The Seventh Promise is something we actually talk about quite frequently on this site. Perhaps you may not have noticed, but it’s true. This is the promise that relates to selfishness, something that pretty much all addicts and alcoholics have experienced at one point or another. If you are familiar with the Twelve Promises, then you already know this. If you are not, then you are about to learn quite a bit. Either way, our hope is that this article will prove helpful to those who are either hesitant about entering recovery or who simply do not know if they have made any progress.
As far as the latter hesitation is concerned, many share this concern. Some people simply worry that they cannot achieve great heights in sobriety. They view themselves as worthless and beyond forgiveness. Such people should not give in to their more negative thoughts. Instead, they should learn to realize that each of the Twelve Promises, including the Seventh Promise, can become true for them if they simply pave the way. This is the point of this article—to teach you how to pave the way for a much better life than the one you have been living.
Below, we’ll explain the Seventh Promise by first addressing it as a whole. We will then divide it in half for a more thorough analysis. As with our other articles on the Twelve Promises, we hope that this will help you to realize that there is more to completing the Twelve Promises than simply beginning the Ninth Step. In fact, like the others, the Seventh Promise will start to be fulfilled not long after you first enter early recovery.
Fulfilling the Seventh Promise
The Seventh Promise, as written in Chapter 6 of the Big Book, states:
“We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows.”
It isn’t too hard to see how there are two parts to this particular sentence. The first part is that we will lose interest in selfish things. The second part is that we will gain interest in our fellows. These two things will not necessarily happen at the exact same time, nor will they be completely separate. Instead, they will occur gradually. One may influence the other, or they may occur simultaneously. We simply do not know. In the end, it honestly depends upon each specific person.
What we can say, however, is that selfishness seems to die down after a while in recovery. We learn that we are not at the center of the universe. We learn that others matter just as much as—if not more than—we do. We see how we have hurt those in our lives, and we learn to feel remorse for this. But the Seventh Promise is about more than remorse. It is about learning to do things differently. Instead of simply feeling bad about our selfishness, we learn how to counteract the consequences of our former selfish outlook.
This will take some time, but the Seventh Promise will definitely come true if we give it a chance. As we march on through sobriety, we learn to recognize our past selfish behaviors. We learn to see that we often criticized those who were selfish and self-centered—but only if their selfishness and self-centeredness prevented them from doing everything we wanted them to do. And once we achieve sobriety, we decide that this sort of hypocrisy cannot stand. We have to become better, no matter how much time it may take.
That’s why it shouldn’t bother us that the Seventh Promise may not be fulfilled immediately. If we truly care about others, we will take the time to learn how to care about them properly. We will not engage in service work simply because it might help us stay sober. When we perform acts of charity and kindness, we will truly be doing it for others. But, as noted, this transformation requires two very different changes to our outlook. Each of these changes will be covered below, and we hope that each will help you. Just remember what is hanging in the balance. Sobriety is important if we wish to lead a truly better life. As such, nothing below should be taken for granted.
Losing Interest in Selfish Things
During our period of active addiction, little may matter to us other than ourselves. We will lie, cheat, steal and manipulate in order to facilitate our next fix. Sure, we may upset a few people along the way. But we nonetheless tell ourselves that we are not hurting anybody, and we justify our actions on this basis alone. And even if we do realize the harm that we have caused, we figure that this is undone by our decision to enter treatment. No longer can anyone complain about the things we have done in the past, because now we are bettering ourselves. We practically feel as if we deserve a medal.
Along the way, we come to realize that this way of thinking has always been selfish. At no point did we consider the effects of our actions upon others. We only cared about our own reputation and our own right to throw our lives away. The manner in which we affected those we love may occur to us occasionally, but we find many ways of forgiving ourselves. For some time after we enter recovery, we will still be prone to this way of thinking. It comforted us when we needed it, and now it has become practically impossible to sacrifice.
Eventually, however, we stop thinking of ourselves so highly. At first, this may lead to depression. We may even build resentments against ourselves. This is an unfortunate side-effect of our guilt. Even this proves to be a self-centered way of thinking. We went from thinking that we were the only ones who mattered to thinking that we have the power to ruin entire lives. In the middle of all this, there lies a balance which we must learn to achieve.
The balance of which we speak is not so foreign as we might think. When the Seventh Promise says that we will lose interest in ourselves, the implication is that we will stop thinking about how we are the only ones responsible for—or affected by—everything we do. Selfish ideals such as greed and materialism cease to rule our lives. And at the end of the day, we no longer picture a world that revolves around us. It takes time to achieve this first part of the Seventh Promise. Still, it is not as difficult as it may seem. Especially once we begin to truly think of others, as described below.
Gaining Interest in Our Fellows
If we truly wish to overcome our selfishness, we must actively fight against it. We must learn to embrace the fellowship that we discover while in recovery. This should not be difficult. Considering the fact that unity is one of the foremost components of recovery, we should be highly appreciative of those who have shown an interest in our sobriety. And if we are truly appreciative, then we should show them the same level of interest that they have shown us. This is, after all, the foundation of the First Tradition.
Very few, if any, can recover in complete isolation. We need people to help us. We need to develop an expansive sober support network. In doing so, we inch closer and closer to fulfilling the Seventh Promise. We learn that charity is not a one-way street. We learn that we must “give it away in order to keep it.” In other words, we must help others if we wish to help ourselves. Doing this will teach us the true meaning of fellowship. It is not just about taking, but about giving as well. More importantly, it is about the feeling we get when we realize that helping others has greatly improved our own lives.
It isn’t exactly abnormal for us to take an interest in the lives of others. Before we began drinking or abusing drugs, we likely did it quite often. We cared deeply about our friends, our family members, and sometimes even complete strangers. But when we began using, our values shifted. We started to care more about ourselves than about anybody else. Now that we are sober, we can make a return to form. We can reclaim the values we left behind. And in doing so, we can once again become better people.
Upon fulfilling the Seventh Promise, we can become true leaders in our recovery community. Even before completely fulfilling the Seventh Promise, many of us will be on this track. Our addiction taught us that isolation achieves nothing. It taught us that greed and selfishness only result in regret. In the end, we must accept that we are only a small part of this world. If we want to make our part in it worth something, we must do what we can to help others. And in doing so, we just may enable ourselves to stay sober for another day. All things considered, this is the greatest gift of them all.