What does love mean to an alcoholic?

It is often said that an alcoholic only loves themselves, and this is usually said in such a way as to imply that the alcoholic is chronically self-centred and only thinks about themselves and their own lives and has no regard for anyone else.

This analysis of an alcoholic’s behaviour and being is one that is commonplace in the recovery process, and often used as a bit of a big stick for an alcoholic either to go into a rehab, or to put pressure on an alcoholic to stop drinking either by going to Alcoholics Anonymous or some other means.

The real importance of this approach is that it fundamentally misunderstands both the alcoholic and the nature of their alcoholism. In truth only an alcoholic will be able to really make sense of their own drinking and their own behaviour, which may happen in a rehab more gradually over a process once they have left a rehab and hopefully going to meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous.

People assume that alcoholics drink for a particular reason. In fact this is not true. Whilst it is always difficult to generalise about anything in life,

it is probably fair to say that an alcoholic will drink because it is in their nature, rather than because of specific life events, hopes or fears.

Inevitably consequences, often quite significant such as that of entering a rehab, will happen and because of these consequences being linked to alcoholism/alcohol abuse there will be an inevitable assumption that they are causes of reactions to some as drinking.

An alcoholic will drink because it is in their nature to do so. Life events and circumstances will add a dimensional to that but will not cause or cure the persons drinking.

It is also worth making the point that there is a difference between an alcoholic and a heavy drinker, although from the outside that may be quite a subtle distinction.

An alcoholic will drink because they have to. As such the prospect of going into a rehab for alcohol it will be quite a scary one.

This is because they will lose alcohol.For many an alcoholic this will be a terrifying prospect. A rehab will hopefully recognise this is and make the transition from not be able to drink to rebuilding a sober life a less harrowing experience than it would otherwise be.

Mistaking self-centredness for love of self is a fundamentally wrong perspective on human nature and what it means both to be self-centred and to love oneself or to love other people.

When entering a rehab, an alcoholic and their family will be given insights into the nature of their self-centredness, as it has affected all of them.

Through a number of therapeutic approaches a rehab will show hopefully, how a person’s alcoholism and that persons need to drink has devastated their own lives and caused a fair degree of destruction in other people’s lives.

A rehab will also hopefully show love of self actually means. It may not address this question directly, but an understanding that alcoholism is an illness and that the alcoholic is an ill person will begin to put their behaviour and that alcoholism into context.

This may take a long time to really materialise as a belief in the alcoholic, but the seeds can be sown whilst in a rehab. Love of self works at many different levels, for many different people, but is fundamentally much more about a level of self acceptance and the freedom that comes with that, rather than obsessively trying to be in control of their own lives or those of other people.