Have you ever noticed how we use certain words to express ourselves without really thinking about their true meaning? We use the word insane to describe a person or some situation without regard to what true insanity can be. We say we’re depressed when we’re really just feeling down or sad. And we say we hate something when a simple “I dislike that” is actually closer to the truth. We do this with the word love as well. We say we love a certain food, some song, doing something, or some celebrity we don’t even know.
We can also overuse the word love, and perhaps take away some of the meaning to it. Have you ever felt almost parrot like when telling friends or family you love them every time you say goodbye on the phone, after a visit, or when leaving the house? Although I tell my family I love them all the time and mean it, I will admit there have been times when it was simply out of habit.
Another word we overuse without thinking about its true meaning is addiction. I hear people say things like “I’m addicted to Facebook,” “I’m addicted to chocolate,” or “I’m addicted to…” You can add your preference of video game, hobby, outdoor activity, or inanimate object here. Depending on your age, you may even remember a song called Addicted To Love. “Might as well face it, you’re addicted to love” went the chorus, and boy did I love that song when I was younger. Whoops there I go again.
Despite my attempt at humor here, as a recovered alcoholic I take addiction very seriously. Although I wasn’t like the stereotypes you see in movies and TV shows, I did drink without control at times and often chose drinking over being with my family. One could say that the love I had for alcohol was stronger than the love I had for my family, but when I think back to the many attempts I made at getting sober, love for my family was almost always the reason. I know it was certainly a factor in my last attempt, which resulted in a continuous sobriety of over seventeen years now.
However, while it may be true that love helped me get sober, it’s also true that had I not found Alcoholics Anonymous, I may never have come to realize that I needed more help than what love alone could give me. This is because love has very little to do with addiction. I was unable to love myself, I was unable to give my wife and children the love they needed, and near the end of my drinking career, I no longer loved drinking.
The thing was though, that I still continued to drink, and at some point the word insane, defined as “a state of mind that prevents normal perception, behavior, or social interaction; seriously mentally ill,” became an accurate definition of my thinking and my life. Perhaps this sounds like a harsh description for someone who didn’t drink everyday, did well at work, and had a few dollars in the bank. But even when I was desperately close to losing my family for good, I still couldn’t stop drinking on my own.
Fortunately what I found in AA, and especially in The Twelve Steps, was a way to change my thinking and my behaviors, and begin to understand the insanity behind my actions. I also found a love that I never had before, which was self-love. It was in doing so that I realized when we love ourselves, we can express it to others more easily and fully understand the true meaning of the word.