Humility is defined by Merriam-Webster as “the quality or state of not thinking you are better than other people, or the quality or state of being humble.” Okay, so what does “the state of being humble” mean? Simply put, being humble means not being too proud or egotistical. Humility has its origins sometime in the 14th Century. A person can be said to attain humility when they really know who they are, and have a notion about what their place is in the world.
C.S. Lewis once said “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.”
For the confused and newly-sober alcoholic, humility becomes a cornerstone to attaining long-term sobriety. After all, surely there can be few types of people who need humility more than the recovering alcoholic. After spending years (or even decades) drowning their emotions in a bottle, an alcoholic may very well have no idea what they are feeling from day to day or minute to minute. They are very confused. They likely have no idea who they truly are, what they are doing with their life, and, for that matter, why they keep doing it. They are, in essence, humbled. They are willing to ask for help, and they are willing to accept it when it is offered. This is a good start, but it does not mean they have gained much humility.
It is through gaining humility over time that the alcoholic feels they have a rightful place in the world.
With humility, an alcoholic doesn’t feel like they have to be better than everyone else, and they won’t feel worse than everyone. They become at-ease with who they are. They accept their problems, whether alcoholism or otherwise. They then begin to turn their life over to a higher power, in a state of humble acceptance, so they are free to live with a serene mind.
Let’s clear up some other confusion, too. It is possible to be humbled without having humility. How does this work? The active alcoholic can be humbled by having their ego smashed. Most alcoholics have over-inflated opinions about their self worth. They are filled with arrogance, regardless if it is earned or not. This has been proven in clinical studies, and also constantly mentioned in the book Alcoholics Anonymous (AKA the Big Book). To be humbled, and feel humble, the active alcoholic can easily bring this on themselves through the courts, police, their spouse, employers, etc.
In effect, the self-imposed problems that stem from alcohol use humbles the alcoholic. Alcohol beats them into submission. It is in accepting that state of submission, that powerlessness over alcohol, that they take the first step of Alcoholics Anonymous. This is where the first glimpse of humility is earned. It brings us to another good point.
Humility is not to be confused with humiliation.
Per our good friend Merriam-Webster, humiliation means “to reduce to a lower position in one’s own eyes or others’ eyes, to make someone feel ashamed or foolish.” Any alcoholic will assuredly feel humiliation from certain drinking escapades. Shame is a major crux of alcohol abuse. It may be what leads an alcoholic to seek help. I am reminded of a story I heard once, where a drunken gentleman accidentally thought his neighbor’s tuba was a golden toilet. This led to much humiliation on his part, and it also led to him to seek help. It did not, however, mean he was humble: just embarrassed.
How does humility factor into recovering alcoholics with long-term sobriety?Why does it remain important as the years go by? Very simple: it keeps the alcoholic from thinking they can run the whole show on their own. It keeps a dependence upon a higher power on their mind. It reminds them they are still powerless over alcohol. Finally, humility also helps them to remember that they cannot take a drink in safety and if they do, they will end up right back where they were before (if they are lucky). Humility helps an alcoholic prevent their past from becoming their future.
If you wish to read another of our blog articles about that relates to Humility, please go here