There’s a lovely, straight-to-the-point AA saying: “You can’t save your [gluteus maximus] and your face simultaneously.” The saying uses another word for your gluteus maximus, a word that rhymes with grass, but to keep this classy-ish, I’ll say derriere. (Maybe that’s what they say in French AA meetings).
Of course, there are many possible interpretations and layers of meaning to this slogan. But the gist is this: in any given moment, you can only serve one master, so… choose wisely. It’s like: “Everybody, this is a hold up: Your recovery or your derriere.”
What is your top priority – sobriety or your self-image? Your life itself, or what people think about you? In recovery, the plain truth is that we’re either looking out for the ego and trying to keep up appearances or prioritizing recovery. Stark, but true.
Just the Facts, Ma’am
It’s important to remember every single day of our lives that those with the addiction pattern need to take the fact of their addiction very seriously, or else. We’re talking about life or death when we get down to it.
We quickly forget that addiction is a parasite that kills the host sooner or later! How often did we have to prove to ourselves that our addiction always lies in wait, ready to kill us at the first chance if we don’t do the work? Do we need one more reminder, or have we shown ourselves what addiction is, who we become under its influences, beyond the shadow of a doubt?
If we feel embarrassed that we need recovery, let’s take a moment to think. How did we get into this embarrassing situation in which our bacon needs to be saved? Oh yeah, we got here because we lost all common sense and self-control and became powerless over the use of substances. Did we mean to? No. Did that happen? Yes.
We lost the ability to make reasonable decisions and behaviors in our own interest, to behave in sane and coherent ways. We became mad and foolish, someone you would shake your head in wonder at how far their behaviors veer off from their intentions. We became one of those people we didn’t think we’d ever be.
So we do need to focus on saving our derrieres first and foremost. Always and forever. That’s just the facts.
Why Save Face?
And what is the urge to save face but to imagine that we are someone with greater morality, self-control, or abilities than what is currently the case? What does the ego give us but an imagined superiority, followed quickly by imagined inferiority, in ever-repeating cycles, ups and downs, booms and busts? Why do we try so hard to save it?
It seems to me that the desire to save face, even our false, inauthentic face, never dies completely, or maybe it lays in wait, just like our addiction, hoping we’ll return to it.
I know, on a basic level, it is because we are all wounded in our basic human dignity. Many of us were made to feel less than others, and we’re scared to return to that place. We want to feel ok about ourselves. Admitting we have an addiction is rough on us and our idea of ourselves as being worthy. Recovery keeps reminding us, again and again, that we don’t have our stuff together. We must find ways to love ourselves even though we’re so imperfect, tragic, and heartbreaking. (In other words, we have to find Unconditional Love).
Truth is Freedom
The desire to save face can turn a person away right at the first step, in which we are invited to admit that we’ve succumbed to the addiction pattern and need help. It could turn us from recovery again around the 4th, 5th and 9th steps, when we have to talk to people and tell them the cringeworthy truth of what we did. We might fear that our self-esteem will plummet if we admit the truth.
But the truth, as they say, will set us free. The real effect of the twelve steps is self-compassion, self-liberation, and self-acceptance. We are loosed from the sugary attractions of fragile self-esteem based on inauthenticity and set free to explore our true nature’s real, glorious depths.
This is kind of a red pill, blue pill situation. Recovery is the red pill. Ego is the blue pill. What do you choose?