Pride goes before Destruction
This blog is a reflection of what has been on my heart and mind for a few weeks, maybe months, now. It has been in my spirit to write about it as I have seen an awful lot of relapse lately – or sometimes it’s the ‘relapse before the relapse,’ which in recovery means starting to go down the path of destruction before using a substance even starts. I have seen arrogance and pride at a whole new level; and egos that make it nearly impossible to have a rational conversation.
It reminds me of a frequently quoted bible verse – Proverbs 16:18: “Pride goes before destruction; a haughty spirit before a fall.” Some versions state the latter part of the verse as, “an arrogant spirit appears before a fall.” In layman’s terms it means if you are overconfident and too proud, mistakes will be made, which leads to downfall. The downfall is what terrifies me of people who profess wanting a new life – a sober life.
So let’s dive into why pride and ego is often seen among addicts and the issues it causes. Then we will look at a few things that can be practiced to overcome these issues.
Many people who battle substance use disorders have low self-esteem. Often, this is overcome by excessive pride. Sometimes, it is to the point where they could be laying beat in an alley while still looking down on everyone else. When people have a level of pride that is over the top, it is often called ‘hubris.’ This is really when the person overvalues their importance and/or looks at others as inferior to them.
This pride, ego, arrogance – whatever you want to call it – leads to the person not acknowledging their mistakes. And, without acknowledging mistakes, they get stuck in their own world, increasing the likelihood of relapse. Further, it often means they are too proud to ask for help, thus not having the tools necessary to stay sober. A man recently who relapsed told me he began to struggle with some stressful situations and felt like finally his wife and family were proud of him and therefore, he was too embarrassed to reach out for help. Unfortunately, this led to cocaine use and incarceration right away – all really because he did not reach out for help due to being too proud.
Having an unbalanced amount of pride often reveals the individual has lost touch with reality. However, in order to get the most in recovery and to stay sober, life must be met on life’s terms. They must rid their preconceived ideas and beliefs, which is must easier said than done, especially if they have great pride.
Entitlement, certainly goes hand-in-hand with pride, and also accompanies relapse and street behaviors. Entitlement is the false belief that the world owes you something because you are you. What addiction often brings, which is not often realized by the addict, is that they have lived life expecting certain things and had mapped out what they thought they deserve(d). Once the person has entered recovery, when things go differently than they have mapped out, they can either fit themselves into the situation or be a rebel. Rebels are seen to fight the people or circumstances that oppose their interest or plan. This conflict, however, frequently leads to resentment, animosity, and/or relapse.
Those with pride and entitlement issues, regardless of whether an addict or not, need egos to be busted, so they understand they are a part of the world and not the creator of it. An acceptance that life is not always how you may plan it, but that God’s plan is actually better. Embracing this world, being a part of it, and growing from it is the healthy way of dealing with it – not substance abuse.
As I began writing this blog, I was talking with a friend, Chinary Hall, who has been clean for nearly 10 years. Chinary posed the question, “do you feel part of pride and arrogance in relapse is rooted in self-loathing or disappointment, resentment, and regret.” Chinary went on to share, “the shame of sinking so low and the struggle trying to prove yourself. When the time and effort put into recovery doesn’t match the payoff. Recovery is hard work. Drugs have instant results, recovery does not.” This really can make you stop and ponder – it is all so true.
Each person has walked a different path and copes with situations differently. However, I do believe to the question above, that pride and arrogance is most associated with disappointment, resentment, and regret – it’s a way to overcompensate for low self-esteem. This could be seen due to various measures – whether it is the individual who is too prideful to ask for help, someone who knows their current behavior is wavering, or someone who tries to rationalize and justify behaviors.
However, there are times, as mentioned above, that people just think the world is owed to them and want it their way or no way. I recently had a conversation with someone who thought certain rules should not be applied to him – or be bent to his benefit. He claimed that incarceration should be to change the mindset of people in jail. Sure of course it should be, but there are still rules to be followed, total freedom is not given, and ultimately it is still incarceration. Further conversation from him moved toward disrespect and questioning. I was truly shocked, as this is someone who had a lot handed to him – sometimes not totally deserving. Not to say they hadn’t work hard in their recovery, but when that wall was put up and he was told “no, rules do not allow that,” it was like a tantrum began. It truly was the definition of hubris.
While situations like this make it so tempting to want to scream or curse at someone – or maybe even say, “I’m done,” a greater concern comes from this. Concern of the great arrogance and entitlement that could lead to self-destruction – whether that comes through becoming disconnected, loosing their network, using, or shutting down. Any of the above is not good. However, one must be humbled before any type of rational conversation can occur.
An appropriate level of self-esteem for people in general, but particularly for those in recovery is important. Having a healthy mix of pride and humility equates to emotional stability. Through this, the individual will not have fear or embarrassment about admitting they are experiencing hardship, enabling them to learn and grow easier. The humble person will not experience as many conflicts, as those experiencing increased amounts of pride often rub people the wrong way. They will not allow their current (or most recent) way of thinking, thoughts, and beliefs get in their way of learning and listening to those who are more experienced than them.
Additionally, pride can be substituted by gratitude, the opposite of entitlement. Through gratitude, the person realizes that what others do for them is out of kindness and not because it is owed or even deserved. It will provide an opportunity for them to stop thinking of themselves above others. They will begin to value others’ sacrifices. If people are in the mindset of “I am owed nothing and deserve nothing from others,” then each time something positive toward them occurs, gratitude will quickly be present, instead of disappointment when situations do not pan out as they wish.
As Chinary said, “The big struggle is knowing the difference between humility as a state of mind and being in a low place in life. I remember in the beginning of my recovery thinking I can’t get any lower than this. I had to learn that losing everything or reducing myself and my abilities, making myself small, is not humility. It is not thinking less of myself, but thinking of myself less. It’s being teachable, open and honest with myself, and others, about who I am, where I am. It’s not hiding who I am to benefit others. So many people confuse confidence with conceit. Humility is me being grateful for who I am and joyfully, fully living it.