You finally made it into recovery, and now you realize that everyone you love thinks that you’re a total narcissist...not a great feeling. Don’t despair! Despite the way that your friends or families may feel, being an addict does not automatically make you a narcissist, even if you did act like one while you were using. Knowing the difference between being an addict, and being an actual narcissist can help you keep your recovery focused on the right things.
Narcissism During Active Addiction
Addicts AND Narcissists struggle with the impulsiveness that disrupts their ability to function normally in life and relationships. On a basic level, all addicts are self-ruinous and self-destructive when actively using, but they are not naturally cruel or paranoid people. Addiction can happen to anyone, and it always takes away the ability to make sound judgments as your mind becomes altered by chemicals that interrupt the natural processes of perception, analyzation, and the execution of proper judgment. For a narcissist, these judgments are skewed by a persistent drive to maintain themselves as their only priority, before they ever even start using drugs or alcohol. BEST NEWS, your ability to recovery is much better than theirs!
First of all, in recovery, it is very common that people may throw out some random labels and diagnoses to explain and/or justify your behaviors, but unless you were diagnosed with bipolar, OCD, narcissistic personality disorder, etc., by a professional, BEFORE you were using; it’s more likely that your unsavory behaviors were simply the result of your addiction. To preserve the confidence and self-esteem that you are trying to reclaim, we want to break down the differences between being an addict, and being a narcissist, just so you’re clear.
You are a unique human being made up of unique thoughts, feelings, states of mind, and the ability to make judgments about the world around you. The judgments that you make dictate the choices that you make, the words that you speak, and the actions that you take to meet the goals and outcomes of your choosing. Essentially, it is through this repetitive process that you develop your sense of how the world works, and how you fit into it (AKA Worldview).
The Differences Between Addiction and Narcissism
When wrapped up in the crux of addiction, addicts undeniably act selfishly. Users become more and more skeptical and self-destructive as their reliance on chemicals becomes overwhelmingly dire. They pursue using despite any costs to themselves and avoid the pain they inflict on others, as a means of self-preservation. However, many addicts begin using because they enjoy the brighter or altered perceptions of the world, and the false confidence that they feel when using. Through using, most addicts find an escape from limits, customs, and worldly constructs that have them at odds. As addiction progresses, using becomes a means of survival. Users continue to get high/drunk to feel “normal” and to maintain their altered view of the world outside of themselves to avoid fear, pain, and other discomforts that arise from dealing with the world as it is.
Not the Narcissist.
Narcissists don’t use to alter their perception of the world because they are rarely concerned with it at all. In fact, the majority of Narcissists have a natural supply of excitement and focus on themselves that other people have a hard time understanding. But unlike addicts, this enthusiasm is never organized; brought on by one particular event, thought, or substance. It is ever-present. Narcissists have an inflated sense of self-esteem that has no supportive reason, and they don’t need external praise or affirmation for it to persist.
Narcissists, by nature, are always more concentrated on themselves and their ability to manage their dreams, because they are the most important thing that they can conceive. Often innately paranoid and cruel, narcissists slip into self-destructive behaviors when they are looking for new ways to recharge themselves and reopen their natural supply of self-driven superiority, without regard for others before or after their decision to engage in self-destructive behaviors.
If you’ve remained sober for six months to a year and gotten established in your recovery program but still suspect that you may have something else going on; get tested. Therapists can help you peel back the layers of conditions and disorders that may be troubling you, but they need you to be in a firm state of sobriety to do so effectively.
Recovery IS Possible!