Selfish-stage of recovery, or pure narcissism?

I was just reading about this and it’s amazing. The growth cycle of an addict is a little different from a healthy adult. A healthy adult goes from being an infant, to a toddler, to a tween, to a teen, to a young adult and finally an adult. He or she makes it healthily through all those stages of growth. But an addict, or someone who may have been traumatized in childhood has been unable to make it through all the stages successfully. An addict, for example, may go from infant to toddler to preteen to adult, if he or she has been thrown into a position of caring for or taking responsibility for a parent. By the time that teen turns into an adult though, a reversal occurs and the addict acts out in irresponsible, immature ways. Examples of this are when we continue to casually date through our twenties, thirties, forties and onward, without the possibility of intimacy. Or, when we depend on our partner to take care of us– as if they were a parent figure. Or, when we act out in inappropriate ways–lying, cheating on a marital partner, using people, talking and worrying incessantly about our own problems, escapism, etc.

In fact, many addicts, tend to exhibit narcissistic tendencies–overly selfish behavior that is supposed to serve the self only, but rarely does.

So, when we get into recovery, it seems to call for even more narcissism. I tell people all the time, “Focus on yourself,” or “It’s all about YOU.” Those bits of advice are hugely self-centered.  So, what differentiates recovery from narcissism or egocentricity?

Well, recovery has a purpose. It is designed to give back what was lost. It is part of the process of growing up–something we never did. Many of us, in fact (and others who stay in unhealthy relationships), were denied or simply missed out on our childhood or our teen years, and so our growth was impaired to the point of needing to act out childishly in our adult lives. Recovery, therefore, allows us to selfishly live through whatever stage of growing up that we missed, so that we are able to move on to the next stage. But this  “selfish stage of recovery” is just that–a temporary stage, not meant to be the end result of recovery. Childhood doesn’t last for ever, nor should you expect to keep the focus on you, you, you for the rest of your life. And yet, we’ve all heard that we need to love ourselves first before we can love anyone else. And we’ve all heard that we need to become strong within ourselves first, before we can truly help others. True recovery (as is symbolic of the 12-Steps) makes us strong, teaches us to love ourselves and ultimately leads to mature, responsible adulthood. it is the teacher that teaches us who we are, so that we no longer need to be the student.

I could go on and on about this. If you want to learn more about the Stages of Development, read Erik Erikson‘s theory. If you take a look at his actual chart of growth, you can probably see at what stage you fell apart. Inferiority! Hello role confusion! Hello isolation!

Unsolicited advice? Get your growth on. Find out where you fell apart, what stage you may have started to take on the “unfavorable outcome” and allow yourself to linger at that stage for awhile so as to grow through it. But remember, lingering at any one stage becomes an act of narcissism, not recovery. The ultimate goal of recovery is Selflessness (NOT having no identity), which means becoming a mature adult who is able to give back to the world. And of course, you can only give back to the world when you have something to give.

22 thoughts on “Selfish-stage of recovery, or pure narcissism?

  1. I believe the most unselfish act is being selfish! OK I know that sounds strange, but when someone takes care of themselves, and does not rely on others to fulfill their needs, it allows others the energy to take care of themselves.

    So not selfish as in taking from others but not giving oneself away and choosing to control ones own life. As a recovering chaos addict, I realize I used to focus on everyone else’s needs but my own and I attempted to control their lives. I think by doing this it allowed me not to focus on the fact that my life was completely out of control!

    I hope that makes sense. Now that I have reread I am not sure if it does lol! But hopefully you will get the point.

    Great post BTW! I always love reading what you write because I completely identify with your words!


  2. So the addict needs to be selfish? What about the family members who have carried the burden? Did we get to just be selfish? i think not we had to grow up while dealing with all if it!!!

    Did anyone allow me the time i needed? Did anyone relieve of the stress so i could GO focus on myself? Addicts have it made!!! And they have all the excuses in the book to continue being selfish. Sorry but this is a load of CRAP!!


    1. buckeye,

      You bring up a FABULOUS point. Addicts are selfish. I grew up with a narcissistic alcoholic, drug addict and I HATED when he when into AA and preached that he “needed time to find” himself. I too thought that was a load a b.s. And on some level, I still do. I also thought of all the suffering he caused me and my mother and brothers. It was completely unfair. And so…that “what about me” attitude turned me into guess what? A love addict. I NEVER in a million years thought I would identify with the addict (when after all, I was the co-dependent). But it happened nonetheless. At any rate, if you read this post it’s a STAGE. Not to last forever. It’s the stage of being young again because it was robbed from us–and you’re right–to get it back again would be a luxury. But eventually, during this STAGE we need to stop blaming all the people who robbed us and who ruined our lives and start to see that if we don’t change our behavior, only WE are to blame. And it is during this selfish stage that we DO begin to feel shame, guilt and remorse.

      Lastly, whomever you are talking about sounds like a narcissist. Those “types” are a little different in that they don’t feel shame or remorse. They don’t recognize that they’ve hurt anyone. And you’re right–they are sociopathic and pretty much are a lost cause. To be avoided. Not all recovering addicts are narcissists though. Some are decent, good, loving people who have simply lost their way temporarily and are, indeed, capable of giving love and care. But enough about other people. Where do YOU fall in the spectrum?


    2. Refreshing this I’m about to give up hardest thing to do walk away … Never thought I would say it but he was a better person as an addict than he is at NA … Now he is just a selfish unrecognisable brainwashed shell of the person who meant the world to me


  3. answer… pure narcissism!!! WTF you people need help an addict will never be quote “normal”. They will go into AA and continue to feed into the narcissist they are. Let them go… they make us sick, walk out and move on. They feel on guilt, shame or remorse. I do not believe they are capable of ever truly being human. I’m sorry but I just can’t feel for give an addict an inch after the twelve years I’ve been through.


  4. I tend to agree with Buckeye. Addicts are selfish. My wife just got back from treatment and it’s all about her It will probably never end. Their program is the new addiciton. Meetings, staying clean, etc. I have to take care of me first she says. It’s just another excuse to continue the selfish life she has been living all along, except living it cleanly. NA itself becomes the additction.


    1. I so agree with you! I got involved with someone in recovery 10 years clean and he is only comfortable and interested in recovery meetings…I literally put my life on hold forever waiting on some quality time…he is also displaying typical narcissistic behaviours like manipulation, blame, control and it is impossible to have a normal relationship with him. So glad I found this forum now I know I’m a normal healthy person and it’s him who is not capable of change. The best point was them being like stuck in this perpetual me me me bubble


  5. You’re right, John. Addicts are selfish. And when they enter into recovery they become even more selfish. But only, it’s conscious this time around. Thing is, the selfish stage of recovery is not “forever.” It’s a stage, a phase. And eventually, TRUE recovery brings you to greater awareness and an ability to be more self-Less and altruistic, and ultimately, able to have a healthy relationship. If your wife is still lingering in the selfish stage, there’s nothing you can do about it. She chooses when to pass into the next phase. If she remains in her selfish state, that is a sign that no deeper progress is being made. So, the question ultimately boils down to this: what are YOU doing about your own life and living healthy for YOU? Remember, we need the basic building block of self love and self care, so that we may move on to helping others. And that goes for non-addicts too! 🙂


    1. I liked the points that this article and comments brought up. I have a question. What about being with someone that is 10 years sober that still seems to act like its all about him? I have only known him sober and he’s a wonderful person who has really turned his life around, provides for his children alone, volunteers, gives back, BUT I’ve noticed he has a very difficult time caring about incorporating himself in my life, my family, my friends. He gets very defensive and feels attacked very easily, and no matter the subject it somehow goes back to his sobriety, the man and dad hes become, etc., etc, etc. Is this him possibly being a little narcissistic and possibly because he is a recovering addict? I can barely say that I’m disappointed he won’t meet my family without having to hear about how he does his best as a dad (or some other completely unrelated topic having to do WITH HIM).


    2. I was always the one telling my brother to focus on himself and his recovery and I would never take that back if that helped get him through recovery. I do understand the aspect about him never having a childhood or those teen years “being robbed” and needing to grow through those stages. But it does hurt to see the selfish individual he stands to be. The feeling that I may never have my younger brother back tears at me. I wish things were different. But the thing that matters the most is his sobriety. At least with the selfishness that comes from recovery, I have the comfort of knowing he is safe. I lost one brother to addiction and I fear I will never have the same relationship with the brother I do have. But this is a difficult world we live in, and we’ll never understand everything. I suppose all i can do is hope that you’re right, Lovely, and that its just a stage. Good luck to everyone out there battling addiction from either side of the fight. Stay strong and never lose hope.


      1. Good luck to you and your brother! My only hope for you is that he himself recognizes or learns this is a stage. Because it doesn’t come naturally.


  6. Hi Boston,

    Many recovered people can (and should!) be fiercly proud of their recovery. But just like addiction, recovery too can keep a person “protected” from intimacy with another person, and thus, unavailable. This could be narcissism, but it could also be his insecurity getting close to other people. Remember, addicts, especially if they have lived many years with their addiction, never really learned how to manage relationships in a healthy way. That being said, enough about him. The REAL issue is YOU. Why do I say that? Because you have to know your values and what you can and cannot handle in a relationship, and despite all the wonderful things in his life that he’s accomplished, if he doesn’t love you in your way or the relationship doesn’t feel right to you, then he’s not a good match. You have to be able to look beyond how great some is and look beyond your possible neediness for a relationship to see the real potential of the relationship. Do you understand? 🙂


    1. What if you spent 10 years with him 3 years clean been through everything imaginable together always loved each other told each other everyday … Then he starts Ramp and NA … And now he needs space and were not the same couple and every other excuse this brainwashing meetings suggest to him


  7. I think addicts by their nature are narcissistic.
    When people remark about recovering addicts being self righteous know it alls who talk about themselves for an hour straight, well thats just part of being an addict. We become addicted to being in recovery, we become obsessed with ourselves as a ddicts and the recovering process because that is fundamentally what we are.
    There’s no easy choice for people like us. thats jsut the way it is.


    1. Thanks for your comment, and while I do agree with you to a point, I think that true narcissism within the addict only applies to the addicted phase, and early recovery. Advanced recovery is a much different picture. If you’ve truly recovered, you’d be quite bored just focusing on yourself, so therefore, advanced recovery demands a bit of altruism and looking outside one’s self. If you haven’t gotten there yet, keep working! You will. The end goal should be altruism and helping others, and let’s be honest, recovering addicts AND otherwise healthy people find it very difficult to arrive at this place.


  8. This blog is unbelievable. Addicts are selfish, hurtful, full of excuses, self entered and sociopathic. Lived with it all my life. Now dealing with a recovering addict who blames me for his addiction, I left him. What about the victim? The sober one? The care taker? The one who learns to lie for the addict, the one who duffers real pain, the one who cleans up after the addict or picks the addict up off the floor or sits in the hospital with him after a goon night of fulfilling that addiction? The one who is never allowed to talk about the addiction or the shame that goes with it? Addicts or recovering addicts are narcissists and dangerous. One excuse after the other and never look in the mirror long enough to discover themselves. It’s very sad


    1. There are no victims here Bsophone. There are choices. A victim mentality will hold you back and keep you from living a vibrant healthy life. It’s time to stop focusing on the “addict” in your life and focus on you. Why are you staying? Why are you allowing yourself to go down with a sinking ship? If you are with a narcissist, chances are you have lost your own identity. And that is the crux of the problem. What part do you play in managing your own life and making healthy choices. It’s easy to blame the addict, or others. It’s hard to look within and say, what is my role in this, what responsibility do I have in this?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s