How Selfishness Transformed to Selflessness in Sobriety

“…to have a crisis and act upon it is one thing. To dwell in perpetual crisis is another.” –Barbara Grizzuti Harrison

Being raised in an affluent area by parents who showed their love by doling out money and material goods, I was a young adult with a major attitude. I never really learned to take care of myself since I always got what I wanted, when I wanted it.

Bratty and Unhappy

I achieved this by being a Drama Queen. I had learned early on in life that the squeaky wheel gets the oil. If I fussed loud and long enough the parental “NO!” would always become a, “Yes.” Even as an adult, I was fully capable of throwing major temper tantrums.

I turned every uncomfortable nuance in my life into a full-fledged trauma. if I couldn’t find my yellow sweater, the whole neighborhood knew about it. And damn if the entire family didn’t come running to fix it. Keeping Katie happy was everyone’s responsibility.

I believe, looking back, that this dysfunction had a part in my addictions. If I didn’t want to feel an uncomfortable emotion, I could always rid myself of that discomfort with alcoholic and prescription pain medications. The more, the better.

A Rude Awakening

My using quickly got out of control and I found through experience that rehab did not play by my rules. I was not the princess to be pampered at a moment’s notice. In fact, I was no more important or regaled than any other client.

Of course I was not happy about that and I got that journey started on the wrong foot.

“Katie,” stated a counselor, “You are not the be all and end all here. You are one of a group and you must start to make adjustments in your interactions with others. You are here to get sober, not to be catered to. You are no better or worse than any other person here.”

Old Habits Die Hard

That stung, but over time I realized that my well-being depended on learning some humility. And boy was that a struggle.

It was not smooth sailing and I often found that others distanced themselves from me. They were not being unkind, but they were here to work diligently at getting sober, not to be irritated by a spoiled brat.

Feeling both isolated and lonely, I turned to one lady who mercifully tolerated me. Her companionship was my life vest in the tidal wave I had created.

We talked and shared and she helped me to see the difference between a true crisis and my silly manufactured ones.

One day it struck me that I had but one true problem; I am an addict, self-medicating my pain. That pain was centered on being abused as a young girl and on my predisposition to feel anxious and depressed.

That pain had to be allowed to surface. As scary as it was, if I wanted to make any headway in sobriety, I had to find a way to deal with it productively.

Finding Virtues in Sobriety

Learning to listen to others and becoming empathetic to each individual’s plight was a slow but blessedly steady process. I came to the conclusion that we all have equally important issues and that we all need to be supportive of one another.

My propensity toward feeling sorry for myself and to expect that fellow clients should kowtow to my every whim was replaced by a decent nature coupled with the increasing daily desire to stay sober.

Sixteen years have passed and I can say that humility, patience and tolerance are now a regular part of my life. I respond to a crisis with courage and a clear mind. Fortunately, I have experienced only a few.

There have been many changes since my former life as a Drama Queen. Today, I am a sober woman who gains peace of mind and confidence by being of service to others rather than demanding they serve me.

Author: Katie Hiener is a writer, recovering addict, and mother based in Connecticut.