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Concept of humility - young person volunteering to pick up litter

A Bedrock Necessity

On page 70, the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous states that, “the attainment of greater humility is the foundation principle of each of A.A.’s Twelve Steps. For without some degree of humility, no alcoholic can stay sober at all.” We’ve said numerous times in our previous analyses that the principles overlap, support, and work synergistically with each other. Here, and in no uncertain terms, the Big Book states that humility is the bedrock necessity for a successful program of recovery. It continues, “Without it, they cannot live to much useful purpose, or, in adversity, be able to summon the faith that can meet any emergency.” These are very strong words and it would do us well to take a minute to unpack them here.

Starting to See the Bigger Picture

Later in the same chapter, the Big Book talks about how humility, both “as a word and as an ideal” is having a rough go of it in the modern world. This is as true today as it was when the book was first published back in 1939. When we think of the word, we often think of a low self-opinion and a meek demeanor. For example, we associate it with being humiliated. However, humility is not about thinking lowly of oneself. Rather, it’s about thinking of oneself less often – and thinking of others more. We can still have confidence in ourselves and our abilities. It’s just that, with humility, we start to see the bigger picture. How we fit in the grander scheme of things and how we can use our abilities to benefit others. This is the useful purpose that the Big Book talks about.

Humility Vs. Arrogance

We live in a highly individualistic society that places great worth on the myth of the self-made person. The addict-mind thrives similarly on the ideas of the self. We turn to drugs and alcohol to block out the problems of the world and focus on one of our own creations. Furthermore, we can’t see beyond our own immediate needs, specifically, making sure our habit is being taken care of. Finally, we bemoan our condition believing that no one understands and wallow in self-pity. We aren’t able to pull ourselves out of our addictions, so, clearly, we’re hopeless. In other words, if we can’t do it, no one can. The opposite of humility is arrogance and that is most certainly an arrogant statement.

Real Courage Means Asking for Help

When we live with humility, we go through life with both an open heart and an open mind. This is where faith begins. We learn that we don’t have all the answers and we learn that that’s okay. We learn we can ask for help. If you or someone you love is struggling with a substance abuse problem or seeking eating disorder treatment in California, please don’t hesitate to give Ocean Recovery a call today. Our Newport Beach drug rehab has been helping men and women recover from addiction since 2002. And we would be honored to be a part of your recovery journey. Real courage means asking for help. Ocean Recovery is ready to answer.


Ocean Recovery has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations for our references. We avoid using tertiary references as our sources. You can learn more about how we source our references by reading our editorial policy.

1. Wilson B. Alcoholics Anonymous: The Big Book. Courier Dover Publications; 2019.

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Last medically reviewed August 1, 2022.