Call it what you will: Narcissism. Selfishness. Ego. We’re all a little full of ourselves. But people like me are worse than others. It’s a shameful thing, but it’s the truth.
People with addictive tendencies tend to be the most selfish souls alive.
And that’s why we have Step 3 in the 12 Steps of Recovery: “Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.”
This is all about doing something about the addict’s overwhelming desire to control everything. It also applies to people suffering from a variety of mental illnesses, including OCD, the one that plagues me.
At a Big Book step study meeting I went to last night, the speaker talked about this in language I won’t soon forget. He described himself as a “rebel without guts,” the guy who talks tough but lacks the balls to BE tough. He also described selfishness as a terminal illness.
Selfishness hasn’t killed me yet. But I’ve lost friends and family over it along the way.
It all comes back to the need to control everything and everyone around me. I want everything to go my way, and when it doesn’t my world comes crashing down. If the day doesn’t unfold exactly as I planned it, the day is ruined. Someone took my parking space? The restaurant didn’t have the ranch dressing I planned to have on my salad? That was it.
That’s how it is with everything when you’re a control freak. The obsession with control and self-fulfillment also leaves you feeling adrift and anxious when things are going relatively well for you.
That’s how it used to be with me, anyway.
People like us crave control like a junkie craves a shot of smack to the arm. It grabs us by the nose and drags us down the road until our emotions are raw and bleeding.
That’s why I used to be such an asshole at The Eagle-Tribune. Every story I edited then went through three more editors and then to the page designer. Along the way, everyone after me had to take a whack at it. I’d hover over the page designers because it was the closest thing I had to control. Ultimate control would have meant laying out the pages myself. That would have been a stupid thing to do, mind you. I couldn’t lay out a news page to save my life.
When I was the assistant news editor for the paper’s New Hampshire editions, I was out a week when my son Sean was born. I came in one night to catch up on e-mail and saw the message where my boss announced my son’s birth. In it, he joked that I probably stood over the doctor and told him how to deliver the baby.
I wanted to punch him. I saw red. Because I knew how close it cut to the truth.
The control freak has emerged in a variety of other ways over the years. Getting stuck in traffic would send me into a rage because all I could do is sit and wait. Getting on a plane filled me with dread because I could only sit there and wait. There was the fear that the plane might crash. But the bigger problem for me was that i was at the mercy of the pilots, the air traffic and the weather. I had no control over the schedule, and that incensed me.
I still get this way sometimes, but I’ve tried hard to take Step 3 to heart, turning my will over to God and trusting Him to push me in the right direction.
When I do that, I never fail. It always works out.
People think surrender means quit. That’s as far from the truth as you can get.
For people like me, you don’t start to experience victory until you surrender. It sounds crazy, but I’ve lived it.
Part 4 in a series. Here are the previous posts: