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I love this image by JT Lloyd. How do you define love? It’s such a good question. For many people love is family. We’re born into a family and we love them, just because. But people in recovery often have severe rifts @ home, and that isn’t always our fault.

Sometimes we make the program our family. We get attached to a group, a clubhouse, a meeting, a sponsor. Voila! Family. Until something goes awry on the playground and family becomes family feud.

Or we run out and feel the need to string together our own family, rushing into a spouse, children, the long laundry list of responsibilities that comes with creating your own family. Maybe we do this before we know what we’re really getting into.

It’s a human thing. Humans want to connect. We mostly want to be understood, and loved…unconditionally.

But how do we define self-love?  There is almost no love that is without conditions. If JM goes ballistic and starts staying out all night, shooting dope and holding up liquor stores, we’re gonna have a little problem up in here!  Some people refer to that as ‘expectation.’ You’ve heard it, right?  If you don’t have expectations, you won’t have resentments.  But this is one of those A.A sayings that has never really worked for me. I expect JM to come home at night. Period. My mother and father who abandoned me?  I EXPECTED them to be a mother and father.  Even a crappy version of a mother and father would have sufficed. Sure, if I hadn’t expected that, I wouldn’t have spent the first one hundred thousand hours of my sobriety writhing in emotional pain. But how do we not expect certain basic things?

I don’t want to ‘not’ have expectation, of myself or others, but even if I did want that (maybe one day if I keep on the spiritual path!), I doubt it’s possible.  So I recognize the need to have healthy expectations and to know that we are all human and sometimes capable of great harm.  The saying works, but only in as much as it reminds us to be wary of our expectations. In other words, KNOW THYSELF sobriety seeker. When you know what you expect (of a person, place or thing) and can admit it to yourself, you are far more likely to be able to determine a) Is this reasonable? b) Is this person, place or thing even capable of fulfilling my expectation? c) What is my motivation here?

The worst thing is to be in the mix of something and not know what’s expected of you. That produces confusion and disharmony. So don’t do it to the people you love. And don’t let them do it to you. Lay it on the table. Because as I told one of my friends just last week, I am totally aware that I can be selfish and self-obsessed and that I drop the ball sometimes.  Then I said, I’m sorryI care about you.   And I think that was the thing she wanted to hear.  I’m pretty sure she forgives me, and still loves me. And although our relationship is in a period of flux and change, due mainly to a shifting of life circumstances (we’ve both been busy!) I’m pretty sure that this is a friendship that will survive.

But self-love is about surviving even when the bottom seems to be dropping out around you. It’s about tuning into that little voice inside you. Sitting in meditation until your (mental, spiritual, emotional) armour can deflect a pebble, a rock or a boulder. (Got that one from my yogi friend whose forgiveness I was begging last week.) And, it takes practice. To practice is a very worthwhile experience. Sit down with a piece of paper and make a list of what love looks like to you in your life. Consider a quick inventory of your physical, financial, emotional, spiritual world.  Get specific.  And then look around your life and see how you doing with manifesting these things. Because you are paving the road of your future. Let it be paved with love.