M(3), 7/14: Self-Pity


Today’s meeting, which featured the book Living Sober, the chapter read was entitled “Eliminating Self-Pity.”  I asked a regular attendee to select the chapter, so I came into the reading fresh, and my initial thought was “not a topic that applies to me.”  In this, and every instance where I think a recovery-related piece of literature does not apply to me, I am proven woefully incorrect.  Here’s the opening paragraph of the chapter:

This emotion is so ugly that no one in his or her right mind wants to admit feeling it.  Even when sober, many of us remain clever at hiding from ourselves the fact that we are astew in a mess of self-pity.   We do not like at all being told that is shows, and we are sharp at arguing that we are experiencing some other emotion- not that loathsome poor-me-ism.  Or we can, in a second, find a baker’s dozen perfectly legitimate reasons for feeling somewhat sorry for ourselves.  -Chapter 22, Living Sober

Well, when it’s put like that… I guess maybe it does apply, and perhaps I could use some of the advice for eliminating it!

The advice given in the book is fairly simple, which is one of the reasons I love reading this book; it is short and sweet, and immensely practical.  First, take a step back, take a long hard look at yourself, and recognize self-pity for what it really is.  You can’t change a behavior without first identifying it.  Talk it out with a trusted friend, one who will call you out on your nonsense.  In all likelihood, you will be able to call yourself on it once you start talking out your feelings.  Finally, fight back the self-pity with a little gratitude.  It is impossible to maintain both self-pity and gratitude simultaneously, so remind yourself of what you do have, what you have accomplished, and what is good in your life.  Chances are the self-pity will become a distant memory.

In addition to loving 12-step meetings for the insight they provide me, I also love being able to share honestly, candidly, and anonymously about the things going on in my head to a group of people who immediately understand.  I read through the chapter with everyone else, and I realize the ways I have been living in the swamp of self-pity.  That’s miracle number one.  Then I can immediately take the advice given, and “tell on myself” by sharing the insight I’ve gained.  That’s miracle number two.  Finally, I get the feedback, validation and encouragement that changes my thinking from a caring, intelligent group of people who have walked in my shoes.  Three miracles in one short hour!

And the icing on the cake is the ability to give back the same feedback, validation and encouragement to others.  One friend that I haven’t seen in ages came to the meeting distressed with a family crisis.  She said she was flabbergasted by the timing of this reading, as she was able to see how her actions have been slowly but surely spiralling her down the rabbit hole of self-pity.  “Why am I the only one that has to deal with this crisis?  Why does all the responsibility fall on me?  Why me?”  Who among us hasn’t felt this way at some point in our lives?  But in talking it out she was able to see that those emotions were making her already bad situation so much worse.  Just talking it out in the meeting was enough to turn her thinking around.

Another attendee shared that the line that stuck out to him in the reading was the idea that, while operating in self-pity, we would love to just scream to the world, “Leave me alone!”  He said that is how he lived his last few years of active addiction… the more he drank, the more he isolated.  He said the biggest motivation for him to attend daily 12-step meetings is to fight his tendency to isolate.

The gentleman who selected the reading shared that he once lived his life in self-pity.  He often compared his life to the lives of others, and always found his wanting.  He heard a quote once that changed this attitude forever:

Several others chimed in with regard to this train of thought, and added that comparing our insides to others’ outsides will accomplish nothing worthwhile, and typically leads to self-pity.

Possibly the best lesson I learned from today’s meeting:  engaging in self-pity is the polar opposite of practicing acceptance.  When someone shared this, a light bulb went off in my head.  If I am feeling sorry for myself, it is, without exception, because I am finding someone or something unacceptable.  Acceptance, a topic about which I have written on many, many occasions, has been a personal cornerstone of my recovery, so thinking about the two concepts as opposing really helped illuminate the areas of my life where I was guilty of the “poor me’s.”

A great meeting discussing a powerful topic that hits close to home for the alcoholic, and the non-alcoholic!

Today’s Miracle:

Thanks to all who helped turn my thinking around on the “childhood china dilemma” (see the last post for more details).  I can’t tell you how much better I felt after reading all of your support!  Here is the finished product, all ready to be stored away for the first grandchild (God willing, not for at least another decade!):


Posted on July 14, 2014, in Monday Meeting Miracles, Recovery and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 21 Comments.

  1. love what you did with the plates! good job! 🙂


  2. This post has got me thinking … I like the idea that “engaging in self-pity is the polar opposite of practicing acceptance” … I shared your light bulb there 🙂 xx


    • Yes, that acceptance thing is a tricky one. Just found myself in this position, AGAIN, last night, and the light bulb went back off. Still didn’t accept things, but at least there was an awareness… progress, not perfection! Thanks for the comment!


  3. I suffer with poor-me-ism. The ideas others had in the group were as good for me as going to a meeting. This was a timely reminder that I have to practice more gratitude to get out of my own negative thinking. Thanks for a great post!



  4. ” It is impossible to maintain both self-pity and gratitude simultaneously”

    ” If I am feeling sorry for myself, it is, without exception, because I am finding someone or something unacceptable.”

    Love these lines! Especially the second one, as that didn’t really occur to me. Hmmmmm….great food for thought that is.

    Self-pity. Oh Josie that was my real drug of (no) choice. It was my second reach, after the bottle (or usually before the bottle). I have written about and wrestled with this often. I have found it to be on the wane for me as of late, but it does strike. And the good news is that when it does, I don’t go on long self-pity jags. I try to shore them up as soon as I can.

    When I first got into the program, I heard lots about gratitude. I never really understood the big deal about it. Yeah, I have a house, job, etc. So what? So do most people. Wait…not really. Not at all, in fact. Globally, I am in a small percentage. People would kill to have my life, and I am whinging about not having the right colour case for my brand new phone?? Are you kidding me? Ha ha.

    Gratitude…that’s the big take away, Josie. For you and me. Get me out of me. My life ain’t that bad…in fact, for what it’s worth, it’s pretty damn good. So when I start to reach for self-pity…then you’re right – I am not accepting something.

    Great, great pose, Josie…awesome!



  5. Last week I sunk deep into a quagmire of self-pity. I knew I was in it, but cranking out a gratitude list, even mentally, was the last thing I wanted to do. Maybe it’s like forcing myself to smile when unhappy and how that can trigger happiness. Anyway, the pity party passed. For the most part I accept when these unpleasant emotions bubble up. I stuff them down as long as I can, which is a bigger issue for me. I can relate to what Paul says about self-pity jags shortening in sobriety. This is good news for all. I also want to add that I fall into them sideways while PMS’ing. I don’t really see a cure for that besides recognizing when it’s happening so I don’t wig out even more.

    I LOVE that you’re saving your heirlooms (and so fancily!). I forgot my parents also gave me two hot-pink cool-aid man cups we had sent away for many years ago. My kids use them now too and it brings me much joy.



    • Sorry to hear about that quagmire (which immediately makes me think of the character on Family Guy that says “giggity giggity,” which immediately makes me laugh, so thank you for using that word)!

      I agree with you and Paul, it’s definitely easier to crawl out of that quagmire in sobriety. Along those lines, I find myself holding on to grudges a lot less tightly, and release them a lot more quickly. And that’s saying something… as an Irish Catholic, I am a World Class Grudge Holder!

      Yes, I’m So Fancy (I am referencing the most horrific song that my kids want on the car radio 24/7; every time it’s on I want to stab myself in the ears so I don’t have to listen). That box just appeared in the basement, so I’m assuming it was divinely placed just to house these dishes for the next few years. And Kool Aid Man cups… can I come to your house for a soda? They sound awesome 🙂


  6. Yay! Love the all packed up China pic 🙂


  7. Josie~ Hello lady~ when are you going to be down in Sea Isle for vaca? My families vaca home is in Ocean City about 15 mins away. Maybe we can meet u for a meeting or coffee….. I am only down on weekends since I work in Philly full time. I live in Southern NJ in Burlington County. We are also going to Nashville for vaca 8/3-8/8.

    Love to meet up one time… if not this summer def. in Fall and hopefully Kristy can come too. Maybe meet in PA area one weekend for lunch.

    Hugs, Becky


  8. Im new in sobriety. Day 7. Yah me! So much to learn. Love this post. It really hit home for me. I was especially struck by the idea that self-pity is a non-pharmaceutical narcotic. I think that really speaks to just how powerful that emotion can be….kind of like a strong ocean current that tries to pull me under. I’ll have to remember that next time im feeling sorry for myself. Gratitude….gotta get me some of that!! Thanks for the post. Beautifully written.


    • Hi Blondie! Welcome, and CONGRATULATIONS on your first week of sobriety! That’s HUGE!

      I think your analogy is even better, and boy does that still happen from time to time! Gratitude is the true antidote.

      Thanks for reading, and for the beautiful comment! I can’t wait to hear about week 2 🙂


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