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What alcoholics and drug addicts have taught me about love

As a Life Coach, of course I'm meant to bang on about the magic of love and abundance and all that hearts and flowers palaver. But most Life Coaches probably don't have the experiences that I have which have truly taught me all about what love really is and how powerful it can be.


Since I was unfortunate enough to become an alcoholic, I have thoroughly tested the love of everyone around me - my family, my friends and my partners. Actually I was fortunate to have many of them stick around throughout my addiction, no matter how much pain I put them through.


But the biggest problem I always faced when first trying to recover from alcoholism was that I didn't love myself. One of the barriers that I had to overcome was that really I hated myself. I did know deep down that I was a good person, but I had been through so many problems that even the little spark of light inside felt like it was about to go out.


I was fortunate that my parents always stuck by me and as I started to find my way out of addiction, I realised that actually I could love myself, too.


But a profound experience that changed the way I thought about love came about around other alcoholics and drug addicts.


I went to a support group in my early days of sobriety and I'll never forget what one complete stranger said to me as I stood there shaking and scared, just out of withdrawals and hating myself more than ever. “We'll love you until you can love yourself,” he said. Not in some creepy way, not in some way that he expected anything back. He just wanted me to get well and support me even though he had no idea who I was or what I was, except a fellow addict.


If you want to know what real love and care is, look to the people who give unconditionally, the people who stick around and support you when there is nothing much in it for them. Look to the people who love because they know it will help you. That is the true meaning of love.


by Beth Burgess, Therapist and author of The Recovery Formula, The Happy Addict, and What Is Self-Esteem?


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