"Selfishness--self-centeredness! That, we think, is the root of our troubles..."
-popular 12 step (AA, NA, et al) qoutation, from the book Alcoholics Anonymous. Also called "The Big Book".
I am here to tell you that the root of my own troubles in life were precisely the opposite: it was a profound lack of self-respect, a mental state of bizarre and crippling selflessness, that messed me over. In every moment of my past life when I committed major mistakes, the pain I endured was in direct proportion to the amount of selflessness and self-hatred I felt, and the actions I took based on those feelings.
AA had the whole thing backwards, in my case. So am I about to write a hit-piece here, criticizing AA? No. It seems strange, but AA 12 step philosophy has helped me gain insight into my mind's labryinthine channels. I'm sure others can say the same. AA taps into a deep pool of real wisdom, as well. For example, their take on humility, serving others, and daily ethical concerns (don't litter, respect others, etc) is spot on. Sage advice is always welcome, and as for humility, the first step in grasping its' value is to admit you are by no means humble at all.
What selfishness means in an AA context is what I, and others, have called irrational selfishness. The "walk on everybody you can to get ahead in life" mindset. The belief that an action is moral because I want it. This type of selfishness is not self-serving in the long run, and usually ends in deleterious consequences. Therefore, it is irrational.
Let me be clear: on the day I grasped the truth about the primary, existential need for rational selfishness, to love and respect myself, I had my drinking problem solved. And that's good news-because this absolute necessity to be rational in all things, this necessity to embrace the truth in all things, especially the self, leads people to understand themselves better. It lead me to my own understanding, and to a small, quiet, and firm belief in God. This necessity to be rational in all things is that hole inside of us, that empty, yearning feeling for truth, for total victory over our dark sides. In other words, the fountainhead of passion is the presence of God in all of us; he leads us to him in all things, and the moment we listen is the moment we are saved-from irrational selfishness, from sin, and from depravity.
Love yourself for real, and your love for others will increase. Respect others for real, and your self-respect will grow. Remember, Jesus said it is good to love others, as you love yourself.
God gave us reason for good purpose. It is the pathway to faith. Reason gets us to the bridge, faith gets us to the other side. God does indeed reward the faithful, and I am a very grateful man for that.
As for me, I have no need to seek the oblivion of drink because I woke up and accepted reality. I take care of me first, and only then, can I take care of others. And although I know that it's not about me at all, it's the vast and magnificent mind of God, I also know that I am, of necessity and by nature, personally responsible for my life and what I do with it. This is the case for rational self-interest, and an excellent cure of the need for alcoholic oblivion.