Ego Death

Ego Death

February 29, 2024

By Andy F

Categories: Untreated Alcoholism

A defiant newcomer

“Defiance is an outstanding characteristic of many an alcoholic.”

12&12 ‘Step Two’ p.31

I loved AA from my first meeting. I had finally come home. Here was the family I never had as a child growing up. Although I loved the fellowship aspect, there was a lot about AA I didn’t like. In my fear and arrogance, I outright rejected certain things about the program.

I couldn’t understand what some kind of God or higher power had to do with not drinking. Why did step four of AA’s twelve steps suggest I make “a searching and fearless moral inventory” of myself? All those people I believed had hurt me needed to take a moral inventory, not me! Perhaps, then, the world would become a better place. 

When I first saw step eight, I was offended. The idea that I needed to make amends to anyone was ridiculous. In my victim mindset, it was me that all those people should be making amends to, not the other way around! I was also very cynical about sponsorship. Was I expected to trust my life to another drunk? 

Running the show

Of course, believing myself to be clever, I had great faith in the power of my intelligence. I had survived twenty years of drinking, hadn’t I? Being an ex-street drunk, I had developed some sophisticated street credibility. As if being a homeless person was something to be proud of. In my mind, sponsors were not qualified to deal with a unique case like mine! A trained psychotherapist was the way forward.

So it was that I embarked on my recovery journey with a complete toolkit of “old ideas.” (BB p.58) As a newcomer, I was interested in instantaneously finding effective ways to bolster my low self-esteem and to medicate feelings of emptiness, loneliness, depression, and anxiety. 

Ego-driven higher powers

As I have already mentioned, I wasn’t interested in any spiritual higher powers at the time. All I wanted was an external fix to help me feel better. I instinctively knew what would work to provide me with superficial and instant happiness. Sex, power, and money became the three higher powers that I began to worship. They all worked just fine, at least temporarily, anyway!

My mission in life was to pursue instant gratification, praise, validation, and approval. In recovery, I felt driven to follow what I saw as a socially acceptable career path. I was desperate to gain the admiration and envy of my friends. There was only one thing I didn’t consider when listening to the ranting of my ego. Eventually, losing these things created so much stress and anxiety that I kept reaching for a drink for relief.

The wet and dry drunk shuffle

For the next thirteen years, the sober life I was trying to build in AA was a catalog of relapse, misery, and failure. No matter how much determination I applied to realizing my dreams, everything I set my mind to would sooner or later collapse in failure.

Every single romantic relationship I tried would end in bitter disappointment and often in relapse. Because my track record of relationships was so disastrous, I quickly found solace in sex addiction.

 “The primary fact we fail to recognize is our total inability to form a true partnership with another human being.”

12&12 p. 53

The maladapted alcoholic ego

No one can accuse me of being weak when I was chasing sex, power, and money. My alcoholic ego was like a dog with a bone. I pursued the things I thought would bring me money, prestige, and power.

The best of my “old ideas” would fail to bring me the things I fought to obtain. Gradually, I began to think that suicide might be the best way forward.

 “Some of us tried to hold onto our old ideas, and the result was nil till we let go absolutely.”

(BB ‘Chapter Five’ p. 58)

Finally, after so many years of sponsoring myself in AA, I arrived at the “jumping-off place.” I couldn’t go on anymore. I came into AA to get sober and create what I thought would be a happy and successful life. The truth was that everything I touched turned into a disaster.

A drink was the only medicine I knew to mitigate the pain of the catalog of failures I had created since my arrival in the fellowship. At meetings, people were saying that recovery was an inside job. Was it true?

 “He was at the jumping-off place. He will wish for the end.”

(BB ‘A Vision for You’ p.152)

Ego Collapse

I remember the day my ego collapsed as if it were yesterday. It was a painful experience, but it eventually led to a complete, happy, and meaningful sobriety. 

Of all places, it happened in a step-one meeting. Here I was, counting days again. I went to a meeting in the West End of London. Every Sunday at 7.30 pm, we read step one from the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions.

“Who cares to admit complete defeat? Practically no one, of course.” And then in the next paragraph, “Alcohol NOW become the rapacious creditor bleeds us of all self-sufficiency……”

(12&12 ‘Step One’ p. 21)

It became clear at that moment that alcohol was still bleeding me of self-sufficiency. I suddenly realized that my very best ideas had not only failed to keep me sober but paralyzed any attempt to create a successful life. I felt like an all-time loser years after coming into recovery.

 “No other kind of bankruptcy is like this one.”

(12 x 12 ‘Step One’ p. 21

At that moment, in that step one meeting, my ego collapsed. Darkness completely overshadowed me. It was a rock bottom to end all rock bottoms!

 “How dark it is before the dawn.”

(BB ‘Bill’s story’ p.8)

The time had finally come to stop sponsoring myself. My alcoholic ego had given me such a beating that at that Step One meeting, I surrendered and became teachable for the first time in my life.

David B

I went to the Monday Pont Street meeting in Chelsea the next day. There, I knew I would find David B. I heard about his reputation for being a rigid sponsor. By this time, I had become honest enough to admit that a die-hard like me would need a strict and disciplined approach to the program. I wasn’t wrong.

David gave me an education about the alcoholic illness I am never likely to forget. Although I used to cuss him out under my breath, the man literally saved my life!

As an agnostic, he told me to make AA itself my higher power.

 “You can, if you wish, make AA itself your higher power.”

12&12 ‘Step two’ p. 27

A happy ending

The rest is history. Everything changed the day I became teachable to a sponsor’s suggestions. Since David, I have had several different sponsors. Each one of them came with their unique set of gifts. They all helped me on the road to recovery. 

As the result of the ‘ego death’ experience I had all those years ago in 1994, I have gradually found a life beyond my wildest dreams. I’m so grateful; I never quit before the miracle of recovery was also mine. I fully accept that “running the show” (BB ‘Into Action’ p. 87) of my life on self-will always ends badly. 

Following AA’s course of action is the only alternative that brings true and enduring happiness. I receive the precious gift of humility through daily surrender and service to others. As an agnostic, I am happy to call this a non-God-centered spiritual awakening.

In fellowship

Andy F

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