Sober but Still Self-Centered
For we never came with words of flattery, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed—God is witness. Nor did we seek glory from people, whether from you or from others, though we could have made demands as apostles of Christ. 1 Thessalonians 2:5-6
Addiction is a selfish disease. In our addictions, we make decisions based solely on what we want. Rarely do we think of how our actions may affect others. To be fair, we rarely think how our actions will affect us later. We’re often incapable of seeing beyond our impulsive need for immediate gratification. Our appetite demands and we respond. When we get sober, others hope that our selfishness is gone, but often, they find that our drugs or alcohol were only a symptom of the underlying selfishness, which still exists. And so, for those of us who’ve struggled with addiction, recovery means seeking a life of selflessness – of thinking of others more and of ourselves less.
This isn’t automatic though. Seven years into recovery, and I still struggle with selfishness. When I get up in the morning, it takes a conscious effort to point my life at God. It simply isn’t natural. I’m afraid that even though I can become less selfish, there will always be a part of me that wants to do everything my way. Even when I do good things, my self-centeredness finds a way to creep in.
When I volunteer or practice addiction medicine in jail, there’s a part of me that desires recognition for it. When I write a blog about faith and recovery, there’s a part of me that isn’t happy that it just reaches those in my social circle. I want it to go viral, spreading across the world. In publishing a book, I hope that it becomes a best-seller. Why do I desire these things? I do want to spread the message, but if I’m honest, I must admit that I get something out of success and affirmation. I don’t crave fame, but I’d gladly take commercial success and money.
In today’s passage, Paul said that he didn’t come to the Thessalonians seeking riches or glory. He came to them because he genuinely loved them and desired to bring them the message of the gospel. He knew he could have used his authority for his own advancement, but his only interest was sharing the love and truth of Christ.
This is something of which I must daily remind myself as I write this blog. Walking by faith and living in recovery means that I must continually recognize and reject my selfish nature. As God has saved me from the disaster of myself, my life is now meant to point others to him, not to me.