When the Ego rules

12 step help and the ego

By Jamie Moon
Living from the ego, simply means living by a set of beliefs that has convinced us that we are leading and uncomfortable life. First our ego (these beliefs) tells us to drink (or use whatever the latest manifestation of our addictive behavior is)—making us restless irritable and discontent—so we drink or distract ourselves with our latest obsession. Just to take the edge off you understand, not because we have a problem with this stuff really!

Then to our chagrin we can’t stop after one and we get lost in it. The next day the committee (another name for the ego) is there with remorse, guilt and self-condemnation—our dear friend the ego. What a pal. According to Dr. Harry M. Tiebout, MD, a psychiatrist, the “characteristic of the so-called typical alcoholic (or as we see it any addictive personality) is a narcissistic, egocentric core, dominated by feelings of omnipotence…”[i] In other words, we think we are God, or at least think we should have power over these things on our own.

When we look back at our lives we see that “(we’d) grown physically at the customary rate of speed, and (we) had acquired an average (or greater) amount of intellectual training in the intervening years, but there had been no emotional maturity at all. (We) realize now that this phase of (our) development had been arrested by (our) obsession with self, and (our) egocentricity had reached such proportions that adjusting to anything outside (our) personal control was impossible for (us).”[ii]

So, how do we change? How do we deal with our addiction, stop and stay stopped? How do we become a good spouse or mate? How can we be a good parent to our children? How do we become good employers or employees? How do we ever find and live “the good life”?

Out of that first meeting between Bill and Dr. Bob we have been given one of the most powerful solutions to life’s problems that has ever come along. The Twelve Steps are a therapeutically sound process of dynamic power to change the direction of one’s life. Victor Hugo put it succinctly, “Greater than the tread of mighty armies is an idea whose time has come”. The Steps are an idea whose time has come.

The Twelve Steps are certainly an “idea whose time has come” for it has given millions of people a solution to their addictions. Also an answer has been given for the elimination of obsessive behavior of many types for those of us with “grave emotional and mental disorders.”[iii] Therefore, we have an answer to the first of our “three major problems.” As for the second, our experience tells us that relationships are at the root of our problem, also resolved by the Steps. Finally we ask what about money? It seems that for many when if we focus on our spiritual life that too is resolved with the program of Twelve Steps.

[i] AA Comes of Age – Page 311.2

[ii] Alcoholics Anonymous – Page 547.1 – 4th Edition

[iii] Alcoholics Anonymous – Page 58.1

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By Jamie Moon

Why is it that so many diversified solutions work for so many people and seemingly have little lasting help for addicts? What have we tried already to improve or fix these “Problem areas”? (E.g. churches, therapy, positive thinking, mind control, acupuncture, hypnosis, NLP, EST, Zen, etc.). Did any of these have lasting success? Is there anything we have left to try? Why don’t they work? There certainly is nothing wrong with any of them. Many people use these techniques to great success. So, what’s the problem?

Since we already know everything we know, and have tried everything we have, where do we go from here? “Even a man with everything from the material standpoint, a man with tremendous pride and the will-power to function in all ordinary circumstances can…find himself as hopeless and helpless as the man who has a multitude of worries and troubles.”[i]Now I personally have witnessed people who “just quit” their addictions—though I must say I wouldn’t want their lives.

We all know how we want to be but we can’t or don’t, act on it. Why? Lack of Power is our dilemma. We only turn to God or a Higher Power if you prefer, when we have unbearable pain, pain over some want, weakness or failure. Only at those times when we believe we have lost the battle of life, one more time, do we try God. We don’t understand that the very ambition to change ourselves is in itself the problem. Where does the actual struggle lie? It is in our lack of acceptance of ourselves. Who or what is doing the struggling? The ego (the committee), that’s who. But we cannot trust the ego.And what is this ego anyway? A definition that has brought relief too many of us who thought that the ego was some kind of entity, it is not, is that the ego is simply a set of beliefs that defines the world in which we live. These beliefs have convinced us that we need them—and not only that we need them, but that we are them.

This is probably the greatest benefit found in the Steps—a new way of life. Not just the same life without an addiction but a new healthy, vital life. We find a life of healed relationships, a life of possibility instead of lack, a life of happiness instead of misery. And most importantly we find a life of Higher Power instead of powerlessness. And guess what? We find that all the things that we were unable to use to get out of our addiction we can now use to great benefit. As long as (in my sad experience) we do not try to replace the Twelve Steps with those things but fit them to our Program.

[i] Experience, Strength, & Hope – Page(s) 34.3

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jamie moon alcohol addictionIt is interesting to me that in our discussion of “Lack of Power” the areas of powerlessness that I have pulled from Alcoholics Anonymous material have all been turned into fellowships of their own. The final one mentioned Work and Money is no different.

C.  LACK OF POWER—IN WORK/MONEY (earning, debts, etc.) “Never was there enough of what we thought we wanted. …We lacked the perspective to see…that material satisfactions were not the purpose of living.”[i]

1) “The chief activator of our defects has been self-centered fear—primarily fears that we would lose something we already possessed or would fail to get something we demanded.”[ii]

2) “Although financial recovery is on the way for many of us, we found we could not place money first. For us, material well-being always followed spiritual progress; it never preceded.”[iii]

In these areas of powerlessness where other groups have sprung up we find that the intent of the Steps is sometimes either ignored or re-defined in ways that I wonder if they fulfill their original purpose? That purpose was to focus on what is the real problem, not the addiction.

The real problem has been, is, and always will be our discomfort with life itself. To learn to live with “life on life’s terms” is the key to a happy productive life. Once we have done that the need for our many different addictive substances and behaviors becomes mute. Now I certainly am not saying that the physical nature of our illness will be eliminated. The physical problem is handled simply by stopping the use of our addictive/obsessive behavior.

It is the mental and spiritual aspect that the Twelve Steps actually deals with and those are identical in all addictions. That does not mean that we are all alike. The identical aspect is that we all have mental problems that drive us to drink—so to speak. These mental problems are dealt with through what Chuck C. called uncovering (the fact of a problem with our thinking becomes glaring when we are without our “drug of choice”) discovering (through the first Five Steps we discover what those problems are) discarding (we then discard that problem thinking through Steps Six through Nine) and recovering (the process we learn for a daily treatment of those old ideas in Steps Ten, Eleven and Twelve).

Now these other groups have added a lot of tools for dealing with their specific addictions and those tools are very useful. However, they are not a replacement for the Deep Soul Cleansing accomplished via the Twelve Steps and their original purpose. Most of the Step work I’ve seen that has come from many of those groups seems to miss the point. Once we have handled the mental twists that has had us use our many addictions, the blocks to a truly spiritual life have been removed. Our spiritual life can then be practiced, practiced, practiced…

[i] Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions – Page 72.2-3 – British Edition

[ii] Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions – Page 77.4 – British Edition

[iii] Alcoholics Anonymous – Page 127.2

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Lack of Power is Our Dilemma Continued

jamie moon

By Jamie Moon

So, as we continue our discussion of our dilemma of lack of power we broaden our understanding of our problem with relationships…


1.  People “It is from our twisted relations with family, friends, and society at large that many of us have suffered the most. We have been especially stupid and stubborn about them. The primary fact that we fail to recognize is our total inability to form a true partnership with another…”[i] “The hardest place to work this program has been in my own home, with my children, and, finally, with (my wife).”[ii]

a.  Sexual (spouses, lovers, sex, self, etc.) We seldom gave love freely; there was always a price tag. We never recognized that we can give love without expectation, “love—which depends on the capacity of the giver, rather than the acts of the recipient…”[iii] This capacity, we found, was built through the Twelve Steps.

b.  Other people—Family (children, parents, and siblings), friends, self, etc.

    1. Places/Things (Cities, Countries, Cultures, etc.) “What happens outside of me is far less important than what’s happening inside. My being does attract my life; repeated work with each of the Twelve Steps generates changes within me that are reflected in improvements around me. Simple, but not always easy, the… program gives me everything needed to become what I should be. …There is no you or me or them. Everything is connected to everything else, and the salvation of each of us is linked to the salvation of all of us.”[iv]

3.  God (Spiritual bankruptcy) “The words ‘ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free’ have echoed through time for two thousand years…I have only gradually come to view truth as the most beautiful and accessible aspect of Harmony, or It, or God... The world of truth is the world of what is…

“Truth is multifaceted, because it is reality. Your truth and mine are different, because we are different. Your beliefs are your truth, as mine are mine. When that is accepted, any cause for conflict is resolved. Neither of us is right or wrong… Today—now—is truth.”[v]

In Step Four we begin to learn how “We subjected each relation to this test—was it selfish or not?”[vi] “This self-centered behavior blocked a partnership relation with any one of those about us.”[vii] We therefore begin using the tools that are essential to the healing process.

As you will see in this material I have studied and integrated much of the writings found in Alcoholics Anonymous material. I hope that you will study them as thoroughly as I have and gain your own understanding of that and other material and experience of the Twelve Steps.

[i] Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions – Page 54.3 – British Edition

[ii] Alcoholics Anonymous – Page 419.5 – 4th Edition

[iii] Best of the Grapevine – Page(s) – 26.6 – 27.1

[iv] Best of the Grapevine – Page(s) – 129.1

[v] Best of the Grapevine – Page(s) – 133.2,9, 134.1, 135.2,6,7

[vi] Alcoholics Anonymous – Page 69.3

[vii] Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions – Page 55.1 – British Edition

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Lack of Power is Our Dilemma

jamie moon

By Jamie Moon

The following series of articles are based on and excerpted from my book Deep Soul Cleansing, with additional comments for the purpose of this conversation.

When we come to these many Programs or treatment centers we find ourselves to be powerless. So, what exactly does that mean? “They told me lack of power was my dilemma and that there is a solution.”[i] “Our human resources, as marshaled by the will, were not sufficient; they failed utterly. Lack of power, that was our dilemma. We had to find a power by which we could live, and it had to be a Power greater than ourselves. Obviously. But where and how were we to find this power?”[ii] We find this “Lack of Power” in three major problem areas in our lives:

A.  LACK OF POWER—IN OUR ADDICTION(S) or Obsessions of the Mind (whatever our so-called primary may be—alcohol, drugs, food, people, sex, etc.) It doesn’t seem to matter what it is, most of us find we quit one and another rears its ugly head. There have been many Groups grow out of the original Program but there is really only one 12 Step Program with many applications.

B.  LACK OF POWER—IN RELATIONSHIPS—In Three Areas of Life—People, Places and Things, and most importantly, our relationship with God. “My basic problem was a spiritual hunger.”[iii] For example, alcohol is called ‘spirits’ for a very good reason; it fills the hole where God goes. This hunger is fed by first dealing with our other relationships, which automatically heals our relationship with God. (1) “Nothing can be more demoralizing than a clinging and abject dependence upon another human being.”[iv] (2) Then of course, “We have also seen men and women who go power-mad, who devote themselves to attempting to rule their fellows.”[v] These people are just as dependent on their victims as those dependent ones. It has been said that “if one would scratch the surface of an addict we would find a co-dependent underneath.” We think that before co-dependence was ever isolated as a problem it was well defined in the phrase (3) “a frightened human being determined to depend completely upon a stronger person for guidance and protection.”[vi] Within these three quotes one finds the co-dependent dance.

We shall continue with our discussion of our powerlessness over our relationships in the next article.

[i] Alcoholics Anonymous – Page 510.1 – 4th Edition

[ii] Alcoholics Anonymous – Page 45.1-2

[iii] Alcoholics Anonymous – Page 546.2 – 4th Edition

[iv] As Bill Sees It – Page 72.1

[v] Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions – Page 45.2 – British Edition

[vi] Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions – Page 44.4 – British Edition
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