Love & Caring

Love Is …

Love is something that people write books about, compose songs about, make movies about, etc. We won’t attempt to cover all aspects of love, but we will, in this section, look at a few basic ideas we think may be helpful to you in your recovery.

Greek words It is interesting that in English we have only one four-letter word used many ways for somewhat different things. “I love to smell roses” doesn’t have the same meaning as “I love my children.” The ancient Greeks had at least three words (some say as many as six) to describe love:

  • Éros, which means passionate or sexual love, as in erotic.
  • Philia, friendship, usually between equals, or loyalty, as in philosophy, love of knowledge.
  • Agápe, unconditional love, as “to will the good of another” (Thomas Aquinas).

Probably the most common way the word love is understood is to think of it as just a feeling. We find something or someone that we find attractive, desirable, appealing, and that probably makes us “feel good.” So we say “I love it/him/her.”

Scott Peck, in The Road Less Traveled: A New Psychology of Love, Traditional Values and Spiritual Growth (1978), describes this process as a cathexis in which we somehow incorporate the object or person into our own understanding of ourselves. We reach out beyond ourselves in a loving way. This kind of love may enrich our lives, but the good feelings are transitory.

Act of will Peck goes on to describe love as not a feeling but an act of the will. The definition of love that he finds useful is, “The will to extend oneself for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth” (Peck, 1978, p. 119).

Loving acts Parents have the unpleasant task of having to act in a loving way that may not result in a child’s feeling good. The act is in the child’s best interest and motivated by a genuine desire for the child’s best welfare. Though the act is loving, the child’s immediate feelings may be painful. This does not, of course, mean that loving acts cannot result in positive feelings that can be delightful.

Tough love Tough love is a phrase that describes behavior to stop enabling addiction. When you refuse to cover up for an addict, to rescue them, or to prevent them from experiencing consequences of their addiction, that is tough love. It is loving of the person but tough on the disease.

Addiction and Love

Addictive disease, however, is a process that does a good job of interfering with your ability to be loving to yourself, to others, or to anything that matters to you. And loving plays a very important role in your recovery.

Caring for others When you become involved with others in the Program, you get a sense of compassion and caring that comes from having shared a common suffering. Often that sense makes you feel not so alone and gives you some hope. That mystical bond is the foundation of the Twelve-Step recovery programs. It is commonly called caring.

Your history People in Twelve-Step groups have a wide diversity of backgrounds with many reporting they never felt cared for or loved, or had to earn love by self-sacrifice and always placing others first.

Self-worth Fellowship rooms are filled with people struggling with problems with self-worth and self-esteem. These negative feelings could easily have contributed to the attempt to find good feelings from addictive substances or behavior.

In early recovery you find yourself with no pleasure from the addiction while experiencing feelings of isolation, self-deprecating thoughts, and a worse sense of self-worth than you started with.

Where to Start

So, where do you start? Recognize that your self-worth is not zero, or you would never have been interested in recovery at all. Give yourself credit for having some love for yourself. Notice that you do have some capacity to care for other people. Probably there are people who mean a great deal to you and that you truly love.

In any relationship, the greatest gift you have to offer is yourself. And you don’t want to give junk, do you? So don’t put yourself down or treat yourself like junk.

Generosity It is not difficult to think of people you know who seem to have taken care of themselves enough to have plenty to offer other people. Maybe in early recovery you need to devote lots of time to caring for yourself and letting other people share their Program with you. Recovery is such a gift that you don’tjust “give it away to keep it,” you give it away because generosity is the natural response of a grateful heart.

Energy Try to keep it simple when you think of love and caring. Remember that addiction thrives on self-pity and isolation. Love is the energy that makes the Program work; the sooner you open yourself up to it the sooner you will feel better.


Love & caring, see also: Beliefs, Coping skills, Family, Feelings, Gratitude, Higher Power, Honesty, Humility, Integrity & values, Intimacy, Openmindedness, Program, Recovery, Relationships, Service & giving, Sponsorship, Step Twelve, Trust, Unity.

Updated 8 Sep 2015

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Addictionary 2 by Jan & Judy Wilson

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