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We Have to be Selfish to be Selfless

Amy Cooper
| May 4, 2017

In the absence of love, we began slowly but surely to fall apart. – Marianne Williamson

Love is such a complex word. With so many meanings, feelings and consequences that are physical, spiritual, emotional, and so on. The results can be good or bad and make us happy or sad.

One valuable lesson I have learned since becoming sober is that love begins from within. If we first love ourselves, then we can give love to others. We hold carrying amounts of love (or compassion) for every person, place or thing we interact with each day.

I thought that pursuing self-love was selfish for a long time. I was told by a former client in a group setting a few years ago that we have to selfish in order to be selfless. When we are in the throes of deep and active addiction, we claim we are not hurting anyone. That is so untrue. We are hurting ourselves, and that self-harm is a type of selfishness that holds no love. As we continue to down the bottle, inject the poison with the needle, stuff the pie in our face, smoke the substance in our lungs, or just pop the prescription or non-prescription drugs into our bloodstream, we don’t have a single clue– not one darn clue– about love.

These are all addictions and, sadly, most people do not have the willpower to stop without help. Many addicts and alcoholics suffered from the absence of love at some point of their early years. Some of us never had the life that we thought we deserved, and then others strained to portray the perfect life lived in a holy hell. This level of suffering can make recovery more difficult. Fortunately, professional help is available. Professional help comes in many forms. Detox, treatment, psych wards, jails, prison, shelters, and yes, sadly, even from the professional help of a funeral director.

I was speaking with my sponsor the other day and I am in the process of reworking the twelve steps. It has been really eye opening for me. I am also reading a few books: Love is a Choice by Hemfelt, Love First by Debra and Jeff Jay, and Loving Sober by Jay Stinnett. They are all good books and I am really resonating with all of them.

You know, after getting sober I thought the world was supposed to all be perfect. I must have expected unicorns, rainbows, pink slippers and kittens. Ha, ha.

No, after we get sober, the work truly begins. You start to FEEL. You start to have emotions and you finally decide to open your heart again. Sober or not, we all want to have a heart for love and to feel love– that is human nature. My own relationships were blocked by a desire to “cut and run”. My screwed up brain and heart had a different perception of what love was, until my heart finally did truly suffer.

This blog is far from being a pity party but a truth that we need to know as addicts and alcoholics is that we can get through anything and not immediately relapse. I have felt every emotion 100 times over and still find myself frustrated, full of blame, angry, and about 50 other emotions.

I know that at the end of the day we have a God and that is all we need and He will provide our needs. Yes, I know this, and have for most of my whole life, but for a long time it was just easier to not believe. It has been easier to allow all negative emotion to flow and allow the mental torture to just sit and fester inside.

I would brood on all of this until, one day, finally, I pulled my head out of my behind and looked at myself in the mirror and really realized this isn’t just about me. It’s about me not only surviving but thriving on the lessons I have learned about love. It’s about me staying sober and away from the drugs that I ran too for so long to comfort my emotional chaos.

Now, I live to tell about it to others who are struggling through similar situations. It’s about standing on my own two feet and finding out who I am and why things didn’t work and what my part was in it. As I re-read my Big Book I have come to the realization that I have a lot of selfishness in me. I denied it at first, but yes, I do. I made this whole situation about me, me, and, yes, me.

If our head is right and we love someone else, it’s not about just you or me– it’s a WE deal. If the W and E aren’t in sync then WE have a major problem and if we don’t have communication skills sharpened and are writing with a dull pencil, then more than likely we are going to just smudge up the relationship canvas. Love is an action, a verb, a feeling, an emotion, and a belief. It is many complicated things, yet for some its very simple.

“Simple.” I am still working on grasping that word in sobriety.

We, as addicts and alcoholics, can unfortunately make life complicated. I know I can. I have been working on my fourth step and some of my recent resentments are really silly.

Although in my defense, my sponsor pointed out that I have the brain of a 21-year-old. You see, I started my drinking at age 14. When we start using drugs and alcohol, the age we begin is where much of our emotional, mental growth stops. Only when we decide to get sober do we pick back up that growth. So seven years of sobriety plus fourteen would make me 21. Make sense? So, in my defense of some of the silly stuff that comes out of my mouth can be chalked up to my age in sobriety.

Well, that was a good try anyway…

I do take responsibility for myself and the junk that I put out at times. I am human, yes. I am not perfect by any means, but I will take progress and I am making it. One day at a time. You know, I have learned so much over the past few years about relationships. Whether it’s an intimate relationship or friendship, I do know that I can honestly say that I don’t have any regrets about my intentions. I am honest and more transparent than most. I have to be, because we are only as sick as our secrets. I don’t scramble to create drama in others’ lives because I have my own life to work on. I don’t put people down so I can bring myself up. I love my family and know the meaning of loyalty. Loyalty and love are something I hold dear to me. My girls know that no matter what they and we are family and we may disagree but LOVE for one another will outweigh the disagreements all day long.

It doesn’t matter what you do, where you are from, or where you are going– if I love you, you know it. I know that I have to forgive to keep my heart open to self-love so I can be selfless for others. Going back to the quote, I don’t want to fall apart. I want to put the pieces back together and love. I want to live and thrive in this new life. I am not going to throw away seven years of sobriety– I have busted my butt for to lose it all to my ego and self-pity. I am a fighter and a lover all in one. I am a survivor of the disease of addiction every day. God has a plan and I am willing to do what it takes and allow my higher power’s love be more than sufficient for me.

Peace, love and prayers,

Amy C.

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