The word “selfish” typically has a negative connotation. Google defines it as, “lacking consideration for others; concerned chiefly with one’s own personal profit or pleasure.” And I don’t necessarily disagree with it. When it comes to recovery, especially early on, I am all for using this term as a way to describe the action we must take to remain that way.

First and foremost, getting sober means that you will be changing your life for the better, finally getting back up on your own two feet, and living your life to its full potential. So by all means, get selfish, because taking care of yourself should always be your top priority. Choosing sobriety is hard enough as it is; never feel bad about doing what is best for YOU.

Rewriting the Definition  

The original definition of “selfish” doesn’t take into consideration bettering oneself while in recovery. Let’s break down this word, and create a more suitable definition for what it means to be selfish in sobriety.

“A selfish person, a selfish action, or a selfish motive that is lacking consideration for others.” How about this instead: A person who is taking action in their life by implementing positive motives that may or may not benefit the likings of others.

“Concerned chiefly with one’s own personal profit or pleasure.” Another definition could read: Concerned with one’s own life for personal gain, development, and growth. Becoming sober is going to require some drastic change in one’s life. This includes, the end of certain toxic relationships, the beginning of a new daily routine, removing oneself from any triggering activity, and coming to terms with what was making us turn to drugs and alcohol in the first place. The only way to survive becoming sober is by becoming selfish, and realizing that you can no longer live the life you grew attached to.

Sometimes, we have to make hard decisions to get where we need to be in life, love and friendships. “Selfish” should not carry such a harsh definition, especially when the word varies by user. It should be a synonym for self-care, self-love, and self-preservation, because that is what you are doing in recovery. You are taking care of yourself by choosing to love yourself wholly. And to accomplish that, you must preserve your energies the best way you see fit.

A New Kind of Selfish

I would like to propose a new way of thinking when it comes to this word. When you were struggling with a substance or alcohol use disorder, you were likely the kind of selfish that most people think of when they hear the word. But now that you’re living in sobriety, you’re a new kind of selfish: You’re removing all the negatives from your life and are only spending energy on what helps improve your physical and mental well-being. There is a huge difference between these two types of selfishness, and it’s important to understand the value of a new kind of selfishness, where you put yourself first.

There may be people in your life who will never truly understand what you must do when choosing recovery, but this is also an opportunity for a conversation to be had. The only way to help others understand your reasons for becoming sober, and becoming selfish, is by opening up through communication and discussing the stigma that is so closely tied to addiction.

For those who have never struggled with addiction, please understand that it requires a huge amount of personal change from the person who knows addiction all too well. For those who have struggled with it, or are currently seeking help, please know that being selfish does not make you a bad person. It makes you a human being who wants the best for themselves, and is willing to do what it takes to get there. And that is the beauty of being selfish in recovery.

If you’re currently struggling with addiction, there is hope and healing available to you at The Recovery Village. No matter the length or intensity of your addiction, you can receive the care you need to put yourself first and start living a new kind of “selfish” in sobriety. Call  844.984.3182 today to speak with someone who can guide you in the right direction.   

a woman smiling and holding a string in her hair.
By – Megan Lawrence
Megan is a writer in Recovery with a passion for healing others through the power of word. She believes in speaking her truth, being loud and proud about her story, and she hopes to inspire others to share theirs through her website, Healing Hopefuls. Read more
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