Narcissism and alcoholism recovery

Narcissism A Barrier to Personal Acceptance of the Spiritual Aspect of Alcoholics Anonymous

Twenty-nine newly recovering alcoholic outpatients drawn from a Minnesota-Model type treatment program in the United Kingdom completed the NPI narcissism scale and the “Steps Questionnaire.”

Results showed the narcissistic “authority” subscale showed a very strong inverse relationship to level of personal acceptance of Steps 2 and 3 (the so called “God” steps) of the 12-Step program embodied by Alcoholics Anonymous.

Also, the narcissistic “superiority” subscale showed a significant inverse association with acceptance of Step 3.

The present results suggest that, relative to their more humble counterparts, recovering alcoholics who score high on narcissism are particularly reluctant to accept the spiritual aspect of the program of addiction recovery advocated by AA.

In particular, results suggest self-centered outpatients are reluctant to surrender their willfulness and thereby accept help from a transcendent yet immanent Divine Source of power.

We tentatively conclude narcissism, or lack of humility, might serve as a psychological barrier that inhibits the tendency to seek assistance from or become fully engaged in faith-based community self-help groups that might facilitate sobriety.

As a result of their reluctance to accept empowerment from spiritual resources, narcissist alcoholic clients might be vulnerable to dropout or minimal engagement in professional treatment based on AA principles, as well as relapse.

Keywords: Alcoholics Anonymous, 12-Steps, spirituality, religion, personality, humility, narcissism, surrender, recovery, treatment acceptability, dropout, relapse. Research; Kenneth E. Hart & Cherry Huggett. Narcissism A Barrier to Personal Acceptance of the Spiritual Aspect of Alcoholics Anonymous, Alcoholism Treatment Quarterly, Volume: 23 Issue: 4, 2005

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3 thoughts on “Narcissism and alcoholism recovery

  1. Pingback: Tweet No. 34: From My Alcohol-damaged Brain in 1999 « A Survivor's Guide to Alcoholism

  2. Thanks Jim,
    I recently met a recovering alcoholic who was by observation and reports a ‘predatorial narcissist’. I have seen others who have become smitten by the ‘ism’s’ of alcoholism and have eventually had to do the steps as outlined in the Big Book.
    ‘ISM’ = I, Self, Me; = narcissitic tendencies.

  3. I experienced this myself. My addiction to alcohol and other drugs brought me to a bottom which made me face my problem. I went to treatment and got sober. I attended AA meetings, faithfully, for 2 years after. When I had a little sobriety under my belt I thought I was fine. My physical needs were met – job, education, family and the like. I still had that superior attitude above most people in AA and on the planet.

    I thought I was totally healed but wasn’t. 9 years later I hit another bottom in my life. I came face to face between having a drink or going back to AA. I was seriously a macro-second away from losing more than a decade w/out a drink.

    Back in AA I started into the steps. There were other compulsive behaviours and patterns that I couldn’t shake free of. When I looked at the results of these behaviours it brought on so much suffering and triggered so much grief, that the only thing I could do was call on the good of the universe to set me free. It was one of the most intense moments of my life that changed the way I lived. It wasn’t a cure all though.

    In 12 step programs we are told to ask God as we understand it, to free us of our character defects. The truth is many alcoholics have experinces and trauma that need to be healed with the help of a professional human. Luckily we live in an era where there is more insight on healing.

    To put it short, in my case, the good of the universe is a guide and a source of strength but is not the cure all. We are mental, physical and spiritual beings. 12 steps take care of the spiritual part but some of us may also need help with releasing the deep down stuff that lives in our bodies and minds.


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