A resurgence of the ego is the bane of all recovering alcoholics and addicts. It is something that most of us have to be on the lookout for because as much as we may come into recovery humbled and willing, over an extended period of time the ego can rebuild itself, leaving us with an over-inflated sense of self.
Activities that we were willing to do in the beginning no longer hold any appeal and as the ego grows, we begin to distance ourselves from our friends, our support group, and the program that helped to save our lives. We begin to think that we got sober on our own, and that we are different from those other addicts and alcoholics, and in time, the ego in sobriety can actually cause us to go back out and relapse.
What Is Meant By The Ego in Sobriety?
It truly is an interesting phenomena how much the ego in sobriety can rebuild itself and begin to run amock—how a person who was homeless not but three months prior, now can begin to think that their work isn’t paying them enough or they’re under appreciated. Where this ego rebuilding comes from, I cannot say for certain, but it certainly is something that many people in recovery have to contend with.
However, when we use the word ego in sobriety, we are not referring to the Freudian version of the ego, which is simply the part of the personality that represents conscious decision-making, but rather we are referring to how we view ourselves. The ego, in sobriety terms, basically has a negative connotation because a person who is egotistical or whose ego is running away with itself, is seen as completely lacking the ability to accurately see themselves. They are almost incapable of being able to measure their own abilities or worth with any humility or an understanding for who they are, and they very often are seen as being somewhat delusion.
How to Deflate Your Ego in Sobriety
While ego deflation never initially feels good, because it often times requires us to let go of over exaggerated feelings we have about ourselves, in the long run it always lead to a sense of peace and overall feeling of well-being. The reason for this is because when we are living in humility, which is simply the understanding of where you really stand in life, there is no tension. There is no need to prove to yourself that you measure up because you are already aware of where you stand and you have a firm grounding of self that is based in reality.
With that said, everyone from time to time lets their ego get away from themselves and when this happens, it is good to know how you can bring your ego in sobriety back down to earth, and re-center your vision of yourself.
One of the best ways to keep your ego in check in sobriety is by surrounding yourself with people who will tell you the truth. If you have a good group of friends who will not let you “get too big for your britches” then you will be less apt to let your ego take control of your thought life. Good friends will always be there to support and love you, but they will also tell you the truth when you need to hear it. They will help cut you back down to size if you get ahead of yourself and they will be able to remind you who you truly are if you start to forget.
Another way to keep your ego in check is by doing a daily inventory. While a daily inventory can be tiresome after some time in recovery, it is one the best ways to avoid letting your ego get too big. The act of an inventory serves two purposes really. First, by writing out the events of your day, you allow your brain to slow down because writing actually slows down your thought process. This allows you to reflect on your thoughts and check in with where they are at. If your thoughts are swinging wildly around, then during your inventory you will be able to identify this. Second, the inventory allows you to see yourself accurately and by seeing yourself accurately, you do not give your ego the chance to recharge and try to take over again.
The Ego In Reverse
Something that is not often talked about in the rooms of recovery is the fact that many people in sobriety are way too hard on themselves. They, when writing out their inventory, will go over everything they did with a fine tooth comb looking for anything to chastise themselves with. This is partly because of the atmosphere of self-reflection that is created in recovery, and partly because most of us are people of extremes. We do not understand the meaning of the word balance and so when we reflect on ourselves, and when we attempt to keep our ego in check, we do so to such a degree that is counterproductive and is actually just the ego attacking from a different angle.
It may sound confusing but being too hard on yourself, or thinking you are the worst person in the world, is really just ego. It’s basically your way of telling yourself that you are better or worse than you think. It is a way to not be content with who you currently are, and that is essentially what the goal of the ego is. The ego seeks to keep you in a state of flux, where you are not comfortable in your own skin and so you are either boasting about how wonderful you are, or lamenting on how terrible you are.
So if you find that you are battling your ego in sobriety, don’t worry, every one of us has, and will continue to for the rest of our lives. Becoming self-realized is a lifelong process and there will always be ebbs and flows—periods where we think we are too good for our surroundings, and periods where we think we are just awful. As long as you continue to stay conscious of these thoughts patterns, you will be alright in the end, and your sobriety will flourish.