claim the status of “best” or “worst” and for many this presents a real challenge. We are used to holding a privileged, set-apart position, even if it is the very last rung of the ladder. We have built our identity upon this delusion. We are most comfortable standing away from the group and we make excuses on account of it.
If you think you are the “master of the universe,” that everyone else is incompetent, and that most of the negative aspects of your life aren’t your fault, you probably suffer from a superiority complex. But make no mistake, this doesn’t mean you are superior; it generally means you are dreadfully afraid you aren’t. To cover deep-seated insecurities you use aggression, coercion, intimidation, manipulation, and any other coping mechanism that feeds into your illusion of power and control.
Being Addicted And Self-Centered
If you think you are the “scum of the earth,” that you have not only screwed up your own life, but everyone else’s, and that no one really cares about you anyway, you may be suffering from an inferiority complex. You refuse to recognize that you are a human being with dignity, that you are worthy of respect and consideration. You are afraid of being judged or of asserting yourself because you are constantly wallowing in your unworthiness. You play the victim and assume blame that isn’t yours. Though outwardly meek, you hide a deep layer of resentment and grudges, the evidence of which often emerges through passive aggression.
The root of both is pride and self-centeredness. We lack the empathy to see into the lives of others and to understand our place among them. We don’t look at others and recognize their gifts, nor are we able to comprehend their struggles or weaknesses. We see only ourselves and the assumptions we make about the rest of the world.
Isolation In Addiction
As a result, we isolated ourselves. We never felt as if we fit in and after a while we stopped trying. We didn’t assume that anyone cared too much anyway. Since no one was good enough or we weren’t good enough for anyone, we created our own little island where we could be with our unique self and our drug of choice. It was lonely, but relationships seemed impossible. Alcohol was the safe companion, until we realized it was killing us body and soul.
Growth And Freedom In Recovery
As you get sober, you begin to see the world and yourself with fresh eyes. You see that you are designed for more than a lonely, alcoholic death. Your personal growth and well-being become a priority. And as you begin to know yourself and care about yourself, you also see that the people around you care for you genuinely as well. Instead of disregarding or distrusting their care, you embrace it. Relationships form.
As you allow bonds to deepen among Program friends and maybe even your family, you no longer feel like an isolated island. You begin to see that as people we are interconnected—through families, fellowships, and groups of like-minded friends and individuals. You begin to see yourself as a part of these groups and networks. Instead of feeling fear and anxiety about forming connections to others, you can see how these relationships and partnerships can be a great source of strength, comfort and security.
And you are no longer fighting to be the best or fearing you are the worst. You take your place among the group with a “shoulder-to-shoulder” stance. You honor your strengths and don’t hide from your weaknesses. You are seeing yourself authentically and you are letting others see you that way as well. There is no longer the fear of rejection that drove us into the corner. We accept ourselves as we are, one among our fellows, no better or worse than anyone else, and worthy of being a part of the gang.