Why do I still need a trophy every time I do a good deed? That’s absolutely pathetic after getting sober so long ago. I forget that it’s okay to do the right thing without broadcasting it to the world. It’s okay to help someone without being awarded a medal of honor. In fact, altruism doesn’t involve trophies. An altruistic act isn’t really altruistic if we need recognition for it… or if there’s any other selfish motive attached to it.
In early sobriety, my idea of doing the right thing was not at all altruistic. Giving a homeless man change to clear my conscience isn’t altruistic. Holding the door for an old lady in a crowded mall to make myself feel like a good person isn’t altruistic. In fact, it’s self-seeking. Usually we want other people to see what we are doing, which of course, wipes out any spec of altruism in the said act.
Picking up trash so I feel like a good citizen isn’t altruistic. Speaking at an AA meeting to get that little spiritual buzz isn’t altruistic. Even working with a sponsee just because I felt like helping someone that day isn’t altruistic. Helping because I feel like helping isn’t altruistic. Why? Because I’m doing these things only when I feel like doing them. And I’m doing them because I’m getting something out of it.
What is real altruism? Perhaps there is no such thing, but I suppose it involves helping others when you don’t feel like helping others and when you’re not getting anything out of it. It is picking up the phone at 3:00 in the morning when that annoying person we all know is calling in desperation. No, I don’t want to pick up the phone and talk for an hour at 3:00 in the morning, especially because I know who’s calling and I know he’s annoying as hell.
True altruism might also be cleaning my Mom’s storage space. No one sees me. No one sees the storage space. I’m just helping Mom because it’s the right thing to do. No glory. No recognition. No broadcasts. No trophies.
True altruism is perhaps working with that kid who keeps relapsing over and over and over, and you know that he’s a complete dumbass and is probably going to die. It’s not fun to help him. You don’t get to see him change before your eyes. You don’t get to see him recover and make amends and go off to help yet others. You just get a hoarse voice from breaking down the Big Book Step process so many times.
The best thing for addicts is to do something helpful that no one sees, that doesn’t feed our conscience, that doesn’t get us a pat on the back, that doesn’t fit into our schedule, that doesn’t give us a spiritual buzz, that doesn’t fuel our pride, ego and self-esteem. The best thing for addicts is not to receive trophies from people just because we did the right thing. Addicts shouldn’t be getting trophies because then they expect trophies every time they do a good deed. Then they stop doing good deeds unless they get a trophy. They they become preoccupied with feeling good again, even in sobriety. Then they relapse.
So no trophy is a good trophy… even those sobriety chips we award each other in AA meetings. We alcoholics and addicts shouldn’t be awarding ourselves, getting claps and recognition, or patting ourselves on the back just because we stopped hurting other people. This is what we do with small children. Do we really need a gold star because we stayed sober today and didn’t rip the hearts our of our entire family? Ridiculous.
God, teach me to serve You and others, not to clear my conscience or to be self-seeking, but because it’s the right thing to do…