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Humility in recovery

The 7th step in Alcoholics Anonymous — “Humbly asked him to remove our shortcomings” — proved hardest for Jason, a recovering addict, alcoholic and compulsive gambler.

At 42 years old, Jason is today a fierce believer in a higher power, something he admits was an idea lost to him from early childhood.

“I grew up in a Christian household,” he admits, “but God wasn’t something to respect… He was something that was used against us as a fearful being. If we were good, God didn’t notice. If we were bad, we were going to hell. When bad things happened, it’s because God was punishing us.”

When Jason’s parents divorced at the age of five, his mother remarried quickly. Jason’s stepfather was at once a devout Christian and a violent alcoholic — he flew into rages quickly and regularly, taking a strap to Jason’s tiny body or whipping a heavy, leather-bound bible at it. For ten years, Jason endured abuse at the hands of his stepfather, until he was expelled from his home and left to live on the streets. For years, he bounced from neighbourhood to neighbourhood, house to house, struggling to find true friendship, recovery and light.

Decades later, nearly dying from the darkness of those streets and Jason’s insatiable appetite for drugs and gambling, he stumbled into the doors of a small Christian parish.

“I believe with all my heart this was God’s work,” says Jason. “I had no reason, and I have no recollection, of why or how I landed in that church, but there was an NA meeting going on that day. I don’t know why, but I just started crying. This man who was sitting near the door got up and hugged me, and he said to me, ‘I hear you, brother. I hear you.’”

“I’ve been in recovery ever since.”

Jason admits no part of his recovery, or the 12 steps, has been easy, but it was when he landed on the seventh step that he suddenly felt stuck.

Experts say that this isn’t uncommon. Humility is often misunderstood by recovering addicts to be a sign of weakness; humility, for many, is another word for humiliation or weakness.

But the truth is that humility is in fact not weakness or humiliation at all.

For recovering addicts, humility is a necessity — it is learning how to become modest, respectful and willing to accept one’s imperfections. The opposite of arrogance, humility allows people to avoid conflict or arguments with others, and to a degree, conflict within themselves. To be humble means to accept that we have limitations and weaknesses. It comes as a surprise to many that actually accepting those shortcomings means we are just that much more able to understand that we also have strengths.

Humility isn’t about shrinking into thin air, or allowing ourselves to feel small and shameful over our past. Humility isn’t being a doormat, a loser or a pathetic human being. Quite the opposite, actually — to be humble means that we are able to look at our past, accept we’ve been wrong, and understand that our future is in our hands. When we’re humble, we’re respectful — and that means we’re capable of a future that may not be perfect, but definitely bright and full of promise.

Some recovering addicts are hesitant to accept humility because they already suffer from low-self esteem, and they feel as though humility makes them that much smaller. Not so, argues Jason.

“Arrogance isn’t real,” shares Jason. “That’s what I’ve learned. When I was in active addiction, I was so cocky. But it was just a defense mechanism. It was a way to hide what I truly felt, which was that I hated myself.

“And the more I hated myself, the longer I hated myself, the more trapped I was.

“When I shed that arrogance and adopted humility — and trust me, it took a long time — that’s when I started really healing.”

Therapists agree; when people are arrogant as opposed to humble, they believe they have it all figured out. Believing they have all the answers to life’s great problems stops them from recovery because they’re not open to anything new. When the recovering addict is capable of getting out from behind this dangerous defense mechanism, he or she can eliminate the misery that keeps them stuck in the cycle of addiction.

What are the benefits of humility in recovery?

When we practice humility in recovery, we discover a wealth of benefits to our wellbeing and our journey toward health. Here are some of those benefits:

We will learn. When we’re humble, we’re open to asking questions — about ourselves, about others, about recovery, and about healing. When we are willing to ask difficult questions, we’ll be open to the answers we need to truly heal.

We will become less likely to relapse. When we are humble, we recognize that we were powerless over the addiction. Humility means we’re more likely to lean on our support system and ensure we’re on track with maintaining the skills we learned in therapy.

We will have a stronger network of healthy people around us. Humble people are appreciated — it’s easier to be around those are humble rather than people who are arrogant. A humble person’s modesty and sense of respect means that they are unlikely to get into conflict or argument with anyone around them. It also means that we’ll feel safer around healthy people, and healthy people will feel safer around us.

We will be less stressed. For those in recovery, stress comes when we’re tempted — and temptation arises when we feel as though we’ve got everything and everyone within our control. Humility reminds us that we could not control the addiction then and we can’t control it now. What we can control is our recovery.

If you’re looking for more information on humility and recovery, and are seeking the guidance of a highly qualified therapist who specializes in addiction, visit us at www.cedarscobblehill.com.

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Specializing in the treatment of alcohol and drug addiction, Cedars at Cobble Hill also provide treatment for other process addictions including eating disorders and gambling.