"Does Narcissism Go Away In Recovery?" Comment/Response
Hello Charlie. I truly love and admire your work, and so appreciate all of your efforts and dedication to yourself, your family and God (maybe not in that order...but you know what I mean ;))
I have been reading your blog for a while, as I have been a member of alanon for a few years, but have struggled with this idea that alcoholism is a "disease" and that we should have "compassion and understanding" for they know not what they do. Huh? I'm sorry, but I don't believe that.
All that aside, my question is about alcoholism and narcissism. I understand you likely can't have one without the other, but do you feel, or have you witnessed perhaps in yourself and others, that once recovery is found narcissism is completely removed from them? Or do you believe it may already be a personality disorder, and the compulsion to use is because narcissists loathe themselves so much that they use it to self medicate?
Just curious. Would love to hear your thoughts on this :)
Thank you, Charlie.
Be well and keep writing!
Hey thanks, although I'm afraid you're much too generous, as my failures and mistakes pile up with some frequency.
In a nutshell, yes, if an addict engages in rigorous, comprehensive, spiritual recovery and other-centered action, then the narcissism and/or other mental illness, whether situational/drug-induced or preexisting, can be significantly reduced, if not vanquished altogether. In other words, both are simply varying byproducts of the same core problem. Underlying both addiction and narcissism is spiritual malady, and thus lifelong commitment to spiritual growth and a willingness to do anything it takes to grow and change can alleviate either/both. This is why the Steps actually work, because the solution is comprehensive. The process is meant to change the person, the core, not merely address symptoms of addiction and so on. And of course, the power of God can do anything. As far as narcissism leading to drug use etc., we'll get into that and other stuff below.
More importantly, yeah, you don't believe what you heard in al-anon because it is bullshit. We know when we hear bullshit because we can feel it. Most of us have a gut conscience, and we know when something just doesn't feel right or when the reasoning or rationale behind it is off. Whenever we hear bullshit, propaganda or just plain nonsense, a bell should go off, and if it doesn't, then we may have become programmed or worse, as besides drugs, indoctrination or severe mental illness are perhaps the only things strong enough to blot out the conscience and the rational, clear, sane mind. External power, though an illusion subject to the power of suggestion and the gullibility of the masses, may also do the trick.
"They know what what they do?" We know exactly what we're doing. We know we're using drugs and we know it's wrong. I used to get down on my knees every night after getting jammed out of my fucking mind all day and say to myself, "God, forgive me for this sin. Forgive me for what I'm doing to my family." It was a selfish, hollow prayer, but you see the point. Using the disease model to excuse, rationalize and even justify our behavior is outrageous. When did the Snowflake State get this out of control?
I've written about this to some extent in older posts such as "Narcissism In Recovery," and of course, "Elements of a Narcissist & the Victim Mentality," which deals with the delusion of victimhood and covers some of the elements of narcissism. I may paraphrase from these a bit below and try to expand on stuff as well...
I'm not so sure that narcissism is ever completely removed from an addict, lol... but we can absolutely reduce it to the extent that it's no longer clinical. An addict who has dug deep, become brutally honest with himself/others and has induced a psychic change, as it were, certainly becomes less narcissistic. However, narcissism is a powerful trait or character flaw, and one that we addicts sometimes carry far into recovery. Needless to say, poor effort or flat out ineptness when writing our inventory certainly doesn't help matters. One of the more surface or easily visible examples of this is when the addict continues to hold the external world responsible for how he or she feels or for what is happening or not happening in their lives. So you may hear stuff like...
"If only my spouse would do some work on herself, I'd be much better spiritually."
"If my boss was only there when I went to make an amends, I'd be okay right now. And I'm crossing him off the list because I tried to go."
"If only my family would change, too, I wouldn't be so RID-full and feel like using again. I know I was an addict and stuff, but they are such assholes about it and my mom is so passive-aggressive."
"If people would only forgive me, my depression would be gone by now. Don't they know I'm trying to do the right thing?" Um, why should they care? Remember it was you who wronged them and your amends isn't about you, it's for them.
"Well, I'm doing pretty good but since my job sucks, I can't make my financial amends, and because all the other jobs out there suck and the economy sucks, I may have no choice but to stiff them, and then if I relapse, it's not my fault."
"I was doing well but because of global warming and Trump and guns and micro-aggressions like the Starbucks Christmas season coffee cups, I am just too angry and offended to go to a meeting. Plus I can't get out of my house because there's 3 feet of snow blocking the door and the guy didn't show up and I can't shovel that much and it's -10 degrees out."
You get the picture. Because we have been so filled to the brim with pride and arrogance, we cannot see the truth that nothing outside of us is responsible for how we feel or for what happens to us. Our self-centered frame of mind tells us that even our recovery is dependent on the outside world.
Narcissism occurs when we begin to perceive ourselves to be an extension of everyone else, and as such, we falsely believe our feelings to be dependent on what happens externally. In plain English, we blame others for how we feel, which is delusional. By the way, it is also narcissistic when I start thinking others should think or feel the same way I do about something (so feel free to disagree ;-) and sadly, this rigidity and particular aspect of the mental disorder we see not only in addicts but it has become a central characteristic and intellectual requirement of liberalism, so we're now talking about millions and millions of people. Scary.
But the point is that knowing all about our flaws is completely useless if we don't cleanse ourselves properly via inventory etc. so that the work we do actually works. This is why therapy is often useless. Talking, reading and studying doesn't change people. Action does. So if our recovery is dependent on what's taking place outside of ourselves, we aren't really engaging in recovery, as recovery itself is both the identification and active removal of our narcissism through service or selfless action.
As far as preexisting narcissism goes, it certainly may be the case that an individual's NPD may lead to drug use. Younger narcissists and true sociopaths (severe NPD cannot be cured, baring a miracle, whereas narcissism that is more situational or drug-induced can be undone) are especially delusional, believing they are invincible and have the right to do as they please and everybody else must conform or go to hell. So yes, a narcissist may be so damaged that he or she begins drinking or using drugs to alleviate or cloak the self-hatred. These types of narcissists will not admit they despise themselves and thus using may become an outgrowth of such a significant denial.
That said, a walking pity pot who openly admits, whines and complains about how miserable they are is also narcissistic. I have to say, there isn't much less attractive than a blood-sucking pity pot or an arrogant, Holier Than Thou, self-righteous, virtue-signaling asshole who believes he knows everything and all those who disagree must be mentally retarded. Generally, you see that kind of attitude in those who are themselves quite stunted intellectually. They lack a connection to reality, a connection to life and to God that allows them to gain true knowledge, and more importantly, wisdom.
So when a preexisting narcissist begins to use, it certainly amplifies the symptoms, sometimes exponentially. I had a narcissistic in-law who literally went off the deep end when drinking. The wrath, ruthlessness and cruelty went into overdrive. And sure anyone who becomes an addict must also become a narcissist, but I think ultimately some degree of narcissism is there to begin with, as the process of becoming an addict is an act of pure selfishness and immaturity. It is the behavior of someone who believes they suffer more than others, that their lives are tougher, that their feelings are tougher, that nobody understands, that they are somehow unique and special and different from all the rest.
That is, of course, delusional, but nonetheless, these are the sorts of beliefs that precede and fuel the growth of an addict. And when someone feels this way, the belief is necessarily accompanied by a lack of connection and understanding of others. The belief that we are special and that nobody suffers or feels the way we do has to be proportionately accompanied by the inability to see others, to hear others, to listen to others, to understand others, to step into their shoes and so forth... and that is, of course, narcissistic.
To note, anyone you see today who refuses to hear or understand the other side is pretty much a narcissist, so don't be fooled by the wrapping paper and the signs, even thought most of the signs are generally incoherent, explicit and rude. Those who preach the loudest about tolerance and love and social justice and equality and intellect tend to be the most intolerant, hateful, unjust, partial and dumbest people out there. Behind the lofty, conceited, patronizing attitude is a sort of cognitive vacuum, let alone the scorn and contemptuousness. And then underneath that is self-hatred and insecurity. Those who preach the loudest usually don't know what they're talking about and are not secure in what they believe. Those who are truly tolerant are just tolerant. They don't scream angrily. They are quiet about it because there is no need not to be as it is simply who they are. Good, decent people are generally the quietest. They don't whine and scream and judge and attack and project. They are too busy going to work, taking care of their families, enjoying life and so forth.
Not to get too ethereal or whatever, but this is indeed how the devil is supposed to work, to brainwash people by cloaking himself in "peace and love" etc. but in a dark and manipulative way as to effect division, hatred, depravity, deviance, confusion, selfishness and of course, a full-on hatred of God. You hear the words fascism and racism being thrown around a lot today, but true fascists and racists call everyone who disagrees with them a fascist or a racist. Free speech and free expression only applies to them and all the rest must conform or be smeared, hated, attacked, isolated and despised. Ring any bells? They are tyrants. It's called projection, masking hatred. They also have no clue what they are talking about, but that's a whole other subject. When you are historically, economically and scientifically illiterate, have no argument and no facts, you just shout "racist."
Narcissists are never satisfied with anything. They make demands and as soon as they get what they want, they are immediately disappointed and demand something else. They falsely believe that when they get what they want it will somehow change how they feel. The pretend to be victims. They think that the totality their woes and feelings are dependent on the outside world, on others doing, thinking and speaking as they say. It truly is mental, isn't it?
Happy Easter! God Is Good.
Oh, if saying Happy Easter offends anyone or you think saying Happy Easter is a micro-aggression, please seek psychological help 😂
P.S. Many read this blog but only a few comment. Totally cool, of course, but please don't be shy, as the comments, especially those more colorful with your thoughts, ideas and questions are great because they give me something focused to write about. After so many posts and so little free time, I'm sometimes at a loss ;-)