Recovering from drug addiction is not easy. People who don’t go through it themselves often wonder why addicts find it so difficult to control their urge and impulse to use drugs. For an outsider, walking away from an addiction and choosing to follow a more straight and narrow path may seem simple. But it’s a much more complicated process than that.
One factor that stops addicts from recovering from their addiction is actually their very own ego. Many people believe that drug addicts have low self-esteem and tend to think less of themselves. If you consider the ego, however, that tells a completely different story.
What is Ego?
Ego often refers to someone’s sense of self-importance or self-esteem. It can sometimes carry a negative connotation, such as when someone is said to have a “big ego,” implying that they are overly proud or arrogant. In layman’s terms, consider ego as a false, fabricated self – it is not the real ‘you’. Rather, your ego is who and what you believe you are: kind of like an imaginary, ideal version of yourself that you believe is being reflected to society, even though it isn’t.
According to psychologist Sigmund Freud’s personality structure, ego is the organized and includes perceptual, defensive, executive, and intellectual-cognitive functions. While conscious awareness resides in the ego, some operations remain unconscious. The ego comprises a set of psychic functions, such as planning, control, judgment, defense, tolerance, reality testing, intellectual processing, information synthesis, and memory.
Ego in addiction has more to do with the concept that the world revolves around ‘me’. It is about the idea that everyone else is a reflection of something better or worse than ‘I’ am, everything bad that happens is personally directed towards ‘me’, and everything good was meant for ‘me’. In addiction recovery, these thoughts tend to be amplified and skewed so much so that no one else seems to matter. Hence why most addicts act in self-serving ways.
Ego in Addiction Recovery
An inflated sense of ego is very powerful and it can prove to be one of the worst poisons for your addiction recovery. It has the power to make you perceive things differently, further damaging your sense of reality and causing you to act in ways that aren’t rational. With an inflated ego, you are likely to think less of people around you, disregard their opinions, and become increasingly critical of them. Ego makes you push people away and leaves you trapped in your own selfish desires.
When you are full of pride, it is easy to see why you may find it difficult to accept that you have a problem, let alone ask others for help (especially when your ego makes these “others” seem like they know less/are beneath you). This is the reason most addicts find themselves skipping meetings and therapy sessions during recovery: doing so would diminish their ego.
Risks the Ego Poses to Recovery
Pride and big ego can ruin your recovery by imposing the following risks.
- Obliviousness – Too big an ego can make you oblivious, and cause you to lose awareness of the happenings around you. When your pride makes you think you are above everyone else, you think other people and other things do not deserve even the smallest amount of your time, attention, or effort.
- Carelessness – With a big ego, drug addicts tend to be careless and do not feel the need to put effort into nearly anything. Even when making decisions, big or small, addicts couldn’t care less and this often results in huge mistakes that they later regret. Big mistakes negate all sense of triumph and achievement an addict may have felt earlier on.
- Alienation – Having an inflated sense of ego during addiction recovery can make you distance yourself from people who you perceive to be inferior to you. This pool of unworthy people ultimately includes everyone who does not share your interests or “superior qualities”. This alienation from the people around you is bound to leave you with little to no support in a serious time of need.
There are various approaches to dealing with ego in addiction recovery:
- 12-Step Programs: These programs, such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA), focus on humility and the surrender of ego. Participants admit that they are powerless over their addiction and make a decision to turn their will and their lives over to a “Higher Power”. This approach can be helpful for those who struggle with ego in the sense of arrogance or a belief in their invulnerability.
- Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT): This form of therapy helps individuals recognize and change thought patterns that lead to harmful behaviors, such as substance use. It can help individuals understand how their ego and their self-esteem might be tied to their substance use, and how to develop healthier coping mechanisms.
- Mindfulness and Meditation: These practices can help individuals recognize and accept their thoughts, feelings, and experiences without judgment. This can be particularly useful for dealing with ego, as it encourages acceptance and awareness, and can reduce the need for escape or denial.
Additional Dangers of Inflated Ego
An addict who has successfully managed to stay sober for some time may feel on top of the world and think they’re invincible, to a fault: they believe nothing in the world could derail their recovery. As a result, they are left vulnerable because they have probably stopped focusing on the things that they must continuously do to successfully maintain sobriety.
Furthermore, having an inflated ego puts you at risk of minimizing efforts that ensure the longevity of your sobriety. You must understand that recovery is not a task that you can complete in a few days and check off the list. Recovery is a life-long journey. The biggest threat that a large ego poses to your recovery is that it makes you think you will never experience a relapse. This may cause you to take more risks and act carelessly. The bottom line is that having an excessive ego can make you less protective of your recovery, leading to relapse and derailing progress.
Practice humility with us instead! Scottsdale Recovery Center offers all kinds of help when it comes to addiction recovery. We aim to make your recovery journey less complicated by helping you undergo a detoxification process, teaching you helpful strategies to beat substance cravings, and providing you the social support you need for lifelong sobriety.
Talk to Someone Who’s Been There. Talk to Someone Who Can Help. Scottsdale Recovery Center holds the highest accreditation (Joint Commission) and is Arizona’s premier rehab facility since 2009. Call 602-346-9142.