A hallmark character trait, or at least temporary state of being, for those of us with a mental illness or addiction is self-centeredness.

In fact, we addicts can become so self-absorbed that secondary sociopathy can be an additional diagnosis when we are deep in our addiction.

When I was in the throes of untreated Bipolar Disorder, Alcoholism, and Porn Addiction, I was extremely self-centered. The old AA saying that “this whole thing started off with three people: me, myself, and I,” was definitely true for me. “I may not be much, but I’m all I think about,” fit like a glove too.

As one of my favorite recovery gurus, John Bradshaw, asserted, when a person with a mental illness, addiction, and/or deeply embedded toxic shame is in pain, they become very self-centered. Like a person with a chronic tooth-ache who becomes tooth-centered.

Over my 25 years spent in recovery, giving to others and being of service have become foundation stones of my recovery. They enable me to “get out of self,” feel a sense of meaning and purpose, and experience a boost of dopamine, serotonin, and/or oxytocin. Acting selflessly helps the helper -one of the truly lovely paradoxes of living a spiritual life.

My greatest opportunity to be of service came in the summer of 2016. It was at that time that I learned that my 25 year old son was on dialysis and needed a kidney.

The aspiritual, pre-recovery, self-centered me would have ignored the situation and done nothing to help, as we had been estranged for 10 years. But given my rigorous recovery efforts in AA and other modalities, offering my kidney to him with no strings attached and no expectations of communication, let alone a relationship, came almost as naturally as breathing.

Six months later, on 1/11/17, I awakened in the recovery room at Research Medical Center to learn the procedure was a success and that the surgeon said my kidney was one of the healthiest he had seen. A miracle in itself, given how I had abused my body.

I had been blessed to give my son life a second time!

And what an indescribably wonderful feeling of long term joy and deep meaning it had brought me.

Today, 9/25/18, my son and I are both healthy. And my son, his twin brother, and I have re-developed close relationships, spending a great deal of quality time together.

God is good. And so is serving others. Both have given me a life I never could have imagined!

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