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The Solution to Self-Will Run Riot

What is Self-Will Run Riot?

The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous explains

As recovering addicts and alcoholics, self-will run riot can wreak havoc on our lives. We try to control the people and world around us and when our efforts fail, we become resentful, angry, hurt, or disappointed.

Before I fully immersed myself in recovery, I’d never heard the term self-will run riot. So, let’s define it using the text from The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous. If you are new to recovery, this passage can sting before it heals. But understanding hard facts about ourselves is the gateway to the freedom we all yearn for and deserve.  

“Selfishness – self-centeredness! That, we think, is the root of our troubles. Driven by a hundred forms of fear, self-delusion, self-seeking, and self-pity, we step on the toes of our fellows, and they retaliate. Sometimes they hurt us, seemingly without provocation, but we invariably find that at some time in the past, we have made decisions based on self which later placed us in a position to be hurt.

So. our troubles, we think, are basically of our own making. They arise out of ourselves, and the alcoholic is an extreme example of self-will run riot, though he usually doesn’t think so. Above everything, we alcoholics must be rid of this selfishness. We must, or it kills us!”1

Software, A. (n.d.). Big book Chapter 5. Chapter 5 | Big Book of A.A. 2nd edition. Retrieved May 23, 2022, from

The Connection Between Self-Will Run Riot and Fear

Understanding this is a game-changer!

As stated above, we are driven by “a hundred forms of fear” that stoke the flames of self-will run riot. In order to avoid our fears, we try manipulating situations to better suit our needs. Yet, that need to control and manage people and situations is an exhausting and fruitless venture.

Understanding that we are driven by fear, helps us forgive ourselves for the selfishness that comes with it. Better still, when we work the Fourth Step, we write an inventory of our fears, describe how they impact us, and work with our sponsors to let many of them go.

The fear inventory is incredibly impactful. While doing mine, I realized that my fear of rejection caused me to harm a relationship with a family member. I thought that if I shared my feelings, I wouldn’t be loved. And even though I never told them what hurt me, I expected them to instinctively know. When I recognized the fear of rejection was causing me to be dishonest by withholding my feelings, I was finally able to see that my own self-will run riot had put me in a position to be hurt and caused me to harm a someone I love dearly. Only then was I able work with my sponsor to change my behavior. I now have a wonderful relationship with that member of my family.  

Step Three is the Solution to Self-Will Run Riot

We can’t control everything, but God Can

Recovery is a lifetime journey and battling self-will run riot is a never-ending endeavor. Luckily, Step Three offers us a solution.

Step Three:

“Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.”

When our sponsors point out that we are acting in self-will or when we recognize that our self-will has run riot, we can turn to Step Three again and again. The step allows us to relinquish our need for control and give that control to our higher power – who wants us to remain sober, happy, joyous, and free. Whether our higher power is God or the group, it won’t self-sabotage us. Instead, it will watch over us, protect us, and take that thousand-pound weight of worry off our shoulders. It is a healing relief to remember that we aren’t in charge of the universe.

When we find our self-will taking over, the Third Step Prayer can help.

“God, I offer myself to Thee To build with me and to do with me as Thou wilt. Relieve me of the bondage of self, that I may better do Thy will.  Take away my difficulties, that victory over them may bear witness to those I would help of Thy Power, Thy love & Thy way of life. May I do Thy will always.”

Working step three isn’t always easy, but with practice, sponsorship, and meetings, we can use it throughout our lives to deal with life on life’s terms.

Final Thoughts on Self-Will Run Riot

For best results, help someone else

If selfishness is the root of our problems, and it is, the antidote is selflessness. Whenever we feel overwhelmed, fearful, obsessed with a situation, or wrapped up in ourselves, we are directed to help others through service work. That can be as easy as lending an ear, cleaning up after a meeting, helping a friend, or sponsoring someone else.

How we choose to help others doesn’t matter – it just matters that we do it. It absolutely helps with self-will run riot!

Need Help with Your Addiction?

Breakthrough Recovery Outreach in Atlanta, GA, is here to help!

Addiction is a disease that has reached epidemic proportions. Just last week, a drug bust in Atlanta, GA, found cocaine mixed with fentanyl. The dangers of fentanyl cannot be overstated. Teenagers and adults are overdosing at alarming rates because they don’t know what they are taking.

Please seek help for your addiction – a new life is waiting for you. Breakthrough Recovery Outreach in Atlanta, GA, specializes in dual diagnosis treatment for teens and adults suffering from substance abuse, including fentanyl addiction.

Please contact us so we can help you start your journey to recovery!