Feb 11, 2020 | By Katie Jones

Why I’m Not That Impressive – The Gift of Humility in Sobriety


The most important thing I have received in my struggles with substances and mental illness has been the gift of humility. To me, humility is the relief that I don’t have to know it all or do it all but that I can just be. It has given me conversations that have opened my heart and friendships in unlikely places that have helped me grow in ways I couldn’t have done on my own.

Humility in Sobriety

Humility has long been a cornerstone of sobriety. “At the time the big book of Alcoholic Anonymous was published (1935), and later when The Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions was published (1952), the quality of humility referred to a “reasonable perspective of oneself.” Bill Wilson expanded this definition when he wrote that humility was, “the clear recognition of what and who we really are, followed by a sincere attempt to be what we can be.”

The Webster’s definition of humility is freedom from pride or arrogance. People also use the word humble to refer to themselves or things associated with themselves. For instance, if you describe yourself as “but a humble editor” or refer to your home as your “humble abode,” you are saying that neither you nor your home is very impressive. Just like one would refer to their home, one can remember, I am not very impressive. As I thought about the best way to write about humility, I felt it best to become vulnerable myself. Even in sobriety my humility can become quite challenged. In a dog eat dog world where who you are, what you make and who you know matter, even in my modest career I fall victim to pride. In order to talk about humility, I find it easier to identify where I mess up.

Knowing I Am Right and You Are Wrong

A good hint that I have veered out of humility is the non-negotiable belief that I have all of the answers and know all of the things. Being a know it all closes off communication, shuts down relationships and isolates me from others. As a writer and a social worker, I can fall into this trap. Sharing information from a place of education is fine but doing so without compassion is not my purpose.

Thinking I Am In Control

As I mentioned mental illness, a favorite coping skill that I have when I am anxious is to manufacture a false sense of control. World falling apart. Shut down. Call the shots. Take over. Solve all the problems. All this does is lead to is an intense amount of stress and helplessness. My most comforting practice when I am in this mode is to turn it over. Lean into my faith. While this might look different for everyone for me the simple ‘let go, let God’ does suffice.

Looking to Gain Recognition

When I am out to gain recognition verses doing good work for my community, I find I am suffering. I feel most spiritually fit when the work I am doing is for the benefit of the greater good. Yes, paying the bills is necessary but each encounter I make can become a connection or a stepping stone, I get to choose.

It’s All About Me.

I am sure I could write on this for a while but lastly, I know I have lost my humility when life becomes all about me. My problems, my suffering, my needs. Of course, there is a healthy balance between meeting my needs and self-absorption, it is just a matter of knowing when that scale has tipped. When I am in a humble place, I hear you, not just me.

When I think of the humble human beings that I know they are always people who are doing great things but are most certainly unaware. They are tirelessly introspective. If they are asking how to take care of themselves, they know it is often in the service others. I have been lucky to meet some wonderfully selfless people, and do you know what this humility brings… peace. And that is something in my recovery that I am willing to work for.

If you are working on humility, comment. We all have something to learn from each other.

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